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John Aldridge: Klopp’s men must earn their Spurs in London or season’s a dead duck

Liverpool’s campaign in major peril and draw is the minimum requirement for Reds

Liverpool's manager Jurgen Klopp (R) and Spurs' boss Antonio Conte have had mixed seasons. Photo: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)© AFP via Getty Images

The battle between Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk could decide the outcome. Photo: Erwin Spek/Soccrates/Getty Images© Getty Images

MADRID, SPAIN - JUNE 1: (L-R) Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur, Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool FC during the UEFA Champions League match between Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool at the Wanda Metropolitano on June 1, 2019 in Madrid Spain (Photo by Erwin Spek/Soccrates/Getty Images)© Getty Images

Diogo Jota of Liverpool is carried off against City in October. Photo: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images© Liverpool FC via Getty Images

John AldridgeSunday World

It’s not quite a make-or-break game for Liverpool at Tottenham today, but it’s not far off that.

After a horrible start to the season, Jurgen Klopp’s side head to London, knowing a defeat against Spurs will leave them 13 points behind Antonio Conte’s men – and that would be a huge gap to draw back.

A draw today and a win against Spurs at Anfield later this season would put a different perspective on the battle between these two sides, but the danger signs are flashing for Liverpool – and they dare not lose today.

After just 12 games, all of Liverpool’s pre-season optimism has evaporated – and as I write this now, I’m worried about what comes next.

There is still time to turn things around and this crazy World Cup break that will come up next weekend will give Klopp and his players a chance to reset – and come back with a fresh mindset at the back end of next month.

Yet by then, the damage done to this season could already be terminal.

Last weekend’s 2-1 home defeat against Leeds was the latest hammer blow to Liverpool’s ambitions, and ended any faint hopes of getting back into the title race.

Now it’s all about trying to secure a top-four finish – and that’s why today’s game is so important.

The battle between Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk could decide the outcome. Photo: Erwin Spek/Soccrates/Getty Images© Getty Images

Arsenal have had a great start, but I’m convinced they will have a stumble sooner rather than later. Chelsea are lacking consistency and Manchester United are not scoring enough goals to frighten anyone at the moment.

Then you look at Antonio Conte’s Tottenham and they are a confusing team.

They can look great going forward when they pull everything together, with Harry Kane liable to score a goal from his first chance in any game.

Then you see them struggling in the first half at Bournemouth last week, and turning in poor performances against Manchester United and Newcastle before that, and it’s hard to work out why.

They have a manager with a proven track record of success, but Conte likes to play with caution at the forefront of his mind – and Spurs look much better when they go at teams and use their attacking qualities.

Liverpool have been similar to Spurs in many ways this season because they have looked good at times, especially in the win against Man City, but they have come up short too often.

We are not used to seeing that from Klopp’s side – and while they have produced decent results in the Champions League this season, the Premier League form has been dreadful.

This will be their sixth away game of the season in the league – and they have yet to win any of them.

They’ve picked up two points from a possible 15 on their travels – and that is relegation form, rather than the record of a side aiming for a top-four finish.

They have had nearly a full team out with injuries at times this season and that has affected them, but it has also highlighted the issues of squad depth.

Thiago Alcantara, Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota have all been out for periods this season, and any team in the world would miss players of that quality.

Yet a reset moment is coming next weekend, as the Premier League shuts down for this ludicrously scheduled World Cup in Qatar.

Diogo Jota of Liverpool is carried off against City in October. Photo: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images© Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Klopp will be hoping this break works in his favour and he can have a fully fit squad ready to start again in a few weeks time, because we know Liverpool’s first XI is still capable of beating any team in the Premier League.

They are going to need to produce the kind of form that got them over 90 points in the Premier League in recent years to get back into the mix for a top-four finish, but I would always back Klopp to find a way.

I see clowns on Twitter after the Leeds game, saying Klopp has to go – and, honestly, you wonder whether they are Everton or Man United fans having a laugh.

After everything he has done for the club over the last few years, Klopp should be given all the time he needs to find solutions to the current problems.

Look, I’m not going to apologise for him and say he has done everything perfectly this season, because he hasn’t.

We see players lose form all the time and the same thing can happen to managers, as they go on a little run of making the wrong calls.

Klopp might have got a few things wrong this season, but he has so much currency in the bank at Liverpool that he will be given time to get it right.

Liverpool have today’s game against Spurs, the League Cup match at home to Derby and the Premier League game against Southampton at Anfield before the World Cup brings everything to a halt.

Wins in all three games would keep the season afloat when club football resumes in England on St Stephen’s Day.

Anything less than that and Liverpool will be facing a major uphill battle to get their faltering season back on track.


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