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red dilemma Matip can’t play three games in a week, so Klopp must prioritise Spurs clash


Klopp should rest Joel Matip ahead of the Spurs clash

Klopp should rest Joel Matip ahead of the Spurs clash

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Klopp should rest Joel Matip ahead of the Spurs clash

TOTTENHAM come to Anfield on Wednesday night for a massive game at the top of the Premier League, but that cannot be on Liverpool’s mind when they take on Fulham this afternoon.

Jurgen Klopp has to send his best team into battle at Craven Cottage, as nothing can be taken for granted against a side that has shown some signs of improvement in the last few weeks.

Scott Parker’s team picked up a good win at Leicester and then did well to avoid a battering after conceding a couple of early goals at Manchester City last weekend, so they will be tricky opponents.

The big decision Klopp (inset) has to make is what he does with Joel Matip, as it looks like the defender cannot play three games in a week at the moment.

It’s an ongoing problem as Liverpool have a packed schedule over the next month. They would want to keep a settled centre-back pairing, but that might not be possible.

If Matip can’t start three games in quick succession due to his fitness issues, Klopp needs to use him for the games that really matter – and Tottenham is clearly the toughest of the three this week.

So maybe he plays Rhys Williams or Nat Phillips at Fulham today and saves Matip to play against Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, which is a real test given the form those two are in at the moment.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is another option for Liverpool as he returns to full fitness, and Klopp knows he can rely on youngsters like Neco Williams and Curtis Jones to perform when they are called upon.

What he will want is to make sure he gets to the Tottenham game with his first-choice 11 fit and available, as this is certainly a game Liverpool cannot afford to lose.

We thought their record-breaking unbeaten run in the Premier League at Anfield might have been threatened by Leicester and Wolves in recent weeks, but Klopp’s side confirmed their class with two brilliant performances to win those matches.

Now another big test is emerging on the horizon, with Jose Mourinho transforming Tottenham into a team that looks ready to challenge for trophies in 2021.

The words ‘disciplined’ and ‘regimented’ have not been associated with Spurs for as long as I can remember, but Mourinho has a way of getting teams winning, and it has proven to be effective time and again.

He doesn’t care whether people are entertained or how he gets over the winning line, so long as he is standing there at the end of the season with a trophy in his hands.

His record confirms it’s a method that works and that’s why Liverpool need to make sure they don’t allow this tactical master to dictate affairs at Anfield once again.

We will never forget how Mourinho’s Chelsea ruined Liverpool’s title challenge at the end of the 2013/14 season as he snatched two breakaway goals, nullified the threat from the home side and ended up squeezing the life out of Brendan Rodgers’ Reds.

He will try to follow the same script when he returns to Anfield once more, with the threat Kane and Son give Tottenham in the final third making them tough to beat if they get their noses in front.

It will be interesting to see how Spurs respond if they go behind at Anfield, but we have seen them winning big at Southampton and Manchester United this season – so we know they are a major threat away from home.


Liverpool have conceded just five goals without Virgil Van Dijk

Liverpool have conceded just five goals without Virgil Van Dijk

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Liverpool have conceded just five goals without Virgil Van Dijk

I nominated Tottenham as my dark horses to get into the title race in my Sunday World column a while ago and they have proved me right in the last few weeks by taking seven points from games against Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal.

Now comes their biggest test, and if they could sneak a 1-0 win at Anfield, which will be what Mourinho is eyeing up, they could open up a little cushion at the top of the table on the reigning champions.

Of course, Klopp and his players will not be thinking like that, and with the top-quality forward players Liverpool have in their line-up, I’d fancy them to unpick the Tottenham defence.

Then Liverpool face a return trip to London for an away game against Crystal Palace, with Klopp less than happy his side have again been given the 12.30 lunchtime kick-off after being picked out by BT Sport.

We are so used to seeing this Liverpool team win match after match that it may sound strange when I suggest seven points from the three games this week might not be a bad return.

If that points total includes a win in the Tottenham game, it would burst their bubble a little and cement Liverpool’s position as the team to beat in the Premier League.

While Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City are all threatening to put up a challenge to Klopp’s champions, Liverpool continue to confirm their class with a series of performances that remind us all how great this team is.

We wondered how they would cope without Virgil van Dijk and they have conceded just five goals in the 12 games since the big Dutchman had his season ended by Jordan Pickford’s infamous ‘tackle’ in the Merseyside derby.

Then Alisson Becker got injured and young Irishman Caoimhín Kelleher stepped up to the mark with some brilliant performances over the last few weeks.

Trent Alexander-Arnold, captain Jordan Henderson, Thiago Alcantara, Naby Keita – and a list longer than we can fit in this column – have been in the treatment room in recent weeks, but Liverpool have managed to keep coming up with the answers.

A few more questions will be asked of them in the next week and Klopp knows he has players he can rely on to come up with all the solutions.

Online Editors