Just two games into the 2016-17 Premier League season and it looks like we’re seeing a return to normal service. Manchester City and Manchester United sit at the top of the table, while Bournemouth, Palace and Sunderland are yet to record a win.
After the most unpredictable season in recent memory last year, perhaps we’re in for an overly predictable one this time around. While that mightn’t be great news for the football purists, punters will be hoping it’s a sign of things to come.
Tottenham vs Liverpool
The current season shapes as a critical one for Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs after their third-placed finish last year. Was it a case of Spurs cashing in on weak City, United and Chelsea sides, or was their final table position truly reflective of their improvement? The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle – there were certainly some powerhouses out of sorts, but at the same time Spurs were arguably the best footballing side in the league last year. But with all three of the aforementioned powerhouses seemingly back in business, can Spurs realistically maintain their upward trajectory or will they come crashing back down to earth? Whatever the case may be, they have a fantastic opportunity this weekend to send a strong message to their rivals by beating Liverpool.
After being absolutely battered in the opening half an hour against Everton in week one, Spurs battled back and probably deserved a win in the end. Last week they absolutely battered Crystal Palace, and although they only managed a 1 — 0 win, on another day it might’ve been three or four. So although they’ve not exactly exploded out of the blocks like City or United, a win against Liverpool will have them building momentum nicely. Victor Wanyama, in particular, has started positively, grabbing the winner against Palace. He brings much-needed drive and athleticism to Tottenham’s midfield, and a burgeoning partnership with Eric Dier could well develop into something special.
Liverpool started the year off perfectly, with an opening day come-from-behind win at Arsenal. Unfortunately, this was followed up with a 2 — 0 defeat at Burnley, in a game where the Reds enjoyed an astonishing 80% possession – a Premier League record. But as the old adage goes, it’s not how much of the ball you have, it’s how you use it, and Liverpool toiled for 90 minutes without creating anything more than half chances. It’s the kind of performance that the Reds turned in all too often last season – and something Jurgen Klopp will have to address quickly if they harbour serious ambitions of re-joining the competition’s elite. They showed against Arsenal that on their day they can compete with anyone, but a loss to Spurs would see them chasing the pack far too early – a point is their minimum pass-mark.
The game will likely be decided by Liverpool’s back four who have conceded five in two games. Spaniard Alberto Moreno has taken much of the blame after a couple of high-profile mistakes, which certainly doesn’t help the cause, but you get the sense that Liverpool’s woes at the back have more to do with Klopp’s well-publicised geggenpress, which can leave them horribly exposed on the counter as Burnley proved last week. The early central pairing of summer signing Ragnar Klavan with Dejan Lovren is also yet to bed-in, and it’ll be interesting to see whether Klopp opts to give Joel Matip his Premier League debut after his early injury woes. At any rate, whoever plays will need to be at their best or Tottenham will have a field day.
With that said, Liverpool dealt with Tottenham as well as anyone last year – drawing both games 0 — 0 and 1 — 1 respectively. In fact, besides United, who beat Liverpool twice, the Reds were great against the bigger sides. They got the better of City home and away and were undefeated against both Arsenal and Chelsea. If they can bring that same level of belief and commitment, a positive result here is certainly within their grasp – though you suspect Spurs are travelling just that little bit better at present.
Tottenham 2 — 1 ($8.50)
Harry Kane ($6.50)