Liverpool - Tottenham Hotspur Preview: Reds hoping to keep slim top-four dreams alive

Liverpool host title-chasing Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield on Saturday evening hoping to keep their faint hopes of a top-four finish alive, knowing that anything but three points would surely end their chances of qualifying for next season's Champions League through the domestic route.

Liverpool - Tottenham Hotspur Preview: Reds hoping to keep slim top-four dreams alive
(Picture: VAVEL UK)

Liverpool face a difficult return from international football as they host title hopefuls Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield on Saturday evening, themselves looking to keep faint hopes of a top-four finish alive.

As many as 19 of Jürgen Klopp's senior squad were away with their national teams over the last two weeks, but they will be required to put in a massive shift against Mauricio Pochettino's like-minded Spurs side.

Their all-action pressing style sees them five points off first place in the Barclays Premier League, with the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier and Toby Alderweireld amongst the best players in their positions across the season.

The Reds therefore face a tough task to claim maximum points, despite a recent record which has seen them win five of the last six meetings home or away. 

The last meeting between the two sides back in October ended goalless. (Picture: Getty Images)
The last meeting between the two sides back in October ended goalless. (Picture: Getty Images)

But Klopp and co. know they cannot afford any more slip-ups if they are to maintain any slim hopes of reaching next year's UEFA Champions League through the league, with winning the Europa League currently a more viable avenue to Europe's top-tier

With the German's former side, Borussia Dortmund, awaiting in the quarter-finals later this month - the first-leg coming next week - they face just as tough a task to qualify via that route, meaning they will refuse to rule out their chances in the league.

However, they face up against an in-form Spurs side who have lost just one of their last 10 games as they attempt to keep on the toes of league leaders Leicester City.

Although the high-flying Foxes have stolen much of Tottenham's thunder, there is no getting away from the fact that the North London outfit have also been one of the league's best teams this term.

Conceding just 24 goals in 31 games, they boast the best defensive record in the English top-flight, whilst they have also managed to plunder more goals than any other team - with 56 just eclipsing Leicester's 54.

That makes them a difficult opponent to beat at either end, with Pochettino having got the best out of summer signings and previous signings who had been deemed flops, such as Erik Lamela, who has been excellent throughout.

Topped by signings such as Alderweireld, who has been sublime in the heart of defence, and Kevin Wimmer who has filled in expertly for the injured Jan Vertonghen - as well as the form of Kane and Alli - Spurs represent a squad whose progression Klopp's team might look to emulate in the coming seasons.

But they are still well capable of putting a monumental dent in Spurs' title hopes, and inflicting just a fifth defeat of the season upon them, should they replicate the calibre of performance they had started to demonstrate before a damaging 3-2 defeat at Southampton last time out.

The last meeting between the two sides was Klopp's first game as Liverpool boss. (Picture: Getty Images)
The last meeting between the two sides was Klopp's first game as Liverpool boss in October. (Picture: Getty Images)

Leading comfortably at half-time thanks to goals from Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge, changes for either side drastically altered the momentum of the game and allowed the Saints to reverse the scoreline in their favour.

Had the Reds won that game, they would be just four points off of fourth-placed Manchester City with an extra game to play (albeit a Merseyside Derby against Everton) and on a three-match winning streak in the league.

However, typically of a side who have suffered from terrible inconsistency throughout the campaign, they have left themselves with a monumental task to finish in the top-four - and they need nothing less than three points against Spurs to ensure they still have something to play for domestically.

Team news:

Philippe Coutinho and Divock Origi are expected to be fit enough to feature for the hosts, although they are likely to be without both Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke.

The Brazilian flew a gruelling 6,300 miles to return to Merseyside on Thursday after featuring in a combined total of just 23 minutes for his country over their two games in South America.

Meanwhile, Origi had to drop out of Belgium duty with a thigh complaint - although he should be given the green light to feature after also coming through training unscathed. 

Firmino and Benteke were also forced to withdraw from the Brazil and Belgium squads respectively, due to hamstring and knee injuries which leave them as major doubts for Saturday's game.

On a more positive note, Alberto Moreno will make his return from a hamstring injury after recovering from the problem during a week of warm-weather training in Tenerife over the recent international break.

Moreno will make his return from a hamstring complaint on Saturday. (Picture: Getty Images)
Moreno will make his return from a hamstring complaint on Saturday. (Picture: Getty Images)

Elsewhere, vice-captain James Milner has served a one-match suspension and Jordan Henderson has recovered from the illness which kept him on the bench for the defeat at St Mary's last month.

Lucas Leiva remains unavailable after a thigh muscle strain, with long-term absentees Jordan Rossiter (hamstring) and Kevin Stewart (ankle ligaments) still out.

Pochettino has few injury worries and will welcome Toby Alderweireld, who has played every minute of every match for Spurs this season, back to continue his everpresent record after recovering from an illness which kept him out of the Belgium squad.

Jan Vertonghen is "very close" to a first-team return according to Pochettino, but it is unlikely he will walk back into the starting line-up on Merseyside with his dependable deputy Kevin Wimmer expected to continue filling in at centre-back.

Speaking on Thursday, the Spurs boss said that they will carefully monitor the fitness of those who have been away on international duty - including the likes of Erik Lamela who only returned the same day and has suffered "some issues" whilst training with Argentina, which could mean he misses out.

Clinton N'jie is continuing to step up his rehabilitation from a long-term knee injury which has kept him sidelined since December, whilst Nabil Bentaleb does not yet have a return date pencilled in similarly from a knee problem.

Head-to-head:

At Anfield: Liverpool - 46 wins, Draws - 20, Tottenham Hotspur - 8 wins.

At White Hart Lane: Tottenham Hotspur - 36 wins, Draws - 17, Liverpool  - 22 wins.

Overall: Liverpool - 68 wins, Draws - 37, Tottenham Hotspur - 44 wins.

Last meeting: Tottenham Hotspur 0-0 Liverpool, Barclays Premier League, 17th October 2015.

Recent form:

Liverpool

Form in Premier League: LWWWD
Form in all competitions: LDWWW

Tottenham Hotspur

Form in Premier League: WWDLW
Form in all competitions: WLWLD

Match facts:

Liverpool haven't lost to Tottenham since a 2-1 defeat at White Hart Lane in November 2012 and have won five of the last six matches since then.

In those six games, Liverpool have scored an impressive 18 goals whilst conceding just four, all of which were in 3-2 wins. 

Liverpool's last Anfield defeat to Tottenham was in 2011, when goals from Rafael van der Vaart and Luka Modric secured a 2-0 win.

That win was Spurs' only victory in their last 21 Premier League trips to Anfield, losing 14 and drawing six.

The Reds have kept an impressive four clean sheets in their last five league meetings with Spurs.

This fixture has seen more own goals scored than any other in the Premier League's history, with nine.

The last time Liverpool won back-to-back league home games was May 2015.

Spurs have only lost one of their last 14 away games in the league, winning eight and drawing five.

Jürgen Klopp's side have dropped more points from winning positions than any other team in the top-flight this season, with 15, whilst Spurs have won more from losing positions than any other team - winning 18 after coming from behind.

Man in the middle:

Moss' last Liverpool game was their 4-1 away win at City in November. (Picture: Getty Images)
Moss' last Liverpool game was their 4-1 away win at City in November. (Picture: Getty Images)

Jonathan Moss is the nominated referee for this one, marking the 45-year-old's 110th Premier League game since his promotion to the Select Group of Referees in 2011.

Sunderland-born Moss, who was the official for last season's FA Cup final, has previously taken charge of nine top-flight games involving Liverpool.

The only two games he officiated involving the Reds this season have both gone in their favour, including the 4-1 win away at Manchester City - a game that also came after a two-week international break which they had lost their final game before.

Another potentially good omen, or meaningless fact, is that Moss was in charge for Liverpool's 5-0 win away at Spurs in December of 2013 - the only time he has taken control of a Liverpool - Tottenham fixture.

Moss has dished out a total of 357 yellow cards and just 19 red cards across the 109 games he has managed thus far, having never sent off a Liverpool player in the league.