Premier League: Liverpool’s clash against Tottenham Hotspur will be season-defining bout between underdogs

‘Woke’ is one way of wording the quality of being ironically acutely self-aware. This is not that new a concept to speakers of the German language, like Jurgen Klopp. Germans, with their vast vocabulary of compound words, put a finger on incomprehensibly-abstract feelings and states of mind. One such word Klopp would be well aware of is ‘Futterneid’.

Futterneid can simply be explained as the hollow feeling of seeing a competitor you’re sharing a lunch with having ordered the better tasting food off the menu, a dish that you’d much rather been having, but was either too costly or indulgent. The root cause of this, the Germans believe, is the principled approach to being abstemious or overly-conscious. This could be the perfect analogy for Klopp’s managerial career from Mainz through Borussia Dortmund and now to Liverpool when it comes to transfer dealings; but trust the Swabian to come up with an even better one:

“We are still Rocky Balboa, not Ivan Drago,” said Liverpool’s German manager Klopp on the 10th August, 2018, at the start of a season-long battle with the heavyweights and contenders. “It’s not about being the underdog, not one little bit,” added Klopp. “I don’t want to be the underdog. I want to win, and Rocky won.”

Liverpool players celebrate a Sadio Mane goal against Leicester City earlier this month. AP

Liverpool players celebrate a Sadio Mane goal against Leicester City earlier this month. AP

Klopp has been Rocky I (from the first installment of the very successful film-franchise focused on the life and times of a fictional lowbrow boxer punching above his weight to the very top) for far too long. But now, perhaps, for the very first time in his managerial career, Klopp is not looking over his shoulder wishing he had what the likes of Manchester United’s Jose Mourinho or Chelsea’s Maurizio Sarri have on their plates. No, with a title-challenging team at his disposal, studded with leaders like Virgil van Dijk, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, and a reinvigorated James Milner, his plate is both lavish and quite full. But that doesn’t stop him from being envious of the qualities of Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur, their opponents for Saturday’s early kick-off.

“Tottenham were a fantastic team and they also finished ahead of us. They didn’t bring in anybody but they are still a fantastic team who will develop,” admitted Klopp in the same Rocky monologue at the start of the season. There is indeed quite a lot to be admired about the man he will share the touchline with on Saturday, the most important being the virtue of team-building.

Key battles:

Jurgen Klopp vs Mauricio Pochettino

This match promises to be a bout of the perennial try-hards, the do-good underdogs, on and beyond the technical area. It would be the footballing equivalent of what a boxing match between the Stallones from Rocky I and Rocky III would be like. The former has the fresh-faced ideals and tools of a would-be-champion, but the latter, battle-hardened and the wiser for it, had the healthy, wily cynicism of one. Mind that who is who would only be decided over two rounds, the first of which is this. Both teams will work like gears and joints of two automatons like a Mobile Suit Gundam episode, with their German and Argentine operators smashing their invisible buttons. The one with the steelier jaw will win.

Lucas Moura vs Joe Gomez

In one corner, weighing in at 77kgs, and with a reach that all of 6’2’’ offers him, is the rapidest sweeper England has seen since Rio Ferdinand of Leeds United. Before the start of the season, Joe Gomez had to be ordered to lay off the weight training by the coaching staff at Liverpool. He’s built like a Panzer, and bench-presses the weight of expectations. If rival fans aren’t yet aware of his burgeoning potential, this match off with tornado-toed Lucas Moura should go some way to prove that Joe isn’t simply a big lug, but is one of the most mobile centrebacks Liverpool have had since the buccaneering Daniel Agger. This being Joe Gomez’s first real test against an opponent exhibiting such torques this season, it could go either way.

Christian Eriksen vs Jordan Henderson

On his good days, Christian Eriksen of Tottenham Hotspur could direct the narrative from the start to the ending scene and not even break a sweat. Jordan Henderson of Liverpool, following a World Cup that saw him break the record for distance covered in a major tournament by an Englishman, will be out to make sure Eriksen reaches for the bottle of Gatorade multiple times through the course of the game.

Following his long-term contract renewal this month, questions have been asked by Liverpool fans about Jordan Henderson wearing the captain’s armband, when there are men of the class and stature of Van Dijk and Mohamed Salah on the team sheet. To put his popularity in proper context, Henderson came behind a more junior Emre Can (a man who stalled on his contract to wheedle a move to Champions League rivals Juventus) in mass Twitter polls before the latter’s departure. To say that the Liverpool captain will have a point to prove would be understating the matter, like saying that Mo Salah’s hair is only slightly curly.

Davinson Sanchez vs Sadio Mane

This is going to be quite a sight. Sadio Mane is picking up where Salah left off last season. The No 10 of Liverpool is a storied jersey previously worn by legends such as John Barnes and Andriy Voronin. Sadio Mane, drawing some sort of talismanic power from his new number, is suddenly strutting with the rhythm and the rhyme of the late-great Mac Miller. Davinson Sanchez is going to have a Childish Gambino-esque range to cover if he has to compete with Mane.

Tottenham Hotspur players celebrate their goal against Watford FC earlier this month AP Photo

Tottenham Hotspur players celebrate their goal against Watford FC earlier this month AP Photo

Formations:

Tottenham Hotspur (3-5-2):

Vorm; Alderweireld, Sanchez, Vertonghen; Trippier, Dier, Davies, Eriksen, Dembele; Lucas, Kane.

Liverpool FC (4-3-3):

Allison; Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomen, Virgil van Dijk, Jack Robertson; Gini Wijnaldum, James Milner, Jordan Henderson; Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane.

Verdict:

Tottenham Hotspur will have home advantage, but trust Liverpool to learn from their last encounter which ended 4-1 in favour of the Spurs. On the 22 September, 2017, Liverpool’s midfield and defence offered all the resistance of a revolving door at Caesars in Las Vegas on fight-night. This time around, expect Liverpool to be mildly cynical and maybe even lucky.

In the red corner we have Liverpool, and in the white and blue, we have Tottenham. This is one of the season-defining bouts you should call everyone over for.


Updated Date: Sep 15, 2018 11:27 AM

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