Liverpool vs Tottenham: Mauricio Pochettino and Spurs need Anfield win to convert season into a classic

Big away victory is the one thing Mauricio Pochettino is yet to deliver

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For Tottenham Hotspur, the achievements are starting to accumulate. This year, already, they have thumped the league leaders, reached a cup final, won a thrilling derby and climbed, however briefly, into the top four.

As they march into the serious half of the season, though, there is one thing that they are lacking: a famous away victory, a conquest of the home of one of their rivals. The best team they have won at was West Ham United, and that was on the season’s opening day, almost six months ago.

Tonight, Mauricio Pochettino’s team travel to Anfield, hoping to deliver just that. Of course, the Premier League table is important and a win tonight would, for 24 hours at least, send them into third place, seven points clear of Brendan Rodgers’ improving side. While Manchester City seem to have ended the title race by themselves, the competition for the Champions League places is again looking like the most exciting of the season’s final months.

Spurs are buoyant after the derby win over Arsenal

But victory for Spurs at Liverpool would also make clear just how far – physically and mentally – Pochettino has taken this team. Spurs’ results at the big teams were poor last season, including a 4-0 defeat at Anfield in March which seemed to sum up their lack of character, discipline and focus.

Pochettino has restored all of those things and more. Hugo Lloris, as important as any other player to their excellent form, believes they can show that tonight. “I think we are improving and we are in a good dynamic,” said the French goalkeeper, after Saturday’s already-famous north London derby victory. “We need to keep the same mentality and instil the same discipline in this game [against Liverpool]. We also need to make a good recovery because the game will come quickly. But we will show the same desire and we have a good team spirit.”

It has not been easy for Spurs to reach this level. It took a pre-season full of exhausting double sessions, some difficult personnel decisions, and the early teething problems led to four avoidable home league defeats. But Lloris said that all that work is now being rewarded on the pitch.

“The season is very long and, of course, there are some dips along the way,” Lloris said. “But the key is to work hard every day. That has always been our mentality in the team. We always try to work hard and do what the manager expects. We try to do our best on the pitch. Some performances may not have been so good earlier in the season but in some ways they helped us to the improvements you see now.”

It is very clear now which players buy into the Pochettino regime and which do not. Those players who played on Saturday, and who will play again tonight, are those who are willing and able to run as far as their Argentinian coach needs.

“We all believe in his philosophy and the way he wants us to play,” Lloris said. “We take strength from him and the improvements we have shown. We take our confidence and ability to fight into every game.”

Lloris, like any player, wants to play every game and that extends to the Capital One Cup final, against Chelsea at Wembley on 1 March. His understudy, Michel Vorm, has played every game in the competition but Pochettino has a decision to make, not least with the final coming three days after the Europa League last 32 second leg at Fiorentina. It might look strange if Spurs were to play a cup final and the best goalkeeper in the Premier League was sat on the bench.

When asked whether he would like to play at Wembley, Lloris replied, “That is a very easy question to answer”, but he certainly remains focused on the Premier League and Europa League games before then.

“At the moment we are not thinking about it too much because we still have plenty of games to go before the final and we take things game by game,” he said.

“I will respect the manager’s decision and abide by that, like all the players here do. That is the mentality of this squad. If you play or you don’t play, you are still involved in the squad.”


Anfield Agony - Spurs’ poor record at Liverpool

Tottenham head to Anfield tonight seeking to improve on a dreadful record, with just four league wins since 1912.

16 Mar 1985: Liv 0-1 Tott

Garth Crooks scored in front of the Kop for a first win at Anfield since the year the Titanic sank.

8 May 1993: Liv 6-2 Tott

Two goals apiece for Ian Rush and John Barnes as Spurs saw out the season with a whimper.

1 May 1999: Liv 3-2 Tott

Ledley King made his debut as the Worthington Cup winners led 2-0 at the interval before collapsing to defeat.

7 Oct 2007: Liv 2-2 Tott

Fernando Torres headed a late leveller to extend Martin Jol’s poor start to the season.

15 May 2011: Liv 0-2 Tott

Rafael van der Vaart and Luka Modric helped Spurs close in on Europa League spot.

30 Mar 2014: Liv 4-0 Tott

Luis Suarez led Liverpool’s title charge as away fans turned on Tim Sherwood.