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Tottenham leave out key players for UCL clash at Inter Milan

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Tottenham Hotspur have left two key players in London ahead of their trip to play Inter Milan in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Is Harry Kane tired? ]

Mauricio Pochettino has decided not to take Kieran Trippier and Toby Alderweireld to Italy for “technical reasons” as Spurs will be without several stars for their UCL opener against Inter. Hugo Lloris, Dele Alli and Moussa Sissoko are also out injured.

Speaking at the San Siro to the media on Monday, Pochettino was guarded when asked exactly why he has left Trippier and Alderweireld behind.

“I never punish players because you win or lose. It is always the plan. The plan is to keep them there and use different players to play tomorrow,” Pochettino explained. “We are going to play with different players tomorrow. We believe the best decision is to play with different players.”

What is going on here?

Trippier was one of the best right backs at the 2018 World Cup and was a star for England, while Alderweireld is no doubt a veteran leader in Spurs’ defense. Tottenham had a rough time, especially defensively, against Liverpool at the weekend and although Trippier and Alderweireld weren’t directly to blame, this could point to them suffering from fatigue.

Spurs have been impacted by the World Cup more than any other PL team as the majority of the regular starting lineup went to the latter stages of the tournament in Russia, then returned to Tottenham without a preseason.

Harry Kane‘s fitness has been questioned but this decision from Pochettino suggests he may rotate his squad heavily in the coming weeks as he tries to keep his star players fit and fresh.

Three things we learned: Tottenham v. Liverpool

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LONDON — In a battle between two Premier League title contenders, Liverpool proved they’re the real deal and Tottenham showed they are perhaps on the slide this season.

Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool were comfortable throughout as they beat Tottenham 2-1 on Saturday at Wembley, with a goal in each half from Georginio Wijnaldum and Roberto Firmino doing the trick. Erik Lamela pulled a goal back but it was too little too late for Mauricio Pochettino‘s sluggish Spurs.

Tottenham have now lost back-to-back PL games and concerns about them sustaining a top four challenge this season are starting to linger.

Here’s what we learned from the clash at Wembley.


LIVERPOOL UNDERLINE TITLE CREDENTIALS

Five wins from five so far this season, and this was the best of the bunch.

Liverpool defended resolutely, dominated midfield and launched searing counter attacks as they beat title rivals Tottenham with ease at Wembley. Klopp’s side set the tone early on, with James Milner, Naby Keita and Georginio Wijnaldum forcing Mousa Dembele, Harry Winks and Eric Dier into several giveaways.

The only question mark remains is about Liverpool’s composure. They had the chance to put the game to bed multiple times but failed to score again on the break and were almost made to pay after Lamela’s late goal, then some pressure from Spurs. Klopp looked frustrated on the sidelines as his team failed to manage the game effectively, but they’d done enough over the course of the 90 minutes to ease to victory.

Liverpool have only started a top-flight season with five victories on two previous occasions (1978-79, 1990-91) and on both occasions they finished in the top two that campaign, winning the title in 1979. There’s still a long way to go but ahead of a pivotal two months where they face Chelsea in the PL and League Cup, Man City in the league and PSG and Napoli and the UEFA Champions League, Liverpool have put down a marker as they continue to lead the Premier League.

Their display at Tottenham proved their early season promise can correctly be converted into talk of a serious, and sustained, title push.


POCH’S CONCERNS COMPOUNDED

Mauricio Pochettino raised plenty of eyebrows when he called out his team for not being at their best in the aftermath of their big win at Manchester United late last month. Prothetic Poch knew exactly what was coming up.

A defeat at Watford arrived just before the international break and Spurs’ sluggish start and finish to the first half handed Liverpool the initiative as Tottenham lost back-to-back PL games for the first time since May 2016.

There are a few factors to explain this sticky patch for Spurs: 1) most of their squad had no preseason and Pochettino’s high-pressing tactics need a rigorous preseason. 2) there is still some uncertainty in the air over their delayed move back to their new White Hart Lane home. 3) injuries to Dele Alli and Hugo Lloris were huge in this loss to Liverpool.

The latter reason is something which will be sorted out in the next few days when Dele and Lloris return. Without the former they lacked a presence between midfield and attack and Harry Kane in particular was isolated. Without Lloris, well, they probably wouldn’t have concede the first goal as Michel Vorm flapped at a corner and couldn’t keep out the header.

The other issues are more difficult to solve. Only three of Spurs’ starting lineup didn’t play in the latter stages of the World Cup this summer and fatigue will continue to creep in over the next few months as the busy Champions League and cup schedule intensifies. Harry Kane once again struggled through and doesn’t look to be at his best.


SALAH QUIET AS FIRMINO, MANE SHINE

Mohamed Salah isn’t quite having a Sophomore slump, but he isn’t the main man right now for Liverpool. And that’s great news for Klopp. So often last season Liverpool ran out of ideas if Salah wasn’t on form.

With the Egyptian star feeling his way into the new season with just two goals to his name so far, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino carried the threat against Spurs.

The former didn’t score but opened up so much space behind Tottenham’s usually stout defensive line. He took a little too much time to supply a finish or a pass for his teammates on a few breakaways, but Mane’s pace caused all kinds of problems and his cross led to Firmino’s goal.

As for the Brazilian striker, he continues to almost, quite amazingly, fly under the radar. He looked sharp throughout with his twists and turns and almost flicked home twice in the opening two minutes.

Mane and Firmino are carrying Liverpool’s main offensive threat right now but the good news for Klopp is that Salah is just getting warmed up.

Liverpool waltz past Spurs

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  • GDS helps Liverpool to lead
  • Spurs poor, missing Dele
  • Firmino, Wiljnaldum score

Liverpool passed its first Top Four test of the year in style with a 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

Georginio Wijnaldum and Roberto Firmino scored the goals for the Reds, who moved to 5-0 on the young season and kicked off a run of tricky fixtures with a loss.

Dele Alli and Hugo Lloris were unavailable for for Spurs, who got a stoppage time goal from Erik Lamela.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]

Liverpool had two phenomenal chances in the first 20 minutes of the match, one denied by the officials and the second by Michel Vorm.

Then Eric Dier made a terrible back pass that served as a delightful through ball for Mohamed Salah, but Vorm stayed back in his goal and saved a left-footed effort.

Christian Eriksen‘s cutback to Lucas Moura was denied by a sliding Naby Keita in the 27th minute. The Dane then ripped a free kick that Alisson Becker collected with a dip to his right.

Substandard passing often betrayed both teams’ fantastic energy, nerves possibly playing a role in the Top Four clash.

Liverpool went ahead with the help of Goal Decision System, as Vorm’s two-handed slap of Wijnaldum’s header off a 39th minute corner just crossed the line.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Joe Gomez opened the door for lively Lucas Moura early in the second half, but Alisson saved the deflected shot.

Another poor giveaway, this one by Mousa Dembele, forced Vorm into a fine save on Sadio Mane (who might’ve wanted to make one more pass).

Lucas cooked Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold before zipping a shot off the near post in the 50th minute.

Firmino doubled Liverpool’s lead in the 54th minute as Spurs faltered badly down their right side. Jan Vertonghen‘s sliding diversion was saved of an own goal by the post, but Firmino scored one of the closest range goals possible.

Vorm saved Spurs from a 3-0 deficit when Liverpool earned a 3v2 break in the 64th minute.

Eriksen’s hard, tight cross could only be flicked wide by Kane three minutes later.

Firmino left the match with an apparent head injury in the 73rd minute.

Lamela brought gave Spurs a breath of life in the third minute of stoppage time when he volleyed home.

Now should Mane have conceded a stoppage time penalty kick? VAR would’ve awarded it to Spurs, that’s almost certain, but the video is not in play for the Premier League this season and Mane’s clip of Heung-Min Son‘s heel in the box was not noticed by Michael Oliver.

Premier League preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool

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  • Liverpool: 1st place, 12/12 points
  • Tottenham: 5th place, 9/12 points
  • Spurs won at home (4-1), drew away (2-2) last season

Last season’s third- and fourth-place finishers square off at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, in the biggest clash (thus far) of the still-young Premier League season.

Tottenham Hotspur will be without two of their most important, influential players — Hugo Lloris and Dele Alli — due to injuries when Mauricio Pochettino‘s side hosts Liverpool (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com). Tottenham will, however, receive a massive boost in the form of Son Heung-min, who returns after missing the last three games due to international duty. Spurs managed quite well during Son’s absence, as Lucas Moura won PL Player of the Month for August, yet a sour taste in the mouth remains after suffering defeat for the first time this season just before the international break, away to Watford two weeks ago.

[ MORE: Top Premier League storylines for Week 5 ]

Liverpool, on the other hand, are yet to drop a point this season. Having conceded just one goal in four games, the side typically known for its attacking tendencies suddenly appears to have rounded itself into even healthier title-contending shape. That goal came last time out, against Leicester City, when Alisson‘s desire to play the ball out of the back quickly turned into a nightmare, yet it hugely undermines how good he has been through four games and how much stability he has brought to a long-troubled position already. Fortunately for the Reds, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have picked up right where they left off, racking up seven goals and three assists between them already.

What they’re saying

Pochettino, on Lloris staying on as captain after his DUI: “Of course, [he was] lucky there were no [tragic] consequence — that is important. … He is very conscious about what happened and you cannot remove it. But he has the capacity to move on and be focused on playing football. … He apologized to everyone — the staff, the club, the fans, us. He said, ‘Any decision that you take, gaffer, or the club take, I think is fair.’ … Will he stay as captain? Of course. He is the first to regret about everything. He is punishing himself. We are not God and we cannot judge people. He said, ‘Gaffer, I made a mistake. Now I need to pay like a man.'”

Klopp, on the need to rotate ahead of a busy period: “Of course we have to [rotate]. We go to the next game and then see. You always try to have your best team, but it’s clear with the number of games we have, we have to rotate. It feels like we’ve got 500 games [coming up]. When you have a lot of players you can make decisions, good decisions. It’s a luxury problem to have.”

Prediction

Liverpool grab an early goal, forcing Spurs to chase the game more than they’d like to do, presenting Liverpool ample opportunity for a second and third. The Reds stay perfect.

Top Premier League storylines for Week 5

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
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The Premier League left us for a week, but like any good parental figure it is returning with presents for all.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]

All that and four more things to watch closely this weekend in England.

Liverpool kicks off grueling run as Spurs try to bounce back
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN STREAM ]

Mauricio Pochettino, Harry Kane, and Spurs have had two weeks to stew on their first loss of the year, a setback at the hands of still-perfect Watford.

Now Spurs are staring down another team with a zero in the loss and draw columns, as high-flying Liverpool visits Wembley Stadium. Dele Alli and Hugo Lloris are set to miss the match for Tottenham.

The Reds come to London knowing that this is their first big test of the season, and that it will kick off a monster run of fixtures which includes visits from Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, Chelsea in the League Cup, and Man City in the Premier League. There’s a visit to Chelsea in league play and a trip to Napoli in the UCL to boot.

Perfect Hornets welcome red-hot Lukaku, Manchester United
Watford vs. Manchester United — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC STREAM ]

If you would’ve offered Javi Gracia a 2W-2L start to the season before facing 4-0 Manchester United in Week Five, he probably would’ve taken it.

Yet his Watford side is the perfect side as it welcomes Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils to Vicarage Road on Saturday.

New boys challenged at homes of unbeaten giants
Chelsea vs. Cardiff City — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on CNBC STREAM ]
Man City vs. Fulham — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN STREAM ]

Neil Warnock leads Cardiff City into Chelsea while Slavisa Jokanovic and Fulham visit the Etihad Stadium, the two newly-promoted sides experiencing very different starts to life in the Premier League.

Fulham spent much more than the Bluebirds, and the Cottagers are playing stylish football with Jean-Michael Seri and prizefighter striker Aleksandar Mitrovic. “Mitro” has the ability to challenge any center back in the league, but can he be a difference maker against a City side determined to get back atop the table.

Chelsea is good money to end the weekend atop the table, even if Liverpool manages a win at Spurs. That’s because the Blues have plenty of experience breaking down parked sides, and Warnock is unlikely to expect anything despite counterpunching Arsenal twice in a 3-2 loss last time out.

New managers Emery, Sarri helm big London rivalry
Everton vs. West Ham United — 11 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN STREAM ]

Neither Marco Silva nor West Ham counterpart Manuel Pellegrini expected to be in their respective spots on the table after four weeks of the season.

Silva’s Everton remains unbeaten, but has drawn three of its four matches in head-scratching fashion. Now he’ll entertain an Irons side which could be staring down 0-7 if they cannot find a point at Goodison Park (Chelsea home and Manchester United away are next on the league docket).