Slumping Liverpool braced for Spurs test

Liverpool (AFP) – After a miserable start to 2017, Liverpool are in a sorry state ahead of Tottenham Hotspur’s visit in the Premier League on Saturday.

They have won only one of their last 10 matches, were knocked out of both domestic cups in the space of four days and slipped out of the top four after last weekend’s 2-0 loss at strugglers Hull City.

It has been some fall for Jurgen Klopp’s side, who briefly topped the table in November but now find themselves 13 points behind leaders Chelsea and four adrift of second-place Tottenham.

“If you don’t collect a lot of points, if you lose a lot of games and if you don’t play the way you played before, I think you lose a little bit of confidence,” said midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum.

“But now we must make sure we get back on track, play like we did before to get more confidence and start winning games.”

Worryingly for Klopp, Liverpool’s home form has dipped alarmingly since an unbeaten run at Anfield of close to 12 months came to an end against Swansea City on January 21.

They were then defeated on their own patch by Southampton in the League Cup semi-finals and, to great embarrassment, Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers in the FA Cup.

Chelsea would have made it a fourth successive home defeat for Klopp’s team on January 31, but goalkeeper Simon Mignolet saved Diego Costa’s late penalty to ensure a 1-1 draw.

Despite his side’s poor recent form, Klopp made no signings in the January transfer window.

He does have a strong first XI, though, and will be hoping he can get close to fielding it against Tottenham.

Dejan Lovren missed the defeat at Hull with a knee injury and fellow centre-back Ragnar Klavan was missing through illness, meaning midfielder Lucas Leiva partnered Joel Matip in the middle of a makeshift defence.

Sadio Mane should start in attack for a second successive game following his return from Africa Cup of Nations duty with Senegal.

– Rose ‘very positive’ –

Tottenham have emerged as Chelsea’s closest rivals, although they still trail the leaders by nine points despite beating Middlesbrough 1-0 last Sunday.

Manager Mauricio Pochettino is aware of the need to keep picking up points in the hope that Antonio Conte’s side falter, but he is not taking Liverpool’s poor run for granted.

“If we win it will be important, to help us keep putting pressure on Chelsea,” he said.

“It’s not decisive, but it’s important. I’m not thinking about the top of the table. That’s not the problem today.

“They are not in a good run, but they have very good players, one of the best squads in England and Europe.

“They will be motivated as this is always a big match. It will be a very tough game. We are not the only realistic challengers.

“We are a contender, but there are a lot of contenders. Nine points is a massive gap, but it’s not decisive.”

Danny Rose will miss the trip to Anfield as he recovers from a knee injury, but Tottenham have allayed fears the England left-back will be sidelined for two months.

Spurs are refusing to put a timescale on his comeback date, but Pochettino said: “Danny’s very positive, we are very positive.

“We are happy after he saw a specialist. It’s not a big issue. It’s a minor problem, a small problem.

“We hope he can be available again as soon as possible. We need to be patient. He is very optimistic. We are happy and you will see.”

Tottenham are restructuring their scouting system behind the scenes and have appointed Steve Hitchen as their chief scout. Hitchen worked as a scout for Spurs under former manager Harry Redknapp.

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