Liverpool will look to turn their miserable 2017 form around when they welcome high-flying Tottenham Hotspur to Anfield on Saturday.
The hosts have slipped out of the Champions League places due to a dreadful start to the year, whereas Tottenham have established themselves as the closest rivals to runaway Premier League leaders Chelsea.
What a difference a month makes. At the beginning of 2017, Liverpool sat second in the Premier League, just six points off Chelsea and four ahead of Spurs, who sat in fourth.
It has been a nightmare start to the year for Jurgen Klopp‘s side, though, with three draws and two defeats from their five Premier League outings seeing them slip out of the top four, now trailing Chelsea by 13 points and Spurs by four.
In all competitions, Liverpool’s only win of 2017 so far came against League Two Plymouth Argyle in an FA Cup replay, with that dismal run of form seeing them eliminated from the EFL Cup and FA Cup, in addition to seeing their title hopes fade away.
The last time Liverpool won just one of their opening 10 games of a calendar year was in 1993, while the only time they have made a worse start to a year was way back in 1954, when they went on to be relegated.
A drastic turnaround is needed sooner rather than later to prevent the Reds from falling further behind in the race for the top four, which is now their only realistic goal this season.
There have been plenty of candidates for Liverpool’s worst moment of this current run – from defeat to Swansea City at Anfield to crashing out of the FA Cup at the hands of Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers – but arguably the nadir came last weekend when Klopp’s side slumped to a dire 2-0 loss to Hull City.
Perhaps the only saving grace heading into this weekend’s match is that Liverpool have generally raised their game when the big boys have come to visit, and they still boast the best points-per-game record in the top-six mini-league this season having remained unbeaten in their seven outings so far.
The most recent of those saw them hold leaders Chelsea to a 1-1 draw – a satisfactory result on its own but one which also extended Liverpool’s winless home run to five matches – their longest since 2012.
The Reds do remain the league’s joint top-scorers, but they have now conceded 30 times in their 24 outings this season, giving them the worst defensive record in the top eight.
Klopp has accepted full responsibility for the recent run of results, which have been so poor that the German’s future has even been questioned and, with an identical record to Brendan Rodgers after 54 league games in charge – 26 wins, 16 draws and 12 defeats – Klopp is increasingly in need of a response to his first testing patch as Liverpool boss.
Recent form: WDDLDL
Recent form (all competitions): WLLLDL
While Liverpool have seriously struggled so far this year, Tottenham have gone from strength to strength to establish themselves as the main contenders to Chelsea in a lopsided title race.
A nine-point gap still separates them from their London rivals at the top of the Premier League table, but victory at Anfield would close that to six until at least Sunday, when Chelsea make the tricky trip to Burnley.
Mauricio Pochettino‘s side are currently enjoying an 11-match unbeaten streak in all competitions which stretches back two months and includes nine victories, the most recent of which saw them edge past Middlesbrough last weekend courtesy of a Harry Kane penalty.
That result kept up Tottenham’s unbeaten home record this season, but on the road there is still room for improvement, and that is where the main difference between themselves and Chelsea lies.
No team has drawn more away games in the Premier League this season, with Spurs having won just four of their 12 league games on their travels – the worst record out of any team in the top six.
Indeed, back-to-back 4-1 victories over Southampton and Watford either side of the New Year are Tottenham’s only triumphs from their last 12 away games in all competitions – a run which stretches back to September and includes a defeat at Anfield.
Spurs turn their attentions to cup competitions after this weekend, with an FA Cup trip to Fulham sandwiched between a Europa League double-header with Gent, but Pochettino will know that any more slip-ups in the Premier League could effectively end what are already fairly slim title hopes.
The Argentine has never beaten Liverpool during his time in charge of Spurs, drawing three and losing three of his six meetings, although he did win two of his three games against the Reds while at Southampton.
This match sees the league’s highest-scoring attack take on it’s stingiest defence, but Liverpool have failed to score in four of their last nine games while Spurs have kept back-to-back clean sheets and are looking for three in a row in the Premier League for the first time since September 2015.
Recent form: WWWDDW
Recent form (all competitions): WWDWDW
Liverpool’s main concern ahead of the visit of Tottenham surrounds Dejan Lovren, who missed the defeat to Hull with a knee injury and has not yet returned to full training.
An illness for Ragnar Klavan meant that Lucas Leiva was forced to fill in at centre-back alongside Joel Matip at the KCOM Stadium, but Klopp is hopeful of having Lovren back available in time for the weekend.
Adam Lallana also missed training for the Reds on Thursday, but that is thought to be precautionary and the England international should start at Anfield.
Klopp may be considering changes to his underperforming side nonetheless, with Georginio Wijnaldum, Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi pushing for recalls.
Spurs, meanwhile, are still without key defensive duo Danny Rose and Jan Vertonghen, while Georges-Kevin N’Koudou and Erik Lamela also remain sidelined for Pochettino.
Kieran Trippier is in line for a return to the squad following a recent hip injury, but Kyle Walker will continue at right-back in what could be an unchanged Tottenham side.
Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Mignolet; Clyne, Matip, Klavan, Milner; Lallana, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Mane, Firmino, Coutinho
Tottenham possible starting lineup:
Lloris, Walker, Dier, Alderweireld, Davies; Dembele, Wanyama, Eriksen, Alli, Son; Kane
Head To Head
Liverpool have been something of a bogey team for Spurs in recent years and go into this weekend’s match unbeaten in their last nine meetings across all competitions, winning six of those and scoring 22 goals in the process.
That includes an eight-game unbeaten streak in the Premier League, which is their longest against Spurs since March 1998. Tottenham’s last win against the Reds came in November 2012 when Gareth Bale scored at both ends and Aaron Lennon also netted in a 2-1 win at White Hart Lane.
Spurs have only ever won two of their 24 visits to Anfield in the Premier League, drawing seven and losing 15 – they have only lost more times at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge.
These two sides have already met twice this season, with Rose cancelling out a James Milner opener in a 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane in August before Sturridge’s brace handed Liverpool an EFL Cup victory at Anfield in October.