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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Klopp's Liverpool and Pochettino's Tottenham united by Champions League ambition

This weekend's meeting crucial to both sides eyeing European top-flight qualification

There is much to compare between Jurgen Klopp, left, and Mauricio Pochettino. Clive Rose and Denis Doyle / Getty Images
There is much to compare between Jurgen Klopp, left, and Mauricio Pochettino. Clive Rose and Denis Doyle / Getty Images

Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur will be separated by just two points, but united in one ambition when they meet at Anfield on Sunday with a top-four finish imperative for both.

Failing to earn a Uefa Champions League place could stall the steady progress overseen by Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino.

Klopp's men hold a marginal advantage as they sit third, two points ahead of Spurs, who are fifth, as the race to finish in the three places behind runaway leaders Manchester City intensifies with Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal also in contention.

"The situation in the table, our targets, what we want to do and where we want to finish the season, it's clear it is a very important game," Klopp said on Friday. "These are these kind of six-point games."

However, while Premier League clubs splashed out a record £430 million (Dh2.2 billion) in the January transfer window, Liverpool and Tottenham were more discerning than their rivals for the top four.

Blast from the past

Despite making Virgil van Dijk the most expensive defender in football history through a £75m move from Southampton, Liverpool still closed the window with a huge profit following the sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona for £142m.

Likewise, in spite of Lucas Moura's late capture on deadline day from Paris Saint-Germain, Spurs remain in the bottom half of the Premier League table when it comes to net spend on transfers this season.

That relative lack of financial muscle, in particular compared to the two Manchester clubs, explains why Klopp and Pochettino have been widely lauded for the jobs they have done despite so far failing to win any silverware in England.

The need to keep moving forward makes qualifying for the Champions League a minimum goal.

"With Jurgen Klopp I think there will be pressure this time next year depending on where Liverpool are," former Liverpool captain Jamie Carragher said on Sky Sports.

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"But if he gets Champions League football this season I think it's a very good season for Liverpool.

"You can talk about trophies and winning the Premier League, but Liverpool have got to get back to being a Champions League club. Liverpool have been in the Champions League twice in 10 years."

The similarities do not stop there as both sides have played some outstanding football, but been plagued by inconsistency.

Liverpool inflicted City's only Premier League defeat of the season in thrilling fashion 4-3 two weeks ago, only to follow-up by losing to Swansea City in the league and getting beaten by West Bromwich Albion in the FA Cup.

A dominant 2-0 win over Manchester United in midweek got Spurs back in the hunt for the top four and was reminiscent of the displays that swept Liverpool and Madrid aside at Wembley earlier in the campaign.

However, recent draws with Southampton, who are in the bottom three, and West Ham, continued a habit of dropping crucial points against struggling teams.

There's also the Super Bowl

The prospect of missing out on Champions League football would be even more untimely with Spurs set to move into a new 61,500 capacity stadium next season and only further fuel rumours that Pochettino and Harry Kane and Dele Alli, all reportedly courted by Real Madrid, could be tempted away.

Spurs are boosted by the return of two internationals, Ivorian Serge Aurier and England's Harry Winks, from injury, but Moura is not expected to start at Anfield having made just six appearances all season for PSG.

Van Dijk is set to return to the Liverpool line-up after being rested in midweek with Dejan Lovren, who was substituted after just 31 minutes of Liverpool's 4-1 thrashing at Spurs back in October, dropping out.