Liverpool must end London jinx against Tottenham to keep up pressure on Man City before losing top stars to AFCON

THE streets of London have never been paved with gold.

But if Liverpool are to end their season with a Prem silver sheen, they may have to stop taking the capital punishment that has cost them so far.

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Antonio Conte’s side haven’t played since their 3-0 win over NorwichCredit: PA
Mo Salah has been on fire this season

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Mo Salah has been on fire this seasonCredit: AP

Jurgen Klopp’s men are hot on the heels of Manchester City as they head into the weekend before Christmas.

Yet the five points they have already dropped at Brentford and West Ham on their first two visits to London mean it is even more imperative they break that duck at Spurs on Sunday.

Tottenham have been on Prem cold turkey during that fortnight of enforced Covid-related limbo, with three matches in a row called off after their trip to Burnley was a snow casualty.

In between there were back to back wins over Brentford and Norwich, to put them back on track for a top four finish.

But Antonio Conte and his side know that knocking the stuffing out of Klopp’s Christmas week preparations would be the first real sign the Cockerel is crowing under the Italian.

Even without that unexpected break – the cancellation of Thursday’s trip to Leicester will have at least allowed extra proper training time for the recovering players – Liverpool would have been firm favourites.

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Since Harry Kane’s stoppage time penalty equaliser at Anfield in 2018, Liverpool have won the last seven meetings, including the Champions League Final.

Last season summed up a familiar story of last-gasp winners on Merseyside and more comfortable victories in N17, with Roberto Firmino’s header dealing a hammer blow to Jose Mourinho’s men in the first encounter.

Indeed, with every passing month, the gap between the two clubs has grown wider, Liverpool proving themselves part – if not the very summit – of the European elite, Spurs reverting to their also-ran status.

Every Spurs fan has been waiting, all season, for Kane to start firing, while Mo Salah, it seems, could score even if he wasn’t trying to do so.

But Klopp, for all the abundant faith he has in his troops, also knows that their ranks are set to be seriously depleted next month, for as much as six weeks.

PROS AND AFCONS

The demands of the African Cup of Nations, due to deprive him of Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita – although still not, it would seem, Joel Matip – will be a major part of the prem’s overall storyline.

It also puts extra pressure on Liverpool not to drop any more points before they wave goodbye to their departing stars.

And it is London that holds the key with four more matches in the capital to come.

Liverpool’s 2022 starts at Stamford Bridge, a crunch clash with Chelsea, while they go into the two-week hiatus at the end of January at Crystal Palace and are due to finish February at Arsenal – although that is the Carabao Cup Final weekend.

Continue to squander points in London as they have so far, and Liverpool will surely pay a title price.

As for Spurs, getting anything from Sunday’s game – difficult in any circumstances but especially as they are likely to be under-cooked – would be a huge boost for the Conte project.

The Italian wants to change the culture, mindset and approach of the club, almost as much as he feels the need to overhaul his squad.

And coming away from Sunday’s match even with a point would signal real change is being made – all the more so if Kane can rediscover his shooting boots.

The odds, though, are against that happening.

Klopp has to ensure the bookies are right.

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Jurgen Klopp will be determined to come away from North London with three points

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Jurgen Klopp will be determined to come away from North London with three pointsCredit: AFP

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