LONDON (Reuters) - The two most prolific marksmen in the Premier League this season will meet on Sunday as Liverpool host Tottenham Hotspur in a game that could prove decisive in the increasingly tight battle to finish in the top four.
With only five points separating Manchester United in second and Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs in fifth, the fight for Champions League qualification has rarely been so intense.
Victory for third-place Liverpool at Anfield would open up a five-point gap to Tottenham, a healthy buffer for Juergen Klopp’s team who have lost only once in 16 league games.
A win for the visitors, however, would catapult them into the coveted Champions League places ahead of their opponents.
While neither manager is likely to care which of their players ends up the match-winner on Sunday, the build-up is likely to focus on two individuals who have been in sparkling goal-scoring form all season.
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and Tottenham’s Harry Kane have bagged 40 league goals between them this season, with the Spurs striker having scored 21 times to lead the battle for the golden boot by two over Liverpool’s Egypt international.
Kane is a familiar presence at the top of scoring charts yet Salah’s impact since signing from AS Roma in the close season has been a revelation, even more so because he does not even play as an out-and-out striker.
Both players were on target when the sides met at Wembley in October, a 4-1 victory for Spurs that marked a watershed moment for Liverpool who then embarked on a 14-match unbeaten run in all competitions.
That ended with a surprise defeat by relegation strugglers Swansea City, although they rebounded with a 3-0 win over Huddersfield Town on Tuesday.
Tottenham, who have not completed a league double over Liverpool since 2010-11, will fancy their chances and will come into the game on a high having comfortably beaten Manchester United 2-0 at Wembley on Wednesday.
That was a rare occasion when Kane failed to score, but the striker enjoys playing against Liverpool and has contributed four goals and two assists in his last six league appearances against the Merseyside club.
Manchester United host Huddersfield on Saturday looking to bounce back from their Wembley defeat where manager Jose Mourinho lamented “ridiculous” defensive errors.
Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen scored after 11 seconds and United defender Phil Jones scored an own goal with a clumsy attempted clearance that rocketed into his own net.
Chelsea also suffered an embarrassing set-back in midweek, losing 3-0 at home to Bournemouth, sparking further media speculation about manager Antonio Conte’s future and making Monday’s trip to Watford all the more important.
At the top of the table, however, all remains serene for Manchester City, who hold a 15-point lead and on Saturday visit a Burnley side who have not won in their last eight league matches.
Reporting by Toby Davis,; Editing by Ed Osmond