Pochettino once compared Liverpool star Coutinho to Messi; can Tottenham stop him?

Philippe Coutinho

Mauricio Pochettino worked with Philippe Coutinho at Espanyol, and his Tottenham side must contain him against Liverpool tonight.

Tottenham are on a high after Saturday's dramatic 2-1 win over North London rivals Arsenal, but must focus quickly for tonight's crucial game against Liverpool.

Both teams have aspirations of a top four finish, and tonight's clash at Anfield will be a big indication over which team can finish in those Champions League spots.

The man of the moment for Spurs is striker Harry Kane, who took his tally for the season to 22 goals after his brace against Arsenal.

Yet on the other side, Liverpool have their own in form star, with Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho producing a number of outstanding displays in Brendan Rodgers' new 3-4-3 system.

The numbers aren't all that impressive - three assists and one goal in his last ten games - but he's been Liverpool's main creative force, meaning Tottenham will have to contain him at Anfield.

And, ironically, they may just have the perfect manager to do it in Mauricio Pochettino - who signed Coutinho on loan for Espanyol back in 2012.

With five goals in 16 games for the Spaniards, Coutinho made a lasting impression on Pochettino, who then tried to sign him for Southampton just a year later - only to see the playmaker choose Liverpool instead.

Shortly after Coutinho's move to Merseyside in 2013, Pochettino spoke to the BBC about the player, and compared him to Lionel Messi; arguably the best player in the world.

"As with most Brazilians, Philippe has a special magic in his feet," the Pochettino. "Aside from the magic that he has, he also has an amazing work rate and that makes us doubt whether he fits the mould of a typical Brazilian player or a European one because his work ethic is outstanding.

"I do think Coutinho has that same quality that Ronaldinho and Messi have, but he has much to prove yet," he added.

Now pitted against Coutinho again tonight, Pochettino will know that one of the keys to stopping Liverpool is stopping Coutinho - and his gameplan could well be based around doing so.

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