Sunday 16th August 09 (Kick off – 16:00)
The first ‘Super Sunday’ of the new season sees Liverpool travel to White Hart Lane for a season opener against Spurs.
The transfer window has seen Xabi Alonso and Alvaro Arbeloa go to Real Madrid to be replaced by Glen Johnson and Alberto Aquilani. Voronin has returned from a successful spell on loan at Hertha Berlin and will be looking to kick-start his Liverpool career. There is still time for a few changes before the end of the month and Liverpool have been linked with everyone from Silva and Villa to Ribery and Shawcross. I am sure there are a few surprises left…
Spurs have had a quite pre-season (for them) as far as transfers go. Only 4 players in and one of them went straight back out on loan. They have, however, released or sold a total of 11 players, mainly youngsters. Zokora was probably the best player they let go and, in my opinion, it will have weakened their team – no defence and now no holding midfielder to give them some help. Bent has left for a lot more than he is worth but that won’t have done them any harm.
The same fixture last year saw Spurs end Liverpool’s unbeaten record with a last minute winner to take the game 2-1. It was Harry Redknapp’s first game in charge an, despite Liverpool dominating for 70 minutes, was probably decided by fate more than any clever play Spurs.
A series of misses (and Gerrard hitting the woodwork twice) stopped Liverpool from adding to Kuyt’s 2nd minute goal. Then, in the 69th minute, Jamie Carragher deflected a header into his own net – his 3rd own goal against Spurs! This deflated the Reds and gave Spurs a lift that saw them score after a Bentley shot was parried by Reina, only to be slotted home by Pavlyuchenko with almost the last kick of the game.
The most recent meeting was on the last day of the 08/09 season at Anfield and marked Sami Hyypia’s 464th and last game for Liverpool. Goals from Torres and Benayoun, with a Hutton own goal in between, answered by Reds old boy Robbie Keane, gave Liverpool a comfortable 3-1 victory.
Head to head
Liverpool – 68
Spurs – 41
Draw – 38
At White Hart Lane
Liverpool – 22
Spurs – 34
Draw – 17
Liverpool currently have several players receiving treatment although Carra, Agger, Skrtel and Riera are all expected to be fit for this game. New boy, Aquilani (ankle), Aurelio and El Zhar (both – knee) will definitely not be ready.
Spurs are nursing a few injuries, too. Centre halves, King, Dawson and Woodgate along with left-back Bale are all currently listed as injured. The good news for Spurs is that Dawson and Bale are expected to be ready for Sunday’s game. King and Woodgate are longer term injuries.
Liverpool have had an indifferent pre-season dominated by tabloid rumours and injuries. A draw against St. Gallen was followed by defeat to a full-strength Rapid Vienna team. The far-East tour was slightly better – after a 1-1 against Thailand, Liverpool beat Singapore 5-0. Then it was off to Norway for a comfortable 2-0 win against FC Lyn. The last game of pre-season saw a very good Atletico Madrid side run out 2-1 winners at Anfield.
Spurs started pre-season brightly, notching easy wins over Exeter, Bournemouth and Peterborough before holding Barcelona to 1-1. They followed this up with 2-0 defeats to Celtic and South China before an impressive 3-0 against Olympiakos in their last warm up game.
Liverpool – (from) Reina, Cavalieri, Agger, Johnson, Skrtel, Carragher, Insua, Dossena, Benayoun, Babel, Mascherano, Gerrard, Riera, Kuyt, Lucas, Torres, Voronin.
Liverpool have lost Xabi Alonso, but the rise in form of Lucas Leiva will make Reds fans hope that he will not be too sorely missed (at least until Aquilani is fit) and he will slot in next to Mascherano. Johnson is more attacking than Arbeloa was and delivers a better ball. Insua and Dossena will fight it out for the left-back berth (until Aurelio is fit) unless Dossena has gone since I wrote this. Ryan Babel or Yossi Benayoun may have a part to play if Riera fails to pass a fitness test, but Kuyt should start on the right. Expect the Gerrard-Torres partnership to be reinstated and they will be expected to provide most of the goals, although Voronin has looked decent in pre-season and may come off the bench.
Possible starting 11 – Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Dossena, Mascherano, Lucas, Kuyt, Riera, Gerrard, Torres.
Spurs – (from) Cudicini, Gomes, Hutton, Bassong, Assou-Ekotto, Bale, Chimbonda, Corluka, Dawson, Jenas, Huddlestone, Bentley, Lennon, O’Hara, Pavlyuchenko, Palacios, Modric, Keane, Defoe, Geovani, Crouch
Spurs have defensive frailties but an embarrassment of riches up front. They may have to rely on youngsters if Dawson and Bale are not fit, but can call on Keane, Pavlyuchenko, Defoe, Modric, Geovani and Crouch to score the goals. Bassong might turn out to be a good buy for them given the propensity of their other defenders to break. Gomes (if he plays) is an enigma in goal; sometimes decent – often worse than useless. Cudicini was wasted at Chelsea and will be looking to find his pre-Cech form. The Spurs midfield is another hit-and-miss affair – O’Hara is an exciting prospect, Lennon, Bentley and Palacios can be superb on their day. Less impressive are Huddlestone and Jenas who run all day but achieve little.
Possible starting 11 – Cudicini, Hutton, Dawson, Corluka, Bale, Lennon, Jenas, Modric, Pavlyuchenko, Defoe, Crouch
Broadcast live on Sky Sports 1. Coverage starts at 15:30
Spurs 0-1 Liverpool
Liverpool should have too much in midfield and attack for Spurs and unless Cudicini has a blinder I can’t see past a Reds victory.