After what was a very promising season last year, Liverpool fans were expecting a much better summer than we’ve had. We’ve, again, learnt that our owners are in no position to finance transfers as they’re paying extortionate interest rates on the debt they’ve already placed on our club.
The vast majority of transfer stories are linking our players with moves away from Anfield with Arbeloa and Alonso having already gone to Real Madrid while Javier Mascherano has been linked with a move to European Champions Barcelona though that has, thankfully, died down. Reina, Lucas and Dossena have all been linked with moves back to their respective homelands over the summer as well.
We have replaced the two outgoing Spaniards with Glen Johnson from Portsmouth and Alberto Aquilani from Roma. Right back Johnson was our first summer signing for £17 million while central midfielder Aquilani cost nearer £20 million including add-ons. Now both Johnson and Aquilani were must buys but has left us little time or money to strengthen the depth of the squad.
The lack of depth was a major concern for many Liverpool fans last year. Some think it was even the difference between us being Champions and runners up. Now with a large chunk of the transfer window gone, it looks as if we may be facing the same concerns this time out. Although every cloud has a silver lining and lack of funds may give a few of our talented youngsters a go should they be required. So only time will tell if we genuinely have a squad lacking depth.
Our pre-season results have been pretty disappointing with the biggest highlight being a 5-0 win over Singapore. A lacklustre performance in Switzerland was followed by defeat in Austria before the Asian tour.
Our tour of Asia started with a poor draw with Thailand before the thrashing of Singapore. We then went to Spain to play Espanyol in the opening game of their new stadium where we looked totally outclassed by the Spaniards.
After the shocking display in Spain, and the sale of Xabi Alonso, we went to Norway to face FC Lyn where we won in a more convincing manner than the 2-0 score line represented. Our pre-season was concluded at Anfield with a worryingly poor performance against Athletico Madrid, where we lost 2-1.
Our opening day opponents Spurs, however, have had a pretty decent summer. They went to Asia and won the Premier League Asia Trophy although they lost their final game on their Asian tour to South China. The rest of their pre-season included convincing wins in England against Exeter, Bournemouth and Peterborough as well as an impressive score draw with Barcelona in the Wembley Cup before losing to Celtic ahead of their trip to Asia.
They finished their pre-season back in England in a home game against Greek champions Olympiacos and brushed them aside in a comfortable 3-0 victory. This win will certainly give them confidence ahead of our clash on Sunday.
During the win over the Greeks new signing Sebastien Bassong made his debut for the club after his summer transfer from recently relegated Newcastle. Fellow new signing and former Reds forward Peter Crouch also took the field for the first time in a Tottenham shirt since his £9 million move from Portsmouth.
Spurs’ other signings this summer have been Kyle Naughton and Kyle Walker from Championship outfit Sheffield United. Walker, however, has been sent back to the Blades on a season long loan.
On the outgoings they’ve lost Darren Bent and Didier Zakora, neither will be missed too much by the White Hart Lane faithful. Chris Gunter has been moved on as well with the Welsh international joining Billy Davies’ Nottingham Forest in the Championship.
Our record away to Tottenham under Benitez isn’t too bad despite going there twice last year and losing both times. Once in the Carling Cup, which was one of our worst performances of the season and the other was our first league defeat of the season in Harry Redknapp’s first home game in charge of the North London club. The 2-1 defeat in the league was the first time Spurs had beaten us on their home ground since Rafa took over.
It was also the first time they’d scored in front of their own fans against Rafa Benitez’ Liverpool in the league since the Spaniard’s first league game as Liverpool manager back in the one all draw in 2004.
The three years in between, White Hart Lane was a good stomping ground for us. We won there 2-0 on the final day on the 07/08 season with goals from Andriy Voronin and Fernando Torres netting his 33rd for the season. We also took maximum points from White Hart Lane in 2006/07 with a Luis Garcia strike on the stroke of half time and the fixture in 2005/06 ended in a goalless draw.
Players we should be wary of are Aaron Lennon as he is more than capable of making a big impact with his pace and I’d imagine we’ll be playing with two relatively new full backs for him to attack. With Aurelio’s injury, it’s very likely the young Argentinean defender, Emiliano Insua, will be asked to play at left back while on the right I’d expect it to be our new signing Glen Johnson.
Another we’ll have to look out for is the Spurs captain Robbie Keane who’ll be looking to prove a point against his former employers who him sold back to the Cockerels after a hugely disappointing six-month spell at Anfield.
Peter Crouch will also be looking to prove a point against us as he thinks Rafa mistreated him during his time on Merseyside and I think we’ll need to keep an eye on Modric as the Croatian picked up his form towards the end of last season and was at the heart of everything Spurs did well.
At the back they are very hot and cold. Last year they had the best defensive record at home in the league by conceding just ten goals over the course of the season, while away from home they conceded more than any other side in the top half with thirty-five. But this game is at White Hart Lane where last year they were very good defensively, lets hope they don’t the start the new season with a clean sheet.
Spurs have serious problems at the back though with Dawson and Bale struggling while Woodgate will certainly miss the match through injury but new boy Bassong will be allowed to play after the FA have decided to overturn the suspension he was meant to face. Ledley King is expected to partner Bassong at the back after coming through the win against Olympiacos with no problems to his long-suffering knee problem.
We have a few defensive worries of our own after Carragher limped off early in the game with Athletico Madrid. That, along with the injuries picked up by Agger and Skrtel earlier in pre-season, will certainly give Rafa a headache over which defensive partnership to go with at Tottenham.
Skrtel, however, has since came through a match against Oldham at the Academy, which will ease some of Rafa’s concerns. While the manager is confident Carragher’s ankle injury isn’t too serious to keep him out of the game.
Three players who will miss out though is summer signing Aquilani who is out for up to eight weeks with his ankle problem. Fabio Aurelio and Nabil El Zhar will also be on the sidelines as both are recovering from knee problems with El Zhar expected to be back later this month and Aurelio could be back as early as next month despite reports saying he’d be out until Christmas.
Our skipper, Steven Gerrard, missed England’s game with a groin injury but will hopefully be fit to lead the Reds out at White Hart Lane while Riera, who was brought off against Lyn with an ankle problem, did feature during the international break with no added problems. Albert managed to get on the score sheet for Spain, along with fellow teammate Fernando Torres, in the 3-2 win over Macedonia.
Torres wasn’t the only forward on hand with goals during the internationals either as Dirk Kuyt opened the scoring for Holland in the two all draw against England while Tottenham’s Jermaine Defoe netted both for the Three Lions. Roman Pavlyuchenko grabbed himself a goal for Russia as well so there’s confidence flowing through the attackers of both sides.
My prediction for the match is a comfortable 3-1 win for the Reds.