11am eastern, live in the US on FSC
Last 4 head-to-head:
3-1 Liverpool (h) 05.24.09
2-4 Spurs (a; Carling Cup) 11.12.08
1-2 Spurs (a) 11.01.08
2-0 Liverpool (a) 05.11.08
Referee: Phil Dowd
Guess at a squad:
Johnson Carragher Skrtel Insua
Kuyt Gerrard Benayoun
Sweet, the sixth-straight season Liverpool starts with an away game. Can’t wait can’t wait can’t wait.
I would like to reiterate that preseason is rarely a bellwether for the actual season. The team is looking for fitness, looking to avoid injuries, and testing young players. Plus, you have to remember (and this is something I should have pointed out during those preseason match reviews), the team often has a training session prior to the friendly. Preseason results have little bearing on the opening games. Last year, Liverpool hammered Rangers in the final warm-up match and utterly stunk up the joint a week later against Liege.
There are three big questions about the squad going into this match (outside of the biggest one – how well they start the season): who’s fit, who’ll start on the left, and how much will Alonso’s exit impact the formation?
I don’t really believe Gerrard’s groin problem is serious enough to keep him out, but maybe I’m just hopeful he was avoiding a worthless England friendly, like United players always seem to. It looks like it’ll be a last-minute decision at best. If he’s unavailable, I expect Benayoun to take over his role and Riera to be on the left.
As the above article above reminds, Carragher, Agger, and Skrtel have all suffered knocks during preseason. But Benitez seemed fairly certain Carra would be available last week, while Skrtel played an hour for the reserves on Tuesday. Here’s hoping.
That Riera played with Spain (and scored a superb winner, while Torres tallied Spain’s opener) on Wednesday means he’s more in contention than I thought. But given how often we saw Benayoun on the left in preseason, I think he’s more likely. Admittedly, I’d rather Riera.
As I said Wednesday, I’m still not sold on Benayoun on the left, especially if the formation adapts how I think it will adapt, and both Lucas/Aquilani and Gerrard take turns starting the attack from deeper. Liverpool need a player who will hug the touchline and offer space when the center’s congested (which will happen as much as last season, if not more), and I doubt they can be totally reliant on the fullback, whether it’s Insua, Aurelio, or Dossena. I’m less worried about the right, where Kuyt’s often shown the ability to track back, and Johnson’s got sprinter’s speed, but the left’s a concern.
Rafa’s “wingers” often operate more centrally than standard ones. But Benayoun is guiltiest of drifting inside to the detriment of the flank. Both Babel and Riera have their faults as well, but both are seemingly more suited to playing wide on the left, especially the Spaniard.
I’ve harped on the formation enough over the last couple of weeks, but I can’t wait to finally see it in action. It all centers on where Gerrard plays when Lucas (and eventually Aquilani) step in. It’s definitely something I’ll have my eye on all match, but I’ve still drawn up my guess at a squad as a 4-2-3-1.
As usual, expectations are high at White Hart Lane, and they should vastly improve on last year’s start, when the Ramos-led side took two points from the first eight games. Yet another former Liverpool striker has joined the club, and I’m interested to see how Keane links up with Crouch. And if both players even start, as Defoe was in sparkling form for England on Wednesday and has proven to be an able partner for the Gangly Handful (© Ace Cowboy) in the past.
Sebastian Bassong (from Newcastle) and Kyle Naughton (from Sheffield United) will add steel to the backline, but it usually takes defenses time to gel. Liverpool, away from Anfield (where they were arguably better last season), will have to test Redknapp’s defense early and often to put Spurs on the back foot from the off. And putting teams on the back foot is how Liverpool dominated the last 13 games of 2008-09.
Roll on 2009-10.