Sunday, November 28, 2010

Match Preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs Liverpool

Tottenham will be expected to showcase their title credentials following last week’s 3-2 derby day victory against Arsenal.

With the Premier League as unpredictable as ever, manager Harry Redknapp believes that Spurs have as good a chance as anybody to claim the ultimate prize, and given Chelsea and Manchester United’s far from convincing form of late, who could argue with him?

Up until last Saturday’s victory at the Emirates, their first win at Arsenal in 17 years, Spurs had notoriously failed to achieve a result against any of the traditional top four away from home, but the result against their North London neighbors is a perfect example of how Harry Redknapp’s team has progressed under his guidance.

The destruction of European Champions Inter at White Hart Lane in the Champions League, just two weeks prior to that derby day victory, pinpoints the fact that this Tottenham team have to be taken seriously as the season enters its crucial stage.

Liverpool has embarked on a small road to recovery in recent games following a dismal start to the season under Roy Hodgson.

The highlight of their campaign thus far was a recent victory over Chelsea at Anfield. However, they then dropped four points on their travels to Wigan and Stoke City, before a convincing victory over West Ham United at home provided three much needed points.

Consequently, they are now just six points off fourth place, and victory over Spurs could inspire the kind off run that is needed if the team are to live up to the expectations of their supporters, who have endured a torrid 18 months. The key, clearly, is to improve their hitherto tepid away form.



Rafael van der Vaart is rated at 50-50 in his bid to regain match fitness in time to face Liverpool on Sunday afternoon. The Dutch international, who has arguably been the signing of the season so far since his £8 million switch from Real Madrid, did not play on Wednesday night as Spurs eased their way into the last 16 of the Champions League.

Fellow midfielder Jermaine Jenas is considered a major doubt for Harry Redknapp’s high fliers after limping off in the 3-0 victory over Werder Bremen.

Jermain Defoe is vying for a return to the team after impressing as a second half substitute in the remarkable comeback win against fierce rivals Arsenal at the Emirates.

Harry Redknapp also welcomes back Michael Dawson but is still without long term injury victims Ledley King, Jonathan Woodgate and Jamie O’Hara.

Probable starting XI: Gomes; Hutton, Kaboul, Gallas, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Palacios, Modric, Bale; Defoe, Crouch.


Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson is contemplating whether to reinstate Joe Cole into his starting line-up. The former Chelsea man has missed the last five games for the gradually improving Reds.

Captain Steven Gerrard is still injured after damaging his hamstring during England’s defeat by France last week, but Fabio Aurelio is back and Brazilian midfielder Lucas returns to the fold after serving his suspension.

Jamie Carragher will make his 450th appearance in the Premier League when he captains Liverpool in Gerrard’s absence.

Probable starting XI: Reina; Konchesky, Carragher, Skrtl, Johnson; Maxi, Meireles, Poulsen, Cole, Kuyt; Torres.

Hodgson Targets Goals

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson is targeting more goals from his side on their travels as he looks to push on up the league.

After a poor start to the campaign, Hodgson's side currently sit in ninth in the table with 19 points from their opening 14 games.

But the Reds have taken just five points from their seven games on the road, scoring just four goals and conceding 11, although six of those were shipped at Manchester City and United.

Hodgson is now looking for more goals from his side on the road as they prepare to face Spurs at White Hart Lane on Sunday.

The Liverpool boss said: "Goalscoring is what it is down to. We haven't scored enough goals away from home or created enough goalscoring chances.

"There have been occasions where we have played too much football in front of the opposing defence, not got behind them enough or not got enough bodies into the box.

"This is something we work on all the time and are attempting to rectify.

"But I think you need to keep faith in your plan full stop when it comes to how the team defends and attacks, which the team work on every day.

"The principles which I have seen already this season on several occasions, when things are working for us, can make us look like quite a good football team.

"Defensively, most of the time we haven't done that badly. We conceded three at Manchester City in a fairly poor performance and three at Manchester United where we were somewhat unlucky.

"Take those six goals out of the equation and we haven't been leaking goals away from home but we haven't been scoring enough either."

Hodgson's position came under intense speculation after the Reds were left in the relegation zone, with just six points from their opening eight games.

But Hodgson's side have since taken 13 points from their last six outings and the Liverpool boss wants his players to kick on.

He added: "I think Liverpool will always be harshly looked at, it is part and parcel of being at the club.

"The traditions of the club and the expectations to do well are always going to be very high.

"As a result I don't complain about harsh treatment. People want so much and every defeat becomes a private occasion for grief and we just have to accept that.

"But it is quite nice to be in the situation where, having done well in the last six games and taken 13 points, we have hauled ourselves up into a good position.

"A couple of good results between now and Christmas could see us at the turnaround period after 19 games in a quite decent position, which was about the most I could hope for after taking so few points from the first seven games.

"We took so few points (six) from the first eight games that the scenario at Christmas looked like being pretty disastrous.

"If we can get ourselves into a situation going into the New Year where we are not looking at a disaster scenario then I am hoping we will kick on and have a better second half of the season."

Harry Hails Cole Choice

Harry Redknapp has hailed Joe Cole for his courage in moving to Liverpool ahead of Tottenham in the summer.

The two sides meet at White Hart Lane on Sunday and Cole is expected to return to action having spent almost a month on the treatment table.

Redknapp admits holding advanced talks with the former Chelsea player, who was a free agent, only for the Londoner to opt for a move north.

Cole was widely expected to team up with Redknapp at Spurs but his former West Ham boss admits staying in the capital would have been the easy option.

"Maybe he felt he needed a change." Redknapp told The Independent. "Tottenham are a great club but Liverpool have been up there for years and he probably fancied it.

"It was a move in the end where the easy option was to stay in London, but he went for it.

"Maybe Joe just fancied moving out of London. Maybe he wanted to go and be completely focused on his football."

After missing out on the 29-year-old, Redknapp made a deadline day swoop to wrap up the signing of Rafael van der Vaart, who has since scored eight goals for the club.

Cole, who has had injury problems at Anfield, has just one Reds strike to his name so far, but the Spurs boss refuses to accept that his Tottenham snub has worked in their favour.

"I'm not sure what happened in the end. Joe eventually rung me up and said 'Look, sorry, but I'm going to Liverpool'.

"Joe could have come here and been fantastic for us. You never know but no, we wouldn't have taken Rafa had we taken Joe. And Rafa has been great for us."

Meanwhile, Redknapp has revealed how he once duped Daniel Levy, the chairman of the club he now manages, into avoiding the signing of full-back Glen Johnson, now of Liverpool.

Johnson was out of favour at Chelsea before joining Redknapp at Portsmouth, with Liverpool subsequently paying a reported £18million for the England international's services.

Redknapp revealed: "Daniel rang me up and said, 'What about Glen Johnson, Harry? We're interested in him. Do you think he would be a good signing for Tottenham?'

"I said: 'No, no, he's not for Tottenham. He's not good enough for you, Daniel'.

"And I signed him [on a permanent deal] the next day for Portsmouth.

"Daniel does remind of that quite often. But that's life, that's football," he joked.

Reina Issues Reds Warning

Pepe Reina has issued a warning to Liverpool that they could lose star striker Fernando Torres if they do not start winning.

The Reds goalkeeper is concerned that his Spanish international team-mate could end up leaving Anfield if the club cannot challenge for a UEFA Champions League place.

Reina, who signed from Villarreal in July 2005, has reportedly told the club's new owner John W Henry that the Merseyside giants must strengthen their squad or risk losing their big names.

The 28-year-old told the Daily Mirror: "We have to finish this season in a better position than we are at the moment and make sure we build for the next years and try to be competitive.

"If not, it's going to be difficult for them to keep these kind of players.

"We're not probably as strong as Man City, Arsenal, Man Utd, Chelsea and Tottenham can be so that's why we have to make sure we build a better squad.

"At the moment, it's almost impossible to compete for nine months against Chelsea, for example, and that is what I want. The clubs all around England are building proper squads. We have to do the same and we have to be able to compete.

"A top-four finish is possible - why not? But we have to be sure that we deliver better performances otherwise it's going to be really, really, really difficult."

Reina is refusing to get carried away by their mini-revival, which has seen them take 13 points from their last 18, and believes they must improve their away record if they wish to challenge for a top-four finish.

The Reds have won just two of their last 16 away league games as they prepare for a crucial trip to White Hart Lane to take on Tottenham on Sunday.

"We're not playing well enough, especially away from home, and we have to make sure we improve this aspect otherwise we will be struggling," he said.

"It's so difficult to go anywhere and beat teams, but if we want to be up there at the end of the season, we have to."

Antonio Cassano 'Ready To Make Liverpool Transfer In January'

Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson could be set to tie up a deal for Sampdoria's Antonio Cassano.

According to reports in Italy, the striker is keen on a move after a bust-up with the Genoa-based club's president Riccardo Garrone.

The Italian international is alleged to have come to loggerheads with his employer after failing to attend a club event and there have been suggestions that the rift is so severe that Sampdoria are considering tearing up his contract.

It is not the first time the temperamental star's personality has gotten in the way of his football.

He famously had a run-in with current England manager Fabio Capello, who coined the phrase 'Cassanata' in reference to him.

Italian journalists now regularly use Cassanata to describe behaviour that is considered detrimental to team harmony.

However, Cassano's talent on the football pitch is undisputed and has led to him playing for top clubs like Roma and Real Madrid, in spite of his fiery nature.

He could be just what Liverpool need to push them back into the top four and see them competing for honours again after a tumultuous start to the season.

The attacking guile that Gioiello di Bari Vecchia - the Jewel of Old Bari, as he is nicknamed in Italy - provides could be perfect for taking the pressure off Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres.

Worried Fernando Torres May Go

Kop legend Robbie Fowler reckons Fernando Torres will quit Liverpool next summer – if they fail to finish in the top-four.

The Spain striker has already said he wants to play Champions League football – and has attracted interest from a whole host of clubs including Barcelona, Inter Milan and Manchester City.

And former Reds star Fowler says Roy Hodgson’s men must ensure they qualify for the Champions League – or risk their star striker quitting the club.

Fowler, who now plays in Australia for Perth Glory, said: “I could see Fernando leaving.

“With Fernando, he has stated he wants to play Champions League football. He wants to play at a higher level and he has obviously missed out this year.

“If Liverpool were to fail again next year then I think they will struggle to keep him.

“He is a fantastic player. He had a tough start to the season and missed a lot of pre-season action.

“He has looked good and sharp and has been scoring some great goals and let’s hope that continues.”

Liverpool face a Spurs side who has hammered both Werder Bremen and European champions Inter Milan in the Champions League at White Hart Lane.

And Fowler says Liverpool manager Hodgson must be given the funds to strengthen in the new year if the Merseysiders are to challenge Europe’s elite once again. Fowler added: “The new owners have come in and said all the right stuff and I think the fans are quite happy at the minute.

“We will probably find out a lot more in January when the transfer window opens. By all accounts, they need to buy players.

“To build a good side you need a spine. They have a great keeper in Pepe Reina and then they have got Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres.

“They probably need a good centre-half. The defenders aren’t bad but they could probably do with someone a bit more dominant.

“Jamie Carragher has been there but he’s coming towards the end of his career. He has been absolutely magnificent for Liverpool and I wouldn’t say a bad word against him.

“If they can get a dominant central defender in, I think the spine of the team will look very good.”

Hodgson Has No Intention To Sell In January

Roy Hodgson has revealed he does not intend to sell one player in the January transfer window, claiming his Liverpool squad is "stronger than I realized".

Hodgson has also hinted that he will only bring in "one or two" new faces when he gets his first chance to spend the new owners' money. The Liverpool boss had spoken disparagingly of the squad he inherited from Rafael Benitez during the Reds' woeful start to the season. However, 13 points from a possible 18 in his last six league games has brightened the mood of the former Fulham manager.

"I have a very clear picture now of what we should and need to be doing and the squad is stronger and getting stronger," said Hodgson, who welcomes Joe Cole and Fabio Aurelio back from injury ahead of Sunday's clash with Tottenham.

"It was probably stronger than I realized at certain stages in the early part of the season when we were losing games. Hopefully that will mean we won't need to do too much in the January transfer window because it might be nice if we can keep all of these players fit and well and add the odd player or two who can help us.

"I have a lot of faith in the players who are playing at the moment because in the last two or three weeks we have put in some good performances."

The likes of Ryan Babel, Maxi Rodriguez, David N'Gog and Lucas Leiva have all been linked with departures from Anfield through the first third of the season, but Hodgson intends to retain his full roster.

"I don't know what is going to happen in the transfer window," he said. "We are doing a lot of work, covering a lot of matches and looking at a lot of players. We are trying to arm ourselves as much as possible with information.

"It is the work in progress which every club has to do - constantly monitoring players and what is out there, what might be useful for you because you never know what is around the corner. When push comes to shove in January none of us know as yet what transfer funds can be made available and we have no idea if there will be any guarantee the people we are watching will be available.

"I would like to continue with this squad of players until the end of the season because I have no ambitions or desires to move anyone. But on the other hand I can't give a stone certain guarantee that there won't be players moving in January, and if so we would need to know where to go for their replacements."

Liverpool Funds Habitat For Humanity Building Project In China

Liverpool is expanding its global presence in more ways than just soccer.

Throughout October and November, the Reds funded a Habitat for Humanity build in Shanghai, China. The Liverpool business community sent over a crew of volunteers to build a home for a low-income family. In just over a month, the project was complete and Ding Amao and his mother, Chen Gengen, moved into their brand new home.

"Liverpool Football Club is very aware of the tremendous work that Habitat for Humanity do, both in our own city and abroad," Liverpool managing director Christian Purslow said. "We are extremely pleased that our support will help provide a better home for this family in Shanghai."

The project undertaken by Liverpool is believed to be the first time a UK Premier League Club has funded a Habitat for Humanity build anywhere in the world.