Liverpool's two-decade wait for a domestic league title traditionally dominates the Premier League's pre-season pre-amble.
Benitez tells Liverpool to learn from last season's mistakes
Liverpool's two-decade wait for a domestic league title traditionally dominates the Premier League's pre-season pre-amble. Last term a rare - but again, ultimately disappointing - exception, the Anfield club's challenge has so often been over come January. With trophy aspirations long forgotten, Liverpool are usually reduced to scrapping for Champions League places in May. After a summer in which Rafa Benitez's expensive acquisitions of right-back Glen Johnson and Roma's dynamic midfielder Roberto Acquilani have arguably been diluted by Xabi Alonso's exit to Real Madrid, Liverpool begin their quest to regain English football's top honours away at Tottenham today.
It is a tough start. Harry Redknapp has rekindled Tottenham's fortunes, and will want to avoid the derisory form during the opening stages of the last couple of seasons which left them playing catch up. Liverpool's journey to London may come without influential pair Steven Gerrard (groin) and Jamie Carragher (ankle), both fitness doubts, and with Aquilani also sidelined, Liverpool's starting XI is likely to be weaker than the one who beat Tottenham 3-1 in last season's curtain-call at Anfield.
Key absences underline Benitez's lack of strength in depth, especially in attack, and after Spurs' 2-1 win in this corresponding fixture last year, the Spaniard has told his side to heed lessons from a game they dominated and lost. "It was maybe one of our best away performances. We lost and it was a pity because it was a very good game - you must learn from matches like this," said Benitez. "When you have chances you have to finish teams off. Maybe if there is something we can improve on this season it is to be more clinical."
Tottenham's summer dealings, on the other hand, have been geared towards goals. Rekindling Jermain Defoe and former Liverpool striker Peter Crouch's partnership - Redknapp's prolific Portsmouth strike-force - will add to Spurs' potency, while fellow recruit Sebastien Bassong faces a gruelling debut examination at the back against Fernando Torres. It will be an intriguing clash of tactics. Tottenham need width to feed Crouch, while Liverpool will look to Torres to exploit Spurs' defensive deficiencies on the counter.
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