Thereâ€™s been comparatively little transfer action at White Hart Lane, at least as far as new introductions go, with Peter Crouch the sum of Harryâ€™s high-profile summer acquisitions. More than a few youth and fringe players have been moved on but nobody the fans would make any great noises about losing. Darren Bentâ€™s departure is more than compensated by the addition of Crouchy, who joins Keane, Defoe and Pavlyuchenko as part of one of the more well rounded attacking cores in the Premier League.
Rumours are still circulating about possible targets but other than the defence, where the continuing injury problems of Woodgate and King making quality cover an essential, Redknapp seems to be happy enough that he can improve his sideâ€™s fortunes by getting more out of the players he has. A full pre-season will have given the manager a much better chance to assess the talent he has at his disposal and if thereâ€™s anyone who can channel the potential of player itâ€™s the Spurs gaffer. Thereâ€™s been plenty of talent at the Lane for the past few seasons but this could very well be the first year that potential gets turned into points.
A visit from last seasonâ€™s runners-up will certainly put whatever Redknapp and his players have been working on in pre-season to test. The defence will pick itself based on whichever centre-halves are fit enough to play, Sebastien Bassong is likely to start but even if he doesnâ€™t, the former Newcastle player is a very useful addition to the squad and wonâ€™t be long in jumping ahead of Michael Dawson in the queue for starting places. In goal, for all his detractors, Gomes made massive improvements at the end of last season and as long as he can keep a lid on his jitters and avoid the temptation of coming for crosses heâ€™s never going to get, the murmurings for a new keeper will fade into silence.
Amongst Liverpoolâ€™s many minor injury worries are both Steven Gerrard, who pulled out of the England squad with a groin injury, and Fernando Torres, who has had ankle problems in pre-season. Both will feature but may not be at their sharpest.
In the middle of the park Redknapp, as has become a sort of tradition for Tottenham managers, has plenty of options but Modric and Palacios offer the most balanced partnership. Now with full, if somewhat injury hit, season under his belt, expect big things of Modric this season. Against Liverpool he has the kind of guile which the Reds have lost with the departure of Alonso and the threat of facing Lucas Leiva wonâ€™t have the Spursâ€™ midfield sweating. Lennon has recaptured the form which won him his first England caps and Redknappâ€™s nurturing qualities can almost guarantee the winger will improve this season. Liverpool donâ€™t have the quickest of left-backs so this could be an area Harry targets. Get behind the defence, all the way to the byline, put some crosses in and see if Crouch or Pavlyuchenko can get on the end of them.
Rafa Benitez has defensive worries of his own so the Tottenham front-men may enjoy more opportunities in front of goal than Liverpoolâ€™s opponents are usually allowed. Roman Pavlyuchenko bagged three goals in the two White Hart Lane wins last season, while Robbie Keane hit a consolation strike against his old team at the end of last season. The Russian has been hitting the target in pre-season too and, just like Modric, he will have benefited from a full season at the club. However, will Harry favour the big man-little man combination of Defoe and Crouch instead? There have even been rumours that Keane could be handed a midfield roll this season as the manager tries to find a place for his vice-captain. The Irishmanâ€™s strike at Anfield was something of an anomaly in that former Liverpool strikers rarely come back to do any damage. That logic would also put a doubt on backing Crouch but Defoe at 7/1 and Pavlyuchenko at 8/1 offer good value in the first/last goalscoring markets.
Keeping a lid on Gerrard and Torres is nearly always the key but the midfield battle is where Spurs can win this game. Leiva doesnâ€™t have Alonsoâ€™s ability to get a team ticking over and unless Gerrard drops back to fill this role, Liverpool could struggle to get a foot on the ball in this area if the Spurs players get at the Reds from the off. 23/10 to win at home is a very big price, considering the loss of Alonso and a defence which is struggling for fitness, a repeat of last seasonâ€™s 2-1 win in the league at 9/1 is certainly worth a small punt.
By Rob Dore
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