Greek double winners Olympiacos FC come to White Hart Lane on Sunday afternoon for the final dress rehearsal before the curtain goes up on the show proper next weekend. A home fixture against glamorous foreign opposition the week before the season starts is a recent institution, obviously designed to get a bit more dosh off an ever eager public and to end the pre-season schedule on an upbeat note. It certainly worked last season as a full house saw us demolish AS Roma 5-0 in a game that was a personal triumph for David Bentley. What happened the following weekend at Middlesbrough and to Bentley for the next 12 months means that any attempt to draw conclusions based on tomorrowâ€™s performance and result should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Olympiacosâ€™s season is already underway, a 2-0 victory over Slovan Bratislava on Wednesday night gave them a 4-0 aggregate win in the 3rd Qualifying Round of the Champions League. Theyâ€™ll be using our game as a warm up for their games against Moldovaâ€™s FC Sheriff in the next round as the Greek League season doesnâ€™t kick off for another fortnight. There might be a couple of familiarish faces in their line up. Enzo Maresca is an Italian who actually made his professional debut as a West Brom player a few years ago. Matt Derbyshire was highly thought of at Blackburn Rovers only a season or two back but after spending the end of last season on loan has now signed permanently for the Greek side. Derbyshire was a hero in last seasonâ€™s Greek Cup Final, he scored twice in a 4-4 draw including an equaliser in the 6th minute of injury time at the end of normal time. Olympiacos finished extra time with nine men and won the penalty shoot-out 15-14 with the goalie slotting home the winning pen. Blimey.
As for us, Kyle Naughton and Peter Crouch should be given their home â€˜debutsâ€™, the latter a mere 11 years after first signing for us. Harryâ€™s choices at centre back will give a huge clue as to his thinking as to how heâ€™s going to stop Gerrard and Torres next week. The Spaniard in particular would expect to test the turning circles of Corluka and Huddlestone but these are the two that appear to have been performing best together in the absence of Woodgate, Dawson and King. Heâ€™ll only be there to give the fans a wave tomorrow but Sebastien Bassong is saying all the right things and looks very pleased with himself at having escaped the mess at Newcastle. Iâ€™ve no idea how good is to be honest, but a player widely lauded for his consistency in a relegated shambles of a team hopefully has something about him. His immediate future is entirely in his own hands (feet?). A regular first team place is there for him if heâ€™s prepared to grasp it. Redknapp will be desperate to find someone he can depend on in the centre and it will be to the cost of the injury-hit big three if he comes in and looks the part straight away especially if he is capable of providing a leadership role â€“ something we do seem to be lacking in.
Apart from welcoming the new signings thereâ€™s not a whole lot else in the game Iâ€™d suggest. The team for the big kick off almost picks itself. I guess there may be a doubt in Harryâ€™s mind about Gomes or Cudicini and Hutton or Naughton and heâ€™s also got to decide how best to deploy Defoe, Keane and Crouch so all of those will be wanting to make an impression but otherwise hopefully the afternoon will provide a sun-drenched goalfest good enough to whet the appetite for the real thing next week.
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