Tottenham v Liverpool, Premier League, August 16, 2009
White Hart Lane will be jam packed full of expectant fans on Sunday as arguably the game of the weekend in the Premier League marks the first 4pm kick off of the season. New kits and fresh faces will be on show as both teams look to lay down a marker for the campaign ahead.
The opening fixture of the 2009/2010 season sees a meeting between two teams who played each other on the final day of the 2008/2009 campaign. That day Liverpool were dominant and comfortably saw off Spurs 3-1. Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun scored for Liverpool, Alan Hutton chipped in with an own goal whilst Spurs poetically pulled one back through Robbie Keane.
Whether the Republic of Ireland’s top goalscorer of all time plays will be of some interest, it was only a year ago that Keane was being hailed as the final piece in the Liverpool jigsaw. The suspicion is that Harry Redknapp will start the new year with Peter Crouch (2/1 to score) and Jermain Defoe (7/1 to score first) up-front. The former will relish the opportunity of facing one of his old clubs, and the latter will be high on confidence following his excellent double against the Dutch on Wednesday night.
Alongside Crouch, Redknapp is also likely to field fellow new signings Sebastien Bassong and Kyle Naughton while will naturally inject extra optimism around the North Londoners. (Spurs are 5/2 to keep a clean sheet.) Wilson Palacios emerged as a real midfield general last season and big things are expected from Heurelho Gomes and Luka Modric after a season of adjusting to English football.
Spurs beat Liverpool twice at home last season, once in the Premier League and once in the Carling Cup, and Redknapp’s game-plan to maintain recent home dominance may hinge on the likely tussle between Aaron Lennon (6/1 to score) and Emiliano Insua down the Spurs right. The Argentine left-back will have his hands full, and if Lennon can get his final ball right Tottenham could start the season with a flourish.
Liverpool come into this match as one of the favourites to lift the Premier League title. Of course, much will depend on whether Fernando Torres (9/2 to score first) and Steven Gerrard (7/4 to score) can stay fit. Liverpool’s captain is a doubt for this match after pulling out of the England squad with a groin strain and his absence could make all the difference.
It will be intriguing to see how Rafa Benitez’s side deals without the promptings from deep that Xabi Alonso provided for so long. Lucas, having claimed rave reviews during pre-season, will surely start alongside Javier Mascherano in the center of the park.
If Gerrard fails to play, the Merseyside giants may struggle for a little of the creativity provided by Alonso until Alberto Aquilani is ready for first team action. Much of that responsibily in the meantime will fall on Yossi Benayoun (7/2 to score).
Nevertheless, the Liverpool side we saw last season was by far the most consistent in a long, long time and their defensive solidity meant they won 13 times away from home last season, which was only bettered in the league by Chelsea.
Just as Spurs could profit down the right through Lennon, Liverpool will be hopeful that new signing Glen Johnson can make inroads against Assou-Ekotto and Modric down Spurs’ left.
Both teams will be well aware of getting off to a good start. Tottenham famously picked up two points from eight games at the start of last season and played catch-up for the rest of the campaign. Liverpool won their first two and mounted a title challenge.
101gg predicts: Tottenham 1 – Liverpool 1 (6/1)
Full match odds here.