In yet another pre-season match that is a bit like getting your main course before you’ve even thought about your starter, Liverpool face Tottenham Hotspur in a diluted version of what we can expect come August when the real business gets underway.
This encounter in America is about a different type of business, but if I try to ignore the fact I dislike friendlies between sides who will face each other in the regular season that are motivated purely by money, this match is an interesting meeting of two brand new managers who, if things had turned out differently, could have been in the opposite dug outs.
Both Andre Villas-Boas and Brendan Rodgers were on the radar of Liverpool and Spurs, but while Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy deliberated over the sacking of Harry Redknapp, Reds owner John W. Henry took decisive action in removing Kenny Dalglish from his post just two days after the Premier League season finished, which allowed the Merseysiders to steal a march on their preferred candidate of Rodgers.
Levy eventually did the deed and subsequently plumped for Villas-Boas and while who got the better deal is open to debate, both clubs have ended up with bright young coaches who go into their new jobs with fine reputations, but plenty to prove.
The Euro 2012 contingent will play a minor role on Saturday (if at all), which leaves Rodgers relying on promising but raw youngsters and senior pros he’d happily move on, such as Charlie ‘Hollywood pass’ Adam and Alberto ‘I love Liverpool really, la’ Aquilani.
AVB’s disaster at Chelsea will be held up by his detractors until the Portuguese finds success again, while former Swansea coach Rodgers will have to prove to the cynics that he has what it takes to do well at one of the country’s footballing institutions.
But if which club has got the better trade-off remains to be seen, there is no doubt about who has the easier job. Whereas the name of the game at Stamford Bridge was revolution, Villas-Boas needs no overhaul at Tottenham and with a fine squad at his disposal, it is a case of tweaking a side that, let’s not forget, finished in the top four last year, despite the absence of Champions League football this term.
It is a whole different ball game for Rodgers. The Northern Irishman has an entire club to transform, starting with a playing staff that is not of the required standard for a club of Liverpool’s ambitions, and he will need to instigate a process that is not going to be concluded overnight.
Saturday’s match in Baltimore could be a good indicator of where these two teams are currently at in their pre-season preparations as the Premier League kick-off on August 18th draws ever closer.
Tottenham are the slightest of favourites at 29/20, with Liverpool at 3/2 and the draw priced up at 23/10, but I think Spurs are good things here. This is especially true for new bwin punters, who could win £49 if they successfully back Spurs with the free £20 bet they receive upon registering.
That the Londoners have better players and are a more accomplished team is undeniable – even with their late-season collapse under Redknapp, the Lilywhites finished 17 points ahead of the Anfield club – and that gap isn’t going to be significantly bridged this season.
And much like their two previous friendlies on their American tour, Liverpool are deeply depleted. The Euro 2012 contingent are back in training but will play a minor role on Saturday (if at all), which leaves Rodgers relying on promising but raw youngsters and senior pros he’d happily move on, such as Charlie ‘Hollywood pass’ Adam and Alberto ‘I love Liverpool really, la’ Aquilani.
Spurs have troubles up front, in that they don’t have any strikers now that Jermain Defoe has been allowed home after another family bereavement, but in Gareth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart they possess the class to hurt Liverpool and you should be getting on that 29/20 on a Tottenham victory.
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