Tottenham v Olympiakos, pre-season friendly, August 9, 2009
Spurs take on the Greek double winners at White Hart Lane on Sunday in the Lillywhites last pre-season fixture before their Premier League curtain-raiser against Liverpool.
Several reasons point to Olympiakos as favourites in this match. With newly appointed former Newcastle nutter Temuri Ketsbaianow in charge, the Greeks have so far started the 2009/10 season in perfect fashion. A 3-all draw with Bochum has so far been the only time Olympiakos haven’t walked away with victory since they retook the field this summer, having notched up wins over Heerenveen (1-nil), FC Zwolle (3-nil), Groningen (2-nil) and back-to-back 2-nil wins in the Champions League qualifiers against Slovan Bratislava.
Olympiakos’ terrific early season form has been backed by an aggressive summer transfer policy. Having proved a revelation at the back end of last season in his loan move from Blackburn, the capture of Matt Derbyshire was quickly sown up once the window opened. Joining Derbyshire was ex-Premier League legend Olof Mellberg, Raul Bravo (formerly of Leeds United ignominy), and just last week a fourth signing arrived as ex-Baggies Enzo Maresca joined from Sevilla.
With a healthy splattering of quality players already on their books, including forwards Diogo and Luciano Galletti, Spurs will have a tough time keeping the visitors at bay. (Tottenham are 11/10 to keep a clean sheet against the Greeks.)
Spurs’ problems worsen due to their terrible defensive crisis which has already hit the North Londoners even before the season starts. For over a decade now, regardless of how many signings have joined the club there has been a constant sense that Tottenham have been struck by some injury hoodoo. And now the curse has hit once more.
Harry Redknapp can only call on one recognised centre-half, Vedran Corluka, with the crippled triumvirate of Michael Dawson, Ledley King and Johnaton Woodgate all resting up on the treatment table. The hope is that defensive matters will be improved by the introduction of a new signing before the weekend – rumours seem to point to the imminent arrival of Sebastien Bassong from Newcastle.
With Darren Bent now out the picture with Sunderland, Jermaine Defoe, Robbie Keane, Roman Pavlyuchenko and new signing Peter Crouch will all be vying for places up-front, while much of Spurs’ year ahead rests on the shoulders of Wilson Palacios as the driving force in the Tottenham midfield.
Spurs’ pre-season has so far shown consistent progress, particularly during their successful trip to China in the Barclays Asia Trophy, but against Olympiakos Redknapp’s charges will face their toughest challenge of the summer.
101predicts: Tottenham 1- Olympiakos 2 (12/1)
Full match odds here.