Inter Milan coach Rafael Benitez said UEFA Champions League opponents Tottenham Hotspur have come on leaps and bounds since he left the Premier League.
Benitez spent six years at Liverpool, winning a Champions League and an FA Cup before moving to Italy in the summer. Having guided Liverpool in the Champions League every season since arriving in England, Benitez's side finished seventh in the last campaign and missed out on Europe's Premier club competition.
And it is Harry Redknapp's Spurs who have replaced them in the Champions League after their fourth spot last season. Benitez feels the Londoners are a better team than they were during his Merseyside tenure.
"Clearly there's a difference, Tottenham have improved a lot, they've invested a lot of money in players and have done so in the right way," he said today during the pre-match press conference for tomorrow's Group A clash at the San Siro.
"Once again you can understand that it's the players who have made the difference in almost every match. Tottenham are an example of a team that has the quality and desire to do well. I think they're doing well [in their first year in the Champions League], they seem to have energy, quality and the desire to win, hence it will be difficult to beat them."
Inter and Spurs top the group on four points each, three points clear of Werder Bremen and FC Twente but the Italians' goal difference of plus four is one better than Totenham's.
As well as knowing the English side well from his six years in the country, Benitez had Spurs's Peter Crouch on his books at Anfield for three years. Crouch didn't always convince Benitez to pick him and was sold to Portsmouth in 2008. But Benitez doesn't believe the beanpole striker will be out to prove a point to his ex-coach.
"I think Crouch is a good lad, we bought him from Southampton and he didn't score for the first 14 games but I always remained close to him and I had a good relationship with him. I also wanted to keep him in my team but [Steven] Gerrard and [Fernando] Torres scored 55 goals [between them] and at that point it was difficult."
Crouch won't be the forward in the spotlight tomorrow, though, as Inter's Samuel Eto'o is the form player in Serie A at the moment. He has bagged 12 goals in 11 games in all competitions, including a hat-trick in the 4-0 demolition of Werder in their last European game. And Benitez says he is happy to rely on the Cameroon captain's goals.
"Last year this team relied on [Diego] Milito and did so practically the whole year, winning three titles," said the Spaniard. "If this season we have to depend on Eto'o in the same way I'll be very happy."
Benitez has had some good news with midfielders Esteban Cambiasso and Thiago Motta as well as forward Goran Pandev all declared fit. It means the team are practically back to full strength, with only Milito and Kenya midfielder McDonald Mariga absent.