Liverpool look to end title drought

Rafael Benitez will be looking to end Liverpool's long wait for a 19th league title this season, 20 years after their last triumph. After pushing Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson to the wire last year, the Spaniard and the club's loyal supporters on Merseyside will hope to go one better during the 2009/10 campaign.

However, despite Liverpool's improved league form in the latter half of last season, their results at home before Christmas ultimately proved costly. Draws against Fulham, West Ham, Hull City, Stoke City and Everton meant that they dropped a total of 14 points at Anfield, compared to United who surrendered just seven on home soil.

Benitez has also had to deal with losing his lynchpin in his midfield with Xabi Alonso eventually moving to Real Madrid for £30 million after a summer-long chase. If Liverpool are to mount another serious title challenge then Alonso's replacement, Alberto Aquilani from Roma, will have to prove his fitness after injuries have so far blighted his career.

Another new signing, Glen Johnson who arrived from Premiership strugglers Portsmouth will be seeking to give the Reds a new dimension with his attacking prowess from the right hand side of defence. His stellar performances last season earned him a place in the Premier League's team of the season, with his personal highlight being a stunning left-footed volley from 35 yards against Hull City in December.

Together with Fabio Aurellio and Emilano Insua down the left, Liverpool's full-backs are sure to provide an aggressive attacking style of play which can only help them to break down the so called stubborn opposition at Anfield and transform all those draws into victories.

I want to show Stevie [Gerrard] that I am capable of playing alongside him - and I need to show that to Rafa Benitez as well.
Liverpool's young midfielder, Jay Spearing.

Apart from Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, who are the obvious candidates to impress once again, Liverpool supporters will be hopeful that some of their home grown youngsters can step-up to the mark after some promising displays over the past 12 months. Both Jay Spearing and Martin Kelly have looked able deputies when called upon and will be optimistic of gaining more first team action.

Spearing has already had a taste of the big-time when he came on as a substitute in Liverpool's famous 4-0 demolition over Real Madrid last season; the Wirral born youngster was so impressive in his 20 minute cameo that even the Kop chanted his name. His determined attitude and drive from midfield are reminiscent of another Merseyside maestro in Steven Gerrard. If he continues his impressive form from the reserves, he is sure of a bright future.

"Any chance I get I've got to impress," said Spearing. "I want to show Stevie [Gerrard] that I am capable of playing alongside him - and I need to show that to Rafa Benitez as well. I want to make the step up as soon as possible. I've been in the reserves for a few years so I need to push on."

Defender Martin Kelly is more than capable at either right-back or centre-back and is extremely comfortable with both feet. His height and pace mean that he is a match for most centre-forwards. The 19-year-old made his first-team debut, coming off the bench in a 3-1 victory over PSV in the group stages of last season's UEFA Champions League and has arguably been one of Liverpool's stand-out players in pre-season.

If Rafael Benitez can keep Gerrard and Torres fit and his two new signings can adapt to life at Anfield quickly enough then there is no reason to suggest that Liverpool cannot provide another serious title challenge.

Have Your Say
wants your views on Liverpool's chances this campaign. How will they cope with Xabi Alonso's departure? Will Glen Johnson and Alberto Aquilani prove value for money, and which youngsters will make the big step-up to the first team?