Liverpool seek to break the duopoly
© AFP

Although most pundits are expecting Chelsea and Manchester United to finish in the top two places in the English Premier League this season, Liverpool have other ideas.

As well as unveiling ambitious stadium plans for a new Anfield, just a stone's throw away from their current home, Reds manager Rafael Benitez has also spent over £50m to ensure that his side can keep apace with Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho's charges.

Into the dressing room of the five-time European champions has come Fernando Torres from Atletico Madrid for £21.5m, Ryan Babel from Ajax for £11.5m, Yossi Benayoun from West Ham United for £5m and Lucas from Gremio for £8m.

"What we have achieved this summer is to ensure we won't need to buy many players every year," said Benitez. "We've bought young players with quality who will improve us. We will add to this every summer, but we are happy at this moment and believe we can try to win every trophy, even though we recognise others can do the same. We are a good team, but the league will be as difficult as normal.

"Just because we have spent more money than before, it does not make us favourites. We need to analyse situations properly. The reality we know is we have a side to score more goals, play good football and win more games. I look at the squad of United and see their quality, and Chelsea built a team over five or six years spending hundreds of millions. They no longer need to spend at the same level each summer."

Despite Roman Abramovich's millions, Chelsea have spent just £13.5m this player - flying Frenchman Florent Malouda from Lyon. The rest of their summer signings: Claudio Pizarro, Tal Ben Haim and Steve Sidwell have all arrived on free transfers. Yet, despite the lack of transfer activity, Mourinho has vowed that there will be significant changes at Stamford Bridge.

The Portuguese coach has stated that his side will play a more flowing form of football this year, which will manifest itself in a 4-4-2 formation as well as the team's trusted 'diamond' formation which helped them to win the 2004/05 and 2005/06 Premiership titles. Mourinho believes that English football is getting more sophisticated, which is helping the country's leading sides perform better in continental competition.

"We can see a lot of teams playing a very good possession game, we can see a lot of teams playing with players between the lines, a lot of teams thinking tactically from game to game and not playing always the typical 4-4-2 they used to play every game," he said.

"A lot of teams are playing with three midfielders and sometimes with five at the back. The game is more tactical, it's become more tactical thinking. In my opinion globally about the game, it prepares English teams better to play in Europe."

Yet Liverpool and Chelsea beware. According to veteran striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Manchester United manager Ferguson has his sights set on more trophies. Last season the Red Devils won the Premiership in style and the Norwegian sees no reason why more success will not follow in 2007/08.

"We have a history of playing attacking, entertaining football," he said. "That's what the gaffer tries to instil in us every day, that we have to enjoy football.

"The gaffer looks very healthy, very revitalised, happy, smiling. He breathes the club. He comes in every morning - he's in before every single player and every single staff member. He's hungry and it rubs off on everyone."

"I think it's United's history. When people look back to the Busby Babes and everything about the club - Bobby Charlton, Denis Law, George Best - they have had the best players in the world. Now we have (Cristiano) Ronaldo, (Ryan) Giggs, (Wayne) Rooney and Paul Scholes. You can't manufacture that. The manager has installed this mentality in the players. It is a culture."