Alexa

Liverpool hosts Portsmouth seeking to build on win

Liverpool hosts Portsmouth seeking to build on win

Liverpool's match against visiting Portsmouth on Wednesday gives the Premier League leaders an immediate chance to show that victory at Chelsea really does mark the start of a concerted title challenge.
While Chelsea is at Hull trying to rally from the loss of a record 86-match unbeaten home streak, Liverpool could maintain or even stretch its three-point lead at the top of the standings against a team hit by the departure of manager Harry Redknapp to Tottenham.
Liverpool's 1-0 win at previously unbeaten Chelsea came despite the absence of injured striker Fernando Torres and added further weight to suggestions that the Reds could be set to challenge for their first English championship since 1990.
With seven wins from nine matches, Liverpool will be a strong favorite to beat Pompey, so manager Rafa Benitez's biggest challenge could be to make sure his players don't take anything for granted.
"It's a great victory but it is only three points," said midfielder Xabi Alonso, who scored the winning goal at Chelsea. "The three points against Chelsea are as important as the three points against Wigan and the three that are available against Portsmouth on Wednesday.
"They are all of the same value."
That could be proved if Liverpool slips up and Chelsea wins, since the 2005 and '07 champions would then regain the lead on goal difference.
Benitez is likely to leave out Torres to give the Spain striker more time to recover from a hamstring injury, but may be tempted to switch to a two-man strikeforce since the onus will be on Liverpool to attack at Anfield.
That may simply require a tactical switch rather than a change in personnel, with Dirk Kuyt moving further forward to support Robbie Keane.
At the start of the season, Chelsea would have expected a trip to Hull to yield a straightforward victory, but the Tigers have surpassed all expectations to reach third in the table _ trailing Chelsea only on goal difference.
And manager Luiz Felipe Scolari now has to lift his team from defeat for the first time since taking charge during the offseason.
"We have the same number of points and we have to bounce back with a victory," goalkeeper Petr Cech said. "We say that, with something ending, something new begins, so we hope that is the case here."
Perhaps Chelsea's lengthy injury list has started to take its toll. Scolari will still be without striker Didier Drogba and Michael Ballack at Hull, although England midfielder Joe Cole could be back.
Manchester United, meanwhile, will try to close the eight-point gap on the leaders when it hosts West Ham. The defending champions had a disappointing 1-1 draw at Everton on Saturday, but are now depending upon a lengthy break from international action to help get their campaign on track.
"I think it will help a lot," goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar said. "We've got around five months together now which can only be good for the squad. Hopefully we can keep everyone fit, but we know we've got a big enough squad to cope with a couple of injuries or suspensions if that happens."
In another of Wednesday's nine matches, Tottenham plays its first away game under new manager Harry Redknapp _ at fierce north London rivals Arsenal.
The Gunners are in fourth place _ just four points off the lead _ and could recall striker Emmanuel Adebayor to the starting lineup to help combat the threat of what could be a rejuvenated Spurs side.
Also Wednesday, Blackburn is at Aston Villa, Everton is at Bolton, Wigan is at Fulham, Manchester City is at Middlesbrough, and Stoke is at Sunderland.
West Bromwich Albion is at Newcastle on Tuesday.