Lethargic Liverpool looking for swift recovery

Liverpool will want to correct its organizational deficiencies and overcome the lethargy shown in its opening-round loss at Tottenham.

updated: August 17, 2009 14:24 IST
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Liverpool will want to correct its organizational deficiencies and overcome the lethargy shown in its opening-round loss at Tottenham when the Reds host Stoke on Wednesday in the Premier League.

Having lost 2-1 to Spurs on Sunday, Liverpool is already playing catch-up with title rivals Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea after they all enjoyed winning starts.

Losing at White Hart Lane repeated last November's outcome there and the Reds, last season's runners-up, will be hoping Stoke also doesn't frustrate them like last season.

"It won't be easy against Stoke because they will get men behind the ball and they won't give us space," midfielder Lucas Leiva said. "We had two draws against them last season, so we know what to expect."

Benitez was angered by the referee's failure to award a second penalty on Sunday, but the Spaniard accepted his team was poor.

"Clearly, we did not play well _ we are disappointed," Benitez said. "You saw in the second half more character and we were a threat, but it was still not enough. I think we were not comfortable because we were not well organized."

Liverpool's problems included the failure of Fernando Torres to make an impact. He appeared weary after having represented Spain at the Confederations Cup in June, a second straight offseason spent on national-team duty after the Spaniards won the 2008 European Championship.

There was also a lack of service for an isolated Torres with Liverpool missing the distribution of Xabi Alonso, who has joined Real Madrid.

"It's very early days in the title race and there is a long way to go, but we know we have to improve," Lucas said. "But at home we will have a lot more possession than we had (on Sunday) and hopefully we'll create more and score more goals."

Captain Steven Gerrard, who scored an equalizing penalty on Sunday, remains confident that Liverpool can win the league for the first time since 1990 after coming within four points of the Premier League title in May.

"It does play on my mind how many years I've left to win it. I've turned 29 now, so I know time isn't on my side, but it's important I don't get obsessed by it," Gerrard said. "The Premier League gets harder to win every year. The form we showed last season would have been enough to win it in a lot of years, and yet we finished second. It shows there's no room for error."

Chelsea also experienced a stuttering start Saturday, but Didier Drogba's stoppage-time goal clinched a 2-1 win over Hull to spare manager Carlo Ancelotti a losing start in the English league.

Chelsea's new diamond midfield formation will come under scrutiny again Tuesday against Sunderland.

"It feels different not to play with wingers and to play with two strikers," midfielder Michael Ballack said. "In a diamond, your attention is more on controlling the play, you have more ball in midfield and one more man there as well.

"So you gain a small advantage through the center, but there's more hard work for the four midfielders because they have a lot of work to do on and off the ball in this system."

Manchester United, which opened with a 1-0 win over Birmingham, faces another newly promoted team Wednesday when the defending champions travel to Burnley.

"Wednesday's match will be a tough one," United goalkeeper Ben Foster said. "Burnley are going to be really up for it and their fans will give them an extra 20 percent (boost).

"We've got to go there, be professional, do what we did against Birmingham and hopefully keep another clean sheet."

Birmingham hosts Portsmouth on Wednesday, when Spurs will be hoping to make it two wins out of two at Hull. Wigan, which beat Aston Villa 2-0 on Saturday, takes on Wolverhampton on Tuesday.