Reds set to hit Pompey with their top line-up

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 July, 2007, 12:00am

Gerrard fitness boost for Benitez ahead of final

Liverpool will field their strongest side when they take on Portsmouth in the final of the Barclays Asia Trophy tonight.

With skipper Steven Gerrard recovered from the abdominal strain that kept him out of Tuesday's win over South China, and new signings Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel both available after receiving their international clearances, manager Rafa Benitez said the Reds would have even more options at their disposal than when they fended off the feisty Caroliners 3-1.

'I think he [Gerrard] is fine and will be available. We also have the international papers for Torres and Babel and both players can play,' said Benitez at the team's Wan Chai hotel yesterday.

'We had some problems on Tuesday, but with Gerrard, Torres and Babel we have new options as they add quality and fresh legs so that we can plan for the game in different ways.'

In the absence of the three key players, Benitez was forced to feature Sami Hyypia in midfield during the later stages on Tuesday night.

'From my position, we will have more options, but still Portsmouth will be a very difficult team to play,' he said.

'For us it is an important game for the build-up to the Premiership because we want to win every trophy. A lot of supporters are here and we will try to do our best.'

The Spaniard said they had more attacking possibilities, Peter Crouch's presence up front allowing them to play more crosses. And if they want to build up along the ground they can play another of their summer signings, Andriy Voronin - the Ukrainian - who scored two goals against Werder Bremen in a friendly last week.

'I will try to play with my best attack-minded team because we want to win,' said the coach. 'But I have to see how the players are after training before finalising my decision.'

Reds striker Crouch, who played for Portsmouth during the 2001-02 season and scored 18 league goals in 37 matches, paid tribute to the job done by Harry Redknapp at Fratton Park.

'Harry is a top manager. I enjoyed my time working with him and he has done a great job. I have the utmost respect for him,' said the 2.01-metre striker, the tallest player in the Premiership.

'Pompey have strengthened well during the summer with a lot of new signings. This will be a difficult game for us but we are determined to win and pick up that trophy.'

Pompey goalkeeper David James, who made 216 appearances for the Reds from 1992-99, said it would be tough against his former club.

'We all know Liverpool are a fantastic side with fantastic players such as Gerrard, one of the best midfielders in the world. They also brought in several other fantastic players. It is about time for them to win the Premier League as it has been a long time since they last won it,' said the England international.

'It is going to be a tough game, and hopefully we play well and win. We will also be looking for a lift from the Hong Kong crowd as we did in the last match against Fulham.'

Redknapp said his team were fine. Only one or two players felt the strain after Tuesday's victory over Fulham - their first competitive match of the pre-season.

Midfielder Sean Davis had a bang on the knee and was suffering a tight hamstring, while French defender Djimi Traore, who missed the first match because he joined the team only on Saturday, will play.

Seeing Red

The games Portsmouth keeper David James played for Liverpool, the team he will face at Hong Kong Stadium: 216