Tottenham Hotspur and CelticÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s pre-season preparations intensify on Friday evening, as the pair kick-off the Feyenoord Jubileum Toernooi.
Buoyed by the success of last season, expectations at White Hart Lane and Parkhead are sky high going into the new campaign. Celtic won the Scottish Premier League for the 42nd time in 2008 and progressed to the last 16 of the Champions League. Meanwhile, Spurs bagged the English League Cup, their first trophy in nine years and in doing so, secured their third successive season in the UEFA Cup in 08/09.
The tournament in Rotterdam has been organised to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of Feyenoord and features the three clubs the Dutch giants have defeated in European finals. Celtic lost to Feyenoord in the 1970 European Cup Final while Spurs went down to the De Kuip side in an ill-tempered UEFA Cup Final in 1974. More recently, Borussia Dortmund were FeyenoordÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s victims in the 2002 UEFA Cup Final. For Ã¢â‚¬ËœDe club aan de MaasÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ (The Club on the Mass), the Jubileum Toernooi is a perfect time to indulge in a spot of nostalgia and saviour past victories.
For Spurs and Celtic, minds will be firmly on the present as they look to build form and fitness in Holland. Having won only one in their opening ten Premier League games last season, Tottenham can ill afford such a bad start this time around. Celtic too will be aware of the need to get out of the blocks quickly, especially with an Old Firm derby looming in their first month of the new campaign.
With the amount of comings and goings at White Hart Lane this summer, a major concern for Juande Ramos will be the time it takes his new-look Tottenham side to gel. A teamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s worth of players have departed, including goalkeeper Paul Robinson, defenders Anthony Gardner and Pascal Chimbonda, midfielder Teemu Tainio and front man Robbie Keane.
Luka Modric, signed by Spurs for Ã‚Â£16.5m from Dinamo Zagreb in April, showed his creative midfield qualities during Euro 2008. He has the potential to be a key playmaker for the Lilywhites but could struggle with the physical aspects of the Premiership. 19-year old Mexican, Giovani dos Santos could also find the rough and tough of the English league a problem, though he joins from Barcelona with reputation as one of the most prestigious talents in La Liga. Heurelho Gomes lived up to all the goalkeeping stereotypes with PSV Eindhoven Ã¢â‚¬â€œ his play brilliant and bizarre in equal measure. The speed in which the new boys can settle into Juande RamosÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ side will be key to TottenhamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s success this season.
Celtic have had a much quieter summer in the transfer market in comparison with Spurs. Their biggest bit of business so far has been making loan forward Georgios Samaras a permanent member of staff, signed for Ã‚Â£1.3m from Manchester City. He scored 5 goals in 16 games at Parkhead last season and will be hopeful of a regular place in the Celtic team this term. Northern Ireland winger Pat McCourt also joined from Derry City for an undisclosed fee along with talented teenager Matty Hughes of Rochdale, who was also a target for Liverpool.
Celtic have experienced a mixed pre-season as far as results are concerned. Gordon StrachanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s men began with a 2-0 victory at Southampton (July 18), thanks to goals from Chris Killen and Barry Robson (pen). A day later, the Hoops were beaten 3-1 at Premiership side Fulham, with Robson scoring again. They travelled to Portugal on July 22 to take part in the Algarve Challenge Cup, drawing 1-1 in the opening fixture against Middlesbrough. A 1-0 defeat to Cardiff City (also in the Algarve Challenge Cup) was cancelled out by a 1-0 victory at Porto, with Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink scoring the winner. The Jubileum Toernooi games against Tottenham and Feyenoord, as well as a home friendly with Manchester City (Aug 6) complete the HoopsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ pre-season preparations.
CelticÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s defence of their Clydesdale Bank Premier League trophy begins at home to St Mirren on 10th August.
Tottenham are unbeaten so far this summer at the time of writing, with a game at Leyton Orient to come on Wednesday. They thrashed Norwich City 5-1 on Monday night, with Darren Bent scoring four goals. He will be hoping to use the rest of pre-season to stake a first team place, following Robbie KeaneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s departure. Spainish minnows Denia and Tavernes were trounced by Spurs in training ground matches, by four goals to two and eight nil respectively, before a 1-1 draw at Division B outfit Hercules last Thursday.
As pre-season steps up, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m travelling to Holland tomorrow for Soccer News to bring Spurs and Celtic fans the very latest from the Feyenoord Jubileum Toernooi. Friday sees the Celtic-Spurs game at 18:30 CET with Feyenoord-Borussia Dortmund kicking of at 20:45. Sunday sees Tottenham play Dortmund at 17:45 CET and Feyenoord v Celtic at 20:00 CET.
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