Spurs stronger than last season, says Inter manager Benitez

RAFAEL BENITEZ reckons Inter Milan will face a better Tottenham side tonight than the one that beat his Liverpool team to fourth place in the Barclays Premier League last season.

Inter boss Benitez has been handed a quick reunion with Spurs after the holders were paired with the north Londoners in Champions League Group A. Liverpool regularly finished in the Premier League top four during Benitez’s six-year reign, which ended in the summer when they could only manage seventh place.

Tottenham, meanwhile, qualified for the Champions League for the first time and have so far impressed in Europe’s elite club competition, having matched Inter’s feat of taking four points from their opening two group games.

Benitez has been impressed with their progress, saying: “I believe that Tottenham have improved quite a lot.

“They invested a lot of money and now they have a lot of quality players in the squad. So I believe that tomorrow we have to be very attentive.”

Spurs will be missing two of their best players in the suspended Rafael van der Vaart and the injured Ledley King, while Inter could be able to call upon recently-recovered trio Esteban Cambiasso, Goran Pandev and Ivan Cordoba.

“If they are in the squad, that means they can play,” said Benitez. “For how long is a question I can only answer after tomorrow’s training session.”

Benitez also took the opportunity to launch a cryptic attack on Liverpool’s ousted owners and current managing director Christian Purslow.

Benitez hit out at former co-owner Tom Hicks’ claim that he was largely to blame for the Reds’ worst ever start to the Premier League this season.

Hicks pointed the finger at Benitez for wasting much of the money he was given to spend during the latter half of his tenure.

But a clearly irked Benitez insisted the Americans were to blame, citing their of appointment Purslow in the summer of last year as the beginning of a downward spiral that ended in the Spaniard’s exit.

In an outburst reminiscent of Eric Cantona’s famous quote featuring seagulls and trawlers, Inter Milan boss Benitez compared events leading up to his departure to a bottle of milk.

“I prefer not to talk too much about Liverpool,” said Benitez, who watched his former club’s Merseyside derby defeat on Sunday which left them second bottom of the table.

“I prefer not to talk about this because I feel really sorry for the fans.

“I was watching the fans and I was really sad after the defeat the other day. We have a saying in Spanish, which is: ‘White liquid in a bottle has to be milk’.”

Benitez, who led Liverpool to second place in the Premier League in 2009 but could only manage seventh last term, added: “What does this mean? It means that after 86 points and finishing second in the league, what changed?

“The Americans, they chose a new managing director and everything changed.’’

“The managing director is involved in all the decisions: new lawyer, new chief of press, new manager, nine new players, new medical staff, new fitness coaches — they changed everything.

“At the beginning, they changed the managing director who was talking with some players, and they changed everything that we were doing in the past.

“So, if you want to ask again what was going on, it’s simple: they changed something and, at the end, they changed everything.

“So, white liquid in a bottle: milk. You will know who is to blame.”

Pressed further on the matter, Benitez would only say: “White liquid in a bottle. If I see John the milkman in the Wirral, where I was living, with this bottle, I’d say, ‘It’s milk, sure’.”

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