Monday 23 April 2018

Spurs have improved on last season - Benitez

Rafael Benitez reckons Inter Milan will face a better Tottenham side tomorrow night 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 today: "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 faced a thankless task succeeding Jose Mourinho at all-conquering Inter during the summer but he is confident of building a better side than last season's treble-winning team.

"It's true that always it's difficult when you have won a lot of trophies to change things," he said.

"But I felt the players were quite happy to change something and try to keep the same mentality, the same idea, when they were playing counter-attack, and try to improve a little bit in possession.

"It was easy for me because, talking with them, they were saying, 'Okay, we like to do this and we will try to do it'."

Veteran Inter captain Javier Zanetti played down the differences in the approaches of Mourinho and Benitez.

"I don't think there is any particular reign here, only work, both from Mourinho and from Benitez," said the 37-year-old Argentina stalwart.

"We were working quite a lot with Mourinho and we are working quite a lot with Benitez.

"They have, obviously, different ideas but they both have the goal of getting trophies with Inter."

Despite Spurs' status as Champions League rookies, Zanetti is wary of the attacking threat they pose.

"I believe Tottenham are a very good team and, above all, they are dangerous on the counter," he said.

"They are very, very speedy players.

"We need to pay particular attention, too, to the set-piece because they are very dangerous."

But the defensive midfielder stopped short of anointing Tottenham as Inter's biggest rivals in the group, adding: "We obviously respect all the teams in this group. I believe that it is a very balanced group.

"We have another strong team in Werder Bremen and you saw how many problems we had against Twente away.

"So we have not to underestimate anyone."

Press Association

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