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Amsterdam Tournament Preview
Liverpool are in Amsterdam this weekend for the 23rd Amsterdam Tournament, and the fifth to be held at the Amsterdam ArenA.
It is the third time which Liverpool have taken part, having finished third in the 1977 competition, losing 2-1 to Ajax in the semi finals before a 1-0 win over Barcelona, and the Reds finished last in 2001, with all four sides each winning a match and losing a match, though Liverpool had the worst goal difference of all the teams.
This year's competition will see Liverpool take on Ajax tomorrow evening, before facing Galatasaray on Sunday, with Inter also taking part.
The weekend will represent the biggest challenge of the summer so far for Gerard Houllier's men, who will be aiming to keep their pre-season unbeaten record in tact.
Ajax will no doubt be the toughest of Liverpool's two fixtures, although last season's Eredivisie runners-up and Champions League quarter finalists will be without Christian Chivu, who moved to Roma for €18m and Andy van der Meyde, who signed for Inter for €7m during the summer.
The Dutch giants still have some outstanding players though, with Rafael van der Vaart among the most exciting players at the club, and prolific goalscorer Wesley Sonck has been added to the squad for this season, joining from Belgian club, Genk. However, much attention will be on Jari Litmanen for the Ajax-Liverpool game, with the Finnish legend lining up against his former teammates for the first time.
Ajax, like Liverpool, go into the tournament unbeaten so far during the summer, winning 11-0 away to Blauw Wit, a local Amsterdam side, in their first match and following up that result with a 6-0 win over amateur Dutch side DVS '33 and a 9-0 win against Achilles '12. Finally, during a brief tour of the East Midlands, Ajax recorded 2-2 draws with both Nottingham Forest and Derby County.
Galatasaray will arrive in Holland with a number of new signings, following a busy summer in the transfer market, with Frank De Boer and Hakan Sukur the most recognizable names to English fans.
The Turkish club failed to win their domestic league last season having won 5 of the previous 6 Turkish titles, though after ending the campaign 8 points behind Beskitas and being sent crashing out of Europe by finishing bottom of their first round Champions League group, Gala will be looking for a much improved season.
This year marks the club's first appearance in the Amsterdam Tournament, although facing Liverpool will be no new experience for the team, having played the Reds twice in the Champions League just 18 months ago.
Gala's pre-season games have so far produced a varied set of results with their most recent game ending in a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin, but with the start of the Turkish league just over a week away, Fatih Terim will be hoping to see his side produce a couple of good performances in Holland.
Inter, like Galatasaray, head to Amsterdam for their first taste of the tournament, though it will not be their first appearance in the magnificent Amsterdam ArenA, as the Italians visited the stadium in a Champions League first round group match last season, winning 2-1.
With the Italian season not due to start for another month, Inter's players will not be expected to be at their sharpest quite yet, although they should still provide Ajax and Galatasaray with tough games.
Inter boss Hector Cuper will not be taking a full strength squad to Ajax though, with Christian Vieri left out of the squad which travelled to Amsterdam, and Alvaro Recoba away on International duty with Uruguay. However, the 51,000 spectators should still get to see the likes of Crespo, Emre, Zanetti and Francesco Toldo in action.
The format of the tournament is similar to most major leagues, with three points for a win and a single point for a draw, although teams gain an extra point for each goal scored. The winning team will then be being presented with the trophy following the conclusion of the Ajax-Inter game on Sunday evening.