Anfield duo have keeper on his toes

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The Independent Online

The Liverpool goalkeeper Sander Westerveld is dreading the potential mickey-taking repercussions should one of his team-mates, Michael Owen or Robbie Fowler, score past him for England tonight.

With Dutch coach Louis van Gaal likely to emulate his counterpart Sven Goran Eriksson in using as many as 22 players, Westerveld should play some part and may even start ahead of the new Fulham goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.

That will put Westerveld in front of two strikers who were instrumental in Liverpool's unprecedented cup treble last season – the Reds' third England striker, Emile Heskey, having pulled out through injury.

Said Westerveld: "If Michael Owen chips me in front of 30,000 people against England in England he will be smiling all year and taking the mick. So we can't have that," he said. "I won't kick him up in the air but I will prevent him from scoring."

Asked which of his Anfield colleagues he would rather have bearing down on his goal, he added: "I would prefer none of them, they are special but different players.

Tonight's friendly at White Hart Lane is part of the countries' warm ups for crucial World Cup qualifiers, England away to Germany in Munich and their opponents facing the Republic of Ireland in Dublin.

Westerveld, who was impressive in Liverpool's Charity Shield victory over Manchester United on Sunday, believes it might also be to England's advantage should they slip up against the Dutch tonight.

With five straight wins under Eriksson and a positive feeling developing about the national team, he says that a defeat could be taken as a timely reality check ahead of the showdown with Germany in Munich on 1 September.

He said: "I think when you play a friendly before another big international match it is good sometimes when you lose, because then you actually know where your deficiencies are and what problems you have to deal with.

"If we beat them [England] 3-0 it might be a good result for them because they really have a lot of confidence now."

The view of United's £19million new striker Ruud van Nistelrooy was: "I don't think England will be affected if we beat them. They are so confident now that defeat won't change their positive feeling."

Westerveld, however, is sure that England will be given a torrid time by the multi-talented Dutch forwards. "Even if you have quality defenders like England have, players like Van Nistelrooy and Patrick Kluivert can score against any defenders. Van Nistelrooy is a great player, who could become world-class in a couple of years. I hope that they do score and England learns from defeat."

Captain Frank de Boer, who was given special dispensation by Fifa, the world governing body, to appear in friendly matches after receiving a ban for alleged use of nandrolone, is struggling to shake off an Achilles problem.

Should he not do so it would be a blow to Van Gaal, who is keen for the defender to gain match practice ahead of the match in Dublin, the day after his suspension runs out. In his absence, Edgar Davids, the other Dutch player currently serving a drugs-related ban – set by the Italian FA for competitive matches – will take the armband.

The Juventus midfielder is allowed to play friendlies for his club, so Fifa gave him the green light to face England, and the Dutch also hope that their appeal for him to face the Irish on 1 September is upheld.

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