Hard man Dossena has tough Liverpool boots to fill

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The Independent Football

Liverpool fans will be greeted by a novelty when the club embark on their pre-season friendly at Tranmere today: the first Italian international to wear the club's colours, and arguably the club's most uncompromising defender since Tommy Smith.

Andrea Dossena, who has arrived for £8m from Udinese to fill the sides' problematic left-back berth, fits both criteria and is the taciturn and uncompromising foil to Philipp Degen, signed to occupy the opposite right-back role, who could hardly be more cheerful. Dossena has played once for Italy, against South Africa last October, but soon afterwards was sent off twice for Udinese, one of only two Serie A players to have achieved that feat last season.

"I do consider myself an aggressive player and sometimes I have been sent off for certain tackles, but I also like to play with the ball and, as long as the balance of the team isn't disturbed," Dossena said. "I like to go forward."

Dossena was asked whether referees in England would be more accepting of his "aggressive" style as the Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez, unveiled him yesterday. "It will be an advantage for me," he replied.

After a frustrating summer, Benitez has finally found some financial elbow room, with the departure of Peter Crouch to Portsmouth, Danny Guthrie's exit to Newcastle and two offers on the table from rival Premier League clubs for Scott Carson, who is keen to leave Anfield after spending last season on loan at Aston Villa.

The new £3m signing Diego Cavalieri will provide back-up to Pepe Reina in the coming season, making Carson, who joined Liverpool from Leeds for £750,000 in January 2005 after being earmarked as a potential England keeper of the future, surplus to requirements.

The Brazilian Cavalieri insisted yesterday that he is up for the to fight to challenge Reina for a place in Benitez's starting XI next season. "My confidence has got me where I am today and maybe people are aware of what I did at Palmeiras in Brazil," he said. "I am sure that one day I can get the No 1 position, but that will only come with hard work."

Cavalieri should be helped to settle in by Liverpool's other two Brazilians, Fabio Aurelio and Lucas.

Benitez is also expected to use Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel during today's match, with the likelihood of a different XI playing in each half. The side will leave for their Swiss training camp tomorrow, and Liverpool will play games against Lucerne on Wednesday and Wisla Krakow next Saturday.

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