Ramos faces tricky first test in League Cup

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LONDON, Oct 29 (Reuters) All eyes will be on White Hart Lane on Wednesday as new Tottenham Hotspur boss Juande Ramos begins the task of rebuilding a shattered season with a League Cup third-round tie against Championship side Blackpool.

Holders Chelsea, league leaders Arsenal and seven-times winners Liverpool are also in action against second division opposition, Chelsea hosting Leicester City, the Gunners at Sheffield United and Liverpool at home to Cardiff City.

What looks a fairly harmless fixture for Tottenham has taken on real significance now after the tumultuous events of the previous week in North London.

A league defeat by Newcastle United last Monday, followed by the Thursday night home defeat by Getafe in the UEFA Cup, which spelt the end of Martin Jol's three-year tenure, was followed on Sunday by a 2-1 home loss to Blackburn Rovers.

Former Sevilla coach Ramos, confirmed as the new manager of Tottenham on Saturday, knows his main priority is to steer the club away from a looming relegation battle, but first he must avoid an embarrassing cup shock.

Blackpool, struggling in the second division after promotion last season, will be keen to take advantage of the defensive jitters that have haunted Tottenham, whose last silverware was the League Cup in 1999.

SENSATIONAL START Ramos, however, has a fine track record in cup football in Spain and a victory would at least lift the gloom of Tottenham fans made worse by arch-rivals Arsenal's sensational start to the season.

Arsenal reached the final last season with a virtual reserve side, beating Spurs in the semis, and manager Arsene Wenger will no doubt give the shadow players the chance to emulate that feat against Bryan Robson's Sheffield United.

Avram Grant's Chelsea appear to have shaken off the shock of Jose Mourinho's departure, judging by their recent performances which culminated in a 6-0 league thrashing of Manchester City on Saturday.

Grant will view the League Cup as a quick route to his first silverware as Mourinho's successor and Leicester should not pose too many problems.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has had a rocky ride of late and he will be wary of antagonising the Anfield fans by fielding a below-par side against Cardiff.

Striker Peter Crouch could get a rare start though, after impressing as a substitute for the injured Fernando Torres against Arsenal on Sunday.

In other ties third division Luton Town, the lowest-ranked survivors, host Everton on Wednesday while there are two all Premier League clashes with Bolton Wanderers at home to Manchester City and Portsmouth versus Blackburn Rovers.

Second division Coventry City are at home to West Ham United for the tie tomorrow.

REUTERS SZ PM0740

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