Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Benitez Frustration Over Gerrard

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez believes Steven Gerrard's recent England outings have taken a toll on the midfielder.

Gerrard was doubtful for England with a broken toe but played in both Euro 2008 qualifying wins over Israel and Russia.

"It could be that playing twice for England has had an impact," Benitez told the Liverpool Echo.

"They (England) knew (what I felt about him playing in both games) but everyone was talking about how important this situation was for England."

Gerrard came off with cramp after 71 minutes in the win over Israel before playing the full game when Russia lost at Wembley in two crucial games in England's Euro 2008 qualifying campaign.

But, since his return from international duty, Gerrard has seemed to be struggling to reach his usual all-action style as Liverpool's form has also stuttered.

Gerrard came on as a substitute in the 0-0 with Portsmouth, while starting when the Reds came back to draw 1-1 Porto in the Champions League.

He also started in the goalless draw with Birmingham as the Reds were held at Anfield on Saturday with Benitez criticised for his squad rotation.

"His national team is England but it is clear that these players cannot play every game for 90 minutes," added Benitez.

"Gerrard was not 100% physically fresh, I don't mean fit but fresh.

"In these kind of games you need to keep the tempo really high and if you play too many games in a row for 90 minutes, especially if you are not fit then normally you have problems."

Carling Cup Preview: Reading vs LiverpooL

Reading host Liverpool in the Carling Cup third round with both sides hunting the win for varying reasons.

The Royals have endured a disappointing start to the season, where they have recorded only two wins from seven league games, and they will be hoping to kick start their campaign.

Meanwhile, Liverpool have drawn their last three games - against Porto in the UEFA Champions League, and Portsmouth and Birmingham in the Premier League - and will be keen for a return to winning ways.

Reading manager Steve Coppell looks set to make sweeping changes to his first XI in a bid to freshen up his side.

Leroy Lita, who has been the subject of recent newspaper allegations, has been assured of a starting place after being omitted from the Reading squad which recorded a 2-1 win over Wigan at the weekend.

Adam Federici, Ulises de la Cruz, Scott Golbourne, Andre Bikey, Emerse Fae, Bobby Convey and Shane Long are also expected to start after missing out against the Latics, while James Henry is likely to be on the bench.

Kalifa Cisse has recovered from a slight knee injury and could also be a substitute.

Peter Mate (hamstring) and Glen Little (Achilles) are unavailable, while Ibrahima Sonko will not be risked despite recently making his comeback from a knee injury in the reserves.

Liverpool could hand debuts to goalkeeper Charles Itandje and 19-year-old defender Jack Hobbs in a much changed line-up.

Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres have also been included in the squad, but the star trio are unlikely to feature.

Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva is expected to play some part in the tie, as well as wingers Nabil El Zhar and Sebastian Leto.

Fit-again Fabio Aurelio - who ruptured his Achilles tendon at the end of last season - and young defender Emiliano Insua could also be involved, while Yossi Benayoun is expected to start after the Israeli missed Saturday's meeting with Birmingham.