Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Liverpool FC Can Claim Lyon Win, Says Rafa

Defiant Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is adamant his side can claim a vital victory in Lyon on Wednesday night.

The Anfield boss watched on as his side capitulated 3-1 against Fulham on Saturday, a result which leaves them languishing outside the top four and one which made it six defeats in the last seven matches.

With their Premier League title hopes appearing to have gone and a top four place under threat, winning the Champions League could well provide Liverpool’s only route back into Europe’s leading competition next season.

With qualification for the knockout stages hanging by a thread and a debilitating injury list, Benitez must conjure a victory against the odds before welcoming Birmingham City to Anfield at the weekend.

Keeping his fingers crossed Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard will be fit for the trip to France, Benitez believes his side has the character to pull it off.

Benitez said: “We have to approach every game thinking about winning and the next game is against Lyon and after we have to think about Birmingham.

“The most important thing for me now is to know how many players we have available and to start preparing our team. We have this problem and it will be the same next week.

“Hopefully we will have some experience and confidence that we can do it (beat Lyon) but we will see how the other players are for the next game.

“Maybe (David) Ngog will be available, maybe Gerrard but that depends on his progression – we will have to see.

“It took four days for Torres to be ready again last time.

“We try to progress in both competitions but the level of competition is not easy.”

Liverpool's Gerrard Out Of Lyon Champions League Match

Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard, midfielder Albert Riera and defenders Martin Kelly and Martin Skrtel will all miss Wednesday's decisive Champions League match at Olympique Lyon, manager Rafa Benitez said on Monday.

However, Benitez added that he was hoping Italian midfielder Alberto Aquilani would recover from a virus that kept him out of Saturday's 3-1 defeat at Fulham for the Group E match.

Liverpool have to win to realistically keep alive their hopes of reaching the knockout round after losing their last two matches in the competition to Fiorentina and Lyon.

Benitez told the club's website (www.liverpoolfc.tv): "Aquilani had a virus. He trained today but was a little weak. Hopefully, in two days time he will be better."

But Gerrard, who has a groin injury which may need surgery, is definitely out of a game that Liverpool cannot afford to lose after winning just one of their opening three group matches.

"Gerrard won't travel to Lyon," Benitez said. "He has no chance. He is improving but we have to wait. He has had an injection but we have to wait two or three days and see how he reacts."

Benitez confirmed that striker Fernando Torres, who is nursing an adductor muscle injury, was part of the squad travelling to France, explaining: "We have to take Fernando to Lyon because we don't have too many options."

The club confirmed on its website that midfielder Riera and defenders Kelly and Skrtel were also definite non-starters.

Roma Defender John Arne Riise Refutes Rumours Of Liverpool Return

Roma left-back John Arne Riise has reacted angrily to claims by the News of the World that he has explicitly requested to re-join former club Liverpool.

“I never said I wanted to return to Liverpool and I never made those statements,” Riise said via the Giallorossi press office.

“I am settled here in Rome and I want to stay.”

Riise left Liverpool for Roma in the summer of 2008 after spending seven seasons with the Reds.

Riise has failed to establish himself as a regular starter at the Olimpico and the News of the World had alleged the 29-year-old had expressed a desire to go back to Anfield.

Pepe Reina Happy To Agree New Terms With Liverpool

Liverpool's willingness to seal a new contract for first-choice goalkeeper Pepe Reina has been returned by the 27-year-old, who has revealed that he feels at home on Merseyside after five years at Anfield.

The Spaniard, bought by Rafael Benitez in 2005 from Villarreal, also added that one of his daughters "is a Scouser", and that he is desperate to help the club realise their primary ambition of landing a Premier League title.

"My aim is to get a new contract in the future and I want to be here for many years. Apparently the club wants the same," Reina informed the club's official website.

"It's already my fifth season here and that says it all.

"One of my daughters is a Scouser. I have some friends here and my wife and kids are happy. I have every reason to stay longer and of course I will."

He continued: "Titles are what we are all here for. As a Liverpool player, you have to have these ambitions. Trophies are the most important thing, and the most important one is probably the Premier League.

"Rafa Benitez is building something special here. He proved that when he came here - the club was one thing and now it's something totally different. We have grown up and we can still grow up a little bit more."

The Reds suffered their fifth Premier League defeat in 11 games at the weekend; losing 3-1 to Fulham. However, Reina, contrary to popular opinion, still believes that Liverpool can challenge for the domestic crown.

"It's not even close to being over," he defiantly stated. "We have to go game by game. Now we must focus on Lyon, which is massive, and after that Birmingham is a must-win game."

Regarding a new deal for Reina, Benitez recently said: "Pepe is one of the players who I will be really pleased if we can keep him for a long time."

Carra - Tough Times For Reds

Jamie Carragher admits he is 'hurt' by Liverpool's current plight, but has called on his team-mates not to be too downhearted.

Club stalwart Carragher was sent off on Saturday as a 3-1 defeat at Fulham condemned the Reds to a sixth loss in seven games in all competitions.

The setback at Craven Cottage has left Liverpool nine points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea and unlikely to mount a serious title challenge.

The result in West London followed on from a Carling Cup exit in North London to Arsenal which raised further questions over Rafa Benitez's future as manager.

The only bright spot in recent weeks was the 2-0 victory over arch-rivals Manchester United and Liverpool now face a crucial UEFA Champions League tie against Lyon on Wednesday.

Another defeat is likely to see Benitez's men miss out on a place in the last 16 of the competition and Carragher acknowledged the importance of the match.

Carragher, who is captaining the team in the absence of the injured Steven Gerrard, admits Liverpool are currently enduring a troubled period.

"These are tough times and it hurts a lot," said Carragher.

"This is un-Liverpool like. But it is not just the fans who are disappointed, it is the players, the staff and the manager.

"We have got to get back on track with Lyon, which is another massive game.

"We made up for a few things last week by beating Manchester United. Then we have had two defeats since.

"There is only us on the pitch that can turn it around and there will be a lot of talk about this result again.

"We have got to sort this out with the management and staff. We can't afford to be too downhearted for too long because we've got to get ready for the next game."

Future Of Liverpool Boss Hinges On Next Three Matches

Rafa Benitez's future at Liverpool will be determined over their next three games amid growing concern from potential investors.

Liverpool's defeat at Fulham on Saturday was the sixth in their last seven matches - the worst sequence of results for more than 50 years.

And Benitez takes his crisis-hit squad to Lyon on Wednesday knowing defeat could finish their Champions League campaign.

A failure to win there will put more pressure on their unpopular American owners to find new investment with the financial blow of an early European exit costing as much as £15million for a club already £250m in debt.

The desperate situation would present Benitez with a challenge as daunting as any since he left Valencia for Merseyside in the summer of 2004.

And although the contract he signed earlier this year would guarantee him a £20m pay-off - a seemingly prohibitive figure in the current circumstances - pressure could be put on partners Tom Hicks and George Gillett for change from potential investors eager to take the club forward.

The Americans and managing director Christian Purslow will take a very close look at the next three matches against Lyon, Birmingham and Manchester City before making what could be a very big decision.

Asked about his future, Benitez would only reply: 'My future is against Lyon.'

The manager will meet his staff today for an inquest into the 3-1 defeat at Fulham, when Liverpool finished with nine men after Philipp Degen and Jamie Carragher were sent off.

Rafael Benítez Has Given Up On Winning Premier League, Says Ronnie Whelan

Ronnie Whelan, who won six league titles with Liverpool, has accused Rafael Benítez of giving up on the title race.

And following Liverpool’s fifth Premier League defeat, at Fulham, the former Irish international claimed that the Liverpool manager is concentrating only on the Champions League so further his career.

"It's all gone wrong with the manager. He's shown exactly where his priorities lie,” said Whelan, speaking on RTE Television. “He wants to win the European Cup. He wants to be the man who wins the European Cup so he can get a job anywhere in Europe.

“I think after winning the European Cup with Liverpool he will get a job in Europe anyway but, for me, now, his days have got to be numbered at Liverpool.

"Why after such a great result against Manchester United, do you want to take a huge step backwards after losing to Arsenal in the Carling Cup as well? I don't see where he's coming from now.

"He showed me that he wants to win the Champions League and that's all he cares about - because of the team he picked [against Fulham]. When I saw the team I thought that straight away, he's not really bothered now. And I can't see why he's done it.

"He's putting all his eggs in one basket. If he loses in Lyon, he probably won't qualify for the Champions League for the knockout stages. So, he's out of the Champions League, he's not going to win the Premiership anyway - so he's messed up completely."

Fairclough: Reds Must Keep Rafa

Liverpool are facing the prospect of their worst run of results since the Bill Shankly era started 50 years ago - but under-fire boss Rafael Benitez has received backing from an Anfield legend.

Benitez is battling to overcome a horror injury list ahead of the make-or-break Champions League showdown in Lyon on Wednesday.

A loss there would mean seven defeats in eight games after Saturday's 3-1 setback at Fulham, when star striker Fernando Torres - himself struggling for fitness - was substituted at 1-1.

The Anfield club has never experienced such a run since Shankly was appointed, the 50-year anniversary of the charismatic Scot's arrival in 1959 being December 1.

Former Anfield hero David Fairclough has supported Benitez, and said: "The club is moving in a certain direction, and this season it has been totally in Benitez's hands.

"So to sack the manager, or even think of sacking the manager, is only going to throw Liverpool backwards.

"We are going to have to stick with him and hope that we turn things around."

He added: "I know some fans who were disappointed when Rafa took off Torres at Fulham, but the lad clearly wasn't fully fit.

"Liverpool have been hit by injuries and illness, and clearly had there been any more injuries or problems late on in the game, it would not have been helpful for the team plan for Wednesday night.

"But I can see Liverpool getting the result they need in Lyon. When you are talking about a dozen or more players not being available, I believe things will look a lot different come kick-off in Lyon.

"That situation will be turned around a bit, people will be fit by them, I'm sure.

"They go there knowing exactly what they have to do, and I believe Liverpool can win in Lyon. They have had situations like this before, and have produced the right results so they are more than capable of doing it again."

Benitez is facing a nightmare injury list which, apart from Torres and Steven Gerrard (both groin), sees Glen Johnson, Fabio Aurelio (both calf), Daniel Agger (back), Martin Kelly (ankle), Albert Riera (hamstring) and Andrea Dossena (groin) all struggling.

Additionally, Philipp Degen - red-carded at Fulham - was not named in the club's Champions League squad.

Liverpool also have four players - Alberto Aquilani, Martin Skrtel, David Ngog and Diego Cavalieri - suffering from a virus, although Benitez says: "It is not swine flu, we haven't got that here."

Benitez's own tenure as manager is now under close scrutiny inside and outside the club.

He is hopefully that top scorer Torres will be on the plane, but there is increasing doubt that skipper Gerrard will be.

Goalkeeper Jose Reina, who has confirmed he wants to sign a new contract, says of the worsening situation: "All of us have to keep everyone else's head up. In weak moments, strong people have to appear. I want to be one of them and support my team-mates if they need it.

"The key is to stay together and not read the critics. Belief is the word we need to use the most - belief in ourselves and our team-mates.

"We were a bit unlucky on Saturday. We didn't play as bad as at other times. It was not even close to our worst game.

"It's a tough moment but we have to stick together and try to sort things out on the pitch and in every single training session. We have pride in wearing this shirt and we have to defend it until the end.

"Any defeat hurts someone with ambition and someone who is hungry for titles. But it doesn't matter how many times you fall down - what matters is how many times you get up and keep trying to be the best.

"That's what we have to do now. We have to go back to our principles, sort out the problems we're having and go back to being the Liverpool everyone wants."

Jamie Carragher, who is hoping his own red card at Fulham will be overturned, defended Benitez's decision to substitute goalscorer Torres, saying: "Fernando has had a lot of problems lately and the longer he stays on the pitch, the more chance he has got of sustaining an injury.

"We know Fernando is not quite 100 per cent. If Fernando had got injured at the end, we would have had virtually nobody for the game in midweek but we still brought a Dutch international in Ryan Babel on. It should be enough quality."