Friday, November 06, 2009

I Don't Fear For My Job - Benitez

Rafael Benitez insists he does not fear for his job even though Liverpool now need a miracle to reach the last 16 of the Champions League.

The Liverpool boss had seen victory snatched from his team by Lyon, who equalised through Lisandro Lopez in the dying seconds of their Group E clash at the Stade Gerland on Wednesday night.

Ryan Babel had fired Liverpool ahead with just seven minutes to go, but they still left with a 1-1 draw despite a vastly improved performance.

Liverpool now must rely on Lyon winning away to Fiorentina in their next match, and hope they will still have their destiny in their own hands in their final group matches against Debrecen and the Florence club.

Benitez's own position has been under threat during Liverpool's recent horror run, but when asked if he feared for his job, the Spaniard was quick to respond.

"No, I am only thinking about the next game, nothing else," he said.

Benitez, who also revealed that striker Fernando Torres played through the pain barrier for the 87 minutes he was on the pitch, remains hopeful his side can still progress even though the odds are stacked against them.

He said: "We have to be really disappointed, we had so many chances and we were almost there.

"But again it was a late goal by Lyon, and it is a massive difference for us.

"Clearly it is difficult now, but not impossible. We have to win our next game in Debrecen and wait to see what the result is between Fiorentina and Lyon.

"We have to keep going and try to win. We have achieved miracles before and we can do it again."

On his own feelings and the pressure he is under, Benitez said: "It is simple for me to keep my head high, and that is by watching the players on the pitch and see their performances. Hearing the fans singing after the game because they know that we are improving and getting better.

"But football is like this, sometimes you have to have some luck and we did not have any luck at the end of the match.

"We were not caught out by them at the end, we were not caught on the break and had plenty of players in the box to defend.

"We just made a mistake, but not because we were thinking about attacking and caught out.

"I have not seen the replay so I do not know whether (Michel) Bastos was offside in the build-up to their equaliser. We just had to do better, we had too many players around the scorer and should have stopped him.

"It is something we have to improve on because it has happened before. When we are winning we have to close the game out and stop teams scoring against us at the end of matches, like Lyon have done in both games against us.

"We have to learn to keep the ball at times and be stronger in the challenge."

He added: "Torres was playing with pain, and that is not easy. He was inconsistent, he had to keep stopping and starting again because of the problem.

"He was playing with pain, hopefully he will now have some time for us to work with him and we will see how he progresses.

"The players must not give up hope, Lyon can win away to Fiorentina. We need to win against Debrecen and not talk too much about the other game.

"We must do our job properly first, then we will look at the other result. We will see what happens and hope to take it to the last game when we are at home to Fiorentina."

Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher refused to concede his side's campaign is over despite their late lapse here.

Carragher told ITV 1: "We still believe we will get through. We know it's going to be difficult but we're not out of it yet. All we can do is win our next two games and see what happens.

"We have been in difficult positions before and we've come through like in 2005 when we had to win in Marseille in the group stages and we came through. It's disappointing but a draw doesn't mean we're totally out of it."

Meanwhile, Carragher was quick to spring to the defence of beleaguered boss Rafael Benitez who is sure to come under more pressure following another setback for his out-of-form side.

Carragher added: "If you look at the manager's record in Europe we've won it and been to the final and semi-final and quarter-finals. So our Champions League record under the manager has been superb."

Arsenal, Liverpool And Man City Chase CSKA Moscow Winger Milos Krasic

Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City are weighing up a move for CSKA Moscow winger Milos Krasic.

The Premier League trio were represented in the stands at Old Trafford on Tuesday night as the Serbia international impressed with the Russians' second goal in the 3-3 draw.

Krasic, who is 25 and 6ft 1ins, has forged a reputation as an intelligent player with good pace and an eye for goal.

He would not come cheap, valued at around £9million, but scouts are convinced he can adapt to the Premier League whether playing wide or in an attacking midfield role.

Real Madrid and AC Milan made inquiries about him last year but CSKA then scared them off by demanding £18m. Manchester United have also had him watched.

Liverpool, meanwhile, are also continuing to monitor Hamburg's highly-rated left winger Eljero Elia. The Dutch international only joined in the summer after moving from Twente Enschede for £7million.

Aldo: Rafa's The Man

Despite Liverpool's desperate start to the season John Aldridge still believes manager Rafa Benitez is the right man for the job.

The Reds' hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages of the Champions League are now out of their hands following Lyon's late leveller on Wednesday night. They now have to hope Lyon do them a favour and come away from Florence with at least a point.

Having already suffered eight defeats this campaign the knives are out for Benitez. However, Liverpool legend Aldridge still supports the Spaniard, and insists that a change of manager would destabilise the club even further.

Speaking to Sky Sports News, Aldridge stated that the fans are still behind Benitez. "Liverpool fans aren't as fickle as most," he said. "They don't press the panic button. There's enough uncertainty around the club with the owner, the debt and the new stadium. The last thing you need is to be going out looking for a new manager.

"Rafa Benitez hasn't turned into a bad manager overnight. The pressure is on, but I'm fairly confident that when they get the likes of Steven Gerrard back after the international break, they have a squad good enough to go on a good run and move into the top four, and hopefully get six points in the Champions League and progress."

Liverpool only came away with a point from their trip to France, despite dominating proceedings. Substitute Ryan Babel's long range stunner looked to have secured a vital victory for the visitors, only for Lisandro Lopez to strike seconds from the final whistle.

"It went to plan brilliantly until the 90th minute," said Aldridge, who scored 63 goals for the club. "They played well, defended well, there was no real threat apart from when they scored. To drop their guard and concede so soon after scoring was very disappointing.

"The door was open for Liverpool to progress and then all of a sudden it was slammed in their face. It was strange the way it happened. Fernando Torres goes off, which takes away a bit of attacking threat. That gives Cris the licence to go forward and all of a sudden you've a different threat; he's very good in the air.

"Kyrgiakos got a little too close, Cris got a flick on and it was a tremendous finish. Liverpool just got caught out. That can happen because the lads put a lot of effort into it. A lack of concentration just caught them out. You have to give Lyon credit for that."

Liverpool now need to win their final two group games, starting at home to Debrecen, and hope that Lyon can get a result away to Fiorentina. It's a big ask, but it's a situation they're familiar with in this competition.

"It happened in 2005 and 2007; is a hat trick asking too much?" asked Aldridge. "Law of averages says you can't keep going to the well. Lyon will go to Fiorentina looking to win the group, as it gives them a favourable draw in the knockout stages. If they can do so it's in Liverpool's own hands.

"They should been Debrecen as they're the whipping boys, which would leave them needing to beat Fiorentina by more than two goals. They'd settle for that at the moment."

Liverpool Ace Fernando Torres Visits Clinic For Tests On Troublesome Groin

Fernando Torres has undergone tests at a private hospital as Liverpool look to find a cure for their talisman's groin injury.

The Anfield hierarchy are desperate for their Spain striker to avoid surgery as they attempt to put Liverpool's season back on track after six defeats in eight games.

But under-fire boss Rafa Benitez has admitted star duo Torres and Steven Gerrard might need to go under the knife to solve the injury problems which have plagued their season.

Torres looked a long way from match fitness as Liverpool were held to a 1-1 draw in Lyon on Wednesday night which takes their hopes of progress to the Champions League last 16 out of their hands, while Gerrard missed the match entirely with a similar problem.

And Benitez admitted the Spanish striker is still feeling pain from his groin-related injury. He said: 'Fernando played with pain, and after the game he still had the same problems that have troubled him for a few weeks.

'He wants to wait, rather than have an operation. He wants to work with the physios to try to solve his problems, but still he has pain. He told me he needed to keep stopping during the game because of the pain.

'Whether there is the need for him or Steven to have an operation is a decision we will probably not take straight away. We must see how they can improve, and by how much. Then we will decide about any possible operation.'

Before the stalemate in France, manager Benitez had said: 'We are trying to manage Fernando because he was close to having an operation.

'He is not comfortable. He has not got the power he had before, so we have to manage and try to protect him. He cannot play well if you keep pushing him. Maybe if you push him he will be injured for a long time.'

Torres, 25, has a little more recovery time than usual until his side's next fixture as Liverpool do not host Birmingham in the Premier League until Monday evening.

Benitez also insisted today that his side's display in France had given him encouragement but admitted he had concerns over how the team close games out in future.

'We have to improve when we are leading near the end of the game,' said the Spanish boss. 'We must start showing more experience in such situations.'

'But nobody let the club down, that was the positive outcome from the draw in Lyon.

'We had so many problems with injured players. But you cannot complain about the performance because the team did everything they could to secure the victory.

'The performance was good and the fans who were in the stadium with us could see that. They were singing at the end and after the whistle because they knew they had seen everyone give everything.'

Raging Reds Keeper Pepe Reina Slams Liverpool's 'Disgraceful' Champions League Campaign

Goalkeeper Pepe Reina has branded Liverpool's Champions League performances this season 'disgraceful'.

The Spain international was left fuming after conceding a late equaliser in the 1-1 draw in Lyon on Wednesday night which has left the Reds' qualification from the group stages in the hands of rival teams.

Liverpool now require Lyon to take something from Fiorentina in Florence on November 24 – and win their final two matches against Debrecen and the Italians – to stand any chance of progressing.

After seeing Ryan Babel's stunning opener cancelled out by Lisandro's last-minute strike, Reina said: 'Disgracefully we are not depending on ourselves; we need Lyon to get something in Fiorentina.

'It's not the end. We have got two games to go. Our priority is to win our two games that remain and we will keep trying.

'Miracles? They happen, particularly at Liverpool.'

Anfield manager Rafa Benitez's future has been further questioned after the result in Lyon as a Europa League campaign beckons.

Liverpool were missing seven senior players and started with a clearly unfit Fernando Torres at the Stade de Gerland.

And Reina and Co were left especially disappointed by the outcome.

'That was our best performance in the Champions League so far this season,' he added in an interview with the Liverpool Echo. 'Even in some of our league wins, we didn't play as well as that.

'We didn't deserve anything but a win. I'm really disappointed as we were unlucky. We have got to look for the positives and that is we played well under big, big pressure. We can handle the pressure.

'We can trust in ourselves and we will turn this situation around, I am sure of that. We have got enough quality and enough character.'

Reds Duo To Wait On Ops

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez insists he is in no rush for star duo Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard to have operations.

Torres is playing through the pain barrier to feature for the Reds while Gerrard is currently on the sidelines.

The Spanish striker is hampered by groin-related injury while Gerrard has been struggling since aggravating a similar injury on international duty.

Benitez has revealed Torres was in great discomfort in Wednesday's 1-1 draw with Lyon, although he still nearly completed 90 minutes.

Liverpool's boss is keen for the duo to return to full fitness, but is against booking them to see surgeons just yet as he hopes their conditions will improve.

"Fernando played with pain, and after the game he still had the same problems that have troubled him for a few weeks," explained Benitez.

"He wants to wait, rather than have an operation. He wants to work with the physios to try to solve his problems, but still he has pain.

"He told me he needed to keep stopping during the game because of the pain.

"Whether there is the need for him or Steven to have an operation is a decision we will probably not take straight away.

"We must see how they can improve, and by how much. Then we will decide about any possible operation."

Puel Makes Reds Promise

Lyon coach Claude Puel has assured Liverpool they will be doing their all to beat Fiorentina, despite already securing qualifcation.

Liverpool's hopes of reaching the last 16 of the Champions League is out of their hands after Lisandro Lopez's dramatic late goal denied the English side all three points in France on Wednesday night.

Rafa Benitez's men need results to go their way if they are to have any chance of progressing as a win for Fiorentina against Lyon next time out would dump the Merseysiders out of the competition.

However, Puel has vowed Lyon will do their best to help Liverpool's cause by trying to beat Fiorentina in Florence later this month.

"We will play fair, we want to win the group and avoid getting a tougher draw in the next stage," said Puel.

"Liverpool have no need to fear what may happen.

"We will play to win the game and that will leave the situation in Liverpool's hands to win their last two games and go through themselves."

Struggling Liverpool FC Secure Another Cash Boost

English Premier League club Liverpool may have had a difficult week on the pitch, but has had a great time off it, adding its second new sponsor in three days.

Halliwell Jones BMW will become the club's official supplier of motor vehicles this season, a position which entitles it to 'prominent exposure at Anfield, engagement with Liverpool Football Club’s fan base and the opportunity to provide fans with unique football and motoring experiences.'

More importantly to Liverpool, the partnership is worth a significant sum of money to the club, despite not being on the scale of the partnership signed with 188Bet earlier in the week.

"Liverpool Football Club is always proud to work with prestigious companies such as Halliwell Jones," said Ian Ayre, Liverpool's commercial director. "As an active business within the region, Halliwell Jones will enable us to develop a number of initiatives that will benefit our fans."

Phillip Jones, Halliwell Jones managing director, added: "We at Halliwell Jones hold a strong presence within the North West of England & North Wales. Having commenced our business operations in 1987, the Group has developed to its present position of employing in excess of 300 people at our seven sites throughout the region.

"In addition to our commercial interests, our strong social conscience has seen the group involved in many community and charitable areas also. Having been commercially involved with the club in a smaller capacity throughout the last few years we are naturally delighted to enter into this major partnership with one of the world's most prestigious football clubs."