It seems like Rafa’s summer spending will be concluded soon. As I write reports suggest that we have agreed a fee with Espanyol for the services of Albert Riera.
Espanyol, mindful of the fact that Everton have also been hovering, tried to start a bidding war however, Riera’s insistence that he would only move to us scuppered that and a “compromise” fee of around £9m has been agreed.
Although we have the wide man so many thought we needed, one wonders if the outcome leaves Rafa totally satisfied? Clearly he wanted Gareth Barry and, just as he did with Gabriel Heinze last summer, pursued his target vigorously, perhaps for longer than he should have done? Perhaps Rafa was so focused on his goal the issues of alternative signings or contingencies were not so much overlooked but not given due priority? Now that the Barry deal is dead (so we are told) and time is short (the transfer window closes on 1st September) one wonders, with due respect to Riera, if there is not so much a touch of desperation but a “best we could under the circumstances” about this signing? We shall see. Nonetheless it is great to have another player called Albert at the club, (the only one in the Premiership?) and if he does as well as the last one that played for us, the late, great Stubbins, it will be money well spent!
So to tonight’s game against Standard Liege and perhaps there are more grounds to be nervous at this stage of the competition than usual? Our “indifferent” but successful league form and the shake up Liege gave us in the first leg means this tie is by no means a formality? Said Rafa
“They could be the best team we’ve faced. If you look at some of the other games, we were much better than the opposition”
One wonders just what the implications would be if we went out at this stage. Financially it would pour oil on troubled waters however, more importantly is the effect this could have on morale stoking up more behind the scenes strife? Then again it could work the other way leaving us free the concentrate on the league! Whatever the issue, we need to improve on the first leg. Rafa is aware of this
“We have to improve at everything – set pieces and open play. We had a bad game. The best thing was the result but this time we have to play better and we have to score goals…. but I wasn’t surprised by them – I was surprised at how badly we played. We have a lot of confidence that we will go through. We are at Anfield and we have to improve – and we will improve.”
So there you have it, we need to improve! Although he’s back with a second piece of gold “bling” Mascherano is not considered ready to play. Other than that everyone is available. Prediction? I think it might be difficult but Liege missed their chance in the first leg, this should be ours and I take us to go through by the odd goal or two.