So, here we go with a nasty pair of fixtures. Lille at Anfield tonight, where we are trying to overturn the 1-0 defeat we suffered at their place, and then the Mancs at Old Trafford on Sunday. Both will be seen as “must win” games. If we foul up in any of them, the “must go” heckles will no doubt be directed towards Rafa once more?
It seems ages since we last ran out at Anfield in a European tie having to make up a deficit. I think it was the 2007 Champions League Semi Final against Chelsea. On that night we prevailed thanks to a Daniel Agger goal and a penalty shoot out. A similar outcome would provoke mixed emotions. We would progress but, with the Mancs waiting on Sunday, how much would the extra time take out of the players?
Indeed, as I have just done there, it is very difficult not to view these games two in conjunction with each other. However, as ever Rafa is always keen to stress they must be approached one at a time. This is no exception.
“Now we have two important games. We have to concentrate on the first one. After that we will think about the Man United but we cannot have an eye on the second one in case we make a mistake in this one.”
No doubt confidence will be higher after Monday however we need to make sure this is carried over to tonight. It was particularly pleasing to see Alberto Aquilaini play so well and get his first goal. I suspect that he, probably more than anyone else, is conscious of the comments that have been made about his price, his time out injured and the inevitable comparisons with Xavi Alonso. A few more performances like last Mondays will go a long way to ensuring that such issues become distant memories? Oh dear, stop press, I’ve gone onto the website and discovered he’s a doubt for tonight as he has a virus. No further comment!
Torres seems to have found his shooting boots. You can’t keep a striker of his quality down for too long and I suspected, after missing a few at Wigan and not firing at Lille, we were due a few goals. This of course is very timely as finding the net is imperative tonight.
It was also good news that Steven Gerrard has escaped punishment following his clash with Portsmouth’s Michael Brown on Monday. What is clear here is that no one seems to know the rules. The referee saw the incident gave a free kick. Apparently the FA rules do not allow retrospective action against a player if the official sees the alleged offence. Why wasn’t this picked up by anyone as soon as the incident occurred?
Team wise Rafa, has what seems to me, a simple task. We need goals so we need an attacking line up. Monday’s was just that so I suspect we will see something similar. I wonder if Rafa views this with such simplicity. I suspect he would be happier being in a position where he has to defend and protect rather than chase the game, for all his time with us it’s quite an unusual situation for him? Presumably if Aquilani is ruled out Benayoun will start? The quietly impressive and reliable Maxi will miss out because he is cup tied.
Prediction? Lille should not be underestimated as the first leg proved. However, can they produce the same at Anfield tonight? Hopefully we will be galvanised by Monday and will take the game by the scruff of the neck and I will take us to go through with a 2-0 win. Finally I leave you with the words of Rafa which hopefully shows that this competition is important to him and his team.
“They (the players) know it’s the last opportunity to win a trophy”