The fall out from Thursday seemed to mainly concern the referee and the Benfica crowd. The latter seemingly influencing the former. Said Rafa
“Tonight was a good example of what fans can do. Their fans did well. Our fans were fantastic and if they push the players like they did here they will work very hard like they did tonight and hopefully we will progress. I believe we can”
Fans all over the world can be vociferous and capable of influencing the referee’s decision, it is no different in Liverpool. Would we want it any other way as the alternative would be to play game in morgue like conditions? If occasionally enthusiasm over steps the line then it’s a fair price to pay? Next Thursday, as Rafa suggested, will be our turn to create an atmosphere. As for the game given that Benfica had the benefit of an extra man, and a referee who clearly wasn’t up to standard, one wonders if their chance has gone? I suspect not, they are too good.
For me the main issue with the referee was not necessarily the penalties, although Aimar when he retires will have excellent potential for a career as a stunt man if his fall before and after Insua’s tackle is anything to go by. My main beef is Ryan Babel’s sending off. This was a punishment which was disproportionate to Luisao’s tackle on Torres. Anyway, in terms of the tie it’s only half time and thankfully, given everything that could have happened, we are still in it.
And so to Birmingham today and although one should only be concerned with our results inevitably attention does wonder to other areas of the fixture list. Our destiny vis a vis Aston Villa, thanks to their recent poor run off results, is now in our own hands however, we still need Spurs and Manchester City to slip up. Spurs obliged at Sunderland but we still have to keep chipping away at them and are reliant on further slips. Manchester City remain resolute with their thrashing of Burnley but with both sides to play the top four there is still plenty of scope to capitalise?
Of course all this counts for nothing if we don’t overcome Birmingham today. Fernando Torres went on record last week saying that we can only afford to lose one of our remaining league games if we want to make fourth place and I think that’s a fair assessment. On the whole our run in is pretty good however, Birmingham away represents one of the so called harder games. Apparently Rafa has never beaten Birmingham in the league since he took over the reigns at Anfield.
Team wise and Rafa has the same problems he had against Sunderland and Benfica, with injures to Aurelio and Skrtel out. The story surrounding Aquilani’s ankle injury took another nose dive this week with Rafa confessing he doesn’t know just how bad it is and when he might return.
“We will have to talk with the doctors when we get back to see what’s going on because at the moment we don’t know….. Some players maybe can manage with the pain, but some – when they have pain – cannot. It depends on each individual and that makes it really difficult.”
The papers were suggesting Rafa was beginning to ask questions about Aquilani the “individual” as long as he keeps the treatment table warm. Rafa and the player himself desperately need him to have a long run in the side if the brickbats are to be halted. Perhaps, now that Rafa is publically showing his frustration, Alberto with have a sudden recovery?
Of course we also will be without the services and Albert Reira whose move to Spartak Moscow fell through because apparently he asked the club to double his wages. Hmmm one has some sympathy for our Albert because quiet clearly his form on the field and behaviour off it, where his mouth has been working harder that his body ever seemed to do when playing, clearly suggests that such a increase is warranted! I suspect this outrageous, and frankly “taking the p*s” demand was an attempt to ensure that the deal was scuppered to enable Reira to facilitate his end game of getting back into the Anfield fold? However, I guess he should have thought of that before he opened his mouth and Rafa seems in no mood for an emotional reconciliation……
“We still have some time until the end of the Russian transfer window so we will see what happens. I didn’t see his latest comments but for me, on the day before a massive game when he was talking this way was disappointing. It was especially so when he was saying things that weren’t true, so I was really surprised. I was really disappointed with his timing and the comments themselves. He also said he wants to play, that’s why he had to go, but our fans are not stupid and they will know what’s going on. We’ll see what happens now.”
Reira described Liverpool as a “sinking ship”. When faced with such a prospect, if indeed it does apply to Liverpool, there are two options.
One you remain loyal and steadfast and turn your hand to the pump or;
Two you get down at the first sign of things going wrong, mouth off and then act like a rat and desert it.
I’ll leave it to you decide which of these two categories Albert fits into.
Prediction for today? This is the latest “must win” since the last “must win” game. The players know they “must win” it everyone knows we “must win”. Birmingham will make it extremely difficult for us but we need to, have to, prevail. When Rafa needs to win he usually does and I take us to shade it in an untidy fraught affair by two to one.
By the way this blog now has a full index of match reports since it started in October 2006 so for reports of previous games, against Birmingham since this date click here.