Monday, March 2, 2009

Champions League the best option for Liverpool

Rafael Benitez has admitted that Liverpool are reliant on a slip-up by Premier League leaders Manchester United if the title is to go to Anfield for the first time since 1990 and that the Champions League is now their best hope for silverware this season.

Liverpool conceded second place in the league table to Chelsea following a 2-0 loss at Middlesbrough and the Blues' 2-1 home win over Wigan Athletic on Saturday.

The Reds' unbeaten 15-game league run came to an abrupt end at the Riverside Stadium as Xabi Alonso's own goal and Tuncay Sanli's 63rd-minute strike saw Boro clinch all three points for the first time since November 9.

The result leaves Liverpool seven points adrift of United, who have a game in hand and look poised to equal the Reds' record of 18 league titles.

"Before the game, it was very difficult - after the game, it is more difficult," conceded Benitez. "It depends on United. It will be more difficult, clearly."

"Clearly the Champions League is the best option we have now," he said, before adding a galling statement to all Liverpool fans: "Second would still be an achievement."

Sir Alex Ferguson's men face Newcastle United on Wednesday fresh from their Carling Cup success over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday and could be even further ahead of Chelsea and Liverpool if the pair fail to win their games on 24 hours earlier on Tuesday.

Liverpool take on a rejuvenated Sunderland at Anfield and Chelsea, similarly rejuvenated under Guus Hiddink, travel to Fratton Park to face Portsmouth.

Critics will be taking note of Benitez's team selection for the game against the Wearsiders after his decision to play left-sided centre-half Martin Skrtel at right-back for the first time in his Liverpool career against Boro's in-form Stewart Downing.

The decision not to deploy Jamie Carragher at right back was a result of fatigue, as Benitez explained: "(Jamie) Carragher told me he had heavy legs and so, as a centre-back, he could run less. At right-back normally you run more, so he played at centre-half. That was the idea."

No comments :

Post a Comment