Friday, February 22, 2008


Rafa Benitez spoke to the press ahead of the 'Boro clash, answering questions about everything from Daniel Agger's fitness and Xabi Alonso's future to whether the owners have congratulated him on the Inter win.
Here's what the boss had to say in full.

How is Daniel Agger?

I think Voronin is close, maybe two weeks. Skrtel is fit and can be available, and Agger is nearly fit. The doctor says he can play little by little, not 90 minutes, so we will start using him.

Will he play against Middlesbrough? Justify Full

This weekend is too early for him. Maybe he is a possibility for Tuesday when the reserves play.

How worried have you been that the injury has taken so long to recover from?

We were really worried because he is a player with quality. Especially when we play at home, a defender can play and go forward, so he is really important. He was trying to do everything, the medical staff were trying to do everything. It was a strange situation.

Why has it taken so long?

He was training and was okay but then he felt something in a tackle and we had the experience of Xabi Alonso against Arsenal, when he felt something and had to go back, so we needed to be careful.

Everybody says what a difference the likes of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres make to Liverpool. Does Daniel Agger fall into that category of making a big difference to the team?

Yes, for two reasons. First because he has quality. He is a defender who can play the ball. The second reason is because you need to rest your defenders. Sami is 34 and has played more games than last season.

And does it affect the style of play if Daniel is not there?

As I said before, at home he is very important for us because if the other team is deep and compact, he can run with the ball between the midfielders, pass the ball and sometimes score.

Just talking about Sami. There was a line that he might go to Fulham in the summer. Any comment on that?

No, I am really pleased with him.

So he's not going anywhere for the moment?


West Ham United Rafa

Just on Xabi Alonso. Is it a problem to keep him happy at the moment when he's not getting as much of a run in the team?

I think that when you have an important squad with good players, it is impossible to play all of them. If the team is playing well, you try to keep players in there who are doing the job. I am really pleased with Xabi, he is a key player for us, with quality, and he must compete for his position.

So it's a case of not wanting to let him go?

Yesterday I was talking with his agent about his future because I heard the rumours. I said he was a player for our future and he must compete for his position. I have four midfielders with different qualities and I like to be in this position. He has renewed his contract this year, it's a long contract, a good contract, so I think he is a key player for us now and in the future.

How can a team that loses to Barnsley beat one of the favourites for the Champions League?

That's football, you know. It's cup competitions. People can see the result against Barnsley or they can see the game. In the game we had lots of opportunities and it could have been different. Against Inter Milan we had fewer chances and scored two. That's football.

So you got the breaks against Inter that you didn't get against Barnsley and to a certain extent in the Premier league?

Yes, you know it's different. And also the atmosphere the other day was amazing. The supporters were behind the team from the beginning, and because it's a cup competition it's different – anything can happen.

Have you had much congratulations for the owners?

Yes, Mr Hicks sent emails saying well done to me and to the players and everyone. He has been very supportive in these last months.

But it's important to remember it's still only half-time in the tie?

Yes, we know. Everyone is talking about a good game and result, but there's another game and we have to go to the San Siro. We must be really, really careful.

How much of a lift would that goal have given Dirk Kuyt?

It was important for him because he's been working so hard but needed to score. He's scored two in the last two games and that's a big boost for him. Hopefully we will see more goals in the next few games.

Has it been a difficult time for him?

Yes, a striker always needs to score but his commitment is always 100 per cent in every game and training session. I was surprised the other day when he gave the ball away and then sprinted 20 metres to get it back – and this was right at then end of the game. That's amazing.

Has his father passing away had a big impact this season?

Yes, but his mentality is very positive. It's more about a lack of confidence because he wasn't scoring than the other things.

Let's look at Middlesbrough. They've got a knack of getting results against the top teams?

It will be a tough game, as always in the Premier league. Southgate is doing a good job because he doesn't have massive experience. He is clever and the team is well organised. They try to play football and are good at counter-attack. He knows what to do and so do the players.

What is it that happens so that a team like Middlesbrough can pull off results against the top sides but then struggle?

The mentality of the players sometimes when you play against important teams, the commitment is there.

What about yourselves between now and the end of the season – is the focus now on the Champions League?

We have two targets, clearly. One is the Champions League and the other is to finish in the top four. We have four games before Inter Milan and we must try to win these games.

But you'd settle for winning the Champions League and finishing outside the top four, wouldn't you?

Our idea is to think about these four games and after that Inter will be a very tough game. The key is to be sure we are in the top four.

by Jimmy Rice 22 February 2008



Liverpool Fan Club Blog © 2008. Design by : Yanku Templates Sponsored by: Tutorial87 Commentcute