First knockout round, second leg (First leg: Real Madrid 0-1 Liverpool)
Liverpool manager Rafael Benítez is hoping three important players can recover from injury when they defend their 1-0 lead over Real Madrid in the Champions League first knockout round second leg at Anfield on Tuesday.
Midfielder Yossi Benayoun, whose late header earned Liverpool their victory in Madrid, is rated as the most doubtful with a damaged hamstring, but Benítez is also monitoring the fitness of striker Fernando Torres, who has an ankle strain, and full-back Alvaro Arbeloa, who has a hamstring problem.
“He [Torres] was training Sunday and Monday and we have one more session, so we have time and then we will decide today,” said Benitez.
The Spaniard conceded that Benayoun is unlikely to play, adding: “[Daniel] Agger is not available [with a back injury], and it is the same situation for Arbeloa as for Torres.” Winger Albert Riera is definitely out as a yellow card in the first leg earned him a suspension.
Liverpool had the weekend off and they have not played since beating Sunderland 2-0 in the Premier League on 3 March. After leading the way for much of the season, Liverpool have slipped back to third place, behind Chelsea on goal difference, and seven points adrift of leaders Manchester United FC, who the Reds face at Old Trafford on Saturday.
All in all, the next few says look likely to be the defining moments of Liverpool’s season.
“It’s an important week, that is clear,” Benítez admitted.
“If we beat United we can still be in the title race, but if we don’t it will be very, very difficult. Winning the tie [against Madrid] is the most important thing. When you are doing things properly, sometimes you don’t need to win the match to progress.”
Madrid welcomed back Argentina midfielder Fernando Gago to the team on Saturday following his ankle sprain, as city rivals Atletico de Madrid held the Spanish champions to a 1-1 draw. The result left Madrid in second spot, six points behind leaders Barcelona.
Coach Juande Ramos said he has a fully fit squad of 20 to choose from against Liverpool and he stated that Gago is a vital component of his line-up.
“A lot of what we have been able to achieve in our great run of results in the league has been down the excellent efforts of Gago and the rest of that central midfield,” said Ramos.
Ramos urged the nine-time European champions to have self-belief and remains optimistic about the outcome at Anfield.
“We know we are at half-time in this tie as 90 minutes have been played and there are 90 minutes still to play,” the former Tottenham Hotspur and Sevilla boss said.
“We are confident we can go out and turn things around and reverse this deficit. However much we talk about tactics, the important thing is that the players go out convinced they can actually do this and pull off the right result and give a good account of themselves. We have to work as hard as we possibly can to ensure that has every chance of happening.”