Studs Up


Heavyweight Clash
March 13, 2009, 3:28 pm
Filed under: Liverpool FC

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Massive game this weekend. Sadly, the outcome of this year’s league-title race probably does not depend on Saturday’s result. Even if they lose tomorrow, Man Utd will still be 4 points clear of their rivals, having played a game less. But in any case, it’s Man Utd vs Liverpool, and that’s always one of the biggest games in world football, regardless of context.

Having said that, title race aside, there is a little bit of extra context for tomorrow’s game. I am of course talking about Rafa’s “rant”. Back in early January, when asked to comment on a suggestion by Alex Ferguson that Liverpool lacked the bottle for a title-challenge, Benitez responded with an extraordinary scripted tirade against Ferguson and his perceived tendency to put undue pressure on referees. It was a strange and surprising move, partly because the elements of Ferguson’s behaviour he mentioned weren’t really relevant to Liverpool’s title credentials, but mainly because there was no need for Benitez to get involved in any sort of public dispute anyway. But I suppose we should just get used to Rafa’s tendency to go public with his grievances, because he shows absolutely no sign of changing his ways. Sadly, since “the rant” Liverpool’s form has not been great, while Utd have gone from strength to strength, and what was a 7 point lead has turned into a 7 point deficit. So regardless of whether or not Benitez’s comments had any truth to them, at the very least, his timing was incredibly bad.

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When all is said and done in football, winning is the main thing. So unless Man Utd slip up in spectacular fashion between now and the end of the season, Ferguson will have had the last laugh. However, it would cushion the blow considerably if Liverpool could swagger out of Old Trafford this Saturday with 3 points under their belts. And, given that this is their first official meeting since Rafa’s “rant” back in January, the post-match handshake will perhaps hold a little extra significance, even if neither manager would like to admit it. Either way, Liverpool are going into this match sitting on the back of a record-breaking defeat of Europe’s most successful club. The players who form spine of the side were all functioning to their full capabilities on Tuesday, and if this is the case again on Saturday, then Utd will have their work cut out.

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In the build up to the game, much has been made of Benitez’s perceived tendency to be overly cautious this season, with Liverpool having drawn almost half of their games at Anfield this season. So while many will be hoping that Liverpool adopt the same gung-ho approach that served them so well on Tuesday night, it is also fair to say that the knives will be out for Benitez if Liverpool adopt a cautious approach and do not get the right result. I must admit I’m not quite so sure. Statements such as “Liverpool have failed to win the title this season because Benitez is too cautious” or “Liverpool should just need to play like they did on Tuesday night more often and all will be well” only serve to massively oversimplify the issue, and they are also unfair on Benitez. As Alex Ferguson himself pointed out, Real Madrid are a side that lack pace in almost all areas, and they are therefore much more vulnerable to a high-energy approach than Man Utd. In addition to this, Liverpool had the luxury of an away goal and an aggregate advantage as they approached the Real Madrid game, whereas Utd can quite happily take a draw on Saturday (although they’d obviously prefer not to). Having said that, Liverpool dominated Man Utd at Anfield earlier in the season, and they did so by squeezing the life out of them with a high-tempo pressing approach. A large majority of Liverpool’s best results under Benitez have been achieved through this tactic, and I think it can work for us again. So I’d like to see clattering challenges going in on the less mobile yet highly influential players such as Giggs, Carrick and Scholes from the first whistle to the last.

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Regardless of whether or not Rafa’s “rant” was a good idea, I think he has not had the best of luck since he did it. Utd have gone on an incredible run of wins and clean sheets, and Liverpool have had a little slump (which I believe is completely unrelated). And in the background, the press seem to have had a field day going on about how Benitez has lost the title-race, his control at Liverpool and even his marbles. So regardless of my support for Liverpool, I would also be very pleased for Benitez if he could ram a victory down the throats of his detractors. He is the master of producing superb performances and results in big matches, admittedly more often than not in Europe, and I hope he can repeat his trick again on Saturday. So come on Liverpool!

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6 Comments so far
Leave a comment

If United take an early lead,I think it would be better for Liverpool to play for the draw.

Should they lose, they could find themselves chased by Villa and Arsenal, and a loss has a bad impact on players mentally.

The ideal result for Liverpool would be a win, but they’ll have to play really,really well for that.

Comment by Soccer Blog

Well, clearly if Utd take an early lead, Liverpool will initially be playing for a draw.

I don’t think Villa or Arsenal are a threat, even if we do lose tomorrow. But finishing a distant 3rd is bad enough in itself.

I agree a win for Liverpool would require an almighty performance.

Comment by GW

Italics = good shit.

Comment by DL

We’ll do these

Comment by Adam

How right you were Adam, good shout.

Comment by GW

I didn’t expect them to be such a shower of shit, but fair play to the Redmen. We dominated ever since they scored.

If only this would be catalyst for things to come.

Comment by Adam




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