Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Benitez must give Gerrard freedom to damage Turks

Tonight Liverpool Football Club faces Besiktas in an away Champions’ League tie in Istanbul in the knowledge, that should the team not return with a win, failing to qualify from the group stages of the competition is a very real possibility.

Rafa Benitez simply must mastermind a victory for his side tonight despite the club’s principle goal threat, Fernando Torres, failing to recover from injury and not travelling with the squad. Compounding this problem, Liverpool’s attacking momentum is reliant on Steven Gerrard whose instinct to drive the team forward from midfield was rewarded with substitution in Saturday’s derby match against Everton.

A disgruntled Gerrard was understandably unhappy with Benitez’s decision which the manager justified by contesting that Gerrard had been “playing with his heart, as opposed to his head”. Whilst the captain’s performances have been fitful since recovering from a metatarsal injury, on Saturday he had returned to his forceful best, providing his trademark thrusting runs, and forcing Everton unto the back foot after they had taken an early lead.

If Benitez cautious instincts prevail in Istanbul and he asks his talismanic captain to fetter his attacking instincts, it is hard to see where Liverpool might muster the goal power to overcome (admittedly mediocre) opponents. Kuyt and Voronin form a predictable and similar pairing where pace, incision and finishing are sacrificed for bustling industry and holding up the ball. Without forward movement from midfield such a combination will struggle to break down the Turkish defence.

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