Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez insists his side are more than well-equipped to deal with everything Blackburn will throw at them.

During a nervous half-hour in Bucharest it seemed the Reds’ old defensive frailties had crept back in as Europa League opponents Unirea Urziceni threatened to score from virtually every set-piece.

It is something which will not have gone unnoticed by Rovers boss Sam Allardyce, especially after a free header from centre-back Bruno Fernandes put the Romanian champions ahead from a 19th-minute corner in Bucharest.

But Benitez has no concerns – even in the absence of broken metatarsal victim Martin Skrtel – about his defence, which has improved immeasurably in recently weeks.

„We did not do badly. We conceded a goal [against Unirea] and it was more difficult but we showed character,” he said.

„They were good deliveries and the Europa League ball is very difficult for goalkeepers because it changes direction.

„But you can see the last few games we have had a lot of clean sheets, I think 13 games and nine clean sheets, so the team is very strong in defence.

„We were really good at set-pieces. We are at the same level as we were in the past but the team is stronger in everything.

„We will try to have control of the game and not give them too many chances to play corners or free-kicks.

„It will be tough because it is the Premier League but we are confident and this team is stronger.

Liverpool’s Barclays Premier League record, in isolation, is even more impressive.

They have conceded just one goal (to Arsenal) in their last six games and two in their last nine.

That has brought them 18 points from a possible 27 and kept them in the hunt for Champions League qualification, despite last week’s goalless draw at Manchester City allowing Tottenham to return to fourth.

Benitez has long-been convinced it will be a four-horse race which will probably go down to the wire and nothing has changed his mind.

„We have to fight for being in the top four and that will be very difficult because there are three or four teams very close,” said the Spaniard.

„My message two months ago was that it will be a long race and now it has proved true.

Benitez defended his decision to take striker Fernando Torres, whose substitute appearance last Sunday was his first for five weeks after a knee operation, to Romania but not play him at all.

And he dispelled any suggestions the club’s record signing was only currently fit enough for a place on the bench.

„I think it was the right decision. It was a bad pitch and the injury to Skrtel changed the plans we had,” said the Liverpool boss.

Blackburn will have had the benefit of a full week without competitive action by the time they arrive at Anfield tomorrow.

That is in contrast to their opponents, who did not get back from eastern Europe until the early hours of yesterday morning, having played 90 minutes on a wet, energy-sapping pitch.

But Benitez said they were issues the players had to adapt to, stressing it was not that different to when they were playing in the Champions League.

„It is always more difficult when you play two matches in a week and especially when you do not have too much time,” he said..

„But we have some experience of this and hopefully we can do well. Everyone understands it is a massive game and the players need to do well.”

Read the article on sportinglife.com

BENITEZ HAS NO DEFENSIVE CONCERN

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez insists his side are more than well-equipped to deal with everything Blackburn will throw at them.

During a nervous half-hour in Bucharest it seemed the Reds’ old defensive frailties had crept back in as Europa League opponents Unirea Urziceni threatened to score from virtually every set-piece.

It is something which will not have gone unnoticed by Rovers boss Sam Allardyce, especially after a free header from centre-back Bruno Fernandes put the Romanian champions ahead from a 19th-minute corner in Bucharest.

But Benitez has no concerns – even in the absence of broken metatarsal victim Martin Skrtel – about his defence, which has improved immeasurably in recently weeks.

„We did not do badly. We conceded a goal [against Unirea] and it was more difficult but we showed character,” he said.

„They were good deliveries and the Europa League ball is very difficult for goalkeepers because it changes direction.

„But you can see the last few games we have had a lot of clean sheets, I think 13 games and nine clean sheets, so the team is very strong in defence.

„We were really good at set-pieces. We are at the same level as we were in the past but the team is stronger in everything.

„We will try to have control of the game and not give them too many chances to play corners or free-kicks.

„It will be tough because it is the Premier League but we are confident and this team is stronger.

Liverpool’s Barclays Premier League record, in isolation, is even more impressive.

They have conceded just one goal (to Arsenal) in their last six games and two in their last nine.

That has brought them 18 points from a possible 27 and kept them in the hunt for Champions League qualification, despite last week’s goalless draw at Manchester City allowing Tottenham to return to fourth.

Benitez has long-been convinced it will be a four-horse race which will probably go down to the wire and nothing has changed his mind.

„We have to fight for being in the top four and that will be very difficult because there are three or four teams very close,” said the Spaniard.

„My message two months ago was that it will be a long race and now it has proved true.

Benitez defended his decision to take striker Fernando Torres, whose substitute appearance last Sunday was his first for five weeks after a knee operation, to Romania but not play him at all.

And he dispelled any suggestions the club’s record signing was only currently fit enough for a place on the bench.

„I think it was the right decision. It was a bad pitch and the injury to Skrtel changed the plans we had,” said the Liverpool boss.

Blackburn will have had the benefit of a full week without competitive action by the time they arrive at Anfield tomorrow.

That is in contrast to their opponents, who did not get back from eastern Europe until the early hours of yesterday morning, having played 90 minutes on a wet, energy-sapping pitch.

But Benitez said they were issues the players had to adapt to, stressing it was not that different to when they were playing in the Champions League.

„It is always more difficult when you play two matches in a week and especially when you do not have too much time,” he said..

„But we have some experience of this and hopefully we can do well. Everyone understands it is a massive game and the players need to do well.”

Read the article on sportinglife.com

Postat de pe data de 31 ian., 2010 in categoria România în lume. Poti urmari comentariile acestui articol prin RSS 2.0. Acest articol a fost vizualizat de 69 ori.

Publica un raspuns