Success in European competition could provide the platform for the Merseysiders to repair their damaged pride.

Liverpool are entering a crucial phase of their season – a period that could prove pivotal to the Anfield future of Rafael Benitez.

Manchester City’s draw with Stoke City on Tuesday saw Roberto Mancini’s men climb into that coveted fourth place in the Barclays Premier League table. City are now a point clear whilst also retaining a game in hand over their illustrious rivals.

While qualification for next season’s Champions League is now the revised goal for a season that promised so much but has delivered so little, Liverpool’s reputation on the continent and the absence of any silverware since May 2006 means that this season’s UEFA Europa League takes on added significance for the club.

Their opponents are Unirea Urziceni – a team unknown to most in western Europe before their foray into the Champions League in the autumn.

They finished in a highly creditable third position in their group behind Sevilla and Stuttgart with the highlights of their campaign being a 1-0 home win against the Spanish side and the 4-1 rout of Rangers at Ibrox.

But despite looking good on paper, in reality Unirea should be a formality for Benitez’s side.

Since their last European outing, the Romanian champions have parted company with their championship-winning manager, and former Chelsea favourite, Dan Petrescu.

A disagreement with the club’s board preceded his departure and his absence coupled with the fact that they have not played a competitive match in over two months – due to the extended winter break in the Romanian league – means that Liverpool start the tie as heavy favourites to progress.

Benitez is also starting to see the light at the end of the treatment table. Jamie Carragher is fit to play after a recovering from a groin injury, Yossi Benayoun’s rib injury appears to have finally healed while Alberto Aquilani’s bout of illness has subsided.

Fernando Torres, of course, remains the most noticeable absentee but he should not be missed too much in the short term.

Liverpool will be concerned that they don’t rush the Spaniard back too quickly from injury with a third of the season still left to play.

against Blackburn is unlikely to be brought forward.

There are still many key matches to be played before the end of the season – must win games against the likes of Burnley and heartier fare in the shape of Manchester United and Chelsea – and it is in the long haul that trophies and league positions are gained.

In Benitez’s favour is that he has always managed his Liverpool campaigns in this manner. His penchant for perpetually tinkering with his starting line-ups is a testament to this though it has often been used by his detractors as a rod to beat him with.

All managers are slaves to injuries amongst their playing staff but with the clouds slowly disappearing from the horizon, he must be targeting a good run in the final three months of the season that will preserve Liverpool’s status as a top four club and confirm them as a power in European competition.

Nevertheless, Benitez could be forgiven for having one eye on Real Madrid’s defeat in Lyon on Tuesday. The current incumbent at the Bernabeu, Manuel Pellegrini, is under increasing pressure and his presence in the dugout next season is in severe doubt.

A Madridista at heart, Benitez will almost certainly head up any list drawn up by the Spanish giants. However, his pride demands that he stabilises his current team while seeing his stock rise as a result.

A good win against the Romanian’s tonight would provide the perfect boost for both his and Liverpool’s short-term future.

Read the article on Sportingo

Liverpool start the salvation of their season in the UEFA Europa League

Success in European competition could provide the platform for the Merseysiders to repair their damaged pride.

Liverpool are entering a crucial phase of their season – a period that could prove pivotal to the Anfield future of Rafael Benitez.

Manchester City’s draw with Stoke City on Tuesday saw Roberto Mancini’s men climb into that coveted fourth place in the Barclays Premier League table. City are now a point clear whilst also retaining a game in hand over their illustrious rivals.

While qualification for next season’s Champions League is now the revised goal for a season that promised so much but has delivered so little, Liverpool’s reputation on the continent and the absence of any silverware since May 2006 means that this season’s UEFA Europa League takes on added significance for the club.

Their opponents are Unirea Urziceni – a team unknown to most in western Europe before their foray into the Champions League in the autumn.

They finished in a highly creditable third position in their group behind Sevilla and Stuttgart with the highlights of their campaign being a 1-0 home win against the Spanish side and the 4-1 rout of Rangers at Ibrox.

But despite looking good on paper, in reality Unirea should be a formality for Benitez’s side.

Since their last European outing, the Romanian champions have parted company with their championship-winning manager, and former Chelsea favourite, Dan Petrescu.

A disagreement with the club’s board preceded his departure and his absence coupled with the fact that they have not played a competitive match in over two months – due to the extended winter break in the Romanian league – means that Liverpool start the tie as heavy favourites to progress.

Benitez is also starting to see the light at the end of the treatment table. Jamie Carragher is fit to play after a recovering from a groin injury, Yossi Benayoun’s rib injury appears to have finally healed while Alberto Aquilani’s bout of illness has subsided.

Fernando Torres, of course, remains the most noticeable absentee but he should not be missed too much in the short term.

Liverpool will be concerned that they don’t rush the Spaniard back too quickly from injury with a third of the season still left to play.

against Blackburn is unlikely to be brought forward.

There are still many key matches to be played before the end of the season – must win games against the likes of Burnley and heartier fare in the shape of Manchester United and Chelsea – and it is in the long haul that trophies and league positions are gained.

In Benitez’s favour is that he has always managed his Liverpool campaigns in this manner. His penchant for perpetually tinkering with his starting line-ups is a testament to this though it has often been used by his detractors as a rod to beat him with.

All managers are slaves to injuries amongst their playing staff but with the clouds slowly disappearing from the horizon, he must be targeting a good run in the final three months of the season that will preserve Liverpool’s status as a top four club and confirm them as a power in European competition.

Nevertheless, Benitez could be forgiven for having one eye on Real Madrid’s defeat in Lyon on Tuesday. The current incumbent at the Bernabeu, Manuel Pellegrini, is under increasing pressure and his presence in the dugout next season is in severe doubt.

A Madridista at heart, Benitez will almost certainly head up any list drawn up by the Spanish giants. However, his pride demands that he stabilises his current team while seeing his stock rise as a result.

A good win against the Romanian’s tonight would provide the perfect boost for both his and Liverpool’s short-term future.

Read the article on Sportingo

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 66 ori.

Publica un raspuns