Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez to protect Steven Gerrard

10 April 2009 05:16
Liverpool v Blackburn RoversKick-off: Sat Apr 11, 12.45pm, Anfield, LiverpoolTV: Sky Sports 1, Sky Sports HD1Radio: BBC Radio Five Live

With Liverpool needing to produce an unlikely three goal victory at Stamford Bridge, the temptation would be to play Gerrard against Blackburn to try and ensure three vital points are recorded and effectively give up on Europe.

 Related ArticlesGerrard named in Liverpool squadLiverpool look to past gloriesPremier League team newsAllardyce: Rafa loves to whingeLiverpool v Chelsea: Man markingDrogba persistence pays offHowever, Benitez was at pains to stress that should his captain fail to feature against Chelsea, it would not be an admission that the tie was already beyond them.

'We were aware of the injury before the first leg against Chelsea,' said Benitez.

'It is not easy for him to play two games in four days with the injury he has.

'The decision I have to make is whether I use him against Blackburn or Chelsea.

'If we do play him against Blackburn it does not mean we are writing off the Champions League. But we must approach each game on its merits.

'If he feels he can play, then he will and we will assess the situation afterwards.

'Anything more could be a risk. Maybe we could keep him on the bench and use him if we need to?

'After Chelsea we have a complete week before our next game because the Arsenal home game is the following Tuesday.

'If he gets injured again he could need more than a week to recover; it is tough call but we will consider all the risks.'

'We have been talking about the fitness of players like Steven for a long time, do we have rotation or do we keep our key players on the pitch?

'We have had that problem with Fernando Torres and now Gerrard. We have two games in four days, both very important to our ambitions.

'After that, even if we qualify and have a Champions League semi-final, that is only two more games. We will be playing virtually one game a week and that makes it easier to manage the situation regarding Steven's fitness.

'I have spoken with Steven today and we will do the same tomorrow along with the doctor.

'If he breaks down now we could lose him for two or three weeks and that would be a serious blow. It depends on him and how he feels.

'There is no priority but we play Blackburn first and that obviously is what we are concentrating on. After that it will be Chelsea.

'We will try our best at Chelsea, it is not over yet, but we want to be top of the table after our game with Blackburn because that will put pressure on Manchester United.'

Benitez's concerns over Gerrard's long-term involvement in Liverpool's title chase overshadowed any annoyance he may have felt with Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce's claims 'he loves a moan and a whinge'.

The two have been long-term adversaries from Allardyce's Bolton days, with Benitez unable to disguise his distaste at the long-ball style the Ewood Park chief utilises.

Benitez would only say: 'I would expect to play the game tomorrow and afterwards just talk about football. I will shake his hand, no problem there.

'Blackburn are in a difficult position but they have won some games recently and they have improved. They, too, will have to win against us, it is as massive for them as us.

'But we know they are a physical team. We will try to play football but, if we have to fight for the ball, then we will do that.

'I have seen Sam Allardyce's teams at Bolton and now at Blackburn. I do not expect the style to change very much but I believe it is more difficult to manage at the bottom of the table because every defeat is very negative.

'The pressures there are so much different, losing games there is not the same as losing games in the top half of the table.

'But we will have our confidence back, the team are ready and looking forward to this game.'


Source: Telegraph