Rafa Benitez in need of a miracle as Liverpool chase victory in Hungary

24 November 2009 09:30
Rafa Benitez admits he is in search of a miracle here, so three of his injured players pronouncing themselves fit and well at the touch of a healing hand can surely only augur well.

Yossi Benayoun, Glen Johnson and Fabio Aurelio were all facing lengthy lay-offs but are pressing for Champions League places against Debrecen after vouching for the restorative powers of Belgrade housewife Mariana Kovacevic's placenta treatment.

Now for the hard part. Liverpool must beat the in-form Hungarian champions and hope Lyon prevail in Florence to go into next month's Anfield finale against Fiorentina with the initiative in their favour.

Under pressure: Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez at a training session in Budapest on Monday

A home win in Italy, and they are out. Even a draw would leave them needing a three-goal winning margin in two weeks' time.

A tall order, viewed from any angle, and Benitez clearly places it on a par with Benayoun returning to the fray against Manchester City on Saturday, less than a fortnight after he suffered a hamstring tear that should have kept him out for up to six weeks.

Anfield bosses, at least, spared no expense in trying to ensure events in the Artemio Franchi Stadium do not become an irrelevance.

In contrast to the FA's decision that a charter jet would suffice to carry England's players to Qatar earlier this month, Liverpool forked out around £50,000 for an airbus that had individual leather armchairs and enough space for even the longest legs.

For all the meticulous preparation, though, and improving playeravailability, optimism still seemed in short supply as Jamie Carraghercast an eye over his side's prospects and conceded ambitions may haveto be downgraded from the continent's top club prize to the second-rateEuropa League.

Small consolation, perhaps, but the long-serving defender did hisbest to introduce a sense of perspective to the demands that alwayssurround his home club.

'We are desperate to get through, but Idon't think you could call it a disaster if we don't,' he said.'Because we have done so well in recent seasons, people outside theclub tend to take it a bit for granted that Liverpool will get into theknockout stages.

Hoping for the best: Jamie Carragher during training ahead of Liverpool's clash with Debrecen

'But it isn't easy. Manchester United didn't make it a few years ago and Barcelona have had acouple of setbacks this season. They aren't sure of getting through, either, so it shows how well we have done in the past.

'Admittedly, we haven't done ourselves justice so far this season, but if we don't make it we have to accept it and move on. Stevie (Gerrard) and myself won what was the UEFA Cup back then, and it was a great moment. It is still a chance to win silverware and there are some great teams in that competition.

'Benfica looked really strong against Everton and Valencia are in it, too. Obviously, we still hope to be in the Champions League come tomorrow night, but, whatever happens, you have to move on and look forward.

'A lot was expected of us back in 2002, but we went 11 Premier League games without a win and went out of the Champions League early. You discuss it in the dressing room when things aren't going well. You are wondering when the feelgood factor will come back, and I have mentioned that time to some of the lads.

'I've spoken to my dad and he said we've had five years of winning big trophies, getting to another Champions League final, going close in the league and that this might just be a difficult season.

'It might be a grind and you have to tough it out, get your head down and fight. That's not just football. It's the same in life. It's no different for us as footballers. You have to keep going and show character.'

Benitez urged his players to repeat the heroics of two years ago when they had to win their last three games to qualify and not only did it but scored 16 goals in the process.

'Last time we were in this position, with our backs to the wall, the response was amazing,' said the Liverpool manager. 'If we can do that again and draw on the same spirit, it would match it as one of the biggest miracles of my time at this club.

'The way we did it then, against teams like Porto and Marseille, was fantastic, and I don't see why it cannot be repeated. We are relying on Lyon as well, but they have so many incentives to go to Fiorentina and win.

'It would work wonders for the players' confidence and bring the club and coach lots of prestige, as well as rewarding them financially.

'They are also a very good counter-attacking side, so I certainly believe it can work out for us.'

Johnson, Aurelio, Benayoun and Daniel Agger all trained on Monday, while Benitez confirmed Gerrard was fit to start.

Benayoun revealed how he had been treated with fluid from a human placenta, rather than from a horse, saying: 'The lady doctor made it clear to me it was a placenta from a woman, but there was nothing to worry about. It was just a case of rubbing it on the skin in the affected area, and it is incredible to be playing again so soon.'

 Babel joins Torres on the sidelines as Liverpool's problems pile upHitman Torres left at home as Liverpool travel to Budapest for big showdownLIVERPOOL FC

Source: Daily_Mail