Rafael Benitez unsure how Liverpool will respond to Europa League consolation prize

18 February 2010 12:50
Benitez is adamant he will field a strong team against the Romanian champions in a competition all those connected with the club insist they are determined to win, despite its status as a consolation prize after their disappointing exit from the Champions League group stage before Christmas.

Both Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, veterans of Liverpool's 2001 Uefa Cup success, as well as Benitez, who won the tournament with Valencia before moving to Anfield in 2004, have spoken in glowing terms of the competition's prestige. Liverpool's fans appear to agree, with around 40,000 expected at Anfield tonight.

But when asked whether his players, used to experiencing life among the continent's elite, would be able to summon another of Anfield's famous European nights when playing unheralded opposition in a competition unlikely to captivate millions around the globe, the Liverpool manager honestly admitted it was 'difficult to say'.

'The training session yesterday was good,' he said. 'There was a lot of intensity, everyone was focused. Before the game we will see what the atmosphere is like, but it depends on us. If we can play well, we can get everyone behind us. It is the same as always, we have to start at a high tempo and then the fans will be pushing us.

'The problem with Unirea is that they are defensively good, they play on the counter and so it will not be open, not a game you enjoy watching, with the ball in both boxes all the time. We have to be patient and try to do well because they have not played for a while and they are just thinking about this game.

'If we cannot do [well], hopefully the fans will help the players. The relationship is really good between players and fans. The only thing I can say is that if you want to play in the semi final and the final, you have to beat Unirea. Everyone has to do well, from the first player to the last member of staff, and all the fans have to support us. We all have to stick together.'

Source: Telegraph