Pepe Reina has delivered a blunt assessment of Liverpool’s early-season woes by admitting they have no right to consider themselves title candidates, adding: ‘It is clear something is wrong.’
The Liverpool goalkeeper reflected on the shock of losing two of their opening four Barclays Premier League games and conceded that any talk of ending a 20-year wait to be crowned champions would have to be shelved.
Manager Rafa Benitez tried to play down defeats by Tottenham and Aston Villa, but Reina admitted they were symptoms of a side struggling to live up to their pre season billing as title challengers.
An unconvincing away win over Bolton a fortnight ago failed to dispel the 27-year-old’s concerns as, speaking ahead of Saturday’s home game with Burnley, he said: 'Something is clearly going wrong. It is not very common for Liverpool to lose two games out of four, so we have to look at that.
‘The team that we have now is the team that we have, and maybe it is time to be realistic and not think about the title but just to think about winning the next game. After April, we can think about where we are, but it makes no sense to put ourselves under this pressure of winning titles.
'We are almost the same team as last season, but the best way to do it is by going step by step, game by game.’
In a further frank appraisal that is likely to anger Benitez, Reina added that Liverpool were paying the price for selling Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid. Benitez has always absolved himself of any blame for the loss of Alonso by stressing he wanted to leave, but Reina pulled no punches in describing its effect.
Asked if Liverpool were suffering a hangover from the Spain midfielder’s departure, he said: ‘Yes, that is a fair assessment, because Xabi is a great player and it is no secret that for us he was our best player last season. But he wanted to go and the club decided to sell him.’
Reina admits Liverpool miss Xabi Alonso - who left Liverpool for Real Madrid in the summer
Reina insisted there was no discord behind the scenes, saying: ‘Ours is a competitive dressing room. There are no bad feelings in there at all, I can guarantee that.
'The thing is that we have to be friends on the pitch for 90 minutes and, after that, the mood in the dressing room becomes good.’
Jamie Carragher, for one, is hoping Liverpool can win the title sooner rather than later to realise his dream of a league triumph with his home club.
The 30-year-old defender said: ‘It is at the back of my mind that I may not be around long enough, but, to be fair, Rafa can’t be thinking, “I have to win the League for Carra”.
'He is doing it for the club and building for future seasons. I’m sure we will get there in the end, either with or without me. I would love to do it, but winning titles is important for this club, not just me, and I have been lucky with what I have already won.’
Burnley’s visit will rekindle uncomfortable memories for Benitez after he suffered a 1-0 FA Cup defeat at Turf Moor in 2005 during his first season in English football.
Benitez said: ‘There are so many bad memories of that night but, even then, I had confidence I could be a success in England. I don’t know whether I would call it my lowest point, because there were other games we lost that season.
‘When you look back, though, and consider we won the Champions League, perhaps it was a good year to learn the character you have to show to come back from adversity.’