Today sees the return of one Rafa Benítez to the Anfield dugout. Not as manager of the home side, but that of the visitors; the despised Chelsea ‘You Ain’t Got No History’ Football Club. The Spaniard committed what would have been considered base treachery in becoming the Blues’ manager in mid-November, if not for his legendary status among the majority of the Anfield faithful(although admittedly, this did not spare Fernando Torres from going from unanimously loved to widely loathed following his infamous £50million move).
Thanks to a historic Champions League victory featuring a comeback of epic proportions, an FA Cup triumph in similarly dramatic circumstances and countless magical European nights that will live long in the memory, Benítez has secured himself an eternal place in Kopites’ hearts.
Those Kopites will afford their returning hero a raucous reception. It doesn’t matter that the tie around his neck is blue, not when he is, emotionally, securely tied to the Reds. Always the professional, Benítez may raise a hand in acknowledgement, but his mind will be focussed on the job at hand - a vital match in his current side’s attempts to ensure Champions League football.
His intentions were clear from the moment the subject was breached following Chelsea’s 3-0 win at Fulham in midweek:
“I have a lot of friends and memories from my time at Liverpool but I’ll try to concentrate on the game,” he said.
“You need to use your common sense. I am committed to Chelsea and to achieving our targets.”
Meanwhile, the Reds’ current manager, Brendan Rodgers will stand in the background and wonder when, and how, he will be able to invoke such adulation from his club’s fervent support.
He is not yet afforded the reverence that Benítez receives. There may come a time in the future when Rodgers’ is considered in the same light as the Spaniard, but there is a lot of work to be done in the present.
The task set before him is unenviable; a rebuilding job akin to the one the legendary former Reds manager Bill Shankly successfully undertook. But the similarities between Rodgers and his illustrious, messianic predecessor should end there.
But this is Liverpool, whose fans desire more than just their manager to do well, but look for a character worthy of their emotional investment. The faithful want someone not just to put their faith in, but someone to worship.
And worship they have, generally. This is by no means a bad thing, or at least not for those who receive such enthusiastic glorification, like Benítez. He will receive the adoration of the Kop, despite his position in the opposing dugout, and there are those who deify him and still desperately cling onto their hopes of his return, further fuelled by the Spaniard’s recent comments describing such a comeback in the future as an “almost certainty.”
However, it is why Rodgers is by no means greeted in that way so often nor so enthusiastically; there has been precious little to worship in his first season, one of transition, at the club. It is not necessarily his fault, seeing as in comparison to Benítez, he had no Champions League to win and inherited a squad inferior to that Gérard Houllier left behind, nor is it truly significant; it merely serves to illustrate the status he must battle against.
Ironically, it is also the status he so desperately craves to achieve.
Rodgers is not bereft of confidence, but he soon discovered that not only was he meant to halt the decline and forge a successful future for the club, but manage the burdens of its past in addition. After taking the reins from the acclaimed king Kenny Dalglish, now stands Benitez.
He will stand at Anfield today, and will be cheered emphatically. Those cheers are not suggesting an imminent revolt against Rodgers, nor a lack of belief in his ‘project’ of leading Liverpool back to those glory days. The majority retain confidence in Rodgers, although several of his signings, such as Joe Allen and Fabio Borini have done little to inspire it, while results have only gradually improved, with inconsistency and profligacy continuing to be an occasional plague.
But the unfortunate truth is this match is hardly about Rodgers. He has very much been forgotten, an insignificant sub-plot to Benítez’ climactic return. Herein lies one of Rodgers’ major problems since taking over as Liverpool manager, ever since he first stepped into a Melwood complex steeped in burdening history. This is a young, inexperienced manager still finding his own identity, given the task of reaffirming the identity of a globally recognised institution on the decline.
Rodgers should not stand forgotten. It is he who has been given the responsibility of returning the Reds to their long vacated position at the summit of English and European football. Not Benítez. Nor anyone else. Rodgers is the one who has been chosen.
So, yes, allow Benítez the reception he deserves after his exploits as Liverpool manager. But do not forget that he is a figure of the past, no longer the man in charge at Anfield. Rodgers is that man, and so when the whistle blows at kick off today, the support of the Anfield faithful should be well and truly behind him.
We cannot allow Rodgers to be forced to walk alone.
The Uncensored Match Build Up: Sunday sees Rafa Benitez returns to Merseyside as his “interim” side Chelsea take on Liverpool. Ahead of the game the lads discuss…
- Are we just playing for pride?
- Agent Rafa- do you want him to win something at Chelsea?
- TRIVIA QUESTION
- Dangerman Focus: Juan Mata
- Lineup Thoughts?
- Should Sturridge Keep His Place?
- Score Predictions
- TRVIVA ANSWER
- Liverpool face Chelsea on the back of successive 0-0 draws against Reading and West Ham, and are now ten points off fourth place and a champions League spot.
- Those back to back 0-0 draws don’t tell the full story though, as in the game against Reading Luis Suarez got five shots on target, more than any other player in the games taking place last week and in midweek, so this may be the game when those chances start hitting the back of the net again.
- That was the fourth time this season that Suarez has had five or more shots in target in a game, taking his tally of shots on target for the season to 98, and putting him course to have his 100th shot on target against Chelsea.
- Suarez is now just one goal ahead of van Persie in the race for this season’s golden boot on 22 compared to van Persie’s 21. The number behind those goals make interesting reading, as Suarez is the more accurate shooter (60.1% on target compared to van Persie’s 57.8%) yet he needs more shots for each goal than van Persie (7.4 shots per goal compared to 5.5 shots per goal). That may suggest that Suarez has just been held up by inspired goalkeeping performances this season, as he gets his shots on target more but has not been reaping the rewards. Suarez is 11/1 with 888sport.com to score in both halves against Chelsea.
- Chelsea should be especially wary of Liverpool regaining possession, as Lucas made 21 interceptions and Carragher 20 against Reading to rank second and third in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for interceptions in the last week of games.
- Only two Liverpool players had made 20 or more interceptions in a game before Lucas and Carragher’smasterclasses against Ready – Skrtel with 31 against Southampton in March, and Agger’s 20 against Norwich in January.
- Lucas is also ranked 7th in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index’s midfielders for tackles won with 62, despite having played around half as many minutes of any of the players above him. Lucas has played 1,573 minutes this season, while the top tackling midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin has won 80 tackles in 3,044 minutes. On his current average, if Lucas has played as many minutes he would have won 120 tackles this season.
- Chelsea, on the other hand, hit three past Fulham in their last game, but all from their defence as John Terry scored a brace and David Luiz a goal of the season contender.
- Luiz’s goal shouldn’t have come as a surprise, as the Brazilian has never been shy of a shot at goal. He’s had 43 efforts this season, more than any other defender in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, with 51% on target.
- Remarkably, Terry now has four goals this season from just 6 shots at goal. The only defender who can rival that conversion rate is Manchester United’s Jonny Evans who has thee goals from 7 shots at goal in the Premier League.
- Fernando Torres has returned to his best this season after enduring a tough season last year, and will face his former club on Sunday. He’s won 25 tackles this season, the fifth highest by a striker in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index and proof of his tenacity and desire to win the ball back. Torres is an industry best price of 11/4 with 888sport.com to score at any time against his old club.
Hillsborough mum and justice campaigner has passed away after losing her battle with cancer.
RIP Anne Williams
Anne’s son Kevin was one of the 96 who lost his lives at Hillsborough, he was just 15. Anne refused to pick up Kevin’s death certificate and for 24 years campaigned to get the Attorney General to give Kevin a proper inquest as she would not accept his death as “accidental”. Kevin could have been saved if he had been attended to.
An e-Petition earlier this year received over 118,000 signatures triggering a discussion in the House of Commons, now a new inquest is on the fast track as the old one was quashed.
Unfortunately Anne wasn’t able to see justice in her lifetime, she was at the Hillsborough memorial on Monday and I am sure she found solace knowing that Justice will be done soon.
With club legend Jamie Carragher will be retiring at the end of the season and with Martin Skrtel not playing at his best Liverpool are in desperate need of a Center back if they are to even think of qualifying for the CL.
Two names that have been strongly linked with Liverpool F.C are Ajax’s Toby Alderweireld and Vasco Da Gama’s Dede.
I think either one can be signed for the following reasons:
1. European experience
Alderweireld plays for Ajax a team that wins the Dutch league every year. A team that has produced some of the best players in Europe and has won the CL four times. To play for a team like that gives Alderweireld a big advantage over Dede. Dede will take some time to settle into the side time that Liverpool do not have. Lucas leiva took over two years to finally come good for LFC and Dede could take longer.
2. Presence of a huge center-half
Since the beginning of the season Liverpool have struggled against teams that have had a big center-forward, in fact one of the reasons Liverpool lost to Oldham Athletic, Stoke City, Aston Villa was the inability of coping with the huge front line that these teams possessed. And standing at 1.93m Dede can end the problem.
While Dede can only play as a center-half Toby Alderweireld has the ability to play as a full-back an ability that could be very useful during a long season in which many players could get injured.
4. Buying players directly from Brazil is a gamble
Buying players outside of Europe is a huge example especially Brazilian players if you take the example of Robinho who was bought from Santos by Real Madrid for 24 million euros only managed to score 25 goals in over a hundred league games. Even Neymar has failed to impress with Brazil and in his performance against mexico last year led to Pele who once said Neymar is better than Leo Messi criticizing him.
5. It can pay off
Two players were signed from Brazil and went on to become legends of the game, the two players are Ronaldo and Ronaldinho. Even Lucas Moura and Oscar from Chelsea are showing signs of becoming great players in the future.
6. Promise of goals
Check out the following videos to see some spectacular goals from Dede and Toby Alderweireld: