“It is difficult for us to qualify, but not impossible,We have to win our game and see what happens with Fiorentina and Lyon. Then we will approach the last game.” Benitez has certainly fought his corner today after the galling last minute equaliser Liverpool conceded in the Stade Gerland last night. Of course, the nay sayers and doom merchants are already drafting Rafa’s last rites as the promise of last season seems already consigned to the dustbin by mid November.
Even Liverpool’s most feverish critics must be surprised how quickly the wheels have fallen off this season. 5 league defeats, knocked out of the League Cup and facing demotion to the Europa League have seen Benitez under the most pressure he’s ever faced during his tenure at Anfield. With the financial situation at Liverpool as tight as it can be, the key achievement for Liverpool to aim for this season is to finish in the top 4 in the Premier League.
Of course, Lyon may win in Florence in 3 weeks time and Liverpool could win the last two games, making sure they beat Fiorentina by 3 clear goals to finish second, but it’s a straw that is swaying away from Benitez. With Torres still carrying a groin injury, Gerrard injured for who knows how long and Carragher having his ropiest period in a Liverpool shirt, the Reds 3 key players are all suffering in one form or another.
During the summer, all the predictions pointed to that it would be Arsenal who would be the one side in the big four that would be the most nervous about retaining their place at the Premiership’s top table. With Manchester City, Tottenham, Aston Villa and Everton all waiting to pounce, no-one considered that Liverpool would be the one with the most to lose.
Without the stadium revenue that Manchester United and Arsenal can pull and without the billionaire sugar daddies that Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham can call on, the financial rewards that the Champions League has to offer is crucial to Liverpool’s continued success. They NEED to be in Champions League to continue progressing, regardless of reputation, Manchester City have already shown money can attract players above their current station.
Yet Liverpool will not find it any easier and by December 13th they could be staring up at the top four and hoping that they can find a vein of form that has so far eluded them this season. They’ve failed to beat every decent side they’ve played this season, with the exception of Manchester United two weeks ago and that in itself is a worrying trend. With massive matches against Manchester City, Everton, Fiorentina and Arsenal in the next five weeks, something needs to sorted and quickly.
Of course, Benitez has a position of strength in the fact that he signed a 5 year contract in March this year and Liverpool’s finances would tend to support the argument that the club can’t afford to sack him. Liverpool fans tend to support their manager through thick or thin, only Graeme Souness lost the fans in the last 30 years and at the moment the attention for the fans frustration is the owners.
Chelsea sacked Scolari when the club were fourth, 7 points behind Manchester United. Liverpool are currently 6th, 9 points behind and whilst we may assume what Hicks and Gillett do, would it surprised anyone if they pressed the panic button? Unfortunately not. Trouble is, they may call on Jurgen Klinsmann, which shows just how little about club football they actually know.