Football: Redknapp's recovery lifts Liverpool hopes

Click to follow
The Independent Online
JAMIE REDKNAPP looks likely to return to the Liverpool team that faces Valencia tonight, charged with the task of keeping his club in the Uefa Cup.

Liverpool were held 0-0 in the home leg with the Spanish side a fortnight ago and face a tough proposition in Valencia's intimidating stadium.

A result is clearly needed as Liverpool, stung by criticism of their commitment following Saturday's defeat at Leicester and the partnership of their joint managers, Gerard Houllier and Roy Evans, could see their hopes of success this season disintegrate if things do not go according to plan.

Redknapp will almost certainly have recovered from a thigh injury that has kept him out of Liverpool's last four matches and Evans readily admits that his incisive midfield passing has been missed.

"We had a lot of possession at Leicester and we have been heavily criticised for not doing enough with it," Evans said. "That's no reflection on the people who played in the match but we all accept that Jamie has a greater range to his passes. He can hit them long or short and it gives us another dimension to our game."

It will be no easy task for Liverpool, with or without Redknapp, however. When Valencia came to Anfield their form was poor and they were in the bottom six of the Spanish League. Since then they have beaten both Real Betis and Real Zaragoza and moved to sixth.

Evans and Houllier know that their partnership is being questioned, as are Liverpool's Premiership title chances. An exit from Europe will just increase the pressure on the Anglo-French duo.

Houllier, though, is far from despondent. "Experience tells you that you can have a bad result in the league and then a good one in Europe," he said. Liverpool must achieve just that to avoid the wrath of an increasingly frustrated home support at next Saturday's home game with Derby.

Liverpool travelled to Spain without their German striker Karlheinz Riedle, who damaged his groin at Leicester. Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler are therefore likely to start together in attack.

"As for Saturday's result we have been criticised and frankly we expected that," Evans said. "Football is a result business and if you don't win and don't play well you must expect some criticism.

"But it has made us more determined to do well in this tie. We have a great reputation in Europe and we want to enhance that."