Benitez fields bizarre questions in Romania

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez fielded questions about his match preparation, his future and - bizarrely - his weight on his arrival in Bucharest last night but will hope his team provide the most important answer against Unirea Urziceni.

Although a 1-0 lead from the first leg of the Europa League last-32 tie by no means guarantees the Reds progress this evening the Romanian media have been quick to assume Unirea are considered something of an irritation by the five-time European champions.

The decision by Benitez to stay at Melwood yesterday morning rather than travel early to train in the Steaua Stadium - as Unirea's ground does not meet UEFA standards - was perceived badly in Bucharest.

As a result, when Benitez arrived for his pre-match press conference at the rather late hour of 9.15pm local time last night he faced an odd line of questioning.

It began with an enquiry as to why Liverpool were spending so little time in Romania and got more odd.

"Sometimes it is easier for us to train at home because you can practice without problems and you have more time," said the Liverpool boss.

"After the time of the flight it was better to train normally in the morning and then fly here.

"If we had to fly and then come here to train you have to come early and may not train properly.

"As for after the game, if it goes to extra-time, the plane will wait, because it is a charter. Don't make the mistake of thinking we are taking anything for granted."

Having diplomatically fielded questions about how he felt about taunts from rival fans about getting sacked, which Romanian players he may have had on his transfer shortlist at any one time and also what his fee would be to manage in the country should he leave Liverpool the most bizarre question was left until last.

"Mr Benitez, the last time I saw you was in Istanbul in 2005 and you had a different silhouette - what has happened to your silhouette?" said the inquisitor, in a clumsy reference to the Liverpool manager's weight.

Benitez, with good humour, responded: "It is the stress of answering questions from the press."

The Liverpool manager would like to get this match out of the way so he can begin preparing for the Barclays Premier League visit of Blackburn on Sunday.

However, he knows he cannot afford to under-estimate the Romanians, who exited the Champions League early like his own side.

"We have the belief and the confidence we will progress in the competition and although Urziceni are a good team we are a good team so we don't think about defeat," he added.

"We have to be confident we can score and that we can win the game.

"A one-goal lead is important always. A clean sheet is crucial as you know that one goal is not too much but if you score then one goal is not enough for them."

Striker Fernando Torres and midfielder Yossi Benayoun are both in the squad having made their comebacks from five weeks out with knee and rib injuries in Sunday's 0-0 draw at Manchester City.

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