Benitez opts to blank team for lack of 'intelligence'

Full-back reveals manager's silent treatment and admits pressure is beginning to tell

After the defeat in Florence that triggered Liverpool's worst sequence of losses in 22 years, Fabio Aurelio said that Rafael Benitez had been as angry as he had ever seen his manager. On Tuesday night, in the wake of his fourth straight defeat, Benitez chose to say nothing to his players.

Perhaps it was because there was little the Liverpool manager could say. Shorn of Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Glen Johnson and Albert Riera through injury, the problems besetting his team is one of basic ability, rather than motivation or the skill to implement a tactical plan.

Perhaps he was unconsciously following the advice of Jock Stein, who told a young Alex Ferguson that a dressing-room after a defeat was neither the time nor the place to make big statements to footballers. That, said Stein, should wait a day until you had calmed down – and in his post-match press conference Benitez looked subdued, almost shocked by Lyons' late winner.

"He did not speak to us at all," Aurelio said. "Everything was very quiet after a bad result for us. It is not unusual for him to say nothing. Sometimes, players are cooling down and not everyone is in the dressing room at the same time. Sometimes, he has a chance to do it, sometimes not."

In the raw light of day, it was a close-run defeat to Lyons but it was still a defeat, which in Javier Mascherano's words, Liverpool had lacked "intelligence" when it mattered. And with only Torres and Johnson of Benitez's absentees likely to be fit to face Manchester United on Sunday both the injury and the fixture list is daunting.

Benitez did not have to tell his squad that should they lose to United and go down to Lyons in the Stade Gerland, they will be almost out of the title race and virtually eliminated from the Champions League with a little more than a quarter of the season gone. Their Carling Cup fixture at Arsenal next Wednesday is now rather more than a sideshow.

"The next two games are very important for us," Aurelio agreed. "Arsenal could see us go out of the cup while United are seven points clear already – and it could be 10 if they win. That is not what we wanted at the start of the season. We have to close that gap and keep getting closer to them.

"Everyone is aware that when you are in this situation – a big team losing four games in a row – the anxiety is there. That is why we need to win the next game against Manchester United; to get our confidence back and start going on a good run.

"The pressure doesn't affect the players because you know it is going to be like that. When you are not winning, you have more pressure on you than when you are winning and we have to deal with that."

Benitez has long excelled when pushed into a tight corner. Liverpool are two points better off in the Champions League than they were two years ago when Benitez orchestrated three straight wins to drive them into the knockout stages. Aurelio was with Benitez at Valencia, where in December 2001 he launched an even more dramatic recovery to begin a charge towards his first La Liga title.

"He was in a very bad situation in the middle of the season," Aurelio reflected. "The team was not doing well, we were losing games and the press were saying that if Valencia lost at Espanyol, he could be sacked. We were two down at half-time but we recovered to win 3-2, went on a good run and finished up winning the league." Benitez lost his playmaker, Pablo Aimar, after six minutes in that game and Valencia finished the game with 10 men following Mauricio Pellegrino's dismissal.

"It was not the start everyone expected, we knew we were in a difficult situation," Aurelio said, remembering the way Valencia recovered. "But we knew we had no alternative but to win these games. That kind of situation focuses your thoughts on your team-mates, your coach and the club. Liverpool also are a club that needs to be winning games."

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law