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."

News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'