Bellamy can play despite court case, says Benitez

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The Independent Online

Craig Bellamy, the Liverpool striker, is expected to face Manchester City at Anfield today with his manager Rafael Benitez ready to back the player to overcome the mental strain of his on-going court case in Cardiff for common assault.

Bellamy was due to return to Merseyside last night after spending the last two days in Cardiff following the commencement of his trial for assaulting two women in a Cardiff nightclub in February. Bellamy has denied all charges.

With mounting injury problems that have left Benitez's squad looking thin for the visit of Stuart Pearce's team, the manager has admitted that Bellamy's inclusion may yet depend on his willingness to play out of position on the left of midfield. However, with the Wales international having to cope with the burden of his court case, which is expected to last for five days, Benitez admits that the player's state of mind will be assessed before the team is selected this afternoon.

"We need to think whether Craig will be involved or not," Benitez said. "At the end of the day, sometimes it is good to come back and play football because you can enjoy it and just focus solely on that, but at other times, you can lose your concentration.

"I don't think the mental worry is a problem. I think he is OK and I have had a message from his agent which also suggests that. It is not a new situation because it's something we have known about for a while.

"If I say to him, 'Do you want to play?' I feel he will be ready and really focused. Playing could be a positive thing for him, but I also need to decide about the balance of the team."

Bellamy has maintained his fitness by training with the Championship leaders Cardiff City since Thursday and Benitez said he has no concerns about the forward's physical well-being.

"He has trained with Cardiff since the Champions' League game on Wednesday," he said. "We have been talking with Cardiff and our back-room team have spoken to their coaches. We have a training plan for Craig, so he knows what to do. He is very professional and really focused. You ask him to do things and he will do it."

Benitez also said he has no problem with foreign investors coming into the game - as long as they are "nice people". With the club the subject of speculation over potential new owners from abroad, Benitez says he is more concerned about motives than nationalities.

Liverpool are believed to be involved in discussions with the American sporting entrepreneur, George Gillett, and with Dubai International Capital.

"The key is not whether it is foreign investment, only that it is by nice people who are thinking about the sport and the game with positive ideas," the Spaniard said. "It is not where you are from, only what are your ideas. If people concerned are only getting involved for business reasons, it is not always the best situation.

"But if you are thinking about the game, about the club, and are thinking about improving the team and to give them the possibility to win more trophies, it is OK."

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