Benitez joins opposition over 'unfair' scheduling

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The Independent Online

Rafael Benitez became the latest manager to voice displeasure at fixture scheduling yesterday, complaining that Liverpool should not be facing Avram Grant's Portsmouth away in a lunchtime kick-off in the depths of winter having played on Wednesday night.

"It's away, an early kick-off on Saturday after playing on Wednesday, so that's really bad timing, and really bad for our fans," Benitez said. "When you analyse it, it's also the worst time to travel around the country. It's something they have to consider because a lot of fans will be on the road and maybe it will be snowing. It will be very difficult for them. But it's something that will be very easy to change."

Given that last season's match at Portsmouth was a 5.30pm Saturday kick-off, leaving Liverpool fans to return home in the early hours, it will be a hardy band which will have seen both games. "It's unfair, but we have to try to win for them," he added.

There has been a three-day break though, so Benitez cannot expect his argument to carry much weight. The Liverpool manager is expected to start with Fernando Torres but have Alberto Aquilani on the bench once more as he seeks the consecutive wins which are so crucial to his side's attempt to climb back towards the top four in the Premier League table. Aquilani, who has started only one game, has received a knock on the calf in training and is limping, Benitez said. "He has to prove his match fitness."

Jamie Carragher will become the ninth Liverpool player to chalk up 600 appearances for the club at Fratton Park today. The 31-year-old defender has 18 months left on his contract and has not been offered a new deal yet, though Benitez played down any idea of rift."He has 18 months left; he knows that when a player is over 30 you have to manage them in a different way than when you sign a player who is 20," Benitez said. "I don't see any problem if he continues to play at the same level and we will talk in the future."

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