Benitez looks to strikers to seize initiative
Wednesday 19 October 2005
Whoever leads the Liverpool front line against Anderlecht, be it Peter Crouch, Fernando Morientes or Djibril Cissé, they will do so knowing the pressure is on. This applies to Cissé even though Saturday's winner against Blackburn was his eighth this season. Cissé, though, is the only member of the trio not signed by Rafael Benitez. As such the rumour mill continues to suggest he will be exiting via the transfer window come January despite the manager's denials.
Crouch, meanwhile, is without a goal for club or country since his £7m summer move and Morientes' recent failures in front of goal appear to symbolise his curious struggle to settle in England.
"We need to score goals but now, with Cissé more confident, Morientes coming back, Crouch working hard and Harry Kewell another option. I think that we will have more possibilities," said Benitez yesterday.
Morientes is the marginal favourite to play tonight, not least as he needs matches. Benitez said he was surprised at his misses against Blackburn but did not think it indicated he was failing to adapt to the Premiership. "They didn't have anything to do with the English style of football," he said. "They were clear chances. He's a good finisher so it wasn't normal that he should miss them. He's playing well and working on his physical condition. I think match fitness will come as he plays more games.
"He's determined for sure to prove himself in England," added Benitez. "He understands the game here better now, but we need to understand his game better."
The same could be said to apply to Liverpool's relationship with Crouch and it remains to be seen whether Kewell's eventual return improves the delivery from the flanks. For the meantime Benitez must use strikers in wide positions such as Cissé, Garcia, or Florent Sinama-Pongolle who may get a rare outing in red tonight.
Whatever combination is tried tonight with Steven Gerrard - who has scored seven goals in Europe this season - injured there is even greater onus on the strikers to deliver against an Anderlecht side which lies second in the Jupiler League but is pointless and goalless in the Champions' League. An attempt to prepare for tonight's match with a friendly against Plymouth Argyle earlier this month almost backfired when they trailed 2-0 at half-time before gaining a draw.
However, they do have some decent players, notably the veterans Bart Goor and Par Zetterberg striker Mbo Mpenza and winger Christian Wilhelmsson. The coach Frankie Vercauteren scored in Anderlecht's 1978 European Super Cup victory over Liverpool.
This will be Liverpool's first match in Brussels since the Heysel tragedy at the 1985 European Cup final, when 39 fans died after a charge by Liverpool fans. This match will not be in the rebuilt Heysel Stadium, but in Anderlecht's Constant Vanden Stock stadium, named after the club's ex-president, who was implicated in match-fixing.
Anderlecht (4-4-2): Proto; Vanden Borrre, Deschacht, De Man, Tihinen; Wilhelmsson, Vanderhaeghe, Zetterberg, Goor; Mpenza, Jestrovic.
Liverpool (4-2-3-1): Reina; Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Traore; Sissoko, Xabi Alonso; Cisse, Garcia, Riise; Morientes.
Referee: M Busacca (Switzerland)
The Lowdown on... Anderlecht
* How do they beat you?
Domestically, Anderlecht have 27 goals in 10 games this season. They are second in the Jupiler League. In midfield the veteran Swede Par Zetterberg will play to striker Nenad Jestrovic, who has scored four in his last three league games.
* How do you beat them?
Anderlect's Champions' League record is poor. They hold the record for the longest run of lost games in the competition, currently standing at nine. They have not scored in their last three matches and are bottom of Group G.
* Key man? Marius Mitu is strong in midfield. Last season he scored 10 and was credited with 10 assists.
* Any familiar faces?
Defender Hannu Tihinen was on loan at West Ham for four-months during the 2000-01 season.
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