Benitez prays 'monk' Fowler retains goal habit

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The Independent Online

Robbie Fowler had just declared his intention to "live like a monk" yesterday when it was announced that his wife, Kerrie, is pregnant with their fourth child. Having seen Liverpool's development stalled by a return of only one point and one goal from four League games, Rafael Benitez will be praying his most celebrated goalscorer has not slipped out of any other habits when they travel to Wigan this afternoon.

The 30-year-old is in contention for his first start since rejoining Liverpool as Benitez's team make the short journey to the JJB Stadium, a reflection of the intensive training programme that Fowler has undergone since his free transfer from Manchester City and the continued failure of Djibril Cissé, Fernando Morientes and Peter Crouch to convert possession into goals.

The Liverpool manager's patience with his profligate attack is ebbing after the defeat at Charlton on Wednesday handed Manchester United the initiative for second place and the final automatic Champions' League spot, and he believes that even a half-fit Fowler has the predatory instincts his side desperately needs.

Benitez, who is without Crouch today due to an injured heel but welcomes Steven Gerrard back from a knee problem, said: "The statistics show that we have more shots than any other team but we don't score enough goals. At the moment it is impossible to have Robbie at 100 per cent because we are trying to balance his training and matches but a 50 per cent fit Robbie Fowler has the game intelligence and ability that we need."

Fowler is on a six-month contract at Anfield with a view to a one-year extension in the summer and admits that he will have to convince Benitez of his value on and off the pitch to earn that reward. "I've got six months to get a contract and I'm doing everything I can to get it," he said. "I suppose I've got to live like a monk for a while. I want to stay here for a few years, and to achieve that, certain sacrifices have to be made."

Benitez's view of Fowler is in stark contrast to his treatment of Luis Garcia, who has been left out of the Liverpool squad for a third successive game as the Spaniard struggles to recapture the form that made him the club's joint leading goalscorer last season.

Benitez cited a knee injury as the reason for Garcia's absence today, though he was fit enough to start against Birmingham City on 1 February and a reserve-team game against Bolton on Thursday, but the manager did admit: "I am waiting to see the best of Luis."

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