Carragher at Benitez's mercy after admitting loss of form

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The Independent Online

When Jamie Carragher suffered a loss of form in late 2006, the Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez stuck by him and the stalwart defender eventually played his way out of his own personal trough.

Benitez faces a similar dilemma again, with questions raised about Carragher's performances up to and including the 2-0 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. And this time Benitez may not be as loyal.

Carragher accepted responsibility for Chelsea's second goal, when he lost Didier Drobga, who centred for Florent Malouda to score, saying: "I felt myself that I should have done a bit better for their second one."

Carragher's form this season has been way below its usual high level. Liverpool's more attacking outlook has left him exposed with greater regularity, and Xabi Alonso's departure to Real Madrid has exacerbated the situation. The Danish international Daniel Agger is also fit to return, having recovered from a back operation.

The international break allows time for Carragher, and Liverpool, to regroup after defeats by Chelsea in the Premier League and Fiorentina in the Champions League. When they return to action, Liverpool face a hectic eight-day schedule in which they simply cannot afford to slip up again.

They travel to Sunderland a week on Saturday, before hosting French league leaders Lyons on 20 October. Five days later the champions Manchester United are the visitors to Anfield.

Carragher said: "We have got a massive week coming up. But every week you have as a Liverpool player is massive and we know we'll have to be at our best to get going again at Sunderland, as they are in good form.

"It's never nice to lose before an international break, particularly a game as big as this. It would have been good to send the international lads away with a bit of a buzz but it wasn't to be and now it's a case of putting it behind us."

Carragher also admitted Liverpool must improve if they are to have any impact on the title race this season, having already lost three of their opening eight games. The Merseysiders currently occupy fifth place, six points behind leaders Chelsea.

"It's the small details that are important at this level and we know that there are certain areas we have got to improve," said Carragher. "There's a gap at the top and we've got to close it."

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