Johnson responds to placenta treatment

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Glen Johnson's encounter with placenta specialist Marijana Kovacevic appears to have elicited some rapid results, with the right-back, whose defensive weaknesses are "not as bad as people think" according to his manager, Rafael Benitez, ready to start for Liverpool against Manchester City tomorrow lunchtime.

Johnson was back from his Belgrade encounter with Ms Kovacevic yesterday, training with Liverpool and apparently less of a doubt for tomorrow's game having had horse placenta rubbed on his strained calf. Benitez insisted yesterday that Johnson is "one of the best in Europe, 100 per cent" and believes the focus on the defensive shortcomings in his game is because he is so valuable to England's World Cup hopes.

"I am surprised that everybody is still asking about Glen," Benitez said. "I think he is a very good player. He is keen to learn so he knows he can improve in defence but if you analyse the balance between his attack and defence then he is a very good player.

"How do we improve him? The first thing is to understand the game and the problems and then afterwards he will improve. In defence it is a question of mentality. He knows he is really good going forward and knows he can improve a little bit defensively. There are a few things we can put together. Sometimes though you need time, you can't change everything in one second so he will improve, 100 per cent."

Yossi Benayoun and Albert Riera are also in with a chance of playing tomorrow, having seen Ms Kovacevic, though Benitez has warned Alberto Aquilani that he must be patient, regarding his own first start for Liverpool. "Alberto wants to play for us and he is so desperate to be involved as quickly as he can, but he understands the reasons he can't start yet," Benitez said. Aquilani seems more likely to be on the bench tomorrow.

The Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, breathed something of a sigh of relief after learning that the damage to Robin van Persie and Kieran Gibbs during the international break was not as severe as first feared. About Van Persie's ankle injury sustained playing for the Netherlands, Wenger said: "Frankly I feared it would be more [than six weeks out] because the first news was very, very bad."