Liverpool's Champions League future, and even Rafael Benitez's continued employment at Anfield, could be in the hands of the club's medical staff with the manager struggling to muster a decent team for Wednesday's tie against Lyons. Successive European defeats have left Liverpool requiring at least a draw at Stade Gerland but Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres head a long list of casualties.
Gerrard, whose groin problem has been slow to respond to treatment, was omitted from Saturday's defeat at Fulham, while Torres, who is nursing an adductor muscle injury, was withdrawn after an hour. Benitez said yesterday that Gerrard "could be" fit for Wednesday, but with Torres, "we don't know, last time it was four days for him to be ready again. We took him off to protect him."
Glen Johnson could return at right-back but there are problems in central defence, with doubts about Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger. "We'll have to see about them," Benitez said.
The manager thought that David Ngog should be available, but with Albert Riera, Andrea Dossena, Alberto Aquilani and Martin Kelly took the tally of sick and lame to double figures on Saturday and it is unlikely to ease quickly.
"You cannot play without Gerrard, without Torres, without Johnson, without Riera and without a lot of players in too many games," Benitez lamented. He added: "We now have a difficult game. My concern now is we have too many injuries. We have to analyse which players will be available."
Torres will play if at all possible. His importance was underlined again at Craven Cottage when he equalised with his 10th goal of the season only for Liverpool to collapse after his departure, losing two further goals and having Jamie Carragher and Philipp Degan sent off. Benitez suggested that Liverpool would appeal against both dismissals but the referee Lee Mason is unlikely to change his mind and both will be suspended for Birmingham City's weekend visit to Anfield.
Having lost five league matches already this season, Liverpool are nine points behind the leaders Chelsea and outside the Champions League qualifying places. Birmingham, indicated Benitez, was as important a game as Lyons.
Benitez is coming under growing pressure from supporters, who again booed his substitutions at Craven Cottage. Having signed a long contract extension last season he would be expensive to fire and, given the chaos in Liverpool's boardroom, it is not entirely clear who would make the decision. But every manager is judged on results and Liverpool have lost six in seven. Benitez said: "When you are not winning you have to analyse why. We are doing this. Everyone saw the [victory] against [Manchester] United and saw we have confidence and can do it. We have to be calm, keep working hard and find solutions."
Lyons, who won at Anfield a fortnight ago, go into the tie bolstered by a 1-0 derby victory at St Etienne. Bafetimbi Gomis' goal followed a couple of surprise league defeats. Lyons, who fielded a strong side, returned to second in Ligue 1, two points behind the leaders Bordeaux.Reuse content