Liverpool must beware of Rivaldo, says Benitez

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The Independent Football

They come from opposite ends of the football spectrum. When one was winning the World Cup with Brazil, the other was on loan to Bradford. Rivaldo and Stephen Warnock appear to have no more in common than a sweet left foot, but each has a point to prove as Olympiacos and Liverpool renew their rivalry here tonight.

They come from opposite ends of the football spectrum. When one was winning the World Cup with Brazil, the other was on loan to Bradford. Rivaldo and Stephen Warnock appear to have no more in common than a sweet left foot, but each has a point to prove as Olympiacos and Liverpool renew their rivalry here tonight.

Rivaldo, 32, wants to show Liverpool what they, along with Bolton Wanderers and Celtic, missed out on when his summer flirtation with the British game went unrequited. The player who wore the world champions' prestigious No 10 shirt has made a positive start to life in the land of their European equivalents, but after the misery that was Milan he needs to convince Olympiacos' supporters that he can still cut it in the Champions' League.

Warnock, 10 years his junior, hopes for the chance to prove he can translate an assured display in the 3-0 win over Norwich City on to the continental stage. Rafael Benitez believes the Merseysider has the temperament and talent to prosper in the Karaiskaki Stadium. However, the new Liverpool manager will check on Harry Kewell's thigh injury before calling on a player whose footballing education also included being sent to Coventry.

Benitez was unmoved by Rivaldo's declaration of interest in coming to Anfield, but cautioned against writing him off after his failed spell at San Siro. "He is a very good player, who I know well from when I was coach at Valencia and he played for Barcelona," the Spaniard said. "He still has a lot to offer; he scores goals, he's good in the air and he has good delivery at set-pieces.

"I remember him scoring a hat-trick for Barça against Valencia just before I arrived. It put them in the Champions' League at Valencia's expense. He was the best in the world. Certainly, five years ago he was a wonderful player. But now, I do not know. Time has passed."

Rivaldo, who played as an attacker in Olympiacos' opening 0-0 draw at Deportivo La Coruña and on the right of midfield in his two Greek League appearances, is sufficiently important to have been withdrawn at half-time during Saturday's 1-0 win at Aris Salonika.

Benitez will not finalise his own side until he has spoken to both Kewell and the club doctor, Mark Waller, about the extent of his improvement. Last Friday, he said the Australian was likely to be out for 10 days, thereby opening the way for Warnock. But the manager said last night: "Harry's not 100 per cent fit but I have told him we need his help. I'd like to see him play, but the decision rests with the doctor."

In the absence of the injured Steven Gerrard, Benitez may well use Luis Garcia in a more withdrawn role than the one he has filled so effectively in home matches. Liverpool could feature a single striker, with Djibril Cissé the favourite to start ahead of Milan Baros.

Whatever his formation, Benitez insisted he was not thinking solely of containment. "I don't know how to play for a draw, only to win," he said. "Even if we end up with one point, it won't mean that's what we set out for."

In six encounters with the big three from Athens - AEK, Panathinaikos and Olympiacos - Liverpool have won five and drawn one. Four years ago, Gérard Houllier's team overcame tonight's hosts on a 4-2 aggregate en route to Uefa Cup success. Early evidence suggests that Benitez's Liverpool, reinforced by technical excellence from Spain, look even better equipped for progress in Europe.

Olympiacos (4-4-2; probable): Nikopolidis; Pantos, Anatolakis, Schurrer, Venetidis; Rivaldo, Kafes, Stoltidis, Georgatos; Okkas, Giovanni.

Liverpool (4-4-1-1; probable): Dudek; Josemi, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise; Finnan, Alonso, Hamann, Kewell or Warnock; Garcia; Cissé.

Referee: P Collina (Italy).

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