Liverpool aim to keep pride intact

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The Independent Online
Although the Graeme Souness era is less than fondly remembered at Anfield, a European night during his term as manager provides an inspiring precedent for Liverpool as they strive against overwhelming odds to reach the Cup-Winners' Cup final tonight.

With Roy Evans' side trailing 3-0 to Paris St-Germain after the first leg of the semi-final, history shows that even the Liverpool of Shankly, Paisley and Fagan never overturned such arrears in Continental competition. When David "Supersub" Fairclough completed an epic fightback against St Etienne en route to the Champions' Cup 20 years ago, the French lead had been only 1-0.

Yet in 1991, Auxerre, leading 2-0, came to Merseyside to complete formalities in the Uefa Cup and returned to France shell-shocked. Liverpool scored in four minutes and quickly levelled the aggregate score. Seven minutes from the end Mark Walters ensured that they made up a two-goal deficit for the first time ever.

That, as Evans will recall from his role as coach, was with a transitional team who were struggling against all manner of lower-division visitors. It was also in a half-empty stadium. Tonight, PSG face a vastly superior Liverpool line-up - one with something to prove now that the Premiership appears to have slipped away - and Anfield will be packed.

The strategy is sure to be similar; try to score early and see whether PSG can take the heat. The Liverpool manager has intimated that he will play Robbie Fowler, Stan Collymore and Patrik Berger together for the first time this season. Evans may also switch from a defensive trio plus wing-backs to a flat back four in the belief that the French might not relish a more "British" approach.

"It's a tall order but we must believe we can do it," Evans said yesterday. "If we can get an early goal, we can get them on the run. If you don't believe you don't achieve.

"Normally you try to play a patient game in Europe, but we must set the tempo. The bottom line is that we've got to play fantastically and they'll have to be poor if we're to win."

Steve Harkness and Bjorn Tore Kvarme are respectively injured and ineligible, leaving Evans to choose replacements from Phil Babb, Neil Ruddock, Rob Jones and Dominic Matteo. Michael Thomas (knee) and Matteo (hip) face late fitness tests.

The error-ridden David James is set to retain his place - Liverpool have no plausible alternative keeper - knowing that whatever miracles are mustered at the opposite end, one slip could give PSG an away goal and almost certainly the tie.

For the Parisians, who have perhaps even greater expectations of the 21-year-old striker Jerome LeRoy than Anfield has of Fowler, left-back Didier Domi is the only casualty. Their Brazilian manager, Ricardo, anticipates a "much more aggressive" Liverpool than at Parc des Princes. If that proved the case, he added, it would merely create more space for his team to counter-attack.

In the other Cup-Winners' Cup semi-final tonight Fiorentina and Barcelona start at 1-1 in Italy. Fiorentina will be without the suspended Argentinian striker Gabriel Batistuta, who scored their equaliser in the first leg. For Barcelona the former Tottenham midfield player Gheorghe Popescu is suspended.