Back to basics for Liverpool after Madrid high
After a memorable night in the heady surroundings of the Bernabeu in midweek it is back to basics for Liverpool on Saturday as they travel to Middlesbrough on a quest to get their Premier League challenge back on track.sports Updated: Feb 27, 2009 09:40 IST
After a memorable night in the heady surroundings of the Bernabeu in midweek it is back to basics for Liverpool on Saturday as they travel to Middlesbrough on a quest to get their Premier League challenge back on track.
The Reds pulled off an impressive 1-0 Champions League victory over Real Madrid on Wednesday and they need to reproduce the discipline they displayed in the Spanish capital if they are to move back within touching distance of league leaders Manchester United.
With Sir Alex Ferguson's team taking part in the League Cup final against Tottenham on Sunday, Liverpool have the chance to cut the gap at the top to four points by beating Gareth Southgate's side.
Recent history suggests that will be no easy task however. In four previous visits to the Riverside Stadium under Rafael Benitez, Liverpool have registered one defeat and three draws.
The Spaniard is acutely aware that the high of midweek must be carried over into the league and his selection will be seen as a clear indication of where his priorities lie.
Liverpool have drawn four of their last six Premier League matches and must pick up a victory if the ambition of catching United is not to give way to the more prosaic challenge of keeping Chelsea and Aston Villa at bay.
Having drawn six of their 13 Premier League matches at home, the Reds have fared better on their travels, with eight wins, four draws and one defeat away from Anfield.
Benitez's ability to pick his strongest side for Saturday is compromised by doubts over the availability of Fernando Torres, who suffered a foot injury in Spain, and captain Steven Gerrard, who only managed a couple of minutes as a substitute against Real as he works his way back from a hamstring injury.
Boro are second bottom and have not won in 14 league matches since the 2-1 victory at Aston Villa in December.
But Southgate's side booked a place in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup with a 2-0 win over West Ham in midweek and have lost just once in five matches.
England winger Stewart Downing hopes his team can take that form into the league.
He said: "Liverpool beating Real was a great achievement but maybe we can bring them back down to earth.
"They've had a lot more travelling than us and maybe they'll come here and underestimate us.
"It should be a great game. We know what we have to do and so do they. A draw is no good for them. They need to win.
"I don't want Saturday to be a great game but for us to take nothing from it.
"We need to build our confidence and if we can play like we did against West Ham, we know we can take something from the game.
"Confidence is creeping back. I think our biggest downfall this season has not been killing teams off. It's a massive confidence thing, with playing at home."