Must-win home game for Liverpool
Under-performing Liverpool must pick up their game to stay in the Champions League when they take on Besiktas at home on Tuesday.sports Updated: Nov 05, 2007 18:23 IST
Failing to beat Besiktas on Tuesday would consign Liverpool to likely Champions League elimination and costly repercussions.
Hours before its must-win match, the Liverpool City Council will disclose the planning decision for the club's new 400 million pound (US$830 million; euro575 million) stadium.
However, the Reds could be staring into a financial black hole if they don't record their first Group A victory.
Rising international steel prices have already bumped up the cost of Anfield's replacement by around 100 million pounds (US$208 million; euro144 million). So a failure to reach the lucrative knockout stage could affect the amount of funding owners George Gillett Jr. and Tom Hicks can provide for new signings to salvage the season domestically.
"If we qualify it will be much easier with money," manager Rafa Benitez said. "But our long-term plan doesn't depend on this competition."
A draw at FC Porto was followed by defeats to Marseille at Anfield and away at Besiktas, leaving Liverpool at the bottom of the group. With three matches remaining, the five-time champion might not even get the consolation of UEFA Cup soccer.
Even though Liverpool's priority this season is to end its 18-year wait for a domestic title, failing to shine in Europe would be a severe shock _ just months after reaching its second showpiece European final in three seasons.
Benitez is dismissing pre-emptive talk of a crisis. "If we lose it is not the end of the world," the Spaniard said. "And if we do the right things against Besiktas and win then we have the confidence to go forward and win again." The squad is united in its determination.
"Giving up or feeling sorry for ourselves is not something we have even thought about," captain Steven Gerrard said. Gerrard wants his teammates to draw on the fighting spirit which sparked a comeback from 3-0 down in the 2005 final to beat AC Milan on penalty kicks.
"What we have now is an absolute mountain to climb," the England midfielder said. "But there is a real belief in the group that we can make it happen.
"We have been in this situation before, many times _ maybe too many times _ and we have pulled through."
But Liverpool's prospects have been further hampered by an injury crisis, which has denied Benitez the services of star striker Fernando Torres.
Although Torres was a surprise participant in Monday morning's training session, Benitez may not gamble on the Spain international's fitness after he aggravated a muscle tear in his thigh when rushed back against Arsenal last month. Despite being ineffective in Saturday's scoreless draw at Blackburn in the Premier League, Dirk Kuyt could be favored again up front, leaving Peter Crouch, who created five chances in 20 minutes as a substitute, to warm the bench.
Midfielder Xabi Alonso (foot) and defender Daniel Agger (foot) are also expected to be missing.
The visitors, third in Group A with three points, will be without defenders Gokhan Zan (foot) and Rodrigo Tello (ankle),
First Published: Nov 05, 2007 18:16 IST