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Reds confident despite shortfall

Published: Wednesday 8 March 2006, 1.36CET
Liverpool FC's famous powers of recovery will be tested both by SL Benfica and by their own scoring potential at Anfield on Wednesday night.
by Simon Hart
from Liverpool

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Published: Wednesday 8 March 2006, 1.36CET

Reds confident despite shortfall

Liverpool FC's famous powers of recovery will be tested both by SL Benfica and by their own scoring potential at Anfield on Wednesday night.

The comeback kings will have to do it again on Wednesday night when SL Benfica come to Anfield.

Defence of their crown
The team who stunned Europe with their remarkable recovery against AC Milan last May, Liverpool FC's hopes of continuing the defence of their UEFA Champions League crown beyond this first knockout round hinge on them overturning Luisão's late header a fortnight ago in Lisbon.

Cause for concern
A 1-0 deficit pales beside the three goals the Reds required to defeat both Milan and group-stage rivals Olympiacos CFP last season, but on their current scoring form, a deficit of any size offers cause for concern. Saturday's goalless home draw with Charlton Athletic FC meant the Merseysiders have scored only four goals in their last eight matches while in the UEFA Champions League they have managed just six goals in seven games.

Early goal important
Liverpool manager Rafael Benítez maintained a positive outlook, however, as he cited the "30 attempts" his players had on the Charlton goal last weekend, adding: "Normally with 30 attempts you score. I don't think the goalkeeper will be man of the match in every game here. We will try to score as soon as possible but we know we will play 90 minutes - if we score one in the last minute, we have 30 more minutes. If we score early it may be easier."

Benítez confident
Benítez admitted his players performed poorly in the first leg but believes Benfica can expect a different Liverpool under the Anfield floodlights. "I am confident that if we play at our level we can beat them. The whole team has confidence and also experience, and we know that we are playing at Anfield, which is important.

Hyypiä fit
"Our supporters are among the best in the world," continued Benítez, who should have Sami Hyypiä available in a first-choice back four after his hamstring strain on Saturday. "Benfica will feel the pressure of our supporters and our players will feel the supporters behind them. Against Olympiacos last season, we knew it was tough but we scored three goals in the end. I'm sure we will work really, really hard and score more than one goal."

Direct approach predicted
With Fernando Morientes expected to return in attack, Benítez will likely choose between Peter Crouch and Robbie Fowler to partner the Spaniard, and Benfica coach Ronald Koeman expects to face a direct approach from the European champions. "Liverpool will put us under a lot of pressure at the start. We have to try and score a goal ourselves," he said. "They are not very confident at the moment but that can change with the atmosphere and the quality they have. But if we score, what happens then?"

Strike pair fit
Koeman, of course, is too clever to underestimate a team featuring Steven Gerrard, who sat out the first leg through injury. "Steven Gerrard is a player who can decide a game on his own," warned the Dutchman. Benfica's own attacking options are boosted by the return to fitness of Geovanni and Fabrizio Miccoli - the latter scored Benfica's winner at CF Estrela da Amadora on Saturday - and the pair's pace means one or the other could yet get the nod in attack ahead of Nuno Gomes.

Forward thinking
"Miccoli and Geovanni could have an important role," said Koeman. It is the forwards at the other end who are occupying the minds of most heading to Anfield on Wednesday night, however.

Last updated: 08/03/06 22.47CET