If Rafael Benítez is a man who thrives on pressure, then he will surely be in his element when Liverpool FC take on FC Porto in a crucial Group A game at Anfield.
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If Rafael Benítez is a man who thrives on pressure, he will surely be in his element when Liverpool FC take on FC Porto in a crucial UEFA Champions League match at Anfield on Wednesday.
'Must not lose'
The game has been billed as must-win for Liverpool, but Benítez was keen to stress that even a point against Porto might be enough to eventually see the five-time champions through to the last 16. "We must not lose," he said. "This may be something that people have not considered, but if we draw and then beat [Olympique de] Marseille and Beşiktaş [JK] also beat Marseille [on Wednesday], maybe we can also qualify. It's really important to win but it's more important not to make mistakes."
Benítez has seen his position as manager become the subject of media speculation following an alleged fall-out with the club's American owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, concerning his ability to sign new players. However, the Spaniard neatly sidestepped every question regarding his future as he kept his focus on tackling the Portuguese Liga leaders. "I am sure we will win and we will play well," he said. "There have been no distractions ... we have only been thinking about Porto and nothing else. The most important thing for my club and our supporters is the game."
A tournament-record 8-0 victory against Beşiktaş on Matchday 4 enhanced Liverpool's qualification prospects and started a sequence of three successive wins which culminated in Saturday's 3-0 triumph at Newcastle United FC which left the Reds in fifth place in England. "We are unbeaten [in the Premier League] and in the last game we played really well. We were passing the ball and playing pretty football, so everything is much better now and we will try to keep the momentum going," said Benítez, who will be without defender Daniel Agger and midfielders Jermaine Pennant and Xabi Alonso due to injury.
Group A leaders Porto will qualify for the knockout stage if they win, although a point against Liverpool could also suffice provided Marseille avoid defeat at Beşiktaş. Porto moved to the summit by overcoming Marseille 2-1 in their last European outing and they are also unbeaten in the Liga. A 2-0 home victory over Vitória FC on Sunday kept them four points clear of SL Benfica at the top, and coach Jesualdo Ferreira is in positive mood. "It's true that a draw could serve Porto's interests but we are not thinking like that, that was never the idea," he said. "If we play at the highest levels we are capable of, then we will know if a draw is enough to get us through."
Ferreira has no injury concerns yet admitted he may tinker with his side: "We are not going to try to change our tactics but Liverpool have a different method and I will decide which of my players are best suited to playing as well and as openly as I want them to, and also with great intensity. Liverpool have a solid and balanced team and they have a tradition of attacking very quickly. They have great strength in depth."