Liverpool’s hopes of continuing their assault on a fourth-placed finish at the expense of Blackburn Rovers at Anfield on Sunday have suffered a huge setback with the news that Martin Skrtel has suffered a broken foot and could miss the remainder of the season.
Skrtel broke a metatarsal in his right foot during his side’s midweek Europa League victory in Romania when scans revealed the news Benitez must have been dreading.
The setback has not only taken the shine off Liverpool’s progress in Europe, but come at a time when Benitez’s side are enjoying their best and most successful form of what has been an otherwise difficult campaign.
Liverpool have lost just one of their last nine games in all competitions to ensure they have kept pace with Manchester City and Tottenham in the battle to secure that coveted fourth place finish in the Premier League.
Now Benitez and his players must re-group once again in the wake of Skrtel’s absence and find a way to put the disappointment behind them when Blackburn visit Merseyside looking to cause an upset by securing a rare away win.
The challenge is nothing new to Liverpool, who have found themselves on quite a roller coaster ride since August and Benitez is convinced his players can keep winning the games put in front of them, not least because Fernando Torres is back to full fitness once again following a hamstring injury.
Glen Johnson has returned to full training following a knee operation but the game will come too soon for the England defender.
Benitez said: “We were really disappointed after the game because it was a good result (in Europe) but then we had the bad news about Martin.
“He’s had x-rays and they confirmed he has a broken metatarsal. We have to check over the next couple of days how long it will take to recover.
“Glen is doing well. He is training with the team. I was watching him and he was quite sharp, but Sunday will be too soon.
“We have got to try and keep winning games, doing our best and you never know – we might be able to win the trophy. We know it has not been a good season, but all teams go through periods like we have.
“You just have to carry on, keep working hard and move forward. This is a different and difficult situation but we have to manage and the attitude of the players has been fantastic. It was great to see the way they reacted to going out of the Champions League.”
Blackburn have won just one league game on their travels this season and nothing would give Sam Allardyce more pleasure than to secure another one at the home of one of his bitterest rivals in Benitez.
The duo have endured a frosty relationship ever since Allardyce was in charge at Bolton and Allardyce believes it is only a matter of time before his side claim a win on their travels.
Allardyce, who will be without injured captain Ryan Nelsen but welcomes back Chris Samba from suspension, said: “It is not so much about cracking the away form as cracking the results. I think the form has been good on occasions.
“We have had some disasters like Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal away where we have been dreadful and I remember them vividly.
“But some of the performances were really well worthy of the victories we were looking for. Unfortunately the longer it goes on the harder it is to clinch.
“Anfield is a major venue and a big place to try to get a win, but we will try our best. We are in good form and have got a lot of confidence in the place at the moment.
“If we are technically and tactically right, and there is perhaps a little fatigue from Liverpool, we may come away with something.”