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Benitez´s boardroom harmony can boost Liverpool

SoccerNews in English Premier League 23 Aug 2008

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Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez will be hoping that a new sense of harmony at Anfield will provide a boost on the pitch against Middlesbrough on Saturday.

Benitez held a meeting with chief executive Rick Parry, who has been the subject of thinly-veiled criticism from the Spaniard over the Reds’ failed pursuit of Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry.

The pair released a joint statement claiming they can buried the hatchet and Benitez will now be optimistic that the behind the scenes problems which have enveloped the club over the past 10 months will begin to disappear.

Mounting a serious title challenge is key to stability at Anfield and Benitez will be desperate to build on the 1-0 victory over Sunderland on the opening day with a win over Gareth Southgate’s Boro.

For the first time this season, he will have the Dutch winger Ryan Babel, who has been at the Olympics with his national team, at his disposal.

Coming into his second season since joining from Ajax, plenty is expected of Babel, 21, and the forward, who missed Euro 2008 with an ankle injury, believes he will improve this season.

“I’m just focusing now on getting my fitness levels back up to 100 per cent,” Babel said. “After that, we will see what players the manager brings in during the transfer market and what my role in the team could be.

“But this will be my second season at Liverpool, and hopefully I can take my game to the next level.”

Lucas is set to return from Beijing after Brazil were knocked out of the Olympics. but is unlikely to be involved in the starting line-up. Fellow midfielder Javier Mascherano is still in China on Argentina duty.

While Liverpool start the game as the bookmakers’ favourites, Middlesbrough manager Southgate noted that his team were similarly unfancied at home to Tottenham last Saturday.

Middlesbrough beat the odds with an excellent 2-1 success that has raised expectations among their supporters.

Southgate had promised a new attacking approach and there were significant signs that his team are equipped to make his ambitious words a reality.

Whether they will find it so easy to play in a cavalier style at Anfield is another question, but the manager believes he possesses players who will stretch the Liverpool defence.

“We have a lot of exciting attacking players. We know we can hurt teams when we attack, but we also need to get it right defensively,” Southgate said.

Southgate’s determination to give his side a solid base for their attacking instincts is behind his purchase of the Arsenal defender Justin Hoyte.

Hoyte is likely to make his debut at right-back at Liverpool in place of David Wheater, who could be left out unless Southgate decides to switch Emanuel Pogatetz to left-back.

Tottenham and Liverpool represent a daunting start to the new season for Middlesbrough, but Southgate is not complaining.

“It’s difficult to know where teams will end up this season, but we have high expectations and playing these two teams will provide a good yardstick,” he added.

“This is another big challenge and we go there with belief. We feel we can go there and win and that’s half the battle when you take on the big teams.”

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