Saturday, January 29, 2022

Euro defeat won´t affect transfer plans, says Benitez

Rafa Benitez insists his spending plans will not be affected should Liverpool crash out of the Champions League in Wednesday's qualifying tie against Standard Liege.

Benitez's side go into the second leg on level terms after narrowly escaping with a goalless draw in Belgium two weeks ago.

Only a penalty save by Reds keeper Jose Reina prevented the Anfield team from slumping to a demoralising defeat that would have cast serious doubts over their ability to progress to the lucrative group stages of the competition.

Failure to qualify would cost the club up to 20 million pounds (25 million euros) in lost revenue – and that would come as a body-blow at a time when Benitez is trying to finalise deals for his remaining transfer targets before the September 1 deadline.

Aston Villa's Gareth Barry remains a target despite his 18 million pounds (22.5 million euros) price-tag while Espanyol have quoted a 16 million pounds fee for winger Albert Riera.

But while the Liverpool manager is refusing to contemplate defeat, he is adamant that even if the Reds did suffer a shock reverse it would not force him to scrap his transfer targets.

“I don't think, at least for me, that it will make any difference. We know the money is really important but now we are so close to the end of the transfer window it won't make a massive difference,” he said.

“So the key for me will be to do the right things in the game and have enough confidence so that we aren't talking about if we have money or not.”

Question marks still remain over the Liverpool futures of Arsenal target Xabi Alonso, defender Sami Hyypia and winger Jermaine Pennant, who has been linked with a move to Blackburn.

But the manager refused to expand on the player's futures on the eve of the European clash, preferring instead to focus on his team's recent failings.

Benitez's side have stuttered through their opening two league games against Sunderland and Middlesbrough yet still managed to claim two crucial victories.

The manager admits that with a number of new players in his squad, his side is still struggling to gel.

But he claims he saw enough signs in the 2-1 weekend victory over Boro to suggest that his new-look strike-force of Robbie Keane and Fernando Torres is starting to click.

“The team wasn't good enough around them but I think both players were linking well and the understanding is improving,” the manager said. “I think they will get better.

“We know we have enough quality and good players to win this game.

“I've seen a lot of areas we need to improve in over the last three games. We have been analysing the games and the reasons why and we need to get back to our form in the pre-season games when we were scoring lots of goals.”

Skipper Steven Gerrard will start against the Belgians after showing no reaction to a groin problem, but midfielders Javier Mascherano and Lucas Leiva are unavailable after recently returning from Olympics duty with Argentina and Brazil respectively.

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