Saturday, January 29, 2022

Injured Liverpool midfielder Gerrard travelling to Belgium

Injured skipper Steven Gerrard will be making the trip to Belgium for Liverpool's opening Champions League clash against Standard Liege on Wednesday, Reds manager Rafael Benitez said.

“I was talking with him (Gerrard) this morning and he will go with us to Belgium,” Benitez said on Liverpool's TV channel on Monday.

“He is progressing really well but we will check after training,” he said of the 28 year old who has been recovering from a thigh strain. “I will speak with the doctor and with Steven and then decide.”

Benitez made it clear the team to face Standard Liege in this third qualifying round, first leg tie will be much the same as faced Lazio in the friendly on August 8.

The Liverpool manager warned the opponents should be treated with great respect: “People may say it's a kind draw for us but we will treat them with respect,” said the Spaniard.

“They have not played in the group stages of the Champions League before so they will be keen to change that. Also, they will have the confidence of champions after winning their title.”

The Olympics present a relatively minor selection dilemma for Benitez. There are three absentees in Beijing: Lucas Leiva, Javier Mascherano and Ryan Babel. He can count on Robbie Keane who arrived at Anfield from Tottenham in July.

“Of course I'm looking forward to Champions League football,” the Republic of Ireland captain said on Liverpool's website. “Liverpool is a massive club and we're expected to beat teams, so I'm looking forward to the challenge,” he added.

“I certainly am ready. Ask any player and they'll tell you that pre-season is just about getting fitness. Now the real business starts.

“Whenever Liverpool were playing in the Champions League or in a game which had no effect on Tottenham, I'd be cheering them on. The Champions League is part of why I wanted to come here. This is my opportunity now,” Keane added.

Judging by a statement from club management at the weekend, Benitez' chase after Aston Villa's Gareth Barry has hit a dead end.

The club's US owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett are baulking at the 25 million-euro cash mountain required to prize the England international away from Martin O'Neill's side.

Following Friday's Lazio game, Benitez floated the possibility of another signing but it remains unclear whether he had anyone else in mind.

Fernando Torres will be there to delight the Merseyside fans again, as will fellow Spaniard Xabi Alonso whose place would be at risk if the Gareth Barry deal ever went through.

In the match against Lazio the strikers were ably served from midfield by Yossi Benayoun. The 28-year-old Israel captain is one of the stalwarts Benitez referred to when he indicated all the senior players would be deployed against Liege.

It may be worth noting that Liverpool's Belgian opponents in the Champions League qualifier on Wednesday are known as “les rouches”, meaning “the reds” in Belgian-accented French.

In addition to the common colour, the Belgians and the Merseysiders have something else in common — the Spanish connection.

Under new manager, the Romanian Laszlo Boloni, the Belgian league champions have a development agreement with Real Madrid, a place Benitez knew very well as a player and later as youth coach. The match referee will be Tom Henning Ovrebo of Norway.

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