Benitez believes cash injection will accelerate progress
Football management's golden rule is to win. Almost without exception winning insulates managers – Roman Abramovich may have had reservations about Chelsea's playing style, but would Jose Mourinho have departed if he had steered the club to Champions League success?
Following Liverpool's 4-0 evisceration of Marseilles on Tuesday Rafael Benitez will thus feel much happier going into his meeting with Liverpool's owners, George Gillett and Tom Hicks, assuming the trio meet before Sunday. For another golden rule is that a player, or manager, is only as good as his last game . So while Benitez can currently bask in the glow of Tuesday's triumph that will only last until Manchester United come to Anfield on Sunday.
Benitez is confident he will survive the meeting, whatever the next result. With some justification, after six wins and 27 goals in seven games, he believes real progress is being made. He will argue that can be accelerated with another cash injection for the Americans. The first goal is to complete the £17m signing of Javier Mascherano, who gave another tidy demonstration of midfield play in the Stade Velodrome.
Uefa permit the addition of three new players before the Champions League resumes in February, including one, if Benitez so desires, who has played in the Uefa Cup. Strengthening may be required for the draw, on 21 December, will pit Liverpool with Spanish or Italian opposition.
Of the possibilities Fernando Torres, who scored another delightful goal on Tuesday, wishes to encounter Real Madrid. This may be an isolated view but Torres was thinking with his heart. The former Atletico Madrid player said: "That would be a great tie, really good." He added, thinking this time with his head: "It would be better to play a Spanish side than an Italian one, although it would not be bad to meet Milan and gain some revenge for the final last season." Torres then conceded: "All the teams are strong. To have finished second in the group [and thus not be seeded] is not the best."
Jamie Carragher was more bullish as he looked ahead to the draw: "We'll be a big game for anyone as well, don't forget," he said.
That is true. None of the seeded clubs will relish meeting a Liverpool side which has reached two finals in three years and is running into form.
Tuesday's result was Liverpool's biggest away win in the Champions League and Marseilles' worst home defeat in more than 60 European ties. "Every time Liverpool went forward, they looked dangerous," said Marseilles coach Eric Gerets, "and when you have a player such as Steven Gerrard against you it's hard."
With his early goal Gerrard became Liverpool's European top scorer, ahead of Michael Owen. He also became their first player since John Aldridge in 1989 to score in seven successive matches. His reward was to have his Formby home burgled during the game in the latest such incident to hit Liverpool players.