Benitez wary of insider information
Published 03/10/2007 | 07:42
In competitive sport, information can be as important as talent. The recent $500,000 (£245,000) fine imposed by the NFL on the New England Patriots coach, Bill Belichick, for spying on the tactical signals being used by opponents, underlined that. Thus there is a certain wariness about Liverpool as they approach tonight's Champions League, Group A match against Marseilles.
Last year's finalists start clear favourites. Marseilles are in turmoil. They won their opening group game, at home to Besiktas, but are languishing in their league, with only one win in nine games and on their 11th coach in 10 seasons.
The name of the present incumbent is the Belgian Eric Gerets – an interesting choice given he, like his new club, has in the past been found guilty of bribing opponents. While Gerets knows what to expect from Liverpool they can only guess at his plans.
Marseilles will be well prepared. Not only has Gerets had 10 days to work with his team, he can draw on the former Liverpool players Djibril Cissé and Boudewijn Zenden. Their presence has prompted Rafael Benitez, Liverpool's coach, to suggest he may even change his own plans.
"A new manager makes it more difficult," Benitez said. "We knew him from Galatasaray [Gerets coached the Turkish side when they beat Liverpool in Istanbul last season], but it is difficult for us to know how he will alter things.
"Cissé and Zenden they know all about our tactics and we will have to change a few things to surprise them. They worked here for two or three years, they will know our tactics."
Indeed they do. "They're a team that are very well organised," Zenden said of Liverpool. "The defenders don't give an inch. They're strong on the set-pieces." Cissé added: "Gerrard is the best player in his position. It seems he can win a match on his own."
Gerrard's preparation has been hampered by his being involved in a car accident on Monday which left a 10-year-old boy with a broken leg. Benitez insisted Gerrard would not be affected by the incident.
"Steven is fine," Benitez said. "He was shaken up, but he has been training normally. "
Liverpool are without the suspended Jermaine Pennant and the injured pair Xavi Alonso and Daniel Agger. Marseilles, though, are more likely to miss Samir Nasri. The "new Zidane" has a virus.
Liverpool (probable 4-4-2): Reina; Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Arbeloa; Babel, Gerrard, Mascherano, Riise; Torres, Kuyt.
Marseilles (probable 4-4-2): Mandanda; Taiwo, Rodriguez, Faty, Givet; Ziani, Zenden, Bonnart, Niang; Cana, Cissé.
Referee: K Plautz (Austria).