Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Aquilani set to rescue Liverpool

Alberto Aquilani is being lined up to face Wolves at Anfield on Saturday as Liverpool aim to lift the gloom

Liverpool midfielder Alberto Aquilani is set to be thrown to the Wolves as the Reds' desperate struggle to save their season continues.

Aquilani, a £20million summer signing from Roma, has yet to start a Premier League game for Liverpool having battled to recover from an ankle injury.

But even though he is over that problem, boss Rafael Benitez has mystified fans with a stubborn refusal to use the 25-year-old despite Liverpool's increasing problems on the pitch.

Benitez all but admitted that he was concerned about the slight Aquilani's ability to handle the pace and physical demands of the English game. But needs must and Aquilani is being lined up to face Wolves at Anfield on Saturday if he can overcome a calf injury which kept him out of last weekend's abject defeat at Portsmouth.

Benitez said: “Alberto picked up a calf injury in the win against Wigan and was not able to travel to Portsmouth.

“He is getting better but we will have to see how he progresses. He is certainly in contention to play against Wolves.”

There was speculation that Aquilani was due to fly to Belgrade this week for treatment from the same specialist, Mariana Kovacevic, who has been used to treat Glen Johnson, Yossi Benayoun and Albert Riera.

But bad weather put pay to flights to the Serbian capital and Benitez added: “Alberto was with us all week, working with our physios.”

With Javier Mascherano serving a four-match suspension, while recovering from a knee injury that will keep him out for three weeks anyway, there is a gap to be filled in midfield if Aquilani can prove his fitness and satisfy Benitez that he is up to the challenge.

Benitez could field Steven Gerrard in a deeper midfield role and play Benayoun or Aquilani behind Fernando Torres in another must-win game for Liverpool.

Benitez again refuted claims that Torres will need an operation on his hernia problem, despite suggestions from Spain that national team officials want the striker to have surgery now to avoid him breaking down again and missing the World Cup.

“An operation is not in our minds,” Benitez added. “I was surprised to hear such suggestions from Spain because we have a good working relationship with their medical team.

“We will continue to manage Torres' problem and assess him on a game-to-game basis.”

After just four wins in 17 matches and with Liverpool eight points adrift of a Champions League qualification spot, their season is going from bad to worse with Benitez's position constantly questioned. But the Spaniard consistently declined to discuss his own future.

Asked if he would resign if things did not improve, Benitez said: “We must start winning, against Wolves certainly, and then we will see a change.”

With Manchester City manager Mark Hughes axed last weekend despite being in sixth place, Benitez said: “I do not like to see any manager fired, it is important to give support to managers and to wait, to give them time.

“But things are changing in football, especially in England. However, it is important that people retain confidence in a manager.”

Asked if his own record of seven defeats in the league this season made him fear for his position considering Hughes lost only twice, Benitez again dodged the question, saying: “I am just concentrating on Wolves and preparing the team for the next game.”

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