Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Rafa’s thanks for Liverpool's crocked stars

Rafael Benitez believes Liverpool's luck is turning as he revealed his gratitude to injured players who are forcing themselves through the pain barrier to salvage the club's season.

The Anfield boss maintains that half his side should be on the treatment table rather than involved in Premier League combat.

Benitez witnessed a defiant, backs-to-the-wall display on Sunday to claw a 2-0 victory from a Merseyside derby that local rivals Everton dominated for much of the match.

Liverpool were still far from their best, but they stretched their unbeaten run to five matches as they climbed to fifth in the table.

That run fails to cover up the cracks in Liverpool's season, and has done little to lift the cloud over Benitez.

But the Spaniard claims his stars are demanding to play as they battle to overcome a distressing season of achievement.

And Benitez praised his walking wounded, and had a special word for skipper Steven Gerrard who still looked short of his best at Goodison Park on Sunday.

Gerrard is still way short of match fitness after a groin injury, and Benitez said: “Gerrard has found it hard. He has played three difficult games in a row without training for three weeks prior, and that is tough.

“People have to understand that some players are trying very hard to help the team when they are not really fit. But they want to play, and their attitude is very positive.

“Now we have a week of training, and that I hope will see a lot more of them much fitter for the next game.”

Striker Fernando Torres failed a fitness test and did not even make the bench at Goodison, but Benitez hopes the striker will be fit for Saturday's trip to Blackburn.

Benitez said: “Fernando is close, but he still has some pain. We now have a week to work with him and for the physios to try to get him fit to play.

“We will monitor this every day and then decide. But we do not want to take any risks with him now, he needed three weeks of treatment and that is not fully completed yet.

“There is no deadline. We will have to decide after we have watched him working this week.”

Benitez praised the players fighting to recover from injuries, who are forcing themselves through matches.

Yossi Benayoun, Glen Johnson, Albert Riera, Daniel Agger, Fabio Aurelio and Gerrard are all still at various stages of recovery.

Benitez said: “There are several players who maybe should not be out there at the moment. They are not fully fit, they are not training and they have injuries.

“But we are working so hard together. We are seeing players involved when they should really be on the treatment table.

“But they all wanted to play, to do a job for the team and to work to get us going again as a team.”

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