Liverpool’s away fixture to Bolton back in August was one of Rafael Benitez’s first games in charge of his new team, and he says it opened his eyes to the differences betweeen the Premiership and La Liga. Liverpool had a Luis Garcia goal controversially ruled offside that day in a game Benitez remembers well.
He said their style of play was similar to Everton’s, the team Liverpool beat in their last fixture. Everton are in the place above Liverpool, Bolton are one place below. Benitez said of Bolton: "They always play with the same system and have their way of playing football. I learned a lot about their style when we played them earlier this season and lost 1-0. I remember the game and the different way FIFA’s rules are used.
"I learned a lot about the new rules and the throw-ins when a player has both feet on the line or just one foot in the air to give them ability to throw it further.
"When they take free-kicks and corner kicks they use two players in front of the goalkeeper but they are not offside.
"When the centre forward catches your defender with two hands around them and then the defender tries to clear the ball, you have to be careful because it’s then a free-kick against you.
"If you are a defender and you hit your nose into an attacker’s elbow it will be a free kick against you.
"I have learned a lot about English football since that day,"
Benitez has learned the differences in the interpretation of the rules, but is hoping that the referee has his eyes open for where the interpretion is being stretched too far: "The only thing is you want the referee to see the same thing you see this time."
Rafa will see his team come up against his own personal friend – the 37 year-old former Real Madrid Defender, Fernando Hierro. Hierro is now considering retiring at the end of the season, but on the day Alan Shearer announced he was postponing his retirement, Benitez thinks Hierro should do the same: "He can play more years if he wants to – with his quality and positioning it does not matter about his age."
He went on: "I am not surprised he has done well in England because he was one of the best players Real Madrid has ever had. I talked with him before he came to England and he choose Bolton because for him it was not about the money but the desire to play. He has so many good qualities. He is always in the right position, is good in the air and has a powerful shot."