Rafa: Harry’s game will help Crouch

After spending the last five months recovering from injury and surgery, Harry Kewell could find himself finally back on the pitch for Liverpool this week.

Harry was forced to leave the field early during the European Cup final after suffering a groin injury, and then during the summer he needed surgery on a hernia. His next match could be in the same competition though, as Liverpool continue their defence of the European Cup. Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez said today that the Australian attacker will be travelling to Belgium with the rest of the squad, and that he may even be well enough to play a part in the game.

Kewell has rarely been 100% fit during his days at Anfield, meaning he’s found it difficult to reproduce the form that made him such a threat during his days at Leeds. According to some of those close to Kewell, the previous Anfield boss Gerard Houllier was guilty of using the player when he was very much short of fitness, meaning his injuries would be aggravated rather than improved. Now that Rafel Benitez is boss, he wants the old Harry Kewell in his side.

Rafa told liverpoolfc.tv that Kewell will have his fitness assessed before a decision is made as to whether he is included in the matchday squad: “Harry is feeling much better now. He will definitely be travelling with us and could maybe play some part, we will have to assess his fitness before the game.”

Rafa explained that Kewell’s return is imminent, even if Wednesday’s game does come a little too soon: “If he doesn’t figure against Anderlecht then I am sure he will be back playing either at the weekend or the following midweek.”

Liverpool’s frustration at not being able to secure a work-permit for left-winger Mark Gonzales could be eased if Harry can show his old form, as Rafa explained: “His return will be a big boost for us. He is the kind of player who can beat players and get in crosses from the by-line from which the likes of Peter Crouch and Fernando Morientes can benefit.”

Djibril Cisse may not like to hear it, but the Spanish coach wants Kewell to play a big part in the development of Peter Crouch: “I see Harry as a key player to help Peter Crouch develop as our centre forward. We have different players with different qualities and abilities, but Harry is the main one who can get to the dead-ball line and put over the kind of crosses that Crouch likes.”

The boss then looks back at a game he saw well before he became Reds boss, when Kewell was still playing for then Premiership side Leeds: “I know Harry can do this. When I arrived at Liverpool, I brought with me the memory of once seeing Harry play against Manchester United for Leeds at Old Trafford and he was fantastic. Leeds lost the game, but he gave Jaap Stam a lot of problems, and that is the Harry Kewell I want to see playing for Liverpool.”

Unfortunately for Kewell he has been treated unfairly by large sections of the Liverpool crowd. Harry’s injuries have stopped him playing as well as he could, and it has looked at times that maybe he wasn’t as interested as he could be. The time is right now for Liverpool fans to get behind the player, helping him to gain the confidence he needs after a lengthy lay-off. Rafa wants the fans to give him the time and support he needs: “Harry will need some time to get back to his best, but this is an important season for him. He is disappointed with how it has gone for him during his time here, but he is a professional who knows what he is capable of and he wants to play. He has more confidence in his fitness now. Maybe in the past he didn’t have that kind of confidence, but he does now.”