Carling Cup – Crystal Palace v Liverpool
Rafael Benitez looks set to rest Jamie Carragher tonight in recognition of all the work the stand-in captain has done since Rafa arrived at Anfield, but doesn’t want Crystal Palace to think that they have no respect for them. Taking the captain’s armband back again for tonight’s televised fixture will be Steven Gerrard, fit again after suffering a shin injury on England duty.
Scott Carson is likely to start in goal tonight, but this won’t be his first appearance for the first team this season. In front of him the back-four is likely to include reserve players and recent academy graduates Zak Whitbread and David Raven.
Twenty-year-old Raven is looking forward to taking his chance in the first team again. He played last season in League Cup games as Liverpool’s youngsters showed some class in getting Liverpool well on the way to the final. Unfortunately an embarrassing defeat at Turf Moor in the FA Cup left Liverpool red-faced, and it’s that match he’s hoping to exorcise tonight.
Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, Raven said: "It was a steep learning curve for a lot of us last season – we had a lot of nice things said about us after we beat Millwall and Spurs, but that all changed after the Burnley game. We knew we’d get criticised after that, and some of it was fair because we should have been good enough to win that game. I think there were also some unfair comments made too. I remember we were all looking at each other in the dressing room at Turf Moor and telling each other to get ready because the stick would fly. We weren’t wrong."
Raven recalls how the decision to play some of those players may have been a mistake in hindsight: "It wasn’t easy for us to all go straight back into such a tough game that night because we hadn’t played for six weeks, due to the Christmas break and a lack of reserve football. That was a definite factor in our defeat and we know we didn’t do ourselves justice. But that’s in the past now and I’m looking to the future and another opportunity."
And if Rafa is looking for commitment from his players, he’s no need to worry about getting that from Raven, who says, "We’ll be giving it everything we can to make sure we get through."
As for the captain and his deputy, manager Benitez said: "Steven Gerrard is better now, but we need to rest Jamie Carragher. We have a lot of games so Carra won’t be involved this time." Carra needs his rest with Liverpool likely to play so many games this season, and Rafa wants a good showing in all of them: "All competitions we want to win and we will have a strong team out at Crystal Palace. We had some bad away games last year and we lost at Palace. As always we go there looking to win the game and get through to the next round."
It’s unfortunate for Benitez that the team they face tonight is Palace – there’s not really any room for experimentation in a fixture Liverpool must win to try and get some confidence back.