Team-spirit is high at Anfield, despite attempts earlier in the season to unsettle players at Liverpool. Djibril Cisse’s performance in the Super Cup in Monaco at the end of August meant Liverpool won their first trophy of the season, but post-match TV interviews were on another subject. Expecting to be congratulated on his performance, the French striker was instead asked if he was leaving. This was followed by media attention throughout the coming months on Cisse being forced out and having rows with manager Rafael Benitez.
Cisse was quoted in France at not being happy to be substituted, or to be a sub. He has also been quoted as not being happy to play on the wing. The problem is in how these comments are interpreted. With Cisse it’s not a complaint, it’s pure disappointment from a player that missed so much of last season thanks to a horrific broken leg. He wants to be first-choice centre-forward every game so that he can score goals and pay back the fans and staff that were behind him through his nightmare lay-off.
Now Cisse wants to try and show fellow-striker Peter Crouch some of that support. Crouch was bought in the summer for £7million and despite not yet scoring, he’s turned into a hero at Anfield, thanks to his attitude and work-rate, as well as his other abilities. Cisse says how important luck can be in football – he scored from a cross on Saturday whilst Crouch had a penalty saved – and he feels that it’s only a matter of time before Crouch is on that score-sheet. Cisse is the first-choice penalty-taker at the club but he’ll be happy to hand the ball to Crouch if another penalty is awarded tonight: "If Peter wants to take another penalty, that’s okay. I really want him to score, I know this position is hard. I do take penalties but if he wants it he can have it. But maybe the boss will have the final say on that."
Rafa hasn’t yet revealed what his team will be for tonight, and Crouch and Cisse are joined by Morientes and Sinama-Pongolle as available strikers for tonight’s game. Morientes, Crouch and Cisse played much of Saturday’s game together after an injury to Luis Garcia, and Cisse was put on the wing from that point. Cisse says he knows what it feels like to go a length of time without a goal: "I have had similar runs, maybe not 15, not that long, but eight or nine when I was with Auxerre. That was harder for me because the fans whistled and booed me. The fans at Liverpool are trying so much to help him, that makes it not as difficult to when the fans are against you." There’s no doubt that Crouch is still confident, and Cisse says that is the most important quality Crouch needs right now: "It is hard but you have to be strong and confident. You know you will score, never have a doubt, and it will happen."
Crouch is scoring happily in training, and Cisse says he’s a popular lad with the rest of the squad: "Peter is playing really well, the boys love him and he is a fantastic signing. He’s brilliant around the changing room and is a great lad, he is working really hard for the team and playing well. The only thing that is missing is a goal. We know if we keep giving him the service, the goals will come."