Liverpool FC’s new TV channel launches this evening, and one of the first items to be reported on the daily news bulletin will be a double injury blow for Rafa Benitez. Two of his most important players have been hit by the infamous metatarsal injury. Defender Daniel Agger and midfielder Xabi Alonso both missed out on the Champions League draw with Porto on Tuesday after feeling pain, and scans back home confirmed that they had both broken bones in their feet.
The LFC head of press Ian Cotton said: “Neither player will require surgery but we expect them to be out of action for between four and six weeks. Xabi Alonso has suffered a stress fracture to the 4th metatarsal in his left foot and Daniel Agger has suffered a stress fracture to the 2nd metatarsal in his right foot.”
These injuries mean the pair could be out for six weeks, meaning they’ll miss league games against Birmingham this weekend, then Wigan, Tottenham, Everton and Arsenal. There are also Champions League games against Marseille and Besiktas before the end of next month. On Tuesday Liverpool play Reading in the Carling Cup and any youngsters given a try-out – such as centre-back Jack Hobbs, the reserve captain – could find themselves in contention for the league games that follow.
Momo Sissoko did not travel to Portugal on Tuesday for family reasons, but will be available to play in midfield alongside captain Steven Gerrard and Javier Mascherano, amongst many others able to play in central midfield for the Reds, meaning Alonso’s absence will make the least impact of the two. It’s a different story in central defence however, where Rafa Benitez is seriously short of cover. There was already a scare earlier in the season when both Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyypia were injured in the same game, meaning full-back Alvaro Arbeloa had to move into the centre. Sami Hyypia may find playing two games a week a little difficult and of course should either Sami or Carra suffer any injuries or succumb to suspension there could be problems for Rafa. Full-backs John Arne Riise and Steve Finnan have recently been suffering with injury, meaning that moving Arbeloa to the centre of defence may not be an option, although Fabio Aurelio has just come back from injury and could play at left-back.
Hyypia wasn’t expecting to play on Tuesday night, only getting the call after training on Monday when it was clear Agger was struggling. He says Tuesday night’s poor performance could work as a boost for the team: “It could be a kick up the backside. We understand we didn’t play well but still got the point which is very important and we realise what we have to do to get a better result – it can work that way.”
Liverpool seemed to improve after Jermaine Pennant was sent off, and were glad to come out of the game with a point against arguably the toughest opponents in their group: “We didn’t come for a draw,” says Hyypia, “We wanted to win but in the circumstances it was a good point. We were one man short in the second half but defended better with ten men than with 11. It is strange sometimes that happens, but we were more compact.”