Despite assurances from the Spanish team doctor that Fernando Torres’ injury was “not of major importance” and Torres himself saying, “I intend to play on Sunday,” Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez now says the Spanish striker looks very doubtful for the clash with Chelsea.
The international breaks have never been welcomed by Rafael Benitez, who despises the way that he often gets literally just a few hours to prepare his team for their next match. This weekend at least the game falls on a Sunday, rather than the usual lunchtime Saturday kick-offs we’ve grown accustomed to. As well as the Torres injury, Javier Mascherano’s return from international duty won’t be until tomorrow as Argentina’s friendly with Guatemala doesn’t kick-off until later today.
Rafa says it’s wrong to hold international friendlies in the middle of the season like this: “We have lost Torres and Mascherano is not back until tomorrow. I don’t think it is fair. I think Mascherano will be okay for Sunday but we will have to see.”
Maybe Rafa was fearing the worst rather than speaking from information received, but he seemed sure “The Kid” would be missing for the important game: “The news we have on Torres is that it is a hamstring injury. I need to talk to the doctor but I think he will miss this game. Normally it is a week when a player goes off like this. It is a big problem for us.”
The doubts over Torres and Mascherano are there alongside the absences of injured defenders Daniel Agger, Alvaro Arbeloa and Fabio Aurelio, injured forward Andriy Voronin, and suspended midfielder Xabi Alonso.
That’s not the only bad news. Off the field Tom Hicks has been trying to get fans worried that he’s planning to get more involved in the club’s day-to-day affairs. We’ve seen how bad things get when he tries that – witness the start-to-finish mess he made when he approached Jurgen Klinsmann for the manager’s job, offered him the job, got turned down by Klinsmann and then publicly admitted he’d done it, undermining the manager yet further. He revealed stadium plans, then checked to see if he could afford them, and realised he couldn’t. He fought to get refinancing of his underhand purchase of the club – and nearly ran out of time after struggling for four months to be taken seriously. He promised Rafa extra transfer funds – then went back on that and gave him nothing. He now claims he supports Rafa, even using a January transfer to prove it. But he neglected to point out that Liverpool’s sales in that transfer window outweighed the purchases.
With all that in mind, it’s hoped his latest outburst about the club is as false or misleading as most of his past statements were. He claimed: “I’m anticipating a more active role in Liverpool. I really don’t want to comment any more at this point.”
With DIC’s resolve said to be stronger than ever to buy the Texan and his mate out, it might all be bluster from the man who blamed the papers for making up the stories he was planning to sack Rafa, just before he admitted that it was true after all.
He was speaking from his Texas Rangers baseball franchise, in Arlington, Texas. Fans of the Rangers have seen Hicks’ lack of interest in turning them into a winning side, but in the main have been quite apathetic and just let him get away with it. But signs are there that anger from fans is bubbling under the surface, and having seen the protests from the passionate Liverpool fans they’re now considering getting on Hicks’ back more themselves.
If Hicks (and George Gillett before he disappeared) had supported Rafa as promised in the transfer market last summer and this winter, perhaps the worries about Torres would be less severe. Instead of buying a number of top-class players we bought one. Our net spend under the new owners is said to be £15m, much less than the money coming in from the Champions League run last season.
Hicks may be planning a more active role, and may well be involving his son Tommy Junior in that, but he’ll be far from comfortable should he decided to show his face at a game. He’s unwanted, disliked and despised.
But his ego needs a polish, and he’ll see this as a little challenge, thinking he’ll be able to pacify the restless natives.