Rafael Benitez looks set to give Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy a chance to start for the Reds tonight as they look to move on from that defeat we'd all rather forget about. Rafa had pretty much just one-and-a-half days to prepare his players for the derby on Saturday, and then one further day to talk about tactics for tonight. Injuries permitting, he knew the two teams he'd be using for Saturday and tonight by the end of training on Friday.
Rafa has four top-quality strikers in the squad now, but only three of them are ever likely to be named in the 16 players picked for a league game. This means that there's always going to be one of the four left out, and so disappointment is bound to ensue from time to time. Rumours started doing the rounds at the weekend that Bellamy had been dropped after having a bust-up at Melwood – the rumours are completely false and extremely unhelpful, spread in a lot of cases by Evertonians as part of their derby celebrations.
With tonight's match being a European fixture Rafa gets to choose 18 players for the squad, so if Kuyt and Bellamy start then Fowler and Crouch can both sit on the bench. No room for now for vindictive rumourmongers trying to make something out of nothing again when they see Rafa’s squad. Rafa dropped the hint that he’d be using those two up front at today’s press conference for the match: “Dirk is ready to play, and maybe he and Craig will start, but we will decide the team later today”.
Perhaps the player most looking forward to it is Kuyt who’ll be playing back in his homeland again for his new club, at a ground where he’s not done badly before now. He scored the winner for his former club Feyenoord when they met PSV last December at the Philips Stadion and he also managed one there last week when he was playing for the Dutch national side.
Hopeful of getting on of those starting spots in Rafa’s team, Dirk explained what it would mean to him: “It's extra special to have my Champions League debut for Liverpool in Holland. PSV is a great club and I'm looking forward to the game. My record for Feyenoord against PSV wasn't too bad. I missed the last game but think I scored three goals in two games against them. I also scored in this stadium for Holland last week. That gave me a good feeling and if I can score against PSV again it will give me another good feeling.”
Kuyt isn’t expecting to get a bad reception, although that remains to be seen: “Even though I played for Feyenoord I'm sure the PSV fans don't hate me and I'm sure the reception I'll receive will be fine.”
Again, all the questions focussed on that embarrassing loss to Everton on Saturday, something that is clearly on the players’ minds: “We want to put in a good performance for the first Champions League game, but it's also very important to get a good result after what happened on Saturday. We have a feeling of revenge. It's really disappointing to lose a derby. It was my first derby for Liverpool, and when you lose it's not funny. It's good when you have another game a few days later. Winning would give us a better feeling.”
Finally, the Dutchman said: “We have good players but we have to work more like a team. If we do that we’ll have a better chance to win these games.”