Crouch and Rafa looking forward to Robbie’s return

Liverpool forward Peter Crouch was given 45 minutes of action on Sunday against Arsenal in a season where he’s rarely been used by club or country. For many games this season Crouch hasn’t even been on the bench, but with Rafa Benitez using three forwards to start the game he was there to replace Fernando Torres at half-time. Torres had damaged another muscle on his return from injury, and with him out for three weeks Crouch is hoping to get more chances to remind the boss what he can do.

This should start tomorrow night in the Carling Cup when Liverpool play host to Cardiff, who now have Reds legend Robbie Fowler in their squad. Crouch is raring to go: “I’m looking forward to the Cardiff game and hoping to get 90 minutes under my belt. I was pleased to get on against Arsenal, even though it wasn’t in the circumstances I would have liked with Fernando getting injured. You always want your best players on the pitch and hopefully he won’t be out for too long.”

With Crouch’s chances on the pitch so limited this season, it’s been an easy story for the media to claim Crouch wants out, or that Rafa no longer rates him, or that they’ve had a bust-up. But Rafa has denied claims the England international will be sold in the next transfer window, and Crouch himself admits he’s got to accept Rafa’s system and play well when he’s given time on the pitch: “From my point of view I haven’t had too many chances this season and so I have to take them when they come along. It’s going to be a long season, we have a big squad and everybody will get games at some point. I just know that whenever I play I have to perform.”

He admits he’s disappointed when he can’t play – but insists that he fully accepts the reasons: “Players are greedy and they want to play every week but it’s not possible. We know there could be anything up to 70 matches this season and we understand what the manager is trying to do.”

Liverpool are in the middle of an injury crisis now, and Benitez will be worried about using vital players for the Cardiff game that might then miss out on league or Champions League games. So it’s likely to be an even younger squad that takes to the pitch. Crouch is aware of the potential for an upset: “The game is obviously one we’re expected to win but we can’t take anything for granted.”

The return of Robbie Fowler will make it a memorable evening: “It’ll be nice to see Robbie again because he has been fantastic for this club over the years,” said Crouch. “It was great when he came back here and he did a magnificent job for the team. He was also a good character to have around the dressing room and I’m sure the boys are looking forward to seeing him again.”

Rafa is also looking forward to seeing Robbie again, and was full of praise for the player he brought back to Anfield for two seasons. Rafa said: “Robbie showed us his quality, a strong mentality and his commitment was very good. The way he played for us, with the injuries he had and at the age he is, was fantastic. He was always joking and was very respectful and professional.”

It wasn’t just Robbie’s performances when called on to play that pleased Rafa, he was a vital member of the squad in training: “I was really pleased with Robbie and you could see that some of the players were learning from his movement and his finishing, which was fantastic.”

Tomorrow night though Rafa obviously wants to see Fowler to leave on the wrong end of the scoreline: “I would like to see him very happy before the game but when it is over I hope he is a little bit disappointed. After this match, I hope to see him scoring 20 goals and being the top scorer in the Championship. Maybe we can leave him to score a fantastic goal in front of the Kop but at the end of the game we will need to have scored three!”

With the injury crisis in mind, Rafa is working out how best to balance his squad for the game. He wants to protect important players, but also needs to try and ease some of those returning from injury back into playing again. And of course he wants to use the rare opportunity to use some reserve players: “We’ll have to see who we play. It depends on which players are fit. Lucas Leiva needs to play, Sebastian Leto needs to play and so does Fabio Aurelio. So I don’t know how many players we can use from the reserves, but I know I will also need some of the senior players.”

There might even be a first-team comeback for Harry Kewell: “Harry played 45 minutes in the reserves last week and he too needs to play games, so we will see.”