Liverpool’s Rafa Benitez is one of the most respected and successful club managers in the world yet he continually has to deal with media reports of being on the verge of the chop.
Despite winning the Champions League in spectacular fashion in 2005 and taking Liverpool to the final last year, such is the level of expectation at Anfield, if he does not win the Premiership this season he could be out. Not fair but that is the reality of modern club management.
Benitez has world class strikers at his disposal such as Peter Crouch and Fernando Torres and the leadership qualities of Captain Marvel himself, Steven Gerrard, but so high are the demands put upon him, nothing less than the Premiership title will do. Considering they haven’t won it since 1990, the Liverpool faithful should bide their time with their first manager in years who is competent.
It took Alex Ferguson a number of years to get things sorted at Man Utd before he won the Prem so Benitez deserves that allowance too. It took Fergie 13 years to win the Champions League whereas Rafa did it within a couple of seasons. Okay, Liverpool drew at League One strugglers Luton in the FA Cup on Sunday but what are the odds that they’ll smash a hatful against the Hatters in the replay next week?
Liverpool are fourth in the Premier League, 12 points behind leaders Arsenal and face a tough meeting with Inter Milan in the next round of the Champions League after only finishing second in a seemingly easy group. Torres has been a revelation in his debut season in the Prem and if Benitez can get Gerrard to stay at least one more season, they could possibly win it next term.
The race became a two-horse race between Arsenal and Man Utd weeks ago with Chelsea struggling to keep apace. If the Blues manage to buy Nicolas Anelka they may mount a late challenge but with so many players on African Cup of Nations duty for the next month, their league challenge is bound to suffer.
Arsenal should bag three more points at home to Birmingham tomorrow and Chelsea have a tough one, hosting Spurs. Man Utd should annihilate Newcastle at Old Trafford and Liverpool must deliver at Middlesbrough otherwise the campaign to oust Benitez will gain momentum.
Expect a high scoring match in the London derby between West Ham and Fulham and Sunday’s game when Sunderland host Portsmouth should be a scorcher.