Champions League

Reds desperate to beat Lyon

2009-11-03 18:51
Rafa Benitez (AFP)

Lyon - Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez goes into Wednesday's crucial Champions League match in Lyon knowing that defeat will put further pressure on his injury-ravaged team and his future with the Reds.

Liverpool has lost six of its last seven games. Another defeat would leave Liverpool facing elimination from the Champions League, dependent on other results to reach the knockout round.

"You have to be calm and keep working hard and find solutions," Benitez said in the wake of Saturday's 3-1 loss at Fulham, Liverpool's fifth defeat in the Premier League this season.

Former Liverpool midfielder Dietmar Hamann, a member of the team that beat Milan on penalties in the 2005 final, believes Benitez will come through.

"People calling for Rafa's head are being very premature," Hamann said. "Rafa has got everything a top-class manager needs, he will turn it around."

Losses to Fiorentina and Lyon have left Liverpool third in Group E, six points behind the French side and three behind the Italian club. Lyon only needs a draw Wednesday to advance.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has been ruled out with a groin injury, and striker Fernando Torres is still feeling the effects of an adductor injury he picked up playing for Spain last month.

British newspapers reported Tuesday that Torres' injury could be more serious that previously thought. The 25-year-old is reportedly nursing a hernia that could require long-term rest or surgery.

Benitez, who was heavily criticized for substituting Torres midway through the second half of Saturday's loss at Fulham, needs the Spain striker to make an impact in France.

"We have to take Fernando to Lyon because we don't have too many options," he said.

Liverpool midfielder Albert Riera (hamstring), defenders Martin Kelly (ankle) and Martin Skrtel (muscle) are out, while defenders Daniel Agger (back), Glen Johnson (calf), Fabio Aurelio (calf) and striker David Ngog (ankle) face late fitness checks.

Summer signing Alberto Aquilani is recovering from a virus. The Italian has had only 15 minutes of first-team action this season.

Lyon captain Cris said taking Liverpool lightly would imperil Lyon's hopes of winning its fourth straight Champions League match.

"(Liverpool) will give everything, whether they have Gerrard and Torres or not," the Brazilian defender said. "They are a great team."

Lyon also has been hampered by injuries all season, particularly in defense, with manager Claude Puel forced to play France midfielder Jeremy Toulalan as an emergency center-half alongside Cris.

"If I have to play against Fernando Torres and (Alberto) Gilardino in the Champions League it will be tough," Toulalan was quoted as saying in Tuesday's edition of France Football. "We'll soon see if I can carry on playing in this position."

Lyon has matched its European form in French Ligue 1, gaining ground on reigning champion Bordeaux with a 1-0 win over Saint-Etienne on Saturday that moved it up to second place and two points behind the league leaders.

But behind the scenes, the seven-time champions have had to deal with France winger Sidney Govou's off-field activities.

Govou was stripped of the club captaincy after a drunken night out at the Lyon Grand Prix tennis tournament last week, with Cris now taking the armband. Puel and Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas have promised to deal with Govou, who was held overnight in a police cell for drunk driving in December.

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