21 October 2007


By Paul Walker, PA Sport

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez is confident Xabi Alonso and Fernando Torres will be ready for this week's Champions League showdown with Besiktas in Turkey.
The pair were left out of Saturday's derby victory at Everton.
But Benitez said afterwards: "They were both very, very close to playing. It would have been a risk I was not prepared to take to play them against Everton.
"I would now expect them to be in serious contention against Besiktas when we go to Istanbul (on Wednesday). I will watch them in training and make my decision after that."
The confidence boost of a controversial 2-1 win at Goodison Park has come at just the right time for Liverpool, after a worrying spell had seen them win just two of their previous seven games.
Benitez said: "That victory will do us a lot of good for the Istanbul trip and then next weekend's home game with Arsenal."
The Spaniard has happy memories of Istanbul, not just because of Liverpool's Champions League Final victory there two years ago.
While in charge of Valencia, Benitez masterminded a UEFA Cup victory at Besiktas in the season that saw his Spanish club won the trophy.
He said: "I have won there before, so I have no fears about them; it can be done again."
The Group D match with bottom club Besiktas has become a must-win game, after Liverpool picked up just one point from their opening two matches against Porto and Marseille.
Benitez initially suggested 10 points should see the Reds into the knockout stages.
That seems a long way off now, and he concedes "We now have to win one, maybe two away matches."
That puts intense pressure on Liverpool with only four matches left to avoid slipping from being finalists last season to UEFA Cup competitors this time around.
It is accepted that visiting clubs to Galatasaray and Fenerbahce in Istanbul face a torrid time from the local fans - and the city's 'third club' have an equally fearsome reputation.
The warning for Liverpool comes from Porto's Serbian defender Milan Stepanov, who knows Turkish football from his time with Trabzonspor.
Stepanov was part of the Porto side that salvaged a very fortunate 1-0 victory at Besiktas in the last round of Champions League matches.
He said: "Before the game at Besiktas, I told everyone about the crowd - but nobody really believed me.
"After the game, they said 'We never expected such an atmosphere'.
"After the first 45 minutes, our coach told us to relax and play our game - because we were not ourselves in the first half. I can say that God gave us the points in the last minute."
Besiktas have lost both their first two matches in the group and know that only a win over Liverpool will keep them in the competition.
Their French midfielder Edouard Cisse, who spent the 2002-03 season at West Ham, believes: "If we can continue to play like we did against Porto, we still might have a chance."
"That game (against Porto) showed our supporters that our team still has hope for the coming games.
"We played well. We are not giving up yet."
Besiktas will play the match with the added problem of their coach Ertugrul Saglam banned from the touchline.
He has been handed a one-match touchline ban by UEFA's disciplinary body after being sent off against Porto.

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