31 October 2007


By Paul Walker, PA Sport

Rafael Benitez has heralded Robbie Fowler's homecoming with a glowing tribute to Liverpool's goal-scoring legend.
Fowler, who left the club in the summer when his contract was not renewed, will return to Anfield on Wednesday night in the blue shirt of Cardiff for a Carling Cup fourth round tie.
For Fowler it will be an emotional night to play in front of the Kop again, a chance he would hardly have expected when he said his goodbyes to the club and fans on the final day of last season.
And Benitez even joked he was unsure whether to use his rookie centre-back Jack Hobbs in the game just in case he was taught a lesson by the veteran.
Benitez could use several squad players in the match including Lucas, Sebastian Leto, Harry Kewell, Fabio Aurelio, Charles Itandje and Hobbs.
He will be without injured trio Javier Mascherano, Fernando Torres and Xabi Alonso, but is likely to give Alvaro Arbeloa a run-out after injury - probably alongside Jamie Carragher at the back.
Torres will be out for three weeks with a torn adductor muscle, while Alonso has another broken metatarsal. He missed six weeks with the first injury and can expect to be out for a similar length of time again.
It is expected that Peter Crouch will start up front, having played particularly well as a second-half substitute against Arsenal on Sunday.
But all eyes will be on veteran Fowler and whether he can manage one final goal in front of Merseyside fans who still call him 'God'.
Benitez said: "Maybe we can arrange for him to score once more in front of the Kop, but only when we are winning 3-0.
"Seriously, though, I view his return to Liverpool a couple of years ago as a great success, he showed so much commitment and effort. And our younger players will have learned a lot from just watching him in training.
"I am sure that he will be able to pass on a lot of experience and know-how to the young players at Cardiff."
Benitez added: "Robbie was a great success here the second time around. People may have raised their eyebrows a bit when we brought him back here from Manchester City.
"But he showed us his quality, good mentality and his commitment was really good. For a player with the problems that he had in terms of injuries and his age, he was just fantastic to work with.
"The atmosphere with him was always good. He was always joking, and was also very respectful and professional.
"I was very pleased with Robbie, and some of the players did learn from his movement, and his finishing, as always, was fantastic."
He added: "I would expect now that players in the division he is now in will learn from him, too. He has fantastic instinct and movement, you can always see that.
"Maybe he did not have the 'legs' needed to play in a top side any more, but he had everything else. He had the passion, commitment, the right mentality and character.
"I was really pleased with him when he was here, the move was a success.
"But I don't want to see him scoring goals in this game, though. I will see him beforehand and that will be a pleasure. But after the game maybe he will be a little bit disappointed."
Fowler has found the net six times for the south Wales club this season, and Benitez said: "I expect and believe he can score 20 goals for Cardiff and be the top scorer in their division. That would please me.
"And he is still more than capable of scoring against our defence. As long as we win and score enough, I would be happy for him to score once more in front of the Kop. But only if we win, maybe I can agree that with him!
"I have watched him on TV but not seen him since he left, I will look forward to that.
"I have several fringe players I want to use in the game, and maybe Jack Hobbs too, but I do not really want him to be learning about Robbie out there on the pitch.
"That is why we will need our senior men."

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