Liverpool are desperate to bring back victory from Besiktas and keep Benitez's superb record at the top table.
By Steve Tongue The Indepedent
Published: 21 October 2007
Istanbul will always have aspecial place in the heart of any Liverpool supporter, as the scene of a European Cup triumph even more dramatic than those in Rome (twice), Wembley and Paris; but as Rafa Benitez's team return there for a second successive season on Wednesday, to play Besiktas, it is time for players and supporters to stop looking back in ecstasy. As they have taken only one point from the opening two group matches, it means that unless they concentrate on the task in hand there is a serious danger of failing to qualify for the knockout stage.
A year ago, Galatasaray had been beaten at Anfield and by the time of the return game in Turkey, Liverpool had already won the group, with the result that their teamsheet was dotted with unfamiliar names such as Paletta, Roque, Guthrie and Peltier; Robbie Fowler scored his last European goals (barring sensational developments at Cardiff City) in a meaningless 3-2 defeat. Now, however, clawing a fortunate draw from a visit to Porto has been followed by a performance in losing at home to Marseille that old-stagers were calling the worst ever laid before the Kop on a European night.
Benitez may have reached two Champions' League finals in his three seasons at the club, but he acknowledges that the pressure is on in the current campaign. "It's not easy because it's important you win at home, especially these kind of games," he said. "We know we need to win away if we want to change things. It's still in our hands and we need to do the right things and win our games."
As ever, he can expect the atmosphere in Turkey to be volatile. "Their supporters will be right behind their team," Benitez said. "But I don't think it will be bad for us because we have good memories of Istanbul. They are a good team, very offensive. They have good movement in attack and have good players with quality, with some South Americans in the team."
Benitez dislikes internationalweeks even more than most leading managers, claiming that on one day last week Jamie Carragher was the only seniorplayer training.
Yesterday's Mersey derby meant that he could hardly complain about travelling for a Saturday lunchtime kick-off, but with Besiktas to be followed by Arsenal's visit to Anfield next Sunday, it is a key period for the club and a manager whose team selection has come under increased criticism recently.