25 November 2007

LIVERPOOL v FC PORTO, Thursday 2.45am

My Reds thrive on stress
By Ken Lawrence 25/11/2007

Rafa Benitez may be a man at war with his club's owners. But he is at peace in the belief that his team can stay on their Champions League tightrope this week.
Nothing less than victory against Porto on Wednesday can maintain Liverpool's balance after the 8-0 crushing of Besiktas that prevented European calamity at the start of the month.
With a minimum of £14million resting on qualification for the knockout stages - money that, given his club's complicated financial situation, would be like manna from heaven right now - the clash against the Portuguese has massive implications for Benitez and his players.
But Benitez insists there are few better at the strain game than his team, a view that will be of solace to skipper Steven Gerrard.
The Anfield captain also wore the armband for England as his country crashed out of Euro 2008, yet his manager has no doubts that when the chips are down this time, he will emerge smiling.
Benitez said: "The team has confidence. We know it will be a difficult game because we know Porto are a team with quality so we have to do our job and see if it is possible to play as well as we did against Besiktas.
"And I am confident we can do it. We are a team that can play under strain and stress. We have proved that.
"We have had our problems in the group and we found it hard in the game against Porto over there. But there is a big difference. For a start we are playing at Anfield - and we know we need to win to have a chance of progressing.
"So what we have to do is clear - and I believe we can do it."
Benitez has seen his team prevail on plenty of nerve-shredding European nights - not least in the 2005 Final triumph, the semi-final clash with Chelsea that same year and even on November 6 when they tore Besiktas to bits.
That is why he remains calm despite the storms gathering around him.
He said: "I believe we can do it. We proved in the past against teams like Chelsea, and in the Final itself, that we can handle strain and we have more experience now.
"And Porto cannot afford to just sit back. If Besiktas beat Marseilles they will have a big opportunity to go through in the last game so Porto have to come here and try to win - and that should help us."
Liverpool didn't have an easy night in Portugal when Jermaine Pennant was sent off in a 1-1 draw, and Benitez added: "People will be looking for another result like the Besiktas one but it is important that they are patient.
"We don't need a lot of goals. We just need to win because if we do that we can go to Marseilles and have a real opportunity."

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