Rafa facing testing time at Liverpool

Rafael Benitez is facing a testing time at Liverpool with no wins in three pre-season games.

updated: July 24, 2009 17:55 IST
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Rafael Benitez is facing a testing time at Liverpool with no wins in three pre-season games, a captain on trial for affray and his top midfield duo reportedly looking to leave the club.

It is not ideal preparation for a team that senses its best chance to win the League title in 20 years, but Benitez was upbeat on his arrival in Singapore on Thursday.

"The pre-season has gone well," he insisted.

"It's very difficult when the players have only trained for a few days. I need to analyse it more after another two weeks because it is impossible to say now."

Liverpool touched down here after a disappointing 1-1 draw against Thailand on Wednesday following a 0-0 draw with St Gallen of Switzerland and a 1-0 loss to Rapid Vienna.

In the Thailand match a second-half strike by Sutee Suksomkit cancelled out an early opener from Ryan Babel but there was little goalmouth action to excite the crowd, with Liverpool looking decidedly rusty.

They are clearly missing the talismanic Steven Gerrard, who is in court back home on charges of affray stemming from a nightclub incident last December.

It didn't get any better for Benitez with defender Martin Skrtel (hamstring) and young Moroccan forward Nabil El Zhar (knee) injured in the Thailand match.

He said Thursday both of them would return to Liverpool for scans to determine how long they will be out.

"The idea of the game was to improve match fitness. So to lose two players is bad news," he said.

The unsettled Xabi Alonso sat out the game with an ankle injury.

The Spanish international has not failed to hide his desire to join Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka at Real Madrid while Chelsea have also expressed an interest in signing him.

Meanwhile, Javier Mascherano's agent has been quoted by South American media as saying the player was fed up with life in England and wanted to move to Barcelona.

Benitez was non-committal when asked about them Thursday, saying only that Alonso was ready to play and the Mascherano story was old news.

It is unsettling for the team though and vice-captain Jamie Carragher is hoping for a swift end to the Alonso saga at least.

"The feeling within the squad is that he is a top player and you do not want to lose your top players, and hopefully it can be sorted out as soon as possible," said Carragher.

A consolation for Benitez is that striker Fernando Torres is settled.

He came on for the last 10 minutes against Thailand and almost scored, having been rested after his exploits for Spain at the recent Confederations Cup in South Africa.

Torres said he felt the Reds have enough in their armoury to win the League this year.

"Our team can play better than last season and we can win, that is important for me. I came to Liverpool to win trophies and it's been two years without one which is a long time for Liverpool," he said.

"But I'm sure we can win the Premier League or the Champions League."

Liverpool have a series of promotional events in Singapore over the next few days before playing the national team on Sunday in their bid to finally get a victory under their belts.