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Friday, October 24, 2008

Injured Liverpool trio Gerrard, Alonso and Keane could all miss weekend clash with Chelsea

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is hopeful key trio Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso and Robbie Keane will be available for Sunday's crunch showdown at Chelsea.

None of them finished last night's 1-1 Champions League draw at Atletico Madrid, with striker Keane and midfielder Alonso both struggling with knocks, and captain Gerrard suffering from fatigue.

It will not be known until later today how serious the problems are but Benitez is keeping his fingers crossed there is nothing too serious to worry about.
'The three players have had some problems,' said Benitez, whose side are locked at the top of the Barclays Premier League with Chelsea on 20 points.

'It was a little bit of a muscle problem for Robbie. Gerrard is okay. He was really tired and Alonso has a knock on his knee.'
Keane, who had given Liverpool a 14th-minute lead at the Vicente Calderon before Simao Sabrosa earned Atletico a point with a late equaliser, was the first to be taken off when he was replaced by Dirk Kuyt just after half-time.

'We need to check with Keane. I don't think it will be serious, but anyway we need to take care of him. He will see the doctor,' Benitez said.

'We are trying to keep players with fresh legs and 100 per cent fit, so we were trying
to protect all of them.'
When asked if he had any fitness concerns for the clash with Chelsea, Benitez answered: "I don't know now, we will have to wait for tomorrow.'
Gerrard was the next to make way, being replaced by Ryan Babel in the 61st minute, before Alonso left the action with 15 minutes to go, Lucas taking his place.

Eight minutes after Alonso's departure, Atletico managed to equalise, but when asked if the change had played a part in the goal, Benitez insisted he had no choice but to replace the Spain international.
'I explained the reason already, he was injured and he was asking for the substitution,' he said.

Liverpool were without the services of star striker Fernando Torres for the match, with the former Atletico hero remaining in England to continue his recovery from a hamstring injury.
Benitez admits things might have turned out differently if the prolific forward had played, but preferred not to dwell on the subject.
'Obviously he's a special player and it could have been a different match. But he was unavailable so it doesn't matter. He couldn't play,' he said.

Liverpool had been good value for their half-time lead at the Vicente Calderon after limiting Atletico to just a couple of half-chances in the opening period.
However, the Rojiblancos looked a much better side after the break following the arrival of star striker Sergio Aguero, who had started the game on the bench due to concerns about his fitness.
Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina admitted the young Argentinian helped turn the game around for the Spanish side.
'He is a tricky player who you notice when he is on the pitch because he causes a lot of problems and is difficult to stop,' said Reina.

'What is really important now is to get to 10 points and not slip up at home.

Calling in his reserves? Rafa Benitez