LIVERPOOL’S traumatic week went from terrible to cataclysmic yesterday when a glut of fresh injuries saw top scorer Fernando Torres ruled out for at least six weeks.
Under-fire Reds manager Rafael Benitez must have wondered how circumstances could get much worse on Wednesday night after watching his side’s FA Cup hopes die with a third-round defeat at home to Championship strugglers Reading.
But the answer duly arrived less than 24 hours later when it emerged Torres needs surgery on torn cartilage, captain Steven Gerrard is out for a fortnight with a hamstring problem, while a broken rib will sideline Yossi Benayoun for a month.
It is the latest blow in a week that has already seen director Tom Hicks Jr forced to resign after emails in which he abused a supporter were published by a national newspaper.
Way off the pace in the Premier League and already out of the Champions League and Carling Cup, this week’s shock FA Cup exit has prompted renewed calls for Benitez to be sacked.
The Spaniard earlier this season guaranteed to steer his team back into the Champions League places by the end of the season, perhaps the minimum requirement for him to keep his job.
But he now faces having to resurrect a floundering campaign without the three players – all injured against Reading – who have scored the most goals for him this season.
The 2005 Champions League triumph may have ensured Benitez a special place in Reds folklore, but the Spaniard knows that even the expense of dismissing a manager just one year into a five-year contract does not make him unsackable.
Despite the mounting criticism, however, Benitez did receive support last night from Reds managing director Christian Purslow, who insisted Benitez’s job “is not on the agenda”.
Benitez said: “A lot of people are talking about me, but I have to look forward and keep working hard. I accept that the season has become bad, certainly not the best. There have been too many bad moments. We can only carry on and be ready for the next game. All we can say is that we must focus on the next challenge.”
Defensive stalwart Jamie Carragher, meanwhile, has apologised to the club’s fans for the Reading defeat.
“It was a very bad night for Liverpool and we can’t disguise that,”?he said. “We have to accept they deserved it. But, at the same time, we have got to look at ourselves and the way we performed was not acceptable.”
A season of woe
28 Oct 2009
A chance of silverware bites the dust as Liverpool are dumped out of the Carling Cup by Arsenal’s reserves
24 Nov 2009
The Reds crash out of the Champions League with one game still to play, after losing to Lyon and Fiorentina
19 Dec 2009
A 2-0 defeat at bottom club Portsmouth hammers the final nail into the coffin of Liverpool’s Premier League title hopes
11 Jan 2010
Tom Hicks Jr steps down from the club’s board after responding to a fan’s email with the immortal line: “blow me, f**k face”
13 Jan 2010
Shane Long’s extra-time winner for Reading causes a major upset and ends Liverpool’s hopes of lifting the FA Cup, one of their key targets