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Benitez on the brink?

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Robbo Robson | 12:09 UK time, Thursday, 5 November 2009

Such is the confusion with Fernando Torres's health that when I read the words Inguinal Hernia in relation to the poor bloke this week, I assumed it was some striker from Atletico Madrid that Rafa had signed up to replace the ailing superstar.

But I have sympathy with Benitez at the mo. The makeshift 11 he put out in Lyon did him proud, really. His only real error appears to be putting Voronin on the pitch from the outset. It's a good surface to play on already without adding more fertilizer.

Then again, Babel's wonderful strike could hardly have been predicted. It was as shocking as finding the sonnets of William Shakespeare under the arm of Kerry Katona. Or the revelation that Russell Brand is now, apparently, monogamous. More foreseeable was the equaliser, given Liverpool's ill luck right now.

Rafa's not given up hope and certainly they should hammer Debrecen, whose keeper Pantic sounds a bit like an intimate fungal infection and is about as useful between the sticks as a mushroom.
Rafa BenitezBenitez makes his point in Lyon
You can't see Fiorentina not bagging a point against Lyon, but if they don't grab all three, it could be one hell of a last stand at Anfield. It'll lead to Clive Tyldesley or someone virtually wetting himself as he trots out his 'Liverpool In Europe' Almanac.

In the meantime there'll be renewed calls for the head of the coach, and while he has 11 players that contain only half a goalscorer amongst them, it's not surprising.

Trouble is, who's available to take the bearded apologist's post? Southgate? Keegan? Phil Brown come Sunday? Maybe Hansen'll get off the couch for a month-and-a-half after Shearer set the standards last season.

Nah, they'll stick with Rafa. And maybe this lad Hernia can turn the tide for them after the January transfer window.

There couldn't be a greater contrast with United's derring-do the night before. At 3-1 down you just knew they'd got a couple of goals left in them.

Wazza came on, fresh from the arrival of his new son. We like the Rooneys a bit more than your average Lad and Wag: childhood sweethearts, who insisted on using the local NHS hozzie rather than some fancy private job.

Of course, United's last gasp point-grabber came via the latest kind deflection. It was so inevitable I almost expected Zat Knight to pull on a Moscow shirt and turn it in to the Russian net for them.

Didier Drogba won't be shaking in his boots at the thought of facing Brown and Evans this weekend, mind you. When he's perpendicular there's no better centre-forward in the world. And frankly now that teams just play on when he rolls around the turf like a bloke on fire trying to put himself out, even that part of his game is way less irritating.

In the meantime, Arsenal continue to be the team that most of us would support if we had no local allegiance.
Cesc FabregasFabregas gives the thumbs-up to Arsenal's display against AZ Alkmaar
They were helped a bit by the ineptitude of AZ Alkmaar - not so much a football club as a street atlas. The way their lank-haired keeper Romero (presumably named after Batman actor Cesar Romero, who played The Joker) fell over Fabregas's trundler for Arsenal's opener was atrocious - like watching a flea-bitten sheepskin rug being tossed by a pensioner at an unwelcome mouse.

But I think when Pele called it the Beautiful Game, this is what he had in mind. I know some of you are getting tired of blokes like me going into sycophantic raptures about the Gooners but unless you support Spurs with the kind of fundamentalism that would make the Spanish Inquisition blush, you have to agree that the way they knock it about right now is the dog's doodahs.

Wenger was asked whether he thought Andrey Arshavin was being over-confident in saying that they could win the Premier League and the Champs League... what a stupid question! I can't wait till some Boro lad expresses such self-assurance. But I guess I'm going to bloomin' well have to.

Arshavin, Fabregas, Van Persie, Nasri, Rosicky, Eduardo, Diaby, hell even Bendtner's learnt to trap it. Worth 40 quid of anyone's money.

The Emirates Stadium has been a success too, save for the deathly quiet that sometimes overcomes the place.

But who will be Mike Ashley's Emirates?

The current name is @ St James' Park Stadium. Hmmm, punchy! You can't blame big Mike for taking the opportunity to remind the world that he is actually a successful businessman in his real life. (No lads, supporting Newcastle United can hardly be called Real Life).

It's hard to guess which company might come in to sponsor St James's. The fact that Northern Rock was on the shirts until a while back seemed wholly appropriate, but now?

In the meantime I think Newcastle United should remind its fans of its great heritage. The quickest road out of there could be renamed Kevin Keegan Walk. If they ever need to build a temporary terrace that could be the Alan Shearer Stand. The best stand of the lot should be The Sir Bobby Robson Stand.

And surely it's only a matter of time before Cheryl Cole has enough to cash to buy into the whole place herself. The 'Britain's Favourite Geordie Stadium' has a nice ring to it.


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