guarantees from Rafa
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has warned that he
will not build his team around any single player.
England striker Michael Owen was thought to be a certain
starter with Djibril Cisse, Milan Baros and Florent
Sinama-Pongolle fighting to play alongside him.
But the demanding Spaniard has warned all his players
that their place in his first 11 is not guaranteed.
"I don't want to build my team around Michael Owen,"
"I don't want to build a team just around one player. If
Michael is good then he will play but that applies to
Pongolle, Cisse and Baros.
"They can play as well in the team so I want to get my
team right and then decide what players will start."
Despite that, Owen has been impressed by the former
Valencia manager and he is convinced they will push
Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United for silverware
He showed signs that he and Cisse could hit it off in
the first half of Friday's 1-0 defeat to European
champions Porto in the Skydome.
It was the first defeat of Benitez's Anfield reign but
he and Owen were far from discouraged about the coming
The striker said: "There's no doubt a change in
management does spur people on and gives everyone a
fresh new start.
"We weren't very close to winning any of the major
honours last year so I'm sure we'll be much closer this
Baros also caught the eye after his half-time arrival
against the Portuguese outfit and he believes he can
start the season in the Liverpool front line.
He said: "I had a few chances and even though I didn't
score I felt that I made a good contribution and again
showed the manager what I can do.
"We need a lot of competition for places and I know it's
going to be difficult to get in with so many great
strikers here. The manager is also going to change
"But I have showed what I can do in Portugal (Euro 2004)
and in the pre-season games and I know I am good enough
to play for this club."
Baros' countryman Vladimir Smicer is coming to terms
with the news that he will miss at least the first six
months of the season after sustaining severe ligament
Benitez has indicated that another player will be bought
to replace him but the striker has been given him some
words of encouragement.
"It is tough for Vladimir and I know him very well,"
"But he is a strong guy and will come back from this, I
am confident of that."
satisfied despite Porto defeat
By Steve Hunter, in Toronto - LFC Official Website
Rafael Benitez said there were many positives he
could take from Liverpool's match with Porto despite the
1-0 defeat and felt his team more than held their own
against the European champions.
Benitez said he was satisfied with his team and felt
Liverpool started the match strongly playing some good
football and creating good openings.
Benitez said: "It was a typical pre-season match. The
two teams both worked hard and both sides had
opportunities to score. I thought we played better in
the first 30 minutes of the first half.
"Porto are champions of Europe and a very good team and
like to play quick attacking football. We wanted to try
a few things and in pre-season it was always my
intention to make six changes at half time. I wanted to
give the other players a chance and try different things
and get to know them better."
The Reds boss also had praise for the Liverpool fans in
Toronto who he said helped create a great atmosphere at
the Sky Dome.
"I really enjoyed the atmosphere, said Benitez. "It is
good to come over here and see the supporters and make
them happy and it's very good. It's very important for
Liverpool to come and see the supporters in a different
gives Cisse his seal of approval
By Mark Platt, in Toronto - LFC Official Website
Michael Owen is backing his new strike partner
Djibril Cisse to be a big hit in the Premiership this
Owen lined up alongside Cisse for the first time against
FC Porto in Toronto earlier today. The pair played the
opening 45 minutes of Liverpool's 1-0 defeat and showed
glimpses that they could form a formidable double act.
"Obviously, he's a very good player," said Owen. "To be
the top goalscorer in France means you must be a more
than decent player and the first signs are that he's
settling in well.
"There hasn't been a competitive ball kicked yet but
hopefully he can keep producing the form he has showed
here in North America in the Premiership.
"I think we're different types of players. We hadn't
played together in a game until tonight but in training
you can see his attributes. He's very quick and can
score goals. I rate him as very good player and let's
hope he proves it in the Premiership."
The arrival of Cisse is another factor that could well
persuade Owen to stay at Anfield. Coupled with the
arrival of new manager Rafael Benitez, things are
certainly looking up at Anfield and Owen agrees.
"Most people in football are very ambitious and I'm no
different. I want to win the big prizes. That's always
been the case with me, ever since I first started out in
the game. Last year we were quite far away from winning
any of the big prizes, so obviously we need to catch up
"There's no doubt a change in management does spur
people on. It gives everyone that fresh new start and
the players that weren't playing before are now hopeful
of getting back into the team, while the players that
were in the team are doing their utmost to stay there. I
am sure we'll be much closer this year."
Owen again looked fresh against the Portuguese outfit
and he added:
"I've had a three week break, which is more than I
normally do, and I feel as fresh as I ever have done."
Porto see off Liverpool
BBC Sport Online
Rafael Benitez's winning start as Liverpool manager
came to an end with a 1-0 defeat against Porto in
Liverpool had looked set for a draw but Carlos Alberto
scored in the 85th minute for the European champions
after being left unmarked in front of goal
The Reds had their chances with Michael Owen twice going
close with headers in the first half.
Their third and final game in North America comes
against AS Roma in New Jersey on Tuesday.
Porto, under new coach Luigi del Neri, looked shaky at
the back at the start as both Owen and Djibril Cisse
caused them some nervous moments.
But the Portuguese side eventually woke up and Ricardo
Quaresma hit the crossbar while Benni McCarthy also came
Quaresma then hit the upright in the 29th minute,
sparking a goalmouth scramble, but Porto could not turn
the ball in.
Both managers made changes at the break and Benitez
swapped Owen and Cisse for Milan Baros and Florent
Sinama-Pongolle in attack.
The Portuguese side threatened first after the break
when Quaresma forced a good save out of Dudek.
Porto's tactics were frustrating Liverpool with Kewell
getting a yellow card after kicking out at an opponent
while Pongolle was also booked for lashing out at
But Porto saved the best until last, taking the lead
with just five minutes remaining.
The Liverpool defence were stretched as Areias' cross
was allowed to come to Carlos Alberto at the back post
and he had the easiest of tap-ins with Dudek exposed.