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Rupert Wyman 17th Mar 2010 - 22:31

Rafa the Red

Rafa Benitez's side must overcome a  1-0 deficit when they entertain Lille in the deciding leg of their Europa League clash at Anfield on Thursday.

They will be hoping to come out of the match with Lille unscathed, so they can prepare for Sunday, when they play their arch-rivals Manchester United in a make or break week for Liverpool FC and Rafa Benitez.

By Sunday, decisions from above at Anfield could determine whether Rafa has a job next season. However, the Spaniard only signed a new five-year contract with the club last March and it is claimed there is a clause in it, stating Liverpool have to pay his contract in full within 24 hours of relieving him from his position.

Rafa's position has been under intense scrutiny after many below-par performances this season, rumours in the national press claim he is still only 'Rafa the Gaffer' because the out-going costs involved in his release would put the club's financial future under pressure.

Rafa's team selection against Lille will depend on his view of the Europa League. If Rafa's first eleven is weak,  he is solely focused on Sunday's match against United.

With Tottenham, Aston Villa, Manchester City and Liverpool all vying for fourth position and a Champions League spot, it is essential Liverpool do their utmost to get a result against United.

Liverpool fans see the Europa League as their last chance of winning silverware this season. If they fail to win the competition, this will be the fourth year that they are trophy-less. The memories of Rafa's success in the Champions league final against Milan are diminishing in many fans eyes.

On a positive note for Benitez, he will be buoyed by the improved performances of Aquilani who has struggled for form and fitness since his arrival at Liverpool. It appears in the brief period that he has played behind Torres that they are gaining an understanding.

However, there is a chance that Aquilani may not feature because he has been laid low with a virus, the Italian International missed training on Wednesday and will be assessed on match day.

Glen Johnson is still not fully fit but he will feature against Lille.

Liverpool played on Monday against Portsmouth and destroyed them, scoring three times in six first-half minutes. If Gerrard and Torres play at that level against Lille they should easily progess further into the next round of the Europa League.

I would back the 10/11 for Liverpool to qualify, I hope Benitez puts out a full strength side, with both Torres and Gerrard fit, they are still a World class team and with the Kop behind them, there could be a resounding victory.

I would also have a flutter on Liverpool to score in both halves at 13/8, Lille have conceded seventeen goals away from home in the French Ligue 1 this season but with their defence up against the quality of Torres, it could be 'Au Revoir'.

The pressure on Rafa is not so intense since the win over struggling Portsmouth and he practically has a fully fit squad to select, a win against Lille can give the Liverpool players the edge and motivation they need pre United on Sunday.

Liverpool fans deserve a trophy and they have the squad to win the Europa. Rafa, keep believing!



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