Tuesday’s Paper Talk

Rumours and speculation surrounding Rafael Benitez’s recent fall-out with club owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett continue to dominate the headlines this morning.

The Daily Telegraph claims that the damage is already done between Benitez and the two American owner’s relationship, fuelling reports the Spaniard is on his way out of Anfield:

After ignoring a direct order from Liverpool’s co-owner, Tom Hicks, to “quit talking” and using his post-match press conference at Newcastle to accuse Hicks and his partner, George Gillett, of failing to understand how the transfer window operates, Benitez attempted yesterday to pull back from a position that was becoming badly exposed.

The Liverpool manager has been left in no doubt that, if he continues to publicly criticise the owners, he will be sacked, even before a scheduled meeting on the day they play Manchester United on Dec 16.

All this has uncomfortable echoes of Benitez’s last days at Valencia, when he had long fallen out with the club’s sporting director, Jesus Garcia Pitarch, who was in charge of transfer policy and the board at the Mestalla, who refused to sanction further signings. He read out his resignation statement in tears.

Meanwhile The Times reports that the current uncomfortable climate around Anfield is unsettling some of Benitez’s closest allies in the squad, suggesting if Rafa goes, they go.

The long-term commitment of local players such as Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard is not in doubt, but there is concern within the club that some of those BenÍtez has brought to Merseyside will consider their futures if he is sacked. Reina, the goalkeeper, and Alonso, the midfield player, are attracting interest from Atlético Madrid, but the most worrying case is that of Mascherano, which has been one of several issues that have contributed to the crisis that has left BenÍtez clinging to his job.

The Guardian, however, choose to look ahead to tomorrow night’s Champions League clash against FC Porto at Anfield.

Liverpool will need another big performance from Gerrard, who shook off the hangover of his England despair with a majestic display in his side’s 3-0 league win at Newcastle United on Saturday.

Predicting who Benitez chooses to score the goals they need is a tough job. Fernando Torres wasted a host of chances on Saturday and could make way for Peter Crouch, who scored twice in the thrashing of Besiktas.

And the Daily Mail reports that former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier has the backing of some key men in the Football Association to take over the vacant England manager’s job.

Former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier, who has emerged as a shock candidate for the vacant England head coach’s job, carries the support of influential members of the FA Board and the international committee.

Chief executive Brian Barwick charged with finding the right man, will have to explain his choice to the FA Board in great detail knowing that a number of them ‘” as well as former Arsenal and FA powerbroker David Dein ‘” believe that Houllier ticks all the boxes.