Liverpool fans will “weep with despair”

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With Liverpool facing a crucial Champions League clash against FC Porto at Anfield tonight, we take a look at what the papers are saying ahead of this must-win game for Rafa Benitez’s men.

The Daily Star claims that Porto winger Ricardo Quaresma is out to cause an upset and ‘œmake Liverpool fans cry at Anfield’.

Liverpool started their current Champions League campaign with a 1-1 draw against Porto in Portugal, before losing at home to Marseille and Besiktas away. But the record-breaking 8-0 thumping of Besiktas at Anfield three weeks ago means hopes of qualifying for the second phase of the tournament are not lost yet.

However the Reds must still win their final two group games, starting tonight. Quaresma says Porto are not going to make it easy for the hosts. He said, ‘œWe know that a win, or even a draw, will put us into the next round. We should have beaten them in the first game at our stadium, but they were lucky to get a draw.

‘œIt is a different team that we face now and they seem to have settled down, but we are aware of the quality we have and there is nothing to be scared of.

‘œWe are all inspired about playing at Anfield because it is a special stadium, but that is why it will be even better to win there.”

The Times goes with a focus on Benitez’s concentration on the job in hand amid all the speculation surrounding his relationship with the club’s American owners and his own future at Anfield.

Having endured a couple of sleepless nights of late, Rafael BenÍtez dared to dream yesterday. Asked to imagine a scenario in which he would emerge intact from the civil war at Anfield to lead his team out at the Champions League final in Moscow on May 21, the Liverpool manager smiled and uttered a typical ‘œfor sure’ before snapping out of his reverie and returning to the nightmare that has consumed the club over the past week.

However The Times suggests that if Benitez’s future is already a doubt, it certainly will be if the team fails to progress in the Champions League.

The likelihood remains that, unless his relations with Hicks and Gillett improve dramatically, BenÍtez will be dismissed for non-football reasons. Failure to beat Porto, combined with a victory for Marseilles away to Besiktas this evening would result in Liverpool being eliminated from the Champions League at the group stage even if they win away to Marseilles in their final game. In the eyes of a cynic, that would offer the board the chance to dismiss him for what they call football reasons, even while his team remain unbeaten after 13 matches in the Barclays Premier League.

Whilst The Telegraph’s Tim Rich writes about Liverpool supporter’s overwhelming loyalty to Benitez and the protests that will be staged outside Anfield ahead of tonight’s game.

Liverpool have dealt with departures of their great managers before. Bill Shankly’s retirement in 1974 was announced over the tannoy at the city’s central market. When Kenny Dalglish resigned 17 years later, exhausted by the aftermath of Hillsborough, it was announced to commuters at Euston Station. But in neither case were there mass demonstrations to keep them at Anfield.

But there will be demonstrations outside the Shankly Gates tonight, organised by a group named Reclaim the Kop. A spokesman for them, John Mackin, said yesterday: “Liverpool Football Club exists not to make money. It exists to win trophies and be a source of pride for its supporters. It serves no other purpose. Rafa is far and away the most important figure at Anfield, bar none.”

Liverpool hope to welcome back Argentine midfielder Javier Mascherano to the team after he was rested for Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Newcastle Utd in the Premier League. Xabi Alonso, Daniel Agger and Jermaine Pennant remain sidelined through injury.

The game kicks-off at 7.45pm at Anfield and protests defending Rafa Benitez’s reign get underway outside The Sandon pub near The Kop end of the ground from 6.30pm.

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