With Liverpool out of this season’s Champions League, and the semi-finals of the competition taking place this week, there’s a noticeable absence from the usual press hype in this morning’s papers. Instead, the Reds’ title challenge takes a back foot, especially with time running out to catch Manchester Utd, who regained top-spot and went three points ahead on Saturday evening.
Most of the back pages are covered by talk of old rivalries and world class European players as Arsenal and Manchester Utd, and Chelsea and Barcelona prepare to fight for places in the final in Rome in a month’s time. The sports sections also dedicate tributes to Ryan Giggs who picked up the prestigious PFA Player of the Year award last night. How? I don’t know. He has been good this season, but nothing special, often unnoticeable, and surely only as a squad player. It’s a shame that sentimental reasons got in front of actually choosing the season’s best player ‘“ Steven Gerrard.
The writers of The Times have chosen their players of the season in the aftermath of last night’s PFA Awards result. Oliver Kay admits sentiments are in his mind when he chooses Giggs, but gives honourable mentions to Xabi Alonso and Gerrard. Patrick Barclay’s is Michael Carrick. Tony Cascarino and Matt Dickinson choose our Gerrard for being ‘œa joy to watch, a force of nature and a match-winner who just gets better.’. Gabriele Marcotti oddly chooses Fulham defender Brede Hangeland, whilst Tony Evans, also oddly, has Tim Cahill as his. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, I guess!
So besides the Welsh winner claiming a player of the season award just because he’s old, the papers also have a one or two things to say on the title challenge. Only four games remain now, and the Reds find themselves three points behind Utd having played a game more. I’m getting that feeling now, that despite these end of season heroics, time isn’t on our side.
But Benitez remains positive. From this morning’s Guardian:
BenÃtez’s men have played more exhilarating football than United over the past two months and the Spaniard is determined to maintain such momentum.
“We have to keep on winning,” BenÃtez said. “This football is always difficult and United are a good team, but if we keep winning I think maybe they will feel the pressure. You never know in football. We have done our job here.”
After Liverpool disposed of Hull City 3-1 at the KC Stadium, Utd went on to pull back a 2-0 defecit at home to Tottenham and win 5-2. They had a little help from the referee on the way, of course. James Lawton of The Independent writes:
Rafa Benitez might have not been quite so philosophical had he known Manchester United were just a little more than an hour away from one of those eruptions which leave rivals bemused and dismayed at the futility of their lives. Perhaps as vitally, he hadn’t seen the penalty decision which would help give United their latest impetus.
And there’s brief comment in The Times this morning on the rumours that Benitez is preparing to put in a bid for Carlos Tevez, who’s loan deal at Old Trafford runs out this summer.
It can be taken for granted that he would immediately go from hero to arch villain in the eyes of United supporters, but he could well find himself leading the line alongside Fernando Torres next season.
So a short break whilst the Champions League does it’s thing. Liverpool are back in action on Sunday at home to relegation threatened Newcastle Utd. The Magpies are in action tonight at home to Portsmouth.