Alonso still unsure over Cup Final fitness

May 10, 2006

Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso fears a repeat of his Cardiff nightmare as he prepares for a decision on his FA Cup final prospects.

Alonso was taken off on a stretcher with an ankle injury after 38 minutes of Sunday's 3-1 win at Portsmouth.

To the Spaniard's relief, a scan confirmed no serious damage, but Alonso has yet to resume training this week and the clock is ticking towards Saturday's showdown with West Ham at the Millennium Stadium.

Manager Rafael Benitez is hoping Alonso will be involved in training tomorrow, and if not, it is likely he will have to start preparing for the game without the 24-year-old.

Alonso, though, is confident he will face the Hammers as he does not want to miss out on another showpiece occasion through injury as happened last season with the Carling Cup final defeat to Chelsea.

'The ankle is getting better, although I'm not involved in training at the moment with the rest of the team,' confirmed Alonso.

'I've a few days to see if it improves. As for my chances, I don't know, but I feel confident that I will be fit.

'I hope so because it would be a nightmare not to be involved. I sat in the stands last season watching the Carling Cup final, so I don't want to repeat that experience.

'I want to be on the pitch, but I am prepared to wait a little bit, and at least I have a chance.

'When I picked up the injury my first thought was the cup final because it is such a massive game.

'It [Portsmouth] was the worst game to get injured, and waiting for the scan seemed like a long time.

'But once I had it and I saw it wasn't anything very bad, I knew then I had six days to get fit for the final.'

Alonso's presence is not only crucial for Liverpool, but also for Hammers boss Alan Pardew as it is understood his line-up and tactics will change dependant on whether the Spain international plays.

It was an Alonso double that helped set Liverpool on their way in the third round in January when they came from 3-1 down to win 5-3 at Kenilworth Road.

Alonso knows how fortunate the Reds were to come through that game, adding: 'We were lucky enough and good enough to mount a great comeback.

'I scored two goals, so I was really happy, but that was the start of what has been a great run in the cup, winning big games against Chelsea and Manchester United.

'Reaching the cup final means more because we have beaten these teams on the way.'

Liverpool are now overwhelming favourites for victory, especially after ending the season with a club record 11 successive wins.

Alonso, though, believes that counts for nothing as he said: 'We'll be favourites, and we've earned that right after beating Manchester United and Chelsea.

'But we know West Ham have nothing to lose, and just because we are favourites that doesn't make us feel any more confident.

'It actually means nothing because we still have to prove ourselves on the pitch.'