Benitez defends Gerrard omission

September 12, 2006

Rafael Benitez made it clear after Liverpool's 0-0 draw away to PSV Eindhoven in their opening Champions League Group C match that not even Steven Gerrard can be certain of a place in the side.

GettyImages / BenRadfordRafa Benitez left captain Steven Gerrard on the bench in Holland.

The Liverpool boss is imposing a rigid equality over his expensively assembled squad, and what happened to Craig Bellamy at the weekend - left at home watching the Merseyside derby on television - could just as easily happen to Gerrard.

The Anfield skipper was one of six players axed from the side that lost the Mersey derby to Everton on Saturday, and Benitez explained: 'Steven was on the bench as were several other senior players, Xabi Alonso, Peter Crouch, Sami Hyypia, but people only mention Gerrard.

'We must accept that nobody can play at 100% for every match, it was a very difficult game against Everton and you can see that the players who were involved for all that game were on the bench.

'If you are not 100% fit and ready then you will be rested like that. It will happen to different players.'

Liverpool secured an encouraging point at the Philips Stadium to get their campaign off to a good start, but Gerrard could easily have won it for them with a stunning volley against a post after coming on as substitute.

Benitez said: 'He came on at the right time, we had needed to cover and work to stop their penetrating passes and that is why Momo Sissoko started. He has fantastic stamina, better than Alonso or Gerrard can reach.

'Now we have more options and we can use players in this way. We were intent on a clean sheet after that happened on Saturday, and we defended well and created enough chances to have won the match.'

PSV boss Ronald Koeman admitted his surprise at Liverpool's line-up, saying: 'When I saw their team sheet I was shocked. No Gerrard, no Alonso, no Hyypia, no Crouch.

'In the end though I was happy with a draw, especially because Liverpool used eight men behind the ball for much of the game.

'Gerrard could have won it for them at the end, but I was pleased with our performance. We have made many changes during the summer and it takes time for new players to adapt, so to get a result like this is encouraging for us.

'But we can get better. I did not use Patrick Kluivert because he is not fully fit yet and it was a very high level to ask him to come into. But he will play on Sunday here against Feyenoord.

'But drawing this one means that we will probably now have to win an away game at either Galatasaray or Bordeaux, those two sides drew their match 0-0 as well so the group is very tight.'