Injuries take shine off Liverpool win for Benitez
Rafael Benitez bemoaned more injury woes after Liverpool emerged victorious from their Champions League examination as they head into their final Premiership game before the international break.
The Merseysiders struggled into the group stages, for which the draw will be held in Monaco on Friday, after a 3-2 aggregate win over a belligerent, awkward Maccabi Haifa who claimed a 1-1 draw in what was officially the Israelis' 'home' leg despite being ordered by UEFA to take the match to the Ukraine because of the Middle East crisis.
Liverpool limped away from the Valeri Lovanovski stadium in more ways than one. Full back Stephen Warnock is out for two weeks with an ankle injury while midfielder Mohamed Sissoko should miss three weeks with a knee problem.
Said boss Rafael Benitez: 'We are in the group stages and I believe we deserve to be so after creating so many chances. But the worst thing for us is the injuries to Stephen and Momo. Both will be out for a while.'
That means they will miss Saturday's home league game with West Ham, along with Jamie Carragher, John Arne Riise and Gabriel Paletta, who all missed the Kiev trip with injuries.
It was a subdued Benitez who now awaits the draw, knowing his team are among the top seeds and are now guaranteed around £12million in cash from the UEFA pot.
But he said: 'We are not at 100 per cent yet, I know that. It has been a difficult preparation for this season with so many of the players returning at different times from the World Cup.
'When we have got over this game with West Ham and then the two-week international break you will see a side improving and progressing together and ready to take on the really big teams in the Champions League. You will see a much better team then.'
The crucial aggregate victory came about thanks to Peter Crouch's second-half header, and means Liverpool have reached the stage of the competition where the really big money can be earned, which Benitez has already said is vital to pay for his squad rebuilding.
He said: 'It has been very hard to get the players to the same level of physical preparation.
'They have all returned from the summer at different times because of the World Cup and that has made things very difficult.
'We dominated the first half and should have scored more, and had it not been for their goalkeeper who was man of the match, we would have done so.
'We could not score the second goal to finish the tie, and that gives teams confidence to keep going right to the end. Haifa are a well organised, good attacking side and they did give us problems.
'But we created by far the most chances and deserve to go through to the group stages. Maybe after the next couple of weeks and then when the international break is over you will see a side that can progress more together.'