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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep 12, 2006

Fatigue to blame for derby defeat - Benitez

Rafael Benitez already thinks the World Cup is too long and demanding but he is now blaming the international break for Liverpool's derby-day shocker.

The Reds are here to play PSV Eindhoven tonight in their opening Champions League group match knowing they must find their best form, and quickly, or their carefully laid plans for this campaign will go up in smoke.

Benitez aims to bank on most of his fallen heroes, but will almost certainly bring back Craig Bellamy into his starting line-up.

Bellamy was not even on the bench at Goodison Park and watched the derby at home on television.

It was Bellamy's first experience of what skipper Steven Gerrard highlighted in his recent autobiography: Benitez's treatment of players like cogs in a wheel.

But it is something the Welshman accepts as part of being at a big club.

And although the likes of the returning Jamie Carragher were being blamed for their part in the derby debacle, Benitez will send his players out tonight apportioning the blame elsewhere.

He said: 'It is more difficult to find the right team and balance with players returning from injury and from internationals.

'The question over Carragher being just back from injury was that he had trained three days with the squad.

'I was keeping an eye on him throughout those sessions - he was fine.

'I had more worries about John Arne Riise, who is now injured again. The problem was not that we used Carra, but that we used so many players coming back from international games as well. Altogether, that was a gamble.

'We had Sami Hyypia, Gerrard, Xabi Alonso, Peter Crouch, Luis Garcia, and others, all back from a very busy international period. Could we afford to leave all those players on the bench? I don't think so, not for a game like that.

'They all had very hard periods away with their countries, playing two games. They are all big names and we decided to mix things up with players who had not been away and those that had.

'With smaller clubs, it is easier. They may only have two or three internationals but we have 10, sometimes 14. It is not easy to select a side.

'We have more possibilities now with Daniel Agger and Gabriel Paletta - we must look at the options.'

He added: 'For me we must improve in defence. That means that when you are strong there you have more possession, chances and the opportunity to play on the counter-attack.

'We must become a very solid and consistent team and then, with the quality we have up front, I know we will score plenty of goals.

'PSV are strong, experienced and with an experienced manager. Our former player Jan Kromkamp will be playing, and also I remember Benfica when Ronald Koeman was there then. They beat us last season and we need to rectify that memory.

'The group is dangerous, Bordeaux and Galatasaray are both good sides. If we play like we did last season that qualification is achievable but we need to solve our problems.'

On Bellamy's absence on Saturday- he will surely lead the attack tonight alongside Dutchman Dirk Kuyt - Benitez said: 'The decision over Bellamy was clear to me. Having four good strikers, and if I leave anyone of them out then people will ask why.

'But with just 16 players, including substitutes, one of those strikers must be left out. This time it was Craig.'

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