Rafa's Main Priority: Champions League or Premiership Success?

Simon DriscollCorrespondent IMarch 11, 2008

Over the years, fans and critics have asked the question: What is Rafa's priority?

Many have said that the Spanish tactician only has his eye on the Champions League and this has been shown in a lot of the last few seasons.

The last three seasons have seen the Reds finish fourth, third and fifth, but the points totals are not as close.

The theory began in 2004-2005 when the Reds defeated AC Milan in a dramatic Champions League final having finished fifth in the league weeks before—a massive37 points behind champions Chelsea and only qualifying for the Champions League thanks to a change in UEFA regulations. Possible priority:Champions League

The following season saw Liverpool begin their European season in July in the first qualifying round, which was negotiated successfully. The Reds were knocked out of the Champions League by Benfica at the first knockout round and the priority was solely the league title.

The Reds stormed to a third place finish and ended on 82 points, one behind Manchester United and only nine behind champions Chelsea. Possible priority: Premiership.

Last season saw Liverpool reach their second Champions League final in three years only to be defeated by AC Milan who got sweet revenge for the defeat the Reds handed them in Istanbul in 2005. The success in reaching the final saw them finish fourth in the League but 21 points behind champions Manchester United, proving yet again that Rafa's men can't fight on both fronts successfully.

This season, Liverpool started their Champions League campaign with a stutter, invoking thoughts that this season they would challenge for the title as a main priority.

Their league campaign was going very well as they racked up a haul of 11 games unbeaten before they found amazing form in the Champions League scoring 12 in two games including an 8-0 mauling of Turkish side Beskitas.

They reached 14 games unbeaten before falling to Reading with Rafa putting out what many believed to be a very understrength side. This may have been because later that week the Reds had a tie against Marseille which was a must-win game and which Liverpool won 4-1 with a strong 11.

The league form since then has been mixed and has seen the Reds move in and out of fourth place with a number of teams overtaking them and catching them up.

Tonight, Liverpool face Inter Milan at the San Siro with a 2-0 lead and confident of a passage to the Quarter-finals. The question is: If Rafa's men reach the Quarter Finals will the Champions League become their main priority?

Hopefully not, as good as it would be to get to another Champions League Final, the league is not over. And Liverpool is only 10 points off the top and still has to play Arsenal and Manchester United; the Reds have a decent chance of securing the double as long as they focus on each competition equally.