When Rafa Benitez sent out his charges to face Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League last week, little did he know that the game was to be an historic and monumental occasion. Those fortunate enough to bear witness to the way his vultures picked away at the carcass of Madrid's European campaign can safely say without question that this was Benitez's finest hour—and arguably the team's finest performance.
The 4-0 drubbing issued by the Merseysiders to their Spanish counterparts was testimony to the work carried out behind the scenes of this hugely famous club; Benitez, Lee, and Pellegrino continue to build on previous European campaigns.
In England, however, the consistent tactical genius of this humble and articulate man is too often overlooked by the British press, who all too often prefer to prey on some of the deficiencies that Liverpool has demonstrated in the Premier League.
Ten draws (the majority of them being at home) are clearly not title-winning material, but put them with the 4-1 drubbing of Manchester United at Old Trafford last weekend (barely four days after the humiliation of Real Madrid) and the fact that United and Chelsea both lost yesterday, and all of a sudden the Press are back onside.
Now it's a case of "Rafa's Reds up for the Fight" and "Reds Back in Title Hunt" as opposed to "Rafa's Rant" and "Rafa Loses the Plot."
With Liverpool facing an Aston Villa side on the wane today at Anfield, the chance is there for the Reds to really put pressure on Manchester United (who themselves seem to be imploding, with both Paul Scholes and Wayne Rooney both sent for an early bath against Fulham yesterday).
Rafa Benitez now finds himself chasing a League and Champions League "double." It's a far cry from just a few weeks ago, when the pen-pushers of England's finest tabloids had United as odds-on favourites for a quintuple.
For the first time since the Champions League Final of 2005, Benitez seems to court the favour of our "journos."
Should Liverpool beat Aston Villa at a packed Anfield today, then the headline writers may just have to focus on someone else for a change.
As far as weeks go, "monumental" doesn't do Rafa's Reds justice...