Liverpool’s 2009-10 Champions League campaign kicks off tomorrow night with, what should at least on paper be, their easiest Group stage game when Debrecen of Hungary come to Anfield.
For last year’s Hungarian champions, it will be a night to savour as their players rub shoulders against some of Europe’s, if not the world’s, top players at one of European football’s greatest citadels.
Debrecen represent one of the weakest opponents Liverpool have faced in this competition in recent years.
But Rafa was quick to point out when the draw was made that he expects no easy games and as always, all due respect will be given to every opponent that comes to Anfield.
Although it will be expected that Liverpool will safely secure the three points from the tie, has this particular fixture come at the wrong time for some of the Reds’ Champions League squad?
The younger players in the squad may well have seen this match as one where they might have been able to get a start or at least a substitute appearance. The likes of Kelly, Spearing and Ngog would have pencilled in this match in particular where they may have felt they had a good chance of seeing some action.
However, as fate would have it, their aspirations may have been dashed by the powers that be, having allocating this particular match as Liverpool’s opener.
Had this fixture come around a little later in the competition with points already on the board or qualification all but assured, Rafa may have fulfilled the aspirations of the youngsters with a significant amount of playing time for them.
But Liverpool really need to get off to a flier. And with the home tie against Debrecen being the banker for both Fiorentina and Lyon also, nothing short of an emphatic victory will be expected tonight.
And rightfully so, as the Reds will want to throw down the gauntlet and put the minnows of the group to the sword.
In light of this, it is unlikely that Benitez will select anything less than his strongest possible team tonight. Although, as has been evident in the past you can never tell with Rafa and any attempts to second guess him have, more often than not, proved futile.
But what Rafa needs to do, is send out his first team with instructions to go for the jugular from the kick off, thereby killing off the game as soon as possible. Then with the points in the bag, throw on the youngsters and allow them to live a little of the Champions League hopes they have been dreaming of too.