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Why Reina is key to Reds’ title bid

Why Reina is key to Reds’ title bid

Oct 2 2007

by John Thompson, Liverpool Echo

PEPE REINA may be too modest to claim much credit for Liverpool’s best defensive start to a season in 30 years.

But there is no doubting he has been a pivotal figure in keeping the opposition at bay time and again this season.

The Reds may have struggled for league goals in the last three matches but it is so important that they haven’t conceded any themselves.

A clean sheet undoubtedly gave them the platform to snatch all three points at Wigan on Saturday and if there is going to be a meaningful challenge for the title then first and foremost they’ve got to be really difficult to break down.

All the best sides are – and it’s terrific to see the number of shut-outs so far thisseason.

Reina is, of course, right to give credit to the players in front of him, starting with people like Dirk Kuyt who run their socks off every week trying to ensure opponents aren’t given the time and space they need to shape and build dangerous attacks.

It’s hard graft – I know from my own days at Liverpool how important it was for the defending to start from the front – but it was and it remains a crucial responsibility for forwards as well as for midfielders and the men at the back.

Reina himself has to be given enormous credit too and for me he is now one of the mainstays of this Liverpool team.

People may have wondered how he would fare after Jerzy Dudek left but he has never let anyone down. Far from it.

He may not be getting called into action that much at times during some games, such is the good work going on in front of him.

But he always looks alert whenever called upon and he is also a great shot stopper who manages the six-yard box with presence and authority.

What I also really like about him is his distribution. He is always racing to the edge of his box after receiving the ball, looking to get it forward early and swiftly build counter attacks. If there’s an option before him he will find it – his kicking and throwing really is first class.

But if there is nothing on for him he won’t take unecessary risks and isn’t afraid to stop and start the game again in a more routine manner.

Teams now know if they are going to beat Liverpool they’ve got to take their chances.

The good news is that not many chances are coming along. And even when they do they have still got one of the very best goal keepers in Europe to beat.

Euro ambition must burn as brightly for Reds

A COUPLE of old boys are returning to Anfield tomorrow, with Djibril Cisse and Bolo Zenden back with Marseille for the Reds’ first home Champions League group game.

In these situations players often feel they have a point to prove, but that is doubly the case given Marseille have just sacked manager Albert Emon.

I have come across his replacement, Eric Gerets, before. He’s a former Belgian international who I have played against and I recall him being a very capable defender and competitor.

He’s a winner so all the Marseille lads will be wanting to impress him. They’ve made a poor start to their season in the French League but they won their home game in the Champions League against Besiktas and it’s important Liverpool beat them.

In many people’s eyes the Premier League may be the main target this season, but this in no way must underestimate the ambition in Europe, too.

It’s been the stage where Liverpool have really shone under Rafael Benitez and it would be fantastic to get to Moscow next May and have another crack at winning the famous trophy.

To do that we’ve got to get safely through these group stages. That means winning our home games, starting tomorrow.

I’m sure the atmosphere will be terrific again and Anfield will be buzzing.

There are no questions when it comes to the Premier League and the Champions League – we want to have our cake and eat it.

That’s how it should be at Liverpool.

‘Elbows’ part of the action

I SEE the use of the elbow is up for debate again after John Terry fractured his cheekbone in a challenge with Fulham’s Clint Dempsey.

I have had my share of it in the past while playing and I’ll be honest, I caught a few people, too. But mostly it is just the cut and thrust of battle that causes these collisions, not malice or intent.

If someone has had a quick look and targeted an opponent then that’s out of order.

But usually professionals are too busy going for the ball and trying to get a bit of leverage for these injuries to be anything more than accidents most of the time.


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