Thursday, 29 January 2009

No retreat in Rafa's "crazy" world

Sir Alex Ferguson once famously declared that the Premier League title race reaches "squeeky bum time" about March but for his new adversary down the East Lancs Road it would appear paranoia has already set in.

The wily Scot coined his now well-worn maxim back in 2003 when Arsene Wenger's Arsenal dared to challenge Ferguson en route to collecting his eighth domestic crown.

And it would appear the cracks are beginning to show on Rafael Benitez, who complained about things "you cannot control" after his Liverpool side were held 1-1 by Wigan on Wednesday.

Liverpool were seven points clear of new leaders Manchester United at the beginning of January when Benitez launched a bizarre tirade against Ferguson that ranged from his supposed influence with referees to the FA lenience towards the Old Trafford club.

The Merseysiders have managed three draws in succession since Benitez imploded and have since been eased out to 10/1 in the latest football odds to win their first league title since 1990.

United, by contrast, have won four on the spin, scored 10 goals and conceded none to see their betting odds for their 11th crown come in as short as 4/9.

You do the math.

Conjecture about the future of striker Robbie Keane - and the decision to buy him in the first place - and complications surrounding Benitez's contract situation, confusion about the club's ownership, as well as the decision to take off star men Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres against Wigan, has led to raised eyebrows among match-going Liverpool supporters.

And if the Spaniard was hoping to draw breath then he has the small matter of the visit of Chelsea to contend with on Sunday.

The correct score of 0-0 at about 8/1 could be the way forward here in what, on paper at least, looks an even contest, although hardened Kopites seeking a morale-boosting 1-0 home win may find 7/1 of more interest.

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