Manchester City manager Sven-Goran Eriksson has called on his players to end their season on a high in the light of mounting speculation that he could soon be sacked.
Reports this week claim Eriksson will be replaced by City owner Thaksin Shinawatra at the end of the season. City were even moved to cancel Eriksson’s regular press conference on Friday because of “exceptional circumstances.”
But Eriksson remains in charge for the trip to Anfield today and feels his players are fully focused on their short trip to Liverpool.
“The boys have worked very hard this week, I’m very pleased with them,” Eriksson said. “It was important that they did that in training, otherwise we would be a bit flat in the remaining games, so I hope we get the opposite of course. I’m looking for us to play some good football and to put in two good performances. We want to finish the season as well as possible and to try to put in two good performances as well, that’s important for us as professionals.”
Eriksson will be able to call on his captain Richard Dunne after he missed the 3-2 defeat to Fulham with a hamstring problem.
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez, who refused to comment on a reported bid for Aston Villa’s Gareth Barry, has defended his team’s campaign in the wake of their Champions League semi-final defeat to Chelsea.
While City sit in ninth place, once again the best the Reds can hope for is fourth place and they are well off Manchester United and Chelsea at the top.
But Benitez thinks that the level of competition in the Premier League makes that a record to be proud of.
“If you analyze it properly, to be in the top four in Europe is a massive achievement,” Benitez said. “To be in the top four in England, when you consider that the two of the best teams in Europe are Chelsea and United, it is not that bad. We always aim to win silverware here, but top four in Europe and top four in England is not what you could call a fantastic season. But clearly it is not a bad one.”
Having struggled with Liverpool’s owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, Benitez has sympathy for Eriksson and thinks the Swede has been harshly treated by Shinawatra.
“I do not know all the details, but he has done a very good job and had a good season,” Benitez said.
Benitez reported that Fernando Torres trained on Friday after being taken off against Chelsea in midweek, but the Spain international is not likely to be risked against City.
The Liverpool manager is also likely to rest defender Martin Skrtel.