Marseille v Liverpool preview
Reds meet old rivals at Stade Velodrome
Last Updated: 16/09/08 6:54pm
Benitez: Happier times
What a difference a season makes for Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez as he prepares his side for Tuesday's UEFA Champions League opener with Marseille.
Last term, Liverpool travelled to the Stade Velodrome requiring a win in their final game of the group stages to progress to the last 16 and Benitez was clinging to his managerial hot-seat.
The Spaniard had experienced a disagreement with Liverpool co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks and it was thought certain that he would be sacked if Liverpool failed to record the win they required in the south of France.
Luckily for Benitez his side produced an impressive 4-0 victory and went on to reach the final four of Europe's most prestigious club competition.
This season there is no such pressure on Benitez, despite scraping through qualifying for the competition, as his Merseyside outfit begin their Group D campaign in high spirits after a first Premier League win over bitter domestic rivals Manchester United since 2004.
Benitez is also expected to be buoyed by the return captain Steven Gerrard and star striker Fernando Torres to his starting line-up.
Gerrard (groin surgery) came on for the final 22 minutes against United at the weekend, while Torres (hamstring) remained on the substitutes' bench, but the pair - who both scored in the trip to Marseille last season - are expected to start.
Left-back Fabio Aurelio has a calf problem and has not travelled, which is likely to mean a return to the starting line-up for Andrea Dossena, while winger Ryan Babel could also feature from kick-off after a match-winning substitute appearance against United.
Javier Mascherano is fit, despite hobbling off with cramp on Saturday, while centre-back Sami Hyypia has not been named in Benitez's 25-man European squad and that could see Daniel Agger, who is keen to secure a new contract, replace Martin Skrtel.
Marseille will be eager to avenge last term's home hammering, which cost Erik Gerets' men a place in the knock-out stages, and will be hoping for positive performances from the likes of midfielder Mathieu Valbuena and striker Mamadou Niang.
Valbuena scored the goal which stunned Anfield in Marseille's 1-0 away victory last season, while Niang is confident the Reds can again be beaten.
Benoit Cheyrou, brother of former Liverpool player Bruno, is also likely to be included in Gerets' first XI, while another ex-Red, Boudewijn Zenden, could be on the bench.
UEFA Champions League
Tue 16th Sep - Group B
Panathinaikos0 - 2Inter
W Bremen0 - 0Anorthosis Fama
Tue 16th Sep - Group D
PSV0 - 3A Madrid
Marseille1 - 2Liverpool
Tue 16th Sep - Group A
Roma1 - 2Cluj
Chelsea4 - 0Bordeaux
Tue 16th Sep - Group C
Barcelona3 - 1Sporting
Basel1 - 2Shak Donetsk
UEFA Champions League Group A
UEFA Champions League Group B
UEFA Champions League Group C
|1||Zenit St. Petersburg||1||3|
UEFA Champions League Group D
UEFA Champions League Group E
UEFA Champions League Group F
|2||Paris St Germain||1||1|
UEFA Champions League Group G
UEFA Champions League Group H