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Rafa still hoping against hope for a Liverpool title triumph

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has been the subject of intense speculation for weeks and it appears that he is unable to stem the tide of apprehension over his future at Anfield. Yet it is remarkable that the Spaniard who led Valencia to a Spanish league and UEFA Cup double in 2004 and Liverpool to an unlikely UEFA Champions League triumph in 2005 is still clinging to the coat tails of a rapidly fading hope.

Liverpool could only draw 1-1 at home with relegation candidates Wigan Athletic in the Premier League on Wednesday and have now slipped an immense 12 points behind leaders Arsenal. The Reds also lost fourth spot to Manchester City, yet Rafa is adamant that the league title is not out of their hands and says they can still catch up with the leaders. Benitez says:

”It’s clear the gap is bigger but I’ve said before that it’s a long race and you need to keep thinking about one game at a time if you can. If you think about the difference, you will only play with more pressure. It’s a difficult position but especially when you know you’re creating chances in all of the games and you can’t score the second goal and kill the game. It’s a problem. It is clear that the gap for us now at the top is bigger, but I keep saying we must concentrate on one game and not look at the table and make ourselves nervous.”

Liverpool do have a game in hand but it is always better to have points in the bag. They have 38 from 20 matches and although their away record is the third best in the league with six victories and just one defeat out of 10 matches, it is their poor form at home that has let them down. They have won just five of the 10 Premier League matches played at Anfield so far.

It would indeed be tough for Liverpool to rekindle their title hopes. Assuming that they do win their game in hand, the Merseysiders will still be nine points behind league leaders Arsenal and it would take a dramatic withering in form by the rampant Gunners and consistent Manchester United to drive Liverpool up the table.

Under the current circumstances, things do look bleak for Rafa’s men. Now that Manchester City are enjoying the injection of cash and playing well under Sven-Goran Eriksson, Liverpool may even have to fight for the prized fourth position with City towards the tail-end of the season. The major fraction of Liverpool fans still want Rafa to be at the helm at Anfield but the club’s American co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks might have a different idea.

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