Alberto Aquilani is in contention to make his long-awaited full Liverpool debut on Saturday as Rafael Benítez looks to the £20m summer signing to reinvigorate the club’s season against Manchester City.
The Italy international has played only 21 minutes for Liverpool since arriving from Roma in August, as a substitute against Birmingham City and Arsenal, because of his recovery from ankle surgery plus illness. Benítez has been careful to nurse the 25-year-old towards full fitness after several months on the sidelines but is now considering handing the midfielder a first start against Mark Hughes’s side at Anfield.
Aquilani was bought as a more offensive replacement for Xabi Alonso in the summer and, despite his delayed debut and injury problems, has been tipped to have a major impact at Anfield by his former Roma team-mate and captain Francesco Totti. “He is elegant and smart – these are his main characteristics. Potentially he is one of the best in the world,” said Totti. “He has been unlucky with injuries so far but I believe he will do really well in England. Good players prove themselves wherever they go. Alberto will adapt to any type of football. He really is a complete midfielder.”
Roma’s all-time leading goalscorer added: “Alberto can play in any position in the middle of the park really, either a bit forward or a few steps behind. The advantage he has is that he really understands the game and has great vision – he is dynamic and can make the last pass or try to score himself. Here at Roma, with our 4-2-3-1 strategy, he was playing in front of the defence next to Daniele De Rossi or David Pizarro but also as an attacking midfielder just off me. I think he can do very well in a 4-4-2 too.” (The Guardian)
Finally it looks like Aquilani will make his firs start for the Reds and not a moment too soon. It’s a massive game on Saturday against Manchester City and Liverpool need as strong a squad available as possible.
Mark Hughes men may be specialising in draws at the moment but they are a dangerous outfit. Winning the midfield battle will be the key to determining the victors and the inclusion of Aquilani could edge it the Reds’ way.
In his brief appearance against Arsenal in the Carling Cup he looked the business, showing some lovely touches. There was also a glimpse into his long-range passing ability that seemed reminiscent of certain departed Spaniard.
Rafa will be keen to get him some valuable game time especially before the relentless Christmas period gets into full swing and Anfield on saturday might be the perfect opportunity.