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benitez 's speech to the team ... [ENGLISH version] 'We have nothing to lose,' I said. 'If we can relax, we can get a...
benitez's speech to the team ... [ENGLISH version]
'We have nothing to lose,' I said. 'If we can relax, we can get a goal. And if we get the first goal, we can come back into the game. We have to fight. We owe something to the supporters. Don't let your heads drop. We are Liverpool. You are playing for Liverpool. Don't forget that. You have to hold your heads high for the supporters. You cannot call yourselves Liverpool players with your heads down. We have worked so hard to be here, beaten so many good teams. Fight for forty-five minutes. If we score, we are in it. If you believe we can do it, we can do it.
'Give yourselves the chance to be heroes.'
I explained the changes we would make tactically. Carra on the left, Hyypia in the middle, Finnan on the right. Hamann and Xabi Alonso would sit in front of them. We would have to be narrow, compact, and try to push the line higher. That would allow Milan to play longer passes, so I warned the defenders to watch for balls over the top.
As I finished speaking, Dave Galley, the physio, pulled me aside. He had been working on Steve Finnan on one of the massage tables while I had been talking.
'He won't last forty-five minutes,' he said.
We had already made one substitution, Vladimir Smicer replacing the injured Harry Kewell midway through the first half, and we could not risk playing for the rest of the game, in that heat, with just one change to make.
We only had two minutes left before the players would have to go back out, but without Finnan, we had a problem on the righthand side. Even now, though, I knew I could not afford to be nervous. You cannot focus when you are nervous. You cannot keep a clear head.
I had just a second to pause for thought, to change our plans. I called Djimi back. He had his boots off, on his way to the shower. Now he would go out for the second half. Finnan would have to come off. You could see in his eyes that he wanted to kill Dave. Carra would have to switch to the right, with Traore on the left.
Smicer, not a natural winger, would have to play wide on the right in the second half, though eventually Steven Gerrard would replace him there.
'The fans are with us,' I said, as the players started to move towards the door. I do not know if they could hear them singing, 50,000 people bellowing out Liverpool's anthem, 'You'll Never Walk Alone', despite the pain of that first half.
During a game, I am so intensely focused that I cannot even pick out my own family in the crowd. You block everything out. You see only the players, the match. But we all knew how many supporters had made the journey. We had all seen the swathes of Liverpool red in the stands. We knew how long the trip had been, and we knew that we had to fight for them. 'They are behind us.'
The players had endured probably the worst forty-five minutes of their careers. From the first kick, everything had gone wrong. They had one chance to put it right. This was a situation none of us would have dared to imagine. It was not supposed to be like this. All of our hopes rested on the players believing that we had a plan, trusting us to turn things around.
They stood up and started to filter towards the door, towards the tunnel, towards the pitch. Towards history.