Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and perhaps Rafa Benitez may well wish he could turn back time and say and do things a bit differently during the past month. Ever since his no-holds barred criticism of Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, things have turned sour for Benitez and his Liverpool side.
A dignified silence and focus following the taunts from his rival would perhaps have been better served. A late penalty equaliser from the Wigan debutant Mido on Wednesday night made it seven draws in 10 games for the Reds, a run that has seen them slip to third in the Premier League. Benitez blamed a "crazy" second half for his side's failure to win, but could not explain what was particularly maddening, the performance of his players or the Latics reluctance to give up.
Critics say the Spaniard is cracking up, feeling the strain in the club's challenge for the title, his unresolved contract issue, his treatment of players, like Robbie Keane, and a lack of transfer funds as Liverpool's ownership saga continues. Whatever the reasons, Benitez has to get things right for Sunday's home showdown with Chelsea, whose victory over Middlesbrough moved them second on goal difference.
A Liverpool win would revive hope and restore some faith in the manager's ability to lead the club to more success. Yossi Benayoun was their scorer at the JJB Stadium and he remains convinced they can get back to winning ways. "I'm sure that we will turn things around and start winning games soon," he said. "We definitely have the quality to do that. We have big players like Stevie [Gerrard], like Carra (Carragher) and like [Fernando] Torres and I am sure that we will turn things around because we have the quality to do so.
"Chelsea is a very important game for us and we have to start winning if we want to have a chance of winning the league." After Salomon Kalou's double proved enough against Boro, Chelsea will relish the trip to Anfield, but Ray Wilkins, the assistant coach, warned against complacency. "They are packed full of world-class footballers so they won't be cracking up," he said. "The Premier League is strong and you can never say it's over. Every team is going to have bad moments. We have had our bad moment, Liverpool are having theirs now, maybe it will be Manchester United's turn soon.
"Liverpool came to Stamford Bridge and ended our unbeaten record. We have the possibility on Sunday to go there and put the record straight. We know we can do that." The midfielder Michael Ballack added: "We have missed a bit against the big teams this season; we haven't played well or picked up enough points. We have to change it if we want to challenge and be champions." firstname.lastname@example.org