Saturday, February 27, 2010

Blackburn's Big Sam Taunts Liverpool and Rafael Benitez -You're The New Bolton!

Never a pair to let sleeping dogs lie, Big Sam Allardyce has moved to provoke Rafael Benitez and Liverpool fans everywhere, by claiming that the Spaniard has destroyed the club and has turned them into a modern version of Bolton!

The duo have endured a rivalry that began in 2004 when Bolton beat Liverpool 1-0, the result stirred Benitez to launch a scathing attack on the Lancashire club and their manager for the physical tactics employed during the game. Of course Big Sam reciprocated, and the duo have taken every chance to wind each other up since.

Last season Rafa drew the ire of Big Sam after the Blackburn boss read his counterparts body language as being extremely disrespectful.

Liverpool had taken an early two goal lead through Xabi Alonso when the Liverpool manager walked from the dug out with his arms in a gesture of finality. Big Sam read the hand gesture as Rafa saying the game was all but over. However, Benitez then countered by saying that his gesture was aimed at Alonso, who had refused to follow his managers orders prior to scoring.

Either way it was a storm in a tea cup as both managers looked to get one over on each other.

The two main protagonists meet again today when Blackburn travel to Anfield, and Big Sam has moved quickest this time, by claiming Liverpool under Benitez are just like the Bolton team he used to criticise.

Allardyce said: ‘He’s used all that stuff that he always says he doesn’t like — it’s ironic, isn’t it?

‘I watched them at Manchester City and they got six players booked, so he’s brought the physical side out as well.

‘If it’s a good physical challenge on Sunday then I’ll be more than happy to go down that route — although I don’t really have the players to do that like I did at Bolton.

'But they’ve had to go back to basics and the pretty stuff goes out of the window until you start winning. They have been professional and dogged enough to slowly improve over recent weeks.

‘They have not been as pretty and fluid as they could be but they have done the job and got the results they needed to get back in the pack.’

Allardyce also sensationally revealed that, at the height of the pair’s dispute, he discovered that Rafael Benitez had gone to referees’ chief Keith Hackett with video evidence against Bolton.

Such was the Liverpool manager's dislike of Bolton and Sam Allardyce, he actually compiled a DVD of all of their fouls and tactics and then distributed the recordings to the top referee in the country.

Why Benitez would take such a route is unknown, but it does come across as being extremely childish. Was it an effort to influence referees decisions against Bolton?

Allardyce thought so before adding: ‘He went as far as putting a DVD together and sending it to Keith Hackett. He doesn’t know I know that, but I do. I got on to Keith Hackett and told him I didn’t want it to influence what refs do because it was all a load of rubbish.’

This match between the pair is an important one. Liverpool are currently embroiled in a four way battle for fourth. With only one point separating four teams, Spurs, Manchester City, Liverpool, and Aston Villa.

Losing ground at this stage of the race would be tantamount to disaster and the Reds will go into this game needing to collect all three points.

Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun are returning to fitness but should find themselves on the bench, meaning that Liverpool will employ the same stifling tactics that have seen them only lose once in the league since Christmas.

Blackburn, for their part, are on a similar run to the Reds having only lost twice since Christmas and they have begun to pull away from the drop zone that threatened to engulf them.

11 points off the relegation zone and 11 points off Europe mean that Big Sam's team should finish in mid-table respectability.

They will not be easy for Liverpool to break down, especially in their current state, but the difference should be seen when Rafa springs his aces from the bench.

A tight affair that Liverpool should just nudge, but as ever, all eyes will be on the two managers.

John Terry and Wayne Bridge, who?