Thursday, March 11, 2010

Big Sam To Rafael Benitez: I'm Under Your Skin, I Don't Like You And You've Blown Liverpool's Chances Of Reaching The Champions League

Just when you thought it was safe to go back out on the pitch. Big Sam and Rafa are at it again. Fresh from Benitez's Barcelona jibes, Big Sam has hit back by claiming he has got under Rafa's skin, that he doesn't like him, and that the Liverpool manager has blown his clubs chances of reaching the Champions League.

This round of their constant belittling of each other started on the eve of Blackburn's trip to Liverpool where Sam Allardyce claimed that Rafa had turned Liverpool into a modern day version of Bolton.

An unhappy Benitez decided to bite his tongue on that occasion, but hit back in the press conference following the Reds 2-1 win over Rovers...

An angry Rafa said: "We can win on the pitch but some people have to talk before and after the game because they find it difficult to do a football job. I am sure he is a model for football all around the world. I am sure Barcelona are thinking about copying their style of football," amongst other things, but that was his most damning comment.

It appeared to be the final say on the matter, this season, but following Liverpool's shock 1-0 loss to Wigan at the DW Stadium, Big Sam has returned with a few choice words of his own.

"It was a good cover-up by Rafa (jeering Blackburn's style of play) because he knows how bad his side were and that was repeated against Wigan on Monday night.

"He's got personal with it for many, many years now.

"That's why I don't like him and the feeling is probably mutual.

"I don't get personal with him; I get into him and under his skin, yes, but that's all part of the game.

"The tit for tat between me and Rafa will probably go on until one of us is no longer a Premier League manager. I've managed to psyche out one or two here and there and that's how the Premiership has evolved over the last 20 years. But no, Pep Guardiola has not been in touch yet!"

He went on: "The last time one of the big four didn't finish in the top four it was Liverpool - Everton got that spot - and I think this time it looks pretty difficult having lost against Wigan.

"They are having to rely on other teams slipping up now. They have a wealth of experience and that may be a telling factor when the nerve ends start jangling. We saw what happened to Tottenham a few years ago with the famous 'poisoned lasagne' scenario - and they let it slip.

"But I think it might be more difficult for Liverpool this time around because there are more teams involved. There's Manchester City, Aston Villa and Tottenham in there and if Everton keep rolling on you might be surprised to see them making a late run."

Allardyce insists that Liverpool's losses to Wigan and Lille prove that he has won the psychological battle. He said: "You do it to try to get your team in a position to get a result. Personal criticism is not the road I go down, and I don't personally criticise Rafa Benitez but I clearly get under his skin and that can be a benefit to my side when we play them."

With the two of these guys going at it hammer and tongs you could almost believe they were rival boxers rather than managers of football teams.

Pity they won't meet again until next year...