Lyon's Cris downplays Liverpool injury problems

LYON, France, Nov 3, 2009 (AFP) - Lyon captain Cris downplayed Liverpool's injury crisis prior to their Champions League meeting on Wednesday, which could send the French side into the next round and the five-time champions out.

Liverpool trail Lyon by six points in Group E and will be on the brink of elimination from the competition if they lose at Stade Gerland and Fiorentina defeat Hungarian outsiders Debrecen in Tuscany.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez gestures before kick off against Fulham during a Premier League match at Craven Cottage in London, on October 31, 2009 (AFP photo)

The English giants crashed to their fifth league defeat in 11 matches when they went down 3-1 at Fulham on Saturday and they could be without up to 12 players through injury against Lyon.

Talismanic captain Steven Gerrard has already been ruled out with a groin injury and Spanish international striker Fernando Torres is short of full fitness.

Cris, however, says his side cannot afford to pay attention to the speculation concerning the kind of team that Reds coach Rafael Benitez will be able to send out.

"Liverpool will give everything to stay alive in the Champions League, whether it's with Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres or without them," said Cris, who inherited the captain's armband after former skipper Sidney Govou was punished for an unauthorised night out.

"We're playing on our home pitch against an experienced team that will be motivated. They're a team used to qualifying and they still can, even if they've started the season badly."

A draw will send Lyon through to the knockout phase and Cris is well aware that Lyon have not qualified for the next round with such ease since the Gerard Houllier era between 2005 and 2007, when they twice made the quarter-finals.

"At that time the team was already established whereas today it's still developing," said the 32-year-old Brazilian centre-back.

"It's very different. The first objective is qualification. Then we'll be able to go after first place."

Houllier's time at Lyon coincided with a revival in the European fortunes of his previous club, with Benitez leading Liverpool to a memorable victory on penalties over AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final and a defeat to the same opponents in the 2007 final.

The Spaniard was heralded for returning Liverpool to the top table of European football after decades of under-achievement but he has come under pressure after a seriously underwhelming start to the current campaign.

"These are tough times and it hurts a lot," said centre-back Jamie Carragher, sent off alongside team-mate Philipp Degen in the defeat at Fulham.

"This is un-Liverpool like. But it is not just the fans who are disappointed, it is the players, the staff and the manager.

"We have got to get back on track with Lyon, which is another massive game."

Benitez hopes that 20 million-pound summer signing Alberto Aquilani will be available after overcoming a virus, while defenders Daniel Agger, Glen Johnson, Fabio Aurelio and striker David Ngog will undergo late fitness tests.

"Agger is improving - he will travel and we will then decide. He felt something in his back but it's much better now. We have to wait and see how he reacts," said Benitez.

"Fabio is improving but he still has a small problem in his calf, so we will have to wait. Ngog is much better, so he could be available.

"Johnson is training and working with the physios but he is a doubt at this moment. He will travel to Lyon and we will see."

Lyon's injury picture is far less troublesome, although defender Anthony Reveilleire is a doubt after picking up a calf injury prior to kick-off against Saint-Etienne.

Central defenders Mathieu Bodmer and Jean-Alain Boumsong are both also absent due to injury.

Source: AFP

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