Liverpool face European striker crisis

BURNLEY, England, April 26, 2010 (AFP) - Rafael Benitez is facing a mounting striker crisis ahead of the Europa League semi-final clash with Atletico Madrid after Dirk Kuyt limped out of Liverpool's 4-0 victory over Burnley at Turf Moor.

The Holland international had to be substituted moments into the second half with what appeared to be a calf strain.

He is rated extremely doubtful for Thursday's crucial encounter at Anfield, when Liverpool will look to overcome a 1-0 deficit against the Spaniards and keep alive their hopes of securing some silverware this season.

Liverpool 's Spanish manager Rafael Benitez gestures after the English Premier League football match between Burnley and Liverpool on April 25, 2010. AFP PHOTO

But it seems there is every chance Kuyt will be joining Fernando Torres and David Ngog on the sidelines, leaving Benitez desperately short of options in attack as he looks to make the Europa League final and catch Aston Villa and Tottenham in the on-going race to finish fourth in the Premier League.

Kuyt will undergo intensive treatment in desperate bid to be fit but Benitez said: "We will have to wait and see with him. They (medical staff) are working with him now. It's a problem in his calf but we will have to wait and see what happens."

Benitez remains convinced Liverpool can secure Champions League qualification and finish the season on a high note in the wake of the win at Burnley, which condemned Brian Laws's side to relegation from the top flight.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard scored twice with Maxi Rodriguez and Ryan Babel also on the scoresheet.

"It was a good performance. The team worked hard because Burnley made things tough for us in the first half," said Benitez.

"Burnley are fighting and were strong, but we had more time and space in the second half and it made a big difference.

"It's always good for the team when Stevie scores. He has quality and power and his performance was good for him and the team. It's important when you don't have Torres and his goals that Stevie scores them. It's good for us and hopefully it will be the same on Thursday.

"Scoring four goals away from home and keeping a clean sheet should give us more confidence. I still think we can get three points from each game and finish in the top four.

"It will be difficult but we will try. Hopefully we can finish the season with a trophy and then next year we can be even stronger."

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