While Setanta US is screening Arsenal’s visit to Sevilla (with ESPN 2 showing Man United at Sporting Lisbon), tomorrow night’s clash between Porto and Liverpool might hold the key to Rafa Benítez’ future at Anfield. Having successfully pissed off ownership with a sarcastic performance for the media last Thursday, Benítez is now reduced to something Ron Washington will hopefully never experience — having to apologize to Tom Hicks. From the Guardian’s Andy Hunter.

(image taken from The Red Half)

The Liverpool manager let it be known through “close sources” yesterday that he is prepared to offer an olive branch to George Gillett and Tom Hicks, having risked his future at a club he undoubtedly cherishes by raging against their transfer restrictions and lack of faith this past week. Yet the Americans believed that would be the case last Friday, 24 hours after Benítez first brought their dispute into the public domain, and the following afternoon at Newcastle he courted the sack by stirring the nest once more. A contrite message today will confirm the manager’s belief that he has a future, plus a belated understanding that he has picked the wrong fight, although the final judgment call is not his to make.

The Liverpool manager’s “bigger picture” differs to the business model of Gillett and Hicks and understandably so, but to be denied access to Bosman transfers illustrates the lack of confidence in Benítez. For a proud man responsible for winning the European Cup with a mediocre squad in 2005, who almost claimed a second last season and has also lifted the FA Cup, Uefa Cup and two Spanish league titles, this is nothing less than an insult.

Liverpool remain unbeaten in the Premier League and while progress has at times been painfully slow, it is there. Benítez has made mistakes in the market, too, but, fortunately for his owners they have been quickly shipped out of a squad whose overall value has risen significantly with the Spaniard in charge. Both sides now have a duty to find some common ground before it really is too late.