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Brown fired - Rafa next?

RAFA BENITEZ must have felt a bit queasy when he heard the news that Phil Brown has parted company with Hull City.

Cracks are showing at Anfield and his head is on the block against Portsmouth tonight. Brown was sent on “gardening leave” with a pat on the back from the Hull Board and the club is now looking for a replacement.

“Promotion to the Premier League in 2008 and retention of our status on the last day of the 2009 season are unique events in the history of Hull City AFC and both were achieved under Phil's stewardship during a period which will never be forgotten by all connected with the club.

“However, retention of Premier League status is paramount and the board believes that a change in managerial direction is the correct option at this time.”

For Benitez, the sight of any Premier League manager losing his job simply adds to the pressure he's been under, now increased considerably by comments from Fernando Torres about Liverpool's current weakness.

“Fernando's only thought is to be challenging for honours, it's all that concerns him. He wants to be playing in the Champions League,” said Benitez.

“Finishing fourth in the Premier League would mean a lot to Fernando. His main motivation is winning trophies. That is what drives him. That is always the main topic in any discussion between us.”

Amid widespread but so far unfounded rumours about new investment possibilities opening up at Anfield, Benitez has been trying desperately to keep pace with Spurs and Manchester City for the final Champions League slot and keep his big names happy.

“If we don't win people will be more nervous. There will be more pressure,” said Benitez, a comment that will surely win a prize in the understatement of the year category.

Even bottom huggers Portsmouth are sensing blood in the water and Republic of Ireland defender Marc Wilson believes that his financially battered and bruised club can pile on the agony for Benitez at Anfield.

“I don't think the lads mind where they go at the minute,” he said. “Liverpool are definitely beatable, I have seen Portsmouth beat them in the past as well.

“What is most important is we've got to go there and put pressure on them from the word go. Liverpool are having a bit of a hard time. I watched them play against Wigan and I don't think they are playing the best football, but on their day they are as good as anyone,” he added.