Friday 23 March 2018

Babel set for leading role

Ryan Babel's tweets have been one of the few colourful aspects of Liverpool's journey to tonight's Europa League semi-final, WRITES IAN HERBERT.

From images of the inside of the Fiorentina dug-out to pictures of the dreadful pitch at Lille, they have reflected the mere part-time work the Dutchman has been engaged in.

But tonight comes, perhaps, the last major opportunity to persuade Liverpool to keep faith in him, with Babel the only remaining recognised striker if both Dirk Kuyt (calf) and David Ngog (hamstring) fail late fitness tests.

One of Babel's few memorable moments for Liverpool was the goal which proved a mere consolation in the 3-2 Champions League semi-final second leg defeat at Stamford Bridge in April 2008, but he has not developed the consistent threat he seemed to promise that night.

He offered various explanations yesterday as to why he had become such a thorn in his manager's side that Liverpool were ready to sell him to Birmingham in January. "I have a very difficult father who is always looking at points where I can improve," he said. "Sometimes that is annoying because you come off the pitch with a good feeling and he still comes with points that could be better."

The only change from Atletico's first leg side comes in the shape of the Argentine striker Sergio Aguero, whose announcement yesterday that he is ready to leave the Vincente Calderon this summer may well reawaken Chelsea's interest from January. "I have always said that to go to (Real Madrid) would be to betray the Atletico Madrid fans who have treated me so well," Aguerro said. "But if the club need the money then that (leaving) would be in the best interests of the club. There is (Real) Madrid but there are also other clubs."

"From now until June I am concentrating on games and doing my best for Atletico. At the end of the season we'll perhaps sit down with the club and decide on a course of action which best suits us both."

Liverpool v Atletico Madrid,

Live, ITV 4, FIVE, 3E 8.05

Irish Independent

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