Rafael Benitez’s patience is being tested as he struggles to work out the baffling nature of the injury which has kept Harry Kewell out of Liverpool’s Champions League match at Bayer Leverkusen tomorrow.
Kewell limped off in the Carling Cup final 10 days ago and was not fit for Saturday’s Barclays Premiership defeat at Newcastle. But Benitez was initially building his plans for this Champions League last-16 second leg around the prospect of the winger being fit to play.
Instead, the 26-year-old Australia international was a late withdrawal - leaving Benitez with a threadbare strike force and only Milan Baros of his recognised strikers fit.
Kewell has struggled with groin, ankle and Achilles injuries of late – but it is felt by some within Anfield that he could play through the pain barrier.
Benitez, for one, does not appear entirely sure about what is going on.
“One day Harry is okay, and the next he says he is unfit,” said the manager.
“We will talk with the doctor and try and look at his situation. We don’t know exactly what the problem is. It changes each day.
“One day he says it’s the groin; then it’s the ankle. Another day he says he can play. We need to find the solution to this.”
Benitez is more fortunate to have both goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek and midfielder Dietmar Hamann ready and willing to play in the BayArena as Liverpool try to protect a 3-1 lead to reach the quarter-finals.
Dudek had 10 stitches in a gashed shin following the Carling Cup final and missed Saturday’s game – allowing Scott Carson to make his debut.
But despite the fact the Poland stopper has been at the centre of criticism about his form, he has told Benitez he wants to play.
Hamann has been troubled by an ankle injury but has declared himself fit to play for his club in his homeland.
“Jerzy and Didi will be fit. Only Kewell will not play,” Benitez confirmed.
The Kewell situation could soon reach a head, following recent comments about his medical treatment from his agent as well as Australia boss Frank Farina.
Benitez informed his advisers recently that it is Liverpool who pay Kewell’s wages and they do not like interference in his treatment from outside the club.
Kewell, who returned to the side in Cardiff against Chelsea but failed to complete the match, insists he will be back playing soon.
“We are working together to see the right people and hopefully I’ll be on the pitch soon,” Kewell told Sky Sports News.