Benitez ponders Aquilani inclusion

Aquilani finally made his first Premier League start in Liverpool’s

2-0 victory over Wolves on Boxing Day but the Reds’ £20million

summer signing was withdrawn late on with a hamstring problem. He

has struggled with fitness and injury all season so far and Benitez

is wary of rushing in a player that has at times looked lightweight

during his opening months at Anfield. Benitez said: “Aquilani did

well against Wolves, but he needs match fitness. He was trying to

be involved, passing and creating chances, but the Premier League

is difficult and he will settle down little by little. “It is a

difficult decision with the Villa game coming so quickly. Some of

our players were very tired after the Wolves match, while some had

little injuries. We will need to assess them all. “We will have to

manage them carefully but clearly if Javier Mascherano is not

available for the next three games through suspension, then

Aquilani will obviously have more chance of time on the pitch. “But

against Wolves he was worried about his hamstring, he was concerned

and I wanted to protect him. That is why we took him off.” Benitez

would prefer to utilise two holding midfield men in what promises

to be a tough match against Villa. Lucas was troubled by a stomach

upset ahead of the Wolves match and Liverpool looked weak in

midfield at times. Benitez could solve that problem by playing

Steven Gerrard in a deeper role. The Spaniard said: “Maybe we would

normally have two holding players for such a game, but we have

options. Gerrard can play in that role, we will see. “Lucas was

tiring against Wolves, he was not well, but now we must see how he

recovers and whether he can have more energy now. It all depends on

how the players feel and react after the Wolves game.”