Evans unwilling to count his chickens

 

ROY EVANS would probably have made a reasonable politician, so accomplished is he in the use of conciliatory tones and the words of diplomacy.

Like any manager worth his inflated salary, Evans - when the mood takes him - can make even the thinnest of plots appear Hitchcockesque in its potential. Those who stood at the foot of the Swiss Alps a fortnight ago and watched, enraptured, as Evans' men overran FC Sion will, quite naturally, regard as inevitable Liverpool's progress through into the later stage of this season's Cup Winners' Cup.

Already clutching a 2-1 advantage, Liverpool should canter forwards into next March's quarter finals at Anfield tonight. And yet Evans was more concerned with pitfalls than with plaudits yesterday. "I certainly do not regard this tie as being already won," he said. "Sion showed in the first game that they are not only capable of attacking but capable of scoring.

"Although I felt we handled them well in Switzerland, we didn't do enough to put it beyond their reach," he added. Just as for MyPa 47 in the competition's previous round, Anfield will be bursting at the seams this evening, a testimony to Merseyside's long and passionate love affair with European club football.

"It really is phenomenal," said Evans, "the bonus from a purely footballing perspective is that there will be a genuinely intimidating atmosphere inside the stadium.

"Whilst no manager can ever guarantee his team will definitely perform to its potential at any given moment, a full house certainly helps, because it's rather difficult to be complacent when there are 40,000 people shouting themselves hoarse," he added.

In truth, Sion come more in hope than in expectation, any initial sense of optimism surely dampened by Evans's assertion than his team can - and will - play with considerably more style in the weeks ahead.

"Yes, we can play better and we can be more exciting to watch on occasions," he said. "It's difficult to say just how much better, but I am always looking for an improvement."

Much to the disappointment of three impatient England internationals, Liverpool's team will almost pick itself tonight. With no fresh injury problems, Neil Ruddock, Mark Wright and Jamie Redknapp will watch from the sidelines.