Pool a match for best as Benitez way bears fruit

RAFAEL BENITEZ believes Liverpool are slowly beginning to fulfil the potential he saw at the club when he took over just nine months ago.

The hugely impressive Champions League victory over Juventus, one of Europe’s finest sides, reinforced the Spaniard’s belief his patched-up, injury-ravaged squad are starting to reach the standards he demands.

The 2-1 victory over Juve, who had conceded just two goals in eight previous Champions League games this season, reminded Europe of the Liverpool they thought had been consigned to history.

Benitez’s challenge now is to inspire such performances consistently, starting on Saturday at Manchester City in a Premiership clash which is crucial to qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

Winning this season’s tournament is still unlikely as they face a daunting second leg in Turin next Wednesday, but Benitez can see the improvement at Anfield regardless of what happens at the Stadio Delle Alpi.

He said: “We have just beaten one of the best teams in the world, of course I am happy with the way we played.

“We have played like this against Arsenal, Deportivo (La Coruna), Olympiakos and now Juventus. It is showing we can play at this level more and more, but I would still like us to produce such a high level for 90 minutes, not 45 or 60.

“We can beat anyone in Europe. If we can beat a side like Juventus then anything is possible because they are one of the very, very best clubs. We talk of how we beat Olympiakos and Arsenal playing in this high tempo way, then we know we can do it against anyone.

“This will give us confidence that we can do the same in the Premier League, that we can beat anyone. I hope that is the case,” he said.

Benitez could have Jerzy Dudek, Fernando Morientes and Mauricio Pellegrino available for the trip to Eastlands.

Liverpool have won three important games in 17 days, beating Everton, Bolton and now Juventus to put themselves in high confidence for the clash against Stuart Pearce’s side.

Benitez added: “We are also closer to Everton now and we must continue in the same way playing with this high tempo and with the same mentality.

“We have produced a good Champions League tournament, the question is if you don’t win the trophy people keep reminding you of when the club were able to do that. I understand, but I look at what has been achieved this season and I am happy with the progress. I can only say we will try with everything we have to give this club a good position in Europe again.

“We are more consistent now than earlier in the season, but you saw even in this match two different levels. Now we have time for the players to recover for Saturday, maybe we will use some different players, but I hope we will approach the Manchester City game with the attitude as we played Juventus.

If Liverpool’s Champions League adventure does end in Turin, the club have still established themselves at the highest level this season. Wins over last season’s finalists Monaco, Bayer Leverkusen twice, Olympiakos, Deportivo and now Juventus have illustrated Benitez’s clever tactics, which have at times been missing in domestic competition.

Scott Carson’s mistake allowed Fabio Cannavaro to grab a crucial away goal to get Juve back in the game at Anfield on Tuesday night after Sami Hyypia and Luis Garcia scored for the hosts.

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