Gerrard gives the thumbs-up to Benitez’s summer spending spree

SKIPPER Steven Gerrard is confident Rafael Benitez’s summer spending spree will see Liverpool mount a concerted title challenge this season.

Backed by the funds of new owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, Benitez has spent a considerable amount of money in bringing Spain striker Fernando Torres, Dutch starlet Ryan Babel and West Ham midfielder Yossi Benayoun to Anfield over the summer in a bid to bridge the gap to Manchester United and Chelsea.

The Reds have trailed the Premier League’s top two by some distance in the previous two campaigns and, while Gerrard was not naive enough to predict the Merseyside club would end their 18-year wait for England’s top prize by the end of the season, the 27-year-old does not expect a repeat of the last campaign when they finished 21 points behind champions United.

“I’m really pleased with the standard of players the manager has brought in,” said Gerrard. “I think he has brought in quality players, big name players who can help. I think it would be stupid of me to sit here and make promises to the supporters that we’re going to do this and we’re going to do that, but what I can say is we’ll have a right good go and work hard.

“We don’t feel as if we’re too far away from the other big clubs in the league and we feel, if the current players dig in a bit and work a bit harder, we can get involved in the title race. Playing for Liverpool Football Club, it’s all about winning trophies and this summer’s no different.”

Liverpool’s new signings will be in action when they face Hong Kong side South China tonight as the Barclays Asia Trophy gets underway and Torres in particular will be crucial to Liverpool’s title aspirations for the coming season.

The 23-year-old arrives from Atletico Madrid with a big reputation and will need to adapt to the more physical nature of the Premier League better than compatriot Fernando Morientes did during his ill-fated Anfield spell.

However, Gerrard is in no doubt Benitez has captured a world-class player who has the potential to become a Kop idol.

United in particular have spent big in an effort to retain their crown but with an influx of foreign investors to the Premier League, this summer has seen plenty of other clubs strengthen their ranks. And while the Red Devils and Chelsea may have had it all their own way in recent times, Gerrard believes this season will prove to be more competitive than ever.

“It’s going to be a difficult title race,” he said. “Like us, Chelsea are upset losing the title to Manchester United, Arsenal’s young players are more experienced so I’m sure they’ll want a better go than last year and sides below us are strengthening as well, so it’ll be a tough title race this year. I think more teams will get involved.”

Gerrard also praised Gillette and Hicks for delivering on the promises they made before taking control of the club.

“It’s a really exciting time for the club,” he said.

“We have new owners in charge and they’ve put the money on the table. They said they’d sort the new stadium out, give new contracts to current players and strengthen the squad and that’s what they’ve done.”

One of those players was Steve Finnan after the Republic of Ireland full-back agreed a new three-year contract to extend his stay at Anfield.

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