Benitez bullish as Reds eye Stoke win to kick-start season

RAFAEL BENITEZ faces the minefield of an FA Cup tie against lower division rivals without the inspiration of skipper Steven Gerrard but with a desire to re-launch Liverpool’s faltering season.

And the Anfield boss, after a few days of reflection following Wednesday’s home draw with Wigan which all but ended the club’s title dreams, insists that the Merseysiders are not down and out just yet.

But he will face Luton without Gerrard, who has been ruled out of tomorrow’s tie with a calf injury.

Benitez has also been hit by injuries to defenders Alvaro Arbeloa (calf) and Fabio Aurelio (hamstring). It means that youngsters Jack Hobbs and Lucas are expected to be in the squad.

Said Benitez: “We are good enough to beat Luton and we are good enough to beat Middlesbrough in our next matches.

“I do not feel under any more pressure. I put pressure on myself by trying to win every trophy and every match.

“Now we must concentrate, try to improve and see what it is like in two months. It is too soon to say that we cannot win it.’’

He added: “We must keep going, and we know that in the cup competitions we can still win things.

“It is important for us to win the FA Cup. I do not care what other people say about it, it is a fantastic trophy and everyone around the world sees it. We always want to win it.”

Meanwhile, the joint administrator of troubled Coca-Cola League One side Luton Town has admitted that the club will have no choice but to sell their best players after tomorrow.

The Hatters were docked 10 league points in November after going into administration but despite that adversity, and the fact that manager Kevin Blackwell and his players have not been fully paid since October, the club are on a run of just one defeat in their last 12 league and cup games.

Said administrator Brendan Guilfoyle yesterday: “After the Liverpool game, if there is no funding, then I will have to get busy in the transfer market.”

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