European showdowns easier, says Benitez

RAFAEL BENITEZ admits that he finds it easier to influence European games than he does Premier League matches.

The Liverpool boss was reflecting after masterminding the Champions League first-leg triumph over Inter Milan on Tuesday, that lifted months of gloom from Anfield.

What is clear is that European football is his chosen battle ground and he has delivered success against the likes of Chelsea, Juventus, Barcelona, AC Milan, Olympiacos and Marseille when Liverpool had been written off.

That the Spaniard produced again on the really big occasion is no longer a surprise to Anfield observers, who have long accepted that Benitez is better in Europe than he is in the Premier League.

How else do you explain how Liverpool can be so poor against Luton, Havant and Waterlooville, Barnsley and Wigan, while capable of beating one of the form teams of Europe?

Benitez said: “In Europe you can approach a game tactically in a different way.

“In England it is a different style of football and more difficult for the manager to influence what goes on.

“It is not as simple to influence the game with tactics in England the way it is elsewhere in Europe.”

Liverpool will take a 2-0 lead to Milan for the last 16 second-leg next month, and Benitez insists: “We have made it very difficult for Inter now, two goals and a clean sheet.

“But they have a lot of good players and we will need to show plenty of respect and approach the game with confidence, but no complacency.

Liverpool won their 100th home European game, and Benitez said: “We have an important and difficult game still to come, and the San Siro will be full and determined to help their side.”

It took late strikes from Dirk Kuyt and Steven Gerrard to turn Liverpool superiority into Champions League points.

But Benitez said: “I have always had confidence in the team. If we can play like we did against Inter over and over again, it will be good and we will win a lot of games.

“I know what people were saying (about me). But as a professional you must be ready for every game, to prepare for every game the best you can and with the same ideas.

“This lead now is a big boost. We have confidence, because Inter are at the moment the best in Europe. They are top in Italy and have now lost just two games all season.

“If you can beat teams like that and play well, it gives us a high level of confidence in the squad.

“We will go to Milan with confidence but they are really good so we will not be over-confident.

“You could see the quality of Inter’s players. And just look at their bench, they had (Patrick) Vieira, (Hernan) Crespo, (Luis) Figo plus defenders like (Nicolas) Burdisso.”

More in this section


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox