Benitez: Liverpool are not as bad as people think

RAFAEL BENITEZ yesterday shrugged off the growing pressure on his position at Liverpool, insisting, “the team is not as bad as people think.”

Liverpool have lost their last four games, their worst run in 22 years and could fall 10 points behind Manchester United if they lose to the champions tomorrow.

But Benitez and his injury-ravaged side know they must produce something to lift the gathering gloom at Anfield.

Benitez will give Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Glen Johnson – all groin injury victims – until the last moment to prove their fitness.

Summer signing Alberto Aquilani, who played for the reserves on Wednesday, will not be considered.

But the match will be overshadowed by fans’ unrest over the continued ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

A protest march is being planned and Hicks and Gillett will be the subject of increased security. It is not the atmosphere Benitez would want as he tries to get Liverpool’s faltering season back on track.

“I am relaxed in terms of my position,” the Spaniard insisted.

“I know how we are working every day, the players know too. In the past we have been very good and the situation and players has not changed too much.

“It is about confidence and winning that first game. If we want to change things we must focus on football and not what is going on off the pitch here.”

But it has clearly been a tough time at the Melwood training ground this week.

Benitez added: “We have done extra training sessions, the attitude of the players has been good and you could see how focused and positive they are.

“I have had great support from Steven (Gerrard). He is a leader, he wanted to prove something in the week against Lyon, he wanted to play despite the injury problem. That shows the right mentality and what we expect from any player at Liverpool.

“The team is not as bad as people think. We have beaten United without Gerrard and Torres and we know that we can beat anyone. We have total confidence in that.

“I have been working on how to change things, how to improve. Everyone talks about pressure, pressure, pressure but we have confidence in ourselves. You do not see players happy when they are not winning games but you must see the responsibility in their faces.

“I have talked with them, the most important players, and I have been impressed with their positive attitude.

“When you are not winning, you cannot be too negative with players. When I push the players it is when I know that we can improve and they are already doing well. When we are not doing well we have to analyse carefully and not to push too hard.”

Benitez has had support from Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish, now the club’s ambassador and academy figurehead.

Benitez said: “I have talked with Kenny. We both have experience, but he knows this club and what happens here. He knows that if we work hard then everything will be fine.

“But it is results that matter. I understand that, the only way to respond is to do the right things on the pitch. Actions change things. It is time for everyone to be positive and it is up to the players to make the difference.”

If Liverpool lose tomorrow it will be their worst run since the club was relegated from the old First Division in 1953.

But Benitez maintains a change of fortune is only a win away.

“As a manager you know that sometimes there will be good moments and bad moments, and at this time we know that we have to improve,” he added.

“But it is only a matter of time. If we win a game then everything changes.

“This game against Manchester United is just the right opportunity. It is a massive game, the fans will be right behind us from the first minute to the last.

“When people (John Terry) talk about our squad not being strong enough, I maintain that we are better than people think.

“If we have half a dozen players who are injured, then things will be difficult.

“If you take five players out of United, Chelsea or Arsenal, it will be very difficult for them to win games. The best way to regain confidence and to improve our situation is to beat Manchester United.”

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