Benitez: Reds in middle of 'difficult week'

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez admits his team are in the middle of “a difficult week”.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez admits his team are in the middle of “a difficult week”.

The Reds face Premier League title rivals Chelsea tonight in a Carling Cup quarter-final on the back of a home league defeat to Manchester United on Sunday.

Saturday sees Benitez’s side entertain Portsmouth knowing a victory is vital if they are stay on the shoulders of the league leaders and in contention for the title.

First up, though, is a trip to Stamford Bridge for an intriguing cup clash.

Benitez told the Reds’ official website, www.liverpoolfc.tv: “It will be a difficult game because we know Chelsea are a good team.

“We also have Portsmouth at the weekend so it is a difficult week for us. Hopefully we can perform and get the right results.

“We have confidence and know we are going into a crucial stage of the season.

“There are a lot of games in a short space of time. We have to keep the players with the same mentality and look to play as well as we can.”

Benitez could be tempted to shuffle his pack, with Xabi Alonso set for a run out after a 10-week absence with a metatarsal injury.

Steve Finnan remains doubtful because of a calf problem, while Daniel Agger remains sidelined with a foot injury.

Benitez said: “The key is to find the balance between the squad and the big names. It is not possible for players to play every game.

“Xabi is training normally and should be available for the match at Chelsea.

“I think Chelsea will rest some players because that’s normal. But it will still be a good side.”

Chelsea also suffered a reverse at the weekend when they went down to London rivals Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.

However, Benitez has nothing but praise for the work of his managerial counterpart Avram Grant, who has been rewarded with a lucrative new deal after taking over from the charismatic Jose Mourinho.

“He is doing a good job,” said the Liverpool boss.

“I remember, when he arrived, people were saying he won’t be around for too long.

“They are more or less the same side, they’re very strong and create chances while not conceding too many goals.”

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