Lee defends Benitez as Reds stick to title task

LIVERPOOL assistant manager Sammy Lee denies there is an arrogance surrounding Rafael Benitez or the club — and says they will keep their focus on trying to win the Premier League.

Last week the Spaniard came under fire from Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce and Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson, who accused him of being disrespectful and full of contempt.

The comments were sparked by a gesture made by Benitez when his side scored the second of their four goals against Rovers at Anfield the previous Saturday.

Benitez was not present to defend himself at the club’s press conference ahead of tonight’s vital clash at home to Arsenal but Lee give his boss his full backing.

“One thing I will say is Rafa is certainly not arrogant,” said the former Reds midfielder. “I think it is quite sad really. We only get on with the job we have to do, we try not to consider what other people are thinking or saying about us.

“We are a humble football club, we have a healthy respect for everyone and the job in hand and, having that respect, win, lose or draw we have humility about ourselves.

“Any gestures made pitchside are made to our players, not to anyone else. If anyone sees anything in any gestures they are mistaken.”

Lee, who was Allardyce’s assistant manager for a spell at the Reebok, felt the current Blackburn boss should have voiced his concerns at the time if he felt there was an issue.

“I’m surprised Sam, if he felt that strongly about it, didn’t mention it to me when we were sat having a drink after the game,” he added.

“We have a close relationship but I can’t speak for what other people read into things. Whatever other people do is entirely up to them.”

Lee dismissed the effect Ferguson’s mind games would have on a Liverpool side who will go top of the Premier League with a point against Arsenal.

“It goes over my head. I think football is quite a simple game, people seem to be trying to complicate things and put their slant on it,” he said.

Liverpool realistically have to win against Arsenal to keep their title hopes on track as United currently lead by a point with a match in hand.

Arsenal were losing FA Cup semi-finalists on Saturday and are in the last four of the Champions League, so Lee said Liverpool could not underestimate them.

“We have a healthy respect for Arsenal and we know it is going to be a very difficult game,” he added.

“Have they got a weakened team? We’ve seen them put a number of different sides out in competitions and they’ve all produced the goods.”

Liverpool will be without injured captain Steven Gerrard tonight but defender Martin Skrtel believes the pain of Liverpool’s European exit can be the catalyst for a renewed assault on the Premier League title.

“I still feel that we have a good chance in the Premier League because we are in good form right now and even though we lost against Chelsea we still showed our winning mentality and our desire,” said Skrtel.

“If we keep showing these same qualities then the season could still end really well for us.”


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