Friday, February 27, 2009

Madrid win a landmark for title

Rafa Benitez is hoping the Champions League win over Real Madrid will give his players the belief to put pressure on league-leaders Manchester United.

Liverpool are now seven points behind United after a disappointing 2009 in which they have drawn with Stoke, Everton, Wigan and Manchester City, but Wednesday night’s 1-0 win at the Bernabeu showed the team are still eager for success.

And, ahead of the Premier League games against Middlesbrough and Sunderland on Saturday and Tuesday, Benitez is hoping his players will be reinvigorated by that result.

"We have to win almost every game, and this is the first one since Manchester United went seven points clear,” he said.

"We have to get three points if we want to stay close to them and put the pressure on a little bit.

"But the confidence, the atmosphere, the mood among the players is very positive after the win in Madrid. Hopefully that will have a good impact on the club.

"We have two important games now to play in the league before the second leg against Real Madrid and our aim is to win both to cut the gap at the top. Six points in four days is possible."

The players have had to contend with various reports about activity behind the scenes at Anfield this season, and this week became aware of rumours that Benitez was set to leave the club.

However, the Spaniard feels it has not affected his squad and feels they are fully focused on winning silverware.

"Despite all the things that seem to be going on off the pitch, the behaviour of the players has been very good,” he said.

"Whatever they read or see on TV, they continue to do well and now they have won in the Bernabeu. They have shown what good professionals they are."

He added: "We are in a very good position in the title race. Now, after Madrid, hopefully everyone will be very focused.

"The players have not given up the fight. They still really believe it is possible.

"It is not a good position to be seven points behind, so we have to win to get closer. You never know then what could happen – we could then go to Old Trafford next month and win.

"When I arrived here in Liverpool all I was hearing was that we wanted to be title contenders.

"This season, we have got closer. People felt it was the season at one point, but now we are not in such a good position.

"But for many people, this is a good position. If we can finish second, it will be good – an improvement – but we are still thinking of winning the title.

"We have to be ready to pounce if they do slip up, we must be close enough to take advantage. I recall winning the title when Valencia were eight points behind, so we must believe it can be done."

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