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Page last updated at 15:55 GMT, Monday, 23 March 2009

Benitez ready for Reds title push

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We could play better - Benitez

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez says his side have the belief to go on and win the Premier League this season.

The Reds trail Manchester United by one point after Sunday's 5-0 win over Aston Villa and Benitez is keen to exploit any slip-ups from the league leaders.

"When you are playing well and scoring goals against top sides you have the belief you can beat anyone," he said.

"But we must be calm, win the next game and keep going until the end. Otherwise everything will be wasted."

Liverpool's next match is on 4 April at Fulham, who beat United 2-0 at Craven Cottage on Saturday, while Sir Alex Ferguson's side aim to avoid their third defeat in a row when they meet Aston Villa a day later.

Benitez added: "Clearly we have confidence and the team is playing well. But we must just wait to see what happens next to United, while we must keep going and keep the team playing at this level."

Sunday's win followed on from impressive victories over Real Madrid in the Champions League and at Old Trafford the previous Saturday.

606: DEBATE

Despite this Man Utd still have a game in hand over their title rivals, but Liverpool could be top if they win at Fulham.

And Steven Gerrard, who netted his first Premier League hat-trick against Villa, is keen to ensure his side do not waste the opportunity to maintain their push for honours this season.

"Now we must keep winning," said the Liverpool captain. "Keep on their shoulder and keep piling on the pressure. We must show we are ready to pounce on any mistakes they make."

The forthcoming international break means Liverpool will be forced to wait for two weeks before renewing their challenge, but Benitez believes his team are in good shape heading into the final few weeks.

"We need to wait now for United to make mistakes. We are closer but they are in a very good position. We must keep going and keep pushing them," he said.

"They will see we are working hard for every game, so my message is to keep doing our job.

Man Utd still favourites - Gerrard

"When you are playing well, the players have more confidence. Sometimes you do not need to change things, we have more or less the same players and system.

"But it is now one game a week. (Fernando) Torres is fit, Gerrard is fit, (Fabio) Aurelio is fit so it is easier to keep the same players on the pitch.

"We may have (injury) problems caused by the international break, but we have (Daniel) Agger back from injury and Yossi Benayoun almost fit. That gives us more choice but we will need all of our players now.

"You cannot keep thinking if United will make two or three mistakes, you just have to keep winning and see what happens because you cannot have any influence on their results."

Full-back Alvaro Arbeloa gave a sign of the confidence currently flowing through Anfield and believes his side's start to recent matches has been crucial.

He said: "We had a really good start to the Villa game, and that kind of first-half display is the key to improving our home form.

"We are closer to the top but it is best to just focus on how well we are playing. We have a lot of confidence now and I think we are performing at our best level.

"We have to keep going, build on the momentum of the past week or so and make sure we fight right up until the end of the season."

Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill was not happy with the way his side played but conceded they were beaten by the better team.

Villa were well beaten - O'Neill

"We were well beaten by an exceptional Liverpool side but we did contribute to our own downfall.," he confirmed.

"At 1-0 down, we gave away an unbelievably bad goal. It was a shocking mistake.

"Liverpool have had two remarkable results before this game - beating Real Madrid and Manchester United - and they certainly did not need any help from us to achieve what they wanted.

"We played poorly. We gave away some lousy goals and we have to get back on track.

"We were doing fine four or five weeks ago but we were well beaten by a better side. But we are a better team than we showed in this game."



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see also
Liverpool 5-0 Aston Villa
22 Mar 09 |  Premier League
Reds mourn club secretary's death
21 Mar 09 |  Merseyside


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