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Page last updated at 09:52 GMT, Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Benitez hits back against critics

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Benitez confident ahead of big week

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez feels he has not been given the credit he deserves for his side's performances in the Champions League in recent years.

The Reds are well placed to reach the last eight for the fourth time in five years, taking a 1-0 lead into Tuesday's Anfield second leg against Real Madrid.

"We have the best record in Europe over the last five years, yet some messages coming my way are not the best.

"The facts are there to see. Anyone can see what I have done here," he said.

After taking charge in 2004, Benitez guided Liverpool to their fifth European Cup/Champions League title in 2005, while also taking them to the final two years later.

However, the Spaniard has been criticised in some quarters for failing to steer Liverpool to a first Premier League crown - which would also be their first top-flight title since 1990.

"You have to judge people on the job they are doing and I am happy for anyone to look at how we have progressed in my time at Liverpool," Benitez stated.

"The team is improving all the time and the squad is now better than ever. We are closer to the Premier League title and going well in the Champions League again.

"Maybe some people don't realise how difficult it is to keep succeeding in the Champions League."

Benitez, though, does concede that the coming week may make or break his side's season.

Four days after hosting Real Madrid on Tuesday, Liverpool will play Manchester United in the Premier League.

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Liverpool trail United, who have a game in hand, by seven points, but still cling to faint hopes of overturning the deficit and reclaiming a top spot they held for much of the first half of the season.

"It's a very important week," admitted Benitez. "If we can progress in the Champions League it's a boost for the next game.

"And if we can beat United we will still be in the title race. But if we don't it will be very, very difficult."

Liverpool will feel they have a great chance to progress in Europe after they scored a valuable away goal via Yossi Benayoun's header at the Bernabeu but Benitez has warned against complacency at Anfield.

"We must not think we are already there [the quarter-finals] or it will be easy," he added.

"But we have to approach the game with confidence. To win the tie is the most important thing. If we win the game it is done, but sometimes you don't need to win."

Benitez admitted it will be "difficult" for Benayoun, who has a hamstring problem, to play in the second leg, while defenders Daniel Agger and Philippe Degen are both unavailable and Albert Riera is suspended.

Doubts also remain over the fitness of striker Fernando Torres, who has not played since the first leg because of an ankle injury but took part in a light training session on Monday, and full-back Alvaro Arbeloa.

We have to have a lot of patience, make no mistakes at the back and the goal will surely come

Real defender Fabio Cannavaro

Nine-time champions Real Madrid - seeking a first quarter-final since 2004 - may take encouragement from the fact Liverpool have not won any of their last six home matches against Spanish clubs.

Real have improved significantly since the arrival of former Tottenham manager Juande Ramos in December and they come to Anfield full of confidence off the back of a recent 10-game La Liga winning streak, ended by a 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid on Saturday.

However, Real defender Fabio Cannavaro has urged his side to be patient ahead of the game.

"We have to have a lot of patience, make no mistakes at the back and the goal will surely come," said the 35-year-old Italy international.

"If we score we would force Liverpool to come out and play. If they want to win the game they are going to have to play and this is the moment where we could take advantage."



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see also
Real Madrid 0-1 Liverpool
25 Feb 09 |  Europe
Votes on bbc.co.uk/sport
10 Jun 08 |  Sport Homepage


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