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Liverpool say manager Rafa Benitez is not under threat

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez
Benitez is running out of time to save Liverpool's season

Rafael Benitez's position is "not on the agenda" despite Liverpool's shock FA Cup defeat by Reading, according to managing director Christian Purslow.

Benitez is under increasing pressure as boss after the loss to the Championship side, an early Champions League exit and poor Premier League form.

Despite his problems, the Spaniard has vowed to fight on at Anfield.

And, in an email to BBC Sport, Purslow reiterated that Benitez has the full support of the club's board.

Former Reds captain Ronnie Whelan believes Benitez should be replaced following the defeat at the hands of the Royals.

Whelan, 48, told BBC Radio 5 live: "He should've gone a long time ago. They have got to do it now.

"Liverpool have not been good. They have lost 10 of the last 20 games.

A disappointing season has left Liverpool having to settle for a Europa League campaign, while lying seventh in the Premier League - 12 points behind leaders Chelsea - but Purslow has always maintained that Benitez's job is not under threat.

The misery continued on Wednesday night when Reading dumped them out of the FA Cup after extra time in front of their home supporters.

It was their 12th defeat of the season and after Benitez told the club's website he would "keep working hard with my team", another ex-Liverpool star expressed his displeasure.

Former Reds and Republic of Ireland midfielder Jason McAteer told LFC TV: "Sometimes you just can't defend that kind of performance. It was poor. Liverpool just didn't really create anything and, to be fair, the better team won."

Liverpool now face the prospect of finishing the campaign without a trophy for the fourth successive season, with any hopes of success hanging on their Europa League efforts.

But with captain and midfielder Steven Gerrard and striker Fernando Torres coming off injured during the Cup defeat, McAteer is fearful for the remainder of the campaign.

"They are the two players who can produce a bit of magic," added the 39-year-old.

"You just look around the team and when those two are not there, who is going to create that bit of magic? Where is that bit of leadership and quality?"

BBC Sport pundit Mark Lawrenson, co-commentator for BBC Radio 5 live at Anfield on Wednesday, also expressed his concerns but believes Benitez's tenure may continue.

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty

"If you take Gerrard and Torres out of the Liverpool team then it is ordinary to say the the least," the 53-year-old told BBC Sport.

"If they spent the season without those two then Liverpool would do well to finish halfway up the table. Obviously a lot of people on the back of last night's defeat are saying that Rafa should go but I don't think he will.

"For a lot of people the defeat by Reading has made their mind up but not the inner workings at the club."

However, Whelan, who made 493 appearances for the Reds and captained them in their 1989 FA Cup final triumph, suggested the club could turn to a former manager as a short-term solution.

"Do they bring in someone until the end of the season? Kenny Dalglish is back at the football club," he stated. "Could he do it until the end of the season and see what happens?" As a player, Dalglish joined Liverpool from Celtic in 1977 and spent six years in charge on Merseyside before leaving in 1991.

Lawrenson believes the Anfield faithful may eventually help to determine Benitez's fate.

"The club have said they will wait and see whether they qualify for the Champions League but there will come a time, especially if they go out of the Europa League early, where the crowd will end up making the decision for the board," he said.

"If you say to Benitez 'thank you but no thank you' then who are you going to get in? Are you going to lose a Gerrard? Or a Torres? That is the most important thing to think about. I think he'll have a stay of execution.

"He has promised the supporters the club will finish in the top four but they look further away from doing that than probably they ever have since he's been there."

However, former Reds striker John Aldridge does not feel that sacking Benitez would benefit the club, even though he admits that the Spaniard has some serious deficiencies to rectify in the side.

"We can turn the tide, I don't think to get rid of Rafa now is the answer," Aldridge told Sky Sports.

"Maybe Rafa has lost some confidence within himself because certainly the team has lost confidence and belief - it is there for everyone to see on the pitch.


"We are not scoring goals as much we should be and we are conceding a lot more than we have been.

"There is perhaps a lack of togetherness on the pitch, if anything.

"But Rafa has got confidence in his own ability. If he didn't, I'm sure he'd walk away to help the club.

"I think Rafa has got to do his best with the team and hopefully we'll get to May, we'll have secured the fourth place and, who knows, maybe won the Europa League."

Benitez, whose contract runs until 2014, arrived at Liverpool from Valencia in 2004 and guided the club to Champions League glory in 2005 and an FA Cup triumph in 2006.

The Reds also reached the Champions League final in 2007 and were runners-up to Manchester United in the Premier League last season.

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see also
Benitez vows to fight on at Reds
14 Jan 10 |  Liverpool
Liverpool 1-2 Reading (aet)
13 Jan 10 |  FA Cup
Torres knee operation rocks Reds
14 Jan 10 |  Liverpool
Wednesday's FA Cup as it happened
13 Jan 10 |  Football
Wednesday's football photos
13 Jan 10 |  Football
Reading 1-1 Liverpool
02 Jan 10 |  FA Cup
Reds say Benitez will not be axed
25 Nov 09 |  Liverpool
Benitez signs long-term Reds deal
18 Mar 09 |  Liverpool

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