Benitez urges team to focus on Europe

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The Independent Online

The Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez, has told his players to focus on tomorrow's Champions League match against Marseilles and forget the weekend's frustrating draw with Fulham. The Reds missed the chance to go three points clear at the top of the Premier League after failing to break down the resilient Cottagers at Anfield but the squad have no time to dwell on lost opportunities as thoughts turn to Europe.

A victory over the French visitors – shock 1-0 winners on Merseyside last season – would secure a place in the knock-out stage with one Group D match still to play. They would even go through with a draw if PSV Eindhoven fail to beat Atletico Madrid tomorrow.

Ensuring qualification with a match to spare would allow Benitez to rest players and therefore assist their Premier League challenge.

So although the manager said they must learn lessons from the Fulham result, the performance must be forgotten. "We are disappointed about Saturday but we cannot talk about past games now," said Benitez. "We have to think about making mistakes and analyse why and find solutions for the next game.

"We are frustrated, really frustrated. How can we change that now? We have to analyse and talk to the players about the mistakes and try to change for the next game."

The defender Jamie Carragher said the players have to accept they will encounter some frustrating times at home but they have to learn how to deal with them and to ensure it does not have a knock-on effect. "Pretty much every team that comes to Anfield plays counter-attacking football and we can't complain about that, especially as we've done the same thing in many big away games in Europe," he said. "We've just got to adapt to it and overcome it because if we want to challenge for the title that is something we're going to have to do."

Liverpool's full-back Alvaro Arbeloa added: "We need to make sure we put this behind us by beating Marseilles so that we qualify for the next round."

Captain Steven Gerrard is expected to return against the French club, having been sorely missed against Fulham after failing to recover fully from the groin injury which also kept him out of England's victory over Germany in Berlin last week. Benitez hopes the midfielder can quickly strike up the partnership with Fernando Torres, which was so successful last season when the pair scored more than 50 goals between them. Injuries to both players have prevented that combination blossoming this campaign but the Liverpool manager believes it is only a matter of time before they click.

"Last season it was clear to see that the understanding between Torres and Gerrard was really good and there have been signs this year that it is getting better," Benitez said. "Torres is back again after being injured and we hope that Gerrard will be fit enough to face Marseilles.

"As a manager I don't like to single out players but Gerrard and Torres have scored something like 54 goals between them since they began playing together, so it is clear that they are both very important to us."

Across Stanley Park, the Everton manager, David Moyes, has praised the contribution that Phil Jagielka has made to the club's recent form. Jagielka's defensive performances have played a large part in pushing Everton up to seventh in the Premier League.

He has been an ever present in the back four so far this term and Moyes now believes the former Sheffield United defender is fulfilling the potential that convinced Everton to pay £4m for him last July.

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