Benitez cheered by Aquilani debut
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez feels Alberto Aquilani has already shown just what an asset he will prove to be after finally making his long-awaited debut.
The Italian, signed in the summer from Roma for £20million, has been recovering from a broken ankle, but was introduced for the final 15 minutes of last night's 2-1 Carling Cup defeat at Arsenal.
Aquilani saw plenty of the ball during his brief cameo, and could feel somewhat aggrieved not to have been awarded a late penalty when his overhead kick appeared to hit defender Philippe Senderos on the arms.
Even though the Reds were beaten by Nicklas Bendtner's strike at the start of the second half after defender Emiliano Insua had cancelled out Fran Merida's opener, Benitez preferred to reflect on the positives.
"There were a lot of players showing passion, character and quality on the pitch - and Aquilani was one of these player," said the Liverpool manager.
"He has the quality, but he needs to improve his match-fitness.
"You can see he can pass the ball in the final third, he can make a big difference.
"He gets closer every day, but still has to improve his match-fitness. It is a question of time.
"I think that he will be an important player for us.
"We want to push him, but we cannot push too hard as we know that will be a risk.
"So we will keep going, keep working and add more minutes every game."
Like the hosts, Liverpool had made several changes from the team which beat Manchester United in the Barclays Premier League on Sunday, with Dirk Kuyt, captain last night, the only survivor from the starting XI at Anfield.
Benitez maintains momentum has not been lost following the euphoria of victory over their arch rivals.
"It is always very disappointing to be out of any competition, but at least to do it in this way, playing well and with a lot of positives, it is a little bit better than to lose playing badly," he said.
"It was a good performance by the team against a good Arsenal side, and was a good game for the fans."
Striker Fernando Torres could be fit for the trip to Fulham, although captain Steven Gerrard may struggle.
"Both have to keep going. Gerrard is still working with the physio so we will see," Benitez said.
"Hopefully Torres will be okay, but for Gerrard maybe it is more difficult."
Latest in Sport
Robin van Persie to Fenerbahce: Manchester United striker 'agrees to personal terms' with Turkish side
Arsenal defender Kieran Gibbs posts bizarre video of his Miami holiday being invaded by an iguana
Women's World Cup 2015: England secure third place as they beat Germany in extra time with penalty by Fara Williams
Why is it that there’s no women’s team at Manchester United? - Michael Calvin
Chelsea transfer news: Diego Costa wants a reunion with £25m Manchester United target Arda Turan... because he loves his kebabs
- 1 Isis propaganda video shows 25 Syrian soldiers executed by teenage militants in Palmyra
- 2 Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
- 3 The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
- 4 The biggest first date turnoff has been revealed
- 5 German man found living with 300 rats in tiny apartment
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture