No escape for Benitez if Americans sell Liverpool

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Rafael Benitez does not have a get-out clause in his new five-year contract allowing him to leave if Liverpool change hands and though he has no guarantee Tom Hicks and George Gillett are staying either, he seems assured of more long-term financial stability.

"Both owners have signed my contract," Benitez said. "That's important. Both told me that they want the best for the club. For me, that's enough. We can go forward and progress," Benitez said yesterday. "Have they given guarantees about ownership? For now I think it is too early [for that]. We were just talking about ideas to improve and it was positive. I have signed the contract because I know we can improve. It doesn't matter who is there because I will try to do my best to control the football operation."

Benitez entered another vital weekend for his faint title hopes with the news that an assault charge against his captain, Steven Gerrard, relating to a bar-room brawl in Southport on 29 December, has been dropped. Gerrard still faces the lesser charge of affray. Benitez reiterated the need to keep up with the financial might of Manchester United, despite their manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, pouring scorn on that characterisation.

"If you want to compete against teams like Manchester United, everybody has to be together and we have to do things quickly," Benitez said. "We have to buy cheap and sell expensive. We have to do things to improve the commercial department, the marketing department. Everything has to be working very well. We will always be behind because of the massive difference in terms of the stadium [compared to Old Trafford] but it is possible to reduce the gap if we do other things properly."

Benitez could have Xabi Alonso, Alvaro Arbeloa and Yossi Benayoun back to face Aston Villa tomorrow.