Benitez bemoans Riera timing

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has admitted he is "disappointed" with Albert Riera's critical comments but does not intend to allow them to become a distraction ahead of Sunday's clash against Manchester United.

The 27-year-old has attempted to play down his comments made to a Spanish radio station when he criticised Benitez for not speaking to him and described the club as a "sinking ship".

However, it came too late to prevent him being suspended by the club until Monday, meaning he sat out last night's Europa League victory over Lille and will also miss the trip to Old Trafford

"The timing was very bad for the team and for the club because we were in a crucial moment," said Benitez

"I was really disappointed with this but we will deal with it internally.

"The team is doing well and we have to approach the [United] game with confidence."

Centre-back Daniel Agger said Riera's comments had not done anything to destabilise the dressing room and the players were professional enough to remain focused on doing their job.

"We had a game to worry about so we don't worry about comments in the media," said the Dane after Riera's outburst dominated headlines just hours before the 3-0 win over Lille which put them into the quarter-finals of the Europa League.

"I think it is important for the whole team to focus on the game, especially one as important as the one against Lille.

"We don't need to worry about everything around us - we need to be together."

Captain Steven Gerrard backed Benitez's management style and said the Reds boss was the only person in a position to comment on the performance of the team.

"He is the manager and he's allowed to criticise the team at the right time," said the England international.

In his latest interview, Riera maintained Benitez had "something personal" against him.

"I do not want to make trouble with the manager," Riera reportedly told Spain's Cadena Ser radio station.

"I am not interested in making Rafa my enemy in the slightest, quite the opposite, but ultimately it is about playing, and if I am not, we have to talk about why not.

"I played all of last year, and sometimes if I did not play so well in one game, I would still play the next week.

"But this season I have not played at all.

"When that starts happening, you have to assume it is something personal, rather than professional."

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