Benitez convinced Liverpool can lift title

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The Independent Online

Liverpool have cashed in on midfielder Xabi Alonso and their lack of financial muscle means they have been unable to compete for stellar signings like Valencia striker David Villa.

However, manager Rafa Benitez remains convinced he can end a three-season trophy drought at Anfield and deliver the prize the fans crave the most.

Next May will represent the 20th anniversary since the Merseyside club last won the league title, far too long for a team of Liverpool's traditions.

They lost only two league games last season yet were still forced to settle for runners-up spot.

"We are strong enough to beat anyone but we need to be consistent," said Benitez as he prepared for his sixth season in charge at Anfield.

"We got 86 points last season, a record for the club in the Premier League, but we still need to improve. We have a lot of confidence."

Consistency will be the key for Liverpool. Despite losing two fewer games than champions Manchester United, it was too many home draws that did for them last season and Benitez knows they cannot afford a repeat.

Their transfer budget is dwarfed by United, Manchester City and Chelsea but Benitez appears to have made two shrewd investments, full back Glen Johnson from Portsmouth and midfielder Alberto Aquilani from AS Roma.

Aquilani, once he has recovered from a damaged ankle, does though face a tough challenge to fill the void left by the £30m sale of Alonso to Real Madrid.

Liverpool's title hopes may also rest on Benitez concentrating on his side instead of allowing himself to become distracted by United.

The Anfield club's 2008-09 season seemed to suffer after Benitez launched an outspoken attack on Alex Ferguson in January, saying United's manager was above punishment by soccer's governing bodies.

That sparked a bitter war of words between the pair and it was Ferguson who enjoyed the last laugh by clinching the title for the third successive season.

The fitness of England midfielder Steven Gerrard and Spain striker Fernando Torres is also key to Liverpool's ambitions.

Injuries meant the pair started only 14 Premier League matches together last season.

If Gerrard and Torres stay fit, Liverpool's long wait for the title could soon be over.

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