Benitez defiant over Liverpool's fourth place chances

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The Independent Online

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has urged his players to still believe they can play Champions League football next season.

Sunday's 1-1 draw at Birmingham further dented the Reds' hopes of finishing fourth in the Barclays Premier League and winning a place at Europe's top table next term.

Benitez's side trail fourth-placed Manchester City by four points, and fifth-placed Tottenham by three, and they have played a game more than their two rivals.

Other than an Anfield date with Chelsea on May 1, their other four matches appear on paper to be more straightforward - they are at home to Fulham and West Ham, and travel to Burnley and Hull.

But when you consider their last away win in the league was at the end of December - a run of seven matches - nothing can be taken for granted.

Benitez, though, is convinced Champions League football is not beyond his players, and is demanding they do not lose heart.

"The players were disappointed after Birmingham because it was a good performance and we had some chances at the end," Benitez told the club's official website.

"But I told them, 'There's still five games so we need to keep going'.

"If we play in the same way then we'll at least win our games, then we'll see what happens.

"They (City) have some difficult games, so we just have to win our fixtures.

"Football is so special. You think 'Oh we'll win there and maybe lose there', but then everything changes.

"We just have to think about getting three points against Fulham on Sunday and then see what happens. We have to keep the belief."

Prior to that Liverpool face the small matter of trying to overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit to Benfica in the return of their Europa League quarter-final at Anfield on Thursday.

"The Europa League now is a very, very important trophy for us and we have to win against Benfica," added Benitez.

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