Benitez demands more from Gerrard and Torres
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez expects his "big names" to lead by example and drive the club on to Champions League qualification.
A difficult season has seen captain Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres' form affected by injuries while even the ever-consistent Jamie Carragher had an uncharacteristically poor start to the campaign.
Despite Torres scoring his fifth goal in three matches early on against Manchester United on Sunday the team failed to recover from Wayne Rooney's penalty soon after and eventually lost 2-1 at Old Trafford.
Torres' disenchantment grew as the match wore on and his increasing frustration led to him being booked for a foul on Park Ji-sung and subsequent dissent to referee Howard Webb.
Gerrard's performance was more of a concern for Benitez as he struggled to raise his game enough to be able to drag Liverpool back into it as he has done so often in the past.
The Reds have now fallen behind both Tottenham and Manchester City in the race for fourth place while should Aston Villa win their two matches in hand they too will overtake the Anfield club.
Liverpool have seven matches - with only one against a top-four club in Chelsea at home - to save their season and Benitez believes his experienced players have to lead the way.
"Sometimes when you talk about big names, top-class players, you are expecting something from them when the team is not doing well," said Benitez.
"You expect them to say: 'It's okay, follow me'.
"We have had this conversation with Fernando and the rest of the team.
"It was something we were expecting from Torres and he was really good the other day (scoring two apiece against Portsmouth and Lille)."
Benitez was not overly concerned by Torres' display of petulance against United.
But he has told the Spain striker to concentrate on causing problems for opponents and not allow himself to be distracted by their spoiling tactics.
"Fernando knows he has to focus a little bit more," said the Reds boss.
"We were talking about this at half-time (against United) so that is something that will be better for him and better for the team.
"He can score more goals by concentrating on football.
"All strikers, especially top-class strikers, they are marked a little bit more closely than others and that is normal.
"It is not easy every game. People don't understand when you are a player on the pitch and you are fighting and sometimes you cannot understand these things."
Torres' form in the last week shows he is approaching the level which saw him score 33 goals in his debut 2007/8 season.
Even in the last injury-hit campaign he scored 17 as Liverpool ran United a close second in the Barclays Premier League.
Benitez can only ponder what might have been had the Spaniard, who missed five weeks after a knee operation in January having been troubled by a hernia before that, been fully fit all season.
Instead he has to worry about whether they will qualify for the Champions League.
"It was a pity because it was a very good season (last year) and if we were doing more or less the same we would be up there," said Benitez.
"We have seen some games where we couldn't score and we conceded and after we didn't have the same reaction as last year."
Left-back is another area of concern for Benitez with Emiliano Insua currently looking like he is feeling the effects of what has been a testing season.
The manager believes Fabio Aurelio is probably a fortnight away from a comeback after a thigh injury sustained almost a month ago, which means the 21-year-old Insua will continue.
However, Benitez stressed that the Argentinian, who has played all-but two Premier League matches this season, needed more support from his team-mates.
"It is not just one situation where you can point to someone," he added.
"The team has to take care of the situation. We have to share the responsibility."
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