Benitez drills new model army in art of possession

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The Independent Football

Liverpool players, after three games under their new manager, Rafael Benitez, are predicting a winning combination of possession-based, attacking football in the coming season. So far the new model red army have won a friendly 2-1 at Wrexham, using two different XIs, then beaten Celtic 5-1 before losing 1-0 to Porto. They now take on Roma in the Giants Stadium tonight in the last match of the 11-game Champions' World series.

Unlike Manchester United, who have rushed home to cram in further friendlies at Old Trafford against PSV Eindhoven tonight and Urawa Red Diamonds on Thursday before Sunday's Community Shield match with Arsenal, this will be Liverpool's last engagement before the Champions' League qualifying round next week. They visit Graz AK in Austria for the first leg, which has been brought forward one day to next Tuesday. That suits the club, giving them an extra 24 hours to recuperate before kicking off the new Premiership campaign at 12.45 on 14 August at Tottenham.

This more sedate pace off the pitch may be matched on it. Benitez, like Chelsea's Jose Mourinho, wants his team to avoid surrendering possession in the manner that proved England's downfall at Euro 2004. Hot conditions on this tour have suited that style and as John Arne Riise told the club website: "Training is about telling us how we use and keep the football. I definitely think we will play more of a possession game. The manager has made it clear that to win more games, we need to keep the ball. Sometimes you can hit opponents hard on the attack, but it's always better for us to have the ball."

Danny Murphy, who missed out on England's trip to Portugal but has been in excellent form here, believes this can still be combined with a more effective and positive approach.

"We've done a lot of attacking stuff, getting down the flanks and working more on finishing," he said. "He's a manager who wants you to express yourself and go out and win games. It's finding the balance that maybe we did not have in the last couple of years."

Like United, but less controversially, Liverpool have blooded some younger players, of whom Zak Whitbread and Stephen Warnock have shown up well. Roma are a little behind the English clubs in their preparations and looked off the pace in losing 3-0 to Chelsea, when Olivier Dacourt was sent off with Mateja Kezman.

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