Benitez eyes early qualification by beating Anderlecht

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If it were not for Steven Gerrard's goal four minutes from the end of the final group game last December there would have been no fifth European Cup for Liverpool, only the scant consolation of a place in the Uefa Cup.

Yet while inflicting a record 11th successive Champions' League defeat on Anderlecht tonight will not usurp that Olympiakos victory in Anfield folklore, it will, providing Chelsea complete an English double in Seville, secure Liverpool's advance and allow their manager to make the Premiership a declared priority ahead of Europe for a change.

Victory over West Ham ended a depressing week for Liverpool on a more uplifting note on Saturday and, should they enter the final games in Group G against Real Betis and Jose Mourinho's side with only first place to compete for, Benitez believes there will be a sustained recovery in their domestic fortunes.

The Liverpool manager explained: "When the draw was made I thought we had a very difficult group; now it looks a lot easier because the team has done its job. It would be good to have two Champions' League games without pressure because then I can use the squad more, try different things with the players, and I can prepare for Premiership games with more time. It seems crazy to be saying this now though: last week it was all about how bad Liverpool were."

Benitez, with a fully fit squad at his disposal, denies putting the Champions' League before Premiership achievement, and his theory that Liverpool's contrasting fortunes at home and abroad are a consequence of different tactics was developed by his compatriot Luis Garcia yesterday.

"I don't go onto the pitch thinking this is a Champions' League game so I must work harder; I always try to work hard and win," said the former Barcelona midfielder. "I can understand why people say that about us though because, just like last season, we are finding it more difficult in the Premier League. But it is a different kind of game. In Europe teams attack you more because one goal can make all the difference; in the Premier League teams are happier to wait, to counter attack, and then it is more difficult to score."

Liverpool (probable, 4-4-1-1): Reina; Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise; Gerrard, Hamann, Alonso, Kewell; Garcia; Crouch.

Anderlecht (probable, 4-4-2): Proto; Zewlakow, Tihinen, De Man, Deschacht; Wilhelmsson, Zetterberg, Vanderhaeghe, Goor; Mpenza, Akin.

Referee: Kim Milton Nielsen (Denmark)

The Lowdown on... Anderlecht

How do they beat you?

Since the last meeting Anderlecht have drawn both games 2-2. The forward line is gaining confidence, led by Mbo Mpenza, whose speed and strength helped him to score three goals in four Champions' League qualifying matches. Anderlecht remain second in the Belgian League and are dangerous on the break.

How do you beat them?

The defence is led by a 17-year-old, Anthony Vanden Borre, which may explain why the team have not won either of their last two matches. Although Vanden Borre has pace and skill, his inexperience and lack of physique have enabled forwards to often get the better of him.

Key man?

The midfielder Bart Goor has been vital in supporting the attackers.

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