Benitez focuses on defence to leave Owen out in the cold

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The Independent Football

Benitez denied suggestions that Liverpool had approached Real Madrid about a transfer that would end the player's exile in Spain and, while not entirely ruling out an approach, indicated that such a move was not imminent.

"We have not made an offer and I am looking only for a centre-back," Benitez said. "I smile when I read in the Spanish press that we have opened talks. Michael Owen is a good player, but we have six players in that position and we need a right winger and a centre-back."

Benitez is acutely aware that he has no recognised back-up for the central defenders Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyypia. "We have six trophies to play for so we need a lot of players," he added. "We have six recognised strikers at this moment, but we don't have enough defenders."

However if, as Benitez expects, Milan Baros leaves the club next week for Aston Villa and, less likely, Djibril Cissé departs for Lyon, a move for Owen could still be on the cards.

Cissé, however, is expected to partner Morientes against Sunderland today. "I have spoken to Djibril and explained we have not had offers," Benitez said. "His situation is different to Milan's. Milan wants to go. But Djibril is happy here and has a part to play."