Benitez issues battle cry in fight for fourth

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The Independent Online

Rafael Benitez continues to put a brave face on a predicament which leaves his club fighting for fourth place, but in the course of suggesting that he may be at the club for 10 years yesterday – far-fetched in the extreme, as things stand – he indicated that he needs his players to fight harder.

"Liverpool is a town of fighters," he said. "This is a very, very special club and we are really lucky because we have the support of the best fans in the world. Whenever I speak to my friends who work in football in Spain they tell me how lucky I am to be manager of such a great club with such fans and I know that. We have to have pride in the shirt, pride in the club and pride in the fans that we represent."

Liverpool go into today's home game against Sunderland looking for their first league victory since a 2-1 win at Derby County on Boxing Day and Benitez, who gave up hopes of a title push several weeks ago, admitted Wednesday night's last-gasp defeat to West Ham was a new low. "I was more disappointed than ever, because to lose a game in that way was bad for me and everyone," he said.

Benitez rejected suggestions that Liverpool's problems stem from the club having expectations above their station. "In football, it's difficult to stop that [expectation]," he said. "When I joined Valencia, they thought they should be contenders every year. Here it is the same with four clubs."

The Spaniard, still without long-term injured Daniel Agger, Andriy Voronin and Alvaro Arbeloa today, knows Champions League qualification is more vital than ever now that his club have been saddled with £30m a year debt repayments. "Fourth position is not the best, but at least that will allow us to progress because it will give us more money," he said.

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