Benitez: next two games can turn our season - Premier League - Football - The Independent

Benitez: next two games can turn our season

Liverpool face Villa today, then Spurs, with Aquilani struggling against injury

Rafael Benitez has admitted that his side's hopes of making it back into the top four of the Premier League rest on overcoming the two sides who Liverpool face in consecutive matches, beginning with a defining fixture at Villa Park tonight.

Liverpool have not been in the top four since September, but during the 18 matches since the 6-1 win over Hull they have only faced one of the sides they believe are their main rivals for fourth spot – drawing 2-2 with Manchester City. Now they face Villa and Spurs in successive league games and have the return with Roberto Mancini's City in February. Benitez said: "If we can win at Villa we will gain more confidence for the future. Villa, Spurs and Manchester City are all doing well and we know we must compete with them for fourth place.

"We know, though, that this time it is more difficult. Previously Villa have done well in the first half of a season and then lost games. But they have spent some money, they have good players, and we accept that they will make it difficult for us in the fight for fourth position."

Benitez's injury concerns continue ahead of tonight's game. Alberto Aquilani's hamstring pull in the unconvincing Boxing Day win against Wolves means Benitez must wait to discover whether he will be available for a match Javier Mascherano will miss through suspension. Aquilani admitted his 85 minutes against Wolves had been tougher than he had expected. "It was so different to anything I have experienced, as it was so quick and you never really had much time. The football we played was so fast," he said. "We have an important game with Villa and we know that if we beat them we will be closer. Like I have said before, every game is like a cup final for us."

Martin O'Neill has refused to accept that Aston Villa's credentials as a potential top four club can be judged in how his side cope with playing both Arsenal and Liverpool in the space of two days. Villa were beaten 3-0 at Arsenal on Sunday, and tonight have the chance to respond to that defeat.

The Villa manager said: "I didn't get too carried away when we went to Old Trafford and won there. Any side can go to Arsenal and get beaten, but what we have to do is fight back against Liverpool and try to win. We beat them quite convincingly at Anfield, but that was a long time ago.

"I won't sit and concern myself about that. By the end of January we will have a better idea of where we stand and if we are good enough to be in this company. We are enjoying it immensely just being in there but it is a major effort to go again. We got in a decent position last year but didn't have the wherewithal to sustain it. I hope we have this year."

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week