Benitez predicts European triumph

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The Independent Football

Rafael Benitez believes his inconsistent Liverpool side can defy the odds and win the Champions' League.

Rafael Benitez believes his inconsistent Liverpool side can defy the odds and win the Champions' League.

Few would expect Liverpool to reach the final, even if they do reach the quarter-finals by defending their 3-1 first leg lead over Bayer Leverkusen in Germany tomorrow. But Benitez said: "Last season there was not one person who spoke about Porto and Monaco reaching the Champions' League final when we got to this stage.

"It was all about Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Milan, Manchester United and Arsenal. But in the end it was Porto who were champions, so why not Liverpool?

"I have confidence in my team. If we beat Leverkusen we will only be two ties away from the final and we have the advantage that whatever team we draw, they will have to come to Anfield and face our team as well as our fans. Against Leverkusen, we know how important it will be to score one goal. But 3-1 is still a good score to take to Germany, and we will also have Steven Gerrard available for this game."

Jerzy Dudek, Dietmar Hamann and Harry Kewell should be fit, Benitez confirmed, but the defender Djimi Traoré is ruled out with a thigh strain and Fernando Morientes is cup-tied. Gerrard returns after suspension. Bayer Leverkusen's Brazilian defender, Juan, is out injured as isJens Nowotny and Roque Junior. Robson Ponte and Paul Freier are suspended.

Rick Parry, Liverpool's chief executive, has insisted that the club will secure the investment to build their new Stanley Park stadium. Parry dismissed doubts over the scheme, now believed to be costing over £130m.

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