Benitez senses shift in balance of power

Rafael Benitez, the Liverpool manager, is confident that his team will close the gap on Premier League champions Manchester United next season. The Spaniard, who feels he finally has the control he needs at the club after signing a new contract in March, believes that the foundations for a new era at Anfield were laid last season.

Liverpool came closer than they had ever done to ending their 19-year championship drought last season, losing just twice and finishing with 86 points – which was four behind United and their best Premier League return.

Benitez, who celebrates five years in charge at Liverpool today, finally broke his United hoodoo with two league victories and senses a change in fortunes. "If you analyse the number of points you see it's a record for the club in the Premier League," he said yesterday. "We are going forward, we are progressing. For the future this is good news and, hopefully, this is the beginning of something important. In terms of the consistency of the team, we've been really good. The squad is better, the mentality is very good and the players are competing for their positions."

What is key for Benitez over the summer is to find the reinforcements to make his squad strong enough to challenge United over an entire season. He has already seen two integral components of his team, Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano, linked with Real Madrid and Barcelona but has stressed they will not be sold. Provided he hangs on to the pair, Benitez has to bring in new players, on a budget much smaller than the sums available to his top-four rivals, to secure a depth of talent in the squad closer to that of United's.

The Liverpool manager believes that was the only difference between the two sides last season. "We won against them twice this year. We've shown we can beat anyone. Clearly, we have enough quality in the team," he said. "The squad is good but against us United had Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Dimitar Berbatov on the bench. Each year is different but we are closer, we have more confidence, and the experience of this year will be good for next season. You never know but it seems like we are reducing the gap."

Breaking United's dominance is a huge motivating factor for the striker Fernando Torres, who was surprisingly linked with a move to Old Trafford at the weekend. The Spain international, who scored an 11-minute hat-trick against New Zealand in the Confederations Cup on Sunday, signed an improved contract at the end of last month after scoring 50 goals in 84 matches for the Reds.

He also believes Liverpool are closer than ever to winning their first championship since 1990. "They say foreign players don't care as much as the home-grown, but we are very much aware that Liverpool haven't won the Premier League for 19 years and understand the supporters are desperate for us to put that right," he said. "The rivalry with Manchester United is intense and the roof will come off at Anfield if we beat them to next year's title. Obviously, the Champions League means a lot to Liverpool, but the English title is the one everyone wants in our dressing room.

"Liverpool is a phenomenon, with millions of fans who totally identify with everything the club stands for. They are at one with the players and that's why we get the backing we get at Anfield. This club has it all: the history, the prestige, the fans, the organisation. It's a big responsibility to give the fans here the success they desire, but the challenge is always exhilarating and this is why I was delighted to sign a new contract. Now we need to win the big trophies and we can trust Rafa Benitez to keep the momentum going."

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Sport
Harry Redknapp. Mark Hughes and Ryan Shawcross
footballNews and updates as Queens Park Rangers host the Potters
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
New Articles
i100... with this review
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
New Articles
i100
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
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

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
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