Benitez spells out home truths to unsettled Baros

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The Independent Football

Rafael Benitez, the Liverpool manager, has spent the past week rebuilding Steven Gerrard's confidence and trying to quieten Milan Baros.

Benitez knows he must restore self-belief in the camp before today's Premiership match at Newcastle which is followed by Wednesday's Champions' League match at Bayer Leverkusen, where Liverpool hold a 3-1 lead from the first leg.

Gerrard was devastated by his own goal which lost his side the lead in last Sunday's Carling Cup final which Chelsea went on to win 3-2 in extra-time - while Baros has spoken of his disappointment at not starting the Cardiff match.

Benitez said the transfer speculation surrounding Gerrard has not helped the situation. "It is not easy for Steven with everybody talking about his future, but maybe something positive will come from what happened last weekend," he said. "I have talked to Steven, and maybe he is saying to himself that he will now do all he can for his club and his supporters. What happened in Cardiff I know will make him even more determined to win the rest of the games this season."

While Benitez has been boosting Gerrard's morale, he has been spelling out a few home truths to Baros, who has been openly questioning his future at Anfield. Benitez has made it clear he wants to see action and not words as he considers his squad for next season.

"I have said to Milan that the most important thing he can do is to play well, not talk, and he understands," Benitez said. "He will play well for the rest of the season because he has the right mentality, and I hope to see a goal from him at Newcastle.

"I have talked to Milan, and he wants to play as well as he can and score goals - so the most important thing when a player has problems is to see how they then work in games.

"He will have the possibilities to show all of us that he is a good player. Always for players the future is what they achieve on the pitch. If he plays well and scores goals then it is fine. If players do not do well and don't score then nobody wants the player - or the manager. Milan knows that after his injury problem he has only scored one goal in 12 games. He knows he must work hard and do his best."

Benitez is prepared to take on board the criticism from Liverpool supporters on radio phone-ins since the defeat in Cardiff. "I am not angry with the fans for phoning the radio and complaining," he said. "This is football. In Spain we say there are 40m managers. People have their opinions. But if we want to hear our supporters behind us then we have to work very, very hard to make sure they do.

"After a game then fans can say whether they felt we played well or badly - but when the next game comes around we want those fans to be back behind us. We have clever supporters - they understand. We need them, and Stevie [Gerrard] needs them right to the end of the season.

"If they are critical during games then they cannot help the team. Then it will be difficult for us to reach the top four. We need our supporters behind us."

Benitez believes Liverpool can bridge the eight-point lead Everton have over them in the race for fourth place and a Champions' League spot. "Everton have an advantage. They are not in a lot of competitions, so they can focus on the league games," he pointed out.

"But they have won a lot and have consistency and confidence. Each time you win it becomes like a snowball - you gain more confidence and improve. Nothing is impossible in football - we must fight to the very last week because we can achieve anything."