Benitez tells goalless Crouch to show a nasty side

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The Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez, has told Peter Crouch he is "too nice" on the pitch and must learn to be more aggressive. The striker has failed to score in 13 appearances since his £7m summer move to Anfield from Southampton.

Crouch prepares to face another of his former clubs - Portsmouth - today and Benitez has encouraged his striker to be more nasty. "Centre forwards in England cannot be too nice - you must be aggressive and be hard against defenders because they will be hard against you.

"He is a player with ability, but because he has quality does not mean he has to be so nice. It is important for him to improve in such areas, he is a very good lad, but maybe too nice. It is difficult to change these things but he is clever and he can see what he needs to do.

"He has said he will jump into the Kop when he scores, but I always say to him that if he gives the team something different and always works hard, that is enough, I do not care who scores the goals. If his team-mates can score goals, I will be happy. He creates a lot of space when he comes on, he creates chaos.

Benitez continued: "He showed at Aston Villa [when he won a late penalty] and for England [against Argentina] that he is a good player and someone who will do the things we need to improve our team. There's no point in comparing him to other players and saying he's better or worse, because the important thing is he's a player we needed to help us move forward."

For today's match Benitez has a clutch of players returning from World Cup play-off successes with Australia and Spain. Jose Reina, Fernando Morientes, Luis Garcia and Xabi Alonso will all go to Germany with Spain, while Harry Kewell helped guide Australia to the finals. Benitez said: "I hope the players who have done well this week will be full of confidence, will want to remain fit and in form."

Benitez has revealed he has been told by the board there are sufficient funds for his January transfer plunge despite the club's search for new investment. He explained: "We need to sign two or three. I have seen a lot of names linked with us, and some we tried for in the summer, but sometimes you need to sign a player at the right time."