Benitez: The top teams will lose more this season

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The Independent Online

Rafael Benitez insisted Liverpool are still very much in the title race despite losing three games out of their first eight. Yesterday's 2-0 defeat at Chelsea, with goals from Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda, followed losses earlier in the campaign to Tottenham and Aston Villa, and leaves Benitez's side six points off the pace.

Liverpool lost just two Premier League games last season, but still finished four points behind champions Manchester United. Benitez however insisted yesterday all top teams will drop points, meaning it is vital his players do not lose heart.

Benitez said it was the 11 draws Liverpool had last season that decided the title and he is determined his team will win more games this season than last, even if it means losing more games along the way.

"We drew a lot of games last season. We lost just two, but people were telling me about the draws," he said. "Now we're winning more and losing a few, but maybe we'll have more points. It's more difficult to convince the press, but I'll try to do it with the players. One game at a time, it's the only way to improve.

"You will see the top sides losing more points against any team. That's good for the Premier League, for the competition, but it means we have to keep going. We can't think about three defeats. It's a long race. Chelsea are very strong, but we'll try to stay as close as possible and see what happens in April and May."

Benitez praised his defence for a much improved performance after the disappointment of their 2-0 defeat to Fiorentina in midweek, saying he was happy with "90 per cent" of the team's display. But, ever the perfectionist, he highlighted the moment in the 60th minute when Frank Lampard pinched the ball from Javier Mascherano that started the attack that led to Chelsea's first goal.

The Spaniard said: "If you make a mistake against a good team, they score. The game was a bit more open after they scored and we had some chances, but you have to take those if you want to come back into the game."

Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti claimed the victory puts paid to the perception that his side's progress had stalled after a shock 3-1 defeat to Wigan a week ago and an unconvincing 1-0 victory over Apoel Nicosia in the Champions League in midweek.

The Italian claimed he had highlighted a problem and fixed it. Ancelotti said: "We did what we prepared before the game and, for this, I'm happy. We wanted to avoid free passes for [Steven] Gerrard because he's a very dangerous player. [Michael] Ballack, [Michael] Essien and Lampard did that job fantastically. They used the right side to attack but, on the left, we did a good job.

"It was not pressure on us. In Italy we usually say, 'It's the same the world over'. It was not pressure. We lost one game and played badly for a second match, but we worked hard to find the problem and resolve it. We've shown we've resolved our problem. It was not a big problem."

Ancelotti's side now have a two-point lead over Manchester United going into the international break and the former Milan manager said he is only concerned by what his team do. "We want to stay concentrated on our own season, not the others. This season depends only on us. We're top of the table and we prepare for the next games with concentration and determination. Our aim is to lose only one game. Our season depends upon us," he said.

For Chelsea, keeper Henrique Hilario came in for his first Premier League game of the season in place of the suspended Petr Cech, and performed extremely competently including pulling off a flying save in stoppage time to deny Gerrard.

The Portuguese keeper said: "There's always pressure coming into big games like this, but I'm not afraid of that pressure. It's a pressure I like."

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