I have made some bad decisions, admits Benitez

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The Independent Football

Who dares wins? A week on from the embarrassment that was Burnley, Liverpool dare not lose when they visit Watford tonight. With a Carling Cup final place against Chelsea or Manchester United at stake, Rafael Benitez admitted his own failings may have contributed to the pressure facing his team as they return to Championship territory.

Who dares wins? A week on from the embarrassment that was Burnley, Liverpool dare not lose when they visit Watford tonight. With a Carling Cup final place against Chelsea or Manchester United at stake, Rafael Benitez admitted his own failings may have contributed to the pressure facing his team as they return to Championship territory.

The Liverpool manager, whose side have not scored in successive defeats by Manchester United, Burnley and Southampton, conceded he had made "bad decisions". Benitez also revealed he has held what might be termed "crisis" talks with his players as they prepare for the second leg of the semi-final at Vicarage Road after beating Watford 1-0 at Anfield.

As the backlash that started at Turf Moor intensified, led by Alan Hansen's claim that Saturday's performance was the worst since he left Liverpool 14 years ago, Benitez made it clear he had indulged in some soul-searching. "I have been self-critical," he said. "I tried to change things when I saw Southampton playing better than us, but it didn't work. You can't always do the right thing as a manager."

Benitez, who is certain to field his strongest available line-up after the vilification that followed a weakened side's FA Cup exit at Burnley, added: "Sometimes I make bad decisions. But that's my responsibility. I pick the side, and if we win, as against Arsenal and Olympiakos, people talk well about me. If we don't, I can accept the criticism, though if I were always thinking about it I would lose my concentration."

The former Valencia coach is still seeking to strengthen his squad, with Real Madrid's out-of-favour Argentinian winger Santiago Solari targeted as a summer "Bosman" signing. In the meantime, he has been holding meetings with the squad and with individuals. "You need to do that when things aren't going well. We've played very well in some games and not in others. We need to analyse why. We must also cut out the silly mistakes that can be the difference been good and bad games.

"Now they have to pick themselves up. We have 15 games left in the Premiership. We're in the Champions' League and in the semi-finals of the Carling Cup. It's not the worst situation in Liverpool's history."

Elimination by Watford would certainly feel like it. Ray Lewington's team lie 17th in their division, below Burnley, yet matched Liverpool for lengthy periods in the first leg.

"That showed us that we're not just making up the numbers and we do have a chance of reaching the final," Lewington said. "Two years ago, when we lost to Southampton in the FA Cup semi-finals, we had the attitude slightly of being happy to be there. We've learned from that."

The Watford manager hoped for "complacency" from Liverpool and "conviction" from his side, saying: "As underdogs, you must go in truly believing you can win. There's a 100 per cent belief that we can bridge the skill gap for 90 minutes and make it very difficult for them."

Watford (probable, 4-4-2): Jones; Chambers, Cox, De Merit, Darlington; Devlin, Ardley, Mahon, Gunnarson; Helguson, Webber.

Liverpool (probable, 4-4-2): Dudek; Finnan, Carragher, Pellegrino, Josemi; Garcia, Gerrard, Hamann, Riise; Baros, Morientes.

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