Liverpool can prosper this winter, says Benitez

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez, believes this season's squad is better equipped to cope with the rigours of a hectic Premiership winter.

The months of December and January, when matches come thick and fast over the festive period, can often have a significant effect on a club's campaign. Liverpool moved into the top four for the first time this season after their 4-0 victory over Fulham at the weekend and with all their games in the next five weeks against teams below them in the League they have a real opportunity to strengthen their position.

However, during that time they also have to face Arsenal in both a Carling Cup quarter-final and an FA Cup third-round tie.

In previous years the quality of the squad may have been exposed, but Benitez feels his current crop of players have the necessary credentials to withstand the physical test which lies ahead.

"I think it is important for everybody because we will play a lot of games in a short space of time," the Spaniard said. "Sometimes we will play without the players being really fit because physically it is impossible for them to play two games in two days or something. But that is the reason for the squad and that could be the difference this season.

"The squad we have means we have more options in different areas. However, I think they can be better. I think we can improve in certain areas, the last pass for example."

The flexibility of the players was shown against Fulham with the England defender Jamie Carragher an unlikely goalscorer - his first in the League for nearly eight years - and his fellow centre-back Daniel Agger setting up two goals, one with a cross from the left wing.

Benitez was full of praise for his Danish defender, saying: "Daniel is a player with quality and good intelligence. He is also calm in defence."

Much of the talk around Anfield is of the proposed £450m takeover by Dubai International Capital, the investment arm of the Dubai government and whose ruler is Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the world's fifth-richest man. Should the bid be successful, Benitez would have an enviable transfer fund at his disposal in which to challenge Chelsea and Manchester United.

Even so, the Spaniard is keen for the club to retain their links with the community by bringing through local players like Carragher and another of Saturday's goalscorers, Steven Gerrard.

"It's important for all clubs to invest in youngsters because they can end up being the spine of the team," Benitez said. "If you want to win then you have to keep bringing the young players through and players who can help take you to another level."

The midfielder Luis Garcia believes Liverpool have already gone some way to making that step with their move into the top four.

"From a psychological point of view it's really important for us to be in that top four, although sometimes maybe it's better not to look too much at the table," the Spain midfielder said. "The top two are really far away from us but all we can do is keep playing as well as we can to stay in the top four.

"We must remember we have a lot of new players in the squad, and maybe now is the time the confidence is starting to come and people are doing a good job."

* Germany will take up an invitation to play England in the first international at the rebuilt Wembley Stadium on 22 August next year, the German coach, Joachim Loew, said. However the FA's director of communications, Adrian Bevington, said. "We are unable to confirm that match at the moment."

Comments