Last season the criticism that followed 11 losses away from Anfield stayed behind the iron gates of the Melwood training ground, but after witnessing the return of the failings that plagued his inaugural Premiership season at Fulham, the Liverpool manager yesterday accused his European champions of having an attitude problem that will consign them to another season of domestic under-achievement if it persists.
Benitez's anger was not reserved solely for his players, with Liverpool's backroom staff, among whom he includes himself, rebuked for the casual start to a defeat that left the club languishing 13th in the table and struggling to retain the euphoria of Istanbul.
The manager's admission does not support his own argument that he treats Premiership and Champions' League fixtures with parity, though it is a warning his charges will do well to heed when they return to London tonight for a Carling Cup third-round tie at Crystal Palace.
"In the first half at Fulham there was a problem with our attitude," Benitez admitted. "We did not approach the game in the right way. It is a problem of the players and the staff, because we need to let them know how important every game is. I am disappointed because we have spoken so often about last season and we know we need to beat these teams if we are going to be at the top of the table. It is acceptable to play to a good level against Chelsea or Arsenal and not win, but we need to have the same attitude against Fulham if we are to get to the top."
Benitez denies there is a language problem at Liverpool 17 months after his appointment but there is no disputing his squad's failure to produce after a European outing, for all their manager's attempts to abate tiredness through rotation. Liverpool lost eight and won only two of their matches following Champions' League fixtures last season, and though consolation arrived in abundance in May a tally of three points from 15 after European games this term is undermining their much-anticipated progress at home.
"As a professional you should always be motivated but sometimes it is difficult," he said. "Until Fulham I was happy with our attitude, but after Champions' League games we always seem to have lots of problems. It is the same for a lot of clubs - look at Real Madrid against Valencia."Reuse content