Liverpool must stay focused says Lee

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The Independent Football

Assistant boss Sammy Lee maintains Barclays Premier League leaders Liverpool must not start listening to the doom mongers by looking anxiously over their shoulders at Manchester United.

By the time manager Rafael Benitez returns to work following a third operation on his troublesome kidney stone complaint ahead of the league and FA Cup double-header against Merseyside rivals Everton, the Reds could well have been knocked off the top of the table should, as expected, a resurgent United win both of their games in hand.

While the pundits may already be predicting the downfall of the Anfield club - who last won the English championship in 1990, Lee insists the team must just focus on their own performances rather than worry about what may happen or is being claimed elsewhere.

"A lot of pundits have said there's only one team that can win the league - and I don't buy into that, either. You can't rule teams out in January," Lee told the club's official website," www.liverpoolfc.tv.

"We can't keep looking over our shoulders. We have got to do what we have got to do."

There was, though, little hiding the disappointment following Liverpool's goalless draw on Stoke, which allowed United to close the gap on them to five points after they thumped Chelsea 3-0 at Old Trafford.

Lee said: "That is the measure of this team at the moment - that we go away from home and get a point in the Premier League and we are disappointed.

"We go for all three points, but we have to take the positives. The game did not transpire how we would have liked - we had control and we lost it.

"But the positives, for me, were that we got a point and we did not concede from the many, many set pieces that they had."

Benitez, 48, has watched Liverpool from the directors' box since his last operation in December.

The Spaniard, who is close to agreeing a new deal, will, according to Lee, be eager to return to his hands-on role as soon as possible.

"It is a difficult time for him because all he wants to do is be out there on the training pitch with his players, but he is still buoyant," said Lee.

"He is going for the third operation, but we are hoping it won't keep him out for too long - hopefully just a couple of days."

Lee added: "All credit to Rafa for what he's put in place. His attention to detail and organisation means that, if any one of us is missing, there won't be a blip."

Striker Fernando Torres, meanwhile, is eager to get the chance to sink Merseyside rivals Everton twice in a week.

The Reds are next in Premier League action on Monday night, before the Toffees make the short journey across Stanley Park again in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Torres has hit three goals in two games against Everton, and after coming off the bench in recent matches as he regains full match fitness, the Spaniard has set his sights firmly on inflicting more derby misery.

"You can feel the excitement of the fans the day before the game," he said in the Liverpool Echo.

"Before the last one I had people coming up to me telling me 'you have to win, you have to win' and 'you have to score'.

"I had never scored a goal in a derby game before I came to this country so to get three in two games against Everton and to win both of them is fantastic.

"I hope to play against Everton again this time and I hope to be able to score again."

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