Liverpool remain in Champions League contention says Benitez

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The Independent Online

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez still believes the race for fourth place will go right to the wire and so was pleased his side's 4-0 victory at Burnley improved their goal difference significantly.

The win, Liverpool's first in eight away league matches this year, ensured Champions League football next season remains a mathematical possibility.

Fourth-placed Tottenham are two points ahead on 64, with a match in hand, and Liverpool must win their remaining two games and hope neither Spurs, Manchester City nor Aston Villa amass more than 68 points.

If they do not it could well come down to goal difference, where all the rivals are fairly equally matched, and the crucial results are likely to be the meetings between City and Villa at Eastlands next weekend and City at home to Spurs the following Wednesday.

"I think we have a chance so we will try," said Benitez on seventh-placed Liverpool's chances of finishing fourth.

"We know they (Tottenham and City) still have one game in hand but we are close and we will try our best.

"Maybe the best results for us is for them to draw and then if we can get six points we will have to see.

"If we finish on 68 points we will have a chance because we will have better goal difference."

Two goals from captain Steven Gerrard, a maiden Liverpool strike for Maxi Rodriguez and a late effort from Ryan Babel relegated Burnley from the Barclays Premier League yesterday.

Gerrard's first goal in the 51st minute was deflected off Burnley centre-back Leon Cort but his 25-yard strike seven minutes later was inch-perfect before Rodriguez and Babel wrapped things up.

Benitez was pleased to see his captain back on the scoresheet and Rodriguez finally opening his account after his January move from Atletico Madrid.

"Stevie needs to score, it was good for him and good for the team," said the Spaniard.

"Maxi has had some chances in the past and now he has scored it will be good for him too.

"As soon as we scored the first goal the game was open and then we had more space and time to play the ball.

"The second goal was the kind of goal Stevie can score. It was a fantastic strike; he has quality, power and accuracy so I'm really pleased for him.

"It is important when you don't have players like (injured striker) Fernando Torres, who will normally score, that you have players like Steve who was scoring a lot of goals before."

Attention now turns to Thursday's Europa League semi-final at home to Atletico Madrid, who lead 1-0 from last week's first leg.

"After four goals away and a clean sheet we have to have confidence so I think we can beat Atletico and be in the final and get three points in each game and we have a chance to finish in the top four," added Benitez.

"We know it will be very difficult but we will try."

Striker Dirk Kuyt was forced off with an injury early in the second half but Benitez said it was too early to rule him out of the crucial match against Atletico.

"Kuyt is working with the physios as he has a small problem with his calf but we will have to wait," said the Liverpool boss.

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