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Premier League

Liverpool's poor form is just a 'blip' says Gillett

The Liverpool co-owner George Gillett believes Rafael Benitez is one of the top five managers in the world and that this season's disappointing results are merely a "blip".

The club have endured a difficult campaign so far and have fallen well off the pace in the Barclays Premier League, trailing the leaders by 14 points. The poor League form has been compounded by early eliminations from the FA Cup, at home to Championship strugglers Reading, and the Champions League.

Benitez has been unmoved in his belief that he will turn things around and now he has received the backing of Gillett. That is significant as Gillett has always been seen as less enthusiastic in his support for the Spaniard than his fellow co-owner Tom Hicks, who has been behind Benitez from the moment the two Americans' relationship began to become strained.

"We believe if you were to put a list together of the top five coaches, managers in the world, he would definitely be on that list for us," said Gillett, who was united in his agreement with Hicks to give Benitez an improved five-year contract towards the end of last season.

"And we think he's been tossed a curve ball by circumstance, injuries and so forth. I think that's been a real challenge to the coach. He's had to really make some innovations and play some players out of position and so forth. And notwithstanding that, they've generally played with a lot of passion. I really believes it's a blip."

Injuries have certainly compounded Liverpool's problems with their striker Fernando Torres, the club captain Steven Gerrard, right-back Glen Johnson and midfielder Yossi Benayoun all currently out of action. Torres will be missing for a further five weeks after undergoing knee surgery at the weekend. Liverpool have also been unlucky in other areas, such as the freak goal at the Stadium of Light in October when the ball was deflected in via a beach ball to hand Sunderland a 1-0 victory.

"That was a real low blow," Gillett admitted on the Canadian radio station, Prime Time Sports. "He [Benitez] has had a struggle getting the morale of the boys back up but we've got a great group of young men."