Rafa Benitez: Liverpool FC supporters must keep faith in title pursuit

By Ian Doyle on Jan 31, 09 10:30 AM in Journalists

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RAFAEL BENITEZ has urged Liverpool supporters to "trust" him as he dismissed suggestions his team are too cautious to win the title.

The Anfield outfit entertain fellow championship contenders Chelsea tomorrow afternoon having slipped below the Londoners to third place in the Premier League table, with both teams two points adrift of leaders and champions Manchester United.

Liverpool have been hampered by a run of form that has seen them draw seven of their last 10 top-flight fixtures, including successive draws in their last three outings against Stoke City, Everton and Wigan Athletic.

Many supporters were critical of Benitez's team selection and substitutions as they surrendered a one-goal lead late on at the JJB Stadium on Wednesday.

But the Spaniard has urged fans to keep the faith and believes victory over Chelsea would "change everything" for his team.

"The supporters need to trust the team, the team is doing well," said Benitez.

"I am the manager and I will make the decisions and if the team can continue winning everyone will be happy, if not we will be disappointed.

"This year we have a very good problem. Expectation has gone high.

"Now we need to manage the situation. We have to keep going whether we win or cannot.

"Clearly this kind of game can change everything. If we win everyone will be talking about us being back in the title race, we are fantastic, we have an opportunity.

"The draws have been disappointing. If we win against Chelsea everything will change."

Responding to accusations his tactics are too safety-first, Benitez said: "119 goals last season, 82 points record in history of club, four trophies, seven finals, you cannot be cautious and have all this.

"We scored more goals last season than any team in England. The problem is we are well organised as a team and when a team is like this it is seen as being less offensive.

"We have a very good balance. But you see the difference between Torres being fit and scoring goals like last season and being injured for three months.

"We would be talking about different things now.

"The difference the other day we had a lot of opportunities two against two with Gerrard and Torres. It is just the timing."

Benitez has been taunted in the past fortnight by rival supporters chanting "Rafa's cracking up" but the Spaniard insists he is delighted Liverpool are competing for the championship.

"When you play to avoid relegation you are under pressure, but when you play to win the Premier League, or to progress in the Champions League or FA Cup, I am pleased to be in this position," he said.

"I don't feel under any more pressure than when I was at Valencia for example trying to take on Real Madrid and Barcelona.

"We are eight points better than last season which is positive. Now clearly this month we couldn't win games we normally win, but we have been playing exactly the same."

Liverpool's American co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett are both due to attend tomorrow's game, but Benitez refused to be drawn of whether a possible new contract will be discussed if any meeting takes place between the trio.

"If the owners want to meet me, I have no problem with that," he said.

"It will be a private conversation. If we have to talk I don't have any problem. We can talk about team, club or whether Torres can score more goals.

"I don't know the agenda.

"It could be about everything, I cannot say we will talk about this (the contract) and maybe we will talk about the game.

"I was clear I am preparing the game properly for Chelsea which is the priority. Afterwards, I can see Tom Hicks and George Gillett together and we can talk about the weather, the club, everything. It is not a problem."

Xabi Alonso, Dirk Kuyt and Albert Riera are likely to return to the starting line-up tomorrow after being rested to the bench in midweek.

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