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16 Agustus 2008

Benitez Optimistic About The New Campaign

With the new Premier League campaign just hours away, Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez, whose side take on Sunderland at the Stadium of Light this evening, has outlined his hopes in an interview with, saying that his team can be a very good one both now and in the future.
However, their first competitive game, in the Champions League qualifer against Standard Liege, raised more questions than answers. Benitez put it in perspective when he said:
“I think everybody could see it was a bad performance but a very good result. If we had conceded one or two goals it would have been more difficult. We will now play the second leg at Anfield in front of our supporters.
“[The players] know we didn't play well but they know for the second game how important it is to get behind the team because we want to be in the Champions League.
“The reaction of the players in the dressing room after the game was very positive and the team will be ready.”
The Liege game was also a disappointing competitive bow for both Robbie Keane and Andrea Dossena, and Benitez commented:

“Clearly it is too soon to judge them. We are talking about players with quality and game intelligence and they will need time. In a new team with different players you need time and in this case nobody can say anything about the quality that they both have.”

Asked whether Liverpool could have had an easier start in the Premier League than Sunderland away, Benitez replied: “Yes, but you cannot change the fixtures so we know we have to play them away from home in the first game. Last season was a good game for us when we won 2-0 at Sunderland so hopefully it will be the same this time.”
The question of transfers is a vexed one for Benitez, who has revealed in other interviews that he nearly quit over the Gareth Barry non-transfer. But he has still brought in several new players, and as yet the defending champions, Manchester United, haven't bought anyone. So does that suggest the gap will be closer between Liverpool and the top this season?
Benitez was typically circumspect on that point, telling the Liverpool website: “You never know because the other teams had good squads before. We want to be closer, we have confidence and I think my squad is better than last season. The average age of the squad is good so I think the team can be a very good one now and also in the future.”

Asked how he is feeling on the eve of the new campaign, he said: “Optimistic. If you have a good team and a good squad you have to be optimistic. We will have the likes of Mascherano, Babel and Lucas Leiva back with us soon (from Olympic duty), and hopefully Fabio Aurelio, Martin Skrtel and Philipp Degen available again. We need our squad for the competition of the team.
“When we signed Martin Skrtel it made a massive difference for us because we had three centre backs available and now we have four.”

Regarding objectives for the season, and whether it is essential Liverpool lift a trophy or two this time, Benitez said: “For our fans they want us to win the Premier League, the Champions League, the FA Cup and Carling Cup. If you say to me what do I want? My idea is always to win trophies every year. We know how difficult it is. We have to win the first game and then after that think about the next one.”
As far as prioritising trophies is concerned, Benitez said: “I think [the fans] put the Premier League as number one because we won the Champions League in 2005. We want to win the Premier League.”

Is the pressure more intense after not winning silverware for a couple of years? The Spaniard said: “I think sometimes people need to understand to finish third, then fourth and play two finals in the Champions League and a semi-final - it's not that bad. We want to win silverware but who won the Premier League and Champions League last season? Who finished second in both? Manchester United and Chelsea. The best teams in Europe are in the Premier League and that is the reason why it is so difficult.”
Mark Hinton,