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AC Milan
By ESPN Staff

Benitez sticks with struggling youngster Hobbs

Teenage star Jack Hobbs will emerge from his searching examination during Liverpool's pre-season a better player, claims boss Rafael Benitez.

Hobbs, 17, a star of the club's FA Youth Cup triumph last season, has figured in all four of Liverpool's senior pre-season friendlies with varying degrees of success.

On Saturday he had a disaster against Kaiserslautern in Liechtenstein, being blamed for all three of the goals in a 3-2 defeat.

But a meeting with Benitez ahead of Tuesday night's friendly against Grasshopper in Zurich seems to have worked.

Hobbs, despite the 2-0 defeat, had a much better game and shows he is learning quickly.

Benitez said: 'I spoke with Jack and told him to cut out the mistakes and he listened well and I thought he did well in this match.

'Jack is a young player with potential and he will continue to work hard and learn.'

Hobbs, signed from Lincoln last year, will return to his former club for a friendly in a fortnight.

Benitez, who will have Xabi Alonso back from an ankle injury against Mainz in Germany on Friday, was not too bothered by the defeat to the Swiss.

Benitez had Steven Gerrard, as well as Peter Crouch and Jamie Carragher, back for the first time since the World Cup finals and he was full of praise for the contribution of his skipper.

Benitez said: 'It was a typical pre-season game and we created seven or eight good chances but couldn't score, but the main positive for me was the return of Gerrard, Carragher, Crouch and (Jan) Kromkamp.

'Gerrard was sharp and was unlucky not to score and it's good to have players returning to action after they played in the World Cup.

'We made some mistakes for the goals but I'm not too worried about that as we are trying some players out and giving some young players a chance.'

Benitez will now use the side's final build-up game of the summer to try to get his strongest side on the pitch against Mainz.

He has injury worries over Luis Garcia, Robbie Fowler, Steve Finnan and Fabio Aurelio but, with next Wednesday's Champions League qualifier with Maccabi Haifa in mind, a near full-strength side can be expected on Friday.