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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Feb 2, 2007

Rafa wants no repeat of September derby errors

Rafael Benitez intends to concentrate on the bigger picture rather than to be hauled into the hype and hysteria of the 205th Merseyside derby.

The Anfield chief has not forgotten the 'silly mistakes' which resulted in his team losing 3-0 to Everton at Goodison Park in September.

But he will have his sights set on Chelsea's coat-tails and the battle at the top of the Premier League rather than a very local skirmish.

And Benitez explained: 'We are a very different team now to the one that lost at Everton earlier in the season.

'We made silly mistakes and we were lacking something more, I remember and want to make sure we do not make the same mistakes.'

What Benitez means is that he witnessed his side produce a limp display in a match that saw them outfought, outmuscled and outrun by an Everton side inspired by Andrew Johnson's pace and his two goals.

It was a chastening experience, and one striker Dirk Kuyt admits to being a match he 'went into hiding' after.

But if Liverpool want to maintain their current outstanding form - one league defeat in 13 - and stay in the hunt for a top two finish, there can be no hiding place this time for Benitez's men.

Benitez continued: 'It is better not to forget what happened at Everton, to know what we did wrong and to make sure we analyse and stop it happening again.

'If we can win we will be closer to the top two, that will be perfect and the right incentive.

'Everton didn't surprise me last time, what did surprise me was conceding three goals. We must now be positive and if we keep playing as well as we are now, we can win.'

Everton have not claimed a league double over Liverpool since their title winning season of 1984-85, but Benitez is not even considering such a humiliation.

He said: 'I am surprised to hear such a statistic, because these games are always close and anything can happen.

'But we did, and I have to analyse why and make sure it does not happen again.

'Derbies are difficult and hard to predict. I have experience of them in Spain, and matches in Madrid, Barcelona and Seville are all similar.

'As a manager you must try to be calm, to do the same things and to control the players.

'Some of them, maybe the local ones, want to win in the first minute, but you need time and to have your brain working. You know better than me, I do not have to say which players!'

Benitez must retain a clear head in the fierce atmosphere of the derby and focus on the real task for Liverpool - aside of local pride.

Benitez will not risk Mohamed Sissoko's damaged shoulder, for the lunchtime kick off, while Fabio Aurelio is out with an ankle injury.

The Spaniard must also decide whether to be brave and go with a three-man attack of Craig Bellamy, Kuyt and Peter Crouch.

He said: 'This is a really important game, for us three points but for our fans to see us beat Everton. But we have other targets.

'If we keep winning we will get closer to the top, if we keep winning the confidence of the players will increase.

'Two years ago we were not close to the top two. Last season we were a lot closer and now we are even closer.

'So we must keep winning to the end and see how close we get, that is what we are trying to do.

He added: 'It is a long race. But if you get close and people start talking about titles, that is when you make mistakes.

'We are in a good position, we are trying to find that little bit extra, if not for now but for the future.

'We must only concentrate on the next three points, okay it is a derby, but we must win for our fans and for ourselves, because we want to be at the top of the table.

'We have improved a lot in terms of confidence since that defeat at Goodison in September.

'I have tried to explain many times why we started the season poorly. We had injuries, the players were tired, there had been a World Cup and then other international breaks.

'It did not help playing some very tough away games all at once. It sounds like excuses, but when you put all those things together, you find you have problems.

'Now we have most of our players fit, we are working well in training and we are now looking a much better side.'