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By ESPN Staff

Rafa: Reserve teams should play in League

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez wants the reserve teams of top clubs to be allowed to play in the Football League.

The Anfield boss claims the reserve set-up in England is 'not working' and preventing the progress of his young stars.

Benitez, speaking the day after holders Liverpool reached the FA Youth Cup final for the second consecutive season, is worried that his best young players are not getting quality opposition at reserve level.

He said: 'It is clear that the reserve system doesn't work, the reserve league is nothing.

'You can see youngsters playing just 18 games a season, that is nothing. Certainly not enough for the development of these players.

'It is something that we can improve in this country. Or if we do not change we will find other solutions, sending youngsters out on loan like I have done recently.

'I do not want to see reserve teams with four or five senior men playing without passion. These games are for young players.'

Liverpool's youngsters beat Newcastle 7-3 on aggregate to set-up a final against either Manchester United or Arsenal, in which they will be attempting to become only the fifth club in the 54 years of the youth competition to retain the trophy.

But Benitez fears for the immediate future, and said: 'Between 18 and 21 years old in this country, the players do not know what to do. If they are good enough at 18 they are with the first team but on the bench all the time.

'If you want to improve their level you must change the reserve league system.'

Benitez has experience of the Spanish system which allows the second string at major clubs to play in the second division.

He said: 'I used to be the manager of Castilla, Real Madrid's reserve side, and I had players who were 18, 19 years old playing in the Spanish second division championship.

'They were playing against men. They were winning and we finished sixth and fourth. The question is, what improves the quality of the players?'

He added: 'It is something that must improve here. You cannot play in a reserve league with players who are 34 years old and coming back from injury.

'They don't work hard. What happens to the 18 and 19 year olds, because they should not play games with senior men in the reserves.

'I would like to see reserve teams of the big clubs like ourselves playing in the Football League. Why not if they have enough quality?

'The key is that the young players may have the quality but not the experience for the first team. They are only on the bench.

'That will bridge the gap between the youngsters and the first team. If you do not give young players the chance to play competitive football and to learn things, things become impossible.'