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By ESPN Staff

Benitez: Keane can be one of the greats

Rafael Benitez believes Roy Keane can go on and become 'something special' as a manager.

The Liverpool boss took time out last season to monitor Sunderland's progress under the former Manchester United midfielder.

Benitez was impressed at the way the rookie boss galvanised a struggling team and led them into the Premier League.

Tomorrow the two men who will be on opposite sides of the dugout at the Stadium of Light in one of the day's intriguing fixtures.

Benitez said: 'I knew him as a player and he has become a good manager.

'It was amazing last season. To be in the bottom of the league and get promotion, it was really good.

'Roy Keane needs time, maybe in five years we will see, but already he looks something special. He is good now but he could be great.'

Keane is renowned for his volatile nature but the normally placid Benitez vented his anger this week on all manner of issues.

Chelsea, referees, Gabriel Heinze and early starts at away games have been on his agenda.

The Spanish coach will be hoping to leave Wearside with a smile of satisfaction instead.

The week began badly with Liverpool denied a victory against Chelsea after referee Rob Styles wrongly awarded a penalty to the visitors.

Styles, who apologised for the error, was taken off the elite list of officials for the weekend.

Benitez was still railing about that blunder and Chelsea's tactics when the Barclays Premier League blocked Heinze's move from Manchester United to Anfield.

The long-drawn out saga ended with the player deciding against appealing and joining Real Madrid instead.

Benitez's mood was not been helped either with the Sunderland game starting at 1245 on a Saturday.

He is adamant the match should have been switched to a Sunday after a round of international matches on Wednesday.

The only comfort he has taken is the way his side performed against Chelsea, champions in two of the past three seasons.

'You could see how they were celebrating a draw, ' said Benitez.

'We were denied two points and it is important to win against the big sides.

'We deserved all three points. We were really good in the first half and controlled the game.

'Overall we have to be disappointed at the events of this week but now it is important to focus on Sunderland.'

Liverpool will make a late decision on whether to risk captain Steven Gerrard at Sunderland.

Gerrard played against Chelsea, despite needing a pain-killing injection because of a hairline fracture of a toe, but the midfielder withdrew from England's squad against Germany.

Liverpool must decide whether to press Gerrard into action, or hold him back for Tuesday's Chapions League third qualifying round second leg at home to Toulouse.

Benitez claims it will be a tough game against Sunderland as they were soundly beaten by Wigan last week.

That derailed the newly-promoted side's bright start after they secured four points from their first two games.

Benitez said: 'It is clear that for them their home form will be important.

'After losing at Wigan they will be desperate to win in front of their own supporters.

'They have good support and it will be a hard game for us, I am sure.'