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By ESPN Staff

Benitez relishing 'difficult' Inter Milan clash

Liverpool will draw on their recent Champions League experience when the time comes for their 'very difficult' last-16 tie against Inter Milan, according to manager Rafael Benitez.

The Reds boss accepts facing the Serie A leaders is the price the club must pay for finishing second in their group.

Despite a strong finish - when a 4-0 victory in Marseille in their final match secured passage into the knockout phase - a poor start with one draw and two defeats has made the second stage all the more difficult.

However, Benitez knows his side are capable of beating any team in Europe on their day - as their now famous comeback from 3-0 down against AC Milan in the 2005 final showed.

They also beat Barcelona in their run to last season's final, where the Milanese claimed revenge in Athens, and that gives the manager hope for the rest of this campaign.

'Everybody was expecting a difficult draw and Inter Milan are one of the top sides,' he said.

'They have good players and experience in Europe. It is very difficult but we know the team and we have confidence in ourselves.

'All the teams are difficult to beat but we have some experience of this.

'Hopefully we will see another of those performances in the knockout stages.

'I think they (Inter) will be worried, for sure. They know we are a good team and anything can happen in two months' time.'

The sides have not met competitively since a notorious European Cup semi-final in 1965 when Inter went on to lift the trophy for a second year in a row.

The Italians won 4-3 on aggregate but their 3-0 second leg win in the San Siro was shrouded in accusations that the referee was bribed to ensure Liverpool lost.

Reds chief executive Rick Parry said: 'With some of the fans that memory will add a certain piquancy to the matches. It is a long time ago but it's the first time we've played them since then.

'It's a big one but was it going to be whoever we had drawn. It's a long time since we played them, they are a very good team.'

Parry is confident Benitez will be able to deliver in the competition once again.

He added: 'Rafa is a great tactician and you just have to think back to knocking out Juventus and Barcelona. Ties like this one are absolutely where he comes into his own.

'Clearly Inter Milan are doing extremely well this season and they don't come much tougher. It is a mouth-watering prospect but it's what European football is all about.'

Benitez will be hoping to strengthen his squad ahead of the tie and Parry has rubbished suggestions the Spaniard may be prevented from recruiting in the January transfer window.

Parry said: 'That is nonsense. There has never been a transfer ban at Liverpool. We have always had a philosophy if we need to strengthen the squad then we will. Nothing has changed.'

Inter Milan chief executive Ernesto Paolillo insists his side will make life as difficult as possible for Benitez's team.

'We feel Liverpool are the strongest team, what better team to have as an opponent?' he said.

'I think Liverpool will make it difficult for us and I hope it will be difficult for them as well.'

The first leg of the tie will take place at Anfield on February 19 with the return at the San Siro on March 11.