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By ESPN Staff

Rafa insists Reds title challenge still exists

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has reassured the team's fans - and club's American owners - that he is taking the side in the right direction. Benitez has had his toughest season since arriving from Valencia in 2004 with a difference of opinion over the January transfer window seemingly causing a rift between the Spaniard, Tom Hicks and George Gillett. And while relations are now thought to be back on track the Reds' inability to keep within touching distance of the Premier League summit brings problems of its own. But Benitez insists the future is bright with the current crop of players. 'In my mind there is no doubt we have a better squad now than twelve months ago, we have more quality all over the pitch and I am convinced we are continuing to take the club in the right direction,' he told www.liverpool.tv. 'It has been a year which has seen us again qualify for the Champions League through our league position, we've reached another European final and of course we have recently booked our place in the last 16 of this season's competition. 'We have been able to improve the squad by bringing in a number of top-class players, all of whom have shown their ability and their desire to play for this great club.' Benitez has also refused to rule out playing some part in the title race despite going into the Boxing Day clash with Derby 10 points adrift of leaders Arsenal. He added: 'The Premier League is tougher to win than ever before and I think the race could go down to the wire this year. Points are being won and lost every week by the top teams and if that continues then there's no doubt we're in for an exciting second half of the season. 'We are closer than we have been over recent years at this stage and that, to me, highlights the improvements we have made. We have a squad of players with great hunger and a determination to succeed and I can promise you that we will all be doing everything we can to give ourselves the best possible chance of enjoying a successful season.'