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Rewind to Boxing Day 1963

Barclays Premier League
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By ESPN Staff

Benitez keen to keep the focus

Rafael Benitez has told his Liverpool stars that they must concentrate on football and not the very public battle for control of the club.

The Liverpool boss was reacting after the uproar following co-owner Tom Hicks' demand this week that chief executive Rick Parry resign.

That one act has plunged the club into an even deeper crisis as a battle for power breaks out in the boardroom.

But Benitez is aware that Liverpool have a crunch home Premier League match at home to Blackburn tomorrow, which they could go into ahead of Everton in the race for fourth spot on goal difference only.

That will be the case if Everton win at Birmingham today.

Benitez said in an interview with liverpoolfc.tv: 'I understand why people have to ask the question (about the boardroom crisis) but, as I have told the players, we must be focused on football.

'We have an important game on Sunday and we have to concentrate on that.'

Blackburn have been a thorn in Liverpool's side in recent seasons, and Benitez is expecting a physical battle.

He said: 'They are a tough team to play against because physically they are aggressive, they are well organised and it has been difficult against them in the past, but maybe this time it will be different.

'But they are not just a physical side. It is one of the main things, but they also have some players with quality. We need to be aware of their physical approach and also of their quality on the pitch.'

And Benitez revealed his admiration of the work Blackburn boss Mark Hughes is doing at Ewood Park.

He said: 'He is doing a good job. As we were saying before, they are a difficult side to play against and they are in a good position in the table.'

With Everton hot on their tail, Benitez believes Liverpool will need to win four of their final five games to be sure of claiming fourth spot.

He said: 'If we want to be sure then four wins. Maybe that number could be less, though, depending on other results.'

With the Champions League semi-final with Chelsea just around the corner, Benitez wants the battle for fourth placed tied up as quickly as possible.

He said: 'That's what we've been telling the players. We want to win every game now if it is possible, and then see what happens with Everton.

'We want to make sure we can finish in the top four and then think about the semi-final.'

Liverpool are without the suspended Javier Mascherano, while Jermaine Pennant, Daniel Agger and Harry Kewell are recovering from injuries.