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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Apr 14, 2008

Benitez: Concentrate on league position

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez put aside his off-field problems to hail the goalscorers who are driving the club towards Champions League success and European qualification. And the Anfield boss insists he wants fourth place - and qualification for next season's Champions League - guaranteed before the club embark on their Champions League semi-final showdown with Chelsea next week. Benitez was delighted with the 3-1 victory over Blackburn yesterday, the club's seventh consecutive home league win in a run that has seen Liverpool lose just three of their last 26 matches in all competitions. Fernando Torres (30) and Steven Gerrard (21) have topped 50 goals between them for the campaign, with Torres having scored 20 in his last 18 home matches, and 12 in his last 12 games overall. Benitez, whose side have lost just two of their last 53 home league matches, said: 'We need now to make sure of fourth spot before we play Chelsea in the Champions League semi-finals, it needs to be out of the way so that everyone can concentrate on those two matches. 'We have no control over what Everton do in their game at the end of the week (at home to Chelsea) but we would hope that a win at Fulham would give us fourth spot.' Liverpool are currently five points ahead of local rivals Everton in the race for fourth place, with four games left each. If Everton lose to Chelsea on Thursday, a Liverpool win at Fulham on Saturday will virtually assure the Reds of fourth, such is their superior goal difference. Benitez said: 'We have not quite secured fourth place yet, we need to keep going and win our next match at Fulham. They won this weekend and are still very determined not to be relegated, so we expect it to be difficult. 'The problem for us is the distraction of the Champions League. It always presents us with risks (in team selection). 'I am not really worried about chasing third place now, let's just prepare the players for our next game. 'We must only think of finishing in the top four. That, and progress in the Champions League, is our priority.' At boardroom level the club is engulfed in a damaging civil war, but on the pitch Benitez has overseen a major improvement in the side's performances of late. They have topped 100 goals for the campaign and yesterday's victory ensured that they now have scored more goals in a Premier League season than at any time under the Spaniard. And apart from Torres and Gerrard, two other players - Yossi Benayoun and Ryan Babel - are in double figures for the campaign with Dirk Kuyt needing just one more to join them. Benitez said: 'I am pleased that Steven and Fernando have now scored 50 goals between them this season, but we also have others in double figures. 'Benayoun and Babel have both got into double figures and Kuyt needs just one more. 'We have now scored more goals in a league season than at any time since I have been manager, so that shows our improvement.' In a week that has seen embarrassing discord from the boardroom, with co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, plus chief executive Rick Parry and former owner David Moores all involved in public wrangling over the club's internal crisis, the side have produced two critical victories. First they completed Champions League quarter-final success against Arsenal and then defeated Blackburn to establish their position in Europe and domestic competition.

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