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50-50: Liverpool vs. Real Madrid

Champions League 16 hours ago
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By ESPN Staff
Apr 18, 2008

Benitez committed to Reds

Rafael Benitez has re-affirmed his commitment to Liverpool at the end of another week of turmoil at Anfield.

The Liverpool chief made his position clear ahead of Saturday's Premier League trip to struggling Fulham and with the Champions League semi-final against Chelsea on the horizon.

Benitez had cast grave doubts about his long-term future at the club last weekend in the row over exactly who attended meetings before Christmas with Jurgen Klinsmann when the manager's job was discussed.

Benitez demanded answers from co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, plus chief executive Rick Parry.

And a day after Hicks and Gillett again squared up to each other in a very public breakdown of their partnership, Benitez now seems much happier with his position.

He refused to discuss the ongoing ownership battle or any meetings he may have had with his bosses.

But he was keen to point out: 'At this moment I have two years of my contract still to go, I am really pleased and really happy here. And I want to stay. And I want to stay for a long time.'

Asked if he had spoken to Hicks, Gillett or Parry, Benitez said: 'I do not need to talk to them, I need to talk with my staff and my players.

'We have been training and all I want to talk about is the games against Fulham, and then Chelsea. We will be preparing for the games properly.'

But he also seemed relaxed about potential summer transfer funds, despite the club being unsure of who will be at the helm by then.

He said: 'As far as transfer money is concerned, I cannot be sure. But we will try to do our best, the scouting staff and I know what to do and we are progressing and working on things.

'The scouts are doing a fantastic job and we are trying to progress with the targets we have.'

On the ongoing crisis, all Benitez would say was: 'I want to win against Fulham, I know everyone is asking and talking about other things, but I am a professional and I want to concentrate on football.

'We need these three points to be as close to fourth place as quickly as possible.

'Things (around the club) have not been a distraction for the players. We have confidence in ourselves and we are playing well.

'That shows the strength of our squad, the quality and the character of the players.

'I feel that the players are showing they are good professionals.

'They are focused, they are concentrating on games. That is the key to our success now.'

With the chance that skipper Steven Gerrard and full-back Alvaro Arbeloa may well be out injured at Craven Cottage - with the likelihood that Fernando Torres could be rested - the Anfield chief, also addressed concerns a weakened Liverpool team could boost Fulham as they fight against the drop.

He faced similar criticism at the same time last season with an identical game at Fulham as Liverpool were successfully negotiating a Champions League semi-final.

Sheffield United boss Neil Warnock expressed his anger - the Fulham win then enough to save them from the drop.

Now Bolton boss Gary Megson has expressed his desire that Benitez field a full side.

But the Spaniard refuses to concede that his actions have much bearing on the situation.

He said: 'Obviously I will be thinking a bit about playing key games in Europe after Fulham. But the key is to keep winning, we may do it with different players and we need to use other players.

'We have a big squad, good players to come in and we will treat this game just like we did at Arsenal.

'I know there was criticism last season when we did something similar at Fulham, coming from Sheffield United.

'But what did they do in their last game? They lost. So I feel it is sometimes better to look to yourself and what you do.

'Teams have 38 games to play each season, that is enough. So you are responsible for your own luck.

'Look at what all the teams in the middle of the table have been doing recently. They have been using different players, young players, and they have been preparing for the future.

'What did Bolton do in the UEFA Cup with their team selection?. They left players out.

'I will use the players I believe will be good enough to win this game, and the next one and the next one. I believe 38 games is enough to be successful or not.

'And clearly our squad is stronger than it was last season when we got to this stage.

'We should have won that game against Fulham then. And I will put out a team I believe can win this time.

'I will be thinking a little bit about Chelsea. I have players I do not want to risk, and I have enough quality in the squad to win at Fulham.'