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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Aug 25, 2008

Benitez vows to bring much improved display

Rafael Benitez has promised Liverpool's Champions League form will be 'much, much better' when they bid this week to reach the group stages for the fifth successive time.

The Liverpool boss is acutely aware that his side's third qualifying round first leg display away to Standard Liege earlier in the month was unacceptable and they were fortunate to cling onto a 0-0 draw.

That display in Belgium at the Stade Maurice Dufrasne has put at risk the crucial flow of UEFA prize money Liverpool needs, more than ever, to maintain their position amongst English football's top four.

Now Benitez's side must produce their best display of the season so far to make sure that they reach the group stages.

Benitez said: 'Our display this time will be much, much better. Of that I am confident.'

Anything less could create the biggest financial crisis in the club's recent history.

The American owners are facing huge costs to build a new stadium, and also to re-finance loans in the near future. And they have already transferred some of their debt to the club, which means that £30million a year has to be found to meet interest repayments.

In four years, Liverpool have claimed over £100million in prize money from UEFA, averaging more than £20million a season having reached two finals, a semi-final and the last 16 in that time.

Failure to even reach the group stages would cost Liverpool an immediate £12million and put in question all Benitez's plans.

Liege, who have never reached the Champions League group stages, have put Liverpool's credibility and finances under great risk with their outstanding performance in the home leg.

Now Benitez knows Liverpool must win Wednesday's second leg.

He said: 'Our performance in Liege was poor, but the result was good. We did not concede an away goal and we hope that playing the second leg at Anfield will make a massive difference.

'The entire team did not play well. They (Liege) were organised, pressed well and were very aggressive.'

Recent signing Robbie Keane, still to score for his new club, accepts that despite winning both their opening Premier League games, Liverpool have yet to play well this term.

He said: 'Football is about winning, it does not matter how well you play so long as you come off the pitch having picked up the points.

'When you do not play as well as you know you can but you are still getting results, then that is a sign of a good team.'

He added: 'We have got two wins out of two in the league and that is all you can ask for.

'Now we will look ahead to the Champions League game against Liege and we know how important it is to make sure we get into the group stages.

'I am looking forward to being able to play here on a European night and hopefully we will progress and there will be more of those nights to come.'

Defender Jamie Carragher summed up the dressing room view on the tie, saying: 'We did not play well in Liege and we know we will have to improve at Anfield. Everyone knows how important it is for our season to get into the group stage.

'It would be unthinkable for us not to be in the Champions League. As players we expect to be there and so do the fans. We know in this situation all the pressure is on us.

'All the hard work finishing in the top four last season was geared towards reaching the group stages, so there is no way we want to let that slip.

'If we go through it gives us a bit of momentum and confidence and gives us those six group games to look forward to, which will set up our season.'

Fernando Torres will make his 50th appearance for the club on Wednesday, having scored 34 goals. Only George Allan, 111 years ago with 41, scored more in his first 50 games for Liverpool.

But Liege, who have never won a European game in England after six attempts, know that only a Jose Reina penalty save from Dante Bonfim stopped them winning the first leg.

Five-times European champions Liverpool must improve to avoid Liege boss Laszlo Boloni making history by guiding Standard into the group stages 22 years after he won Europe's elite club competition as a player with Steaua Bucharest.

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