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By ESPN Staff

Benitez braced for Crouch's Anfield return

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez expects Peter Crouch to return to Anfield on Wednesday night intent on proving the decision to sell him in the summer was wrong.

Crouch left Anfield for Portsmouth because he became frustrated at spending so much time on the bench, believing it was hindering his England career.

That means Crouch, as well as new Pompey boss Tony Adams, will have extra motivation against the Premier League leaders.

Adams' appointment yesterday to replace new Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp adds extra spice to tonight's clash.

Benitez said: ''Peter is a fantastic lad, we signed him and wanted to keep him. But we couldn't - he wanted to play more. I still wish him every success and hope he scores many goals for England, but not for Portsmouth this week!

''I am sure he will come here with that extra motivation, I would be surprised if he felt any different playing again at Anfield. He did well here, the fans liked him, and we know he will be dangerous.''

Commenting on the latest managerial changes in the top flight, he said: ''I must admit I was surprised by the changes in management at Spurs and Portsmouth. I know Tony Adams as a player and have great respect for him, I wish him well in his new job. But just as with Crouch, not in this game.

''Adams has taken over a good team with fine players. I consider the situation for Liverpool to be very dangerous, because everyone now expects us to take another three points after beating Chelsea. But Portsmouth will have a new manager and determined players, and they have Crouch and Defoe up front, a very good partnership.''

Benitez knows Liverpool must not waste the win at Chelsea on Sunday by failing to claim a victory over Pompey.

He said: ''It is a crucial week for us. We are at the top for the first time and everybody is waiting for our reaction, to see whether we can handle it. So we must concentrate even more now. We must not slip up or lose our focus. We are in a fantastic position and we will try to stay there as long as we can.

''The key for me is that the team is working together, all of them helping and motivating their team-mates. That is a massive difference. It is good to have confidence, but there is a long way to go. I do not want to hear people saying 'we can do this or that'.

''Forget it. I want them to go out and do it. Keeping a lid on expectation is difficult. The fans want to see the team at the top and they badly want the title, so it is difficult to keep our people calm.''

He added: ''We know we have the responsibility to give the same message to everyone, the fans in particular.

''We are top, and we are pleased to be there. But we also have a clear understanding and vision about the future, and we know there are a lot more games to go.

''The team has confidence and is playing well, but we dare not allow our thoughts to stray too far beyond Portsmouth next. But there is a massive difference between this season and previous seasons. There is a character and quality about our team, and I cannot hide this.''


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