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By ESPN Staff

Benitez doubts Liverpool title credentials

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez believes that his Premier League leaders can only win the title if Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal fail to mount a decent challenge.

Speaking ahead of his team's clash with Hull City on Saturday the Spaniard also said he considered Liverpool to be a small club compared to the "bigger" clubs of England's established top four.

Benitez told The Sun: "For us to win the league we need Chelsea, Man United and Arsenal to mess up their season. It is very rare that three teams all mess up."

Liverpool are one point clear of second-placed Chelsea and six ahead of Manchester United, who have a game in hand, with Arsenal in fourth, eight points off the pace.

Prior to joining Liverpool in 2004, Benitez won the La Liga title with Valencia and the Spaniard can see parallels with the Reds' challenge this season.

"For me, Valencia and Liverpool are similar - for them to win, the bigger clubs have to do badly," Benitez said. "When I won La Liga with Valencia that's what happened, Real Madrid and Barcelona were in transition, so it was easier."

But Benitez has charged his team with building a lead at the top of the Premier League now that the Champions League is on a winter break.

With the group stage finishing this week - Liverpool comfortably qualified for the last 16 - there is now a lull in European competition until the knockout stage begins in February. And Benitez has urged his side to knuckle down for those 10 league games.

"We now have almost three months to concentrate on the Premier League, and the FA Cup. We would want to go back into Europe next year still top of the table.

"We have qualified for the next stage in Europe, we are top of the Premier League, and now we can concentrate on domestic considerations. We do not want to give up top spot. If we are still there when we start up again in Europe, the chances of a really good season will be obvious."


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