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By ESPN Staff

Scolari backs Benitez over Ferguson rant

Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari has leapt to the defence of Liverpool counterpart Rafael Benitez following his attack on Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson earlier this month.

The Brazilian insists he has some sympathy with Benitez as the two clubs prepare for their crucial Barclays Premier League showdown at Anfield on Sunday, where a draw would give United a clear edge in the title race.

Benitez accused Ferguson and his staff of putting referees under pressure, especially at Old Trafford, and of consistently showing them little respect.

Now Scolari, who takes his side to Anfield on Sunday for their first away league fixture since a 3-0 drubbing at United, says he can understand the reasons behind Benitez's controversial rant.

''It's one of his ideas and I haven't spoken to him about it,'' said Scolari. ''Maybe I will at the weekend. I understand. I understand very well.

''I understand that, sometimes, when we play there (at Old Trafford) and at Stamford Bridge, I know what happens.''

Liverpool have drawn four out of their last five home games in the league but Scolari is reticent to boast that it is the perfect time to play them.

Benitez is under pressure as his contract dispute continues while he has also been criticised for his handling of striker Robbie Keane.

But while Scolari accepts the Spaniard has problems, the Brazilian still expects a difficult game.

''He may have more problems at the moment, but if you work in the same place for three years or so, you know how to react to that,'' said Scolari.

''I don't know what's happened there. I don't know what's happened with Benitez. I know when we've drawn or lost at home, we've needed to change something but I don't know what's happened there.

''Benitez is a fantastic coach with good players. We'll need more 'adaptation' than in the other games for this match. I think about my job, not his. I've lost 14 points at Stamford Bridge and I'm not a bad coach because of that.

''I like Benitez so much and I wish for him all the best. Not in our game, sure, but all the best in his life, in the rest of his career.

''He's a very good coach who knows the Premier League more than me because he's been here four or five years.''

Chelsea have yet to beat any of the other recognised members of the 'big four' this season but Scolari is unconcerned.

He insists his side have a psychological edge after their victory over Middlesbrough in midweek lifted them above Liverpool into second place on goal difference.

''We started the Middlesbrough game under pressure because we were in fourth position,'' said Scolari.

''(Aston) Villa had won and the other teams were in front of us. For confidence it's very good, but we know we are behind Manchester United and level with Liverpool.

''We are not better than these two teams. But, for confidence, it's very good. We've played better in the last four or five games.

''We've won games, played better than before, and have shown more heart.''

Liverpool also ended Chelsea's 86-match unbeaten home league run earlier in the season but the Brazilian refuses to crank up talk of a revenge mission for his side.

''Any victory is very good for me,'' Scolari added. ''Here at Stamford Bridge or away. It's a game that, maybe, maybe, will decide the direction of winning or not winning the championship.''


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