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Serie A season preview: Inter Milan

Inter Milan about an hour ago
Read
Feb 25, 2009

Benitez bullish in the face of Liverpool job rumours

Rafael Benitez moved to end speculation over his future as manager in the aftermath of his side's impressive 1-0 win over Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie at the Bernabeu.

The matchday build up was however overshadowed by rumours that Benitez was set about to walk away from the club due to the ongoing stalemate over a new contract between the Spaniard and Liverpool's American owners.

"My lawyers and advisors have been talking to the club's owners today about the contract and I believe that problems we have can be overcome," said Benitez.

"I was very surprised today to hear rumours from Liverpool that I was going to resign.

"I can assure you that I have not been considering such a move, and it was a shock to hear such suggestions."

Benitez has been locked in talks over a new four-year deal for several weeks, and it is believed owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks have balked at some of the Spaniard's demand.

But Benitez remains certain an agreement will eventually be reached.

"I expect talks to continue between my lawyers, my advisors, myself and the owners," he continued.

"I am really pleased with my position at the club, I have not been thinking about resigning.

"My aim is to win every game possible for this club, and my advisors will continue to talk. We will see what happens then.

"We are still talking, so we will see what happens in the future. Sometimes when something gets said (by fans) and it gets repeated and repeated it seems that people think it is true. But it wasn't true, I can assure you of that.

"I was not thinking about resigning, obviously I cannot control other things, that I could be fired, but I was just concentrating on the game.

"The fans need to know that I was not thinking of resigning. The club has made it clear this rumour was not true. That is important for everyone.

"Stability is the key if you want to be successful. And the players were able to do their talking on the pitch, not beforehand."

Yossi Benayoun headed Liverpool's winning goal after 82 minutes to put the Anfield club in pole position to reach the quarter-finals ahead of the return leg in a fortnight.

"This was a very important victory," Benitez added. "Particularly as we did not have Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres was troubled by an ankle injury from the first minute.

"But we were able to play them on the counter-attack. We know how Real play and we were able to organise our tactics accordingly."

Madrid coach Juande Ramos has faith his side can still turn around the tie.

The loss ended Madrid's nine-match winning streak under new coach Ramos and left the Spanish giants with a mountain to climb in the second leg.

Madrid have fallen at this stage of the competition in each of the last four seasons, but Ramos is confident the nine-times winners can avoid that fate this time.

"We are going to fight and work hard in the return match to see if we are capable of winning at Anfield. It's a bad result but we are confident for the return leg," he said.

"1-0 is not a good result but it's not that important a difference. We are only halfway through the tie and we have the desire and hope to win at Anfield and we are going to fight with all our strength to achieve it.

"Liverpool have the advantage because they have the lead but there is still another match to go and if we have a good game we can win at Anfield, and anywhere else."

The Champions League is arguably Madrid's main chance of silverware this season, as they are already out of the Copa del Rey and seven points adrift of leaders Barcelona in La Liga - albeit having been 12 points behind just over a week ago.

Tonight's defeat inevitably led to questions about whether Madrid can still pick up a trophy this season, a quest which could have a direct affect on Ramos' future at the Bernabeu with the former Tottenham coach only on an initial six-month contract.

Ramos preferred not to look too far ahead though, saying: "To win any tournament is difficult. In the Champions League we are still in the tie, we have a goal disadvantage, and in the league we are improving although we are still a way behind.

"You have to see what happens as the weeks progress."

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