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No. 44: Willian, Chelsea

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Mascherano leads calls to back Benitez

Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano has led the calls for boss Rafael Benitez to stay at the club.

The Champions League victory at Real Madrid was overshadowed by constant speculation that Benitez would quit as his contract talks floundered.

After the 1-0 win Benitez made it clear he was staying and had no intention of resigning, with further talks on his contract due with American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks scheduled for the next couple of days.

But this did little to allay the concerns of Benitez's players, 15 of the 18-man squad on show in the Bernabeu having been signed by the Spaniard.

Mascherano said: ''The manager brought me to Anfield, he has done a very good job here. We can get to the quarter-finals again and he has shown that against the top sides like in Barcelona, at Inter Milan last season and now at Real Madrid he is a very good coach for us.

''We are always a team who works very hard and every Liverpool supporter have to be very happy with this. Every players gives everything for the club.

''He is important for me. When I came to Liverpool I did not have any confidence after being at West Ham.

''The manager gave me that confidence. The only thing I can say to Rafa is thank you, he helped me during a bad moment in my career and now I try to do everything for my team and for him.

''I cannot say what is going to happen, but with him Liverpool is doing a great job. If we want to keep going in the Champions League and Premier League it is important to have him with us.''

Spain international Alvaro Arbeloa agreed adding: ''As for the manager and all the talk about him, I do not really know what the problem is but people must know how important he is for us.

''I hope he will continue with us for many years, but in these things you never know.''

Albert Riera added: ''As for the situation regarding the manager, we are aware of the dispute over his contract. But it is not something we were talking about in the dressing room, the match took up all our thoughts.

''Of course we want Rafa to stay. I wanted to play for Liverpool and he was a very important person in achieving that for me.

''Not only for me but for the other players too, we all want Rafa to be with us. If you asked everyone, 100% they would say they want Rafa to stay with us.''

Mascherano also revealed the players' delight at their victory in Madrid, adding: ''It was a great victory for us, in particular because we did not have Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres was injured very early in the match.

''We would always want to have them with us on the pitch, but it is good that we can show we can win games like in Madrid without key players.

''So we are happy with the way the first leg went. But the job is not done, we have to make sure we do the same job at Anfield to take us into the quarter-finals.''

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