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Liverpool boss out to silence critics against Stoke

Rafael Benitez claims it is ''too early to judge'' whether Liverpool have the quality to win the title - and he would love to silence his team's critics on Wednesday night.

The Liverpool manager saw his team suffer a disappointing defeat at Tottenham on Sunday, in their Premier League opener. Liverpool face Stoke at Anfield and the visitors are one of the mid-table sides who frustrated the Reds at home last season.

Tony Pulis' side took a point, and repeated the act at the Britannia Stadium later in the campaign.

Benitez, who may be without defender Martin Skrtel who has a damaged jaw, said: ''I have been surprised by the reaction from the first game, and comments about our prospects for the season. It is too early to judge.

''We are disappointed with the result and we did not play well in the first half. But you must consider the problems we have had in pre-season. I was trying to 'protect' the team with the system we used to stay compact.

''We did not play well in the first half at Spurs but improved a lot in the second period. Now we have another game, quickly. A win will make things easier but I do expect similar comments from the critics if we do not.

''To change that we have to play well and win. The players know it was not good, and that we must improve. But I was pleased with the commitment of the players and they worked very hard.''

Jamie Carragher is fit after needing stitches in a head injury, but his fellow defender Daniel Agger will be out for a further three weeks with a back problem.

Benitez also said he would not approve any further sales of Liverpool players as his team struggles to cope with a growing injury list.

The Anfield chief has dismissed speculation winger Albert Riera and striker Andriy Voronin could be leaving, with Barcelona and Hertha Berlin, respectively, showing interest.

Benitez said: ''Nobody will be sold because we need all our players. We can't afford to lose anyone else.

''The Premier League is very difficult and we have to keep everyone we have at the moment.''

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