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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Aug, 24, 2009

Benayoun determined to keep hold of starting spot

Yossi Benayoun has won his Liverpool place back and he intends to hang onto it.

The Israeli midfielder struggled to get regular starts last term until the back end of the season, when his form played a major part in Liverpool's unbeaten 11-match run to the end of the campaign that almost took the title.

Boss Rafael Benitez opted to start this term with Ryan Babel on the left instead of Benayoun, and that decision has clearly inspired the 29-year-old.

He came on as a second-half substitute in the 2-1 defeat at Tottenham last weekend, and was on from the start for a fine display on Wednesday in the 4-0 victory over Stoke.

Benayoun intends to keep that form going when Aston Villa are the visitors to Anfield.

Benayoun says: ''I like to play from the left. A few years ago for the national team in Israel I always played on the left and I enjoy it.

''I am able to cut inside to the middle and get plenty of the ball, which makes it a bit easier. But I will be happy to play anywhere.

''Every player wants to start every game but it is the manager's decision to decide who is to start and who will not, so every time that I get my chance I just try to do my best.

''Even if I only get to come on for 10 or 20 minutes or, like on Wednesday night, when I get to start I always give my all. I always try my best to impress.

''Of course I want to start more and more games but my job is to work hard and try to prove myself and this is what I try to do.''

Boss Rafael Benitez has a difficult choice over his central defensive pairing against Villa.

Despite having signed Greek international Sotirios Kyrgiakos for £2m, Benitez may still opt for teenager Daniel Ayala, or even spring a surprise by using Martin Skrtel, who is suffering from a fractured jaw.

Skrtel has been training over the past few days, but Benitez will consider his fitness and the risk factor. He believes that the 30 year-old Kyrgiakos lacks match fitness.

Benitez will be without defender Daniel Agger for several weeks as the Dane is due to have back surgery on Tuesday.

Agger has missed the opening of the season, having been troubled with the injury all summer.

Liverpool dare not lose against Villa, with Benitez and his skipper Steven Gerrard believe this season's title race will be much harder and very different from previous campaigns.

Gerrard insists: ''The opening games have shown this season it will be very difficult to win, we are going to have to be even better than last season.

''It looks like it is going to be a very competitive league this season.''

Benitez says: ''This will be a different sort of title race. Already we have lost, and so have Manchester United.

''There are other teams who can make an impact, Spurs, Manchester City, Villa, and I believe it will be a lot harder this season for the top four teams to win every game.

''Villa will be difficult for us. They have pace, experience and ability. They do very well in away games because of that and are an extremely dangerous side.''

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