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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep 16, 2009

Benitez: Premier League is fans' priority

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez accepts the club's fans want the Premier League title this season more than they want European glory.

It is always a tough choice for the Anfield faithful, so proud are they of the five European Cups the club have achieved in their history.

But as Liverpool prepare to face Hungarian champions Debrecen on Wednesday night in their opening Champions League Group E opener, those fans would probably settle for a decent European run and their first league crown for 20 years.

Benitez said: "The Premier League is the priority for the fans. But the Champions League is massive, and we will not forget the domestic cups because this club are expected to do well in everything.

"It is always important to approach every competition to win it. But in a top side like Liverpool, the priority for the fans has to be the Premier League. Then the Champions League, the FA Cup and the Carling Cup. If you wanted an order, that is probably it. But I am greedy, I want to win the Premier League and the Champions League."

Benitez will have midfielder Javier Mascherano back in his squad on Wednesday night after the Argentina captain's recovery from a pelvic problem. But it is certain that Benitez will stick with Brazilian midfielder Lucas after the 22 year-old's impressive start to the season.

Of Wednesday night's match, Lucas said: "It is important that we start the competition well, everybody always thinks Liverpool will get close to the final, so it is really important for the players to match that expectation.

"Debrecen are a good side, we know they have won five games in a row, but we have the responsibility to win in front of our own fans. The key is to start well, win the first and second game and that makes the challenge easier to handle.

"But everyone in this stage is good, we have Lyon in our group and they are a very difficult team to face. The usual big names will be the ones again who will be chasing the trophy.

"Debrecen must be good or they would not be in the competition. They may well play very defensively, so we have to be patient and play as well as we did on Saturday against a Burnley team who also played in a similar fashion (Liverpool won that match 4-0)."

In the build-up to the match, Benitez has been critical of the speed with which the Premier League plan to introduce a new home-grown quota system of eight academy players in every club's 25-man senior squad.

Benitez said "Maybe it has been brought in too soon. In the Champions League we had two or three years to increase the numbers of home-grown players.

"Similar rules have been introduced in the Champions League, first four, then six, now eight home-grown players in each squad. We were all given three years to make these changes slowly.

"Now it will be different, and quicker. It all depends on the players. Not the amount, more the quality."

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