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Nov 18, 2009

Benitez would cherish Premier League over Europe

Rafael Benitez has admitted it would be a disappointment to end his Liverpool era without winning a Premier League title, but said it would not be the end of the world if the club had to face Europa League football next season.

Benitez, who said he would rather win the Premier League than another Champions League, has also revealed how the club's failure to capture Gareth Barry contributed to its failure to win the Premier League last season and undermined Robbie Keane's unsuccessful stint at Liverpool.

Given Liverpool are already 11 points behind league leaders Chelsea, and the squad's apparent lack of quality replacements when key players are unavailable, Benitez has little hope of outlasting his rivals in the long grind of the Premier League - at least for this season. Nevertheless, Benitez, who brought the Champions League trophy to Anfield in 2005, is desperate to claim the domestic crown.

He told the Times: "Anyone who knows me knows that I want to win every trophy, every game. But if you ask me what I prefer, I will say the Premier League. If I do not win the title, I'm sure I'd be so disappointed maybe I would have this feeling [of failure].''

As Benitez prepares Liverpool for Saturday's visit of Barry's Manchester City, he speculated as to whether the England midfielder could have turned the title race in his favour last term.

"You never know," he said. "Football is a funny game. The plan was for Barry to play on the left and feed the ball to Robbie Keane, who would play up front with Fernando Torres. This blueprint had to be scrapped. The collateral damage was Keane, who signed from Tottenham Hotspur before the Barry deal had been done.

"When we wanted to sign Barry, we were sure we were signing a good player with a very good mentality and the quality to play in the Premier League. The priority was Barry, then Keane.''

Asked about the prospect of losing the fourth Champions League place to a challenger such as Barry's City and competing in the Europa League next season, Benitez was philosophical.

"It's not easy to accept the situation. But it's not the end of the world. We must keep going. We'll approach it with the right mentality and try to win."

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