Fabio Aurelio believes Rafa Benitez is copying the title-winning formula he used with great success at Valencia to ensure Liverpool stay on course for the Premier League crown. Ahead of Saturday's meeting with Fulham at Anfield, the Reds sit just behind leaders Chelsea on goal difference as they bid to end an 18-year wait to become English champions.
Aurelio was part of the Valencia team Benitez steered to La Liga triumphs in 2002 and 2004, and he reckons the Liverpool manager's much-debated rotation policy will prove crucial in the battle to secure Premier League glory. The Brazilian left-back has struggled to hold down a place in the starting line-up this term, being swapped regularly with Italian Andrea Dossena, but he believes the Spaniard's decisions to rest players will bear fruit.
"Rafa knows when to rest players, and back in 2002 we were fresher than other teams at the end of the season because he'd rested players at the right times," Aurelio said. "Of course Rafa has experience of winning titles so he knows how to keep focused, but also how to keep the morale high within the squad. There are similarities with what happened at Valencia in terms of the rotation of the players."
Liverpool host Fulham on the back of an impressive run, which has resulted in seven wins from their last eight league games. They are level on points with Chelsea at the summit, and are eight clear of reigning champions Manchester United, who start the weekend in third.
Aurelio, though, has warned his team-mates they must keep their feet on the ground. "We have a good opportunity to do something great for the club this year, but there is still a long way to go and we have to keep focused," he said.
Despite watching his side defeat Bolton Wanderers 2-0 last weekend, Benitez is again expected to make several changes. Fernando Torres, a substitute at the Reebok Stadium after prolonged hamstring problems, is expected to start in the league for the first time since 5 October after scoring in Spain's 3-0 friendly win over Chile in midweek. Alvaro Arbeloa is available again after serving a one-match suspension, although Philipp Degen and Martin Skrtel remain on the treatment table.
Liverpool ought to have enough to see off Fulham, who have never won at Anfield. However, Roy Hodgson's team will be confident after winning three of the last four games, although the London club have not won away from home in six attempts this season.
Welsh midfielder Simon Davies, who spent two years at Liverpool's neighbours Everton before moving to Craven Cottage in January 2007, is relishing the challenge. "You always look forward to playing one of the big four teams in the league, and Anfield is one of the best places to play football," Davies said.
"It's going to be a tough test, but we've had back-to-back wins so we'll go and give it a really good go. A lot of teams have been close to getting something this year at Anfield so we'll give it our best shot. The beauty is that we've had a couple of wins so we're not desperate. If we can earn a point or nick a win then it'll be all the better for us."