Benitez: We need rivals to slip-up
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has conceded the club's quest for a UEFA Champions League place is no longer in their own hands.
Sunday's 2-1 defeat by leaders and bitter rivals Manchester United dropped Liverpool to sixth spot in the Premier League table and left the Anfield club four points behind Tottenham, who currently occupy the fourth and final place on offer to English clubs for next season's Champions League. Benitez made headlines earlier this term when he "guaranteed" Liverpool a top four finish.
Manchester City are fifth in the table, two points ahead of the Reds. They also have two games in hand, as do seventh-placed Aston Villa. Liverpool have seven league games left and Benitez knows they will now need to win close to all of them to make sure the Merseysiders are in the lucrative Champions League next term.
"We knew the game against United would be very tough. The question is now about the other teams," said Benitez. "Tottenham won at the weekend but we have to keep going. We know they have to make mistakes and we have to keep winning games to reduce the gap and be there," the Spaniard added.
"There are still a lot of points to be played for so we have to keep going. If we can win our games we will be there at the end. As a manager you have to believe. It will be more difficult but we have to keep pushing and I think we can do it. This year is a difficult year with too many things against us but still we have to keep fighting and I am confident the team will be ready for the next game against Sunderland (on Sunday)."
The loss at Old Trafford came at the end of a week which saw Liverpool beat bottom of the table Portsmouth 4-1 and defeat Lille 3-0 in the UEFA Europa League. And Benitez insisted the defeat by United had to be put in context.
"The team was doing well last week, playing well and scoring a lot of goals," he said. "You could see they started well against United. If you go there and don't perform or don't show character or are not strong enough that is not good.
"But we showed we can beat anyone if we play well and if we have some chances we have to take them and it could have been totally different. The team was not fantastic but it was not worse than United. You couldn't see the difference in the table out on the pitch. I don't think it is a setback."