Rafa: We need money to challenge

Rafa Benitez has seconded Fernando Torres’ comments that Liverpool need to buy – and he hopes the Europa League will bring the neccesary cash.

Having begun the campaign among the favourites for the Premier League title, Liverpool are looking increasingly unlikely to even finish fourth.

A draw at Birmingham on Sunday has left them sixth, four points adrift of that all-important Champions League-qualifying position, having played a game more than both Manchester City in fourth and Tottenham in fifth.

Benitez concedes his squad need major investment this summer to force its way back among the title contenders.

The Spaniard said: "I agree with Fernando about a lot of things.

"He talks about it being a pity we finished with 86 points last year and we couldn’t progress.

"We need to sign some players, we need to bring in some money. We need an investor and then we can challenge in a better way.

"The players are working so hard and they feel they can do more.

"Fernando the other day (at Birmingham), he was feeling really tired. He was trying and the other players were trying but while we don’t have the investor it will be difficult to go one step forward."

Benitez was speaking ahead of Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final second leg against Benfica at Anfield. Liverpool trail 2-1 from the first meeting in Lisbon but the competition looks like their best hope of salvaging something from the season.

"We will try to do our best tomorrow to win," Benitez said. "Hopefully we can balance the books this year.

"We need now to perform on the pitch and create a better situation for the new investors."

When asked whether he could elaborate on whether owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks have offered any indication that new investment might be imminent, Benitez avoided the question in familiar style.

He said: "I understand the players, we have to stick together and prepare for a Europa League game."

Liverpool lost just twice last season in finishing runners-up in the Premier League to Manchester United. They hoped to build on that to win a first title in 20 years but they have lacked consistency throughout the campaign. Torres believes the departures of Xabi Alonso, Alvaro Arbeloa and Sami Hyypia have proved highly damaging.

"There have been various important factors, like being so far behind the top teams so quickly," said the Spain striker.

"That killed us psychologically. "After that, injuries hit us hard and we have suffered a lot because of them.

"But after a good season last year, we needed certain reinforcements and we needed to keep the squad we had together.

"But circumstances dictated that we had to sell players and so everything got messed up.

"The sales of Arbeloa, Hyypia and Alonso were important losses."

And it is the loss of the 26-year-old fellow Spain international Alonso, sold to Real Madrid for £30million, that has proved particularly upsetting.

"Players like him are very rare," Torres said. "He was the team’s engine, and you know that when you change an engine, it takes time to work again."