Benitez blasts back at critics

Benitez made the surprising decision to take off his top scorer

with 25 minutes remaining at Birmingham on Sunday while the score

was locked at 1-1. That proved the final score and left Liverpool’s

hopes of fulfilling Benitez’s “guarantee” of a top-four finish in

the Premier League looking increasingly unlikely. But with the

striker troubled by a knee complaint and weary after a draining

European tie at Benfica, Benitez is adamant he made the right

decision, despite the result. “I have been listening to many

things,” Benitez said. “People don’t have a clue when they talk

about the substitution or that he cannot be tired. “Some people say

he cannot be tired because he didn’t play too many games. That

doesn’t matter. “We played 60 minutes with 10 men against a very

good Benfica team and we had to work very hard. “We had (Javier)

Mascherano, (Daniel) Agger and Torres really tired and you have to

manage them. “We wanted to start with Torres because he can make

the difference but as soon as we could see he was not making the

difference, we needed fresh legs. “David Ngog made the difference –

we then had six chances in 30 minutes. “We can talk about Torres

being there or not but Ngog created chances. With Torres we didn’t

have those chances. “The manager, staff and physios working with

players have a better idea because they know how he feels and what

he has said.” Torres put his St Andrew’s frustration behind him to

score twice in Thursday’s stunning 4-1 win in the second leg of

their Europa League quarter-final against Benfica. Liverpool can

now look forward to a semi-final against Atletico Madrid later this

month in which victory could set up a clash against Fulham,

visitors to Anfield in the league on Sunday. Fulham secured their

place in the last four by beating Wolfsburg and will now play

Hamburg for a place in the final. After such an exhilarating week

for both clubs, Benitez admits there could be a slight drop in

intensity on Sunday but he needs his Reds to carry over the

momentum to keep their top-five bid alive. Benitez said: “It will

be an interesting game but we can play with confidence. “You always

expect after a great win to see the team playing better and scoring

goals. “The Premier League is different but still we will have

confidence and you could see some players playing really well.

“Hopefully they can play at the same level and we can score more

goals.” Aside from the ever-dangerous Torres, another player to

catch the eye on Thursday was the often-derided midfielder Lucas.

The Brazilian delivered one of his best displays for the club and,

as well as scoring the second goal, played a key role in the

fourth. That earned up a thumbs up signal from Benitez as the

players celebrated. The manager hopes 23-year-old Lucas will now

start to earn some recognition from a wider audience, particularly

the armchair supporters who often call phone-ins. Benitez said: “It

was a great tackle and he was doing really well. “When you have a

player who has worked so hard, playing well and scoring goals – I

was really pleased for him. “I think the fans in the stadium can

see Lucas running and working hard. They know he is doing a great

job. “Some people maybe watching on TV, comfortable on their sofas,

just pick up the phone and criticise. “We are not talking about a

player like (Steven) Gerrard or Torres but we are playing an

important player for the team.” Torres is expected to be fit to

face Fulham despite more ice treatment on his knee after Benfica

and Daniel Agger may continue at left-back in the absence of

Emiliano Insua and Fabio Aurelio.