Reds look to derail United ambitions

BY foxsports • March 21, 2010

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez may not publicly admit it but he would take great delight in having a hand in preventing Manchester United securing a record-breaking 19th league title this season.

The two north-west rivals are currently locked on 18 apiece but, sadly for the Merseysiders, their last championship came 20 years ago.

In the intervening two decades their arch-enemies have rapidly caught them up and are currently in a three-way battle with Chelsea and Arsenal as they seek to win an unprecedented fourth successive Premier League crown.

Liverpool, by contrast, are scrapping for fourth place with Tottenham, Manchester City and Aston Villa and it says much for the current malaise at Anfield that denying United another success ranks high on their list of ambitions in the remainder of the campaign.

They do have a Europa League quarter-final against Benfica to look forward to but home really is where the heart is for Liverpool fans who desperately crave another title.

Benitez, wisely, chose not to leave himself open to criticism for taking more interest in a spoiling role than dealing with Liverpool's deficiencies but he knows the significance of United usurping his club's history.

"I think for all our fans it would be really good [to stop United]," said the Spaniard.

"The rivalry between both teams is massive but for me, as a professional, I will keep my feelings inside.

"These games between United and Liverpool are more or less the same for both - it doesn't matter about the position in the table because both want to win so the pressure will be on both sides.

"As a manager you want to win against any club but especially against top sides.

"We need to win because we want to be in the top four."

Forward Dirk Kuyt was more forthcoming with his feelings, admitting: "No-one here at Liverpool wants to see them winning another league title but the main thing for us is to win our own games."

Benitez broke his Old Trafford duck last season with the stunning 4-1 victory over United, the second of three successive wins over Sir Alex Ferguson's side - all of which have resulted in defender Nemanja Vidic being sent off.

However, the Liverpool manager - like his United counterpart - does not believe that result will have any bearing on tomorrow's encounter.

"It is another game, another season so we have to approach it as another challenge," said Benitez, who will give a late fitness test to midfielder Alberto Aquilani after the Italian missed the Europa League victory over Lille with a sickness bug.

"Maybe they will think if we don't play well they can beat us but they have experience and will approach the game as they usually do.

"I don't think they will be thinking too much about the past.

"Last year was a very important and amazing game for us. It was the first victory there for me but it is another year and another challenge and we have to concentrate on this game."

Liverpool at least head into the match on the back of two successive victories, 4-1 over Portsmouth and 3-0 against Lille, in the last six days.

That has provided a much-needed boost to the players' flagging spirits, as has the form of striker Fernando Torres.

The Spain international, celebrating his 26th birthday today, now has 17 goals in 27 appearances of an injury-hit season and has scored in his last two matches against United.

"In terms of the week, we've had two good wins and people have more confidence so we will move forward and be ready for the next game," said Benitez.

"We played really well on Monday and Thursday was a good game and hopefully we can get a result at Old Trafford.

"If we stick together we can beat anyone. Old Trafford will be difficult but we will try.

"If we can work like we did against Lille and we have a game plan it will be the small details that make the difference."

Benitez has been left to bemoan his bad luck in terms of injuries this season, particularly to Torres.

The striker missed five weeks after a knee operation in January but had struggled with a hernia problem prior to that.

Had he been fit for the entire season Benitez believes Liverpool would have been close to replicating their record haul of last season when they amassed 86 points in running United a close second.

"The gap would be reduced - how much I don't know - but Torres fit and scoring would have been a big difference," said the Reds boss.

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