Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Benitez plays down Euro pressure

Champions League, Group A
Date: Tuesday, 11 December
Kick-off: 1945 GMT
Venue: Stade Velodrome
Listen: BBC Radio 5 Live
Updates: BBC Sport website and mobile

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has played down the
pressure on him and his side ahead of Tuesday's make-or-break Champions
League game in Marseille.

The Reds need to win to reach the knockout stages or hope that Besiktas beat Porto in the other Group A tie.

"We know how to play under pressure," said Benitez. "If
you want to win trophies, you must play in finals and, for us, this is
like a final.

"It's an important game but I've been hearing that for one or two months."

Benitez is to meet the club's owners George Gillett and
Tom Hicks this weekend and the result of the game may have a major
bearing on that encounter.

The Spaniard was involved in a public spat with the duo about the club's transfer policy.

Benitez's comments and behaviour cast doubt on his
position, although five wins in the last six games, including victories
over Besiktas and Porto in the Champions League, have calmed his

But, if the Reds lose to Marseille and fall further
behind in the Premier League after Sunday's game against Manchester
United, it could lead to further questions about his leadership.

Liverpool were beaten 1-0 by the French side in October
and Benitez conceded: "It's clear we made a big mistake losing to
Marseille at home.

"It is not easy to qualify every year. We were in a very
good position last year but this year we need to play really well in
Marseille if we are to qualify.

"But that is football. We needed to focus on this, prepare and look to find solutions for this game.

"We have seen a lot of their games in a row, 10 games from when we played them until now, and we know a lot about their team."

If results do go against Liverpool, the club's leading
striker Fernando Torres has pleaded with the club's owners not to sack
his fellow countryman.

"It would be a huge mistake to think about changing the manager if we don't get the win we need," said Torres.

"Rafa Benitez has done so much for this club and the staff, players and fans are behind him.

"The game against Marseille is the most important match since I joined."

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