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Benitez ready for make or break United clash

sports Updated: Mar 10, 2009 10:21 IST

AFP
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Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez admits his team have to win at Manchester United to stand any chance of catching the Premier League leaders.

The Reds are seven points adrift of United, who have a game in hand, and Benitez knows Saturday's game at Old Trafford will decide what can be achieved in the remainder of the campaign.

Liverpool were in control of the title race at the turn of the year but a run of three wins in eight Premier League games has seen them fall to third in the table.

And following the United game, they also face a tough match against Aston Villa, who are fighting to claim a Champions League place, so there is no longer any margin for error.

United have been in imperious form and Benitez acknowledges that the Reds need to pick up a victory this weekend to retain even a faint hope of a first title since 1990.

"The game against United will be a crucial point again. If we win we can still be thinking about the title and if we can't then it will be very difficult," he said.

"It would be almost impossible but we know the situation and I still think that we're in a fantastic position, better than that in the last few years and we've been improving and we'll see this week if we can improve a little bit more.

"The league depends on the next game so if we can beat United, they are a good team with good players, but we have enough games to play so we will see."

One positive note in 2009 has been the continued fine form of versatile Brazilian Fabio Aurelio, whose spell at Anfield has been blighted by injuries since he arrived in 2006.

The left-sided defender, 29, first worked with Benitez at Valencia and set up Yossi Benayoun's goal in the 1-0 win at Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie.

Benitez rates Aurelio's technical ability even above key playmakers Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso.

"I think he's playing well. He scored a lot of goals for us in Valencia from free-kicks and he's a fantastic player with quality," he said.

"He's had problems with injuries but if he can play some games in a row he'll have the sharpness and you'll see the quality.

"There isn't a player with more quality in the squad. People are talking about Gerrard or Alonso but Fabio technically is better than them.

"If you could see the training sessions, the delivery, the control, the passes, he's really good. For years we have seen the crosses from Fabio have been fantastic."

Aurelio knows he has plenty to achieve at Anfield and feels Benitez's squad is in good shape going into their key run of games.

He said: "I've been enjoying a lot of minutes and enjoying a lot of the games and being involved in important games like Real Madrid, United and Aston Villa, is a pleasure.

"Thinking about the past is a shame because I could have been involved in very important games as well, but I only think about the future and this is a good opportunity for me and for the club as well.

"We know that the next games can dictate more or less Liverpool's future in this campaign and I think we're prepared for that.

"The team have been working for this kind of challenge and a big club like Liverpool wants to be in this situation.

"We have an opportunity to maybe come back into the running in the Premier League."