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Lee insists Reds always Keane on Robbie

Where they standClubPointsGDLiverpool4218Chelsea4131Man Utd3518Aston Villa3510Robbie Keane faces Newcastle United at St James' Park on Sunday having banished any doubts over his Liverpool future with two goals in a 3-0 win over Bolton Wanderers at Anfield. Keane has struggled to make an impact at Liverpool since his 20 million pounds arrival in July from Tottenham Hotspur and there had even been reports the 28-year-old could be sold by Benitez in January.

sports Updated: Dec 27, 2008 13:26 IST

Robbie Keane faces Newcastle United at St James' Park on Sunday having banished any doubts over his Liverpool future with two goals in a 3-0 win over Bolton Wanderers at Anfield.

The Republic of Ireland striker, who also netted in the 1-1 draw at Arsenal last Sunday, helped keep Rafa Benitez's team at the top of the Premier League by adding to Albert Riera's first-half volley with his two second-half goals.

Keane has struggled to make an impact at Liverpool since his 20 million pounds arrival in July from Tottenham Hotspur and there had even been reports the 28-year-old could be sold by Benitez in January.

But with Keane's form now coming to the fore, Liverpool assistant manager Sammy Lee insisted that the club have never doubted the player's ability to deliver at Anfield.

"It's always nice to see any Liverpool player score, never mind Robbie Keane. It's never been about individuals and Robbie has always worked very hard," former Liverpool and England midfielder Lee said after Friday's victory.

"He is a talented player and we know the quality that he provides, so we have never been worried by his performances.

"You would have to ask the boy himself, but I don't think that Robbie has ever been lacking in confidence. We know what he gives us."

With title rivals Chelsea and Manchester United claiming maximum points against West Brom and Stoke City respectively earlier in the day, the pressure was on Liverpool to beat Bolton to hold onto top spot.

But Lee, standing in for manager Benitez, who watched the game from the directors' box following his recent kidney stone illness, insisted that Liverpool are enjoying being top and the pressures that come with it.

"Being top is important, but this club prepares to be top of the league, not fifth, sixth or seventh," Lee said. "You can only be where you are at any given time, but we are where we want to be at this moment in time.

"This is a long, hard campaign, though. It's nice going into the New Year in this position, but we go to Newcastle on Sunday and that will be a very difficult task for us.

"It's always important to win, especially at home. We might not have won our last three games before this one, but we have not been getting any hang ups about our form at Anfield," former Bolton manager Lee added.

Bolton face neighbours Wigan Athletic at home on Sunday having suffered their latest defeat against one of the so-called 'Big Four' (Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal).

And manager Gary Megson admits he fears that an ever-widening gulf between the big clubs and the rest is beginning to open up.

"It's not only a gap that is opening up between the top three and four and the rest -- it's a chasm.

"The 'Big Four' don't lose to teams outside the 'Big Four' and, out of our last nine games, we have won five and lost four. The four defeats have come against the 'Big Four' though.

"But our season isn't going to be defined by what happens in games against the 'Big Four'. That's why my team selection for this game reflected the fact that we have Wigan at home in less than 48 hours."