Benitez prepared for Newcastle attack

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Rafael Benitez knows Liverpool could face a stiffer challenge this time around as they aim to keep alive their title dreams by repeating one of their best performances of the season against Newcastle.

The Anfield chief recalls a "near perfect" display when his side overran the Magpies at St James' Park in December with a Steven Gerrard-inspired 5-1 victory, which at the time kept Liverpool at the top of the table. Now the teams clash again on Sunday in a match vital to both clubs.

"We were really good that day," said Benitez. "We were in control, we had a lot of chances and their goalkeeper (Shay Given) was man of the match. It was nearly a perfect game for us."

Liverpool are clinging onto Manchester United's coat-tails at the top of the Barclays Premier League while Newcastle are in the relegation zone, three points adrift of fourth-from-bottom Hull.

Gerrard, who has missed the last four games with a groin injury, is set to return to face Alan Shearer's side, but Manchester United could be six points clear of Liverpool at the top if they win at Middlesbrough on Saturday.

But whatever United's result, Benitez knows his side simply have to win if they want to hold onto any hope of landing the title - and he insists a display similar to the one which blew Newcastle away last time the sides met is the requirement again.

"It will be different this time because they have a different manager and are in a different situation," he added.

"And clearly they need to win, so I don't think they will be waiting and waiting for a draw. They have quality players in attack.

"We just need to keep doing our job and we have the confidence to keep winning games. If Manchester United make a mistake then we have to be ready, so we must take three points from each game and then see what happens. We will not give up until the end."

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Premier League
Newcastle United
Alan Shearer
Manchester United
Shay Given
Steven Gerrard
Hull City

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