Gerrard verdict is boost to Benitez

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Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez was delighted his captain Steven Gerrard could now "focus on football" after being cleared of affray on Friday.

This has not been the smoothest of pre-seasons for Benitez, as injuries to Martin Skrtel and Nabil El Zhar forced the pair to return to England for treatment, while speculation continued around the futures of Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano and Alvaro Arbeloa.

Benitez was told of Gerrard's acquittal during a training session and said: "We are really pleased. He is very important for us and he can now focus just on football."

He added: "We are all pleased at the club and over here at the training camp.

"We have been supporting him all the time and were just waiting for the decision. Now he can concentrate just on football and hopefully play at the same level as last year."

As he prepared his side for Sunday's friendly against Singapore, Benitez was relieved that the cloud hanging over Gerrard has now been swept away after he was acquitted at Liverpool Crown Court following an incident in Southport on December 29 last year.

Gerrard has missed the Far East trip because of the week-long trial, and will be reunited with his team-mates next week when Liverpool return to the UK.

Benitez also confirmed that Real Madrid target Alonso was fit following an ankle injury and ready to play against Singapore.

Benitez, who also has Yossi Benayoun back from an ankle problem, said: "I am very happy to have Yossi and Xabi back. They are working very hard, the tempo of the session was fantastic and the fans really enjoyed it.

"We are trying to step up our training every day, especially for the international players. We had three teams playing against each other. It was good competition and pleasing for me to see."

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Nabil El Zhar
Yossi Benayoun
Premier League
Xabi Alonso
Steven Gerrard
Alvaro Arbeloa
Martin Skrtel

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