Football

Benitez outlines plan for Champions League spot

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Rafael Benitez refuses to concede Liverpool's Champions League hopes are over, but admits they need to win their remaining five games.

Benitez was left frustrated as the Reds were held to a 1-1 draw by Birmingham at St Andrew's, with skipper Steven Gerrard's goal early in the second half cancelled out by Liam Ridgewell. Liverpool now have a mountain to climb as they are four points adrift of fourth-placed Manchester City having played a game more, with only five matches remaining.

Benitez said: "Is fourth place now difficult? It is true but we have to keep going and there are still a lot of points to play for. Now we have to win the last five matches. We already didn't really have any margin for error. Now we have less margin but that's football."

He added: "It depends on how the other teams do as well but we have to believe we can win all our games and we have to believe the other teams will lose."

Benitez caused a few raised eyebrows when he brought off 20-goal leading scorer Fernando Torres midway through the second half with the scores level, and he had an icepack on his knee when sat in the dug-out.

But Benitez insisted tiredness was the main factor in replacing Torres with David N'Gog after Liverpool's Europa League game away to Benfica on Thursday.

He said: "Was Torres injured? No, he was exhausted. The ice was just to protect his knee. He was really tired like the other players who played on Thursday.

"He knows we needed to win the game and, like all the players, wanted to be on the pitch but N'Gog and then (Ryan) Babel had fresh legs and made a big difference in the last few minutes."

Birmingham boss Alex McLeish likened Ridgewell to England World Cup winner Martin Peters in the way he moved unnoticed into the Liverpool box to score the equaliser. The former Aston Villa player had also scored a similar goal in the closing seconds to rescue a point against Tottenham.

McLeish said: "After going a goal down we told the forwards that if they could get the ball into the box, then Ridgewell would be getting in there at the back post. He has done that a couple of times this season and James McFadden had the awareness to put the ball into that area. The way Ridgewell ghosted in there was like Martin Peters of old."

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Topics:
Football
Premier League
Liverpool

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