Benitez cheered by Aquilani debut

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Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez feels Alberto Aquilani has already shown just what an asset he will prove to be after finally making his long-awaited debut.

The Italian, signed in the summer from Roma for £20million, has been recovering from a broken ankle, but was introduced for the final 15 minutes of Wednesday night's 2-1 Carling Cup defeat at Arsenal.

"There were a lot of players showing passion, character and quality on the pitch - and Aquilani was one of these player," said the Liverpool manager. "He has the quality, but he needs to improve his match-fitness. You can see he can pass the ball in the final third, he can make a big difference."

He added: "He gets closer every day, but still has to improve his match-fitness. It is a question of time.

"I think that he will be an important player for us. We want to push him, but we cannot push too hard as we know that will be a risk. So we will keep going, keep working and add more minutes every game."

Like the hosts, Liverpool had made several changes from the team which beat Manchester United in the Barclays Premier League on Sunday, with Dirk Kuyt, captain on Wednesday night, the only survivor from the starting XI at Anfield.

Benitez maintains momentum has not been lost following the euphoria of victory over their arch rivals.

"It is always very disappointing to be out of any competition, but at least to do it in this way, playing well and with a lot of positives, it is a little bit better than to lose playing badly," he said.

"It was a good performance by the team against a good Arsenal side, and was a good game for the fans."

Striker Fernando Torres could be fit for the trip to Fulham, although captain Steven Gerrard may struggle.

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Premier League
Fernando Torres
Manchester United
Dirk Kuyt
Steven Gerrard

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