Benitez expects Reds to benefit from World Cup
LIVERPOOL, England — Rafa Benitez believes Liverpool will benefit from the feel-good factor generated by his stars' World Cup success. Benitez's squad contains 16 players fighting to reach next year's finals, with those from England, Spain, Holland and Brazil already looking forward to South Africa after clinching qualification. With their places at the World Cup secured, Benitez hopes the likes of Steven Gerrard, Glen Johnson, Fernando Torres, Jose Reina, Lucas and Dirk Kuyt can concentrate on helping Liverpool end their 20-year wait to win the Premier League. The Reds face promoted Burnley on Saturday for the first time in the league for 33 years, with their Champions League campaign starting on Wednesday against Hungarian champions Debrecen. "I am not sure now what various international managers will do with their players in final qualifying games now they are sure of going to the finals," Benitez said. "They may try to rest players, experiment or plan, but for sure everyone will now be relaxed and not playing under such pressure. "Now that the English and Spanish players have qualified this week it should make things easier for us. "At least mentally they do not need to worry any more about their qualification. "They need to go to internationals now and enjoy the situation, and that will be another plus point for us because there are no distractions with regard to qualifying or not now. They are there." Several more of Liverpool's squad are on the point of qualifying including Daniel Agger of Denmark, Slovakia's Martin Skrtel and Italian midfielder Alberto Aquilani. Benitez, who hopes to have full-back Fabio Aurelio in his squad for the first time this season after a knee operation, said: "A lot of players have been away, some in many different parts of the world. Some will return within 24 hours, others less than a few hours before the next match. "It is not unique to us, all top clubs have the problem, but we have tried to handle it better. It is a reality of our situation. "It can be difficult, but hopefully we have learned and we have been winning more games after such weeks. "We changed things. We trained in the evenings so that players could be together more, if they returned on a Friday we trained in the evening. "First you let them talk about their games. Then they must focus on the next game." Benitez has also made it clear he does not want Ryan Babel to join Ajax on loan during the next transfer window after the Dutch winger expressed a desire to get regular first-team football elsewhere to improve his chances of going to the World Cup. "I will talk to Ryan. But I do not want him going on loan, he needs to work and fight for his place here," Benitez said. Benitez's first priority is to take three points from Burnley, who have already beaten Manchester United and Everton. "Burnley are doing well, they are a new team to the Premier League and the big thing about them is that they know each other well and they know their strengths," Benitez said. "To beat Manchester United and Everton means they are capable of beating anyone on their day. So it is important for us to be aware of this and to be focused, we cannot afford to make any mistakes."
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