Benitez grateful for World Cup qualification
Rafael Benitez believes his World Cup-bound stars can now relax and produce their best football for Liverpool. The Merseysiders face promoted Burnley on Saturday for the first time in the league for 33 years, with their Champions League schedule starting on Wednesday with a home clash with Hungarian champions Debrecen. And boss Benitez, who is relieved that this demanding programme comes with the knowledge that his English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and Brazilian players know they are on their way to next summer's World Cup finals in South Africa, said: "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. They may try to rest players, experiment or plan, but for sure everyone will now be relaxed and not playing under such pressure." In all, Liverpool have as many as 16 players fighting to reach the finals from the European groups - plus Argentina skipper Javier Mascherano if his country manage to salvage their qualifying hopes. But Benitez's biggest stars - Steven Gerrard, Glen Johnson, Jose Reina, Fernando Torres, Albert Riera, Lucas and Dirk Kuyt - know their countries have already booked their passage. "Now that the English and Spanish players have qualified this week it should make things easier for us," he added. "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."
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