Rafa Benitez has rubbished critics who have written Liverpool out of the title race before the turn of the new year and believes that Steven Gerrard’s 90th minute winner at Pride Park on Boxing Day has kept the Reds’ title dream alive.
The Reds snatched victory in the dying seconds of the Boxing Day Premier League game away to Derby County with captain Gerrard bundling the ball into the back of the net. Although Benitez’s side are 9 points behind league leaders Manchester United, win their game in hand and they climb up to third, above Chelsea.
Speaking after the little bit of fortune at Derby, Benitez said, “We have been unfortunate against Chelsea at home, and Arsenal, and did not win. These points are won now and we are a little bit closer.
“When people ask if we have a realistic chance of the title they are really trying to tell me something.
“Let’s wait and see. We have Manchester City next and that is very important for us.
“We have two more games over the holiday period. The most important thing for me is that we stay close.
“The question for me is to be as close as possible and we still have one game in hand. You never know what can happen.”
Meanwhile Xabi Alonso says he is feeling almost back at full match fitness after making his first league start since returning from injury of the season in the Derby County game.
The Spaniard says, “Of course when you are on the sidelines and injured, watching it from the boxes, it is frustrating, but I am back now and looking forward to the next few games.
“I’m getting that match fitness that you need. After playing against Chelsea last week, I was delighted to get another 90 minutes. I am getting there after almost three months out of the game.
“I felt okay against Derby. But it’s up to the manager whether I will play against Manchester City.”