Rafa’s Pre-Wigan Press Conference

Rafa Benitez looks ahead to tonight’s trip to the JJB Stadium to face Steve Bruce’s Wigan Athletic.

Video credit: Liverpool Echo TV

LFC.tv Press-Conference Transcript

Journalist: A lot has been said about your decision to leave Robbie Keane out of your squad for Sunday’s FA Cup derby. Are people reading too much into that?

I think people are talking too much about this because it was just a decision to leave one player out of the squad. Robbie had a day off on Sunday like the rest of the players who were not involved in the game. He trained on Monday and Tuesday, and is in the squad for Wigan.

Journalist: There were reports that claimed you never spoke to Robbie about why you left him out. Is that true?

No. I was watching the training session and was talking with all of the players. They were all working hard and I was really pleased. He is in the squad and will be ready for Wigan, and if he can score goals then it will be good for us.

Journalist: Can you understand the reaction of people when you leave out a high-profile player who cost you a lot of money during the summer?

I have talked about this before. Manchester United have a lot of players every single year who cost a lot of money and sometimes they don’t play. It doesn’t matter about the name or the price. We need to think about the best players for each game.

Journalist: If you are to keep pushing for the title will you need Robbie Keane for the rest of the season?

We will need all of the players we have now for the rest of the season. A lot of clubs are asking about some players either to buy or take them on loan. We don’t need to sell anyone and lose anyone now. We have allowed Krisztian Nemeth to go out on loan. We think he is a very good player for the future and he needs more experience. We need all of the players because the race is long. Robbie is a good player. When we signed him we knew he was a good player. Maybe he’s not playing at his best level now but he wants to fight for his position and be available every single game. He has to work hard and he can give to us something. Robbie is a player with experience and can score goals, so hopefully he will be an important player for us between now and the rest of the season.

Journalist: You asked your team to step up in the FA Cup match against Everton. Were you pleased with what they delivered?

I think we were much better than the first game. We had the control. Clearly we have to improve because when you have this control you have to create more chances and take them. We had two or three really good chances to win it but didn’t take them.

Journalist: You said you have spoken to two of your senior players about your current form. What was their reaction?

They have a lot of confidence and they know we are improving. We have players back from injury which has increased the competition for places and it’s very positive.

Journalist: Away from the pitch there is a lot being said about Liverpool FC. Does all that affect the team?

I don’t think the players are affected by these things. When I talk with them we talk about football and not problems. I have a lot of confidence with the players.

Journalist: You head to the JJB Stadium in second place, Rafa. Are we set for the closest Premier League title race ever?

It could be. You can also see Chelsea, Arsenal and Aston Villa are fighting as well. If you lose or draw a game you have to keep going. My message is to keep calm and just keep your confidence and support the team because we have to keep fighting until the end of the season.

Journalist: Is there a slight feeling you have let Manchester United back into the top spot with some of the points that have been dropped?

Clearly we were in a very good position and the draws we have had have been a little bit disappointing. We know that’s the way it is sometimes. That’s football and you can not guarantee anything. We can keep talking and talking but the only way to change things is by keep going on the pitch.

Journalist: What sort of test are you expecting against Wigan?

They have a good record at home. They have some good players and are physically strong, so it will be a tough game, but we have confidence and away from home we have been good. Hopefully we can win and play well.

Journalist: They have recently lost two of their best players in Heskey and Palacios. What do you make of the job Steve Bruce is doing at the JJB?

He is doing well. You can see the progression of the team this year has been good and it will be a difficult game.

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  • Transcript credit: Liverpool FC