Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez celebrates with the Sky Bet Championship trophy after the final whistle during the Sky Bet Championship match at St James' Park, Newcastle. (Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire. )

Rafa Benitez insists Liverpool “have everything in place to do well” under Jurgen Klopp

Ahead of Liverpool’s trip to take on Newcastle United, Rafa Benitez has lavished praise on his successor, and opposite number, Jurgen Klopp.

Klopp is the Reds’ 19th manager, appointed five years after Benitez departed Anfield, following Roy Hodgson, Kenny Dalglish and Brendan Rodgers.

The German has led his side back into the Champions League, a competition they won under Benitez in 2005, but there are glaring flaws in his squad, namely in defence.

But as he prepares Newcastle to take on his former club at St James’ Park on Sunday, Benitez insisted Liverpool “have everything in place to do well” under Klopp.

“He has the tools and the potential. I think they can win trophies,” he told reporters.

“The problem to sustain the success with the top sides. They have everything in place to do well, but they are competing against some very good sides.

“People talk about them being weak in defence, but they have such a strong attack.

“We have to be solid and try to stop them creating so many chances.

“They are very offensive and creative in attack, so we know it will be a tough game.

“I don’t want to put pressure on them. The difference between the teams at the top isn’t massive.

“They have the potential to compete against top sides. The reality is that because they are so offensive, they sometimes have problems with their defence.

“Sometimes, when you attack too much, you’re exposed in defence. It’s about finding the right balance between attack and defence.”

Klopp, speaking at Melwood on Friday afternoon, was equally as positive about Benitez, saying he was looking forward to being reunited with a friend this weekend.

“I met Rafa once when he was manager of Liverpool—we beat him 5-0 with Mainz, hopefully he remembers that!” he joked.

“The rest is history, the big success. We met meanwhile for sure 10 or 15 times in different occasions and it was always really nice, to be honest.

“He’s a very, very interesting person, so we always had a good time.

“I know he’s still connected, not only because he lives around here still, he’s really connected to the club still, wishes the club all the best and all that stuff.

“It’s how it should be after this fantastic time that he had here.

“Even in pre-season and the summer break, we had talks. I know him better than most of the other colleagues in the Premier League, to be honest.

“And it’s nice but it has not the biggest impact, I think, on the game.”

Klopp has overseen one win, one draw and one loss against Benitez’s sides during his time as a manager, including a 2-2 stalemate at Anfield in 2016.

He will be looking for another victory to add to his record when he locks horns with the Spaniard on Sunday.

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