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Benitez sets early CL target

Benitez sets early CL target

September 17 2007

Rafael Benitez wants Liverpool to qualify for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League long before the end of the their group matches.

The Reds boss has already admitted he sees the Premier League as his priority for this season, a statement made well ahead of their Group A opener in Porto.

In recent seasons, the Merseysiders have frequently had to rely on last-day heroics - something skipper Steven Gerrard has been forced to specialise in - to make sure that the club reaches the last 16.

That, insists Benitez, has to change if the Anfield outfit are to have any chance of managing their domestic campaign successfully.

Last term was the first time in the competition's current format that the Premier League giants went into the final group game in Istanbul against Galatasaray with their destiny already assured.

And now Benitez wants that scenario repeated so that when they arrive in Marseille for their last group clash in early December, their fate will already be decided.

The Spaniard said: "It is clear that the perfect situation is to get to the last game and already be qualified for the next stage.

"Last season we achieved that and by the time we went to Galatasaray for the last group match, we had already qualified.

"This is something we must achieve regularly. The way to do that is to win from the very first match in the group, if you do that it is easier to manage the rest of the Champions League games and to be able to concentrate on the Premier League as well."

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