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RAFA BENITEZ today urged Liverpool’s supporters to give Alberto Aquilani time to settle after the Italian made his first appearance in a Red shirt.

Aquilani played the final 15 minutes of the reserves’ 2-0 win over Sunderland at Prenton Park last night and showed some neat touches

Having had to wait since August 7 to see him in action, the sight of Aquilani taking a step closer to full fitness following ankle surgery will have come as a major boost in light of recent results.

But as pleased as Benitez was to see his £20m man up and running after six months on the sidelines – his last appearance for Roma was on March 11 – he was also quick to sound a note of caution.

Though many will hope Aquilani can come in and solve a number of problems, Benitez believes it would be unfair to expect too much too soon from the 25-year-old.

"Always with a new player we talk about the problems they have settling down because the Premier League is very quick and it is more physical," said Benitez.

"So for a new player who has been injured, like Alberto, it will be even more difficult. It is a question of keeping him training and when he is fit, we have to support him.

"We will have to choose the right moments to put him on the pitch. But he is learning all the time and we are looking forward to playing him.

"But our fans are very clever and they know sometimes that a player with quality needs that time to settle down. He will need some time to get used to us, too."

Despite Benitez’s appeal for patience, it is inevitable that fans who are desperate for a lift following a wretched run of results will want to know when they will see Aquilani in the first team.

It would be a major fillip if he was involved in the squad for the clash with Manchester United this Sunday but the Carling Cup tie at Arsenal next Wednesday is a more realistic target for him to dip his toe in the water.

But it could be that Aquilani settles into the groove quicker than many expect, as Benitez says the Italian has been studying all aspects of the English game during his prolonged absence.

"Alberto is intelligent, he likes football and he has been watching our games," said Benitez. "He can see the pace is different here and the physical approach.

"But there is a difference between what you see and how you play but when he gets out and feels the atmosphere here, it will be something special for him.

"When will he play? It depends on how he is physically.

"He has got very good levels of stamina but now he has to improve his sharpness."To get match fitness, he needs to play games and what we have to do is analyse carefully which games is the best and how long he will play for."


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