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Benitez unconcerned by Gerrard´s England storm

SoccerNews in English Premier League 22 Aug 2008

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Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez is confident Steven Gerrard won't be affected by the storm surrounding his England appearance this week.

England coach Fabio Capello was criticised by Portsmouth boss Harry Redknapp after he used Gerrard on the left wing against the Czech Republic on Wednesday.

Capello responded by claiming Gerrard wasn't fully fit but Benitez, who conceded that Gerrard has been struggling with two injuries, expects Gerrard to be back to his best soon.

“Steven has had two injuries, he was 10-15 days without training, and then it happened again,” Benitez said.

“Clearly in a couple of weeks he will be back to his best. He has needed time to get fit after his injuries and it has been important to protect him.

“Steven has great game intelligence, and he can play anywhere. Gerrard played with intelligence and England drew, that is all I would want to say about it.

“We know what is the best position for Gerrard, but he is capable of playing in other positions.

“We know where he can play really well and we know where he likes to play. We will concentrate on using him to his strengths.”

With Gerrard less than 100 percent, Benitez will rely on Spain striker Fernando Torres to give the Reds a second successive win against Middlesbrough at Anfield on Saturday.

Torres is aiming to score in his ninth successive home league match and will break a record set by Roger Hunt in the 1961-62 season if he finds the net.

“We hope Fernando can create his piece of club history, and then maybe more in the future,” Benitez said.

Benitez admitted his peace talks with chief executive Rick Parry this week after acrimony over the proposed transfer of Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry should help Liverpool's attempts to bring in new players.

“We talked about the players that we have, how to progress, and we both know it is important for the club that we work together,” Benitez said.

“We are working really hard, we are moving in the right direction and hopefully we can do something positive in the next few days.

“The talks were positive, we cannot discuss names but we are now both working to improve our squad.

“There was no friction, but some personal problems. Now things are more clear and that is positive. It was a private conversation.”

Benitez would still like to take Barry to Anfield but he faces competition from Arsenal, whose manager Arsene Wenger declared an interest in the England midfielder after Liverpool turned down his offer for Xabi Alonso.

“I have had no word about Arsenal wanting Gareth Barry, and that is all I want to say on the subject. Other than that we are working towards improving our squad,” Benitez said.

“Likewise there has been nothing more on Xabi Alonso. At the beginning of the summer we were looking at ways of raising money, but now we are happy with Xabi, he is a very good player.

“The offer we had was not good enough, so why would we want to sell him?”

Benitez also revealed the club rejected a 2.5 million pounds (3.1 million euros) bid from Stoke for veteran defender Sami Hyypia.

“We have had an approach from Stoke about Sami but we want to keep him,” Benitez said. “When we talked about a new contract in the summer, it was clear that Sami wanted to stay at the club.

“He is a fantastic professional, a very nice person and a great player. He is not a player we want to sell.”

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