Benitez upbeat despite exit

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BUDAPEST, November 25- Embattled Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez said that he and the squad should remain positive despite bowing out of the Champions League at the group stage for the first time in six years on Tuesday.
MASCHERANO_SLIDE_Liverpool did manage to eke out only their second win in 11 matches, a 1-0 win here over pointless Hungarian side Debrecen but Fiorentina’s 1-0 victory over already qualified Lyon in Florence brought the curtain down on any thoughts of progressing to the knockout stages.

Benitez, whose spending of multi-millions is in stark contrast to Debrecen’s limited transfer budget of just over 1 1/2million pounds a year, was already turning his attention to the Liverpool derby this weekend against Everton as they try and claw back a massive 13 point deficit to Premier League leaders Chelsea.

"I am trying to be very positive," said 49-year-old Benitez, who made an immediate impact in his first season as Liverpool manager by landing a remarkable victory over AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final.

"The players know that when we have Steven Gerrard on the pitch and when we have our other big players available, we will improve.

"We must remain positive, and think about the next competition. And that is Everton.

"We have to win against Everton, that is our priority now.

"If we can do that we must think of winning several games in a row. We needed to win today (Tuesday) and hopefully now things will change and we will win more regularly.

"Our fans realise the team was working hard. We are paying for mistakes in the last minutes of other games in this group, they know you have to do well right from the beginning of a group."

Benitez, who attracted Liverpool’s attention in 2004 when he resigned from Valencia having coached them to two Spanish titles and a UEFA Cup trophy, said finishing in the top four in the Premier League, ensuring Champions League matches next season, and winning the Europa League would sweeten the pill.

"We must be positive and think of the next competition, the next game at Everton and then the Europa League," said Benitez, whose side are favourites for the second tier European competition.

"We also know that Steven Gerrard can play a full 90 minutes, he has recovered.

"Fabio Aurelio, also, has returned well from injury. All of that is positive for the rest of the season."

The victory ended a five-match winless streak and Benitez hopes that will spark the team into life.

"Winning is the target, so now we have new targets," he said.

Benitez, who never played for the Spanish national side though he played five times for the University national team, conceded Liverpool’s habit this campaign of conceding late goals – twice against Lyon which cost them four points – had been costly.

"It was our own fault in the end, the late goals we have conceded along the way have cost us," said Benitez, whose team has not even managed to score as many goals as Debrecen in the group stage.

"We have been so good in the last few years that maybe people think it is easy to qualify in all competitions.

"Because of that, people think we can do it every season. But you cannot always.

"We have to be disappointed, we knew we had to win and we did that. You cannot change what happened in Florence, but at least we did our job.

"We are in a very bad position because now we cannot win the Champions League again, we know that, so the next game has to be won.

"The players know we have had a bad run of games. We could have done better, but we won this match and we have shown we can win in difficult circumstances."

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