LIVERPOOL, March 11 – Rafael Benitez hailed Liverpool's 4-0 demolition of Real Madrid as perfect preparation for Saturday's Premier League showdown with Manchester United.
"When you have an important game coming up, if the players play well and score four goals against a top side like Real Madrid you have to be really pleased," the Spaniard said. "As a manager maybe it is the best way to approach a big game."
The return of Fernando Torres from injury helped inspire what was arguably Liverpool’s finest display of the season, albeit one that came against a Real side that looked shambolic in defence at times.
The irrepressible Torres opened the scoring after quarter of an hour, a penalty from Steven Gerrard killed the tie and the Liverpool captain’s second and a late effort from substitute Andrea Dossena sent Benitez’s men into the last eight for the fourth time in his five seasons in charge.
Benitez admitted Real had been caught cold by Liverpool’s unexpectedly offensive approach to what had been anticipated as a much more cagey encounter.
"We knew that maybe they were expecting that we would play deep and try to play on the counter-attack," Benitez added.
"From the beginning we tried to put pressure on them and we kept on top of them from the beginning to the end."
For Real boss Juande Ramos, the defeat, which means Real have failed to advance beyond this stage since 2004, represents a blow to his chances of continuing in his job beyond the end of this season.
The former Spurs manager admitted Liverpool deserved to go through but voiced grievances over the manner of their first two goals, claiming Torres and fouled Pepe in the build-up to the first while describing the penalty as doubtful.
"We conceded two early goals — both of which were doubtful," Ramos complained. "That meant we had to go all out for goals and we laid ourselves open to the counter attack. But they deserved to go through, they were the better side over the two legs."
Ramos dismissed a suggestion that such a demoralising defeat would handicap his side’s chances of catching Barcelona in the race for the Spanish league title.
"They are two totally different competitions. We carry on in La Liga with every hope of making a comeback and catching Barcelona. We will be trying as hard as we can for the rest of the season."