SINGAPORE, July 27) – Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez says his team are getting better by the day and he has no doubt they will be title contenders again this season.The Reds got their first pre-season win under their belts with a 5-0 thrashing of Singapore on Sunday, at the same time that arch-rivals Manchester United crushed Hangzhou Greentown in China 8-2.
The Singapore result followed Liverpool’s 1-1 draw with Thailand, a 0-0 draw with St Gallen of Switzerland and a 1-0 loss to Rapid Vienna.
Benitez said the team was starting to gel and find its form with just three weeks till their opening Premier League game of the new campaign on August 16 against Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham.
"It was a good game. We worked hard and played at a high tempo with a professional mentality," he said.
"I think we are improving physically every single day.
"Some of the players returned late from international duty so it was important for them to play for 30 minutes.
"You can see that some of them are a little bit tired, but the mentality and attitude was good and it was a very good game."
Liverpool finished second to Manchester United last season but many feel this year is their best chance to win the title since they last got their hands on it 20 years ago.
Benitez is upbeat about the year ahead.
"We have confidence that we can be at the top of table. It can happen," he said.
"The message is clear, we have to be contenders, we have to work harder than last year.
"We need to get to the top of the table and stay at top and be competitive for the whole season and hopefully win the trophy."
A plus point for Liverpool on Sunday was a brace from young Hungarian striker Krisztian Nemeth on his senior debut after excelling in the reserves.
He was introduced to the action after an hour and wasted no time in finding the back of the net, with Benitez praising his abilities.
"Nemeth is a great finisher. He has scored a lot of goals in the reserve team and on Sunday he showed why," he said.
Andriy Voronin, Albert Riera and Fernando Torres also got on the scoresheet.
But at this early stage, the manager would not be drawn on what he thinks is his best 11.
"We still have three more games before we start the season against Tottenham so there’s still plenty of time to decide on the team," he said, adding that there may be new players on their way to Anfield.
"I am really pleased with the squad and as professionals we tend not to talk about our targets but we do have some, but we will keep them to ourselves."
One headache still unresolved is whether Xabi Alonso will stay or go to Real Madrid.
The midfielder played 13 minutes on Sunday and Benitez said he must make up his mind.
"He has three more years on his contract and we know that he’s a great player. That’s the reason we signed him and we’ve renewed his contract," he said.
"So you will have to ask him."
Liverpool flew back to England late Sunday with a friendly against Espanyol on August 2 their next action, a game that is expected to see the return of captain Steven Gerrard.
He missed their Asian tour after being accused of assault but was cleared of the charges on Friday.