Sunday, August 05, 2007

Benitez: Liverpool Will Strike Right Balance

Rafael Benitez is relishing a potential selection headache as he looks to turn Liverpool into serious title contenders next season.

The arrival of new owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett saw the Spaniard handed a substantial transfer kitty and Benitez responded by bringing in Fernando Torres, Ryan Babel and Andriy Voronin alongside Yossi Benayoun over the summer in an attempt to match the firepower of rivals Manchester United and Chelsea.

With last season's top scorer, Peter Crouch, and Holland international Dirk Kuyt also vying for a starting berth, Benitez's biggest worry will be keeping his multitude of stars happy.

However, the Reds manager welcomes the problem and hopes the situation will see his side hit the back of the net more frequently than last term.

"For me it's a good problem," Benitez said. "I like to have these options up front. We have different options now and it depends on the game but I think all of them can play together and that is the important thing.

"It depends on the game. If we want to play more crosses, Crouch can play or Voronin, and if we want to change the game we can introduce a different striker. Last season the team was attacking but I would like to see more goals. We were attacking a lot but we can now improve the accuracy."

All eyes will be on Torres in particular and how quickly the Spainish international can adjust to the pace and physicality of the English game. One man who knows the 23-year-old better than most is Jose Reina.

The Liverpool goalkeeper has both played with and against the former Atletico Madrid hitman in La Liga and the national side and is confident Torres will justify his hefty price tag.

"He's a top quality player and after being with Atletico Madrid it won't be a problem for him," Reina said. "I expect him to score goals, he is learning English very early and has the mentality to succeed.

"I can't explain what he is going to find because I don't want to scare him. He will find out in his own way but I am convinced that he is absolutely ready to meet the challenge."

Reina's own place may be under pressure for perhaps the first time in his Liverpool career as Scott Carson returns to Anfield on the back of an impressive season-long loan at Charlton.

The 21-year-old turned in a string of inspirational performances during the Addicks' unsuccessful fight against relegation but Reina insisted he is ready to cope with the added competition.

"I think it's a great challenge for me," he said. "The more intense it will be, the better for the team. I'm not worried. I know Scotty will be pressuring me, he's a great shot stopper and he showed that last season and it's better for the team."

Voronin Expects To Succeed

Andrei Voronin does not expect to have the same problems adapting to English football as his Ukrainian compatriot Andrei Shevchenko.

Voronin has made a positive start to his Liverpool career after completing a free transfer from Bayer Leverkusen this summer.

Meanwhile, Shevchenko, who found the back of the net only 14 times last season, did not live up to high expectations following his £30million move to Chelsea from Milan.

However, Voronin does not believe he will suffer the same difficulties as the Chelsea forward.

"The problems Shevchenko has had have not discouraged me from coming to Liverpool," Voronin told the Daily Star.

"Just because he did perform as well as he might have done did not have an affect on me.

"I have studied English football and think there are many similarities with the game in Germany.

"I am not just here to make up the numbers - I think that one of my biggest qualities is my strength of character."

Voronin also expects Shevchenko to produce the goods this season now that he has had time to settle in England.

"He didn't perform as well as he was expected to last season but he played in Italian football for seven seasons with AC Milan and that league is totally different to English football," Voronin added.

"Maybe he just needed a little bit more time to get used to the English style but I think he will do better this season because he is a goal scorer."