Liverpool won Group D with a 3-1 victory at PSV Eindhoven on Tuesday to justify Benitez’s faith in his supporting cast, with a clutch of fringe players impressing.
With no European matches to worry about before the last-16 phase begins in late January, and only the FA Cup as a distraction, Benitez and his squad can now focus on their main aim of ending a 19-year wait for their 19th championship.
Liverpool have 10 league games in that time, starting at home to Hull City on Saturday, and Benitez has every intention of seeing his side continue leading the way before European football comes around again.
“We now have almost three months to concentrate on the Premier League, and the FA Cup,” he says. “We would want to go back into Europe next year still top of the table.
“We have qualified for the next stage in Europe, we are top of the Premier League, and now we concentrate on domestic considerations. We do not want to give up top spot, if we are still there when we start up again in Europe, the chances of a really good season will be obvious.”
Benitez was delighted to see youngsters Lucas and David Ngog produce telling performances, along with the misfiring Robbie Keane.
Having had the club’s youth structure also thrust under the microscope, Benitez was more than happy to sing the praises, too, of local boys Stephen Darby, Jay Spearing and Martin Kelly who made their European debuts.
Benitez said: “I was so pleased to be able to give three local lads a run-out in the Champions League, it is something I have been wanting to do because we do have good young players coming through.
“It is good to bring players through, whether from the Academy or when we have signed them from abroad.
“It was good not to have to bring on Steven Gerrard from the bench to win us a game. It has been good to give a opportunity to these boys, I could not be happier with them.
“With Ngog he has a very bright future at Liverpool. They have not played too many games for the club, but they showed with good performances that they have futures with Liverpool.
“In a few months you can see the progress they have made, and in a few months they will still be improving.”
Lucas, who was man of the match on Tuesday, had come in for criticism from some sections of the Anfield support who made him the scapegoat for the recent goalless draw at home to Fulham.
“Myself and the staff, as well as his team-mates, know that Lucas is a very good player,” said Benitez. “He showed that he has character and quality.
“Maybe Lucas has been spurred on by some of the criticism. But this week he has shown he is a good professional and his reaction to questions about his form and the reaction to him from some fans recently, has been very good.”