Benayoun asked to excel

Reds depending on Israeli in Gerrard's probable absence

Benayoun: Impressive season

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Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has challenged Yossi Benayoun to fill the probable void left by the ongoing injury problems of Steven Gerrard.

The Reds are again expected to be without captain Gerrard for Monday's match with Birmingham at Anfield as the England ace continues to struggle with the groin problem sustained against Ukraine in October.

Benitez is therefore expected to ask Benayoun to operate in the playmaking role against Alex McLeish's Blues as Liverpool attempt to end a run of one win in eight games in all competitions.

Benitez has suffered the wrath of some fans for substituting the former West Ham man in recent weeks, with the Israel captain having transformed his reputation since a questioned £5million arrival on Merseyside in 2007.

But he is now calling for Benayoun, who has arguably been the Reds' best player this season, to continue a run of consistent form, saying in the Liverpool Echo: "Yossi is a key player for us.

"There was a time before when people had some doubts about him but we knew he always had quality.

"We knew he could have an influence and change a game. He is intelligent and players don't know what he is going to do the next time he gets the ball.

"That's a big difference and when you don't have Steven on the pitch, it's important we have Yossi and we hope he will keep doing that in this game."