Benitez relishing Atletico ties
Reds boss hoping for 'quick' qualification
By Carla Hilton. Last Updated: October 2, 2008 4:28pm
Benitez: Next game is crucial
Rafa Benitez is looking forward to the prospect of meeting two of his former players when Liverpool play back-to-back UEFA Champions League fixtures with Atletico Madrid.
The Reds will take on Group D leaders Atletico in Madrid on 22nd October before the return trip to Anfield on 4th November.
Benitez admits that both fixtures will be tough against a confident Atletico side, containing former Reds duo Florent Sinama-Pongolle and Luis Garcia.
"Atletico are a good team," said Benitez. "They are on fire with a lot of confidence and they have players with quality."
Speaking of his former players, the Reds boss said: "Sinama-Pongolle is playing well, while everyone is also talking of how well (Argentinian forward Sergio) Aguero is playing.
"They are a good side and they have outstanding fans who give them tremendous support."
He added: "We all know about Luis Garcia. We know it will be hard, but it will also be a really good experience for everyone to play them in Madrid."
Liverpool are currently level on points in Group D with Atletico who top the group on goal difference.
The next two games will be vital for the Reds as they bid to qualify for the last 16 in first spot.
"Both of us have six points," said Benitez when reflecting on the Reds' upcoming European encounters.
"The next game in Madrid is the most important in the group," he added. "Then we have them at Anfield afterwards, but the next game is the most crucial.
"Win that and get one more point and we are virtually qualified."
Benitez is hoping to qualify sooner rather than later to lift the pressure on his players who are going great guns in the league and second only on goal difference behind Chelsea.
"Every season we hope to qualify quickly, and it does not always happen.
"But we have done better than ever at this stage and now we want to finish things off as quickly as possible."