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Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Javier Mascherano: Don't single out Rafa

Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano feels it is unfair manager Rafael Benitez is shouldering the burden of criticism when the players themselves are not performing.

• Benitez goes on the defensive
• Torres calls for Villa or Silva signing
• Babel back in contention

• Torres calls for Silva or Villa

Benitez's position has come under increased scrutiny in the last few weeks with the club's early exit from the Champions League and FA Cup.

Seventh-placed Liverpool are 14 points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea and are four adrift of the Champions League qualification places - although they could alter that with a victory over Tottenham at Anfield on Wednesday.

Benitez's current problems have been compounded by injuries to striker Fernando Torres, who will be out for six weeks after undergoing knee surgery at the weekend, Steven Gerrard and Yossi Benayoun.

The Reds boss is under the greatest pressure of his five-and-a-half year reign but Mascherano believes the players must take a share of the responsibility for the club's plight.

"It's easier for them to criticise one manager than 20 players,'' said the Argentina captain. "When the team is not playing well, the press criticises the manager and not the players, but we don't have to pay too much attention.

"You have to realise that when we are playing like this, people will criticise Rafa. But we are a top side. We need to think about football and try not to worry too much.

"We have to work, continue training hard and show all our things on the pitch. The mentality among all of us is really good and we want to take Liverpool to the place it deserves to be.''

Meanwhile, Benitez has once again denied reports that he and captain Steven Gerrard had a bust-up at half-time of Liverpool's FA Cup exit at the hands of Reading.

"We have been joking about the rumours in the media that there was a fight," Benitez said. "There was nothing. We have been laughing about it."




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