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May 4, 2019 at 7.45pm UK at St. James' Park (Newcastle upon Tyne)
Attendance: 52,206
NewcastleNewcastle United
2-3
Liverpool
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Rafael Benitez backs Liverpool to stay as "one of the best in the world"

Rafael Benitez backs Liverpool to stay as
© Reuters
The Spaniard guided the Reds to Champions League glory in 2005.

Rafael Benitez has insisted Liverpool will still be one of the best teams in the world even if they end the season without a trophy.

The Reds head for their former manager's Newcastle on Saturday evening knowing anything but victory at St James' Park could prove fatal in their bid to win a first league title since 1990, having seen their hopes of Champions League glory suffer a major dent with a 3-0 semi-final first leg defeat in Barcelona.

However Benitez, who memorably guided the club to the pinnacle of European football in 2005, is convinced they are once again a major force and could be for some time.

Asked how Jurgen Klopp's team compared with his, Benitez said: "They are doing well, doing a great job with a very good team.

"At the moment, they're one of the best teams, not just in Europe, but one of the best in the world. They haven't won a trophy but there are so many strong teams, that can happen.

"Will they stay there? Yes. They are at the maximum level now and they can compete well against Manchester City or Barcelona or Bayern. They can stay there."

Benitez is still held in high regard for what he did during his time at Anfield, which saw him come as close as any manager to ending the club's long wait for a 19th league title.

They finished as runners-up at the end of the 2008-09 campaign despite losing only two games as Manchester United pipped them to the crown, although the 59-year-old Spaniard is philosophical about the near miss.

He said: "Sometimes other teams are stronger. If that's the case, that's fair enough and you have to concentrate on the things you have done well and the things you haven't and try and do better next year.

"The problem now in football is how much money you spend and whether you can buy the best players."

Benitez, whose ongoing contract negotiations at Newcastle revolve in part around a similar issue – if at a more modest level, could find his popularity on the red half of Merseyside slipping if the Magpies win on Saturday evening.

He said: "I feel the Liverpool fans, they love me because we won the Champions League in Istanbul, we won four trophies and were in three finals, and also the way we were defending the club against [the establishment].

"It's similar to Newcastle, everything together, we fight and we stick together."

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TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
CManchester CityMan City38275683325186
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd382111673442974
3Liverpool38209968422669
4Chelsea381910958362267
5Leicester CityLeicester382061268501866
6West Ham UnitedWest Ham381981162471565
7Tottenham HotspurSpurs381881268452362
8Arsenal381871355391661
9Leeds UnitedLeeds38185156254859
10Everton38178134748-159
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12Newcastle UnitedNewcastle38129174662-1645
13Wolverhampton WanderersWolves38129173652-1645
14Crystal Palace38128184166-2544
15Southampton38127194768-2143
16Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton38914154046-641
17Burnley38109193355-2239
RFulham38513202753-2628
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RSheffield UnitedSheff Utd3872292063-4323

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