Benitez asks board for increased budget


Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has called on the club's board to free up the money which will allow him to strengthen the squad and increase competition as they make the push to reach the Barclays Premiership top four.

The Spaniard's priority is to secure qualification for next season's champions League, which will bring in critical revenue to help him rebuild.

Liverpool have been linked with a number of players ahead of the transfer window with Real Madrid striker Fernando Morientes top of the list.

However, Benitez may yet have to revise upwards his number of targets after losing Xabi Alonso to a broken ankle in yesterday's undeserved 1-0 defeat to Chelsea.

The Anfield injury list is becoming an ever-growing nightmare with Djibril Cisse out for the season, Harry Kewell six weeks and now Xabi Alonso set for two months enforced absence.

Already this season Benitez has seen Antonio Nunez, Chris Kirkland, Vladimir Smicer, Steven Gerrard, Luis Garcia, Neil Mellor and Milan Baros also sidelined for long spells.

As a result he has spelt out the need for new signings.

"If we have new faces all the players think we need to work harder because they want to play," he said.

"If we do that we have a better possibility of being in the top four. That means more money and more possibilities to be successful. It's like a chain.

"We need to know the finances [are there] and try to do the best for the team and club but for us it is important to be in the top four.

"We need to do some things and I am sure the board and chairman have the same idea."

A trip to struggling Norwich would normally have been viewed as a match Liverpool would be expected to win comfortably but an injury-ravaged squad means a trip to Carrow Road suddenly appears more difficult.

The top three in the Premiership are seemingly about to disappear into the distance, which would leave Liverpool fighting it out with local rivals Everton and Middlesbrough for the final fourth Champions League place.

And although the Reds' season is turning into one, long hard luck story they cannot let themselves be affected by it.

They did not deserve to lose against Chelsea and Joe Cole's late deflected winner was a bitter pill to swallow after referee Mike Riley had someone failed to see two blatant penalties in the first half.

That was after the loss of Xabi Alonso to a Frank Lampard tackle which earned him a yellow card.

But in an effort to breathe new life into the side Benitez will look to Spain for re-inforcements and, besides Morientes, Valencia defender Mauricio Pellegrino and Real Zaragoza's David Villa appear to be possible targets.

On Morientes the former Valencia coach said: "The only thing I can say is that we are very happy that a player from Real Madrid says he wants to come to play for us.

"It means we are doing the right things and we are an important club. And an important player wants to come here. That is good also for us.

"Losing Alonso will not change my thinking in the transfer window. We have a lot of midfield players to cover but I must discover who is fit.

"We will be looking for new players now because it is important we have a competitive squad. Our priority is Norwich, but after that we must find the players we need.

"Norwich will be a tough task. We must recover our confidence because we have played well and still lost.

"But after seeing the team play as well as that, I know and they know that we can beat any team in the division.

"We will win more games playing as well as this."

Benitez hoped to have Baros back from his hamstring injury for the trip to Norwich but that now appears to be doubtful.