Rafael Benítez prepares his Liverpool side for their first ever Europa League tie on Thursday. Photograph: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Rafael Benítez has conceded disappointment with ‘s lack of „fight” in the Premier League title race and Champions League but says his side will be taking the Europa League seriously as they prepare for their first match in the competition, on Thursday.

In seasons gone by Liverpool would be preparing for a last-16 Champions League tie now, but instead they will face Unirea Urziceni of Romania at Anfield prior to a league encounter with Manchester City on Sunday.

„Clearly I would prefer to be fighting for the title or for the Champions League but you must accept the situation,” said Benítez. „But you have to be positive and turn things in your favour. Now we have another opportunity [of playing in Europe] and we must try to keep playing better. We have got to keep progressing in the Europa League and aim to finish as high as we can in the Premier League.”

Liverpool are among the favourites to reach the final in Hamburg on 12 May but Benítez remains cautious about his side’s chances. „There are still big clubs involved,” he said. „If we can get through a couple of rounds, though, I’m sure the atmosphere will be really good because the fans want to see us winning trophies.”

This article was published on at 14.15 GMT on Tuesday 16 February 2010.

Liverpool become a Mickey Mouse team in a Mickey Mouse league. Next week: Bobby Zamora v the blogosphere

Read the article on Guardian Unlimited

Rafael Benítez wishes Liverpool were still ‘fighting’ for top honours

Rafael Benítez prepares his Liverpool side for their first ever Europa League tie on Thursday. Photograph: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Rafael Benítez has conceded disappointment with ‘s lack of „fight” in the Premier League title race and Champions League but says his side will be taking the Europa League seriously as they prepare for their first match in the competition, on Thursday.

In seasons gone by Liverpool would be preparing for a last-16 Champions League tie now, but instead they will face Unirea Urziceni of Romania at Anfield prior to a league encounter with Manchester City on Sunday.

„Clearly I would prefer to be fighting for the title or for the Champions League but you must accept the situation,” said Benítez. „But you have to be positive and turn things in your favour. Now we have another opportunity [of playing in Europe] and we must try to keep playing better. We have got to keep progressing in the Europa League and aim to finish as high as we can in the Premier League.”

Liverpool are among the favourites to reach the final in Hamburg on 12 May but Benítez remains cautious about his side’s chances. „There are still big clubs involved,” he said. „If we can get through a couple of rounds, though, I’m sure the atmosphere will be really good because the fans want to see us winning trophies.”

This article was published on at 14.15 GMT on Tuesday 16 February 2010.

Liverpool become a Mickey Mouse team in a Mickey Mouse league. Next week: Bobby Zamora v the blogosphere

Read the article on Guardian Unlimited

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