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Pepe Reina denies that speculation surrounding the future of Liverpool FC manager Rafael Benítez could distract his team-mates as they chase a vital victory to salvage their UEFA Champions League hopes against FC Porto at Anfield.
Precariously placed in Group A, Liverpool know that six points from their two remaining games is their most realistic route to the last 16. The pressure has been building on last season's runners-up in recent days following a well-publicised dispute between Benítez and the club's American owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett. However, Liverpool goalkeeper Reina insists the players' focus is purely on facing Porto on Wednesday. "It is not affecting us at all. It's not easy and it's not nice but all we can do is play football and show how good or bad we are on the pitch," said the Spanish international.
Pressed about the significance of beating Porto, Reina said: "It's not a question of keeping the manager in his job – we want to keep going in the Champions League for a long time, so obviously we need that win and the three points so we can play Olympique [de] Marseille [on Matchday 6] and make it like a final. Our commitment to the manager is there and he has been quite successful in the last four years, reaching seven finals and winning four trophies. The players and the supporters are with Rafa, but that's not new. We all know how important he is for Liverpool. We will hopefully show that the manager and the players are all together and stronger than ever. It's a must-win game and we have to show our character."
Although they sit three points behind Marseille and four adrift of Porto, a competition-record 8-0 victory over Beşiktaş JK on Matchday 4 has strengthened Liverpool's conviction. Nonetheless, they simply have to carry on winning. "We will get more respect from people because it was a great win, but it was just one win and one good night," the 25-year-old said. "We must keep winning and it doesn't matter what happened in the past. This game will probably be more difficult. We are on a good run with three wins in a row and now the target is the Champions League and it's all depending on us. We know that if we win it will help us qualify."
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