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Rafael Benítez reminded Liverpool FC that they remain in a fine position ahead of their UEFA Europa League semi-final decider against Club Atlético de Madrid despite trailing 1-0.
"If you're in the semi-final of a competition it's always very positive, and if you're in the final and win a trophy even more so," the Liverpool manager said. "The problem we have is the huge expectations at this club, but
I think a lot of other teams would be happy to be in our position: in the semis of a major competition and fighting to finish in the top four in the league."
Liverpool lie seventh in the Premier League, and have not been at their best this season, but Benítez urged his side not to be anxious against Atlético. "The key is to stay calm and know that we're capable of scoring," he said. "I'm not thinking about the future, it can be negative to think too far ahead. We're just concentrating on this game, it's a massive one for the club and we want to be in the final."
The Reds will be without defenders Fábio Aurélio (thigh), Martin Škrtel (metatarsal) and Martin Kelly (knee) while Argentinian left-back Emiliano Insúa is doubtful with a thigh injury. The absence of former Atlético man Fernando Torres, moreover, has made minor knocks for fellow forwards David Ngog and Dirk Kuyt even more of a concern, with Ryan Babel set to start up front.
Benítez knows that in Sergio Agüero and Diego Forlán, scorer of the first-leg goal, Atlético can pack a mean punch, but he preferred to focus on the positives for the home team. "It's 11 versus 11, and let's hope our 11 can impose themselves on theirs and that our 12th man, the fans, proves decisive," he said. "We're at a disadvantage because we're behind in the tie, but we're hoping that with the crowd behind us will they feel the pressure more."
While Benítez cited the crowd as a key motivator for Liverpool, the Spaniard's compatriot and counterpart Quique Sánchez Flores said his players were well versed in focusing on the task at hand. "The majority of this squad played here last season in the group phase [of the UEFA Champions League] and know what the atmosphere is like," the 45-year-old coach said. "
These lads are experienced, have played big games at World Cups, EUROs and in the Champions League, so hopefully we won't be caught by surprise."
Quique Flores has left defenders Mariano Pernía and Pablo Ibañez out of the travelling party, but Agüero does return after his suspension in the first leg. "We're not settling for what we've got having reached the semi-final," said the coach, whose side who are already in the Copa del Rey showpiece next month. "These opportunities don't come around every week and to reach two finals in the same season would be fantastic and it's about reaching for that dream and trying to attain it."
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