• Premier League

Rodgers: Rafa deserves warm welcome

ESPN staff
April 19, 2013

Rafa Benitez deserves a warm reception when he returns to Anfield with Chelsea this weekend, according to Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.

Benitez won the 2005 Champions League title with the club during his six years on Merseyside, and has admitted that Sunday's return will be an emotional occasion.

It will be the first time the Chelsea boss, whose family still live in Wirral, has managed a team at Anfield since leaving Liverpool in 2010.

And Rodgers, who replaced Kenny Dalglish as manager last June, is sure that Benitez will get a big welcome on his return.

"Rafa Benitez deserves a great welcome because of the great work that he did here," Rodgers said. "It's a club with supporters who are brilliant, very respectful.

"They still sing Kenny's name and rightly so. He's a legend at the club as a footballer and as a manager. They sing about the players. And I'm sure Rafa Benitez will get a great reception."

Rodgers could find himself in the odd position on Sunday of being the home manager for a match at which his own club's supporters are cheering the visiting boss.

But he said: "It won't be strange in any way at all. For me, the focus is purely on the job of improving the team."

Rodgers' task is to build a Liverpool side once again capable of qualifying for the Champions League.

The club have not played in the competition since December 2009, and are highly unlikely to be there next season, as they lie 10 points adrift of the Premier League's fourth and final qualification spot with five games to play.

But he insists he will not let the club's trophy-laden history weigh him down in his attempts to make them successful again.

"It's very easy for me to appreciate, because it was one of the key reasons for me coming here - the great history of the club," Rodgers added. "Of course, when there's that expectation, that puts a whole different pressure, and what we look to do with the players is try to relieve that pressure.

"It's a club who hope to be there. But if you put too much pressure on arriving there, then it becomes even more difficult. The history is the history, and it's an incredible history. This is one of the biggest football clubs in the world.

"But I've said it before and I'll repeat again: You can't be held hostage by it. You've got to chip away and be the best you can be. And we'll do that knowing we've got an incredible support base to back us all the way."

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