Wednesday, August 27, 2008
However, Standard de Liege could block the Reds' path to the group stage this time around with their third qualifying round tie level at 0-0 ahead of the second leg at Anfield.
The Belgian champions could have been taking a lead to England had Pepe Reina not produced a string of vital first-leg saves, including one from Dante Bonfim's penalty. Since then, Liverpool have made a good start to the Premier League season with wins against Sunderland and Middlesbrough and Benitez is sure another victory, and a group stage place, is within Liverpool's grasp.
"Our display this time will be much, much better," said Benitez, who has earned all of his previous Liverpool campaigns in this competition through qualifying.
"Of that I am confident. Our performance in Liege was poor, but the result was good. We did not concede and we hope that playing the second leg at Anfield will make a massive difference."
Standard are making their first attempt to qualify for the group stage and since holding Liverpool have beaten FCV Dender EH 3-1 and KVC Westerlo 3-0 to take an early lead in the Belgium league.
Dieudonne Mbokani Bezua is in hot form with four goals in those two games while captain Steven Defour and defender Oguchi Onyewu, the latter suspended for the first leg, look likely to start despite being used as substitutes against Westerlo on Saturday.
Coach Laszlo Boloni explained the decision to bench the pair: "This was not because of the upcoming Liverpool match. They were just too tired to play. I respect every competition and will always play with the team which I think is the strongest.
"No player is always a certain starter with me. And I think tiredness will be our biggest problem this season. Whether we reach the Champions League group stage or not, my squad is not very big."
Onyewu is expected to take over from Tomislav Mikulic at the back while striker Milan Jovanovic has made the journey, having seemingly opted to remain at Standard rather than join PSV Eindhoven.
Boloni is hopeful that Standard can perform at Anfield. "They have a super stadium, so do we," he said.
"They have super fans, so do we. They have super players, so do we.
"They have the only thing my team lacks, lads who have 40 matches of Premier League experience."
Source: FC Liverpool press
Third qualifying round: first leg results and goals