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Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has offered his backing to striker Fernando Morientes ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League Group G encounter with Anderlecht, amid growing criticism of the former Real Madrid forward.

Morientes has managed just five goals in 27 appearances since his £6.3m January move from Real, prompting criticism of his efforts from disgruntled supporters.

However, Benitez is confident Morientes will soon be back to his best.

“I have spoken to Fernando about his game and asked him how he feels and he tells me that he is really well and his confidence is still high,” said Benitez. “He wants to play as often as possible.

“He is an intelligent player and, when he is fit, Fernando can play to a very good level. Sometimes it is difficult to see the confidence in a player, but I know that he is trying to impress.

“During his time at Madrid, he scored a lot of goals, but he was playing alongside Raul and that is another thing that helps when you are a striker because he always scored and took the pressure off the other forwards.

“When he joined Liverpool, he had a choice of clubs who were prepared to pay him more money. He could have joined Lyon or Monaco, but he wanted to come to Liverpool. He took a pay cut and said he would only be paid in full if he won trophies and he scored goals.

“That shows everyone the hunger he has to succeed. He has a big reputation and maybe he is trying to start again at Liverpool, but everyone was happy with him against West Ham on Saturday. He worked very hard and was very unlucky not to score and, if you talk to Morientes, there is no doubt how much he wants to succeed at Liverpool.”

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