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Liverpool hold a 1-0 lead over Real Madrid ahead of their last 16 second leg at Anfield – can they finish the job at Anfield to ensure a 4th Champions League quarter-final in 5 seasons?

Rafa Benitez believes Liverpool should get more respect for being what he feels the ‘best’ club in Europe over the last four years.

Whilst the domestic success has eluded Benitez since his arrival at Anfield in 2004, he has turned Liverpool into one of the most feared sides in the UEFA Champions League.

They won the title in 2005 and made the final again in 2007 and, ahead of the second leg of their last 16 clash with Real Madrid on Tuesday, Benitez has suggested that the club’s success has been taken for granted.

“I don’t think the messages about our performance have been as positive as they could have been,” said Benitez.

“But when you look at what we have done in reaching two finals and a semi, it means a lot of credit for the players, a lot of memories for the club and a lot of money too.

“We’ve generated money that can be spent on players and that has allowed us to progress every season in my time here.

“I know we could do better and also that we still have some improvement to make in the league but perhaps we deserve some credit for our success in Europe.

“We’re very proud of being the best club in Europe over the past five years.

“In the league you need more consistency for nine months. We know we have the quality to compete in Europe, to beat anyone, but maybe not the depth for the league.”

Liverpool defender Fabio Aurelio sees parallels between Benítez’s reign at his former club Valencia and his tenure at Liverpool, warning the Merseyside club of the perils of undervaluing the Spaniard.

“Rafa was key to the success Valencia had. We didn’t have a squad with big names but we had a very competitive squad, and Rafa coached his players really well,” he said. “Maybe the success of Valencia was 70-80% because of Benítez, and the rest was down to the players.

“He came from a second division team [Tenerife] and in his first season he won La Liga ahead of Barcelona and Real Madrid, the first time Valencia had won it in 31 years. Then in his third season he won La Liga again and the Uefa Cup.

“In my opinion it is essential that Liverpool try to keep him. Every year he has been here, the squad has improved. In almost every year he has got to the final stages of the Champions League and we have been getting closer to the title.”

Liverpool hold a 1-0 lead over Real Madrid ahead of their last 16 second leg at Anfield – can they finish the job at Anfield to ensure a 4th Champions League quarter-final in 5 seasons?

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