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Benitez adamant Reds will hit last term's standards

DESPITE having been knocked out of three cup competitions and seemingly consigned to a race for fourth place in the Premier League, Rafael Benitez refuses to accept that his Liverpool team are unable to hit the same performance levels as last season.

The Liverpool manager believes that the standards his team set a year ago, when they were the only serious challengers to Manchester United's throne, are attainable once more, even if another second-place finish in the league is unlikely this term.

Benitez's conviction is founded on a combination of Liverpool's form -- they have gone six league games without defeat -- and the return to fitness of some of his top players, in particular Steven Gerrard (right), who showed signs of his best in the 2-0 home win over Bolton Wanderers on Saturday.

"I think we can do it if we fix two or three things," Benitez said. "You talk about Gerrard, but he was 10 days without training. He was available, but he may not have been absolutely ready because, after you are injured, you have to improve your match fitness. It is the same situation for Albert Riera and for Maxi Rodriguez, who has just arrived. You can see that he knows what to do with the ball.

"We have gone six games in a row without losing and we have some clean sheets. We are moving in the right direction. If Gerrard is fitter, I am sure he will play better and this will make a massive difference for us in attack. If we play without speculation surrounding Ryan (Babel), I am sure it will be easier for him to focus and for me to play him.

"So I think we will be better in attack and the team will be better," added the Spaniard.