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Benitez praises leader Reina as Reds focus on beating Bolton

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has hailed goalkeeper Jose Reina during a difficult period for the club.

Knocked out of the Champions League, off the pace in the Premier League and dismissed from the FA Cup by lower league Reading, there has been little to cheer about at Anfield recently.

However, Benitez admits, in the midst of all the gloom, Reina has been a shining light at the club. The Spanish goalkeeper's clean sheet in the 0-0 draw away to Wolves in midweek was his fourth in six league games -- and this despite a nagging back problem.

Benitez said: "Pepe has had problems with injury but his mentality is really good. He is not just a good goalkeeper, I think he shows great character and is always pushing his team-mates.

"He is a leader on the pitch too. He can see the big picture, the full pitch, and then can give advice to the defenders.

"Pepe watches the game and can then manage the defenders, especially the movement of the full-backs.

"It is part of his job and he is doing well, but he can still improve in this particular area and it is something he will do in his time here," added the former Valencia boss.


Liverpool are looking to chalk up their fourth successive home win when Bolton Wanderers travel to Merseyside tomorrow.

Liverpool Midfielder Javier Mascherano insists winning in front of their own fans is key to clinching a place in the top four.

He said: "If we can be strong at Anfield, it will be good for our confidence. We need to be positive.

"Whether you are winning or losing, it is no good thinking too much about it. You must live in the present and we have to win the game against Bolton."

Mascherano is thrilled to be back in action after his recent four-match suspension, which coincided with a medial ligament injury.

He said: "I am pleased to be playing again and I feel good. Now I have the chance to help my team-mates, so I will try to do that.

"It is always disappointing when you miss games like I did, but you cannot think about the past."

The bonus for Liverpool at Wolves was the early return of Steven Gerrard (right) after he was hit with a hamstring problem. He did not suffer any reaction and looks certain to face Owen Coyle's Bolton side.

But Fernando Torres (knee) and Yossi Benayoun (rib) will again be sidelined for the Reds.

"We will keep fighting for that fourth spot," Gerrard said. "We've got a couple of home games coming up, and if we take maximum points I'm sure we'll edge into that top four. The important thing is that we are playing better. We've turned the corner and we are a much more difficult team to beat now.

"We are really happy with how we defended as a team against Wolves."