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Rafa's Reds fired up for Royals tie

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is well aware of the importance of the FA Cup to the club's season and will send out a strong team to contest tonight's third round replay at home to Championship strugglers Reading.

The Spaniard has been embarrassed twice before in the competition, by Burnley and Barnsley, and does not want the Royals to complete the hat-trick of Championship sides producing an upset against him.

Liverpool laboured to a 1-1 draw in the tie at the Madejski Stadium 11 days ago, but with a top-four place the limit of their ambitions in the Premier League, the FA Cup represents their best chance of silverware.

"We know the FA Cup is a massive competition, so we want to progress and go forward as much as we can," said Benitez, who won the FA Cup in 2006 against West Ham United at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.

"Our priority now is one game at a time, so the first one is the most important. The FA Cup is a very good option for us to win something this year, so we have to approach the game thinking about winning.

"It would be very special to get to Wembley. We've been to Cardiff, but now we have to think about winning the first game."

Benitez knows Reading will have drawn more confidence from the first tie than his side, who had won back-to-back league matches prior to the encounter at the Madejski.

But he has called on his squad to raise their game to ensure they do not give the Royals a chance at Anfield.

"It was very difficult at Reading. We decided to play with a strong side and it was still difficult," said the Liverpool boss.

"We have to approach the game thinking about winning and not giving them any chances or any confidence that they can do something.

"In the Premier League you have to win but you can't you say 'unlucky'. But in the cup you have to win.

"The attitude is more important against teams from a lower division. After that you know you have some quality, but attitude is the key.

"I remember (against Barnsley) we were not doing badly. We had some chances and then conceded in the last minute.

"It was unlucky but it's the same situation now because it's a cup competition -- you have to win and can't make any mistakes."

Benitez, meanwhile, has received assurances that he will be able to reinvest some, or all, of the proceeds from the potential sale of striker Ryan Babel, should a suitable replacement be made available.

Liverpool's transfer strategy for this month had been to sell high-earning players deemed surplus to requirements because of their limited involvement in the first team and to keep their spending down, with money being retained for the summer -- a time when the club's hierarchy believe that better-quality players will become available.


In keeping with that policy, Andrea Dossena and Andriy Voronin have already departed for combined fees of about £6m and Maxi Rodriguez is expected to complete his protracted transfer from Atletico Madrid today.

Benitez, however, had made it clear this month that Babel, who could fetch up to £11m, would not join the exodus because of a concern that the manager would not be permitted to recruit a replacement immediately.

Tom Hicks, the Liverpool co-owner, yesterday underlined the club's position in an email to a fan in which he admitted that money would not be made available to Benitez until the summer. "January is a poor-quality market," Hicks wrote. "The summer window will be big."

But with Manchester City having illustrated their determination to win a place in next season's Champions League, Liverpool can ill-afford to allow their squad to be further depleted by the possible departure of Babel without Benitez being given the go-ahead to find a replacement.