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Being in hat for next round is all that matters to Benitez

THERE was a lot of talk in Liverpool before Tuesday night's game with Barcelona about our famous collapse against Arsenal to lose the league title in 1989.

That, you may remember, was the night when even a one-goal defeat would have been enough to win us the championship.

We fell behind late in the second half and, after Mickey Thomas's famous late goal, we ended up losing by two and relinquishing our crown. It was an absolute nightmare.

Essentially, the situation was the same for Liverpool against Barcelona and during the last 15 minutes I was sitting at Anfield wondering if it was going to be the same outcome. They got there in the end though, and that should be the main focal point of the post-mortem.

If we had closed it out against Arsenal then no one would remember the league title race of 1989. Instead, it's gone down in the annals as arguably the most dramatic conclusion to a season.

At this level, football is about winning and therefore I think that some of the criticism of Liverpool's performance has been completely over the top.

Yes, it's a fair point to acknowledge that they looked to be under severe pressure during large parts of the second half. They lack creativity in midfield. With a player like Mohamed Sissoko, you're never going to see free-flowing passing.

And, personally, I still have reservations about some of Rafael Benitez's tactical decisions. I can't understand him taking off Craig Bellamy when he looked to be one of his livelier players.

Maybe he was carrying a knock because that would be the only logical explanation. Against Manchester United he was also withdrawn when he was causing problems which I found hard to understand at the time.

Yet in defence to any criticisms of Tuesday night, you can be sure that the manager will quite simply point out that they're in the quarter-finals of the Champions League and that's the main thing.

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It's easy to simply talk about the problems that Barcelona are having and attribute that to the result. But it doesn't take away from the fact that they've got some magnificent players who are capable of causing you trouble if given space.

In an ideal world, of course, we would love to see every game won by the team who produces the best performance and the most attractive football. Every purist wants that.

Alas, the football business is all about results. Arsenal and Barcelona are great sides to watch but they're not in the last eight.

Neither Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester United particularly impressed in their respective games but they are in there with a chance. They're the three favourites for me at this stage.

When the draw is made for the quarter-finals today, the performance in getting there will be completely forgotten. The main thing is to still be involved.

I cannot understand him taking off Craig Bellamy when he looked to be one of his livelier playersFrom afar, it's too simple sometimes to criticise the manner in which Liverpool progressed but maybe viewers at home didn't get a sense of the tension in the ground.

There was an edginess that crept all the way down onto the pitch. Anfield is quite a tight environment and there's no question in my mind that it was a factor.

To their credit, the supporters rallied when Barcelona got that goal and overall the atmosphere was as good as I've experienced in some time. It was an unbelievable spectacle.

That's why there was such an outpouring of relief at the final whistle.

I've been there on the opposite end of the final outcome in such precarious situations and it's not pleasant. In that context, Liverpool deserve nothing other than respect for securing their passage.

� The draw for the Champions League quarter-finals and semi-finals takes place today at 11.0 in Athens, host city for this year's final.

Unlike in previous rounds, no team is seeded and clubs from the same country can be drawn against each other. That means favourites Chelsea could come up against 2005 champions Liverpool in the competition for the third season in a row.

Manchester United complete the English contingent, with Italian pair AC Milan and Roma along with Spain's Valencia, Bayern Munich of Germany and Dutch outsiders PSV.

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