Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez says his team's impressive record in Europe may be overlooked. Photograph: Carl Recine/Action Images
Rafael Benítez has claimed his formidable Champions League record is in danger of being taken for granted at Liverpool as he enters a defining period in the club's season against Real Madrid tonight.
Liverpool will secure a place in the Champions League quarter-finals for the fourth time in five seasons should they overcome the club Benítez supported as a boy and served as a player, youth team coach and assistant manager. The 2005 winners and 2007 runners-up take a 1-0 advantage into the home leg against Real and arrive at Anfield officially ranked by Uefa as the No1 club in Europe over the past five years.
Benítez, who has taken Liverpool to a semi-final along with the two final appearances, has generated more than £100m in Champions League revenue since he arrived in 2004. But with the Premier League title an obsession at Anfield, and despite the importance of European prize money to the club's owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, the manager believes his Champions League pedigree has not received the recognition it deserves.
"The messages on this are not the best," said Benítez. "It is not easy to be in the position we are in Europe and that means a lot of credit for the players, a lot of very good memories for the club and a lot of money for the club. Thanks to this we can improve the squad and the club a little bit. I have my own ideas but maybe people don't realise how well we have done in the Champions League."
Benítez did not specify whether he felt his record has been undervalued by supporters, the media or the American owners, with whom he is engaged in a contract dispute, but admitted Liverpool are more reliant on Champions League finances than Manchester United and Chelsea. "I think before an important game is not the time to talk about these teams but the big, big difference between these teams and us is money. We have to reduce the distance by staying in the Champions League each year but we have to improve in a lot of other areas."
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