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Benitez backs Gerrard in lead-up to Preston tie

3 January 2009 03:25

LIVERPOOL, England (AFP) - Rafael Benitez will keep faith with Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard despite his arrest in connection with a bar-room brawl earlier this week.

The Liverpool and England midfielder was arrested on Sunday, after scoring two goals in the Premier League leaders' 5-1 win away to Newcastle, and charged with assault 24 hours later by police following his involvement in the incident at the Lounge Inn in Southport, near Liverpool.

A question mark now hangs over Gerrard's immediate future ahead of Liverpool's FA Cup third round tie on Saturday away to fellow north-west side Preston North End, pushing for promotion to the Premier League.

But Benitez has held clear-the-air talks with his star player and assured Gerrard he will be selected for the game if convinced he is in the right frame of mind to play.

It is understood Gerrard has informed the Liverpool manager he wants to play and that leaving him out of the team would only heighten speculation about his Anfield future.

Preston defender Callum Davidson insists Gerrard's problems will have no bearing on Liverpool when it comes to the game.

"People are saying this could be a good time to play Liverpool, but I don't think it will be a distraction," he said.

"I can recall the time when I was playing for Leicester and the club went into administration.

"Despite the financial implications that carries, we did not let it interfere with how we played. I know the circumstances are different but once players run on to the field their professionalism always takes over.

"And Liverpool have some of the best professionals in the game."

On a more positive note for Benitez, he could be in a position to welcome back leading striker Fernando Torres from a hamstring injury.

Albert Riera believes the leaders will be an even more formidable prospect once Torres returns to action.

Riera cannot wait to see his compatriot back in Liverpool's first team and he said: "All wingers, in fact all players, would want to play with Fernando because he is such a good player.

"He's so important for our team - scoring 33 goals last season. It's not easy to score that many goals at this level.

"It will be great news for us when he's fit again and I'm sure we'll play a lot of times together and form a good understanding."

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