Cup victory will be icing on cake for Benitez
LIVERPOOL, May 12: Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez says winning tomorrow's FA Cup final against West Ham United will mean as much to the club's foreign contingent as it will to the English players.
Benitez could field players from eight different countries in the showpiece finale at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, but says the history and prestige of the competition is appreciated throughout the dressing room.
''The English players are ready and desperate to play in the final,'' said Benitez, who is hoping to add a seventh FA Cup win to the club's list of honours.
''And it is the same for the foreign players. We know how important it is for the club and the supporters.
''It's not a problem if you are Spanish, like me, or English.
We want to win for the club.
''I think we have improved a lot this year and if we win the Cup it will be the icing on the cake.'' That view is shared by Spanish goalkeeper Jose Reina who is preparing to play in his first major final.
''This will be our most important game of the season because we are fighting for a title and I am being told by the rest of the lads that I need to be there to understand how big this game is,'' said Reina.
''In Spain you only need your top players in the last couple of rounds. That is the way it is. In England the competition is much bigger and more important.
''I have never played in a final, just semi-finals for Barcelona.
This is my first big final and hopefully my first big victory.'' Benitez believes Liverpool have taken major strides this season, improving two places in the Premier League to finish third, just nine points behind champions Chelsea compared to 37 last season.
However, defeat by Benfica in the Champions League ended their hopes of retaining the trophy, leaving them with just the FA Cup as a route to silverware.
''In terms of our progression I will be really happy if we win a trophy because then when you think about the future you have more confidence,'' Benitez added.
''Every season we think how we can win trophies. That's our idea and this cup competition is one of the most important cup competitions in the world. We will do our best.
''The Champions League is a massive competition with everyone in the world watching the final.
''But the FA Cup is also a good competition. It is more domestic, but once you get to the final it is similar.''