Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez hails Pepe Reina as the Premier League's top keeper
Published 16:34 23/08/09 By By David Anderson
Rafa Benitez claims Pepe Reina is just as important to Liverpool as Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard.
Benitez is delighted with Reina’s great start to the season and hailed the Spaniard as the best goalkeeper in the Premier League.
Reina has often been overshadowed by Torres and Gerrard at Anfield, but Benitez claims he can play a key role in winning the title.
“A goalkeeper can win you the title definitely,” said the Liverpool manager. “When you are attacking all the time, he might only have one save to make and that can be the difference.
“The keeper really is a key player. Think of Peter Schmeichel in the past for Manchester United and Edwin van der Saar last season.
“Pepe started very well against Tottenham, and the other day the save from Rory Delap against Stoke was fantastic. And he dealt very well with the throw-ins.
“He showed he is a very good keeper, the best in the Premier League for me. He is the No.1.”
Reina has developed into a keeper-sweeper and Benitez says he has formed a lethal partnership with Torres on the counter attack.
“He is very important for us in attacking terms,” he said. “He is a threat to defences because when you have Torres and Pepe together you know as a defender you cannot be watching the game.
“Pepe can give assists. He works hard on his kicking and you can see how good he is.
“When you talk about goalkeepers, their job has changed. Before it was just being in the six-yard box, saving shots. Now they have to be reading the game and the goalkeeper is now the sweeper.”
Liverpool’s 5-0 walloping of Aston Villa was one of the high points of last season and Benitez has called on his players to perform even better on Monday night at Anfield.
He was pleased by how well they responded to their shock opening defeat at Tottenham by thumping Stoke and wants Liverpool to maintain that momentum against Martin O’Neill’s men.
“Villa was good, five goals and a clean sheet, but I would like to play a little bit better,” said Benitez, who is unlikely to include new signing Sotirios Kyrgiakos in his squad for Villa. “I’d like a high tempo, pressing game.
“We were in a very good moment when we beat them (last season) and I’m not saying this to be arrogant, but I think we can improve on that game.”