PETER BEARDSLEY (EXCLUSIVE)
KOP LEGEND BACKS REDS FOR TITLE
Anfield legend Peter Beardsley believes that Rafa Benitez has built a side capable of winning Liverpool's first league title since 1990.
The former England star, with 59 caps, feels Liverpool now have the strength in depth and consistency to overtake champions Manchester United and Chelsea to claim the Premier League title - and add to their record haul of 18 championships.
In an exclusive interview with Sunday Mirror Sport, Beardsley insists that, after 17 years of league misery, the team Rafa has built can finally end the Kop's long wait for glory.
He said: "This Liverpool team that Rafa Benitez has created is the real deal - absolutely no question. "He has bought really well.
Jose Reina is a great keeper, Andriy Voronin is different class and Fernando Torres is so pacey and sharp.
"Torres reminds me of Dennis Bergkamp but I think he is a little bit quicker than the Dutchman was. "Ian Rush was the best I have ever seen defending from the front, but Torres really looks as if he is always hungry to win the ball back.
"I think Benitez now has the depth to make a genuine and sustained assault on the Championship.
"In the past the problem has been that they didn't have the depth.
"When Liverpool had their strongest side out they won cup competitions, as they showed during Gerard Houllier's time, but over a seasonlong marathon they were found out because they didn't have quality in reserve. That has changed under Benitez.
"In an ideal world Rafa isn't going to rotate the squad too much.
He will decide on his best players and use them as much as possible. When you look at Reina, Jamie Carragher, Steve Gerrard and Torres, Liverpool have a great spine.
"You can sense something special is happening at Anfield.
They looked magnificent when they were in full flow in that 6-0 rout of Derby.
"They are playing it the right way - the old Liverpool way. It is proper football.
"You look at some of the goals against Derby and the construction and finishing took your breath away."
And Beardsley believes that, in Benitez, Liverpool have a manager who will take his place alongside Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley in the Anfield annals.
He added: "The thing I like about Rafa is that, from day one, he has never made an excuse.
"He never moans about injuries or suspensions and when Liverpool are beaten he always acknowledges they have been beaten by the better on the day. I like that attitude.
"He also wants his team to play exciting, entertaining football - and the Anfield fans really appreciate that they now have a team playing with the sort of style that Liverpool had when we last won the title - with myself, John Barnes, Alan Hansen, Ronnie Whelan and Ian Rush."
But from winning the League for fun - the title was Liverpool's 11 times between 1973 and 1990 - the Reds have lost that winning habit.
"Winning the League has always been the bread and butter for Liverpool fans.
"They want to win everything, but if you gave them the choice then most would choose winning the League ahead of Manchester United. That's why it has been so painful for them.
"But I have a strong feeling that this finally is going to be Liverpool's year.
"They have made a super start and should be sitting on top with 12 points from four games had it not been for referee Rob Styles making a bad mistake against Chelsea.
"They have added consistency and staying power to the mix, as they have shown in reaching two of the last three Champions League Finals. This is their big chance."