Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has demanded improvements from his Liverpool team when they face Lille in the Europa League on Thursday night.

The Reds take on the French side in the first leg of their last-16 tie just three days after they produced one of the worst performances of their season in the 1-0 defeat at Wigan.

Liverpool was toothless throughout never really testing Wigan ‘keeper Chris Kirkland all game and Benitez has called on a far better display in France against the Ligue-1 title-contenders.

“It was a surprise the other day, but hopefully it was just a blip and we will see the real Liverpool on Thursday,” he said.

The defeat was a massive blow to Liverpool’s Champions League ambitions and Benitez conceded his team cannot afford any more slip-ups in the season’s run-in.

Tottenham are now a point ahead of The Reds with a game in hand and the Liverpool manager admitted his team face an uphill task. “It was really difficult before and will be more difficult now, so we know we cannot make too many mistakes.”

The only good news from Monday’s defeat was that after a long absence with an knee injury, Glen Johnson came through his second half appearance unscathed and is in the squad to face Lille.

Meanwhile midfield Javier Mascherano looks close to agreeing a new contract with Liverpool before the end of the season, the Argentina captain was rumoured to be unhappy at Anfield last year but now appears to be settled with the five-times Champions League winners.

James Cox (England)

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