Fed-up Benitez plays chicken with Liverpool owners

The Daily Mail says Liverpool's co-owners will sit down with Benitez when they visit Anfield for the December 16 showdown with Manchester United and it promises to be as fiery off the pitch as on it after the manager made little secret yesterday of the rift that has developed in recent weeks.

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With a £6million pay- off written into his contract in the event of the sack, Benitez is unlikely to quit. But he could test the patience of Hicks and Gillett to the point where they decide to act, if he is anything like as tetchy as at a Melwood press conference yesterday to preview tomorrow's game at Newcastle.

Matters came to a head earlier this week when the Americans deferred an answer on Benitez's spending power until next month's meeting and urged him to 'concentrate on coaching the team' in the meantime.

Riled at what he sees as another example of their dragging their heels, a monosyllabic Benitez straight-batted any mention of Newcastle or England's Euro 2008 demise by saying: "I can only focus on training and coaching my team."

He even resorted to using the England vacancy to exert more pressure on his bosses by claiming he might have an interest in succeeding Steve McClaren.

Asked if he should be taken seriously, he replied, enigmatically: "It is your decision. You never know what might happen in the future. Yes, I am being serious."

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