Rafael Benitez remains a popular figure at Anfield but James Milner expects no favours when Liverpool host his Newcastle on Boxing Day.
James Milner believes Liverpool are better equipped to break down massed defensive ranks this season as they prepare to host Newcastle United at Anfield.
Jurgen Klopp's men remain unbeaten in the Premier League and lead champions Manchester City by four points at the summit heading into the Boxing Day clash against ex-Reds boss Rafael Benitez's side.
Newcastle's recent encounters with teams at the top end of the table suggest 90 minutes of dogged defence and calculated counter-attack, but Milner feels Liverpool's strength is that they have become more than just the attack-minded outfit who sought to blast teams away quickly last term.
"He's obviously shown over the years that he's very good tactically and a very good manager," Milner said of Benitez in an interview with Liverpool's official website.
"He'll set his team up and he'll no doubt watch a lot of our games so he'll know where he thinks our strengths and weaknesses are, so it's down to us to be able to adapt.
"I think we've done that well this year, finding different ways to win games. You can't always play free-flowing, attacking football and be on the front foot for 90 minutes in every game.
"It'd be nice if you could be but you can't. You have to adapt and find a way to win and find the right way to play in each game, and that dictates how we play on the day but also how the opposition sets up and how the manager wants us to play.
"I think that's a good quality within the group. We have that, we have different ways of playing, we can play different formations, and we have a very strong squad with a lot of good players and also players who can play in different formations and styles of play."
I'm dreaming of a Red Christmas #wetterthananotterspocket#christmasnumberone#YNWA pic.twitter.com/3o4mO4RjJd
— James Milner (@JamesMilner) December 21, 2018
Recent defeats for City against Chelsea and Crystal Palace have established Liverpool as the title frontrunners – something that will only make them a more appealing scalp for all opponents according to their experienced and versatile midfielder.
"Liverpool's a big club and a big scalp, and teams know what a test it is to play us and they're going to raise their game playing against us as well," added Milner.
"So we have to be ready for that and we know how difficult it'll be, but hopefully our qualities come through."