Gerrard: Liverpool can win title
Published 30/07/2014 | 07:29
Steven Gerrard has backed Liverpool to bounce back from last season's end-of-season heartbreak and mount a serious title challenge once again.
The Reds led the Barclays Premier League by five points with three games to go in April, but a 2-0 defeat to Chelsea at Anfield - in which Gerrard slipped to gift Demba Ba the opening goal - saw them pipped to the title by Manchester City.
Gerrard, who retired from international football after the World Cup to prolong his Anfield career, is ready to put last season's disappointment behind him and lead Liverpool in their first Champions League campaign since the 2009-10 season.
And the 34-year-old insists that Brendan Rodgers' side believe that they can go one better than their 2013-14 second-place finish and win their first league title in 24 years.
Speaking about the last season's campaign and the upcoming season, Gerrard told the Daily Mirror: "With 10, 12 games to go, people were maybe expecting us to drop away a lot sooner than we did. But we handled the pressure superbly well and we played some unbelievable football.
"We are a good team, with a good manager, that is getting stronger. The confidence is rising in the dressing room and we have got to show that we are the real deal.
"We are not there to just make the numbers up. There is genuine belief that we can be in there.
"Good sides don't just have one good season. They keep trying to fight for what they want. Chelsea do it. Manchester City do it. Manchester United have had a one-off bad season and they will be back. Arsenal have made a couple of really good signings.
"The league is going to be very, very tough but we know we are one of the sides that has got a genuine chance of winning it. I believe that."
Luis Suarez played a major role in Liverpool's second-place finish last season but the Reds will, of course, be unable to count on his goals and man-of-the-match performances after he joined Barcelona earlier this month.
While conceding that Suarez's departure is a massive loss, Gerrard insists that there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic in the red half of Merseyside.
He added: "Of course it (winning the title) will be difficult, it would be difficult with Luis and it will be without. All the other teams will grow and improve in the summer.
"But the reason I have that belief and confidence is because of the experience of all the other games last year, and also the manager has been here for a bit longer, and because of the signings he is making. I'm pretty confident we can get right involved in it again."
Gerrard's now infamous slip against Chelsea became the defining moment of Liverpool's season and was followed quickly by England's failure at the World Cup.
And Gerrard admitted the past few months have been hard to stomach.
He added in several national newspapers: "It's probably been the worst three months of my life.
"I've seen it a few times. I don't have to watch something like that to go through the pain again and again and again.
"I've been through the pain in the dressing room after and in the weeks and months since. I just stumbled across it. It didn't hide away. I have TVs in my house and I read papers. There is social media.
"When something like that happens you have to face up and be man enough to take it on the chin. Accept it happened. You can't change it.
"I haven't lost my man at a set-piece. I haven't missed a penalty. I haven't made a bad pass or a mistake. That's why it was cruel. Every single person on the planet slips at some point in their life, whether it is on a set of stairs, on the floor or whatever.
"For me, it happened on the pitch at a really bad moment. But over the course of 38 games a lot happens for you and against you and that determines whether you win the league or not. That moment happened at a crucial time and I have to face that. And I will do."
England's group-stage exit in Brazil was quickly followed by Gerrard's international retirement and he revealed that Liverpool commitments played a major part in his decision.
"To be fair to Brendan (Rodgers), when I had the chat with him, he said that if you want to carry on for England, I can tailor your Liverpool games," he said.
"When he said that, it made me go 100 per cent with my decision because I don't want my Liverpool games to be tailored. I still want to be available, I want to be fresh and play at a high level for Liverpool for certainly one more season."