Suarez sets Europa League target for Liverpool
Published 03/05/2011 | 05:00
Luis Suarez believes that the Europa League, far from being a stone around Liverpool's neck next season, would be something they should embrace and aim to win.
A run of 16 points from their last seven fixtures, including four straight wins at Anfield, has seen Kenny Dalglish's side overtake Tottenham for the fifth place in the Premier League that would guarantee European football.
Having won only one of their last seven matches, Spurs, who had expected to travel to Manchester City on May 10 to contest a place in the Champions League, will go to Anfield five days later fighting to play in its poorer relative.
"It is not a poor competition," Suarez, who was ineligible to play in Liverpool's generally underwhelming Europa League campaign this season, said.
"It is the sort of competition you want to play in. A club like Liverpool can only think one way. If you get into the Champions League, your aim should be to win it.
"If you get into the Europa League, your objective has to be to win that. That is what a club like Liverpool must aim for -- we have to do everything to win as many competitions as we can."
Liverpool have not won a competition since Steven Gerrard lifted the FA Cup five years ago.
However, their dramatic upswing since Dalglish replaced Roy Hodgson as manager in January, since when they have averaged two points a game, has spread confidence throughout Anfield.
"When I came here, I wanted to help Liverpool get European football," said Suarez, whose goal in Sunday's 3-0 win over Newcastle was his third since joining from Ajax.
"When the second half of the season started, it looked really difficult. But we have played really well and kept winning games while hoping Tottenham dropped points.
"Playing Tottenham here is going to be a great game, our most important of the season if we want to dream about getting into the Europa League."
Meanwhile, the Champions League is within touching distance of Eastlands -- so close, in fact, that Adam Johnson's mind is being drawn back to the nights spent in his bedroom with a carefully concealed radio, listening to Faustino Asprilla, Keith Gillespie and others lighting up the European stage with his beloved Newcastle United.
The Manchester City winger was only 10 years old on the September evening of Asprilla's hat-trick that beat Barcelona 3-2 at St James' Park, but the look in his eyes when he describes it suggests that it provides a personal incentive to help City to the two wins in four now required to join the continental elite.
"I can't remember if I was allowed to stay up actually!" he said. "I think maybe I was just in the bedroom with my door locked!
"I remember the 3-2 game; Gillespie set up all three with crosses. Obviously night matches were a bit special for me and that game; well, it was one of those nights wasn't it?"
Gillespie was not a particular hero, even though he stood out as a winger that night. "It was more David Ginola (for me)," Johnson said, "and (Ryan) Giggs".
Johnson is not the first player to cite Manchester United players as the benchmark this season.
Patrick Vieira's all-time best Premier League XI included five United players, while Roberto Mancini cited three as the standard for Mario Balotelli.
Here is the evidence that United's is the level to which City aspire and Johnson admitted that the second-half display in the FA Cup semi-final has provided that little extra belief that they can make the leap among the elite.