Wednesday 21 February 2018

Benitez calls for Gerrard to stand tall

Rafa Benitez. Photo: Getty Images
Rafa Benitez. Photo: Getty Images

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez expects captain Steven Gerrard to lead from the front in their remaining matches.

The Reds are just 90 minutes away from a Europa League final and still have hopes of snatching fourth place in the Barclays Premier League.

Atletico Madrid arrive at Anfield on Thursday with a 1-0 lead from the first leg of their European tie.

Benitez wants Gerrard, as he has done so often in the past, to inspire the team to victory just as he did at Burnley yesterday with two goals in a 4-0 win.

The England midfielder's disappointing season has mirrored that of Liverpool's and his double strike at Turf Moor - the first time he had scored twice in a match for his club since May 9 last year - took his tally to just 12 for the current campaign.

His form and body language on the pitch has been criticised this season and Gerrard and Benitez both know he is capable of much better performances.

Which was why the display against Burnley was so encouraging, considering how precarious the line between success and failure at the conclusion to the season is likely to be.

"We need the captain to be a leader and he was a leader," said Benitez.

"We scored four goals against Burnley so that shows we can score goals in any game.

"It is always important to score goals and to see different players, including Gerrard, also scoring is also very good news for us.

"If we finish with 68 points and we have this chance (of fourth place) it will be because we have better goal difference."

Goals are likely to be the main problem as with Torres out for the rest of Liverpool's season, 21-year-old understudy David Ngog missed the Burnley game with a back problem and Dirk Kuyt hobbled off with a calf injury.

Should neither be fit for Thursday it would leave the Merseysiders without a recognised first-team striker to face Atletico, with Ryan Babel likely to be asked to fill the void.

Benitez remains optimistic that, despite their injury worries, Liverpool can turn things around at Anfield.

"Atletico will be tough but we have the belief," said the Spaniard.

Press Association

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