Friday 24 November 2017

Gerrard refuses to give up on Europe in call for 'near-perfect' finish

Steven Gerrard scored the winner for Brendan Rodgers' side in 82nd minute against Tottenham
Steven Gerrard scored the winner for Brendan Rodgers' side in 82nd minute against Tottenham

Tim Rich

STEVEN GERRARD believes that a top-five finish would allow Liverpool to call this season a success and guarantee the European football the club craves.

Former Liverpool manager Roy Evans once remarked that a season without European football was "like a banquet without wine" and, unless Brendan Rodgers' side can overhaul Arsenal, who are two points ahead of them in the Premier League with a game in hand, the 2013-14 campaign will be teetotal.

"Liverpool do not belong seventh, eighth or ninth in the table," said Gerrard, whose penalty sealed their frantic 3-2 win over Tottenham.

"We want to push for European places year after year. Hopefully, we are not too late, but we will need to produce a near-perfect finish to sneak in through the back door. The top five places are the target.

"Our form is good but we can't afford to get carried away just because we've beaten Tottenham. We need to show what we've shown (in recent games) in all of our remaining games."

Finalists

The draw for the FA Cup semi-finals meant that only fifth place will bring with it qualification for the Europa League. The other two English places will go to Swansea, as League Cup winners, and one of the FA Cup finalists.

Since one of the two Manchester clubs or Chelsea – all of whom are currently in the Champions League qualifying positions – will produce one of the finalists, it will not be necessary to win the FA Cup to make the Europa League.

The winners of the other semi-final, which pitches Wigan against either Blackburn or Millwall, would take the Europa League spot by default, whether or not they lift the cup.

In the last decade four losing FA Cup finalists – Southampton, Millwall, West Ham and Stoke – have qualified by this route.

Realistically, Liverpool find themselves in a three-cornered fight for fifth with Everton and Arsenal, although each club would argue they are aiming for something higher.

After three straight victories in which they have scored 12 times, Liverpool still have a faint chance of making the top four.

Under Rodgers, they may have waited until March to record their first victory over a member of the current top five, but Liverpool have dealt ruthlessly with the Premier League's lesser teams. In their next three fixtures they play Aston Villa, West Ham and Reading.

"This season has been a slightly strange one," said Gerrard. "We usually do really well against the top sides and we slip up against ones we should be beating.

"This season we have been putting away teams quite comfortably with 3-0, 4-0 or 5-0 wins and looking really good, but we haven't got the points we needed against the top sides.

"Hopefully, we will change that. The result and the performance against Tottenham should give us great confidence and belief."

(© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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