Thursday, February 18, 2010

Gerrard fires Liverpool warning to rivals

Steven Gerrard has warned that Liverpool are ready to right the wrongs of what has been a desperately poor season when their Europa League campaign gets underway against Unirea Urziceni on Thursday night.

Liverpool have struggled on all fronts under Rafael Benitez this season and, having been eliminated from both domestic cups and the Champions League, the consolation prize of the Europa League is their only realistic chance of silverware given they are 14 points behind Chelsea in the Premier League.

In Unirea they face another side downgraded from the Champions League and Gerrard is adamant that Liverpool will be fully motivated to salvage their season with a strong finish in Europe.

"It's very dangerous to bet against Liverpool, especially when our backs are to the wall," Gerrard told the club's official website. "This season has been inconsistent and hasn't gone to plan. But, for me as captain and for the team, we've got one more trophy to lift, so we'll be giving everything.

"Anyone who underestimates the Europa League is not for me because I've lifted the UEFA Cup before. It's a special trophy, and was a superb final. Hopefully we can experience the same feeling this season.

"I've always found in Europe that Liverpool have more problems against less well-known teams because of the surprise factor. To play Liverpool is a big game for Unirea and they'll be looking for a big upset and will be very dangerous. But Rafa will make sure that the team is prepared."

Benitez has found himself under substantial pressure this season but is keen to portray the Europa League as a strong competition that boasts a number of top European clubs. Liverpool won the UEFA Cup in 2001 and Benitez is keen to repeat that feat.

"To be fair, if you analyse the teams that are in the competition there are some very strong teams," said Benitez. "It will be a difficult competition, the only one we can win now, so we will try to do our best from the beginning.

"We have to progress, we have to win the first round and go forward because we might have Juventus, Valencia or Atletico Madrid. Any club in the Europa League which reaches the semi-final will be good enough to be in the Champions League too.

"To win a European competition against top sides is important and if you cannot be in the Champions League you have to do your best here and try to bring something for the fans. The response of the players to being knocked out of the Champions League was fantastic and we have to keep doing the same."

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