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Steven Gerrard: Athens can be our spur

Steven Gerrard: Athens can be our spur

Aug 15 2007

by Ian Doyle, Liverpool Daily Post

A dejected Steven Gerrard in Athens

STEVEN GERRARD wants Liverpool to follow the example of European Cup winners AC Milan when they resume Champions League action this afternoon.

Rafael Benitez’s side can take a significant step towards the lucrative group stages with victory in France against Toulouse in the first leg of their third qualifying round tie.

It’s the Anfield outfit’s first outing in the competition since they were beaten in the final by Milan in Athens less than three months ago, the Italians exacting revenge having lost in dramatic fashion to the same opposition two years earlier in Istanbul.

And Gerrard believes Liverpool must regard Milan as the benchmark as they aim for a sixth European crown.

“Athens can be a spur,” said the Anfield skipper. “It was a big blow for everyone involved but good players and big clubs bounce back.

“You only have to look at AC Milan and how many finals they’ve reached over the years. We’ve got to use their attitude. They lost in Istanbul but bounced back.

“I’ve seen highlights of the [Milan] game but I don’t need to watch it back. You know as a player what’s gone wrong or right.

“I know what I did wrong and right, and what the team did wrong or right, but it’s time to move on.”

With Toulouse making their first appearance in the Champions League, Liverpool are firm favourites to progress to the group stages for a fourth successive season.

But Benitez believes his players are well-versed in European football to cope with such a level of expectancy.

“We are under more pressure than them, but we understand why it’s like that,” he said. “We need to manage the pressure by playing well and winning if possible.

“But I don’t think the pressure will be a trap for us. We were under pressure in the semi-final and final last season and we managed it well then.”

Liverpool have twice in the last three years secured their passage to the group stages by winning the first leg away from home, despite going on to lose the return against Grazer and then CSKA Sofia.

And Benitez has called on his players to take a huge step towards progress by winning at the Stade Municipal this evening.

“We’ve won away in this round in the first leg a few times and the second leg was at home and people were more relaxed, and maybe that’s why we lost,” he said.

“We want to ideally find a solution in the first game but we know Anfield is still important for us.”


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