Monday, October 01, 2007

Gerrard: We Trust Rafa

Steven Gerrard insists the Liverpool squad 'trust' manager Rafa Benitez's rotation policy.

Liverpool secured a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Wigan on Saturday and Gerrard believes his side are now back on track after a previous run of two draws in their last Premier League outings.

Having secured the weekend win at the JJB Stadium, Gerrard has underlined the importance of a large squad in mounting a title tilt both at home and in Europe.

"There are so many games," the Liverpool captain told the club's official website. "There are 60-65 games we hope.

"So it is impossible to ask the players to play in every game. We have got to trust Rafa."

Liverpool began the season in impressive form, including a comprehensive 6-0 demolition of Derby, but Gerrard believes his side's slump in form over recent weeks was to be expected.

"We had a bit of a blip," Gerrard added.

"Because we started the season so well, we were on fire and were blowing most teams away, expectations went even higher. People were expecting us to do it every week.

"But at Premier League level and UEFA Champions League level it is not going to happen.

"There are going to be times when we have to grind draws out and times when you don't play well."

Babbel: I'd Love To Manage Liverpool

As Stuttgart gear up to welcome Barcelona to the Gottlieb-Daimler Stadion on Tuesday night, former Liverpool defender Markus Babbel is eager to see Die Roten qualify for the knockout rounds. What's more, the former Liverpool legend has a long-term plan for himself: to manage at Anfield.

Markus Babbel, assistant manager at VfB Stuttgart, has pledged that his team will do its utmost to make it to the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Having lost on Matchday 1 to Rangers at Ibrox, the German side faces an uphill struggle, with Barcelona the opponents at the Gottlieb-Daimler on Tuesday.

Nonetheless, the former Liverpool man insists that their European challenge is very much alive.

"European football is a bit different from the Bundesliga but I think Stuttgart can play at the highest level and if the players perform to their best we can beat any team on our day. At the very least we should be aiming to qualify from this group," he told

Babbel himself is no stranger to European success, being a member of the Liverpool side that won an historic treble in 2001, including a close-fought UEFA Cup final win over Deportivo Alaves of Spain.

"It was the best time in my life," sighed the former defender.

"I played for one of the biggest clubs in Europe alongside players like Gary [McAllister], who's a legend for me because he's such a great character and leader.

"We won five trophies together. That was a fantastic time.

"The only sadness for me was that I became ill after that and never came back as before. I was a little unlucky but this one season will always be in my head."

Indeed, while Babbel's career was cut short by Guillain-Barré syndrome, he's still heavily involved in football - and even has his eye on the Anfield hotseat.

"I would like to manage a club in Britain one day," he revealed.

"I love the British style of football and especially the passion of the fans at big clubs like Liverpool.

"Of course, it would be a dream to go back to Anfield as manager, but there's a lot of hard work to be done before that can happen."

Babbel, 35, spent three years with Liverpool - plus one on loan at Blackburn - before signing for Stuttgart in 2004. The Munich-born player has also served hometown side Bayern, and Hamburger SV.

Reina Heaps Praise On Reds Defence

Liverpool prepare for a return to Champions League action knowing that goalkeeper Jose Reina is in the form of his life.

The Spanish international achieved his fifth clean sheet of the season in Saturday's 1-0 win over Wigan - equalling a 30-year-old club record for the best defensive start to the season.

And with Liverpool now awaiting the arrival of Marseille and former player Djibril Cisse for Tuesday's Champions League group match at Anfield, such solidity is a massive boost for manager Rafael Benitez.

Liverpool, unbeaten this season in all competitions, need to build on their fortunate 1-1 draw at Porto last month to put themselves on track for qualification from the group stages, with Benitez believing 10 points should do it.

And with Reina in such fine form, Liverpool can approach the clash with the French side with confidence.

The Spanish stopper has yet to concede a goal from open play this season and, in keeping a clean sheet at the JJB Stadium on Saturday, Liverpool equalled their record set in 1977.

Reina said: "We are very proud of that record, but we all defend together so it's everyone's record.

"We have only conceded from penalties so far, which is important. It is something we can be proud of but we must keep working in that way.

"The defence has changed a lot as well as the other departments of the team.

"Steve Finnan and Arbeloa have played on the right, Riise, Arbeloa and Aurelio on the left, with Daniel Agger and Sami Hyypia in the centre.

"All of the players in our squad are good enough to play the same level and that's important for us."

He added: "We know that to win the most important thing is to keep clean sheets. Then we have possibilities to score with the quality of players we have here.

"To win away in these type of games permits you to fight for the title and be real contenders.

"But our mentality is to win game after game, not think about the target of the title. But, of course, it's there in our minds.

"Our mentality should be to go week by week and win every game."