English Premiership

Gerrard wants Burnley beaten

2010-04-24 06:41
Steven Gerrard (file)

Liverpool - Steven Gerrard believes victory over relegation-threatened Burnley on Sunday will set Liverpool up for "the biggest game of the season" at home to Atletico Madrid in the deciding leg of their Europa League semi-final next week.

Manager Rafa Benitez, seeking a third European final in six seasons, has to mastermind a comeback after seeing his side slip to a 1-0 defeat in the Spanish capital in Thursday's semi-final first leg.

But first the Spaniard's weary team face a testing Premier League game at struggling Burnley, Liverpool's third match inside a week.

It is a must-win fixture for Liverpool as far as their slender chances of finishing fourth in the table, and qualifying for next season's Champions League, are concerned.

But Gerrard believes three points at Burnley, who could be relegated if they lose, will give the team a huge lift ahead of Atletico Madrid's visit to Merseyside four days later - a match the Liverpool captain cannot wait for.

"I'm sure the manager will make a few changes to freshen things up," said Gerrard.

"We'll try to get a win against Burnley and then prepare for a massive game, the biggest of the season, next Thursday," the England midfielder added.

"I'm really looking forward to next week and the sooner Thursday comes around the better.

"If you don't want to play in that game there is something wrong. These are the stages you want to play on, these are the nights when heroes are made."

The last three occasions Liverpool have returned to league action after a European encounter, they have struggled to make an impression.

Their impressive 3-0 Europa League victory over Lille last month was followed by a 2-1 defeat at bitter rivals Manchester United while they were held to draws by Birmingham and Fulham respectively after both quarter-final legs against Benfica.

Liverpool cannot afford to drop points against Burnley.

Starting the weekend seventh in the table with three games remaining, they are five points adrift of fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who are away to champions Manchester United on Saturday.

Burnley have endured a torrid time since winning promotion to the top-flight yet Liverpool lost 1-0 in embarrassing circumstances on their last visit to Turf Moor in 2005.

All 11 players that started the FA Cup tie that night five years ago, when French defender Djimi Traore scored an own goal and Antonio Nunez was sent off, have since left the club.

Liverpool return to the venue with a striker shortage. With Fernando Torres out for the remainder of the season, Liverpool's injury problems have worsened after David Ngog suffered a back injury against Atletico Madrid.

Ngog will be assessed on Saturday to see whether he is fit enough to take part at Turf Moor although midfielder Maxi Rodriguez returns after being ineligible in Europe.

Burnley manager Brian Laws dismissed as "rubbish" suggestions his team could be meeting Benitez's side at a good time after Liverpool's busy week, which started on Monday with a 3-0 home win over West Ham and continued with a marathon 24 hour journey to Madrid as a result of the disruption to European airspace caused by the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud.

"They've played 90 minutes of football, the rest of the time they're resting, whatever their transport is," said Laws.

"I won't be using that as an element towards our preparation. It would be stupid to suggest that.

"We've got to draw on experiences because they're the ingredients we need. Everyone will have to be at the top of his game.

"Liverpool are fighting right to the end. They're not going to win the league so they need that fourth spot.

"They're a wounded animal and you've got to be fearful of them."

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