Gerrard: Crystal Palace is Like a Cup Final

Clive Brunskill

Though Liverpool are entering October high up the table, captain Steven Gerrard says the squad has to approach matches like Crystal Palace this Saturday as though they're cup finals to stay in contention for a top four finish.

Having rebounded personally from an exceptionally poor pair of games against Southampton in the league and Manchester United in the League Cup, Steven Gerrard is determined that Liverpool build on the weekend's strong team performance against Sunderland as they attempt to position themselves for a top four challenge.

"Everyone is taking points off one another and I'm sure other teams are taking note that we are a threat to them," said the captain about early jockeying for position in the race to finish in the top four this season in England. "But to be honest, I'm not too bothered about what people are saying about us.

"I know what this team is capable of. The main thing for us is to keep fighting and show that we are capable of staying in these positions to around Christmas time and then we will see where that takes us. The only way we will do that is by winning games."

It doesn't hurt, either, when results elsewhere are almost all going Liverpool's way, as with last weekend's Premier League action that saw Tottenham and Chelsea draw while both Manchester sides lost to opposition they had been favourites to dispatch with ease. West Brom's victory at Old Trafford—a first since 1978—was especially unexpected.

Of the six sides most likely to compete for the top four, only Arsenal and Liverpool took maximum points, putting the Gunners top of the table and Liverpool second. Manchester United, off to their worst start in more than two decades, are in a 12th-place traffic jam with Swansea, Norwich, Stoke, and Newcastle with just seven points from six games.

"We have come away to two tough places and taken maximum points from Aston Villa and Sunderland," Gerrard added. "It's very important that we get ourselves into a good position because there is nothing worse than going into the New Year having left yourself too much to do [and] we want to make sure that we go into the next international break with another three points to ensure that we are in a fabulous position."

A win this Saturday when Liverpool host Crystal Palace could be enough to send Liverpool into the October international break the same way they went into September's—in first. Arsenal, though, do have what appears on paper to be a winnable match against West Brom, even with the Baggies coming off their victory over Manchester United.

However, just as important as results elsewhere will be whether Liverpool can continue to get results against sides near the bottom of the table. In recent years, beating the teams Liverpool should have has, at times, been a problem, and the recent loss to Southampton was a reminder of that. It's a problem, though, that Gerrard is well aware of:

"Nobody here will be getting carried away. We had had a tough week. There had been the draw at Swansea, the very disappointing performance against Southampton when we didn't turn up, and then we had mixed emotions after Manchester United because we had played well but not got the result. It was important that we got back to winning ways and it has put us in a nice position in the table.

"We know next week that without a shadow of a doubt we have got to approach the game against Crystal Palace with a completely different manner than we did against Southampton. We have got to make sure we have got the intensity of a cup final."

Nobody will fault Gerrard for his attitude heading into the sort of match Liverpool must take maximum points from if they expect to challenge for the top four. Now the only question is whether he—and the rest of the squad—can follow through and match that talk with a suitable performance on the weekend.

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