Belfast Telegraph

Benayoun says Gerrard is 'best midfielder in the world'

Steve McClaren is not the only person who believes Steven Gerrard will turn out for his country on Saturday despite having a broken toe.

The England coach, who maintains the mid-fielder will play a part in his side's Euro 2008 qualifier against Israel, had his viewpoint endorsed yesterday by Gerrard's Liverpool team-mate Yossi Benayoun, who will captain the opposition at Wembley.

"I think Steven Gerrard is the best midfielder in the world, so it is very important for England that he will play," said Benayoun, who moved to Anfield from West Ham United in a £5m deal this summer.

"I have been at Liverpool for two months, and from what I know of him, he will do everything to play for England."

Asked if he would be prepared to have the cortisone injection which Gerrard would need in order to play, however, Benayoun responded: "I don't know. You would have to ask him how much pain he is in."

The Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez, will already have asked that question of Gerrard, and he is against any such intervention, pointing out that it took the 27-year-old midfielder "four or five days" to get over the injection he had which allowed him to play against Chelsea recently.

Benayoun, who spoke before Israel began their first training session after arriving here on Tuesday night, believes that even if Gerrard cannot play then England have enough top quality replacements.

"Even though there might be guys out like Gerrard and Beckham, the players who come in instead of them are also good players and play at the highest level every week, so it will be difficult anyway. We know England are favour-ites, they are better than us so any result less than a win for them will be a surprise to everyone, especially me.

"I don't care whether people say we are negative or not negative – we drew with England in Israel 0-0, which was a great result for us, and I will be happy to defend again and finish with the same result.

"You don't expect us to come to England and Wembley to play an open game and end up being 3-0 down after 20 minutes. We need to work hard in defence and work on quick attacks, hopefully steal a goal and draw or win the game.

"If we stay in the game in the first 20 to 25 minutes by defending solidly and keeping the score at 0-0 the supporters will lose their patience. We need to concentrate on our game and work hard. We have a few good players with a lot of quality. It will be difficult to win, but I would be happy with a draw. If we win, it would be a result people would speak about for the next few years."

Belfast Telegraph


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