Belfast Telegraph

Gerrard: Reds need Champions League

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has made it his personal goal to restore the allure of the club by getting them back into the Champions League.

Striker Luis Suarez's desire to leave Anfield in order to play in Europe's premier club competition and the Reds' failure to sign Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan last month have only served to highlight the problems faced.

Gerrard has told the Uruguay international he wants him to stay despite two bids from Arsenal, but admits until they regain their top-four place they will always have to fight such battles.

"I think the only person who knows what's happening is Luis himself," said the England captain.

"He has a huge decision to make and, as his team-mate, I have to show him respect and give him space to make whatever decision he wants to make.

"But I think everyone knows how highly I rate him and how much I want him to stay, and what we can achieve this season basically depends on whether he stays or goes, I believe.

"While I've still got a couple of years left - and maybe a few more who knows - I have to make the most of it. And that is about adding more medals to what I already have and to leave this club in the Champions League. That is the challenge for me personally.

"It is not the same club (I joined) because we are not in the Champions League, so it becomes an awful lot more difficult to attract the top players.

"But I think the club's history and size - we've just been on a tour which has seen us play in front of nearly a quarter of a million people in 10 days - means the pull is still here.

"We need to break back into the top four to get back the pull we had four or five years ago when we were comfortably in the Champions League year in, year out and challenging to win it.

"Players who come and get the club back into the Champions League will experience some of the biggest nights of their career, because playing European football in front of this crowd is different to any other."

In spite of Gerrard's insistence Saturday's testimonial is a serious affair, there have been a couple of concessions in the form of the recently retired Jamie Carragher and former Reds striker Robbie Fowler, who will both get a few minutes towards the end.

Carragher has opted for a career in television punditry but manager Brendan Rodgers hopes to see more of Fowler at Melwood.

"I love Robbie, he's a great guy and he's good to have around," he told liverpoolfc.tv. "We're obviously looking to get him involved in the football club in terms of the coaching side which I think he's got a lot to offer.

"He never left the football club in maybe the way he wanted to so it's a nice opportunity for him to play in front of the crowd again and give the Kop a real round of applause."

On Carragher, Rodgers added: "They (Carragher and Gerrard) are very close friends and they've gone through many battles on the field together and obviously with Stevie out injured towards the end of last season they never got the chance to play together, so it will be a nice moment for them."

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