Liverpool's captain Steven Gerrard admits that the absence of the injured striker Fernando Torres damaged self-belief within his squad but insists the prospect of a Europa League final and snatching fourth place in the Premier League has lifted spirits.
Torres' presence in a Liverpool starting line-up not only offers them a big goal threat but generates a fear factor in opponents that means team-mates often are given more freedom.
That element has been missing since the Spain forward's last appearance, in the quarter-final second-leg victory over Benfica, after which he had a second knee operation in three months to prematurely end his Liverpool season.
His team-mates are used to being without him – Torres was sidelined for five weeks after surgery in January – but it has taken them time to assume goalscoring responsibilities. But last week's 3-0 win over West Ham and Sunday's 4-0 defeat of Burnley – Liverpool's first away victory in eight attempts – has proved they can score goals without him.
Now Gerrard is looking for his team to carry that form into Thursday's home Europa League semi-final second leg against Atletico Madrid, when they will seek to overturn a 1-0 deficit, and into their remaining two Premier League fixtures, against Chelsea and Hull.
"I won't lie. Sometimes when you lose your top striker, it can damage belief and affect your confidence, but this was much better," said Gerrard after his two goals against Burnley, the first time he had scored twice in a match this season. "It was important we scored a few goals against Burnley and won convincingly.
"We are now going to pile everything into Thursday's game, which can't come quickly enough. The players are up for it and we have to leave every bit of sweat and blood out on that pitch on Thursday.
"Let's hope we don't have to score a lot of goals and we can win it with two. But if they score, we have to score three. We'll have to adapt during the game and do whatever it takes to win.
"There have been many occasions when we've had our backs to the wall and people have doubted us, but we go into every game believing we can win and do anything possible to win on the night. But we have done it before and we hope to do it again."
Liverpool's chances of coming back against Atletico to reach the final in Hamburg on 12 May look infinitely better than those of securing fourth place in the league, now occupied by Tottenham. Spurs have two points and a game in hand on Liverpool, who must win their last two games and hope Spurs, Manchester City and Aston Villa all stumble.
All the contenders are fairly equally matched on goal difference, so the crucial results are likely to be City's Eastlands games against Villa next weekend and Spurs tomorrow week.
A Champions League berth may seem improbable at this late stage but Gerrard said that as long as it was possible the players would go for it.
"We've got a couple of games left and the idea is to take maximum points to sneak into fourth via the back door," said the England midfielder. "We are underdogs to sneak this fourth position but our fans know that we have also got Everton breathing down our necks and we certainly don't want them finishing above us."Reuse content