Benitez places Liverpool hopes on Gerrard

Rafael Benitez believes a fit-again Steven Gerrard can lead Liverpool out of the slump that has seen them lose three games in succession.

Meaningful involvement in both the Premier League and Europe is now under threat and boss Benitez is fully aware of the importance of a victory at Anfield tomorrow when Group E leaders Lyon must be overcome in the Champions League.

Anything else, and the balloon really will go up for Benitez, who is still shaking his head in despair at the freak goal that saw Liverpool lose at Sunderland.

That Darren Bent's winner went in off a red beach ball bought by a fan from Liverpool's own club megastore just about sums up Benitez's difficult season so far.

Now Liverpool face back-to-back Champions League clashes with the French league leaders, as well as a visit from champions Manchester United over the next fortnight.

The return of Gerrard from a groin injury, despite the fact Fernando Torres is still out with a similar injury, can be the boost Benitez believes his squad need.

He said: "With Steven around, it has an effect on the other players. He is an inspiration to them.

"Steven is a winner with the right mentality. But we have to see these players on the pitch, they cannot win games when they are injured.

"The team knows we are not playing at the right level, but they also know that we are good enough.

"They know we must start playing again at that level, their response in training has been positive and we must repeat that on the pitch. One good result will change everything.

"I am confident in my team, we are trying to improve and the response of the players this week has been very good and back to our best.

"We have gone from winning five on the trot to losing three in succession. We were scoring lots of goals and now we have not scored in three.

"But I do not believe there is much difference in all these games. We have played well, created chances and won praise for our attacking play.

"We have not changed our tactics, it just shows how close teams are to each other. We lost to Chelsea but were in control for much of the game and then we lose when the ball hits a beach ball.

"We have virtually the same group of players as we had last season, and that ended up with us finishing second.

"Hopefully we can start to win again, the atmosphere will be better and the mood will change as confidence improves.

"We have Gerrard back now, and we have players who are fresher than they were after the international games. I hope that the Champions League will create a special atmosphere that will inspire the players, as it usually does in games like this at Anfield.

"In training this week I can see the team we were in the past. They are almost the same players as last season, we need confidence and some wins, there is no need to start worrying.

"I believe we are strong enough to compete just as we did last season. These players have the quality, they need to play one or two good games and everything will improve.

"It is not the end of the world, it is a bad position but we will come back and start fighting again."

Benitez will be able to pair Gerrard with Javier Mascherano against Lyon, the Argentina midfielder only a late substitute at the Stadium of Light following his international exertions.

Benitez said: "It is important to have Steven back, we have had some problems with injuries right from the start of the season so it is a big boost for us to have him back.

"Torres is not ready, so we have to wait a little longer but hopefully he will be okay for the weekend against Manchester United.

"The problems we have had this season have been too many to solve. We have had problems with our centre-backs, then there was Gerrard unfit and now we also have forwards out.

"There have been too many things all at once. We have to wait for our injured players to return, then things will be a lot better.

"We need people fit, we need the end of the international breaks and then we can all work together to improve.

"First we must win against Lyon, that will get us back on the right road."

The beach ball controversy, though, will not go away for Benitez, who is still fielding questions about the incident.

He says: "We are not blaming or worrying about the goal at Sunderland, there is nothing we can do about that now or change the situation, we just intend to move forward.

"It was unusual and hopefully it will not happen again. It was something that could not be avoided, certainly from the players.

"At the time I felt it was just a balloon, it was not until afterwards that we saw the replay and realised it was more than a balloon, much more.

"But it is clear now that the goal could have been disallowed. Maybe in the future that would not be allowed to happen again."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence