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Have you got it in you, Stevie? Benitez throws down the gauntlet to his captain
Published : 08 Apr 2009 11:06:00
Rafa Benitez delights in putting his Liverpool players to the test, even those acknowledged as being among the world's elite. Steven Gerrard's recent performances may have drawn praise from rival managers and players, but his next game is all that matters to Benitez. Not for the Liverpool manager the sort of adulation heaped on his skipper by Zinedine Zidane or even tonight's Champions League opponent Guus Hiddink, when asked to vote for Europe's player of the year last summer. Main man: Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez is banking on Steven Gerrard to inspire his team to Champions League glory again. Hiddink was in charge of Russia at Euro 2008 and unhesitatingly nominated Gerrard, even though England weren't there, while Zidane subsequently declared Liverpool's inspirational midfielder the best player on the planet. But with a quarter-final first-leg lead imperative at Anfield tonight, and Gerrard's dynamic best needed like never before, Benitez made a point of throwing down the gauntlet. The Spaniard was repeatedly pressed to concede Gerrard could prove 'unstoppable' in current form but refused to yield. Mindful, perhaps, that the 28-year-old has played in 20 of Liverpool's 22 meetings with Chelsea since he took over but scored only once, Benitez said: 'It is very difficult to stop Stevie when he is at his best but we have to remember who we are up against. We are facing a team packed with very good players and maybe it will present a different test for Stevie.