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Importance laid on Manchester City trip disappointing: Liverpool FC latest

12 Feb 2010 00:00:00

IT has become a feature of Rafa Benitez's Liverpool tenure that we shouldn't look beyond the next game. Getting ahead of yourself, you see, is often a pre-cursor for disappointment. That's largely why the importance placed on next weekend's crucial trip to Manchester can be taken as something of a let down. After last season's second-place finish it was United, not City, that Liverpool were expected to be battling it out with at this stage of the campaign. Somebody at Anfield didn't read the script though and, instead of challenging for top honours at the summit of the table, the Reds find themselves in a fight to reclaim the Champions League status they surrendered so meekly before Christmas. A win at The Emirates this week would have put a better complexion on things and even strengthened a case forf going ahead of the Gunners. However, Abou Diaby's second-half header has left the Reds in fourth on the same number of points as fifth-placed Manchester City. With just a solitary goal separating them, it is City's two games in hand that place them favourably as the greatest threat to the Reds' currently vacant place at Europe's top table. So with all due respect to Romanian champions, Unirea Urziceni, who come to Anfield for next week's Europa League encounter, it is significant that Steven Gerrard deviates from his manager's protocol to discuss the following match and the fight for fourth. 'There is nothing we can do about the Arsenal result now,' said the Liverpool captain. 'We will reflect and be disappointed but we have got a very big league game up next at Manchester City. 'If we play like we did at The Emirates then I fancy us to beat them.' Gerrard was incensed by referee Howard Webb's decision not to award Liverpool an injury-time penalty when Arsenal skipper, Cesc Fabregas, handled the ball on the edge of the area on Wednesday night. But even if the visitors had snatched a draw from the jaws of defeat, City would still be in the driving seat. The financial ramifications of Liverpool finishing outside of the top four this season are potentially disastrous. Must-win, six-pointer, call it what you like. Next Sunday's match is the biggest of the season so far. That's why, as Gerrard pays lip-service to the club's continued involvement in Europe this season, there is an underlying feeling that domestic matters will be taking precedence from now on. 'We have to aim for fourth place and we also have everything to play for in the Europa League,' he says. 'We need to play almost as if we're in the title race, and we're more than capable of doing that.'


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