Sunderland manager Steve Bruce deflates beach-ball factor at Liverpool
Bruce's team beat Liverpool in dubious circumstances at the Stadium of Light earlier this season when Darren Bent's shot was deflected in off a beach ball now on display at the National Football Museum but he is convinced they will not need an inflatable to burst their Champions League dreams. "I am sure there will be a few Sunderland fans taking beach balls down and of course we'll be taking a few of our own," Bruce said with a smile. Related ArticlesBenitez discusses the race for fourthMascherano to sign new Liverpool dealSteve Bruce takes swipe at Rafael Ben?zLiverpool v Sunderland: previewThe FA Cup's greatest upsetSport on television"But that beach-ball incident took all the gloss of our really good performance that day and I know they were without [Steven] Gerrard and [Fernando] Torres, but for me the best side won hands down. It was not a fluke that we beat them." Bruce is still smarting from the disruption caused by Liverpool's vain pursuit of his striker Kenwyne Jones. Bruce said: "I never intended to sell Kenwyne, unless someone like Liverpool comes in with £15 million or whatever then we all know the situation. But that goes for everyone. Everyone has got their price." Steven Gerrard, meanwhile, has voiced his determination to inspire Liverpool to a successful end to the campaign at home and abroad after admitting that he has failed to produce his best form this season. "If you look at my form through the season as a whole, I am not totally happy because I have not reached the level I would like to be at. I think it can be better," he said. "I am my own worst critic. The challenge for me now, in the remaining games, is to drive Liverpool into fourth, try to go to the Europa League final and go to the World Cup. My form isn't worrying me as I still have confidence that it can switch and turn at any given time to where I would want it to be. "I have played well this season, but I have come out of games when I have not been totally happy." Liverpool manager Rafael Benítez has claimed that his summer transfer budget will not be affected if the club fail to qualify for the Champions League. "They [the Liverpool board] told me before that it wouldn't make a big difference. Every year that we have qualified for the Champions League, it hasn't made a big difference, so if we don't qualify this time, I don't expect a big difference."
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