Steven Gerrard urges team-mates to treat Norwich game like Champions League final
Brendan Rodgers’s Liverpool team are four wins from claiming the club’s 19th title
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard releases all of the emotion on a day of high drama and tributes at Anfield on Sunday after his side had beaten Manchester City 3-2.
Steven Gerrard has told Liverpool to treat the visit to Norwich City like the 2005 Champions League final against Milan and warned a remarkable season will be forgotten should they fail to win the Premier League title.
Brendan Rodgers’ team are four wins from claiming the club’s 19th championship, and first of the Premier League era, following the enthralling 3-2 defeat of Manchester City at Anfield. The next step for Liverpool is Carrow Road on Sunday and Neil Adams’ first home game as the Norwich manager since replacing the sacked Chris Hughton last week.
Norwich are fourth bottom following Saturday’s defeat at Fulham and face a gruelling run-in to secure their top-flight status but with a first league title since 1990 in touching distance, Gerrard admits the game has assumed the importance of Istanbul for Liverpool.
The Liverpool captain said: “Every game is getting bigger because we are getting closer to the last game of the season. Man City was always going to be huge because they are in the race with us but Norwich now become Man City. Norwich become Chelsea. Norwich become Manchester United. That’s how big it is.
“We have got to treat Norwich like we treated AC Milan in 2005. That’s just how football is. We can’t think about what colour shirts Norwich are wearing and the personnel in them. We have got to treat them like the best team in the world.” Ironically, Liverpool overcame Chelsea, their opponents in two weeks’ time, in the semi-finals on their way to meeting Milan.
Liverpool head to East Anglia on a run of 10 successive league victories but without Jordan Henderson, who collected a three-match suspension for a straight red card against City. Daniel Sturridge is also awaiting the results of a scan on a hamstring problem amid concerns he will miss the Norwich game.
“It is a remarkable run but you get nothing for it,” Gerrard said. “You get a pat on the back. We’ve all had them but they come and go. What is key as a footballer is getting something to show for all the hard work. We have been on a magnificent run. We could win 13 on the spin but lose the last one and we will get nothing. Nobody will remember it.
“The only way people will remember it is if we go on and win it. We have got to forget where we are and forget what we have done. We have got to treat it like it is the last game of all our careers. That is the mentality.”
Gerrard was almost in tears after the final whistle sounded against City, the biggest league win of a glittering career “by far”, according to the 33-year-old. But the outpouring of emotion, he has admitted, was as a result of the 25th anniversary of Hillsborough, a day remembered with several tributes before the kick-off at Anfield.
96 who died
The midfielder, whose 10-year-old cousin Jon-Paul Gilhooley was among the 96 who died at Hillsborough, said: “The reason I was so emotional was because of when this game fell. It wasn’t just because it was a big match in our season, it was because this week is always about more than football for everyone associated with Liverpool.
“It’s emotional for so many people. I’m speaking on behalf of everyone when I say the win was dedicated to the victims and families of Hillsborough.”
Gerrard insists that emotion will not distract him from the goal of completing his medal collection at Liverpool with a Premier League title. “Everyone knows how much I want it personally,” he said. “I’ve just got to stay calm, relax and take it each game as it comes. I’m trying to do that but it’s difficult to control my emotions.
“I’m just trying to do different things. In my spare time, I’m not sitting around thinking about it. I want the games to come every day, not every week. I have to manage the time well and make sure that I’m not getting anxious and wasting unnecessary energy.”
An added bonus from the City game was the absence of a yellow card for Liverpool’s inspirational captain. He would have received a two-match suspension had he collected a 10th booking of the season before Sunday’s amnesty but came through four matches without triggering the punishment. He said: “It was tough in the four games. There were times when I wanted to steam in to a few tackles. But I think I have played it very well and it hasn’t affected my performances.”