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 By Mike Whalley

Gerrard: Senior stars must step up

Steven Gerrard has called on senior players such as Daniel Agger and Lucas Leiva to help lead Liverpool back towards the Champions League following the exits of Jamie Carragher and Pepe Reina.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard was among the goals in his side's 2-0 win at Melbourne Victory.
Gerrard is targeting a Champions League return.

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Centre-back Agger has been linked with a move to Barcelona in the last 24 hours, but Gerrard, 33, sees him as a vital to Liverpool.

The captain believes the Reds need strong personalities after losing two of their most vocal presences in defender Carragher - who retired in May after a 16-year Anfield career - and goalkeeper Reina, who has moved to Napoli on loan.

Asked whether their departures meant there would be more responsibility on his shoulders, Gerrard said: "I suppose there is.

"I never, ever shirk responsibility at this club. I was given the captaincy at the age of 21, 22, so I know what pressure and responsibility is all about.

“I've managed to live with it for ten years, but I think it's also down to other players in the group.

"Now that Jamie's left and Pepe's gone, I think it's time for the likes of Daniel Agger, Lucas Leiva, Glen Johnson and other experienced players to back me up and help me lead this team to big things. The talent's certainly there. Now we just have to deliver."

Gerrard feels that path begins with qualification for the Champions League – a competition Liverpool won in 2005 but have not played in since December 2009.

He said: "We need to break back into the top four to get back the pull we had four or five years ago, when we were comfortably in the Champions League year in, year out, and we were challenging to win it."

The exit of Carragher has left Gerrard as Liverpool's longest-serving current first-team player, having made his debut in November 1998.

And the longest-serving captain in the club's history will see his achievements recognised in a testimonial match against Olympiakos at Anfield on Saturday.

It was against the current Greek champions that Gerrard scored a dramatic late Champions League goal at Anfield in December 2004 to ensure Liverpool made it through the group stages on their way to winning the trophy.

And Gerrard wants to see the club scale those heights again – and make a significant improvement on last season, when they finished seventh in the Premier League, 28 points behind champions Manchester United.

He said: "Over the last six months of the season, the performances and the form were really positive, but for this club, to fall 28 points from the top isn't good enough.

"Everyone realises that, and the challenge for me and my team-mates is to close that gap.”

Gerrard believes much will depend on whether Luis Suarez can be persuaded to stay.

Suarez, Liverpool’s 30-goal top scorer last season, has repeatedly stated his desire to leave Anfield over the last two months.

But the club have insisted they will not sell, and have rejected the only two bids to come in for him so far – both from Arsenal.

Gerrard said: “I don't know what's happened. I think the only person who knows what's happened is probably Luis himself.

"He's got a huge decision to make. As his team-mate, I've got to show him respect and give him space to make whatever decision he wants to make.

"What we can achieve this season basically depends on whether he stays or goes, I believe."


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