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Mar 11, 2013

Gerrard: Suarez snub would be unjust

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard believes that striker Luis Suarez would be "the best player ever not to win an award" if he does not claim an individual honour this season.

• Whalley: AVB frustrated as Reds snatch spoils

Suarez was again on target for the Reds on Sunday as he scored the opener in the 3-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield. That strike took his haul of Premier League goals for the season to 22, three ahead of nearest rival in the scoring charts, Manchester United striker Robin van Persie.

The match was billed as a clash between two of the main candidates for this season's prizes as Spurs attacker Gareth Bale went up against Uruguay international Suarez.

After the match, Gerrard told the BBC that, while Bale deserved the plaudits he is currently receiving, Suarez just shaded the Welshman as the front-runner for either the PFA Player of the Year award or the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year prize.

When asked about trying to contain Bale in a deeper-lying midfield role, he said: "It's an impossible task. He's in top form, probably one of the best players in the world on current form.

"But luckily enough we've got a player who is equally as good as him in Luis Suarez. I think Luis may just pip him to Player of the Year, in my opinion. He's been incredible. It's hard to put into words how good he's been.

"He's been doing that for us all season. Before the last [transfer] deadline we never got that centre-forward, and he's almost carried us on his own at times because he was the only forward we had. I think he's top scorer in the league now. If he doesn't win an award this year, he'll be the best player ever not to win an award."

Gerrard also set his team-mates the challenge of finishing above Everton as they look to secure a place in Europe.

The 32-year-old struck the late penalty that secured a dramatic 3-2 Premier League win over Tottenham at Anfield on Sunday. That victory moved Brendan Rodgers' side into the top six - and above their Merseyside neighbours - for the first time this season. It also kept alive their hopes of qualifying for next season's Champions League as they moved to within seven points of fourth-placed Chelsea, who still have to visit Anfield.

Liverpool have won their last three Premier League matches, beating Swansea 5-0 and Wigan 4-0 before their thrilling comeback from 2-1 down to beat Spurs.

And captain Gerrard wants to keep that momentum going over the final nine games of the season.

He told the Liverpool Echo: "When we went out of the Europa League, the message from the manager and the staff was that we needed to try to win as many of our remaining games as possible and try to finish as high as possible.

"Our form is good but we can't afford to get carried away just because we've beaten Tottenham. We need to show what we've shown today in all of our remaining games. We want to finish above Everton and as high as we can in the league."

Gerrard revealed that his penalty winner owed something to Liverpool goalkeeping coach John Achterberg. The Liverpool captain ran over to the bench to celebrate with Achterberg after sending Tottenham keeper Hugo Lloris the wrong way from the spot.

He said: "John Achterberg did a montage on their goalie for me before the game. He consistently went to the right and I think he had saved four out of eight going to his right. I was always going to his left having watched that. But if I hadn't had that montage, then I would probably have gone to his right - so credit to John."

Sunday's FA Cup semi-final draw means Liverpool will have to finish fifth to qualify for next season's Europa League. The European place on offer to the FA Cup winners only defaults to the Premier League if both finalists qualify for the following season's Champions League.

But with one team out of Wigan, Blackburn and Millwall guaranteed to reach the final, that will not happen whoever wins at Wembley on May 11 - as the FA Cup winners' Europa League place defaults initially to the runners-up.

It means that sixth place in the Premier League will not be good enough to qualify for Europe. The Premier League's top four will go into the Champions League, with the team finishing fifth going into the Europa League.

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