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Mar 22, 2013

Gerrard: I will never have Rio dilemma

Steven Gerrard insists his ambition to take England to the 2014 World Cup will prevent him from putting club duties before his country like Rio Ferdinand did by stepping down this week.

Gerrard, 32, admits his strict fitness and training programme will allow him to balance his Liverpool and England careers, unlike Ferdinand who informed Roy Hodgson he would be unable to travel with the national side for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro.

The England captain has had his fair share of injury setbacks but admits his ambition to qualify for next year's tournament in Brazil has forced him to ensure he is fit to play two games each week.

"I don't know the details from Rio's side. But I want to help take this team to the World Cup in Brazil," Gerrard said. "Playing for England is the pinnacle of everyone's career. If I'm not playing tomorrow I'll be very disappointed, which shows what it means to me.

"At my age, there's no better stage for a footballer. Especially after beating Brazil, on our day, with a full-strength squad, we can beat the best. I'm not tired - I'm fine. My body's good, I'm good. I have my personal programme that I stick to.

"I'm benefiting from my own training schedule, I'm playing games and feeling really good. Ninety per cent of the players I play with at Liverpool and England have a very similar programme to myself.

"Mine is certainly working at the moment and I'm feeling really good. Every player wants to play without niggles. That is how you can perform as high as you can. That's where I feel I am at the moment and I'm really pleased with my body. I had a frustrating period with my groins at one stage in which I missed a year's football - but I'm certainly making up for that now."

England are expected to easily account for San Marino on Saturday and will be more concerned about Tuesday's meeting with group leaders Montenegro, who currently maintain a two-point gap over Roy Hodgson's side.

Gerrard has urged his team-mates to be ruthless in both fixtures and leave no concerns about England's qualifying hopes.

"We understand the game on Tuesday will be a lot more difficult and people are going to focus more on that game," he said. "But this game in San Marino is no more less important than Tuesday because at the end of the day we get the same out of it if we win, three points.

"We want to take control of the group and want to wake up on Wednesday in control of this group because we don't play another qualifier until next season. It is very important we take a foothold now and are in the driving seat."

San Marino were handed a 5-0 thrashing when they travelled to Wembley in October last year, but Gerrard believes England will need to adapt as the hosts bolster their defence.

"We do understand who we are up against," he added. "On paper we are stronger than the opposition. But sometimes when you play these teams, they cause different problems.

"It becomes an attack versus defence game, they try and slow the game down, commit fouls, will try and slow us down because we like to play at a fast tempo.

"I'm sure their plan will stay the same for 90 minutes. It certainly did at Wembley, to try to keep the score down, and we are expecting the same again.

"We need to show the same levels of professionalism and same intensity to get that breakthrough as soon as possible. The longer the game goes on at nil-nil, it gets a bit edgy.

"I'm sure the pitch will have a few issues as well but, if we approach it professionally and near the level we can play, it should be enough to get the three points."

Information from the Press Association was used in this report.

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