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Aug 29, 2013

Gerrard: We can get closer to United

Steven Gerrard has said he believes Liverpool are ready to start closing the gap on Manchester United after a summer squad revamp.

• Walsh:  Win forces Reds' hand

Champions United, who visit Anfield in the Premier League on Sunday, finished 28 points ahead of Brendan Rodgers’ side last season.

The Liverpool manager has made five summer signings -- goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, central defender Kolo Toure, left-back Aly Cissokho, midfielder Luis Alberto and forward Iago Aspas -- and his team have begun the new season with three successive victories in league and cup.

With the Reds remaining adamant that last season’s 30-goal top scorer Luis Suarez will not be sold before the transfer window shuts on Monday, he will be eligible to return from a ten-match ban when they visit Old Trafford in the Capital One Cup in late September.

Rodgers has been frustrated in his bid to land a big-money signing, failing with bids for Armenian playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan, striker Diego Costa and midfielder Willian.

The manager has injury doubts over Toure (groin), Cissokho (ankle) and midfielder Joe Allen (hamstring) ahead of Sunday’s clash, but captain Gerrard believes Liverpool are primed to get much closer to United than they managed last term.

The England international told the Liverpool Echo: “That’s something we’ve been trying to do for a long time, not just with changes in the summer.

“For a long time, the gap between ourselves and United, Chelsea and now Manchester City has been too big. Each year we have been trying to close that gap, so really this season isn’t any different in that respect.

“But it does feel slightly different this year. The team spirit is really good and there is a belief within the squad. The changes the manager has made during the summer are really positive, and we hope there are still one or two more players to come in.”

Suarez will be absent on Sunday as he serves the eighth match of his suspension, which was imposed in April after he bit Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic during a Premier League draw at Anfield.

The forward has been linked with a move away all summer, having declared at the end of May that he wanted to leave, but Liverpool have rejected two bids from Arsenal and insist they do not intend to sell him.

After Sunday’s game, Suarez will also miss the trip to Swansea on September 16 and the home clash with Southampton five days later.

Without him, Liverpool have made a 100% start to the season, securing 1-0 Premier League victories over Stoke and Aston Villa before making heavy weather of beating League One side Notts County 4-2 in the Capital One Cup after extra-time.

Gerrard added: “Our tails are up. We have won three games in a row, even if with the third one we did it the difficult way. Confidence is still high, even if the injury situation is not ideal going into such a big game. But we have got a squad that can cope.

“We didn’t get what we deserved from the big games last year. To try to improve on that this season, we have to put in the same effort but learn to start turning draws into maximum points. For me, United and Everton are still the big two games of the season.”

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