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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep 5, 2007

Benayoun hails Gerrard as world's best

Israel captain Yossi Benayoun declared Steven Gerrard the 'best midfielder in the world' and believes his Liverpool team-mate will do everything he can to be fit to play for England at Wembley on Saturday. The Anfield skipper is currently hampered by a broken toe, with England coach Steve McClaren refusing to rule out the possibility of defying Reds boss Rafael Benitez and giving Gerrard a pain-killing injection to play for his country in the crucial Euro 2008 qualifier. McClaren maintains key midfielder Gerrard is keen to play through the pain barrier, even through Benitez has warned against any such treatment, claiming it took the 27-year-old 'four or five days' to get over the jab he had prior to his side's recent Premier League draw with Chelsea. Benayoun joined Liverpool from West Ham in a £5million deal during the summer and is in no doubt his Anfield team-mate will be determined to pull on the England shirt again this weekend. 'I think Steven Gerrard is the best midfielder in the world, so it is very important for England that he will play,' Benayoun said. 'I do not know how much pain he has. 'I have been at Liverpool for two months, and from what I know of him, he will do everything to play for England.' McClaren may have seen his options limited by injuries to Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney and David Beckham as well as doubts over Gerrard and the suspension of striker Peter Crouch, but Benayoun believes England have plenty of danger men in the squad. 'If Steven Gerrard does not play, then some others will - there are a lot of good England players,' said the 27-year-old. 'Even though there might be guys out like Gerrard and Beckham, the players who come in instead of them are also good players and play at the highest level every week, so it will be difficult anyway.' England lost to Germany in their last outing at Wembley, and under-pressure McClaren knows the importance of recording victories over Israel and Russia, on Wednesday, to get the qualification campaign for next summer's European Champions back on track. Benayoun, however, added: 'We know England are favourites, they are better than us so any result less than a win for England will be a surprise to everyone, especially me. 'I don't care whether people say we are negative or not negative - we drew with England in Israel 0-0, which was a great result for us, and I will be happy to defend again and finish with the same result. 'You don't expect us to come to England and Wembley to play an open game and end up being 3-0 down after 20 minutes. 'We need to work hard in defence and work on quick attacks, hopefully steal a goal and draw or win the game. 'If we stay in the game in the first 20 to 25 minutes by defending solidly and keeping the score at 0-0 the supporters will lose their patience. 'We need to concentrate on our game and work hard. We have a few good players with a lot of quality and hopefully we will do our best.' Benayoun added: 'It will be difficult to win, but I would be happy with a draw. 'If we win, it would be a result people would speak about for the next few years.' Having joined the Hammers during the summer of 2005 from Racing Santander, Benayoun knows all about the expectation levels of the England fans for their men to deliver on the big stage. The Israel skipper, however, feels McClaren's squad have enough quality to come good in the end. 'Everyone here in England loves the national team, and there is a lot of pressure on them,' he said. 'But sometimes they play against sides like Germany and Brazil, and yet they are expected to win in every game. 'Yes, the last time at Wembley they lost, but also on any given day they can win. 'I think you need to be behind them. England have a lot of good players and I am sure in the end they will be in Euro 2008 and in the final stages, so there is nothing to worry about.'