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Weekend Premier League predictions

Premier League
By ESPN Staff

We must be ready to pounce, Gerrard insists

Steven Gerrard has urged England to be 'mentally ready' to take advantage of any slip-up by their Euro 2008 rivals in Wednesday's final qualifier with Croatia at Wembley.

The stand-in skipper is hoping either Russia or Croatia will give England a second chance to qualify by faltering against Israel and Macedonia respectively today.

England warmed up for the Croatia clash last night by winning 1-0 against Austria in Vienna although the win was overshadowed by a thigh injury to Michael Owen, which will sideline him for a month.

Gerrard said: 'This was a good win but we need to improve on that for Wednesday.

'It was nice to get the win out of this game and now we can go home and watch the Israel game and hopefully get a bit of luck.

'We have got to be mentally ready to take advantage of any slip-ups on Wednesday.

'It will be like a second chance for us if you like - and if we do get a chance on Wednesday, we've got to play the game of our lives.'

Gerrard is hoping someone else can step forward and fill the gap left by Owen and he believes Peter Crouch will have gained a confidence boost from his headed winner from a David Beckham corner.

He said: 'The most important thing was to get the win although we took our foot off the pedal slightly in the second half.

'It is always a minus when you lose a player like Michael Owen, one of the best goalscorers in the world. He is our top goalscorer.

'But it is an opportunity for someone else on Wednesday night and that goal will have done Peter's confidence no harm.

'Strikers thrive on goals and he stuck his goal away really well. I think he is slightly disappointed he didn't get a second in the second half. He did well.'

Gerrard added: 'This was always going to be difficult game.

'The important thing was to get the win and a bit of confidence from it. We keep our fingers crossed for Saturday and hope we can take some confidence into Wednesday night.'

Beckham, who earned his 98th cap last night, insists England's players have not given up hope of Israel or Macedonia doing them a favour.

'You can never tell,' he said on Sky Sports News. 'They're two tough games.

'We're looking for Israel to hopefully do us a favour. But we're in this position, we've got to understand that we're in this position now and we do.

'It's just up to us now to try and put it right on Wednesday and other teams help us out.'

Beckham acknowledged that should it all come down to the final game, it would evoke memories of England's last-gasp qualification for the 2002 World Cup, which his dramatic free-kick against Greece secured.

'People have already said that. But we've got a good team, we've got a good bunch of lads. We've got a bunch of lads who are going to stick together through this, whether it goes right or wrong for us.'