Xabi and Stevie looking forward to success

Xabi Alonso says Saturday’s FA Cup win over Chelsea will boost confidence for the Reds in their quest next season to bring the league title back home to Anfield. Liverpool have struggled against the so-called big teams this season, but have managed to send both Chelsea and Manchester United out of the cup on their way to Cardiff. Now the Spanish midfielder believes the Reds are on course for the ultimate prize: “We are getting there. We are improving and hopefully next season we can be challenging for the title. This result will inspire confidence. We were confident before the game. This season we have been winning a lot of games but against the top teams we have struggled a little bit. That’s why in the semi-final against Chelsea we wanted to show the level we are at and I think we did that.”

No doubt at all that Liverpool’s league form overall is better than last season, but unless they beat the big teams they might just struggle again next season. Liverpool are guaranteed third place, compared to last season’s fifth, and second is a remote possibility if United drop points in the run-in. Xabi continued: “We have shown that we have improved from last season when we won the Champions League but we want to carry on. We don’t want to stop. We want to challenge for the title. That’s our target next season.”

Tonight sees the Reds face their Cup final opponents when they meet
West Ham at Upton Park in the league, a game they need to win to keep
that faint hope of second alive. As Xabi says, despite the big wins
already in the cup there is still work to do: “We have shown we can win
playing good football and that’s why we have to be happy but we have to
think about the final because nothing is won yet. It’s going to be
tough in the final. We will be favourites because we are in the best
position in the league.”

Xabi’s midfield team-mate and PFA Player of the Year Steven Gerrard
believes he’ll be better equipped for England in the summer if he
arrives in Germany as the holder of another FA Cup winner’s medal. It’s
been a long season for Liverpool, and like a lot of Reds Gerrard will
see his season extended further by the World Cup. Gerrard wants to
finish the domestic season off in style: “Put it this way, if I join up
with England in the summer as an FA Cup winner, I’d be a lot more
confident, and, you know, that’s how you want to be going into a big
tournament having known that the season you’ve just played domestically
went well.”

Gerrard explained that his priority has of course been Liverpool, and
so he’s not been thinking too much about the World Cup, but it is at
the back of his mind. “You don’t play any bigger tournaments. It’s the
biggest stage there is. All the boys are looking forward to it. It’s
difficult to give it your full attention when there are still games to
play for Liverpool, but you can’t help but stop dreaming and thinking
about it. It’s only weeks away now, so everyone’s so excited.”

Stevie says he feels it’s not impossible for England to go out and win
the tournament outright: “I think if we’re realistic we’ve got a good
chance in Germany. There are ten or 12 teams in the tournament who are
very, very strong but it would be silly of me to stand here and say
yes, we’re going to win it. We’ve got to be realistic. If we can click
and everybody keeps fit in the summer, and play how we know we can
play, we can go all the way.”

Gerrard also pointed out that his priority to Liverpool includes giving
it all in every game he plays in the Red shirt. He’s not planning to
save himself for England: “I don’t think you can go into games worrying
about getting injured or worrying about missing the tournament for
England. Of course it’s very important to me in the summer but, you
know, I’ve got to give Liverpool Football Club 100 per cent focus and
make sure I get the job done for them as captain. I’ve got a role to
play before I go away in the summer.”