Gerrard will to be Pool's middle man - Rafa

August 6, 2007

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez insists that skipper Steven Gerrard will play more regularly in his favoured central midfield role this season

Boss Benitez saw his side draw 1-1 with Feyenoord last night in Rotterdam, the last of their pre-season friendlies which ended with nine bookings - six of those for Liverpool players - and Gerrard involved in a clash with defender Theo Lucius in which both players raised their arms.

It was an undignified melee involving virtually everyone on the pitch after a bad late tackle by Royston Drenthe on Gerrard had sparked the uproar.

But Benitez was more concerned with the value to his squad of the match practice as they prepare now for Saturday's Premier League opener at Aston Villa.

Benitez said: 'We are ready for the season and everything else that is to come. We have competition now for every position and we will wait to see how they train this week before deciding on the team for the game at Aston Villa.

'We have used all the players during pre-season, and now we must decide who will start the first match.

'Steven, though, will normally play more games this season in a central role. We have got plenty of wingers now.'

He added: 'We have confidence, we have prepared well and have a better squad than last season so hopefully we can start with a win.

'We need to get off to a good start, that is so important especially in the Premier League because the teams are so strong.

'You cannot lose many points now if you want to win things, but I have confidence and we have done well in the pre-season and hopefully we can carry that form into the Premier League.'

Benitez had earlier dismissed the uproar that came at the end of Liverpool's ill-tempered draw in Rotterdam.

Gerrard came close to being sent off for a shove in the face of Lucius as the game deteriorated into a melee.

Gerrard had earlier grabbed Liverpool's equaliser but was furious with a late tackle from young winger Drenthe, Feyenoord's first-half scorer. Lucius had earlier twice pushed Daniel Agger as tempers flared.

Benitez said: 'I do not think Steven will be in trouble, there was a lot going on out on the pitch.

'It was hard to see what was going on and I would want to review the match before commenting.

'But I would need to see the replay to decide what happened, but maybe you should talk about everything with the referee.

'I felt the team played okay, we had some chances but could not score. In terms of football, we were all right. As for the tournament, this was a very strange one.'

Benitez was clearly not impressed by the standard of the event that included a very poor Shanghai side and a competitive, but defensive, host club.

He added: 'Maybe these kind of games are more difficult with a local referee in charge. They become even more difficult.

'I am not bothered really about what went on and how the lads were treated, it is not the end of the world.'

And Benitez praised Gerrard's contribution and goal, coming after his excellent effort in Friday's 2-0 win over Shanghai.

Benitez said: 'Steven showed us what he can do, there was another goal for him. But the team also, they created chances and played well.'