Benitez recalls 'most influential' Gerrard

September 18, 2007

Steven Gerrard will appear in his 80th European match for Liverpool on Tuesday with a ringing endorsement from his manager.

Gerrard, who was only a second-half substitute in Liverpool's 0-0 draw at Portsmouth on Saturday after two demanding England matches, will reclaim the captain's armband on Tuesday against Porto in their Estadio do Dragao fortress for their opening Champions League Group A clash.

It was not until Gerrard came on at Fratton Park that Liverpool looked like they could produce a victory.

Here he will certainly be expected to inspire a triumph that would give Liverpool a superb start to their campaign.

Boss Rafael Benitez said: 'Steven is so important for us. Since I have been at the club he has been the most influential player.

'He scores goals and plays well at this level and all I want is for him to continue like that.'

Benitez is also likely to start the game with Dutch striker Dirk Kuyt and Fernando Torres up front, the Spaniard making his debut in the Champions League proper. Kuyt was not even on the bench at Portsmouth while Torres came on only in the second half.

With John Arne Riise (groin) and Mohamed Sissoko (rested) left behind on Merseyside, Benitez knows he needs a victory to set up his side for further progress to the last 16.

And Kuyt believes they can go even better than that by getting to their third final in four seasons.

Striker Kuyt was Liverpool's scorer in the Champions League final defeat in Athens last season by AC Milan.

Two seasons before that he was an admiring watcher on TV back home in Holland as Liverpool beat Milan on penalties in Istanbul.

on Tuesday they start this season's group campaign against the Portuguese champions, who have started their domestic season with four successive victories and top the table.

Now Kuyt says: 'We are very aware that they are a very good side, but we know that we are good enough to go to the final again.

'It will be difficult, we are chasing the English title and I want to win both trophies. But it will not be impossible to reach the final again, we have a good enough squad.

'But we want to win trophies, that is why I came to Liverpool, and it is really too early to judge whether we are really capable of winning both the major trophies we are chasing.

'But this is a very important match, between two very good teams, and we know we must be at our best to get the result we want. But we have bought good players in the summer and we all are confident that the final again is not out of our reach.'