Steven Gerrard praises Luis Suarez before tough Europa League tie


Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard says "only one or two" players in world football have performed better than his teammate Luis Suarez in recent months. The Uruguay striker, aged 26, has scored no less than 23 goals for Liverpool this season, 18 of those in the Premier League. Gerrard said: "For me he's been player of the year, across this league and a lot more leagues. There are probably only one or two people who you could say have been better than him this season."

"How much better can he get? I'm not sure, but it's a scary thought if he does improve on how he's been performing this season," Gerrard added. Only Robin van Persie has scored more goals in the Premier League this season than Suarez, who joined Liverpool in a £22.7 million deal in January 2011. Suarez was among 15 forward players named on the shortlist for the Fifa FIFPro World XI in 2012 but didn't make the final team.

Liverpool will face Zenit St Petersburg in the second leg of their Europa League tie at Anfield on Thursday. They have to overcome a 2-0 deficit from the first game in Russia but Gerrard is hopeful that Suarez can see them through with "a bit of magic". "You remember top players for games like this - important goals and big performances that turn situations in your favour," said Gerrard. "We're all there behind him as well - he's not on his own - but I'd love nothing better than for this game to be decided on a bit of magic or brilliance from him. With the season he's had, I think he does deserve it."

The Europa League is Liverpool's only hope of silverware this season, after being knocked out of both the League Cup and the FA Cup. "We need the fans in the stadium early. We need them to pump the atmosphere up as early as they can, to get our players going when we're warming up, to get us fired up to go right from the off and to try and intimidate their players. There's lots of top players quoted throughout the world saying how difficult it is to play at Anfield when the crowd makes that sort of a noise. That's what we want. That's what we need."

Here are the odds at Bet365 for Thursday night's Europa League clash at Anfield:

Liverpool win - 4/6
Draw - 10/3
Zenit win - 17/4

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