Gerrard makes the difference - Cana

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Marseille skipper Lorik Cana has claimed Liverpool are nothing like as good a side when Steven Gerrard is not playing.

Gerrard missed Saturday's draw with Fulham after sustaining a groin muscle tear the previous weekend and manager Rafael Benitez has yet to decide whether his captain can play the full 90 minutes against the French side in Wednesday's Champions League Group D clash at Anfield.

Cana said: "Maybe it would help us if he was not playing. But as a professional you always want to play against the very best to see whether you measure up. And he is one of the best in his position in the world."

Marseille shocked Liverpool in this competition with a 1-0 win at Anfield 13 months ago.

Since then Gerrard has inspired a 4-0 victory in France, scoring the first, and then adding two stunning goals when Liverpool won 2-1 in Marseille in September. Cana has no doubt of Gerrard's influence.

He said: "Steven Gerrard is the emblem of the club and the talisman of the side. Liverpool without Gerrard are not the same as Liverpool with him in their side.

"He scored two at our place, and was outstanding. We are not sure whether he will be playing and of course you want to play against the very best, to test yourself against someone like that.

"But if he plays it will harder for us, he is certainly one of the best in the world in his position. But we do not believe Liverpool are as good without him as they are with him."

Mathieu Valbuena, the midfielder who scored Marseille's winner in Liverpool last season, has surprisingly travelled with the squad despite suffering a knee injury that was expected to rule him out for a month.

Manager Erik Gerets said: "He is with us as much to continue his treatment as anything else. He will have to improve drastically to be involved, but we will see."

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