Benitez backs Gerrard to return to his best

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Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is backing Steven Gerrard to recapture top form after a discussion with the club captain.

Gerrard, 29, has often struggled to reach his usual high standards this season, with injury problems a factor. However Liverpool hope their skipper can exert more of an influence than he has done in recent matches, and Benitez is certain Gerrard is eager to step up his contribution.

The Spanish boss told newspaper reporters: "Steven knows that he has to improve but that for me is very positive. He knows he is a very important player for us and we were analysing his statistics and he is doing much better."

He added: "In the last game he wasn't at his level but that can happen in one game. He knows he is improving physically and the main thing now is confidence.

"I was talking with him this week about how to improve. He wants to give more.

"I am 100 per cent that he wants to give more. He is the captain and he is very important for the team and the club. He is someone who is pushing now and wants to improve."

Benitez's team are on a run which has seen them win just four of their last 17 matches, and have slid to eighth place in the Barclays Premier League - eight points behind fourth-placed Aston Villa.

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