Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sami Hyypia insists Liverpool are still in the title race

Veteran defender Sami Hyypia has denied Liverpool are now facing mission impossible in the title race following yesterday’s defeat by Manchester United.
The Reds started the campaign with high hopes of ending their 17-year championship drought and despite some inconsistent form on home soil were well placed to make their move until 10 days ago.
Although Rafael Benitez’s side have secured a financially imperative place in the knock-out phase of the Champions League, the outstanding four-goal win in Marseille has been sandwiched by the loss of Liverpool’s unbeaten Premier League record at Reading and yet another defeat to United at Anfield.
The latest loss against their fierce north-west rivals - their fifth in six seasons - has left the Merseyside giants nine points behind United and 10 adrift of leaders Arsenal.
Admittedly, Liverpool do have a game in hand but, after picking up just two points in three meetings with their fellow ’Big Four’ members this term, the evidence is not pointing towards the end of that long wait for a 19th title.
Nevertheless, Hyypia is refusing to be downcast.
The Finland star is convinced Liverpool proved they were United’s equals yesterday.
And, while he accepts his team-mates have a lot to do in order to haul themselves back into contention, Hyypia believes they are up to the task.
“It is not the end of the world,” he said.
“Of course, if you think about 10 points it is quite a lot but I don’t believe it is a major obstacle to clear and it is certainly not impossible.
“It would have been an important game to win but we didn’t manage it, so we have to remained focused on each individual game and see where we are in May.”
For the second season running, Liverpool were undone by a set piece, fatally failing to pick up Wayne Rooney on the edge of the area when Ryan Giggs took a corner and then leaving Carlos Tevez on his own too as he turned home the England striker’s shot.
It is the kind of mistake that Benitez must eradicate if his team are to stand a chance of getting themselves back into the championship fight, although Hyypia feels there are plenty of positives to draw from the defeat as well.
“Manchester United achieved what they came for; a clean sheet and they also managed to sneak a goal,” he said.
“But there were lots of positives for us too.”
The worry for Liverpool fans is that while Arsenal, Chelsea and, now, United have all been to Anfield, they are still to play away from home against any of their major rivals.
Hyypia acknowledges it is imperative to inflict some damage when the Merseysiders go on their travels and is optimistic they can do just that.
“Our away form has been better than the home form so I am confident we will get something out of those games away,” he said.
“The matches against the other teams in the big four are very important. We have to catch them and we know for sure if we win those games our rivals cannot get any points.”
Ironically, Liverpool face one of their major rivals on Wednesday when they visit Chelsea looking to book a place in the Carling Cup semi-finals.
The Reds have enjoyed plenty of success against the Londoners in cup combat over recent times, including two thrilling Champions League semi-final wins.
However, Hyypia accepts history will count for nothing at Stamford Bridge.
“I don’t want to look at the records at all,” he said.
“Every game is different - we go there to win and do our best.”

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