Riise Relishing Titanic Fixtures
Liverpool full-back John Arne Riise is confident that the Reds can continue their winning form as they head into the most challenging phase of the season.
Buoyed by seven successive victories, Liverpool go to Old Trafford on Sunday for what promises to be a titanic struggle with their arch-rivals Manchester United, newly installed as leaders of the Premier League, whose title they are defending.
Their winning streak has seen them take at least temporary control of the race for fourth place in the Barclays Premier League, while qualifying for the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
After the Old Trafford showdown they meet Everton in the Merseyside derby, which will really concentrate minds on that contest for fourth place. And then comes the triple-header with Arsenal, with a Premier League clash sandwiched between the two legs of their Champions League quarter-final.
Liverpool defender John Arne Riise sees the team's season being decided this sequence of five massive matches.
"These next couple of weeks are going to be unbelievable," he told Liverpoolfc.tv. "We are playing top games against top teams but we are looking strong at the moment and so we can't wait for the matches to come around.
"This is the sort of run of games you train for and work towards during the season. There's still a lot to play for for us as we look to secure fourth place and keep going in the Champions League. That's our one chance to win a trophy this season and we want to take it.
"The disappointing thing from our point of view is that we should have been fighting for the title. You won't believe how disappointed we are with some of the points we have thrown away this season, especially at home. We've closed the gap on the top teams of late but we still need three teams to mess up if we're going to get back into the title race. For now I think we have to look to finish fourth and that's why the derby next weekend is going to be so crucial."
The game against Manchester United this weekend gives Liverpool the chance to gain revenge for their defeat at Anfield against the Red Devils earlier this season, when Carlos Tevez scored the game's only goal.
And Riise cites a pair of reasons why United could be undone on Sunday afternoon.
"Gerrard and Torres have a partnership like I've never seen before," he added. "The two of them are in unbelievable form at the moment, both looking strong and both scoring goals.
"I wouldn't say I'm surprised with the way Torres is playing because we knew he was a top striker, but sometimes it can take a while to settle in English football. He hasn't needed time at all. I know for a fact that defenders hate to play against him because he's so quick and so strong.
"United will definitely be worried about us because we're the form side at the moment, but at the same time we have to respect them because they are a top side also."
Riise also attributes the Reds' winning form to Rafa Benitez, saying: "It's down to the manager and his rotation.
"Because he changed the team around earlier in the season we're now seeing the rewards of that.
"When you have so many competitions to play in it's important to rotate and that's why the manager did it. He cares about the players.
"Now we don't have as many competitions to go for, that's why you're seeing virtually the same players and the same system from game to game."