Benayoun hails Gerrard

Skipper singles out rival for praise

Benayoun: A fan of Gerrard

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Israel captain Yossi Benayoun has hailed Steven Gerrard as the 'best midfielder in the world' and believes his Liverpool team-mate will do everything he can to be fit to play for England on Saturday.

Gerrard is currently struggling with a broken toe, with England coach Steve McClaren refusing to rule out the possibility of defying Reds boss Rafael Benitez and giving Gerrard a pain-killing injection to play for his country, in the crucial Euro 2008 qualifier this weekend.

McClaren insists Gerrard is keen to play through the pain barrier, even through Benitez has warned against any such treatment.

Benayoun joined Liverpool from West Ham in a £5million deal during the summer and is in no doubt Gerrard will be determined to pull on the England shirt again this weekend.


"I think Steven Gerrard is the best midfielder in the world, so it is very important for England that he will play," Benayoun said.

"I do not know how much pain he has.

"I have been at Liverpool for two months, and from what I know of him, he will do everything to play for England."

McClaren may have seen his options hit by injuries to Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney and David Beckham, as well as doubts over Gerrard and the suspension of striker Peter Crouch, but Benayoun believes plenty of danger men remain in the England squad.

"If Steven Gerrard does not play, then some others will - there are a lot of good England players," added Benayoun.

"Even though there might be guys out like Gerrard and Beckham, the players who come in instead of them are also good players and play at the highest level every week, so it will be difficult anyway."


England are under pressure to beat Israel this weekend and Benayoun accepts McClaren's men are favourites to take all three points at Wembley.

"We know England are favourites, they are better than us so any result less than a win for England will be a surprise to everyone, especially me," continued Benayoun

"I don't care whether people say we are negative or not negative - we drew with England in Israel 0-0, which was a great result for us, and I will be happy to defend again and finish with the same result.

"You don't expect us to come to England and Wembley to play an open game and end up being 3-0 down after 20 minutes.

"We need to work hard in defence and work on quick attacks, hopefully steal a goal and draw or win the game.

"If we stay in the game in the first 20 to 25 minutes by defending solidly and keeping the score at 0-0 the supporters will lose their patience.

"We need to concentrate on our game and work hard. We have a few good players with a lot of quality and hopefully we will do our best."

The former West Ham schemer concedes he would be happy to come away with a draw from Saturday's clash.

Benayoun added: "It will be difficult to win, but I would be happy with a draw.

"If we win, it would be a result people would speak about for the next few years."