Aquilani gets Masch backing
Javier Mascherano has given his full backing to Alberto Aquilani to shine at Anfield.
By Elliot Ball
Last Updated: 12/12/09 1:11pm
Javier Mascherano admits he is growing tired of talk that Liverpool are missing Xabi Alonso and has given his full backing to Alberto Aquilani to shine at Anfield.
Alonso joined Real Madrid in the summer in a £30million move that saw the Reds use two thirds of that sum to purchase Roma's midfield maestro Aquilani.
But the 25-year-old Italian international has been an injured bystander with a troublesome ankle problem as his new team have suffered an indifferent start to the season both domestically and in Europe.
Aquilani's delayed start to his career in England has fuelled opinion that the Reds' poor form, which has seen them crash out of the UEFA Champions League, is largely due to the absence of their former Spanish pass-master.
But Mascherano, who formed a formidable partnership with Alonso in Liverpool's engine room last season, has called for an end to such views and has seen enough of the Reds' summer signing to suggest he will be a hit with the Kop and could be in line to show his talents against Arsenal on Sunday.
"We have to forget Alonso," said the Argentinian captain, who is in talks with boss Rafa Benitez about a new deal at the club. "You cannot find two players doing the same things in the world.
"Aquilani will give us everything he can and if he is fit he will be really good for us.
"Now little by little he'll increase his confidence and learn about English football, because it's totally different, but I think he will be really good for Liverpool."
Mascherano is aware that when Aquilani gains full fitness, the competition for places in midfield will increase.
Brazilian youngster Lucas seems the most likely player to give way, but Mascherano said: "I always have to fight for a place with my team-mates.
"As a player, when you have competition it's really good for everyone. You have to fight for recognition and everyone tries to work hard so that is good for the team."
Aquilani made his full debut for Liverpool in Wednesday's Champions League defeat by Fiorentina in a deeper role, with Steven Gerrard acting as the main support for Fernando Torres.
Mascherano was used, as usual, in a holding midfield role but it is believed that, in time, Aquilani will play further forward, with Gerrard in a deeper role.
Mascherano's own improved form has pleased Benitez, but the combative ball-winner insists he is solely focused on maintaining his best level.
He said: "I am trying to do my best, but others will have to decide if I am in my best form.
"I don't like to talk about me. The manager has to talk about me, the media have to talk about me, but I just try to do my best.
"But I am very relaxed at the moment because I am happy and trying my best."