x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Europe is where we belong, says Liverpool defender Carragher

Jamie Carragher insists critics who claim Liverpool would be better off not qualifying for the Europa League do not understand the club.

Jamie Carragher insists critics who claim Liverpool would be better off not qualifying for the Europa League do not understand the club.

Sunday's 3-0 win over Newcastle United at Anfield took Liverpool above Tottenham Hotspur and into fifth place in the Premier League table.

Even though Spurs have a game in hand, they have to go to Anfield for the penultimate match of the season and Kenny Dalglish's side are now fancied by some to claim the European spot that goes with fifth place.

However, because of the upheaval at the club this season, with the change of ownership in October followed by the January removal of Roy Hodgson after just six months as manager, a theory has emerged among observers and fans that the Europa League, with its lengthy fixture list and the travel involved, will do more harm than good to the rebuilding process.

It is not a view shared by Carragher, who insists the winning mentality which has returned under Dalglish means the players want to compete for everything.

"I know there is a lot of talk about whether people want us to finish fifth but, for me, Liverpool is European football," the 33-year-old defender said.

"That's what the club is about, and I'm desperate for us to get it.

"It is another trophy to go for. I'd have loved to have been in Dublin [for this season's final] in a couple of weeks - that would have been fantastic for us and fantastic for the supporters.

"If we keep winning games, we've got a good chance of qualifying, but Tottenham will probably feel the same, and I think [the Spurs game on May 15] will be a great game now.

"It is important for the team to keep winning and maintain the feel-good factor.

"It hasn't been a great 18 months really for the club, it has been tough.

"Now, though, we can start to enjoy ourselves and go into games expecting to win."

Contrary to popular opinion, Carragher thinks being involved in the Europa League may actually be a help rather than a hindrance.

Liverpool's European campaign this season started on July 29, albeit with a number of fringe players because of the knock-on effect of the World Cup.

The club's vice-captain believes utilising the whole squad will keep things competitive and harmonious in the early stages of the new campaign.

"Of course I can understand why fans would not want us to be in the Europa League and [as players] playing Thursday and Sunday doesn't give you much time to recover," he said.

"Realistically the manager would use the squad to start with and it would be good for the young players to get European experience as well.

"And I am sure we will be adding some new players to the squad next season so we would have a bigger squad than we have now and more players could be involved, playing more games.

"When you are only playing every Saturday it is difficult to keep players happy because you don't change the team so much so you end up having 10 or 12 unhappy players.

"Sometimes having more games can keep everyone happy at the club."