Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is keeping cool ahead of next week’s pivotal Premier League title showdown against Manchester City.
Gerrard twice held his nerve from the penalty spot as Liverpool secured a hard-fought 2-1 win over West Ham at Upton Park on Sunday to move them back to the top of the table.
The Merseyside club are two points above Chelsea and four points clear of City in third after winning nine consecutive league games – although Manuel Pellegrini’s men hold two games in hand ahead of the Anfield clash.
It would be tempting to table next week’s victors as champions-in-waiting, but Gerrard is reserving judgement.
“I’m not convinced just yet,” he told Sky Sports. “There are some very hard games to go. We’ve got a huge game next week. The message is to stay calm and every time we go out on the pitch we leave every ounce of energy out there.”
West Ham demonstrated that Liverpool, who must also face Chelsea in their run in, can expect few formalities over the coming weeks.
Guy Demel levelled in controversial circumstances after Andy Carroll appeared to foul Simon Mignolet as the visiting goalkeeper dropped Mark Noble’s corner.
“Different sides keep asking his different questions,” Gerrard said. “West Ham were very direct today and they’ve got an in-form striker in Andy Carroll and great delivery out wide.
“It was a tough game and a tough 90 minutes but (we showed) great resolve, character and togetherness in the squad.
“What summed it up was Lucas Leiva. He hasn’t been in the squad for a while, been out injured, but comes in and does a fantastic job – controls the game and sees it out and we got there in the end.”
Defensive midfielder Lucas replaced playmaker Philippe Coutinho at half-time and Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers was also quick to hail the Brazilian’s contribution.
He added: “We needed to dominate the middle of the field. We were 4-3-3 – I’m always finding ways to try and put our two strikers (Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez) into the team.
“I just felt we needed to dominate the ball a wee bit more and, obviously, Raheem (Sterling) going to into the (number) 10 (role), Lucas coming to the side of the diamond – we had four players in there.
“So that gave us greater control. We started to pass, started to move and create some chances.”