Football: I Would Rather Have Gerrard Next to Me Than Veron Says JAMIE CARRAGHER; CHARITY SHIELD COUNTDOWN
Byline: DAVID McDONNELL
JAMIE CARRAGHER last night insisted Steven Gerrard can rival Juan Sebastian Veron as one of the world's finest midfielders.
Sir Alex Ferguson splashed out pounds 28million on Argentinian superstar, but Gerrard cost Liverpool nothing and Carragher said: "I'd rather have Stevie Gerrard.
"If Steve was sold, he would go for the same sort of money.
"Veron has more experience and in his position, is probably more of a creative player, maybe the best.
And Carragher believes Liverpool's midfield is more than a match for United, as they begin their Champions League campaign with a qualifier against FC Haka tomorrow, before facing United in the season's traditional curtain-raiser, the Charity Shield on Sunday.
"We are happy with our midfield, with Gerrard, Dietmar Hamann and, of course, Gary McAllister," added Carragher. "I don't think we have much to worry about there.
"Gary was superb last season and hopefully, can have the same influence again.
"His age means he will not play in every game. But if he can produce a goal or a telling pass in the big games, as he did last season, it will certainly help.
"His experience has been so important to us. I think that cost us two years ago when we just missed out on the Champions League."
Meanwhile, Liverpool will brush off the chaos surrounding their Champions League qualifier by flying out to Finland today.
Gerard Houllier and his players had to wait until 5.30pm yesterday - little over 48 hours before tomorrow's game - to find out who their opponents would be.
They were left on tenterhooks until UEFA rejected an appeal by Maccabi Haifa, who were thrown out of the competition last week.
The Israelis were expelled for fielding a suspended player - former Wimbledon man Walid Badir - in their second leg win over Haka last Wednesday.
Maccabi appealed, leaving Liverpool's preparations in limbo.
But chief executive Rick Parry said: "It wasn't ideal, but we're not complaining and the fact is UEFA handled it as quickly as they could.
"In some ways we have ended up with a better trip because it's not as far to Finland and it isn't as hot.
"If it had been Israel, we would have had to fly out on Monday night so the players could acclimatise."
Victory over Haka over two legs will see Liverpool reach the money-spinning Champions League for the first time.
And the Reds will feel at home in Finland with three Finns in their squad - Sami Hyypia, Jari Litmanen and young striker Daniel Sjolund. …