Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez is delighted with the form of skipper Steven Gerrard.

Gerrard has complained in the past that Benitez rarely offers him praise, but the gaffer gushed yesterday: "Stevie's form has been much better over the past few games and I hope that will continue over the next few.

"He is scoring and lifting the team and everyone knows how important he is to us.

"When he was not playing well, the team were not playing well. Now he is showing his many qualities and you can see the team are playing much better. That tells you what he gives us.

"I would like to give him a rest, because using him for every minute of every game is not the best situation. He is fit now, so it is not a problem. But keeping him fit for the entire season is the concern.

"He must play at the moment, because of injuries and illness, particularly with Xabi Alonso missing. I always feel Stevie is important to us when Xabi is playing. When Xabi is not, he becomes even more important."