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The Anfield captain urges his side to improve after a disappointing defeat to Bolton but insists that a top-four finish in the Premier League remains entirely possible

Steven Gerrard has declared that Liverpool must kick off a "big week" by defeating Manchester City in Wednesday night's second leg of the League Cup semi-final.

The Reds come into the match off the back of a disappointing 3-1 Premier League defeat by Bolton at the weekend and the captain admits that the performance on Saturday, which led manager Kenny Dalglish to condemn the team's efforts, was not good enough.

"It was definitely justified, when you put in a performance like we did as a group you expect criticism, especially from your manager," Gerrard conceded to the club's official website.

“Kenny spoke in the dressing room after the game and on Monday before training. He wasn't angry, he just said it as it was. He didn't lose his rag or his control.

“He told individuals and us as a group that it wasn't acceptable. As captain of the team that is down to me and he went through all of us.

"We didn't need telling really. I knew at half-time and I knew after the game that that hadn't been good enough. Maybe the lads had one eye on this and one eye on that.

"There is no good time to perform like that when you play for this club. You have to win every game. The people new to the club will appreciate and understand that a bit more after a performance like that.

“You can't do it here. The fans won't accept it, they don't deserve it. It's not allowed. Otherwise you get criticised by your manager, like we have all experienced.

“I have been here a long time and experienced days like that and the important thing is to move on from it fast. If we perform like that against Manchester City, there will be no Wembley trip."

Gerrard also emphasised his confidence that the club are on course to achieve their pre-season targets; principally, to bring European football back to Anfield after missing out on continental qualification last season.

"Our targets were to get into the top four and go on two long runs in the cup and it's still possible,” he insisted.

"We're six points off fourth and there are 16 games left. You're not telling me that this team and the players we've got here are not capable of making that up?

“The sides who we are competing with aren't on all-out consistent runs. Manchester United got beat 3-0 by Newcastle the other week, Chelsea drew with Norwich and Arsenal have lost their last three.

"Why isn't it possible? Why are people crying out for change?

"We've got a fight on for fourth but we had a fight on at the start of the season, when we were telling people our aims for the season.

“Of course you go into every season wondering if you can get into the title race but at the moment we're not in it and our realistic aim at the start was top four and two good long runs in the cup.

“At the end of this week we could be going to Wembley, we could be in the fifth round of the FA Cup and six points off fourth. The flip side of that is different but big weeks happen at big football clubs and this is a big week."

A testing seven days for the club begins on Wednesday night as Anfield plays host to City, the Reds holding a 1-0 advantage from the first leg of the fixture.

Liverpool then entertain Manchester United on Saturday in the fourth round of the FA Cup before traveling to Wolves on January 31 in the Premier League.

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