Liverpool's Javier Mascherano: Alberto Aquilani Can Fill Void Left By Xabi Alonso

Italian can fill Spaniard's boots.
 Javier Mascherano has been impressed by Liverpool summer signing Alberto Aquilani, and believes the Italian playmaker is just the recruit the Reds needed following the sale of Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid.

Aquilani is yet to fully establish himself in Rafael Benitez's first XI, but sealed his starting debut during the club's midweek loss to Fiorentina in the Champions League. Mascherano feels the more Aquilani is thrust into the limelight, the quicker he will adapt to the physicality and pace of the English game.

"We have to forget Alonso," Mascherano explained to ESPN Soccernet. You cannot find two players doing the same things in the world.

"Aquilani will give us everything he can and if he is fit he will be really good for us. Now little by little he'll increase his confidence and learn about English football, because it's totally different, but I think he will be really good for Liverpool.''

The balance in Liverpool's line-up is regarded to have been upset due to the absence of Alonso, with Lucas Leiva deputising while Aquilani returns to full fitness after the ankle injury that has kept him sidelined since his switch in August.

However, despite being an accomplished anchoring midfielder, Mascherano believes it is imperative he continues to work hard and fight for his place.

"I always have to fight for a place with my team-mates. As a player, when you have competition it's really good for everyone. You have to fight for recognition and everyone tries to work hard so that is good for the team.''

He continued: "I am trying to do my best, but others will have to decide if I am in my best form. I don't like to talk about me. The manager has to talk about me, the media have to talk about me, but I just try to do my best. But I am very relaxed at the moment because I am happy and trying my best.''

Over the summer Mascherano was linked with an Anfield exit, with Barcelona allegedly the likeliest destination for the player. Since then, a contract extension has been mooted in order to guarantee his future at the Merseyside outfit. Benitez claims there is no concrete agreement as yet, but acknowledged that the player is happy to stay.

"We are closer (to an agreement) over Javier's contract. We now must finalise what has been discussed. Javier is happy now, things are positive. It will be easier to progress with the talks.''

Alan Dawson,