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YOKOHAMA — England international Steven Gerrard believes the current Liverpool side is the best he’s ever played in and is raring to go ahead of Sunday’s Club World Championship soccer final against Sao Paulo.

“It is the best side I’ve played in in the years I’ve been with the club,” the Liverpool captain said on Saturday.

“There is a good mix of foreign and home-grown players. We’ve got some big challenges ahead and the next couple of years could be very successful.”

Liverpool has won the domestic league, Champions League, F.A. Cup, UEFA Cup, League Cup and European Super Cup in a glittering past, and Gerrard sees the Club World Championship as the only title the club is missing.

“Playing for Liverpool is all about trophies and playing finals. We don’t want to get on the plane home empty-handed,” the 25-year-old said.

Liverpool has twice been to the final of the Toyota Cup, the forerunner to the Club World Championship, losing 3-0 to a Zico-inspired Flamengo in 1981 and 1-0 to Independiente three years later.

“Hopefully it will be a case of third time lucky for us and we win it,” Gerrard said.

Liverpool thumped Deportivo Saprissa 3-0 in their semifinal on Thursday, with two goals from Peter Crouch and a wonder strike from Gerrard.

Thursday’s shutout meant Rafael Benitez’s men set a new club record with 11 successive clean sheets, but they had ‘keeper Jose Reina to thank for a string of saves in the second half as the jet-lagged players faded badly.

Gerrard dismissed suggestions the 19,000-km round trip to Japan and extra games will burn out the Reds, who have already played 30 times this season.

“There are a lot of games ahead, but I love playing football. I’m not worried about the amount of games. I’m a fit young lad and I shouldn’t be worried about the amount of games, I should be excited.

“It is definitely more exciting than daunting.”

Champions League holder Liverpool is still in this year’s competition as well as the F.A. Cup. It lies third in the Premier League behind leader Chelsea and Manchester United.

Sao Paulo beat Asian champion Al Ittihad 3-2 in the other semifinal of the competition that brings together the cup winners of the six continental confederations that make up FIFA.

The South Americans are eyeing their third world crown after winning the Toyota Cup in 1992 and ’93.

Real Madrid-bound defender Cicinho believes the result will come down to individual flair — something the Brazilians have in abundance.

“I think the key to victory will be in the way individuals perform,” he told FIFA.com.

“They (Liverpool) deploy two lines of four, whereas we stick to 3-5-2,” he said.

The right back suggested Sao Paulo’s biggest concern was Liverpool’s biggest player, 2-meter tall striker Crouch.

“The Liverpool players move the ball around more and often prefer high balls to individual exploits. They will be hard to defend against in the air, and we can’t leave them any spaces.”

Al Ittihad and Deportivo Saprissa meet each other in the third-place playoff prior to Sunday’s showcase, with both matches at International Stadium Yokohama.

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