Dirk Kuyt believes Liverpool can make a major statement of intent for the rest of the season if they can win their Champions League clash away to Atletico Madrid.
Liverpool fly out to the Spanish capital this morning for a Group D match, where victory in the Vicente Calderon would virtually clinch their progress into the knockout stages.
Dutch forward Kuyt, who scored twice to beat Wigan on Saturday as injured Fernando Torres’ stand-in, can expect a similar role in Madrid.
But even without their Spanish star, Kuyt is confident Liverpool can become the first English side to win a European match in Atletico’s intimidating stadium.
Kuyt said: “This is the big one in our group, to win would be a very strong statement. We know Atletico are a very strong, tough side but it is another challenge and one we will rise to.
“If we get a win in Madrid it will take us a very big step closer to qualification for the next stage of the Champions League.
“This is a vital week for us, firstly in Madrid and then at Chelsea on Sunday. Players can get tired with all the club matches and the internationals, but that is the way it is at the top.
“When you are with a big club you have to play every three or four days, but we prepare well. We drink and eat properly, we have our ice baths. We are professional and go to bed early!”
Boss Rafael Benitez is confident Kuyt can continue his European scoring run, which currently stands at 10 goals in his last 17 Champions League games.
He said: “Without Fernando we know the option is to play Kuyt up front, and it works well for us.
“He can score goals, we always know that. He is a very important player for us, a special player who works so hard.
“He can play on the right very well, but now he may have to stand in again for Torres and I have every faith in him. He is a player with so much industry in his game, any manager would be happy to have him in their side.”
He added: “I am confident that my players can produce the right performances this week.
“We are showing character and the right mentality you need for a winning team. We have Atletico next and then Chelsea – two very tough away matches.
“It has to be a case of concentrating on each game, not looking to the future. But our players are showing great character.
“We can field a team good enough to beat Atletico, then we must think about how we play at Chelsea. But I am confident in my players that they can produce the right performances.
“We have a few minor injury problems to (Yossi) Benayoun, (Steven) Gerrard and (Robbie) Keane, but I do not expect them to be serious, they should all play on Wednesday.”