Liverpool striker Luis Suarez believes his side can mount a serious challenge for the Premier League title if they enjoy a successful Christmas campaign.
Suarez was presented with the 2013 Player of the Year award at the Football Supporters’ Federation Awards at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium on Monday, but the Uruguayan has more significant silverware in his sights.
Suarez missed the first six matches of the season due to the ban he received in April for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic.
But he has hit 17 league goals since returning to action, with a brace coming in Sunday’s 5-0 thrashing of Tottenham at White Hart Lane.
At the start of the season, Brendan Rodgers’ side would have been happy enough to challenge for a top-four finish, but their expectations are starting to rise.
The second placed Reds, currently two points behind leaders Arsenal, face Cardiff, Manchester City and Chelsea before the turn of the year, and Suarez said: “If we continue this level the next two or three weeks we can win the league or we can finish in the top four.
“It’s important we concentrate and focus on the next game.
“We know that after Cardiff we have two very, very big games.
“That will be important to what comes next.”
Suarez paid tribute to Liverpool’s supporters for their faith after his biting ban, admitting he would not have had a future at the club without such backing.
Citing his return to Liverpool action as his 2013 highlight, he said: “Coming back to play at Anfield: because after so many difficult moments for me I was able to win the supporters back, and that was unbelievable when I came back to play.
“They helped me, and that was important for me, for my confidence, and for my family, because they are together with me in this.
“It’s very special for me (the award) because my hard work on the pitch is recognised.
“Everybody knows about my problems and my difficult year, but after that I forgot everything and have been able to get back on the pitch.
“Liverpool are starting to reach their potential and we can play our best on the pitch.
“It’s very important that we stay together, we keep going, this is very important.
“If Liverpool don’t have these players I cannot continue my level, because it’s too much.”
In the absence of the injured Steven Gerrard, Suarez was proud to captain Liverpool for the first time on Sunday.
But he challenged his Liverpool team-mates to continue to prove they can thrive without England midfielder Gerrard.
“I was a little surprised by that (the captaincy call), but I think we have only one captain here, Steven Gerrard,” Suarez said.
“If we stay together, we are together, we are the captain, the team is the captain, that’s important.
“It’s far more important than me being captain that we win 5-0 against Tottenham, this is very important.”
Suarez has had a troubled career marred by the Ivanovic biting incident and a ban for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.
But he said childhood troubles growing up in Uruguay have helped him swat aside the many and varied controversies that have plagued his career.
“When I was a child I had too many problems, but I could try my best on the pitch,” he added.
“Once I was playing football I could try my best, because I just love to play football, I play with my heart.”