Everton v Liverpool
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard insists it is too early to talk about title ambitions but admits there will be a “huge hole” in his career if he retires without a league title to his name.
A Premier League winners’ medal is the only club honour missing from the England skipper’s trophy cabinet.
And while the Reds have made a good start to this season, sitting second ahead of tomorrow’s Merseyside derby at Goodison Park, Gerrard said no-one was getting carried away.
“I think it’s important for me as captain of the team not to raise expectations,” he said.
“When you’re talking about winning titles, it’s premature, it’s too early, and I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up. That would be unfair.
“Our dream and our plan at the beginning of the season was to break into the top four.
“We’re slightly ahead of where we thought we’d be, but it’s a tough league and there’s six or seven teams capable of finishing in the top four... so there’s (going to be) a huge fight. But the confidence and belief are there.”
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers’ preparations for this weekend have suffered a blow after defender Jose Enrique was ruled out with a knee injury which is likely to require surgery. The Spaniard has been struggling with the problem and has featured just twice in the Reds’ last five matches, one of those appearances a 30-minute substitute appearance.
“Jose Enrique has been struggling for a little while,” Rodgers said yesterday. “He will probably need an operation. It’s a blow for us because he’s a very talented player.”
There has been further disruption behind the scenes as academy director Frank McParland and head of coaching Rodolfo Borrell have both been removed from their posts.
The club declined to comment on the changes in the youth set-up but it is believed the pair have been sacked.
McParland had previously served as Liverpool’s chief scout while Borrell had 13 years experience with Barcelona’s academy.
Both were remnants of the Rafael Benitez era, having been appointed to the academy in 2009.
Meanwhile Everton boss Roberto Martinez is confident his team can deal with Liverpool’s fearsome forward pairing.
Strike duo Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge head into this weekend’s derby having scored 18 goals between them in all competitions.
Martinez noted: “They have had a very good start to the season, they are very influential in their team. From that partnership up front, they have a real goalscoring threat. You do see why Liverpool have been successful this season, it is not an accident. I do feel they are a strong side.
“But you are always used to coping with threats of the opposition. Not long ago we had a very good team full of individuals here — Spurs — and we dealt with them really well.
“It is more about what we can do and how we can perform in the derby rather than being worried about what the opposition can bring.”
Everton have not conceded in their last three outings but they have not scored in their last two matches either — goalless draws against Tottenham and Crystal Palace — but Martinez is not overly concerned.
He said: “The way we have been getting in the final third has been fantastic. We are very close to getting into a position where we can control games and score goals at the end.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved