By Sam Holden
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard will follow his 700th club appearance with his final outing in a Merseyside derby on Saturday and manager Brendan Rodgers says Everton will be glad to see the back of him.
Gerrard became the third player in the club’s history to reach the 700-game mark, behind Ian Callaghan (857) and Jamie Carragher (737), in Liverpool’s last gasp 2-1 win at Bolton Wanderers in an FA Cup fourth round replay on Wednesday.
It was another in a long line of remarkable achievements for the midfielder who joined the club as an eight-year-old schoolboy and went on to become the heartbeat of the team for more than a decade.
Though Gerrard has never won a league title, he has guaranteed his place in the Anfield club’s folklore alongside the likes of Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness and Ian Rush by helping the side win a Champions League, two FA Cups and three League Cups.
The midfielder has always enjoyed making a big impact against fierce local rivals Everton, scoring in the 1-1 draw between the sides at Anfield in September and orchestrating many victories during frenetic derby battles since making his debut in 1998.
Asked if the Everton fans will be happy to bid farewell to the 34-year-old on his final visit to Goodison Park on Saturday ahead of his move to LA Galaxy in July, Rodgers replied: “I’m sure they will.
“He has been incredible for the club and been outstanding in so many derby games. He’ll want to win, like he does every time,” the Northern Irish manager told a news conference.
“How will he deal with the emotion of it being his last? Like he has all the others – by being focused on the team getting a result.”
Liverpool go into the derby in fine form, unbeaten in seven league matches and having won their previous three.
They are seventh in the table and four points adrift of the top four and a Champions League qualification place.
Rodgers says his side could welcome back Mario Balotelli and defender Dejan Lovren from injury, while fit-again Daniel Sturridge has a chance to make his first Liverpool start since August in what the manager expects to be a special game.
“Derby games are very exciting,” Rodgers explained. “They are wonderful games to be involved in, full of emotion and they go so fast.”