Gerrard primed for Liverpool cup assault
Liverpool will look to the inspiring form of captain Steven Gerrard as they attempt to book their place in the semifinals of the FA Cup with victory over Stoke at Anfield.sports Updated: Mar 16, 2012 08:07 IST
Liverpool will look to the inspiring form of captain Steven Gerrard as they attempt to book their place in the semifinals of the FA Cup with victory over Stoke at Anfield.
Gerrard scored a superb hat-trick in the Merseyside derby win over Everton in midweek to give Liverpool a badly needed lift heading into Sunday's quarterfinal clash with the Potters.
Consecutive league defeats to Arsenal and Sunderland have all but extinguished Liverpool's chances of a top-four finish this season, leaving Kenny Dalglish's side to focus on achieving a domestic cup double.
The Reds already have the League Cup in the bag following last month's win over Cardiff and are now pursuing a swift return to Wembley as they seek a first FA Cup win since 2006.
Liverpool veteran Jamie Carragher said Gerrard's Roy-of-the-Rovers style display against Everton proved he deserved to be ranked as the best player ever to represent the club.
"I think it's a case with Stevie that people will not fully realise how good he has been until he stops playing," Carragher said.
"It's been harder for him in many ways because when you spend an entire career at one club, the supporters see you as a youngster, remember all the mistakes you've made growing up and then when you get towards the end start to ask if you're the same player anymore.
"But none of the players who've played alongside him would dispute he's the best the club has ever had, and I would hope none of the managers would either."
While Liverpool will be favoured to progress at home against Stoke on Sunday, cross-town rivals Everton face an awkward clash against Sunderland at Goodison 24 hours earlier.
Everton defender Phil Jagielka said Tuesday's comprehensive Merseyside derby defeat, which marked the end of a nine-match unbeaten run, had raised the pressure on the Toffees.
Jagielka said he expected manager David Moyes to restore several first-choice players who were rested against Liverpool, including Croatian striker Nikica Jelavic, Tim Cahill, Phil Neville, Leon Osman and John Heitinga.
"The boys have been doing really well and I am sure the gaffer will put those lads back in for the weekend and we will be able to continue the good cup run we have had," Jagielka said.
"But after the result it puts a bit more pressure on the cup because 3-0 isn't good enough. It was a big game for us and a lot of us got a chance to play but it didn't really work out very well."
Meanwhile Tottenham will be determined to put their faltering league form to one side as they chase a place in the last four against Bolton on Saturday.
Spurs slumped to their third consecutive league defeat for the first time under Harry Redknapp last weekend, and have seen a 10-point lead over rivals Arsenal whittled away to just one point in recent weeks.
However Spurs' Dutch striker Rafael van der Vaart insisted the club were determined to give the FA Cup their full attention.
"It's important to the whole club," said van der Vaart. "Of course you'd love to win league titles and the Champions League, but the FA Cup is also good, every title counts.
"It would mean the world to win the FA Cup. As a club and as a player you want to win titles, you want to win something and the FA Cup is big."
In the other quarterfinal, Chelsea are hoping the feelgood factor from their remarkable Champions League comeback against Napoli in midweek can carry them into the last four as they face Leicester at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea veteran Frank Lampard, who scored in the 4-1 win over the Italians, along with John Terry and Didier Drogba, believes the result proved that the club's old guard still have a role to play at the club.
"You can't win these sorts of competitions without that," the 33-year-old said. "They're players that want to play, players that want to win."
Saturday: Everton v Sunderland (1245 GMT), Tottenham v Bolton (1730)
Sunday: Chelsea v Leicester (1405), Liverpool v Stoke (1600)