English Premiership

It's the 'Miseryside' derby

2009-11-28 07:09
Calls for unity at Liverpool (file)

Liverpool - Steven Gerrard has called for unity as Liverpool look to bounce back from their premature Champions League exit with victory over Everton in Sunday's Merseyside derby.

A season that started with so much promise is rapidly turning sour for manager Rafa Benitez and his players.

Out of the Champions League, eliminated from the League Cup and trailing leaders Chelsea by 13 points in the Premier League, Benitez knows defeat at their neighbours will heap further pressure on his shoulders.

Yet Gerrard insists Liverpool can still save the season - starting with victory at Goodison Park.

The influential captain acknowledges there is frustration with how the campaign has gone but is calling for everyone at the club - players and fans - to stick together through troubled times.

"We're all aware the season isn't going the way we would want it to," said Gerrard.

"We're really disappointed to have gone out of the Champions League and we're far from happy with our form in the Premier League as well.

"But the only way to turn things around is by sticking together. We've shown in the past what we can achieve when we do that.

"If there's one positive about the difficult time we've been having, it's that we've all pulled together.

"The manager, the staff and the players are all working as hard as we can to try and get the improvement we've been looking for.

"It won't be easy, as we've given ourselves plenty to do, but we still have the confidence and belief that we can finish in the top four."

Gerrard believes Liverpool's plight can only improve as the injuries which have plagued their season start to ease.

Fernando Torres, Albert Riera and Alberto Aquilani have all been missing.

But Torres will undergo a late fitness test on the groin problem which has forced him to miss the last three matches while Aquilani is hoping to get his first taste of a Merseyside derby since joining from Roma in the summer.

"Getting some of our injured players back playing regularly will make a big difference," added Gerrard.

"It will give everyone a boost - the key now is to keep working together. We owe it to the club, ourselves and most importantly to our fans, as their support has been magnificent at time when things haven't gone as well as we'd all like."

Benitez used his pre-match press conference to state his case as to why he is the man to lead Liverpool forward.

He insisted he fully understood the frustration of the fans.

"You cannot be a fan and be happy if your team is not winning," said Benitez. "You have to be disappointed. The only thing you can do is try to understand. I will not make excuses because we know we have to improve - but we know we can improve. That's the positive thing, for me. Everyone close to Liverpool has to be disappointed but as a manager you have to keep going and working hard."

If Liverpool thought they had big problems then Everton's are even worse. The 212th Merseyside derby has been dubbed the Miseryside derby by both sets of supporters.

With one win in seven league games, Everton start the weekend just four points off the relegation zone.

Manager David Moyes was highly critical of his side's performance during a 3-2 defeat at fellow strugglers Hull on Wednesday which has left his players flirting with relegation.

"There is no point in hiding and burying our heads in the sand," said Moyes. "If we don't start to play better we will be [in relegation trouble]. We are not playing well enough to be anywhere else.

"You can't hide the fact if you keep losing games you will be relegated."

Louis Saha, who has scored eight Premier League goals this season, will undergo a late fitness test on a calf problem while midfielder Jack Rodwell is also a doubt with a groin injury.

Long-term absentees Phil Jagielka, Phil Neville, Mikel Arteta, Leon Osman, Victor Anichebe and James Vaughan remain sidelined.

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