Steven Gerrard has spent the last six months agonizing over not being able to participate for his club.
It has been frustration after frustration over an injured groin sustained last season, which finally saw him sidelined against Manchester United following a 3-0 victory on the back of a Dirk Kuyt hattrick.
While the lineup for Saturday’s match is far from being released, it is my bet that, after two cameo appearances this past week, Gerrard should be in line for a start against his rivals after another full week of training.
He hoped to make a return at the start of the season, but continued complications from an infection due to surgery kept him out until just this past week in the Reds Carling Cup match against Brighton & Hove Albion.
His return saw him get on the pitch for the last 25 minutes, replacing Luis Suarez, and being involved with Dirk Kuyt’s 81st minute goal that settled the tie, it ended 2-1 after Ashley Barnes converted a late spot kick for the Seagulls.
The Anfield crowd was able to great their captain for the first time this season against Wolverhampton Wanderers this past Saturday, in what would end a 2-1 victory for the Reds. It capped a solid week to return for Gerrard, who had good movement in his 10 minute cameo.
His appearance on Saturday was mostly for the sake of the fans, who got to see their talisman return in front of the Kop, giving both player and fans an emotional lift in the process.
Now Gerrard will look to make a push to start his first full game back in the season’s first Merseyside derby, when the Reds travel down Anfield Road and up Walton Lane around Stanley Park which is all that separates the two rivals.
Gerrard has appeared in 18 Merseyside Derby’s since 2002. In that time he has a record of 10 wins, five losses and three defeats while scoring three goals and providing three assists.
His first victory over the last ten years was in the 2002/03 season, when the Reds beat the Toffees 2-1 at Goodison park in the later half of the season.
The first derby day goal of this period in his career came in March of 2005, when he scored to make it 2-0 in front of the Anfield crowd. Tim Cahill clawed one back for the Blues late on, but the two goals from Luis Garcia and Steven Gerrard in the first half saw them through to victory.
Heartache finally struck when he suffered his first loss at the hands of his rivals in the 2006/07 season, when they fell at Goodison Park 3-0 in a rout of his side. It was a tough loss that had seen the Reds dominate the game in terms of shots, but their failure to convert those shots was telling as David Moyes team were able to make the most of their superior possession.
The captain would go off injured during the 2009 FA Cup replay against the Toffees, one of four Merseyside Derbies that season. Gerrard had scored in the second derby of the season, before the first of the FA cup matches.
Last season he only played in one derby, which the Reds lost under former manager Roy Hodgson. The Reds were only able to pull out a 2-2 draw in January in the second derby of the season.
It is time for Liverpool to get back on the winning wagon after two draws and a defeat in their last three against the Blues.
Gerrard’s return for this match could be huge for the club, as the month of September was rather rough due to losses against Stoke City and Tottenham.
The fans, players and club will be wanting to get October off on the right foot. With the Merseyside Derby the first game of the month, it will be right on time to get it going.
More importantly, the Reds face their two biggest rivals back-to-back, with the derby on October 1st followed by Manchester United’s trip to Anfield on October 15th.
The international break in between the matches would give Gerrard time to recover as long as Fabio Capello does not get the crazy idea to call him up for international duty.
After a tough month, the return of the Captain would provide a major injection to the club in both mental and creative capacities. I would see Gerrard slotting in behind Luis Suarez as he once did behind Fernando Torres, with Dirk Kuyt and Stewart Downing to his right and left. That would leave Charlie Adam and Lucas Leiva in the center of the park in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
With a two week recovery time coming up after the derby, I see Dalglish going ahead and putting Gerrard in from the first whistle. If he can lift the club to victory by getting at least 60 to 70 minutes in on the pitch, it would be the best way to prepare himself for the upcoming match with Manchester United.
It is hard to say which of those two matches the Reds want to win more, the Toffees are the longtime rival but it is time Liverpool took back some dignity after United surpassed them at the top of the all time English Championships table with 19 compared to the Reds 18.
Either way, it could not be a better time to see Steven Gerrard return to full action, as the Reds will need his leadership and creativity as the continue to march towards reclaiming their place amongst the greatest teams in Europe by finishing in the top four.
Read Monday’s featured article, Liverpool FC: Why Dirk Kuyt Should Start in the Merseyside Derby in Bleacher Reports week long build up before the match on Saturady.