Preview: Everton - Liverpool - Gerrard looking for win in final Merseyside Derby
Preview: Everton vs Liverpool - Gerrard looking for win in final Merseyside Derby

Steven Gerrard will be looking to inspire his teammates as he goes head-to-head against arch-rivals Everton for what will be the final time when his Liverpool side make the short trip to Goodison Park on Saturday evening.

The 34-year-old, who made his 700th appearance for the club in mid-week, will line up against the Blues for the 33rd, and final - a loan return to Anfield pending - time looking to help continue his side's recent revival, after announcing his move to America early last month.

The Liverpool skipper, who has long been the scourge of Everton supporters, having been instrumental in so many derby victories for the Reds - is calling time on his career at L4 to move to the sunnier shores of LA to play with MLS reigning champions Los Angeles Galaxy.

Despite having played the full 90 minutes in mid-week, it would be a bold move from Rodgers not to offer Gerrard one final attempt at getting one over on Liverpool's fiercest rivals, and it is Gerrard and co. who have the advantage of form and confidence going into this encounter. 

Both Merseyside clubs have had drastically different campaigns to the success they achieved under bright young managers last year, but the Reds have slowly began to build some momentum with a number of their summer signings finding their footing and Daniel Sturridge having now returned from a lengthy lay-off. 

Liverpool have not lost once inside 90 minutes in their last 13 games in all competitions- since a 3-0 drubbing away at Manchester United in mid-December. Given their previous strong second-half run-in in the last two seasons under Rodgers, they are tipped to maintain a late surge towards the top four in the coming months, and they will be looking for a Derby day result to give them a timely morale-boost as they get a difficult month underway.

Roberto Martinez' side have continued to struggle however, despite winning their first game in nine over Crystal Palace last weekend. The Toffees have won just two of 13 games in all competitions in 2015 and have little to be positive for, aside from their comfortable progression into the Europa League Last 32.

Domestically, things have not gone well for Everton. Their win over Alan Pardew's Palace took them seven points clear off the relegation zone, but they sit 12 points behind Saturday's bitter opponents and a huge 16 points off of 4th placed Southampton - whilst they were only four points off the position at the same time last season.

The Spaniard will be hoping loan signing Aaron Lennon can provide some attacking impetus, with Kevin Mirallas' future at the club looking increasingly uncertain and with his Everton side having scored just four goals in their last seven games.

This Saturday, the 224th meeting between the two Merseyside rivals, also marks Brendan Rodgers' 100th Premier League game in charge. The Northern Irishman has yet to win at Goodison, drawing 2-2 and 3-3 in the last two seasons, and will be keen to ensure his side do so on Saturday as they seek to close the gap between themselves and the Champions League qualifications places.

Team News:

Brendan Rodgers refused to rule out a starting spot for returning striker Daniel Sturridge this weekend. The 25-year-old scored in a 2-0 win over West Ham last Saturday after coming off the bench, and he also played 20 minutes in the mid-week win over Bolton Wanderers as he battles back from injury - but he is more likely to start the game from the bench. 

Lazar Markovic went off after the hour mark in their FA Cup clash on Wednesday, with a sore back but is expected to return, whilst Mario Balotelli and Dejan Lovren missed out altogether but they are expected to undergo late fitness tests to determine their involvement. Midfielder Adam Lallana is a concern, after leaving the field with a thigh injury, but Lucas Leiva is expected to return after missing the trip to the Macron Stadium with a minor knock. Local lad Jon Flanagan remains out for the Reds with a long-term knee problem. 

Roberto Martinez will be hoping to call on the services of industrious midfielder James McCarthy, who could be in contention after returning from a hamstring injury. Tim Howard (calf) is also on the cusp of return, but Joel Robles is likely to retain his spot in between the sticks for the timebeing. 

Tony Hibbert (unspecified) remains sidelined, but duo Leon Osman (foot) and Steven Pienaar (knee) are making "positive" strides in their rehabilitation from injury, Martinez told reporters. Though neither will be fit to feature on Saturday. On-loan winger Christian Atsu is still in Africa, having helped Ghana reach the semi-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations and so remains unavailable. Deadline day signing Aaron Lennon, on loan from Spurs, will be available and in the squad. 

League head-to-head:

Total: Liverpool - 73 wins, Draws - 61, Everton - 57 wins.

At Goodison Park: Everton - 34 wins, Draws - 29, Liverpool - 32 wins.

At Anfield: Liverpool - 41 wins, Draws - 32, Everton - 23 wins.

Most recent meeting: Liverpool 1-1 Everton, 27th September 2014. 

Last meeting at Goodison: Everton 3-3 Liverpool, 23rd November 2013.

Last Five:

Everton:

Form in Premier League: LLDDW
Form in all competitions: DDDDW

Liverpool:

Form in Premier League: WDWWW
Form in all competitions: DDDWW

Match Referee - Anthony Taylor:

Anthony Taylor will officiate Saturday's evening kick-off at Goodison. He has taken charge in games involving both teams separately before, but this is his first time refereeing the Merseyside derby.

Taylor has refereed games involving Everton and Liverpool before but this will be his first time handling a derby clash. This season, the Greater Manchester ref has refereed Liverpool's home defeat to Chelsea in the league, and their Boxing Day win away at Burnley. Whilst Taylor has also officiated Everton's game at West Brom, as well as the home games against Aston Villa in the league and West Ham United in the FA Cup.

The 36-year-old has officiated 22 times so far this season and has issued 90 yellow cards and four reds. Those four dismissals have come within his last nine games.

Match Facts:

Steven Gerrard has won 16 of 29 meetings with Everton, but all four of his losses have come at Goodison Park. 

The Liverpool skipper has scored 10 goals against the Blues, as well as notching four assists, making him the highest Merseyside derby scorer in the Premier League era.

Gerrard scored in the last meeting between the two sides, where Phil Jagielka's sensational stoppage-time strike from range nicked a point for his side. 

Brendan Rodgers is yet to win a game at Goodison Park (W0, D2, L0) whilst Roberto Martinez has yet to taste victory in three Merseyside derbies as Everton manager.

Everton striker Romelu Lukaku has scored four goals in his last five appearances against the Reds.

Everton are currently 12 points behind their neighbours in the table - the biggest gap at this stage of the season since the 2008-09 campaign.

This fixture has seen more red cards (20) than any other in Barclays Premier League history, but there have been none in the last six meetings – the longest run without one since 1996.

Liverpool have lost only one of their last 16 Merseyside derbies in the league (W8 D7 L1).

Saturday's Merseyside derby will be Brendan Rodgers' 100th BPL match in charge of Liverpool. He has won 53, drawn 24 and lost 22 of those matches. He has a win percentage of 54% which is second only to Rafael Benitez (55%) amongst Liverpool managers in the competition.

Only against Newcastle United (6) has Daniel Sturridge scored more Barclays' Premier League goals than he has versus Everton (5).

Everton have won just one of their last seven Premier League home games against Liverpool (W1, D2, L4).

Liverpool's only defeat in the 16 most recent league meetings came at Goodison Park in October 2010 (W8, D7, L1).

Everton's victory at Crystal Palace last weekend ended a six-match winless streak in the league (eight in all competitions).

The Toffees have only managed one win in their last five home matches in the league.

No team has scored more Premier League goals in the first five minutes than Everton's four this season.

Premier League fixtures at Goodison Park have produced an average of three goals a game this season, the joint second-highest in the league.

Liverpool are unbeaten in seven league games, and have won five of their last six.

The Reds have won four of their last five away games, keeping clean sheets in the last three.

At this stage last season, Liverpool were eight points better off, with 46 points after 23 games.

Liverpool have won eight of 12 Premier League games that Lucas has started this season (67%) and just three of 11 when he hasn't (27%).

Steven Gerrard is the leading Premier League scorer in this fixture with nine league goals, but only two of those came at Goodison Park, in 2001 and 2005.

Pre-match comments:

Roberto Martinez - "I’m not too concerned what has been the record for the last 20 years, I’m more concerned about what the record is going to be in the next 20 years," said the Everton boss. "I’m looking forward and working ahead rather than looking back at the derbies.

"The only thing that matters to us is the game we can effect and that is the one in front of us. I always said if you want to grow as a team you need a strong rival and a strong rivalry. We had that last season. I think that going forward, looking to the future we can benefit from each other’s ambitions."

"We have a few of the most exciting youngsters in English football," said Martinez. "When you look at Ross Barkley, John Stones, players that have got that freshness, that bravery, they haven’t got the experience but they have the opposite end where they have the desire to be on the football pitch and create history. I think our team has a got a really good mixture of strong, experienced pros that know what it means to play for Everton in a derby."

Martinez had no focus on Gerrard, insisting: "Our intention is to make it our game," he said. "There is going to be a lot of talk about that aspect of the game but the only thing that matters to us is to try to use this game as a real springboard for our season. It’s all about what we do internally.

"If we were playing at Anfield it would be a harder game in terms of us wanting to affect it, but we are at Goodison and we can affect it from the beginning. 

"We picked up a very important win last weekend. The derby comes at the perfect moment for us. It can kick-start our season after the good moment we are sharing."

Brendan Rodgers - "I’m sure they’ll be glad to see the back of Steven," said the Liverpool boss. "He’s been an incredible player for this club. He has played in so many derbies and been outstanding in them.

"He always wants to win for his club and it will be no different this weekend. He possesses remarkable quality and a focus to get the team a result."

"I’ve been involved in a few of the games over the last two and a half years and they are wonderful games to be involved in.

"They are so fast and full of emotion and the quality of the football is outstanding under real intense pressure. We prepare really well for every game and this is no different.

"We focus on the details on the game; whether it is at Anfield or Goodison, they are tough games but we are playing well, arrive into it creating opportunities that we weren’t at the start of the season and we are really excited."

"We’re playing well and we’re excited about going there," said the 42-year-old. "The Bolton game epitomised the spirit and togetherness in our squad. That allows you to go on and win games.

"Like ourselves, it was a difficult first part of the season for Everton. But Roberto is an excellent manager who has done really well there," said Rodgers of the Everton boss, who has overseen just six league wins in 23 games all season.

"I think they had their first win in nine games at Palace last week. He will be working hard to find the solutions to get them back winning consistently. They are a good side and we will expect a tough game.

"But the balance in our team is very good. At this moment in time we’re operating at a really high level, whether home or away, and there’s real confidence we can win the game.

"This is the type of game you always look for in the fixture list. We should have the game at Anfield earlier this season and we hope to go to Goodison and put in a performance that enables us to win."

Steven Gerrard - "It's the fixture that I look for at the beginning of the season," Gerrard told Liverpoolfc.com. "I love playing against Everton. I've got friends and family members who are big Blues and it's all about the bragging rights in the city.

"I'll focus on [Saturday's game] exactly how I have done in the previous derbies I've played in. It's a bit different from a normal league game, but I'm looking forward to that one and hopefully I can add to my good derby record."

"I love the banter with Everton fans," said the 34-year-old. "It's what it's all about. It's about rivalries and big games of football.

"I'm up for all that. I don't mind it at all. Bring it on as far as I'm concerned. I've got respect for all the Everton players and the Everton fans. I think they're a terrific football club, but once that whistle goes I want to beat them. That's a good problem for me."

Ross Barkley - "I can’t wait for the game,” Barkley told Everton's official club website. "It’s going to be a massive game and its a big three points that we need.

"Derbies mean everything. When the Blues get three points against the Reds obviously it’s great for all the fans, getting to put one over on them.

"My first derby was the 3-3 draw last season. The crowd are behind you and you need to put in a performance because you are playing against your local rivals.

"It’s great the way the fans are, wanting you to put challenges in, get goals and that’s what I live for; big games"

“It’s going to be really important that we carry on our momentum. We need to push on and get more points and keep the ball rolling.

"The lads at the back have been putting in solid performances. They set the standards at the back and the attacking players, like Rom [Lukaku], have been doing well and we have got to try to put the ball in the back of the net.

"It would mean everything to win. I haven’t been on the winning side in a derby yet so I am really hoping I am on Saturday."

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