Liverpool legend, Ian Rush has had his say on Steven Gerrard’s return to Anfield on Saturday, as his Aston Villa side head to Merseyside to take on the Reds in the Premier League.
In an exclusive interview with Gambling ahead of the game, Rush named Gerrard as Liverpool’s greatest ever midfielder, celebrating all that the Villa Manager has done for the club as a player, but warned Stevie Gerrard that when the whistle blows, he can make no mistake, that Liverpool fans will be desperate for their former skipper to lose at Anfield.
“It will be an emotional occasion when Steven Gerrard returns to Anfield as Aston Villa manager this weekend and I’m expecting a raucous reception for him from the Kop”, Rush told Gambling.com.
“For me, he’s the best midfielder Liverpool have ever had. He got Liverpool out of so many tight situations as a player, he was a great captain, a true leader – he had everything. He’s certainly one of the
best players we’ve ever had and in my opinion he’s the best midfielder
in the club’s history.
“Having said that, once the Villa game starts, his job is to beat Liverpool and the fans will want him to lose as soon as the ball starts rolling.
“After the game, whatever happens, Stevie will have the best wishes of the Liverpool support because he’s a club legend. He’s right up there with the best players ever to wear the Liverpool shirt.”
Rush also heaped praise on what he’s seen of Gerrard’s Villa side so far and warned Jurgen Klopp’s men that it won’t be an easy game on Saturday afternoon. Rush, who is Liverpool’s all-time-leading-goal-scorer, said the Villains will need to take their chances when they come because of how clinical the Reds currently are in front of goal.
“You can see a few of his traits already in his Villa team. They’ve already had a few late winners, a come-from-behind win against Leicester and they pushed Manchester City all the way earlier this
month too,” Rush said of Gerrard’s positive coaching impact on Aston Villa so far.
“He’s done well so far, won three from four with their only defeat coming to City, and I thought they were a bit unlucky in that game.
They’ll come to Anfield with a gameplan and it won’t be an easy match for Liverpool. Villa will get chances and they’ve got to take them. If they don’t take their chances then they’ll likely lose because Liverpool are scoring goals for fun right now.”
Steven Gerrard will be esteemed by many as the perfect example of an academy success story, and in the same interview with Gambling.com, Rush voiced excitement at the number of thrilling prospects breaking into the side, but noted one young red in particular who could potentially make the biggest impact at the Merseyside club.
“There will be a few players in the Liverpool camp who look up to Stevie, such as Trent Alexander-Arnold who is a fellow scouser who graduated from the Academy and will have been inspired by him when he was first on the fringes of the first team,” Rush stated.
“Some of the younger players on the fringes now will be looking to emulate Trent by breaking into the first team and you’d hope they all harbour hopes of becoming a club legend like Gerrard.
“Having worked at the Academy, Stevie will know a lot of the young players in and around the Liverpool first team, such as Tyler Morton, Max Woltman and Conor Bradley who all featured in Milan.
“I’m sure he’ll be pleased to see them coming through. Woltman and Bradley may only have had a few minutes on the pitch in the San Siro, but the real experience for them will be training with the first team and going away on a trip to Milan with the whole squad.
“Tyler Morton seems to be the one most capable of making an impact at
the moment but if they’re all training with the first team that’s invaluable experience. When you start training with the first team, everything is quicker and at a higher level, and if you can keep up with it you’ve got a chance. And then, when you’re asked to play, you’re ready.”
Liverpool Flying High in Europe
Rush backs the Reds for Champions League contention, claiming that he’s said from day one that an English team will win the prestigious competition this season and that Jurgen Klopp’s side look the best placed Premier League team to do so at this moment in time, following a record-breaking week in Milan.
Rush remarked: “This week, Liverpool became the first English team to win all six group games in the Champions League despite Jurgen Klopp resting several key players against AC Milan.
“It’s a fantastic achievement to do that and when you look at it, Liverpool could have afforded to lose the game but they were very professional, went about things the right way and got their win.
“I thought the two centre-backs were excellent against Milan. We’re so used to seeing Virgin van Dijk in there and we rely on his experience, so to see two squad players come in – Nat Phillips and Ibrahima Konaté – and perform really well with Neco Williams at right-back, that’s a really encouraging sign for Liverpool because that was a pretty young defence.”
He added: “I’ve said from day one that I believe an English team will win the competition again this year and I see the bookmakers feel the same as it’s even-money for a Premier League team to win it.
“Liverpool are quite rightly among the favourites in the Champions League betting. When you consider that Barcelona are out and Real Madrid are not as strong as they once were, there’s really only Bayern Munich that can trouble the Premier League teams in my opinion. I think most of the Premier League teams can handle the rest so it’ll be interesting to see the draw for the next round and who’s left by the semi-final stage.
“Of the four Premier League teams I’d say Liverpool have the most momentum in Europe, so I think they have an excellent chance, but when the knockout stages come along you can’t afford to have a bad game so there’s a lot of pressure there and we’ll just have to see how things pan out.
“I mentioned in a previous column that Divock Origi will be a big player for Liverpool in January so I’m delighted to see him get a chance and take his opportunities in the last two games. At the moment he’s certainly producing and I’d like to see him get a few more games
under his belt to get his match fitness up ahead of the new year when we’ll be a few players light during the Africa Cup of Nations.”
Bellingham to Liverpool?
As January approaches, transfer speculation will no doubt intensify
and although there are already plenty of rumours flying around regarding Liverpool, Rush told Gambling.com that if some reports are true, then a certain England youngster donning the red of Liverpool wouldn’t be a bad thing at all!
“I keep one eye on the transfer rumours surrounding Liverpool but it’s
important to take them with a pinch of salt because most rumours mount
to nothing, but some transfer talk is too exciting to ignore,” he posited.
“I really rate Jude Bellingham as a player and he has been linked with Liverpool for a while now. I’m not sure if January would be the right time to sign him but if they could begin talks and agree a deal to go through next summer then I think they could look at that option.
“It’ll be interesting to see if the transfer links are real and if he was to come either in January or next summer, I think Liverpool fans would be very happy.”
Reds Eyeing City’s Goal Record
As Liverpool FC’s record goal scorer, Ian Rush, knows a thing or two about goals in the top-flight of English football and reckons that with Mo Salah leading by example for Liverpool, Klopp’s men have a strong chance of breaking Man City’s record of 106 goals in a Premier League Season.
He predicted: “With the way Liverpool are scoring goals at the moment, it’s possible they could break Manchester City’s record of 106 goals in a Premier League season. They’ve got 44 goals after 15 games and the season City scored 106 they had 46 goals after 15 games, so they’re almost on par with the record.
“The way Liverpool play they’re always going to create chances and so far this season they’ve been taking a lot of them. OK, against Wolves they only got one very late in the day, but in most other games they’ve been very hot in front of goal and given the attacking football they play there’s a chance they can break that record.
“Having said that, it’s going to be difficult to sustain that goalscoring rate as the games come thick and fast over Christmas and I notice Liverpool have three games in 10 days while some other team’s only have three games over 13 days.
“It looks a little unfair on the face of it, but all managers will feel the right to complain about the fixture build-up at this time of year and who can blame them when their players are being asked to give
“They’re only human beings at the end of the day and we all need rest, but that’s the schedule as things are and everyone will just have to get on with it. What we tend to see around this period when there are games right, left and centre is that the quality isn’t as high because fatigue kicks in.
“It leaves everyone vulnerable because all players are getting tired and that’s when mistakes are made. Maybe that’s part of the appeal of the Christmas scheduling in the Premier League, but it is what it is and everyone involved will just have to kick on.”
Rush on the Title Race
After Chelsea dropped points last weekend; and Liverpool’s late Origi
winner against Wolves, the title race is very much hotting-up as we approach the festive season and Rush has had his say on the current state of the top of the Premier League table.
“It’s amazing what a win like Liverpool’s over Wolves can do for a dressing room. Had they strolled to a 2-0 or 3-0 win, it would have felt like an ordinary result, but when you look at the reaction on the bench when Origi scored in the last minute it goes to show you how big that goal was and how important them three points were,” Rush said:
“It wasn’t easy, Liverpool missed a few chances but they had to fight to the very end and the reaction just shows you how good the team spirit is, everyone’s in this together.
“You’d still have to say Manchester City are the favourites for the Premier League title given the strength in depth they have. They seem to be keeping most of their squad fit as well which will obviously be key in the race.
“But I don’t see any of the big three falling away anytime soon so it looks to me as though we’ve got ourselves a three-horse race. Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea are all in it and we could see all of them top the table at one stage or another over the Christmas period.
“I wouldn’t read too much into Chelsea’s defeat at West Ham – Liverpool also lost there remember – and West Ham are a really good side. It’s hard to overlook City though, they’re the reigning champions and are showing no signs of slowing down.”