Liverpool Club Focus – Reds a game away from Carling Cup final

Liverpool are just 90 minutes away from a Wembley final following their impressive 1-0 win over Premier League leaders Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in the Carling Cup semi-final first-leg on Wednesday. Influential skipper Steven Gerrard scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot to give the Reds a welcome lead ahead of the next leg in a couple of weeks’ time.

The England midfielder has been superb for the Anfield outfit since returning from injury just a few weeks ago, and much to the delight of Liverpool supporters, he has been rewarded with an extension to his contract.

Gerrard, who joined the club as an eight-year-old, has since gone on to become one of the greatest players in the club’s history. Now 31, the midfielder has signed a new deal which is expected to keep him at Anfield for the rest of his career, while he has also agreed to move into an ambassadorial role for the club after hanging up his boots. The importance of Gerrard, even as he enters the last few years of an impressive career, is still obvious. The captain still raises spirits and boosts confidence around the stadium when he plays. The players around him seem to improve in his presence.

Speaking about Gerrard’s commitment to the club, manager Kenny Dalglish said: “He’s been here since he was a very young boy. In this day and age there’s not many people who go through their football career and represent just one club, especially people with quality like Steven.

It’s not as if he’s been at a football club that’s been without success either. If you’re happy where you’re playing, you’re enjoying what you’re doing and you enjoy the football club I don’t see any reason to move, and it’s fantastic for us that he hasn’t.

Meanwhile, the Reds will play host to Stoke City in the Premier League this weekend. Liverpool could climb up to fifth place with a win over the Potters, but should Tony Pulis’ men claim victory, then they could see themselves sit just two points behind Dalglish’s side. Therefore, it is important that the home side collect all three points in what will be a tough game against a well-organised team.

It will be interesting to see how many of the players who were involved at the Etihad on Wednesday will be in the starting line-up to face Stoke so soon after that clash. Given Gerrard’s horrific year with injury problems, he could be rested for this game. Craig Bellamy is another who may miss out. This could see Argentine winger Maxi Rodriguez, who was left out of the squad entirely in midweek, make a welcome return.

Meanwhile, despite being almost two weeks into the transfer window, the Reds have not been strongly linked with any players in the past few days. Aston Villa striker Darren Bent was thought to be on the radar last week, but those rumours have since cooled. Many supporters believe that Dalglish still needs to add another striker to his squad. Whether the Scot feels the same remains to be seen.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Liverpool v Stoke

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