Steven Gerrard’s last match at Anfield is tomorrow and the Liverpool captain said he is “dreading” the encounter against Crystal Palace. It will be the last time Gerrard plays in front of his adoring fans at the ground where he’s worshipped as a legend before he flies off to the US to play for LA Galaxy this summer.
All eyes have been on the Liverpool captain ahead of what’s expected to be an emotional affair, and when asked this week if there could be tears at the end, Gerrard said: “I hope not.”
The game itself actually counts for very little but does throw up a number of interesting questions and betting opportunities. Will the club legend add to his eight goal tally this season? Gerrard’s got six of them with his right foot and two with his head, so what odds a left-footed volley? Will he last the 90 minutes or will he pick up his second red card of the season, or add to the seven yellow cards so far collected?
Will he actually play at all?
Reds’ boss Brendan Rogers has used the midfield dynamo as a substitute throughout the season but Liverpool, who have another game to play after Gerrard’s Anfield farewell, can’t finish above or below fifth place in the table having already lost out on a Champions League place to bitter rivals Manchester United.
So, odds on Gerrard starts againstmid-table Palace who have secured their Premier League status for another season meaning the match has little bearing for either club, and would normally be a mundane end of season affair with little interest or consequence.
The intrigue and the focus all week then, has understandably been on the Liverpool captain’s goodbye.
“Everyone’s talking about it but for me I just want to stay focused on the remaining games and the training and sessions ahead,” Gerrard told the club’s website, liverpoolfc.com.
“There’s plenty of time to be sentimental and emotional after the games are done but I don’t really want to listen to supporters being emotional face to face because I’m a little bit afraid of breaking down and showing too much.”
It will be his 709th appearance for the club he joined as an eight-year-old. He made his professional debut aged 17 and took over as captain aged 23. Such is the clamour to bid him farewell that tickets for the match, which normally coast £37-£49 are being offered online for over £2,500.
Gerrard’s iconic status at the club was ensured ten years ago when he lifted the 2005 Champions League trophy in Istanbul – his inspirational second half performance against AC Milan saw the Reds overturn a halftime 3-0 deficit and complete a spectacular win on penalties.
In one of his last pre-match press conferences for the club, Gerrard said: “I’m going to get the attention at the weekend, it’s not something I really like, but hopefully I can put in a good performance for the supporters so we can get a win and I can enjoy the send-off that I’m going to get.”
He has already been hotly tipped to return to Liverpool FC in a coaching role or even take over the manager’s role when he returns from LA Galaxy.
BY: JOE CALAH