Gerrard admits ‘there will be emotion’ as he returns to Liverpool with Aston Villa | Aston Villa

Steven Gerrard admits that returning to Liverpool as an opponent for the first time will stir sentiments he must subdue. The Aston Villa manager says he does not know what kind of reception awaits him at the club he served with singular distinction as a player but his mission is to ensure it has no bearing on the outcome of an eagerly anticipated Premier League clash.

“Of course there’ll be emotion because of where it’s at and my history with the team we’re playing against, Liverpool, but that’s the challenge, to try to control it as much as I can,” Gerrard said. “I’ll respect [the reception] in terms of whatever happens but one thing I can assure Aston Villa fans is I’m going there to try to win and take something from the game. I think there’s a lot of noise around it, understandably, but for me I have very much prepared for the game as I always do.”

He continued: “I’m going to Anfield, of course looking forward to it because I’ve had some fantastic memories in the place,” before, when asked to cite the best of those memories, mentioning two highlights from the triumphant 2004-05 Champions League campaign: his famous goal against Olympiakos in the final group game and the semi-final win against Chelsea thanks to Luis García’s “very clear goal”. But he declined invitations to dwell on those memories, repeating: “I’m going there as the Aston Villa manager and trying to take points.”

Steven Gerrard scores his famous Champions League goal against Olympiakos at Anfield in 2004, the third of three second-half goals Liverpool needed to advance
Steven Gerrard scores his famous Champions League goal against Olympiakos at Anfield in 2004, the third of three second-half goals Liverpool needed. Photograph: Ian Hodgson/Reuters

In true opposing manager style, he even tried to shift the spotlight on to the other team. “I think there is more pressure on Liverpool,” he said, suggesting the Premier League title race is so tight that Jürgen Klopp’s team have no room for slip-ups. “At their end of the table I don’t think they can afford to drop points. For us it is about focusing on our game plan to go and try to make it as difficult as we can.”

Gerrard, then, is intent on frustrating Klopp, a man and manager whom he admires greatly. “I have the utmost respect for him as a guy but also as a coach. He’s always gone out of his way [to support Gerrard]. He was one of the first on the messages when I got the job at Villa and we were regularly in touch when I was at Rangers.

“I’m sure we’ll have a working relationship moving forwards, but he is a winner and a competitor, and so am I. For the 90 minutes we’ll want to take whatever we can off each other. That’s the nature of us as people: we are competitors.”

Villa have enjoyed three wins in four matches under Gerrard, with a defeat by Manchester City the only blemish. Matt Targett and the former Liverpool striker Danny Ings are fit to compete for starting places again, increasing Gerrard’s belief that his team can silence the Anfield crowd. “We have a gameplan and have confidence we can take something,” said Gerrard.

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