Belfast Telegraph

Poyet hails departing Gerrard

Sunderland boss Gus Poyet has hailed the "unmissable" talents of Steven Gerrard ahead of the Black Cats' home clash with Liverpool on Saturday.

Gerrard will be making potentially his final appearance as a player in the north east when he steps out at the Stadium of Light for the lunchtime kick-off - and he will do so with the glowing endorsement of Poyet.

Poyet said: "If I was a football fan I would want to be at the stadium because I would not want to miss the chance to watch Steven Gerrard live for maybe the last time in the north east.

"He is worth buying a ticket for because there are not many like him and he is going to be missed. He is different and it is great to get the opportunity to watch him live."

Poyet has told his players they must start turning their recent glut of draws into wins if they are to put breathing space between themselves and the bottom three in the new year.

Last weekend's FA Cup third-round win over Leeds provided signs of a turning point with Dutchman Patrick van Aanholt returning from injury to grab the only goal of the game.

Poyet said: "We had a difficult month against lots of top teams and although I don't think we did fantastic we did okay.

"Now we go into the second part (of the season) knowing we need to win more games and we need to be more clinical at home. Everything starts against Liverpool and the challenge is clear."

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers will not have any of his injured players back.

Midfielders Adam Lallana (thigh) and Joe Allen (knee), defenders Glen Johnson (thigh) and Jon Flanagan (knee) and goalkeeper Brad Jones (thigh) all remain sidelined.

Striker Daniel Sturridge is back in the country but still a fortnight away from a long-awaited return from a thigh problem while defender Kolo Toure is on African Cup of Nations duty with Ivory Coast.

West Ham, Arsenal and Tottenham stand between Liverpool and Southampton in fourth but Rodgers remains confident they can get there.

"It's going to be tough but I am looking forward to the challenge," he said.

"We have a great spirit at the moment and footballing ideas are returning to our game and will push very hard in the second half of the season to bring success here.

"The players are improving and we can see how seven points may seem a lot but it certainly can be whittled away.

"You just have to consistently win games and perform well and that is our idea."

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