Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard heads into the Merseyside derby against Everton admitting there will be a “huge hole” in his career if he retires without winning the Premier League.
Gerrard has enjoyed a magnificent career with Liverpool and is already regarded as one of the club’s all-time greats after almost single-handedly inspiring their 2005 Champions League final win over AC Milan.
The England midfielder cherishes the memory of his heroics that epic night in Istanbul and also a year later in the FA Cup final victory against West Ham.
But he knows the absence of a Premier League winners medal from his glittering CV is a major blemish.
After a surprisingly strong start to the season lifted Liverpool to second place, two points behind leaders Arsenal going into this weekend, Gerrard finds himself in with a chance of finally mounting a serious title challenge
And, speaking before Saturday’s clash with hated city rivals Everton at Goodison Park, Gerrard made it clear he won’t give up fighting for the crown.
“There’d be a hole missing in my career [without a title win] but I don’t think I’d spend the rest of my life being irritated or annoyed or frustrated,” Gerrard told ESPNFC.
“Since I broke into this team at 18 years of age I’ve tried to win the title but it hasn’t happened.
“I’ve got a couple more chances and I’ll continue to fight for it.”
The 221st Merseyside derby will be Everton manager Roberto Martinez’s first taste of one of English football’s most frenetic fixtures and he knows the key to taking the bragging rights is stopping Liverpool strikers Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge.
“They have had a very good start to the season and are very influential,” he said.
“They have got a real goalscoring threat. But as a team, you are always used to coping with threats of the opposition.
“Not long ago we had a very good team full of individuals here – Spurs – and we dealt with them really well.”
If Liverpool slip up at Goodison in Saturday’s early game, Arsenal will have a chance to move further clear with a win over Southampton at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsene Wenger’s team should be boosted by the return to fitness of former Southampton winger Theo Walcott after two months out following abdominal surgery.
“Of course you miss a player like Theo Walcott,” Wenger said. “Strikers who get behind the defenders have a very important quality and Theo has that quality.
“He can always give you a different option in the game and that is of course vital.”
Third-placed Saints will travel to north London looking to maintain their impressive run and boss Mauricio Pochettino insists his side have no reason to fear the Gunners.
“We believe that we can play a very good game and we can get a very positive result in this game – we always believe that,” Pochettino said.
Chelsea, four points behind Arsenal in fourth place, can’t afford another slip when they make the short trip across London to face West Ham at Upton Park.
Jose Mourinho’s men have failed to win their last two league matches, losing to Newcastle and drawing with West Bromwich Albion, while West Ham are also in need of the points after a run of four games without a win left them above the relegation zone only on goal difference.
On Sunday, champions Manchester United face Cardiff in south Wales for the first time since 1974.
United went into the international break boosted by a 1-0 win over Arsenal which revived their flagging title defence, but they still have little margin for error in the race to catch the leaders.
Manchester City take on Tottenham in one of the weekend’s most eye-catching fixtures between a pair of title contenders both struggling to live up to that billing.
City slumped to a shock defeat at Sunderland in their last match and are six points adrift of Arsenal, while Tottenham are only one point and one place better off after a 1-0 home loss against Newcastle.