As much as Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard may protest that his mind is focused purely on his team beating Liverpool in the Premier League on Saturday, there can be no denying the emotions his return to Anfield will stir up.
A Liverpudlian who joined the team’s youth set-up as a nine-year-old, Gerrard went on to make 504 appearances for the club, most famously captaining them to their astonishing comeback in the 2005 Champions League final win over AC Milan.
He played his final game for Liverpool at Anfield in 2015 and had a spell as a youth coach in the academy before taking on the manager’s job at Scottish club Rangers.
Gerrard’s success in winning the Scottish Premiership last season earned him the chance to take over at Villa following the dismissal of Dean Smith last month.
The 41-year-old has made a swift impact at the Midlands club, winning three of his opening four games in charge, with the only loss coming to league leaders Manchester City.
It would be no surprise if, when the Juergen Klopp era has ended, Gerrard returns to manage Liverpool but he is smart enough to know there is little to gain from such talk now.
“I just want to go there and try to win and take what we can. For us, we’re not competing with Liverpool, in terms of the level we’re both at, at the moment, but we’ll certainly go there and give it everything we’ve got,” he said.
There will no doubt be a warm welcome from the fans in the Kop and kind words from Klopp but the German has plenty else to focus his mind as the three-horse race for the title enters the crucial Christmas season.
Liverpool are second in the table, a point behind Pep Guardiola’s City and one ahead of European champions Chelsea.
City host Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday and need no reminding of the threat they face having lost to Wolves twice in 2019 — including a 2-0 defeat at home when Adama Traore scored twice.
Chelsea, having lost top spot with defeat by West Ham last week, can ill-afford another slip-up at home to struggling Leeds United.
Ralf Rangnick has made a positive start as interim manager of Manchester United and his first away game takes him to bottom club Norwich City who have shown signs of life since Smith took over from German Daniel Farke.
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.