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The Toe Poke
By ESPN Staff

Benitez eyes Kuyt Bellamy combo for derby

Liverpool could go into on Saturday's Merseyside derby with a new-look strikeforce of Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy, both of whom seem to relish such white-hot occasions.

Dutch striker Kuyt had an impressive scoring record for Feyenoord against Ajax, Holland's big derby.

And Bellamy seems to relish derby games and has scored in Glasgow, midlands, north east and East Anglian showdowns, and also seems to like Goodison Park having scored there three times in the past five years.

But the Merseyside clash will be something new to both players, boss Rafael Benitez's new £15million front duo. The Anfield boss also has the option of in-form England man Peter Crouch or even Robbie Fowler, whose six goals against Everton underlines how much he enjoys clashes with the old enemy.

But it would be a surprise if Bellamy did not start the derby. He played well in both Wales games over the international break, while Kuyt scored for Holland in their win on Wednesday over Belarus and has staked his claim for a derby place.

Bellamy will step into the cauldron that will be Goodison with praise from club mate Jamie Carragher, who is almost certain to miss the match having not trained properly for a fortnight following an ankle problem.

Carragher told LFC magazine: 'When Craig joined us in the summer I was delighted, I knew that I wouldn't have to face him on the pitch again.

'And now he is here I realise he is a better player than I thought he was. Craig is very difficult to play against, very hard-working and he doesn't stop running and moving.

'He is always on the go for 90 minutes, and you can see it in training too. He makes clever and intelligent runs and is very competitive.

'He's a lot like me in that respect. Even in training he wants to win all the time and gets frustrated if he doesn't win and score. That's what we want at this club, that kind of character and winning mentality.'

Bellamy's derby record is impressive. He has scored for Celtic against Rangers, Newcastle against Middlesbrough and Sunderland, Coventry against Leicester and Norwich against Ipswich.

Bellamy may well be desperate to get going in his first Merseyside derby, but for Benitez it has been a difficult build-up to such an important game.

Liverpool, still unbeaten this term and without a competitive reverse since March, have had 10 players away for a fortnight on international duty and only two of the side that started the club's last game at home to West Ham - Jermaine Pennant and Fabio Aurelio - have been training at Melwood.