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May 1, 2009

Gerrard's injury return bad news for Newcastle

Steven Gerrard's return to action for Liverpool could not come at a worse time for desperate Newcastle, who face a daunting task at Anfield on Sunday.

Gerrard has missed four games with a groin injury but is about to be plunged back into Liverpool's title challenge, with the prospect of leaders Manchester United being six points clear of the Reds if they win at Middlesbrough.

Newcastle, in the relegation zone and three points behind Hull in 17th, must fear any meeting with Gerrard, who has scored five in Liverpool's last six wins over Alan Shearer's side.

He scored twice in the 5-1 win at St James' Park earlier in the season and is looking to create yet another piece of scoring history. Gerrard's next goal will be his 118th for Liverpool, placing him joint 12th with Ian St John in the club's all-time list.

And Liverpool are just one goal short of recording 300 in the Premier League under manager Rafael Benitez, with their next goal being their 50th in all competitions at Anfield this season.

Just for good measure, Dirk Kuyt is one goal short of equalling his best season's tally for the club. All in all it is a severe test for Newcastle, with just four games left to save their Premier League lives.

And Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish, who managed both clubs, does not see much chance of Newcastle taking anything from Sunday's clash, although he does believe they will survive by the skin of their teeth.

He said: "This is a game that both sides have to win, but Liverpool will know exactly where they stand because Manchester United are playing at Middlesbrough on Saturday.

"It seems that Sir Alex Ferguson is going to make a few changes at Middlesbrough, but he does not put out too many bad sides so it doesn't matter who he fields.

"But if Middlesbrough get a return from the match then Liverpool will really be left with a big game on Sunday.

"I think Newcastle will stay up. They have two home games left against Fulham and Middlesbrough. If they win those it will take them to 37 points.

"Hull also have Bolton and if they win it will take them to 37 as well. I don't see too many points coming for Hull or Newcastle apart from the ones I have mentioned, so then Newcastle would stay up on goal difference."

Benitez is demanding a repeat of that 5-1 success back in December, a mauling that was part of a 14-game unbeaten run which had Liverpool in top spot.

He said: "We were really good that day. We were in control, we had a lot of chances and their goalkeeper (Shay Given) was man of the match. It was nearly a perfect game for us.

"It will be different this time because they have a different manager and are in a different situation.

"And clearly they need to win, so I don't think they will be waiting and waiting for a draw. They have quality players in attack. We just need to keep doing our job and we have the confidence to keep winning games.

"If Manchester United make a mistake then we have to be ready, so we must take three points from each game and then see what happens. We will not give up until the end."

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