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Kenny Dalglish warns against too great expectations of Steven Gerrard

Kenny Dalglish has warned against expecting too much, too soon from Steven Gerrard, who is back fit again and available to face Newcastle United for Liverpool at Anfield on Friday night.

"We could do with a few more goals, and Steven may be able to help us with that," Dalglish said. "He's got goals in him, as well as charisma, presence and everything else. But every player in the side is capable of scoring goals, we can't just put it all on Steven's shoulders. If we are going to be a one-man band we've no chance. Every single one of us is going to have to score a few more goals. There's no magic formula."

Liverpool have scored only 21 goals in 18 Premier League matches and have drawn six of their nine matches at Anfield. Their top scorer Luis Suárez, with five league goals, will miss the game after being banned for his one-fingered gesture to the crowd at Fulham this month, opening the door for Andy Carroll to play against his old club.

Gerrard has been out for a couple of months with a freak succession of strains and infections, but played for 20 minutes against Blackburn Rovers on Boxing Day and according to his manager is in better shape than ever.

"He looks unbelievably fit at the moment," Dalglish said. "I think he feels the bad luck might all be behind him now. He just needs game time but we won't be irresponsible. We'll just take it as diligently and professionally as we always do. There's no need to throw him straight in. He's not ready to last 90 minutes yet, and he's experienced enough to recognise that. There's no panic. We'd rather have him for the rest of the season than just a couple of games right away."

Gerrard's return against Blackburn lifted the spirits of the Anfield crowd, even if his efforts on the pitch were not quite as successful as he would have wished in terms of turning another home draw into a win. Ever the realist, Dalglish does not believe Liverpool's results will automatically improve now their most celebrated player is back. "It's great to have him playing again, but he's never really been away from the club," the Liverpool manager said. "He's always in and around the club and the training ground anyway, just like Jamie Carragher. It's a bit like having three captains at the moment [Pepé Reina has been wearing the armband in the absence of the other two], and that can only make us stronger.

"There's no doubt that Steven has made a massive contribution to the success of this football club, and he's managed to do it in a lot of the games that really meant something, but you don't actually know how the season would have gone had he been playing. It might have been different, it might not.

"I just think it's a great credit to the rest of the lads that they have done so well without Steven. We all know what a great player he is, and if we are already playing well without him it can only improve us when he returns."

Dalglish added: "Our target for the new year is to build on the work that's already been done. When you consider how far we have come since August, we are pretty pleased. I'm delighted to be back here, I was fortunate to be asked. I'm happy and I am working with great people. We could be higher in the table but apart from the one at Manchester City every manager in the Premier League would say the same thing."

Carroll's replacement, Demba Ba, has overcome a knee problem to make himself available, as has Davide Santon, the young Italian who was signed from Internazionale during the summer as a long-term replacement for José Enrique when he too swapped Tyneside for Merseyside.

The Senegal international Ba scored his 14th goal of the season in the 2-0 Boxing Day victory over Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium and his manager, Alan Pardew, said: "There's not much to his game that he hasn't got, and that stands you in good stead."

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Paul Wilson, for The Guardian on Thursday 29th December 2011 22.00 Europe/London

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


image: © etyek

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