Football

Kolo: Gerrard a man for the big occasion

Liverpool defender Kolo Toure believes their must-win Champions League encounter against Basel is made for Steven Gerrard to create "magic" again.

The Reds captain will return to the starting line-up tomorrow morning (Singapore time) having started last Saturday's goalless draw at home to Sunderland on the bench.

Brendan Rodgers' side have to beat the Swiss side to progress to the knockout stage, and Toure reckons Gerrard is the man who can really make a difference.

And, in light of Rodgers' judicious use of his 34-year-old captain this season, the Ivorian insists the midfielder's class is such that he does not need a full match to impact games.

"He is a man for great days. He makes the magic when no one can make it. That is why he is one of the best players in the world," he said.

"His age is nothing. People just keep talking but, if you have a player like that in your dressing room, it is very important with his experience.

"Players like that don't need 90 minutes to make the difference - only 20 or 30 minutes - and I am really happy to have him as a captain first and as a man because he is a great player."

Ten years on from a dramatic comeback in the Champions League, the Reds will again look to Gerrard for inspiration.

On Dec 8, 2004, Liverpool hosted Greek side Olympiakos needing to win by two goals to reach the last 16. The home team were leading 2-1 with four minutes left when the ball fell to Gerrard on the edge of the penalty area and he bludgeoned a ferocious shot past Antonis Nikopolidis to send Anfield into a state of delirium.

Gerrard, then 24, ended the season by hoisting the European Cup in Istanbul after a famous comeback against AC Milan in the final.

Given Liverpool's poor form, the chances of a similar conclusion to the current campaign appear remote, but that 2004 encounter with Olympiakos provides a positive omen.

Liverpool's 0-0 draw with Sunderland last Saturday left them 15 points below leaders Chelsea in the Premier League. Before the Olympiakos game, they were also 15 points off the pace, and the leaders then were also a Chelsea team led by Jose Mourinho.

Gerrard had spent the previous close season mulling over an offer from Mourinho to join him at Stamford Bridge but, if the sporting context surrounding Basel's visit is familiar, Gerrard's circumstances are now very different.

He has yet to accept the offer of a short-term contract and has found himself moved in and out of Rodgers' starting line-up amid concerns about his waning powers of endurance.

While he will start against Basel, Rodgers has urged fans not to pin their hopes on another Olympiakos moment, saying: "We can't always rely on Stevie." - Wire Services.