Gianfranco Zola has identified Jamie Carragher as just as important to the Liverpool cause as Steven Gerrard on Monday night.
The West Ham United manager spoke from experience when he said the long-serving defender would be a tough challenge for the likes of Carlton Cole and Craig Bellamy at Anfield. "When I played against him he was very young but you could tell he was a very good player … as a defender, he is always there and he does his job. He is clever and has saved results for them.
"But I have to say, he has worked very hard and you can see he has improved a lot. I saw him play the other night against Marseille and I was very impressed with him. [Steven] Gerrard is a key player for them because he scores so many important goals but Carragher is just as important."
By the same token, Zola knows his own rearguard will be vital if the team are going to keep a third straight clean sheet. "The defence is important because Liverpool want to win. They are going to come against us very hard and so first of all we need to keep our composure, defend well … we are very much focused on our defensive strategy. That doesn't mean we are going to be passive.
"We are going to play our match the way we normally play. We are not a team that can go there and sit back and wait. We have different qualities. But obviously the defensive side is going to be vital. We are not going to be sitting there waiting for something to happen. We are going to try and make the story of the game and are going to be trying hard."
Cole will be pushing Carragher hard on Monday night and, after signing a new five-year contract last week, is up for the challenge.
The striker is on a high after helping the team to a 1-0 win at Sunderland last Sunday and then pledging his long-term future to the club and is hoping to build on that at Anfield. "Liverpool is going to be a massive game after Sunderland," he said. "We needed to win last Sunday and it was another clean sheet so that was really positive. We have got to try and get another good result away from home as it is such a tight league now. We need to do well."
Cole has been working hard at Chadwell Heath under the close guidance of Zola and, with his future secure, is hoping all of his efforts will pay off in the Premier League. "He has got a lot of faith in me," Cole added. "We always talk and try to find solutions to upgrade my game. It is good that I am here for a long time and hopefully he will be here for a long time as well."