Sunderland boss Gus Poyet has hailed the “unmissable” talents of Steven Gerrard ahead of the Black Cats’ home clash with Liverpool on Saturday. West Ham, Arsenal and Tottenham stand between Liverpool and Southampton in fourth but Rodgers remains confident they can get there. “It’s going to be tough but I am looking forward to the challenge,” he said. “We have a great spirit at the moment and footballing ideas are returning to our game and will push very hard in the second half of the season to bring success here. “The players are improving and we can see how seven points may seem a lot but it certainly can be whittled away. “You just have to consistently win games and perform well and that is our idea.” Gerrard will be making potentially his final appearance as a player in the north east when he steps out at the Stadium of Light for the lunchtime kick-off – and he will do so with the glowing endorsement of Poyet. Poyet said: “If I was a football fan I would want to be at the stadium because I would not want to miss the chance to watch Steven Gerrard live for maybe the last time in the north east. “He is worth buying a ticket for because there are not many like him and he is going to be missed. He is different and it is great to get the opportunity to watch him live.” Poyet has told his players they must start turning their recent glut of draws into wins if they are to put breathing space between themselves and the bottom three in the new year. Last weekend’s FA Cup third-round win over Leeds provided signs of a turning point with Dutchman Patrick van Aanholt returning from injury to grab the only goal of the game. Poyet said: “We had a difficult month against lots of top teams and although I don’t think we did fantastic we did okay. “Now we go into the second part (of the season) knowing we need to win more games and we need to be more clinical at home. Everything starts against Liverpool and the challenge is clear.” Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers will not have any of his injured players back. Midfielders Adam Lallana (thigh) and Joe Allen (knee), defenders Glen Johnson (thigh) and Jon Flanagan (knee) and goalkeeper Brad Jones (thigh) all remain sidelined. Striker Daniel Sturridge is back in the country but still a fortnight away from a long-awaited return from a thigh problem while defender Kolo Toure is on African Cup of Nations duty with Ivory Coast. Press Association
When one thinks of Penn State football, undoubtedly the hunched old body and inch-thick glasses of Joe Paterno come to mind. However, when one thinks of Penn State over the last four years, the name that will likely come to mind is Anthony Morelli.Morelli, who has been a part of seemingly constant quarterback controversies, has quietly risen from merely a familiar name among Big Ten fans into a solid quarterback for the Nittany Lions, putting up record-setting numbers.After being widely recognized as one of the best high school quarterback prospects in the nation, Morelli, a Pittsburgh native, sat on the bench for most of his freshman and sophomore seasons, stuck behind Zach Mills and 2005 Big Ten MVP Michael Robinson.When he finally got a chance to start the 2006 season opener as a junior, Morelli threw a 42-yard touchdown pass.In what many Penn State fans saw as a disappointing season that resulted in four Nittany Lions losses, Morelli set school season records for pass attempts and completions with 386 and 208, respectively.Additionally, Morelli’s 2,424 yards ranked third all-time on the Penn State season leader list. Though his 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions last year were not otherworldly, through half of the 2007 season Morelli has thrown for 1,328 yards and 10 touchdowns with a 58.3 completion percentage, putting him well on pace to surpass last year’s statistics.For the Badgers to get a win over Penn State, they cannot overlook the inconsistent but undoubtedly talented Morelli.Morelli has struggled since the start of Big Ten play this year, throwing just two touchdowns against five interceptions in consecutive losses to Michigan and Illinois, and last Saturday’s victory over Iowa.He realizes there’s no point in dwelling on the past, and with two losses already in the Big Ten, this upcoming game is as important as any.”We had some bumps in the road last year, and we just learned how to pull together and take care of business at the end,” Morelli said, referring to Penn State’s victory over Tennessee in last year’s Outback Bowl. “Hopefully before it gets to the point where it was last year, we can take care of business and try to win the rest of our games.”Despite having won four of Penn State’s first six games, and losing the other two games by a combined 12 points, the unselfish and determined Morelli is already disappointed in this season.”We lost two football games, and I wanted to win them all,” Morelli said. “The only thing we can do now is win the rest of them, try to make the best of the season, try to go to the best bowl game that we can. I didn’t get all the personal goals I wanted to, but we can still win some football games.”In attempting to do so, Morelli isn’t willing to let any outside factors affect the team emotionally. This weekend marks Homecoming weekend at Penn State, an emotional several days for many who will be in attendance at Beaver Stadium Saturday, but not Morelli and the Nittany Lions.”We approach it like it were any other football game,” Morelli said. “It’s about moving the ball, getting first downs, keeping our defense off the field and putting points on the board.”Despite this approach, Morelli realizes that this Wisconsin team will likely present more of a challenge than previous opponents like Buffalo or Notre Dame.”We have to get better every week. A field goal’s not going to cut it,” Morelli said, referring to Penn State’s point total against the Badgers in Madison last year. “They’re a great football team, and we need to come out ready to play. They’re a good quality football team and so are we. It’s going to be a matter of who shows up on Saturday.”Hopefully for Wisconsin, Morelli will continue his in-conference struggles. If he doesn’t, the Badger secondary could have a long day ahead on Saturday.