Gerrard's maturity will be tested by 'physical' Liverpool

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The Independent Football

It Is a little less than a year since Steven Gerrard was caught up in the emotion of a highly charged Goodison derby in a way which, to Rafael Benitez's mind, was not conducive to the greater good of his side. The Liverpool manager's substitution of Gerrard for "showing too much passion" that day resulted in his captain marching out of Goodison without a word to him but the Spaniard declared yesterday that the player's maturity had made him into a different individual in the 11 months since

"Steven is more mature now and understands he can play with passion but have control of the situation too," said Benitez, who also indicated that his captain's growth as a player had altered his perception of where he should play. "We think central midfield is still the best position for him, because he is more clever now and understands the game better, he can play in different positions," Benitez said.

Gerrard, whose contribution, with Fernando Torres, still makes Liverpool look like a double act at times, remains on the brink of his 100th goal, after the disallowed effort against Stoke last week and has a passion for derby games which also left David Moyes admitting yesterday that he, along with Jamie Carragher, presented the greater threat to his side. Liverpool, who completed the double over Everton last season, have lost only two of their last 17 meetings with their neighbours, and Benitez's biggest challenge against an Everton side showing real defensive vulnerability of late is to ensure his side maintain composure.

There have been seven red cards brandished in the last seven Merseyside derbies and Moyes believes Liverpool have contributed most to the physicality. "When they want to be they can be as physical as anybody," he said. "They showed that against Manchester United. I think Sir Alex [Ferguson] mentioned that and we found it in the last couple of derbies."

The physical presence will be diminished if Javier Mascherano fails to recover from a calf injury. Otherwise only Yossi Benayoun (ankle) is out of contention.

Everton's Mikel Arteta has trained in the last few days and may be fit, though Steven Pienaar will not. Terry Hibbert is likely to start on the bench.