Stopping Gerrard is key to ending 18-year jinx at Anfield, says Cabaye

 

If Liverpool could have chosen an opposing club to walk under the "This is Anfield" sign and face them this afternoon, Newcastle would have been close to the top of the list. Brendan Rodgers's team might be reeling from their 3-1 Capital One Cup defeat by Swansea on home turf in midweek, but their Premier League visitors this afternoon have 18 years of hurt on Merseyside to overcome.

The Magpies have not won a top-flight fixture at Anfield since April 1994, when Rob Lee and Andy Cole scored the goals in a 2-0 success.

"I didn't know that," says Yohan Cabaye, the Newcastle midfielder. "I do know that it's still difficult to play at Liverpool.

"I've played two times at Anfield and lost 3-0 with Lille and 3-1 with Newcastle last season. It was my shot that hit Daniel Agger and went in for an own goal."

That happens to be the only goal credited to Newcastle in six visits to Anfield. The last Newcastle player to score there was Patrick Kluivert in a 3-1 loss in December 2004.

The Swansea defeat might have ruffled a few feathers on the red side of Stanley Park and increased the pressure on the still embryonic Rodgers regime, but Cabaye says: "For me, Liverpool are still a big team, a good team with good players. Unfortunately for them, they haven't had good results, but that's not the most important thing to us. We have to try to win the game and to have an 'away from home' mentality.

"Liverpool have to react after that result against Swansea. We are wary of that. We have to play as a unit and fight for the three points."

The France international expects the fight to be particularly crucial in central midfield, where his side will be without the suspended Cheick Tioté and where Steven Gerrard will be making his 600th appearance for Liverpool.

It was for such challenges that Cabaye left Lille in 2011 to become one of the Gallic influences in a team that surprised the Premier League with their fifth-place finish under Alan Pardew last season.

"I came because the Premier League is the best league," the 26-year-old says. "To play against Gerrard and the other big players and teams was the main reason why I came here.

"I don't want to disrespect the other players at Liverpool but for me, Gerrard is the key player. He's the best player. He's still excellent and his passing is very good. He can win the game for his team with his delivery or his finishing.

"When France played England at Euro 2012, our manager, Laurent Blanc, told us that he was the best player and we had to look after him." Gerrard set up the goal for Joleon Lescott with a typical delivery. Cabaye struck his first goal of the season in the 1-1 draw with Sunderland a fortnight ago, but he and his team-mates have not quite got into the assured stride that took them to European qual-ification last season.

As Pardew admits, the grind of Thursday-Sunday football has taken a little of the edge off their high- energy game.

"It has been difficult," Cabaye acknowledges. "It means we have to work harder than we did last season. We know that. We must keep working in training and keep the right mentality."

Judging by Rodgers's post-match criticism in midweek, Cabaye is unlikely to come face to face with the player whom Lille took on loan to replace him last season. Joe Cole has not had the best of times since returning to Liverpool.

"It's difficult for him at the moment because he's not playing so much," Cabaye says. "He did well for Lille and maybe it would be a good choice for him to go back there.

"He is not playing a lot with Liverpool, so if he wants more games, he can play more there. They like him at Lille – the club, the manager and the fans."

Liverpool v Newcastle is on Sky Sports 1 today at 4pm

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