Spearing: Gerrard can inspire Liverpool cup run
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Jay Spearing believes Steven Gerrard can inspire Liverpool to cup success as Kenny Dalglish's side look to move on from the race row controversy which has engulfed the five-times champions of Europe.

Striker Luis Suarez will serve the second-leg of his ban when Oldham Athletic - who play in English football's third-tier - visit Anfield for Friday's FA Cup third round tie.

But the match is expected to see Gerrard, who has been building up his match fitness with several appearances as a substitute after an ankle infection, make his first start for three months.

Liverpool's inspirational captain made a 33-minute appearance during Tuesday's 3-0 defeat at leaders Manchester City - Gerrard's third straight appearance from the bench. And Spearing is confident his fellow midfielder can inspire the team in Suarez's absence as Liverpool's season reaches a crossroads.

Liverpool, looking to secure major silverware for the first time in six years, return to City on 11 January in the semi-final first leg of the League Cup, the return leg taking place at Anfield on 25 January.

"We have Steven Gerrard back now and he is a massive influence on the team and we will go into the two games with confidence," said Spearing. "Before we can think about that though we have to get ready for our next game which is the FA Cup against Oldham."

Squad rotation
Dalglish is expected to give several players who have not featured recently in the first team a run out against lower league opposition. They include long-serving defender Jamie Carragher while Brazilian goalkeeper Doni could make his first senior start for the club since joining from Roma last summer. Teenager Jonjo Shelvey, back from a loan spell with Championship club Blackpool, and right-back Martin Kelly are also in contention.

Oldham were in the Premier League the last time they visited Anfield 19 years ago but they return to Merseyside 14th in League One.

They are managed by Paul Dickov, the former Manchester City striker, and their team includes ex-Newcastle and Blackburn striker Shefki Kuqi - as well as a couple of lifelong Liverpool fans.

Oldham defender Zander Diamond, 26, has visited Anfield once before - when he paid to go on a tour of the famous venue. "It's not often you get the chance to play against your boyhood heroes," said former Aberdeen player Diamond.

"When I walked out on the ground tour it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as Anfield is steeped in history. It is great for our lads to go out and pit their own ability against these players who carry large transfer fees and earn an x-amount of money.

"We are under no illusions as to the task we face. But I go into every game wanting to win and we will go to Anfield full of confidence. You cannot go there thinking you are already beaten otherwise you will get turned over.

"It is a big occasion and the players have to express themselves, and you never know what happens in cup games as they are one offs. We will go there with no fear and there is no pressure on us. We want to enjoy the occasion and, if we get a positive result, that would be great and it would be massive for the club."