Hull V Liverpool at The KC Stadium : Match Preview
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Huddlestone prepares to face idol
Hull midfielder Tom Huddlestone will go head-to-head with one of his Holy Trinity of childhood heroes when he takes on Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard on Sunday.
With the Tigers suffering back-to-back defeats and losing a previously unbeaten home record against Crystal Palace last weekend, the high-flying Reds head to the KC Stadium as firm favourites.
Free-scoring forward Luis Suarez is an obvious danger but Huddlestone's task will largely involve taking control of the midfield area and winning his personal battle with England captain Gerrard.
And the former Tottenham midfielder makes no secret of the esteem in which he holds his opposite number - who, alongside Eric Cantona and Marcel Desailly, captured a young Huddlestone's imagination.
"Gerrard has been a top-class player for the last 15 years," said Huddlestone.
"Growing up it was him, Cantona and Desailly as my three idols.
"He's got everything. He's quick, he can head the ball, tackle, one of the best passers around, he scores goals.
"There's been times when he's single-handedly won games for Liverpool in the league and in Europe.
"I'm under no illusions about how big a test it will be.
"You've got to treat it as a normal opponent, as much as possible, but it probably keeps you more concentrated knowing that you've got to perform an extra five or ten per cent better than you would against anybody else."
Despite his praise for Gerrard, Huddlestone has no plans to sit back and admire his work when they face off on Sunday.
Hull's positive start to the campaign has drifted slightly in recent weeks, not least when 10-man Palace completed their late smash-and-grab job, and giving Liverpool a bloody nose would go a long way to setting them back on track.
"Hopefully, collectively, we can all do our job better than we have done recently," said Huddlestone.
"When teams are more open against us, attacking-wise that's when we're at our best.
"Hopefully Liverpool will attack us and it'll leave a few more gaps we can try to exploit.
"The last couple of games have been pretty bad, to be honest.
"But playing the big teams in your next game makes it easier for the manager as the players can get themselves up for it even more.
"We've played well against teams who have come and attacked us, whereas Palace sat back and we found that difficult.
"I think we've just got to stick to the game plan and hopefully put one of our chances away."
Hull must alter their defence once again after Paul McShane tore a hamstring against Palace. Alex Bruce is likely to replace McShane.
Midfielder Stephen Quinn (hamstring) and forward Sone Aluko (Achilles) are out but defender James Chester should be fit enough for the bench after two months on the sidelines.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers admits he is finding it difficult to give some of his fringe players pitch time because his first-choice side are playing so well.
On-loan Chelsea forward Victor Moses this week spoke about wanting more of a run in the team but he is not alone in that respect.
Last season's young star Raheem Sterling has been relegated to a bit-part player, summer signing Luis Alberto has made only sporadic substitute performances while even the experienced Kolo Toure and #16million centre-back Mamadou Sakho have found themselves in and out of the side.
"The boy (Moses) has been really happy here. Of course he wants to play but the team has been doing very well and the change in structure meant him coming out of the team.
"Victor is a talent and is happy to be in the squad, he wants to improve and I communicate regularly with him.
"He has never said a bad word about Liverpool since he's been here.
"Him and the other players have every opportunity to play because I assess them in training and pick my team from that."
Keeping everyone happy is not easy but Rodgers knows there is a balancing act to be done and heading into the busy December period he is more than likely going to need some of those squad players to fill gaps and give others a rest.
"I always say that it's the hardest part of my job," he added. "I recognise with the players and acknowledge to them that with just one game a week it's difficult.
"Luis Alberto is getting better every day - he's adapting and adjusting to the physicality of this great league and the game in this country. He's getting better all the time.
"There's young Raheem Sterling, who has been excellent in training and in his working but because of the form of the team it's been hard to get some of these guys on the field.
"So it's my job to help them and show that there's a pathway for them here at the club.
"For me it was very important to establish a culture of work on a daily basis and that's what we have got from the players.
"They come in to work hard and I'll always reward players who do that.
"There's no rocket science behind it - you've got to come in and work hard and earn your money.
"And that's what the players are doing. Every single day they give everything and that puts them in with a chance of playing. It's the players who pick the team really."
Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge is set to miss out after sustaining a sprained ankle. The 24-year-old, who has scored nine goals already this season, limped out of training with the problem.
Meanwhile, Rodgers has to decide whether to stick with Jon Flanagan at left-back.
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