PORTSMOUTH, December 18- Days after Liverpool celebrated the 50th anniversary of legendary manager Bill Shankly's Anfield arrival with a win over Wigan they will hope a current hero can inspire them on Saturday.Jamie Carragher is set to make his 600th appearance for his hometown club when Liverpool travel to Fratton Park for a match against Premier League basement club Portsmouth.
Their 2-1 win over Wigan at Anfield on Wednesday left Liverpool, already out of this season’s Champions League, in sixth place but five points adrift of the top four spot they will need come the end of the campaign to qualify for next term’s premier European club football competition.
But in the meantime there was a chance for long-serving defender Carragher to reflect on his upcoming achievement.
Ian Callaghan’s club appearance record of 857 games may be out of Carragher’s reach but the Anfield stalwart has his sights set on surpassing former England goalkeeper Ray Clemence’s tally of 665.
"When you’re a Liverpool player, you never look too far ahead because if you do that you’ll end up not focusing on what is immediately in front of you," Carragher said.
"It’s a cliche but it’s true. My target at the beginning of each season is to play 50 games. If I don’t do that, I’m disappointed.
"But I understand I’m getting older and in a few years’ time that may not be possible," the 31-year-old explained. "I’ve got another 18 months left on my contract so I’d like to be playing regularly next season.
"That means potentially I could finish this season on 620 to 625 then play other 40-odd games next season – taking me into second position in the all-time appearance list."
Carragher, who made his Liverpool debut in 1997, said: "Passing Ray Clemence would make me happy. It will prove I’ve been up for the fight for a long time."
Portsmouth defender Steve Finnan was a member of the Liverpool team that fought back from 3-0 down to defeat Italian giants AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final.
The Republic of Ireland international, who also won several other trophies, including the UEFA Cup and FA Cup, during his five years at Anfield, said he’d been taken aback by Liverpool’s faltering form this season.
"I am surprised because after last season (when Liverpool were runners-up in the Premier League behind champions Manchester United) I would have expected them to get through to the knockout stages of the Champions League and to be top of the league," Finnan said.
"It obviously weakens them when you have people like Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard missing.
"There is still a long way to go in the season and I am sure they will finish in the top four because they are a top team with some great players but I don’t think they can win the league now."
Portsmouth manager Avram Grant’s last game against Liverpool was current Premier League leaders Chelsea’s 2008 Champions League semi-final victory over Rafael Benitez’s side.
"This is a very different game from when I last played Liverpool," said the former Chelsea boss, whose old club struggled to beat Pompey 2-1 on Wednesday.
"That was a European semi-final and now I am with a team fighting to stay in the Premier League.
"It is going to be a tough game but I believe we can win," the Israeli added. "We played well against Chelsea and Manchester United but did not get the results we deserved, so hopefully Saturday will be different."