'I'm ready!' - Fit-again Shaqiri can be Liverpool's difference-maker in December

Xherdan Shaqiri Liverpool Everton
The Swiss star hopes to play a major role in what is set to be a hectic month for the Reds, after netting on his return from injury against Everton

Xherdan Shaqiri smiles from ear to ear.

“You like playing against Everton, don’t you?” comes the question.

“Maybe, maybe,” replies the Liverpool man. 

Shaqiri’s first goals in the Premier League came at Goodison Park, a brace in a 4-3 win there for Stoke in December 2015. “I remember,” he grins.

He’ll remember Wednesday night too, that’s for sure. Drafted in for his first competitive start of the season, the Swiss star provided a timely reminder of his talents, producing an eye-catching performance in Liverpool’s 5-2 Merseyside derby victory.

Shaqiri scored the Reds’ second goal, his first since Boxing Day last year, but his performance was about more than that. It was the sharpness, the touch, the confidence, the composure and the energy which stood out most.

He looked like a player in top form, not one who had had just 15 minutes of senior action this season. He was one of only three Liverpool players – James Milner and Gini Wijnaldum were the others – to cover more than 10 kilometres on the night.

“I’m very happy to be back,” Shaqiri said afterwards. “I’m feeling fresh, feeling good, and I think you saw that.”

It speaks to Shaqiri’s character, as well as his quality, that he is able to produce such displays, given his lack of playing time.

The 28-year-old had spent more than two months on the sidelines due to a calf injury, but answered the call from Jurgen Klopp when the Reds boss opted to shuffle his pack against Everton.

And with fixtures coming thick and fast over the next month, Shaqiri’s return to action, and form, could hardly come at a better time.

Xherdan Shaqiri Liverpool 2019-20

“I’m ready,” he said. “I think the coach saw that too in training. I trained very well and he gave me the chance and I think I played very well. 

“I’ve been injured but thank God I don’t have knee problems or something. I had some muscle problems, so I just needed a few weeks to recover well. The calf is very dangerous to get a re-injury and I had this so obviously it was not nice but I stayed positive and tried to come back. 

“I worked very hard in the gym and with the fitness coaches to come back and be ready when the coach needs me. I’m feeling good.

“At the end of the day it’s important to win games with my team, we won it as a team, and obviously when I can contribute it’s always good. Let’s hope for more games!”

He’s a popular figure, Shaqiri. Team-mates love him, and supporters love to watch him too.

He delighted the Anfield crowd with a series of deft touches, flicks and turns against Everton, as Liverpool stuck the knife into their struggling rivals.

“You know me!’ he smiled afterwards. “That’s how I play, so it’s nothing new! I’m an instinct footballer so I like to play good football if I feel good. 

“I felt good so I tried some things and it went well.”

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It certainly did. Liverpool remain eight points clear at the top of the Premier League, having won 14 of their 15 league games this season.

They will also have the run of the city now, after extending their unbeaten derby run to 18 matches.

“We wanted to keep the city red,” smiled Shaqiri. “We did that, so it was very important.”