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Match Preview: Tottenham vs Liverpool (15.12.13)

- - Match Preview

Tottenham CrestLiverpool Crest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a couple of good home wins, Liverpool begin a tough run of matches over Christmas with today’s fixture against Tottenham at White Hart Lane. Unfavourable results from the top sides already this weekend has meant that we have slipped out of the top four with Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton all leapfrogging us in what is a very congested table. Spurs lie three points behind us in seventh and today’s fixture is surely a critical one in the battle for a Champions League place.

Historically, this is not a good fixture for Liverpool and Spurs usually comfortably take three points from us in this fixture. However, this season has been a bit disappointing for the North London club. After making a whole host of signings following Gareth Bale’s departure, manager Andre Villas-Boas has struggled to find his first team with new players finding it difficult to settle. They still have a good points tally, though Tottenham’s home form has been quite inconsistent. Only Aston Villa in the league have scored fewer home goals and Spurs’ total goal tally is the same as our prolific marksman, Luis Suarez’s, individual goal tally. Having said that, Liverpool’s away form has been weak with us recently struggling against both Hull City and Everton, our defence certainly being quite shaky. New striker Robert Soldado’s hat-trick on Thursday in the UEFA cup fixture against Anzhi surely bodes well for the home side and they are unbeaten in the last five games in all competitions.

The next four fixtures, I feel, will be a true test of Liverpool’s mettle in terms of where they will end the season. Will we get the targeted top four finish and is there an outside chance of becoming champions? I think if we can get 9 points from 12 then both of these possibilities are realistic. It will not be easy, however, and unfortunately we have been hit by another critical injury. The loss of Daniel Sturridge has been offset by the truly outstanding form of his strike partner, Luis Suarez. However, last week’s win against West Ham came with a price. Steven Gerrard has been hit by a hamstring strain which will keep him out until January, making this tough string of games ever more difficult. Our captain has played every match up until this point and he has been on the top of his game, providing a high assist tally and delivering some amazing set pieces. Without Gerrard, will Suarez be able to function properly? Lucas Leiva and Joe Allen are likely to fill in for him in the centre of the park, but both are far more defensively minded and looking at the potential team list it is tricky identifying who will be supplying our attack with the necessary incisive passes in the final third of the pitch. We really need Philippe Coutinho to step up and deliver and Jordan Henderson will also have a key role to play. Raheem Sterling played well against the Hammers and is likely to retain his place.

Tottenham are not exempt from injuries themselves and probably the most significant loss to their squad is the missing defender Jan Vertonghen who has an ankle injury. When facing one of the world’s best strikers it helps to have your first choice defence intact. Danny Rose and Reds summer target Christian Eriksen both face fitness tests ahead of the game. For Liverpool Daniel Agger has returned from illness though whether he will feature will be a decision for Brendan Rodgers who might favour either Kolo Toure or Mamadou Sakho to accompany the stalwart Martin Skrtel.

This game should be a tough battle for both sides and could be a high-scoring event. It has the highest tally of own goals in Premiership history (nine). History favours Tottenham though I’d like to think that Liverpool have significantly improved this season. The lack of leadership could be a telling factor and supply for the attack could be an issue. Luis Suarez is likely to wear the captain’s armband and this should further enhance his star role. Let’s hope that three points here will send us into Christmas with a clear message to the other teams fighting for a top four finish.

The match kicks off at 4pm and will be shown live on Sky Sports.

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Match Report: Liverpool vs West Ham (07.12.13) W 4-1

- - Match Report

Man Of The Match: Luis Suarez

Prior to the whistle there was a tribute to Nelson Mandela. Whatever your views on Mandela there is no doubt he was an icon of the twentieth century and he did have links to our football club. After he died, I found this post online showing photos of him meeting the Liverpool team and also sporting a Liverpool top. This is enough for me to wish he rest in peace. http://www.thisisanfield.com/2013/12/liverpool-football-unites-pay-tribute-nelson-mandela-died-aged-95/

The match got underway, with further tinkering in the centre backs. Rotation seems to be a fixed policy. Martin Skrtel seems first choice and a constant, but Daniel Agger was dropped today in favour of Mamadou Sakho. I think that Sakho has good potential and he did very well recently for France in their critical world cup qualifiers. West Ham’s attack aren’t great so maybe that elusive clean sheet will come good today?

Luis Suarez looked keen and lobbed an early attempt wide, he was linking well with Philippe Coutinho too. West Ham are likely to hole up their defence today (like they did last season) but our attack could be very dangerous. West Ham gave a bit of tit-for-tat and got an early corner at their business end of the pitch. It was straight back up the other end, though, with Jordan Henderson this time putting West Ham under pressure.
West Ham were surprising tactically – Rather than shutting up shop, they set up in quite an open formation and were giving as good as they got in terms of attacking. It was an open game and could go either way. Modibo Maiga latched onto a good cross, and finding a good gap between the central defenders, put a strong header in on goal only for the superb Simon Mignolet to save well.

It took until 40 minutes for Liverpool to get their breakthrough. Jussi Jääskeläinen saved a blast from Luis Suarez but unluckily for the Hammers it rebounded into the goal off their own player, Guy Demel. Liverpool were a goal to the good and Luis, perhaps angry at not being able to claim this goal, was straight back up to almost get another, this time shooting over the bar. West Ham had done well first half, and we’ll need another goal to secure this game in the second half.

Just after half-time Martin Skrtel stepped up to double the lead. Steven Gerrard delivered a free kick which Mamadou Sakho got onto and combining with Skrtel the ball ended up in the back of the net. It’s nice for people other than Luis Suarez to contribute on the scoresheet! It gets boring all these goals he’s scoring! lol

A bit of bad news followed with Steven Gerrard pulling up and having to be precautionary withdrawn and replaced by Lucas Leiva. Hopefully it will be nothing serious and the job is half done for this match. Glen Johnson took up the captan’s armband.  West Ham changed Joey O’Brien for James Tomkins.

The big difference in the second half is that Liverpool became totally dominant. Our attack was much more varied now, with good combinations coming throughout the whole team which was good to see. Chances were flying about thick and fast with Coutinho and Raheem Sterling both going close.

If things were going well upfront, then in defence that elusive clean sheet slipped past us yet again. This time we were the victim of bad luck. On a rare West Ham forward move, Jarvis headed and it came off Skrtel for an own goal. Suddenly the Hammers had found their way back into the match and the impetus was now with them.

Big danger, as now Joe Cole was on the pitch… though he might have started, I just noticed him as he went into the ref’s book… Raheem Sterling off, Victor Moses on. A good game from Raheem today – our fringe squad members are staking their places well. It was good to see Martin Kelly come off the bench too, though Jon Flanagan had had another good game. I think Rodgers has made some positive substitutions with West Ham starting to show strength. A fresh face or two could put us back in the mix properly.

Liverpool Lu soon came to the rescue… He got on the end of a decent Glen Johnson cross to bang in yet another Anfield goal. Into the last ten minutes with the two goal deficit restored. Kevin Nolan gave the game another turn by going straight through the back of the already tender Jordan Henderson and getting a straight red card for his troubles. Luis, again, with his brace, a nice solo effort culminating in a deflected blast. On a hat-trick now he kept on pressurising the Hammers. Is there any stopping this man? I pray that he meant that he wants to stay with us and I hope that our board come through on the promise to make him one of the league’s top earners when they offer a new contract. All seems forgiven for the summer of woe and our main man looks as though he could be picking up a Ballon D’Or any time soon.

Full time: Liverpool 4-1 West Ham… West Ham were courageous but who on earth can stop our main man at present. An excellent team performance. A good couple of home wins. Next up we have a series of trickier opponents which I think could prove to us if we really will be in with a chance of a top four finish at the end of the season. Back in second now. Let’s see where we are at Christmas.

Man of The Match: Up until the 70th minute I was going to give it to Philippe Coutinho who I think played very well and showed he had fully recovered from his injury, but it’s another no-brainer, Luis Suarez, stepping up when it mattered and winning the game for us with a late brace. Luis will probably be a bit disappointed with his performance which let’s face it at only 2 goals in below par… I’d be surprised if the bookies accept any further bets on the top scorer this season. Prove the haters wrong, lad, and keep hope in your heart…

Match Preview: Liverpool vs West Ham (07.12.13)

- - Match Preview

Liverpool CrestWest Ham Crest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liverpool are on a high after their midweek drumming of Norwich which was maybe the highlight of our season. Will our form be maintained? Today’s Anfield visitors are West Ham, who in contrast to Liverpool, had a messy 1-0 defeat midweek to lowly Crystal Palace. West Ham have made 55 visits to Anfield in the league and have won just three. In September 1963 they had their last success against us. Having said that, I can remember a West Ham team giving us a damned good run for money in the 2006 FA Cup Final. They are a big club, with good support and as the league has already demonstrated to Liverpool’s woe this season, anything can happen in ninety minutes.

Liverpool have two key players, Daniel Sturridge and Jose Enrique missing with long term injuries, but the impact on our squad is minor compared with West Ham’s poor run of luck. Ricardo Vaz Te, Razvan Rat, George McCartney and Alou Diarra are all missing. Former Reds striker Andy Carroll is back in light training, though still unlikely to feature. To compound the injury woe, Ravel Morrison picked up a post final whistle caution taking him to a season tally of five so he will be serving a ban. A possible thorn in the West Ham squad, who could step up to haunt us is Stewart Downing. I felt he performed very well for us in the second half of last season and was surprised that he was allowed to leave on such a low transfer fee. I haven’t really been following his form this season, but his knowledge of our game will certainly help in the away dressing room.

West Ham sit one place out of the relegation zone so another season of dodging the relegation bullet looks in store for them. They usually only start playing in the last couple of months of the season. Liverpool are within their targeted zone – just. Everton are just outside the Champions League places in fifth, behind us only on goal difference. Tottenham are still within striking distance but the heights of Arsenal look a dizzying distance away and CHelsea and Manchester City are starting to show good form, even if both had shakier starts than us.

West Ham have scored fewer goals than Luis Suarez all season, even with him skipping the first five games. Perhaps we should just send him out alone and all will be well? It might not be quite as easy as that though… The Hammers, despite their low position, do have a much tighter defensive record. Norwich, for example, have conceded 28 goals to West Ham’s 15. Defensively they are one of the best sides in the league and are even better than us. Liverpool have conceded 17 goals this season, a frightening statistic, considering our leanness at the back in previous years. We do have work to do at the back. Simon Mignolet needs to settle properly and a stable centre back pairing needs to be found desperately. When we start facing the top sides, this leaky defence will prove critical.

Liverpool have only lost twice in 17 home games (W12 D3 L2)
West Ham have only won twice in their past 21 away games (W2 D6 L13)

Three changes were made after the Hull disaster and Daniel Agger, Joe Allen and Philippe Coutinho can realistically expect to hold their starting lineup places. I expect a quiet game defensively though our attack could find it frustrating. As super and red-hot as Luis is, West Ham are quite capable of shutting up shop. That tactic works very effectively against us and their 0-0 draw in the corresponding fixture last season could be inspiring to Sam Allardyce’s men. The pressure is on but I’d imagine a boisterous Kop could prove vital. Now that Uruguay have been drawn in England’s group for the World Cup, I’d expect the Luis Suarez haters to be really chomping at the bit. He will have to learn to deal with the venom of away fans from here on out and I’d imagine the tackles flying in on our star man will be even more heavier than usual. God only knows what the media have in store for poor Luis as the summer draws near!

There are rumours of a mural on the Kop thanking Sam Allardyce for re-signing Joe Cole.

The match kicks off at 3pm and isn’t being televised live. I’d recommend trying http://wiziwig.tv to find a decent live internet stream.

Match Report: Liverpool vs Norwich City (04.12.13) W 5-1

- - Match Report

Luis Suarez hat trick

Liverpool began the game with manager Brendan Rodgers imposing three changes on the starting line-up, following the defeat at Hull City. Daniel Agger coming back in for Kolo Toure at centre back was widely expected. Philippe Coutinho was fit enough for a starting place and Victor Moses dropped back down to the bench. The big surprise, perhaps, was that Lucas Leiva was left aside in favour of Joe Allen. Maybe, a home fixture against Norwich could be a good opportunity for the young Welshman to demonstrate his abilities? Raheem Sterling kept his place ahead of Iago Aspas or Luis Alberto, and Jon Flanagan also maintained his newly-acquired left back role.

We obviously lost the toss, as the visitors were forcing us to attack the Kop in the first half. Norwich showed some initial liveliness which made the Kop stand alert as if they were going to have to dig in for the rare midweek evening fixture. Anfield always has a better atmosphere for evening fixtures, and the crowd seemed in good spirits despite the grumpiness among fans that has lingered since Sunday’s embarrassment.

Philippe Coutinho certainly seemed keen and was displaying his silky skills right from the start. For the first fifteen minutes Norwich certainly kept our attention. We were playing loads better than at the KC stadium, with our passes smooth and linking up well. Norwich though looked set to be a test. At the fifteen minute mark, our star Uruguayan, who has a most excellent scoring record against Delia Smith’s outfit, decided to conjure up something special… From out of nowhere, forty-five yards out, Luis hit a spectacular half-volley which absolutely scorched past Norwich keeper, Paul Ruddy, into the corner of the goal. It was a real contender for goal of the season and surely sent out a clear message of intent to the Canaries. They were stuck down a mineshaft for sure and gas was leaking!

The deadlock was broken but still Norwich kept their chins up and showed they were here for a game. Wes Hoolahan was one name that was never far away from the commentators tongue. Bradley Johnson managed to find his way into the ref’s book. At the half hour mark, Liverpool’s lead was to double. Steven Gerrard flicked on Philippe Coutinho’s expertly delivered  corner and set Luis up for his brace. It was a left-footed shot this time, from within the area, but struck with fantastic precision and firepower.

Joe Allen gave away a needless free kick shortly after the goal. He went into the book for his challenge and gifted Norwich a good sight on goal. Nathan Redmond took a good free kick which hit the target, but Simon Mignolet was un-phased and kept his eye on the ball to comfortably collect it. Straight back up the other end of the pitch and Luis had gained his inevitable hat-trick. He beautifully crafted a right-footed shot past the under siege Ruddy. Luis Suarez was on fire. He was untouchable and totally unplayable. With the latest goal he became the first Liverpool player in history to score three hat-tricks against the same club. He is truly sublime and we really must ensure he doesn’t ever leave our precious club.

Captain Steven Gerrard managed to make the ref’s book just before the whistle blew for half-time. Essentially it was already Goodnight Vienna for Norwich though in all honesty they had done very little wrong, bar attempt to stand up to the magic of a world class striker at his most lethal.

Chris Hughton must have been lost for words to say to his side in the dressing room. It was going to be one of those nights for Norwich. In the second half Liverpool became more dominant, bossing possession and Norwich had given up the ghost a little. Jordan Henderson own a fee kick for Liverpool in a good position 20 yards out. Philippe Coutinho took the set piece but delivered a disappointing drive which was never going to worry the keeper. Steven Gerrard came close shortly afterwards and his on target header was cleared off the line. We seemed to be co-ordinating our attacks well and linking up in the vital final third. Sterling was doing his fair share and even Joe Allen stepped up and narrowly missed receiving his first ever league goal when his blasting shot was finger-tipped over the crossbar with a stunning save from Paul Ruddy.

One of Norwich’s better players, Wes Hoolahan was replaced by Josh Murphy.Jon Flanagan managed to get himself a caution too. the last thing we need today is to pick up a red and have players facing bans over Christmas. Steven Whittaker came on for Leroy Fer and also Gary Hooper replaced Johan Elmander. For Liverpool, Jordan Henderson was rested up and Luis Alberto came on for a taster. Gerrard won us a free kick 20 yards out and this time, the bogeyman of East Anglia stepped forward and to compound Norwich’s nightmare, Luis took a sublime free kick which sailed up and over the wall and dipped down past the keeper into the corner of the net. It was four for him and he was now well astride at the top of the league’s top scorer;’s list. Both Gerrard and Suarez were having a few shots saved as well. Our attack wasn’t just a one man effort. We were in general doing well, though I feel that there is an over-reliance on Luis’ goalscoring. We have two strong strikers this season but we are yet to start burying goals from other areas.

Into the last ten minutes and Bradley Johnson managed to grab a consolation goal for Norwich when he beat Daniel Agger in the air and headed a well-worked goal. Our defence had very little to do tonight and have agin leaked a goal. Still work to be done. We need more zeros on the scoreline. Steven Gerrard was unlucky not to score an amazing improvised goal as he spun in the air and reversed a ball which beat the defenders but bounced back from the post. However, the fifth soon came. Luis squared to Raheem Sterling to blast it in. It was a well taken goal and eased the loneliness of Liverpool Lou on the Liverpool scoresheet.

Iago Aspas cameoed for the star man at the end when he was substituted to a rapturous reception. It was Luis’ night and at the final whistle the game will be remembered for one man’s devastation. We were back on the march and Anfield truly is a fortress again. Liverpool 5-1 Norwich City.

Man Of The Match: silly question really. Luis Suarez, who missed so many games at the start of the campaign, is now the Premiership’s top goalscorer. His four in today’s match mean he has scored nine in his past three games at Anfield. Surely he is staking a claim for player of the season. The only concern is that the likes of Real Madrid may very well be taking a keen note of his progress. He is head and shoulders above the rest of the world’s attackers. A true legend.

 

 

 

Match Preview: Liverpool vs Norwich City (04.12.13)

- - Match Preview

Liverpool Crest

Norwich City Crest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the disaster last Sunday, we welcome two consecutive home games in which, again against lowly opposition, hopefully we can salvage our good start to the season and return to form. The first of these fixtures is against Norwich City, currently situated in 14th place in the table. Norwich won their last game against Crystal Palace though their away form this season has been particularly poor, with them winning only once on their travels.In contrast, Liverpool have turned Anfield back into a fortress and have only the one loss to record there (against Southampton). Norwich have a very leaky defence, the third leakiest in the league and even with Daniel Sturridge missing, there should be no excuse for Liverpool not to apply a lot of pressure in attack. Luis Suarez is a big fan of this fixture having scored 7 goals in 4 matches against the Canaries. In the history of the Premiership Liverpool have never lost to Norwich and have seven wins out of eight. Under manager Chris Hughton, Norwich have won only 3 away games in 25.

There are a few players missing for Norwich. Midfielders Anthony Pilkington and Robert Snodgrass are out, while club-record signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel won’t be returning until next week.

Liverpool have a more fuller squad. Maybe the returning Iago Aspas will get a chance from the bench at some stage. It is likely that the dropped Daniel Agger will come back in for Kolo Toure in central defence. Philippe Coutinho could be a foil for the lone striker Suarez and possibly Victor Moses will take up a position on the wing? I think that Victor Moses was lame against Hull and maybe Brendan Rodgers will use this game as an opportunity to give Iago Aspas or Luis Alberto a rare start? The chopping and changing of our central defenders is a weakness in my eyes this season. We are really shedding goals of late and Norwich aren’t too bad in attack. Ahead of some difficult Christmas fixtures against Chelsea, Tottenham and Man City, we need to build stability at the back and rotation should be seen as a dirty word.

The Kop will be expecting a comfortable result this evening and let’s hope that the Hull disaster was just a blip. Two home games against low-riders should be an easy six points and we can build to those tricky holiday games.

The match kicks off at 7.45pm and isn’t televised live in the UK. I’d recommend using http://wiziwig.tv to locate a decent live web stream.

Match Report: Hull City vs Liverpool (01.12.13) L 3-1

- - Match Report

Tom Huddlestone

There were a few surprises in the starting lineup. Philippe Coutinho, it transpires, will also be missing from our attack with a niggling injury from this week’s training. He made the bench , however, unlike Daniel Sturridge, of course, whose 6-8 week absence was confirmed by the club prior to kick off. Kolo Toure was called up in place of Daniel Agger and Victor Moses and Raheem Sterling were called in to support Luis Suarez up front.

The question regarding Steve Bruce’s defensive lineup was answered by the Hull City defence conservatively opting for five men at the back. The first twenty minutes proceeded somewhat cautiously with Liverpool perhaps edging possession yet their depleted attack and the enhanced Hull defence cancelling each other out. Gerrard shone initially for the away side, pinging a couple of his trademark long crossfield balls, though in the centre of the attack, it was all a bit hackety-hack with our strikeforce failing to link properly and Hull being able to belt the ball away from their lines. At the end of the first twenty minutes, Hull were to benefit from a massive stroke of luck. Jake Livermore, moving forward dangerously, recollecting from a one-two, hit a speculative effort which unfortunately caught a huge ricochet off Martin Skrtel and left the Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet powerless to stop the ball from careering into the goal. Hull were up and with a good home defensive record Liverpool needed to step it up.

The Reds duly did increase the pace of their game and within ten minutes got their reward. Jordan Henderson made a good run towards the edge of the penalty area and was brought down under a hefty challenge from Curtis Davies who went straight into Howard Webb’s book. The free kick was perfectly within Luis Suarez’s range. It was the captain, however, who stepped up to the mark and beautifully defying the wall, Steven Gerrard guided the ball with missile-like accuracy past the keeper into the bottom corner to draw us back level.

In open play, Hull’s defensive tactics seemed to be working well. The newcomers, Raheem Sterling and Victor Moses, weren’t using the width of the pitch and with a narrow attack, it was relatively simple for the banks of defenders to prevent any breakthroughs. Hull were playing classic counter-attack football yet their rarer attacks seemed more penetrative. I hate playing against the lesser sides who do tend to be overly cautious against us. In seasons gone by we just fail to deal with overly-defensive less-skilled opponents and drop unnecessary points far too often.

Lucas Leiva, not for the first time this season, was the victim of simulation. Robert Brady went down far too easily as he moved into the box and Howard Webb, having a surprisingly good game (considering he was refereeing his arch rivals), cautioned the diving offender.

Half time soon followed. My thoughts at the end of the first half was that Sturridge was noticeably lacking. Passing was relatively poor, especially the link up play in the final third. We are guilty of allowing Hull to dictate how the game is being played. We are reducing our skill level to their standard and playing a style of game which is more suited to them. We need some freshness second half and to try a different approach. Coutinho’s creativity could prove crucial if he is risked from the bench. We need these three points, at the start of a challenging string of games and with Arsenal striding well ahead at the top. It’s going to be noses to the grindstone after the break and we are going to need to grind out a result.

At the start of the second half there wasn’t really a discernible change in the pattern of play. Hull still had Liverpool contained by imposing their style of football on the game. The ball was rarely on the ground and spent far too often in the air, inviting messy aerial challenges at both ends of the pitch. There were little niggles going on in clattering challenges and our only hope seemed to be from set pieces where we have been very strong all year. Skrtel managed to get up well for a corner but a foul was given against him. There seemed a lethargy to our play. Hull’s discipline off the ball was wearing us down and mistakes were starting to show when we were in possession. The more our natural game was broken up, the more distant the three points were becoming.

For the last quarter Brendan Rodgers made the much anticipated change and brought on Coutinho for Sterling, who’d been fairly anonymous for the second half. Tom Huddlestone had been having a good game in the centre of the park for Hull and he managed to have a good attempt on goal. He was certainly one of the best players on the park. Victor Moses has a gilt-edged opportunity right in front of goal at the other end of the pitch. The game seemed to be opening up a little. Again, it was Hull who took the lead. The Liverpool defenders failed to properly clear an aerial ball into the box. The ball was pinging around like a pinball machine off the shins of defenders and attackers when it set itself up nicely for David Meyler in space, who with a quality strike, steered it past Liverpool’s Belgian shot-stopper. We had allowed Hull to stay in the game and play their style of football and it was starting to hurt us. For a team who had been struggling so much to score in a game, it is such typical luck that everything seemed to tick into place against us.

Victor Moses was sacrificed for Luis Alberto, but all of Liverpool’s spirit had gone out of the game. Hull were holding possession a lot better now. Even our talisman couldn’t conjure up his magic. After he was again clattered over, Suarez delivered a free kick but it was well wide of the mark. To sum up our terrible day at the office, in the final five minutes of the game, events conspired against us yet again. Toure, down in the box, was playing everyone onside. Tom Huddlestone managed to get another fortunate deflection off Skrtel who perhaps had been our best player all game, despite being the last touch on two opposition goals. Huddlestone scored his first goal in two and a half years. Prior to this game Hull had scored only nine goals all season. To get three against us, with our fairly mean defence, was a remarkable achievement. The game was far from pretty, but the home side did what was necessary to beat us. We have had a strong season so far, but we faced an astute tactician today in Steve Bruce, who set his team up well. Their good discipline is what undid us. They dictated to us how to play and broke up our normal patterns. We lacked creativity up front and the supply to Luis Suarez was appalling. Moses and Sterling were the wrong choice to start and both struggled to engage effectively. We did miss Sturridge. Our SAS is enough to trouble any defence, but a lone striker needs a foil. Our lack of squad depth is perhaps coming to haunt us. The final whistle delivered a 3-1 victory, Hull’s first ever win against us.

We don’t have time to restructure, with two games in the next 6 days. Luckily they are both at home. We need to address our performance today quickly. It was the worst of the year so far and if we want to stay in touch at the top of the table we will need to change our ways quickly. Hull deserved the victory today and we cannot be bitter. It’s the same old story of matches we should be winning against much weaker opponents turning into nightmare performances.

Man Of The Match: Tom Huddlestone. He made Gerrard and compadres look ordinary on the centre of the park and played some lovely flowing football, culminating in maybe a career defining goal.

Match Preview: Hull City vs Liverpool (01.12.13)

- - Match Preview

Hull City CrestLiverpool Crest

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liverpool travel to the KC Stadium for an away fixture that at first glance looks a nice comfortable three-pointer after the challenges posed to us at Goodison in the derby last weekend. In sixteen games against Liverpool, Hull City are winless, though two of the four premiership fixtures between the sides have ended in draws. The big headlines for Liverpool is that the SAS is a man down. We haven’t the largest of squads and the element that has had most success so far this season has come undone with Daniel Sturridge picking up a sprained ankle in Friday’s training. Our attack will be spearheaded by Luis alone this week, though with the kind support of Coutinho and Gerrard, maybe this will be enough to see off the challenge from 13th place Hull. Hull City, since promotion, have had a fair amount of success, with this relatively high league position. Their defence has been particularly solid at home though Liverpool are the first major side to face them on their own soil. They are on a losing streak at present, however, and have lost 4 of their last 5 fixtures. The main problem facing Hull, is that despite playing good football from box to box, their strikers have lacked goals. They have the third poorest goalscoring tally in the league at 9, which is what both Luis and Sturridge each have scored independently. Our defence has performed well, though not so much on our travels. Jon Flanagan played a confident role in the derby and is likely to keep his place at left back, though with much of Hull’s forward momentum going through their Egyptian right winger, Elmohamedy, Flanagan could be in for an awkward day. The other main danger for the home side is their playmaker, former Spurs man Tom Huddlestone. He will be fired up to face the England captain Steven Gerrard and he is the most active of Hull’s passers. The Hull defence faces injury difficulties as they lost Paul McShane to a hamstring injury in their defeat to Crystal Palace last weekend.

Perhaps, Brendan Rodgers will be spoilt for choice in his selection for central defence, but the gap in attack should prove more troublesome. Could we see a return of the out of favour Iago Aspas? It looks as though Sturridge could be absent for a while and with some critical Christmas fixtures just around the corner we need to really ensure the effectiveness of our strikeforce. Another selection issue could be whether or not Joe Allen fits into midfield, allowing the captain to get forward more. Rodgers’ main man, the former Swansea star is not flavour of the month with Reds’ fans, especially after his horrific miss in the derby. The Sturridge dilemma should have us all puzzling for the bossman’s solution. Opposition manager, Steve Bruce, perhaps has the more awkward job, in plugging one of the most prolific scoring teams with a side which has little in the way of attack itself. He will need to set up his formation with a view to keeping the home fans happy, but with also safety in mind. Hull have tried their more traditionally favoured wing back defence as well as a four man defence. I suppose it depends on how Liverpool decide to set up that will determine Bruce’s final decision.

Arsenal have already played this weekend and their resounding three points away to Cardiff have left them with an impressive seven point lead. We’re still second in the top four though things are getting mightily congested in the Champions League spots. Other top sides are also playing on Sunday and we have no excuse to drop points here at the KC. Liverpool will be expected to win and let’s hope that all goes to plan.

The match kicks off at 2.05pm and will be televised live on Sky Sports.

Match Report: Everton vs Liverpool (23.11.13) D 3-3

- - Match Report

Lukaku

Everton started the game strongly, putting Liverpool immediately on the back foot. It was Philippe Coutinho, however, who delivered the early blow, latching onto a deep Steven Gerrard cross from the corner and delivering a well struck shot at the back post. 1-0 to the visitors after five minutes. Everton were straight back up, putting pressure on though and got their just desserts after eight minutes when Kevin Mirallas got behind the defence on a long, floating cross and banged the ball into the back of the net. Everton continued their early dominance and it was against the run of play after 18 minutes when Luis Suarez won a positioned free-kick 25 yards out. Our star Uruguayan took the kick himself and with a perfectly executed strike, curved the ball around the wall and straight past the Everton goalkeeper into the bottom corner. It was a magic free kick though Tim Howard could be criticised for not having placed the wall correctly. Everton continued to seem to be the team with the most possession and best passing after the second Liverpool goal. We seemed to be struggling to link up and make our game flow. At 31 minutes Ross Barkley, who’d been having a good game, was booked for simulation, faking a dive from a Luca Leiva challenge. A nasty foul on Luis Suarez a few minutes later from Kevin Mirallas left the referee with a bit of a conundrum. The challenge was high, with studs showing and was a potential career-ending tackle. Suarez, who had already been limping, stayed down and the ref really took his time, considering about whether to send Mirallas off or not. He eventually decided on leniency and just showed a yellow card. The game could have turned on this moment. The foul seemed to gee Liverpool up a bit and afterwards they started to have more impact and flow in their game. We can expect heavy tackles, after all it is a Merseyside derby. Half-time came soon and Liverpool go in at the break, happy to be ahead, after not their best performance.

Everton seemed to be playing well, though their attacks early in the second half were thwarted by a well-disciplined Liverpool defence, which always seemed to be holding a good position.  Mirallas put through the new Evertonian substitution Gerard Deulofeu, straight on goal. In a one on one confrontation Simon Mignolet did well to come off his line and put off the pacey attacker enough to clear the ball away. It was a good chance and Mignolet can be praised highly for saving a clear goal-scoring opportunity. I am yet to feel fully confident in our new goalkeeper arrival, though slowly his impact on games is starting to show. At the other end of the pitch, Coutinho was demonstrating his class, trying his best to make his national team coaches take note ahead of the Brazil world cup next summer. Luis Suarez worked a gap inside the opposition penalty area and unselfishly slotted the ball through to Joe Allen who unbelievably, straight in front of goal, missed his shot, sending it wide past the post. It was a gilt-edged opportunity and something which may come back to haunt us at the end of the game. Joe Allen is yet to score a premiership goal for Liverpool and he really needs to shape up if he wishes to get the backing from the fans. A couple of minutes after the missed effort and he became the first Liverpool player to enter the referees book. Romelu Lukaku managed to get through on goal and yet again Simon Mignolet proved he was in top form by coming to our rescue. It was his second one on one save with Lukaku. He could certainly be the hero today for us, our former Sunderland goalkeeper. Brendan Rodgers seemed to see sense and made a substitution, bringing on Victor Moses for the under-performing Joe Allen.

Everton won a free kick in a good position and Mignolet made another fantastic save from Lukaku, but failed to recover the ball. Lukaku remained loitering in the box and after some ricochets managed to latch onto the ball and convincingly beat his nemesis this time. Even the outstanding Belgian shot stopper couldn’t prevent the Toffees drawing level. With fifteen minutes to go the game really started to open up, becoming an end to end affair. Luis Suarez had a match-winning opportunity yet couldn’t convert a point blank header past Tim Howard. Brendan Rodgers decided to throw his all at the game and brought on Daniel Sturridge for Lucas Leiva. Liverpool were starting to ride their luck defensively and ultimately it proved too much for them. Lukaku, playing a superb game, got onto the end of a corner to head the ball straight into the top corner. With under ten minutes to go, Everton had taken the lead for the first time in the game. Glen Johnson could be criticised for the goal as he failed to mark his man properly.

Right at the death, the SAS came to Liverpool’s rescue and Daniel Sturridge latched onto yet another perfectly delivered Steven Gerrard cross. With a near post header, he cleared the ball past the keeper into the back of the net. Liverpool managed to find the net again in injury time but Sturridge was unfortunately clearly in an offside position. The final whistle eventually blew and a high-scoring 3-3 draw was the final result. I said before the game that to take a point from this fixture would be a good result for Liverpool so we mustn’t grumble. Maybe if Sturridge had’ve started the game and not ben suffering from his international duty, we could have taken all three points? Liverpool stay second, though maybe they will drop places depending on the rest of the weekend’s results.

Man Of The Match: For most of the game I had decided on awarding man of the match to Simon Mignolet, but his great performance was undone by the hot form of Romelu Lukaku whose two goals were fundamental in this critical derby fixture. Unfortunately for Everton, his brace wasn’t enough to deliver the final victory.

Match Preview: Everton vs Liverpool (23.11.13)

- - Match Preview

Everton CrestLiverpool Crest

 

 

 

 

Well, thankfully, the last international break of the year is now over. It’s back to business in the premier league and Liverpool have their work cut out with a tricky away derby fixture at Goodison Park. We haven’t done particularly well so far this season immediately after an international break. The gap in our playing schedule has affected our performance. Liverpool looked good last time out and seemed to have regained their form after the slump against Arsenal. Everton are really likely to make a good test of that resurgent form and perhaps present our second most difficult game of the season so far. Since David Moyes’ departure in the summer, Roberto Martinez has stepped in and improved the team. A win against us today would put them level on points after twelve games. Our best season in years is matched by our derby rivals, who let’s not forget, finished above us last season. Derbies are critical games and local bragging rights are very important, especially if no trophies are on the mantlepiece at the end of the season.

Roberto Martinez, who was said to be in consideration for the Liverpool job before Brendan Rodgers’ appointment, will savour his first derby match and will be keen for victory. Everton have only lost one game all season, fewer than Liverpool. They will be difficult to beat, especially at home. Their recent form, however, does suggest a bit of a slip, with two goalless draws against Spurs and Crystal Palace. There are no main injury concerns for the Blues. Tony Hibbert and Antolin Alcaraz both are available once again for selection after long-term absences.

Liverpool have Jose Enrique missing, out for some time due to a scheduled operation on his troubled knee. Either Aly Cissokho or John Flanagan look set to replace Enrique. Kolo Toure is back available for selection and hopefully Daniel Sturridge will be fit, despite still enduring a dead leg. Our other star striker, Luis Suarez made headlines this week after Reds’ owner John Henry lent him use of his private jet to return home early from his international duties with Uruguay.

This game is traditionally the dirtiest game in the league with 26 red cards having been shown. Will it be a tough tackling game or will the flowing style of football favoured by both coaches rule the day? It is a crucial derby where both sides are very high in the table so a bit more than just local pride is at stake. The corresponding game last year finished in a 2-2 draw and I feel that to get a point today would be a good result for Liverpool.

The match kicks off at 12.45pm and will be shown live on BT Sport.

Match Report: Liverpool vs Fulham (09.11.13) W 4-0

- - Match Report

Luis Suarez

Liverpool kicked off the match reverting to their more typical 4-4-2 formation. Daniel Agger had a recall in the centre of defence, pairing up with Martin Skrtel. Aly Cissokho retained his place as left-back and Glen Johnson returned on the right. Philippe Coutinho was our additional midfielder, making a welcome return.

Right from the outset, Liverpool demonstrated their intentions by setting up camp in the Fulham half. Defensively Fulham looked very weak. They weren’t pressing the ball at all and had a very shaky formation. they just seemed interested in getting men behind the ball and banks of defenders built up to wait for Liverpool mistakes and to hack the ball away.

It seemed as though Coutinho would be more advanced and it was more like a 4-3-3 formation from Liverpool. The side were certainly very positive and were passing the ball around really well, with Jordan Henderson and Steven Gerrard in particular, dovetailing nicely and creating lots of good attacking opportunities. Luis Suarez came closest to breaking the early deadlock, moving nicely into the box, but being denied by Fulham keeper, Maarten Stekelenburg.

In the twenty-third minute, Steven Gerrard lifted another of his perfectly executed free-kicks into the box. It connected with Luis Suarez’s head and was knocked into the back of the net by Fulham player, Fernando Amorebieta. Liverpool deservedly had the lead. Three minutes later and that lead was doubled when Martin Skrtel rose to head home a Steven Gerrard corner. liverpool were rampant with over two thirds of possession and the vast majority of the territory. There were lots of skills flowing, with Philippe Coutinho regularly outclassing the lacklustre Fulham defenders. In the thirty-sixth minute an awesome crossfield pass from Gerrard was slotted through to Luis Suarez by Jordan Henderson. It was a perfectly executed pass and Luis Suarez, in a rich goal-scoring vein, had little hesitation when slotting it past the Fulham keeper.

Martin Jol and the Fulham bench looked on desolate and the Fulham players looked relieved at the half-time whistle. Liverpool had enjoyed 70% possession and a return from this result looked out of the question.

As soon as the whistle blew Liverpool were straight on the attack. Daniel Sturridge had his turn in front of the keeper and was unlucky not to score and Suarez latched onto the rebound to no avail. Sturridge has looked a bit shaky in front of goal the past few games and today was no exception. Still, him, Gerrard, Coutinho and Suarez were making mincemeat of the poor Fulham side. They were just gliding past them. If Liverpool hadn’t have taken their foot off the gas, then this game could easily have been a complete rout. In the fifty-fourth minute Gerrard picked out Suarez’s run and in a one-on-one with the keeper, he easily beat him to bag his brace.

At 4-0 it made sense for Brendan Rodgers to rest some key players. Aly Cissokho was replaced by the returning Jose Enrique, Joe Allen came on for the captain, Steven Gerrard, who’d had a forceful impact on the game, and Daniel Sturridge made way for Victor Moses. Fulham made a few changes but the game was well beyond them. From the start of this match they hadn’t looked at all if they were bothered about playing or getting a result. The bench was static throughout and Jol’s odds to be the next sacked manager must surely have strengthened.

The game closed out as a 4-0 victory and a favourable result of a draw in the Chelsea West Brom game means that Liverpool regain second in the league, with Arsenal still maintaining a two point lead and have to play Man United tomorrow.

Again, we go into an international break in a strong position. Let’s hope our players don’t get over-exerted for their national sides and we return in a fortnight to face Everton playing as well as we have done today.

Man Of The Match: Although Henderson and Gerrard both had superb games, Luis Suarez has to be man of the match. He looked absolutely deadly in front of goal and was unlucky not to bag another hat-trick.