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Match Report: Liverpool vs Hull City (01.01.14) W 2-0

- - Match Report

Jordan Henderson

Steven Gerrard unfortunately didn’t make the starting lineup, but was present on the bench. Aly Cissokho was recalled at left back with Daniel Agger retaining his place in central defence alongside the stalwart Martin Skrtel. Iago Aspas was introduced to the starting XI. Raheem Sterling and the young Spaniard will be out on the wings, Jordan Henderson and Lucas Leiva in the central midfield and Philippe Coutinho sitting just behind Luis Suarez upfront. So, the injuries have forced a change in formation. All being well, the new-look side can crush Hull here at Anfield.

Liverpool started the match positively and were pinging the ball around well. Hull closed down well and were very defensive. The play all seemed to get caught up in midfield with few breakthroughs for both sides in the final third. Some hefty challenges were going in. Hull started to get the odd chance after the first ten minutes. They scored 6 goals in their last outing so it is no surprise that they have confidence going forward.

In the eighteenth minute it looked as though Liverpool had got the breakthrough. A nice free kick from Coutinho was floated in from the right and Luis Suarez got nicely on the end of it with an accurate header which skipped past the Tigers’ keeper. Unfortunately Luis was marginally offside when the kick was taken and the linesman had correctly flagged it. Hull escape….for now.

Tom Huddlestone became the first player into the referee’s book with a hefty challenge on Suarez, shortly afterwards. Nice to have him on a caution so early on. Philippe Coutinho had a speculative long free kick comfortably sail into the keeper’s arms. The Reds started to dominate and get a few more breaks, though we were not building play up enough and shooting rashly when it might have been better to build up the play.

Luis Suarez picked out a perfect pass for the accelerating Raheem Sterling to run onto. As he moved in on the Hull keeper, Allan McGregor, the goalie stepped up well and prevented Sterling from seizing the opportunity. The attacks were coming thick and fast now. Hull’s defence looked unable to cope with our forward force.

There was a prolonged period, mid first-half where the game petered out and a midfield battle ensued. Suarez seemed to be the recipient of Hull’s hard-hitting tackles. In he 36th minuted Daniel Agger climbed up around the penalty spot to get onto the end of a corner and headed the ball goal-ward. Jordan Henderson was acting as a foil and the distracted keeper could do nothing to save our central defender’s effort. 1-0 Liverpool and a goal for our captain for the day.

A frustrated Luis Suarez ended up getting booked although it was unclear exactly why. Perhaps it was a bit of backchat as he was getting too much attention from the Hull midfield and defence. Jordan Henderson missed a great opportunity to put us two up. Iago Aspas gave a nice flick into the path of Henderson who unfortunately shot just wide of the left post. It was a well-crafted move and deserved more. Just before half-time Henderson and Coutinho combined well but the Brazilian shot wide of the post. Another clear chance. Maybe we should be three up by now? We go into half-time a goal to the good.

A few minutes into the second half and our lead was indeed doubled. The Uruguayan maestro delivered one of his trademark free kicks from about thirty yards out. Suarez left the keeper no chance, with sniper-like precision. World Class is the best way to describe our star man.

Our sixty-three percent stats seemed to continue into the second half. Hull will have to really get lucky to earn points at Anfield today. Another unfortunate injury concern meant that Glen Johnson, who’d been struggling for some time, hobbled off to be replaced by Kolo Toure. Steve Bruce decided to shuffle his deck, making a three-way tactical substitution: George Boyd for David Meyler, Danny Graham for Robert Koren and Matty Fryatt for Yannick Sagbo. He needed to ‘Attack, Attack, Attack!’, as our Kop might cry in our own times of desperation. In the 62nd minute our talisman returned to action when Iago Aspas was substituted for Steven Gerrard. It seems a good opportunity to give him a run out after his injury layoff.

Coutinho and Henderson kept the pressure on the opposition goal. Luis Suarez seemed to be relatively quiet, perhaps the aggressive Hull players has successfully silenced him? Coutinho seemed to be really flying and made a fantastic run down the centre, shooting hard, only for the keeper to parry it away. Raheem Sterling  left the field to give Victor Moses a fifteen minute spell to exercise his wares.

Hull continued to do battle and pressed hard to try and get something from the game, but Liverpool were calm and resolute in defence. The two goal cushion was comfortable and without being overly relaxed, they kept the Tigers at bay. Luis Suarez continued to draw challenges and a good run by him through the middle led to Curtis Davies illegally ending it and getting himself booked in the process. Luis Suarez couldn’t repeat his set piece magic in the ensuing free kick. Coutinho, in injury time, again was denied. He had shown a lot of promise today, though the end result wasn’t forthcoming. the game finished 2-0 and a good three points should put us back within our targeted top four range.

Brendan Rodgers proved his tactics were astute. Forced into a formation change he understood how best to over-rule a dangerous side who had made us look stupid only a month ago. Liverpool have successfully reversed the downward trend of our post-Christmas mini crisis. We have to maintain Anfield as a fortress throughout the second half of the season and today was a good day for tending to the ramparts. Next up is an FA Cup tie against Oldham here on Sunday.

Man Of The Match: Jordan Henderson. His deeper first half role enabled him to keep the out-of-depth Huddlestone well at bay. Henderson managed to get forward on many of our best attacks and seemed to outshine all other players in what was a good team performance. Hopefully Roy Hodgson will be taking note and Henderson could have an important role to play in the national side come the summer.

 

 

Match Preview: Liverpool vs Hull City (01.01.14)

- - Match Preview

Liverpool CrestHull City Crest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, we were all wondering what our two Christmas fixtures against Manchester City and Chelsea would bring and unfortunately they brought nothing – well – in terms of points that is. We have slipped from top of the league at Christmas to out of the top four by New Year, the first team ever to record that achievement. Everyone knew Manchester City and Chelsea away would be tough nuts to crack. We need to reverse the slide and get three points today. On paper, Hull at home looks a perfect opportunity to do so. Anfield is a fortress once again. However, it was only the start of last month that saw us put is a dismal display at the KC Stadium and get thrashed 3-1 by Hull City (Gerrard The Red match report here: http://gerrardthered.com/match-report-hull-city-vs-liverpool-01-12-13-474 ). Steve Bruce won the battle of the managers that day and frustrated us defensively and took full advantage of our players not giving a 100% performance. Revenge is on the cards and our New Years Day fixture, the start of the New Year is a MUST-WIN at all costs.

The injury crisis has deepened at Liverpool. The two losses unfortunately had an additional toll on our already depleted manpower. Joe Allen is out with a abductor strain and Mamadou Sakho has hamstring trouble. Added to those already missing we really are scraping the sides in terms of squad numbers. Jordan Henderson did take a heavy knock against Chelsea though it looks as though it was nothing too serious and he should be back today. The good news is that Steven Gerrard, who has been back in training, might be available should he pass a late fitness test. We are exceptionally thin on the ground in central midfield and should our captain return it would be a boost in terms of morale. Otherwise, we will be relying on youth team players stepping up in an area which was completely bossed by Tom Huddlestone for Hull back in December.  Daniel Agger should retain his position in central defence and hopefully he can consolidate his role there rather than move out on loan to Napoli during the transfer window. Aly Cissokho is likely to get a recall at left back and has to attempt to prove his doubters wrong. Is he up to the required level for high-class Premiership football? Victor Moses will be back available for selection though I’d imagine he’ll start on the bench with the boss favouring our attack trio Phillipe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez.

For the Tigers, they have fewer injury concerns; midfielder David Meyler and defender Alex Bruce have both recovered from recent injuries. They do miss their top scorer Robbie Brady who is still sidelined with a  groin injury. Hull are punching above their weight in the league and are just inside the top half of the table in tenth. They have been difficult to deal with for many top sides and will be prepared to battle with us today, still high on their recent victory over us. They also go into the game on the back of a 6-0 whooping of Fulham. The state of mind in each changing room could not be different.

Liverpool can expect to face a confident side, not afraid to mix it up with top opposition. They will use a physical game which we do struggle to deal with. I think that Chelsea were most effective against us by being physically aggressive. Hull are a more traditional hacking side and as previous seasons clearly demonstrate,Liverpool are more likely to flounder against lowly teams than against the more fluent, skilful clubs. Huddlestone will need to be dealt with properly and I can see us having issues in central midfield. Lucas Leiva could be critical to a victory. I may seem a bit negative – after all we have scored at least three goals in our last six home league matches. If we can repeat this today then I can’t see Hull matching our strike rate and we should get the three points and hopefully march back into the Champions League places.

The game kicks off at 3pm and isn’t televised live in the UK. I’d recommend getting a good internet stream at http://wiziwig.tv

Match Report: Chelsea vs Liverpool (29.12.13) L 2-1

- - Match Report

Eden Hazard

Liverpool adjusted their defence: Mamadou Sakho moved out to left back and Daniel Agger came in at centre back, Aly Cissokho losing his place and dropping down to the bench. Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson retained their defensive positions. I can remember when we tried a non-specialist wing back earlier in the season and I’m not overkeen. Let’s hope the formula works today. The rest of the side was the same as it has been for a few games, the upper triangle of Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez taking responsibilities in attack. Two minutes in and we won a free kick in a nice position out on the left. Jordan Henderson was tackled heavily by Samuel Eto’o and needed treatment. The set piece was floated in and Luis Suarez, meeting his bite victim, Branislav Ivanovic with football skills and not barbecue skills, neatly beat him to the ball, heading it towards goal where the hungry Martin Skrtel was waiting to knock it over the line. A goal up in the third minute: A perfect start! And a fine way for Suarez to avenge his ban.

Chelsea didn’t take it lying down. They were attacking us straight away and making headway. The ball was floated into the box a lot, far more than it has been from other opposition. Glen Johnson made a vital goal line clearance. Gary Cahill headed a good header wide. Simon Mignolet’s dexterity in goal was tested by a decent Frank Lampard shot. Our midfield wasn’t holding up well at all and Chelsea were cutting through us like butter. The defence looked haphazard too and, when Eden Hazard broke through with a lucky rebounded pass from Oscar that had rebounded off Sakho, the Chelsea danger man curled it nicely past Mignolet and the Blues were deservedly level. The defence was on a back foot and disorganised. Daniel Agger had actually fitted into the side at left back, not in the centre, and he was found out of position for the goal. I don’t think that, as a team, we had settled well. We weren’t controlling the game as we usually do. Perhaps Chelsea were effective in breaking up our pattern of play, or maybe something just wasn’t clicking at Stamford Bridge? Ivanovic had to call it a day and went off injured for Ashley Cole to come on in his place. Our whole formation was being pressed and our possession stats must have been unhealthy. In the 33rd minute, defensive mishaps and a failure to tackle and clear properly led a cross to be converted by Samuel Eto’o – He was lucky to reach it and Mignolet half-saved the effort, but i had enough momentum to trickle over the line.

For the second time in a week and early goal lead against had been turned completely around by the home side. 2-1 Chelsea and we will have to sort our whole effort out in this game. Before half time Joe Allen had another good shot at goal, after a rare decent attacking move from us. The Chelsea defence was set up in two fluid banks and their movement was aggressively dictating to our front how to play, rather than being passively affected by our passing and movement. It was confusing the hell out of us and was a credit to Jose Mourinho tactically. I haven’t seen a side dominate us so well as Chelsea this season, except for Arsenal. Chelsea weren’t using Arsene Wenger’s total football, but had rather a more messy, physical, ball-off-the-ground header and volley game, though their discipline and set up was very well-managed. Let’s see what Mourinho’s former apprentice can pull out of the hat in the away dressing room at half time. I’d drill Lucas Leiva and Joe Allen to turn the tide in midfield somehow, maybe remove some of the freedom Jordan Henderson is allowed and get him to help shore up our problems in terms of possession.

At half time Mourinho used as second substitute: John Obi Mikel on for Frank Lampard. Something seemed to have changed in the second half. We were having more time on the ball and looked a changed side. Mamadou Sakho rose in the box to loop a headed cross past Peter Cech, but unfortunately it clipped the corner of the goalposts and rebounded away to safety. Chelsea were resorting to very physical tackling, roughing it up a bit, John Terry leading the way. The game was a lot more open now. Luis Suarez had a long distance effort but it was kept out. He had been quiet but there were signs that Liverpool were gaining momentum.

Our weaker squad was demonstrated when Joe Allen had to retire from the game, injured. He was replaced by a 19 year old academy-trained rookie, Brad Smith, his first cap. In a game of such magnitude it isn’t the time to be breaking in new, young players, especially with the problems already manifesting themselves in midfield. We had a good appeal for a penalty with Luis Suarez getting completely clattered in the box. We were firing in free kicks regularly and there were all sorts of tussles going off in the box. Chelsea are physically large and powerful in defence. It will be hard to beat them in the air, that is for sure. The physicality of the game gives it more the flavour of a typical Merseyside derby. It’s getting quite heated out there.

Glen Johnson had a nice long effort in the 73rd minute, Cech saving at his near post and conceding a corner. No joy from the set piece though. In the 79th minute a very cynical challenge by Gary Cahill on Luis Suarez resulted in a caution for the England defender. Cech parried the free kick away harmlessly. Into the last ten minutes and another penalty call. Samuel Eto’o clearly fouled Luis Suarez and it was a penalty but Howard Webb failed to call it. I’d hate to think that two of the season’s most critical fixtures can be affected by poor refereeing. It’s easy to whinge about officials and seems an excuse for poor results: I don’t like it. However, the refs should not be impacting the league in the way that they are.

Glen Johnson was sacrificed for Iago Aspas. We need to throw all we have at the game. Eto’o limped off with Fernando Torres coming on for the last part of the match. Torres, sporting a new Coutinho-style haircut, made a move on the goal but finished weakly. Half the player that we sold. More injury woe for Liverpool as Mamadou Sakho was next to hobble off. The January transfer are getting pricier, the nearer we get. We will need many signings just to replenish our depleted squad. Kolo Toure came on. Chelsea moved the ball into the corner and started to waste time. There should be significant injury time at the end. They slowed everything right down.  A messy Brazilian clash went off, Oscar following through on Lucas Leiva. Our samba man responded with quite an aggressive push to the face and a brief scuffle broke out. Howard Webb diffused the situation without issuing any further warnings.

The final whistle came and a frustrating fixture concluded; the end result a 2-1 defeat. We are the first side to be top at Christmas and out of the top four by the New Year. These last two games were never going to be easy and unfortunately we have had the worst possible outcome to them. We can cancel out the relative points deficit by victories and Anfield against both sides but relying on this is no way to justify losing.

Man Of The Match: Howard Webb had significant influence on the outcome though the scorer of Chelsea’s winner, Eden Hazard, was probably the best player. He was a constant problem down the left hand side.

Match Preview: Chelsea vs Liverpool (29.12.13)

- - Match Preview

Chelsea CrestLiverpool Crest

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brendan Rodgers, as manager of Liverpool, has never lost two games in a row. He accomplished this feat whilst at Swansea too. Yes, we slipped on the carcass of the Christmas Turkey on Boxing Day and fell to Manchester City in a game we should have won. Perhaps it was a case of too much Christmas Day revelry, knowing we had made it to the top of the league for Christmas? Anyway, we cannot change the fact that we go into today’s match at Stamford Bridge in fourth place. Chelsea are a point and a place ahead, in third. Looking at the table after Saturday’s games, it is quite frightening to see that Moyes’ Mancs are just two points below us now. For all the giggling we’ve been doing at them this season…. we really ought to shape up and assert ourselves until we hit the summit again…. and stay there this time. It’s tighter than a pair of leggings at the top this season.

On paper, one might suggest that today’s fixture is an easier one than our visit to the Etihad. However, we go into the game with a squad, already plagued with injuries that has been weakened even further. The proximity of the January transfer window will be a godsend for us. If we are to maintain contact with the top four and possibly attempt to win the league we need a stronger squad. Jon Flanagan is still out. Steven Gerrard, closer to recovery is still absent, along with Daniel Sturridge plus the other long-termers. Victor Moses is ineligible due to his loan conditions, ruling out a Boxing Day player. Our squad is thin on the ground. Aly Cissokho, who didn’t win the praise of the fans last week, is likely to deputise at left-back. There is talk of Daniel Agger replacing Mamadou Sakho in the centre half position though some more cautious liverpool pundits have stated that it’d be better to wait for the Hull fixture to make this change. Simon Mignolet will need to be less shaky today, and we’ll need the midfield firing up well. I thought our attacking triangle against Man City did very well. Philippe Coutinho seemed to sparkle and Raheem Sterling continues to be in top form. There has been a question mark over Luis Suarez’s record against the top sides. He has failed to score in our fixtures this season against Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City. He will be keen to silence doubters and can expect an extra hostile crowd, especially with it being his first meeting with Ivanovic since the notorious biting incident.

Chelsea’s ranks are also depleted though they have a much stronger squad. Ramires is out with a suspension for accumulation of yellow cards. Frank Lampard will most likely step up to replace him and there is no love lost between Frank and us. I’ve not been a fan of his since he broke Xabi Alonso’s ankle at Anfield on New Year’s Day several years ago and proceeded to taunt the Kop, proud of his exploits. Jose Mourinho rotates his defence and Ashley Cole is likely to be replaced by Cesar Azpilicueta. John Terry hits a landmark 600th Chelsea cap in today’s game. Fernando Torres is likely to be up front against the Reds, but this is good news really. In six games against us since he moved he has failed to score a single goal and is yet to register a victory. Chelsea have been far less prolific in front of goal than us so far this season, scoring ten goals fewer. Our defence is likely to be threatened less than on Boxing Day, though Chelsea’s defence is certainly among the strongest in the division.

Brendan Rodgers and Jose Mourinho have a deep mutual respect and with Rodgers having served as junior team coach and also reserve team coach during the outspoken Portuguese’s previous reign at the Blues, both will be well up on each other’s tactics. Rodgers is his three latest managerial jobs has never beaten a Mourinho side. Jose is wily. His return to English football has seen a cagier less flamboyant press image and a seemingly deeper thinking seriousness about him. Chelsea’s football has been criticised for not being free flowing, but they are sitting a point above us.

There’s bad news for the referee doubting Liverpool manager as one of our least favourite men in black takes charge of today’s game. Howard Webb will surely have one eye on the two point gap in the table that separates our side from his. I just hope his Christmas scotch was a little sour.

Another defeat would surely put a spanner in the works. If we can stay in the hunt to the new year, we have an easier run of games coming up and key players are due back from injury. The second half of the season sees us taking most of the top sides back to Anfield where it has been re-established as a fortress. The omen’s are good but today’s game is very crucial. It is a pivot point in our season.

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

Match Report: Manchester City vs Liverpool (26.12.13) L 2-1

- - Match Report

vincent kompany

For Liverpool, the lineup was forced into making one change from its successful one in recent matches. Jon Flanagan didn’t make his fitness test and the talented young left back was replaced by Aly Cissokho.

The game was lively from the start, to and fro, both teams looked set out to play a good open game of football. Jesus Navas hit the post with a header after five minutes. The Manchester City defence looked very disciplined and our early attack moves were thwarted as rigorous pressing, good tackling and a very wide formation stopped us in our tracks. Other teams have not forced us to use the whole width of the pitch and have left room to manoeuvre for our wingers down the sides. City stretched us to the max. I thought Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho looked the main danger men. Luis Suarez was being held on a tight leash by the strict Vincent Kompahy, who commands the Man City defence.

After 19 minutes Sterling latched on to a Luis Suarez through ball. Behind the defence he did well in his one-on-one with Joe Hart but unfortunately the linesman flagged him offside so the goal was disallowed. At twenty-five minutes Sterling and Coutinho combined, the Brazilian hitting the ball into an empty net after Hart was rounded by Sterling. One-nil and Liverpool haven’t lost a game when they’ve scored first this season and only one of those games has ended in a draw.

The lead only lasted five minutes. Vincent Kompany totally outmuscled Martin Skrtel as he rose to head a corner past Simon Mignolet in the Liverpool goal. Joe Allen failed to clear from the goal-line emergency defensive position. Philippe Coutinho almost scored a fantastic response in perhaps our finest move all season. Sterling, Suarez and Coutinho all worked well together and intelligently threaded it through the City centre only for the on-form Joe Hart to deny.

On the stroke of half-time Alvaro Negredo gave the home side the lead. Aly Cissokho was out of position and our centre halves were nowhere to be seen. Negredo broke through and with a fairly weak shot, caused Mignolet to make a rare mistake and fumble the ball into the net. Not the best of times to start making unforced errors. Perhaps our luck has run its course? It’s been end to end for the first half and the game could still go either way> Luis Suarez needs to find a way to escape from Kompany’s pocket.

Manuel Pellegrini had obviously been doing his homework on our Uruguayan marksman. Luis Suarez was being closely controlled, which allowed the other Liverpool players a bit more freedom. Our best move early second half saw Jordan Henderson almost latch onto a lovely deep through-ball. Suarez assisted in getting the rebound into Henderson in a goal-line clamour, but Henderson was given offside. Our attacks now have the finesse of a decent Arsene Wenger side – high quality and well-orchestrated total football.

We were dominating possession, having 70% of it early second half. The game was end to end, but no clear chances were developing. We almost had another nightmare in defence, this time Mignolet coming to the rescue as Mamadou Sakho made a shady pass back which was almost intercepted. Glen Johnson became the first player in the ref’s book. Brendan Rodgers made the first use of his bench with a surprise change: Philippe Coutinho making way for Victor Moses, who we haven’t seen in action for a while. I though Coutinho had been more effective than usual today.

Our persistent possession started to pay. We had three clear cut opportunities in the City box. Glen Johnson, Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling all going very close. Sterling’s chance was a real gilt-edged chance and he should have really scored it. Luis Suarez seemed to be getting muscled out away from the central areas and was cropping up down the sides. Pellegrini turned to his bench to try and turn the tide a little. James Milner came on for Samir Nasri and Edin Dzeko was brought on for Alvaro Negredo. With ten minutes left, Brendan Rodgers sacrificed Luca Leiva for Iago Aspas.

The referee Lee Mason seemed to be making some erratic decisions which were costly for Liverpool. He failed to award several free kicks and Luis Suarez had two good penalty appeals shunned away. He did manage to put Pablo Zabaleta in the book and Luis Suarez also entered it for a high challenge on Joe Hart.

The last ten minutes drifted away with us getting no closer to bridging the divide. At the final whistle the score stood at 2-1. Yes, a disappointment, especially in a game where we dominated possession. We should have done better with our chances, though there were far fewer of them today. Manchester City dealt with Luis Suarez very effectively, keeping him silenced for the first time in ages. Their winning goal was ultimately lucky and perhaps they didn’t deserve victory but a victory to the Sky Blues it was and their title challenge looks a strong one. Our bench lacked the depth of their much stronger CL squad. It could be a telling factor later on in the season. We still have a home game to come against this side and three points at Anfield will not be beyond us. We drop off top spot. A few sour cranberries perhaps to dullen our Christmas party. It’s a Blue Moon on Boxing Day. Let’s get back on the road against Chelsea next…

Man Of The Match: Vincent Kompany – The Manchester City marshalled a well-run defence, dealing with Luis well and also scored a vital goal. The difference between the two teams and a quality player.

Match Preview: Liverpool vs Cardiff City (21.12.13)

- - Match Preview

Liverpool CrestCardiff City Crest

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Christmas games are upon us and we have almost reached the traditional halfway stage of the league season. Liverpool are sat happy in second and a win today will put them top with Arsenal needing a victory on Monday against Chelsea to regain number 1 spot in time for the festivities. Liverpool fans are in ebullient mood after last week’s demolition of Tottenham. Three straight victories and possibly the world’s best player in untouchable form… All looks good for the Anfielders…

Cardiff City come to a tricky away fixture in what has been a bad week for them. They lie in fifteenth in the table, only four points from the drop-zone, but a win today would take them to tenth… It hasn’t been a bad season for them really. For novice top-flighters they are doing well with some impressive results against top sides including a victory against Manchester City and a good draw against Manchester United. This week has seen controversial Malaysian owner Vincent Tan issue an ultimatum to manager Malky Mackay to either resign or be sacked. t’s provoked a great deal of sympathy and reaction for the manager, including in particular from his former colleague, Brendan Rodgers, who was one of the first people to stand firmly behind the under pressure boss. Personally I think that the Cardiff City fans should have forced Vincent Tan out when he started making irrational decisions about their kit colour. How a team nicknamed ‘The Bluebirds’ should be forced to change to red, God only knows. Just imagine the furore if Liverpool suddenly changed colour to blue… It just wouldn’t be possible. We, as a club, know exactly what problems bad owners can cause after the Gillett and Hicks saga. Cardiff should maybe learn from us and see how it is possible to get rid of bad owners, if it is perhaps more difficult than changing manager.

On a positive note, something I noticed about a month ago, was an announcement by Liverpool and Cardiff City that both clubs have mutually agreed to offer supporters a discount on tickets for the two matches they have scheduled this season. All supporters get a five pound reduction at the Anfield turnstiles and there will be a similar discount in the Cardiff fixture later in the year. In today’s money-hungry competitive game, it is nice to see two clubs being amicable and giving something back to the people.

Liverpool’s off-field news has been a lot more uplifting. The perfect Christmas present for Reds supporters across the world was announced on Friday, with our talisman and star player, Luis Suarez, putting pen to paper and signing a new four and a half year contract. Critics might suggest that contracts are pretty worthless, but should things deteriorate the £90 million buyout clause is certainly good insurance. If I’d have been told at the height of the summer that by Christmas the Luis situation would be as it is, I wouldn’t have believed it. I’ve always liked Luis and rated him highly but he has surpassed all expectations and the future of our club is on his shoulders. I hope that all Liverpool fans can do their best to keep him and his family happy in the UK, where he is welcome, whatever the press might be saying. We have something special on our hands, perhaps more special than anything I can remember in Liverpool history. The sky’s the limit with Liverpool Lu.

There have been no further injuries this week and Brendan Rodgers could well start the same eleven from last week. Consistency in central defence seems to have been found with Mamadou Sakho and Martin Skrtel being the favoured formula. I think Jordan Henderson’s engine could really rev up our midfield and I can’t see what could be gained by making any changes to the lineup… Cardiff have only scored 12 goals all season so are not a great threat up front. Craig Bellamy could be vital today for them, with his experience and knowledge of Liverpool, though he faces a fitness test to see if he’s available. Other than that, the Cardiff dugout (whoever is in it!) will have a full side available for selection.

Today’s is a rare fixture. The last time these sides met at Anfield in the league was in 1959. Cardiff were riding high in Division 2 and Liverpool were languishing. Cardiff won 4-0 that day. The match was a pivotal moment in our history, however, as it was the first game in charge for our new manager, Bill Shankly, who, of course reversed the fortunes of our great club and led them to where they stand today. It’s a good job that Vincent Tan wasn’t in charge back then or Shankly may not have lasted…

Apparently, the Cardiff owner has plans to attend the game and the Kop have already stated that they will be joining in with any Cardiff fans’ demonstrations. It will be a Christmas pantomime, whatever the result, though I can’t see Cardiff realistically being able to deal with the pressure and no defender in the world is able to cope with Luis Suarez.

We have to be cautious and keep one eye on the two big away games we have after this one. Chelsea and Manchester City will require full concentration and now is the time to prepare.

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

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)

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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 Preview: Liverpool vs Fulham (09.11.13)

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Liverpool were humbled last week on their trip to the Emirates and have dropped to third place in the league, with Arsenal opening up a five point gap at the top. Today’s fixture offers Liverpool a good opportunity to recover. A home game against Fulham who are just two points away from the drop zone in sixteenth place. Brendan Rodgers has set a target of gaining two points per game in order to gain Champions League qualification and by beating Fulham today their average will rise above this two points benchmark.

Glen Johnson, who was ill for last week’s game, will be back available for selection at right-back. Also, Jose Enrique is back in training and should be fighting it out with Aly Cissokho for the left-back position. Philippe Coutinho is fully recovered from his shoulder injury and should be in contention for a starting place.

Fulham welcome back captain Brede Hangeland from injury though a few players will be missing; Sascha Riether is serving a three match FA suspension for a stamp against Manchester United’s Adnan Januzaj; Hugo Rodellega and Matthew Briggs both have injuries.

Fulham have conceded 15 goals in ten games and lost the past three on the bounce. Manager Martin Jol is under intense pressure and is odds-on to be the next Premiership manager to be sacked. However’ Fulham have proved a tricky side for Liverpool in the past few seasons and in three of the past five fixtures between them at Anfield they have kept a clean sheet.

It’s the last game ahead of yet another international break so hopefully we should achieve the three points on offer as easily as might be suggested. The SAS are the top-scoring strike premiership and Fulham’s weak defensive record means that we could be witnessing a goal fest at Anfield this afternoon.

The match kicks off at 3pm and isn’t televised in the UK, but will be shown on Setanta Ireland and you can usually find a good internet live stream at http://wiziwig.tv

Match Preview: Liverpool vs West Brom (26.10.13)

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Liverpool welcome West Brom to Anfield in this non-televised 3pm fixture. Liverpool are currently third in the league with West Brom standing at twelfth. League form, however, can be overlooked. West Brom are a bogey side of Liverpool’s, having won 4 of our previous five league fixtures, including a comfortable double over us last season. Although West Brom haven’t won in over a month, they have been impressive against the top sides, beating Man United in their own back yard and also holding Arsenal to a 1-1 draw. Their manager, former no 2 to Kenny Dalgleish at Liverpool, Steve Clarke, will certainly not be afraid of Liverpool, and is likely to have good knowledge of our side.

For Liverpool, Lucas Leiva should likely make a return to midfield, having been absent for baby duty last weekend. Glen Johnson should be match fit by now and with Jose Enrique still out with a knock, Aly Cissokho looks set to play left-back. Philippe Coutinho still hasn’t commenced full contact training though should hopefully be back for next weekend’s fixture against Arsenal.

Winger, Scott Sinclair, will be missing for West Brom. Ben Foster, Zoltan Gera and George Thorne are also likely to sit out with injuries.

The big question for Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers, is whether to stick with his 3 central defenders. We haven’t yet held a clean sheet using these tactics. I think that a 3-5-2 formation is perhaps a bit too negative, especially for a home game. Also, is it time for Daniel Agger to start again? Martin Skrtel’s form has been holding our vice-captain out of the side. Is it time for Toure or Sakho to make way for the Dane?

Luis Suarez will be hungry as he is yet to score in five games against West Brom. Hopefully his SAS partner, a man with 20 Liverpool goals in 26 appearances, Daniel Sturridge, will also be keen to bag some more goals for his leading tally.

I think that Liverpool will be apprehensive about this fixture and maybe will be a bit too over-cautious. They has a bad game against Newcastle last week and need to bounce back. Hopefully our home crowd will be supportive and provide the impetus for us to get the three points which the bookies are predicting. Never in our club’s history have we lost three consecutive home games to West Brom. Let’s hope that this afternoon we can end this bogey team’s run against us.

I’d recommend checking http://wiziwig.tv for live match streams.