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Match Preview: Manchester City vs Liverpool (26.12.13)

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Manchester City CrestLiverpool Crest

It’s time for one of the traditional football delights – the Boxing Day match… Full of Christmas turkey, it’s the time of year to gather around and watch the game – the halfway point of the season – it’s a good time to really start judging your team’s chances for the season. And it’s been a perfect Christmas for Liverpool; a perfect 2013 really, with even Gary Neville recognising Brendan Rodgers as the manager of the year…. We are top of the league, our star player has just put pen to paper on a lucrative contract extension and we have one of the highest league points total in many a year. It hasn’t been a season without flaws and we have dropped vital points and performed badly in a few matches: the Hull City, Southampton and Arsenal games spring to mind… But overall we have been doing very well. Our defence could still plug up a little, but the goals are fast-flowing and our attack, tactics and passing have looked better than they have done in a long time. We have possibly the best striker in world football and despite a couple of key injuries our squad is looking strong and performing well, and more importantly playing together as one. We are a force to be reckoned with and our preseason goal of a top four finish is well on the cards, with a chance now of actually lifting our first ever Premiership League trophy. Managerial changes in other top clubs means that an opportunity like this season may not present itself again. The time is ripe.

Our Boxing Day fixture this year is a mouthwatering fixture that has been creeping up over the past month. Away at the Etihad to Manchester City. Brendan Rodgers says that the title in Manchester City’s to lose. We are top of the league, but the top five are separated by only two points. It is very congested. Manchester City lie third, only a point behind us. The fixture looks particularly prominent as it is a meeting of the two top scoring Premiership sides. Goals have been free-flowing from both teams this year and Manchester City are the only side to have bagged more goals than us – 51 – 9 more than our 42. They have a perfect home record with 8 wins from 8, with a massive 35 goal tally at the City of Manchester stadium. Liverpool are the biggest scorers away from home and top individual goalscorer, Luis Suarez, has already broken the history of the Premiership’s monthly goalscoring record with ten goals in December so far. The firepower should be evenly matched as City’s leading scorer, Sergio Aguero, is out injured until January. We are missing Daniel Sturridge though have been coping well without him, with other players stepping up in the side to contribute to goals.

I think the weakness for both sides in is defence. Both Manuel Pellegrini and Brendan Rodgers have both been tinkering a lot with their defences this season and both have been a little too leaky for title challengers. Hopefully, our problems in the centre have been resolved with consistency being achieved in the last three games, Martin Skrtel being joined by Mamadou Sakho. Today will be their biggest test of the year perhaps? It looks as though Daniel Agger could be off to Napoli on loan in January… Let’s hope that we are extra secure at the back today…

Liverpool come into the fixture off the back of four straight high-scoring wins, though City are no slouches, having has some good dominant victories over Arsenal and Bayern Munich. They also put six past Tottenham. We were dominated by Arsenal and made to look ordinary in our defeat to them. Manchester City completely destroyed them a couple of weeks ago and I suppose, are responsible for us finding ourselves top of the league at Christmas.

Rodgers was present at the Etihad when Bayern Munich beat City in the Champions League so knows full well how they are not infallible at home. He saw the European Champions use a holding midfielder to edge out the 4-4-2 City set-up. Manchester City have been steadily improving all year though.

Last season we had two draws against Manchester City though outperformed them on both occasions. We are a side whose tactics strike fear into the ‘new Chelsea’. City will be there or thereabouts in the top four at the end of the season so it is crucial that we make gains on the head-to-head fixtures. Yes, Aguero is out, but equally, our captain, Steven Gerrard, is a critical injury blow for us. We cannot be overdependent on Luis and the other players around him will all have to bond well and deliver top performances if we are to get points here today. To be fair they have done surprisingly well recently though today is certainly a step up in class.

City’s defence is under the cosh injury-wise with Matija Nastasic, Pablo Zabaleta and Micah Richards all out for the fixture. Our youngster, Jon Flanagan picked up a knock against Cardiff and might not make it, which could be a concern as Jose Enrique is also still out. We could possibly see Martin Kelly getting a recall.

The tables are set and this will certainly be a Christmas treat for both sets of supporters, if only to truly assess our teams’ potential. I hope Luis has a nice bit of Turkey and is feeling fresh as he is unplayable at the moment, whatever the calibre of opponent. I’d like to think he’ll bag a hat-trick, and it would really top off the Reds’ festivities. We’ve been spoilt this Christmas though, and maybe a wake up call is lurking in the mist?

The match kicks off at 1730 and will be shown live on BT Sport.

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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 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 Preview: Newcastle United vs Liverpool (19.10.13)

- - Match Preview

 

Newcastle_United Liverpool Crest

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, thankfully, the international break is over, and it’s a return to the Premiership for our club players. We lie second in the table, to Newcastle’s 11th. Luckily no more injuries were picked up by our players during the international break and our injury list actually shrinks ahead of this game with Glen Johnson, Aly Cissokho and Joe Allen all returning to the squad after lengthy absences. Bad news as Iago Aspas is ruled out with a thigh problem. Philippe Coutinho is still in recovery from his shoulder injury. Lucas Leiva though will be back available for selection after completing his suspension.

Newcastle have a few notable absences of their own, with two key Argentinians missing. Fabricio Coloccini and Jonas Gutiérrez are both out, defender Coloccini has a groin injury and midfielder Gutiérrez has been allowed to return to his homeland for personal reasons.

Newcastle will still be smarting from the heavy 6-0 defeat Liverpool inflicted on them, last time out, in April. If anything, our team has grown even stronger than then, so Alan Pardew may indeed come under heavy pressure. The Liverpool SAS (Suarez and Sturridge) are probably the League’s most prolific striking partnership and with key personnel missing, Newcastle will hopefully be on the back foot.

With the return of Johnson to Liverpool’s squad, it could be interesting predicting what Brendan Rodgers decides to do with the defence. The 3-5-2 we’ve been using recently, although I’ve been quite critical of it, does seem to have been delivering results and therefore works. Will Johnson’s reappearance mean we revert back to a standard 4-4-2?

These games have traditionally been goal feasts with 122 games being scored in the past 38 league meetings. Let’s hope that it’s one way traffic and that our defence will be tight, with our attack performing to its utmost.Newcastle have had an unbalanced start to their campaign and their defence has been notably leaky. With key players missing today, including their captain, the omens for the passionate St. James Park home supporters aren’t good. Brendan Rodgers has described his squad as being at the strongest yet this season, so looking at the pre-match analysis, everything is in our favour and with luck we should gain the three points here, temporarily catapulting us back to the top of the League.

The match will be shown live on BT Sports, kicking off at 12.45pm