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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 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.

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 Preview: Arsenal vs Liverpool (02.11.13)

- - Match Preview

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Well, this is the big clash. Ever since the fixtures list was published I’d been eyeing up today’s date as one to watch. Arsenal are a very testing side, one of the most consistently best sides in the Premiership and an away fixture against them is always a challenge. I think our current form and good league position has been helped by a kind fixture schedule so far. Today’s clash will be a big challenge, probably the first time all season we have faced a team residing ahead of us in the league. For all our good cheer, Arsenal have been grinding away and have been top for the past month, with few really acknowledging their almost flawless campaign. For all the criticism of their summer transfer market policy and action, Arsene Wenger’s side are actually having their best run in years. A stable side can often outwit a team full of changes and Arsenal are no slouches. Since the departure of Ferguson, Wenger takes over as the most experienced league manager. He is as cunning as a fox and tactically few can match his astuteness. Brendan Rodgers will face a true battle today and should we overcome Arsenal, then maybe talk of us winning the league can be actually taken seriously.

The timing of the fixture is actually quite good for Liverpool. Arsenal were defeated at the hands of Chelsea midweek in the Carling Cup, and at the Emirates. OK, it was a second string side, but a defeat is a defeat and it will have hurt morale. Liverpool have skipped through their dip in form and last week against West Brom was, perhaps, our best performance all season, with the resurgent Luis Suarez really standing out. Of course, the transfer market controversy will be on the tip of everyone’ tongue and Luis today will be under the spotlight. Hopefully he will prove his true value to us today and be keen to demonstrate to his suitors that they really did miss out on a legend.

The Gunners did make one key signing and German attacker Mesut Osil has been proving himself to be deadly, although perhaps with fewer headlines than our notorious SAS. Both sides will be welcoming back key players. Mikel Arteta, the former Evertonian will be back to boss their midfield after a suspension, and we all know how anyone linked to our derby rivals likes to up their game when they face Liverpool. For Liverpool, the much lauded Philippe Coutinho will be back available. Will Rodgers throw our Brazilian star back into the mix from the start or maybe he will have to have some impact from the bench? Aly Cissokho will continue deputising for the injured left back Jose Enrique, and the game could be a big challenge for the premiership newcomer, who has looked a bit shaky in adjusting. Theo Walcott could prove troublesome down that side. Last time out against Arsenal him and Oliver Giroud scored two early goals in a game where we luckily salvaged a 2-2 draw. Arsenal, however, won the two games prior to that against us.

The fixture is likely to be exciting, with both sides playing open, passing football. It is the clash of the early titans and the pressure is on for both sides. For, Arsenal it heralds the start of a mini-run of key games against us, Borussia Dortmund and Manchester United. They will be hoping not to slip up. Equally, everyone is suggesting it is the true test of Liverpool’s ability to infiltrate the top four. We had a good home result against Manchester United in the league, but to take 3 away points today would be a genuine achievement.

I think that Suarez and Sturridge will be the key to our ultimate victory though the defence will have to be extra cautious. The new defensive system is far from fallible and today it will come under a lot of heavy pressure. Let’s hope all our players can step up and that we can start to prove our true pedigree for title contention.

The game kicks off at 5.30pm and will be televised on Sky Sports 1.

 

Match Preview: Sunderland vs Liverpool (29.09.13)

- - Match Preview

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Liverpool head to the Stadium of Light in Sunday afternoon’s big game. Sunderland are rooted to the bottom of the Premiership table with only one point from five matches. Their outspoken manager, Paolo Di Canio, was sacked last week. They look red hot favourites to face the drop this season. But, will the players react to the loss of their manager and pull out a performance against a Liverpool side who have lost their early season momentum? The Sunderland players had been critical of Di Canio and now have what they want so it is time for them to show what they are made of and put in a winning display. Will interim head coach, Kevin Ball, have what it takes to turn their fortunes around?

The big news for Liverpool is that Luis Suarez is likely to make his first premiership appearance since the ending of his ban. He failed to score in last Wednesday’s defeat in the Carling Cup to Manchester United, so he has a few points to prove himself. Will we see the form of last season’t Suarez, or is he yet to settle? Liverpool still have a stack of injuries and Aly Cissokho, Daniel Agger, Philippe Coutinho and Glen Johnson are all still out of action. Simon Mignolet is set to return to his former club for the first time and we can expect him to raise his game in front of his old crowd. He was the Sunderland player of the season last year and as the busiest keeper in the league so far this season, with 25 saves, his old side are certainly missing him. Jordan Henderson is another player who will face his former club.

The Black Cats are without their striker, Steven Fletcher, who suffered an injury is last week’s defeat to West Brom, where Sunderland failed to have a single attempt on goal. Sunderland are the only side left in the Premiership without a league win and have lost 3 on the bounce. Liverpool themselves though, including the midweek League Cup clash, have lost two consecutive games. Fabio Borini, who joined Sunderland on loan on transfer deadline day, is ineligible to play against his parent club. We can expect Sunderland to deploy Lee Cattermole as a tussling midfielder, as he is a Kevin Ball style player, who likes to get stuck in the nitty-gritty. Kevin Ball has a lot to gain from the match, as by beating Liverpool, it could cement his position as permanent manager of the flailing club.

The loss of Di Canio, could certainly have a dangerous effect on our opposition. Often, managerless clubs go on to get shock results. However, Liverpool’s class should show through and guide them to victory. They are aiming for top four and three points here would guide them back into the target zone, with only Arsenal having a points advantage. Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham all dropped points this weekend, so now is the time to capitalise and to settle for less than the three points on offer would be a blow. This is where the Liverpool downturn reverts back to good form. I expect a comfortable victory. We just have to get our strikeforce firing.

The Match kicks off at 4pm and is televised live on Sky Sports 1.

Steven Gerrard

- - Current Squad, Players

Steven Gerrard

Steven Gerrard is the Liverpool Football Club Captain. He has to be one of the biggest players ever to have graced the game of football and possibly the greatest legend of all time at LFC. He was born, Steven George Gerrard, on 30th May 1980, in Whiston, Merseyside. He joined the Liverpool FC Academy at the age of nine. He made his first team debut in 1998, by 200 had cemented a regular place in the  side and in 2003 replaced Sami Hyppia as club captain, a position he has retained ever since. In addition to his club career, he has also represented England since 2000, playing in three European Championships and 2 World Cups, gaining over 100 caps for his country and also is presently the captain of his national side and looks likely to lead them to the next World Cup in Brazil in 2014.

Gerrard is renowned for his box-to-box action midfield role for Liverpool. He leads by example, heavily committing himself in defence and with his pristine passing both highly accurate and with varying range, he plays a key role in Liverpool’s attack. He has, during his career, even been advanced further forward from central midfield, into a support striker role. He has made over 600 appearances for Liverpool and has scored over 150 goals, thus averaging a goal every four games. His trademark free kicks make him one of the most dangerous set-piece takers out there. What separates Gerrard, though, from other world class players, is his ability to step up to the table in big games. He does not shirk responsibility when the stakes are high. My three favourite Gerrard scoring moments all came in critical times during important fixtures. In the 2005 Champions League campaign, when we needed a third goal against Olympiacos at Anfield during the final group game, in order to qualify, Gerrard produced a fantastic strike from 25 yards outside the box, which flew past the keeper, sending Sky Sports commentator, Andy Gray, famously wild. and the adoring Kop even wilder.

In the European Cup final later that year, in the Ataturk Stadium, Istanbul, with Liverpool trailing 3-0 at half time against the mighty AC Milan, it was captain, Steven Gerrard, who began the great comeback, with a stunning header.

After a tenuous match Gerrard emerged as the winning captain and lifting the European Cup was, I feel, his greatest ever moment in a Liverpool shirt.

The third most memorable goal was the winning strike of the 2006 FA Cup final in Cardiff against West Ham, which was later named the ‘Gerrard Final’ in honour of his spectacular volley and match-winning display.

Luckily for me, I was at all three of these games and saw the goals exactly as they happened. It meant a lot, seeing my namesake hit the pinnacle of his career.

He is the only player ever to have scored in the League Cup Final, FA Cup Final, UEFA Cup Final and European Cup Final.

His career hit a few dark spots along the way too, the most notorious downspot in his career was when he flirted with leaving Liverpool for Chelsea, which only at the last minute was thwarted, him realising the loyalty of his supporters at Liverpool and how important the club actually was to him. He has been sent off on numerous occasions, mainly for his fiery challenges. Certainly, early on in his career, he was well-known for hard two-footed challenges. He has also been unfortunately affected by recurring injuries, in particular his groin. A big downside was him missing out on the 2002 World Cup Finals due to his groin flaring up in Liverpool’s final match of that season.

Gerrard’s devotion to Liverpool has meant he is one of the longest serving players ever at the club. He has known no other club throughout his career putting him in the bracket of the likes of Paolo Maldini, another legendary one-club player (AC Milan). His great vice captain, Jamie Carragher, supported him throughout most of his career and demonstrated himself to be a loyal, one club servant. As Gerrard has moved from strength to strength and into the twilight of his career, many fans discuss the legacy of Steven Gerrard. He is a homegrown talent who has led the club to dizzy heights, the only major club medal to allude him being the Premiership Champions one. Before Gerrard’s time, Kenny Dalgleish was widely viewed as the greatest Liverpool legend. Steven Gerrard will be remembered in the same vein as Liverpool greats, such as ‘King Kenny’. and will probably ultimately be recognised as the greatest Liverpool legend of alltime. Hopefully, the last medal for his collection can be gained in the last two or three seasons of his playing career. Perhaps, Steven Gerrard will go on to emulate further Dalgleish, and go on to represent the club at managerial level?

Steven Gerrard Autobiography

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Gerrard: My Liverpool Story

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Steven Gerrard: A Year In My Life

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Match Preview: Manchester United vs Liverpool (25.09.13)

- - Match Preview

Manchester UnitedLiverpool FC

 

 

 

 

 

This fixture, so early on in the Carling Cup, is perhaps one we would have wanted to avoid. United are a strong side and to face them at any stage of a cup competition is daunting. However, I would argue that they are currently on the ropes and that this fourth round tie is an ideal one for us to rub their noses in their downtrodden start to the season. They have only managed one point in three games against leading sides and we have already beaten them at Anfield only a few weeks ago. David Moyes is struggling and after Di Canio’s early exit, I’d say that the new United manager must be the bookie’s favourite to be the next Premiership manager to face dismissal.

The Carling Cup is traditionally used to bed in fringe and youth players, though with the gravity of today’s opponenets, I can see Brendan Rodgers choosing a strong side to face them. We aren’t in Europe this year so that makes the domestic cups all the more important. The Carling Cup is a very winnable trophy and we should do all we can to further our goals in this competition.

Of course, the big news is that Luis Suarez is back available for selection after his ten match ban expired. What a game for our star striker to return to! He will relish the prospect of facing old adversaries such as Patrice Evra, and should he be picked in the starting eleven, we can expect big things from King Luis.

We’ve got some injuries setting us back. Glen Johnson will still be out, which is a real loss after he turned in a fantastic display in our previous game against Man United this season. Philippe Coutinho has a successful operation on his shoulder but is still likely to be missing for a month. Aly Cissokho is still out and Daniel Agger is unlikely to play after coming off injured against Southampton and admitting he shouldn’t have made himself available for selection for that game. Good news is that Enrique should be fit enough to return and also there is no reason why Martin Kelly cannot fit in defensively, thus eliminating our over-reliance on central defenders last Saturday. Will Joe Allen step in for the under-performing captain, Steven Gerrard? I hope not as I think we need our talisman to fire up the ranks in such an intimidating away stadium. Maybe because it is the Carling Cup and essentially a test ground for youth players, there will be room for either Raheem Sterling or Jordan Ibe somewhere in the attack. I think both had strong preseasons and warrant a game or two in the campaign and maybe this is an ideal fixture to let them loose. Whether the on-form Daniel Sturridge will feature from the start is a question? He might get initially rested and come on from the bench as an impact player, should we need him.

On the United front, it looks as though their lead goalscorer, Robin Van Persie, will still be out injured after failing to make the Man City game on the weekend. Defenders, Rafael and Phil Jones are likely to also be sitting out with injuries, though wingers Wilfried Zaha and Nani both should be available for selection. Wayne Rooney is likely to prove a dangerous opponent, with a record of three goals against Liverpool in the last three home fixtures against them. The former Evertonian hates us Kopites with a passion and with the pressure clearly on his team for this match we can expect him to come out all guns blazing.

I think that Moyes will be desperate for victory though this could lead to him making mistakes in over-exerting his players. Brendan Rodgers needs to keep his cool and bring up the team’s performance to the standard they were setting right at the start of this season. All being well, we should progress and I think that circumstances are certainly in our favour. It will be a challenge, but who, as a Liverpool fan, will not relish defeating our bitter rivals for the second time this season?

The match kicks off at 7.45pm and is being televised on Sky Sports 1.