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Match Preview: Chelsea vs Liverpool (29.12.13)

            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…

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Match Preview: Manchester City vs Liverpool (26.12.13)

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…

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Match Preview: Tottenham vs Liverpool (15.12.13)

              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…

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Match Preview: Liverpool vs West Ham (07.12.13)

              Liverpool are on a high after their midweek drumming of Norwich which was maybe the highlight of our season. Will our form be maintained? Today’s Anfield visitors are West Ham, who in contrast to Liverpool, had a messy 1-0 defeat midweek to lowly Crystal Palace. West Ham have made 55 visits to Anfield in the league and have won just three. In September 1963 they had their last success against us. Having said that, I can remember a West Ham team giving us a damned good run for money in the 2006 FA Cup Final. They are a big club, with good support and as the league has already demonstrated to Liverpool’s woe this season, anything can happen in ninety minutes. Liverpool have two key players, Daniel Sturridge and Jose Enrique missing with long term injuries, but the impact on our squad is minor compared with West Ham’s poor run of luck. Ricardo Vaz Te, Razvan Rat, George McCartney and Alou Diarra are all missing. Former Reds striker Andy Carroll is back in light training, though still unlikely to feature. To compound the injury woe, Ravel Morrison picked up a post final whistle caution taking him to a season tally of five so he will be serving a ban. A possible thorn in the West Ham squad, who could step up to haunt us is Stewart Downing. I felt he performed very well for us in the second half of last season and was surprised that he was allowed to leave on such a low transfer fee. I haven’t really been following his form this season, but his knowledge of our game will certainly help in the away dressing room. West Ham sit one place out of the relegation zone so another season of dodging the relegation bullet looks in store for them. They usually only start playing in the last couple of months of the season. Liverpool are within their targeted zone – just. Everton are just outside the Champions League places in fifth, behind us only on goal difference. Tottenham are still within striking distance but the heights of Arsenal look a dizzying distance away and CHelsea and Manchester City are starting to show good form, even if both had shakier starts than us. West Ham have scored fewer goals than Luis Suarez all season, even with him skipping the first…

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Match Preview: Liverpool vs Norwich City (04.12.13)

              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…

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

There were a few surprises in the starting lineup. Philippe Coutinho, it transpires, will also be missing from our attack with a niggling injury from this week’s training. He made the bench , however, unlike Daniel Sturridge, of course, whose 6-8 week absence was confirmed by the club prior to kick off. Kolo Toure was called up in place of Daniel Agger and Victor Moses and Raheem Sterling were called in to support Luis Suarez up front. The question regarding Steve Bruce’s defensive lineup was answered by the Hull City defence conservatively opting for five men at the back. The first twenty minutes proceeded somewhat cautiously with Liverpool perhaps edging possession yet their depleted attack and the enhanced Hull defence cancelling each other out. Gerrard shone initially for the away side, pinging a couple of his trademark long crossfield balls, though in the centre of the attack, it was all a bit hackety-hack with our strikeforce failing to link properly and Hull being able to belt the ball away from their lines. At the end of the first twenty minutes, Hull were to benefit from a massive stroke of luck. Jake Livermore, moving forward dangerously, recollecting from a one-two, hit a speculative effort which unfortunately caught a huge ricochet off Martin Skrtel and left the Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet powerless to stop the ball from careering into the goal. Hull were up and with a good home defensive record Liverpool needed to step it up. The Reds duly did increase the pace of their game and within ten minutes got their reward. Jordan Henderson made a good run towards the edge of the penalty area and was brought down under a hefty challenge from Curtis Davies who went straight into Howard Webb’s book. The free kick was perfectly within Luis Suarez’s range. It was the captain, however, who stepped up to the mark and beautifully defying the wall, Steven Gerrard guided the ball with missile-like accuracy past the keeper into the bottom corner to draw us back level. In open play, Hull’s defensive tactics seemed to be working well. The newcomers, Raheem Sterling and Victor Moses, weren’t using the width of the pitch and with a narrow attack, it was relatively simple for the banks of defenders to prevent any breakthroughs. Hull were playing classic counter-attack football yet their rarer attacks seemed more penetrative. I hate playing against the lesser sides…

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Match Preview: Hull City vs Liverpool (01.12.13)

            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…

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

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

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Match Preview: Everton vs Liverpool (23.11.13)

        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…

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

Liverpool kicked off the match reverting to their more typical 4-4-2 formation. Daniel Agger had a recall in the centre of defence, pairing up with Martin Skrtel. Aly Cissokho retained his place as left-back and Glen Johnson returned on the right. Philippe Coutinho was our additional midfielder, making a welcome return. Right from the outset, Liverpool demonstrated their intentions by setting up camp in the Fulham half. Defensively Fulham looked very weak. They weren’t pressing the ball at all and had a very shaky formation. they just seemed interested in getting men behind the ball and banks of defenders built up to wait for Liverpool mistakes and to hack the ball away. It seemed as though Coutinho would be more advanced and it was more like a 4-3-3 formation from Liverpool. The side were certainly very positive and were passing the ball around really well, with Jordan Henderson and Steven Gerrard in particular, dovetailing nicely and creating lots of good attacking opportunities. Luis Suarez came closest to breaking the early deadlock, moving nicely into the box, but being denied by Fulham keeper, Maarten Stekelenburg. In the twenty-third minute, Steven Gerrard lifted another of his perfectly executed free-kicks into the box. It connected with Luis Suarez’s head and was knocked into the back of the net by Fulham player, Fernando Amorebieta. Liverpool deservedly had the lead. Three minutes later and that lead was doubled when Martin Skrtel rose to head home a Steven Gerrard corner. liverpool were rampant with over two thirds of possession and the vast majority of the territory. There were lots of skills flowing, with Philippe Coutinho regularly outclassing the lacklustre Fulham defenders. In the thirty-sixth minute an awesome crossfield pass from Gerrard was slotted through to Luis Suarez by Jordan Henderson. It was a perfectly executed pass and Luis Suarez, in a rich goal-scoring vein, had little hesitation when slotting it past the Fulham keeper. Martin Jol and the Fulham bench looked on desolate and the Fulham players looked relieved at the half-time whistle. Liverpool had enjoyed 70% possession and a return from this result looked out of the question. As soon as the whistle blew Liverpool were straight on the attack. Daniel Sturridge had his turn in front of the keeper and was unlucky not to score and Suarez latched onto the rebound to no avail. Sturridge has looked a bit shaky in front of goal the past…

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Match Report: Arsenal vs Liverpool (02.11.13) L 2-0

It was immediately clear from the start that we were facing high quality opposition. Whereas there are other premiership sides that pass the ball and retain possession well, Arsenal are masters. Their passing is not just quick and clean, it’s incisive. They play very creatively and recovering possession is difficult. We have to make our attacks count as they will be fewer and far between. A surprise to me was the starting of Jon Flanagan at right back. Him and Cissokho out on the wings will most probably both face a tough game. The early possession was divided up roughly 60/40 in Arsenal’s favour. It was back and for and Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson broke through into the box well yet was unable to finish off properly. Liverpool had a few early free kicks in the opposition half but nothing productive seemed to be resulting. In the 19th minute Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla hit a flying shot which luckily rebounded off the post. Not so luckily the rebound fell right back to his feet and he comfortably slotted the goal into the net past a fallen Simon Mignolet. Arsenal were sharp and now had managed to maintain their record of scoring in every premiership game so far. It was 1-0 and our challenge had become a lot harder. Bacary Sagna entered the book for a challenge on Luis Suarez, who had started to motor up against the Arsenal defence. Steven Gerrard lifted a lovely free-kick into the box and the keeper made a cracking stop to a Liverpool header but it would have all been in vain anyway as it was given offside. At the other end of the pitch Aaron Ramsey forced a good save from Mignolet. Sagna managed to outwit Aly Cissokho and he received the second booking of the game. Arsenal, when attacking, were really making us look uneasy. If Liverpool want to get anything from the game we need to focus on maintaining possession and allowing our attack to devastate. The first half finished and Arsenal were clearly on top with a goal, more shots on targets and 60% possession. Brendan Rodgers decided to act at half-time and our Brazilian dynamo, Philippe Coutinho, was brought on, with Aly Cissokho being replaced. A very positive manoeuvre and hopefully the impetus we need to get back into the game. Early second half and Liverpool began well, putting Arsenal under pressure….

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Match Report: Liverpool vs West Brom (26.10.13) W 4-1

Liverpool began the match with their favoured three central defenders, Daniel Agger still not being able to force his way back into first XI. The game began with a fast tempo with Liverpool passing the ball around well. Suarez was pressurising the West Brom defence right from the outset and after having a few shots go wide, fell under a challenge as he headed into the box, but it was a weak appeal for a penalty and the referee correctly refused to award it. A couple of minutes later though (in the 12th) and heading into the right side of the penalty area, he nutmegged the defender and beautifully slotted the ball past WBA keeper, Myhill. A great start for Liverpool and Luis Suarez managed to break his goalscoring duck against Albion. Liverpool kept up the tempo and territorial pressure on the beleaguered away side and it only took another five minutes before yet again our star Uruguayan was converting. This time, Aly Cissokho delivered a great cross to the edge of the box where Suarez plunged a fantastic powerful header into the top corner.  2-0 Liverpool. With 25 minutes gone, a beautifully crafted free kick, from a good position on the edge of the area, culminated in Martin Skrtel slicing the ball from a good goal-scoring position. There was an injury concern when Glen Johnson went down awkwardly while making a recovery tackle against Anichebe. West Brom just couldn’t seem to get into the game and Liverpool were truly dominant. Jordan Henderson almost increased the lead to three with a narrowly missing curling shot just clearing the post. Just before half time and a long through ball for Nicolas Anelka saw him skip past Martin Skrtel and Simon Mignolet. Having beaten the last line of defence, he passed the ball towards the open goal but luckily for Liverpool, the persistent on-from defender, Skrtel, managed to get back and clear the ball from the line. It was the only real danger of what was an excellent first half for the home team. The second half got underway and immediately Daniel Sturridge won a decently positioned free kick and went close to scoring with a strong, curling shot, which just skipped wide. Baggies defender, Claudio Yacob, managed to stop another Liverpool attack but went into the book for his efforts and left a free kick to the Redmen. Steven Gerrard delivered perfectly…

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Match Preview: Liverpool vs West Brom (26.10.13)

            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…

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Match Report: Newcastle United vs Liverpool (19.10.13) D 2-2

Liverpool started the game in their favoured 3-5-2 formation, with natural wing backs in Aly Cissokho and Glen Johnson bot making reappearances. Sakho, Toure and Skrtel form the central defence 3. Lucas Leiva stayed at home with his wife and their new-born daughter. Jordan Henderson joined Steven Gerrard in the middle of the park with Victor Moses lining up behind the formidable SAS. The game started with good flowing football from both sides. Glen Johnson looked comfortable back in his right back role and made some lovely passes, most notably a cracking cross pitch ball to the opposite wing. Liverpool were having the most of territory in the first twenty minutes, but somehow their passing just didn’t seem to be hitting the mark. Then, all of a sudden, Newcastle broke through midfield, and from thirty yards out, Yohan Cabaye let loose with a powerful, swerving shot which Simon Mignolet let pass him. The keeper really should have stopped a shot from such a distance. It was totally against the run of play, but leaves Liverpool on the back foot, one-nil down Newcastle followed up their goal with some sustained pressure and a few corners left Liverpool’s defence being tested. Liverpool were still on top in terms of possession and even after Gerrard delivered their eighth corner, they still couldn’t find the goal. Back at the other end, Newcastle who were primarily counter-attacking, Mignolet redeemed himself slightly, with a great stop from a powerful shot from Newcastle’s Moussa Cissokho. Apart from the goal it was definitely the best chance of the game so far. Liverpool got back to attacking and Luis Suarez made a good attempt. A couple of minutes later, Luis Suarez, again in the box, was brought down with a professional foul by Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa. The defender was given an instant red card and hesitatingly made his way off the pitch. Meanwhile, skipper Steven Gerrard, stepped up to the spot to easily score the penalty kick, his one hundredth league goal. The game had turned yet again upon its head and Newcastle, down to ten men, must surely be under pressure for the rest of the match. Just ahead of halftime and Newcastle decided to change their formation slightly with a defensive substitution, Paul Dummett on for Moussa Sissoko. Steven Gerrard managed to pick himself up a caution. Half time, and rather a messy 45 minutes in terms of football has…

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Match Report: Liverpool vs Crystal Palace (05.10.13) W 3-1

It began  a good day for Liverpool as it saw Kenny Dalgleish return to a position in the directors’ box at Anfield. Liverpool started the game in their recent favoured 3-5-2 formation, Martin Skrtel joined by Sakho and Toure in the centre of defence. The missing Lucas was replaced by Jordan Henderson in the centre of midfield and Raheem Sterling took his place on the right hand side. Liverpool started the game very positively, immediately seizing control of possession and putting the struggling Crystal Palace on the back foot. It wasn’t long before we broke the deadlock. After thirteen minutes, Suarez, fallen off his feet in the box, latched onto Jose Enrique’s ball and slipped it into the net. To complete the devastating force of our SAS, Daniel Sturridge soon afterwards made it two with a cracking left foot strike into the bottom corner. Crystal Palace responded well to the early pressure and for the next ten minutes made Liverpool defend. We looked a bit shaky at the back and it required a spectacular save from Simon Mignolet to secure our clean sheet, denying a good attempt from Puncheon. In the thirty-sixth minute, Raheem Sterling, heading into the Anfield Road end penalty area, fell after a minor touch from Moxey. Penalty awarded and the captain, Steven Gerrard, stepped up to fool the keeper into diving the wrong way. Before halftime Victor Moses was thwarted by the crossbar. It was 3-0 and liverpool’s relentless attack had sealed a comfortable position ahead of the second half. Crystal Palace dug in, second half, and made life a bit more difficult for the Redmen, who to be fair had probably taken their foot off the gas a little. The game moved back and forth with a fairly even allocation of possession and territory. Daniel Agger came on for Mamadou Sakho and Victor Moses made way for Luis Alberto. Raheem Sterling was having a good game down the wing and was causing all sorts of problems out on the right. In the seventy-sixth minute Gayle, for Crystal Palace headed a cross into the box, past the Liverpool keeper. It was initially reported as a Gerrard own goal, such was the confusion. Liverpool’s attack kept breaking down with misplaced passes. Daniel Sturridge hit a cracking volley which spun back off the inside of the post, so unlucky not to make it a brace. He was substituted…

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Match Preview: Liverpool vs Crystal Palace (05.10.13)

            Last time out at Anfield, Liverpool gave a disappointing performance and slumped to a 2-0 defeat against Southampton.We turned the corner in out mini-crisis, however, and beat Sunderland away last week, to take up second place in the league. Here, we return to a home fixture against minnow opposition. Crystal Palace are languishing in the drop-zone already, just above Sunderland in 19th place, with one win and five losses. When you look ahead to fixtures, it’s the eye-catching ones which excite supporters. The matches against the top four sides, the Merseyside derby, the Man United games. These games, for Liverpool, generally cause few problems. We always step it up for the big occasions and usually succeed in bagging all the points on offer. Nowadays, I see the likes of Crystal Palace at home in the fixture list, and whereas, looking at the league standings, it should be an easy three points, for Liverpool, we always seem to struggle against the hackers that fight it out at the bottom of the division. I think that with Liverpool being such a huge club historically, sides like Palace, who are not as accustomed to Premiership ways, really try to perform and shine in front of our passionate football loving supporters. Games in the atmosphere of Anfield bring out the best in the opposition. It is like stepping out at Wembley for them. They bring their A-game, and also their mainly physical styles don’t suit us very well. We like beautiful football, passing and movement. When you are facing rough aerial challenges and hoofed long-balls from the back for ninety minutes, it takes its toll on the players, and slips in defence are more likely to occur. Injuries and suspensions mean that Liverpool will be flexing their squad for the game. Lucas Leiva is a critical non-starter, on a one-match ban for accumulation of yellow cards. It seems a little early in the season for this to happen, and our Brazilian starlet should perhaps pay more attention to his discipline when he returns. Lucas’ natural replacement, Joe Allen, is still out injured with his hamstring. Obviously, Coutinho and Johnson, are still in recovery and Cissokho also misses out. Sebastien Coates has picked up a cruciate knee ligament injury on international duty so is another long term absentee. Rodgers is likely to turn to Jordan Henderson as cover for…

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Match Report: Sunderland vs Liverpool (29.09.13) W 1-3

Liverpool started the game in the 3-5-2 formation they used against Man United last week. Sakho, Skrtel and Toure providing the back line. I was a bit unsure of this at first as I’d much rather 4 defenders at the back. Early on, Sturridge was fouled on the edge of the box and Steven Gerrard stepped up to take the set piece. He curled it hard at the bottom left corner and Sunderland keeper, Keiren Westwood, managed to parry it away, only for defender, Martin Skrtel to latch onto it and slip it into the back of the net. Unfortunately for the away supporters, the linesman instantly gave it offside. Sunderland certainly weren’t playing like a side at the foot of the table, with their supporters readily backing them and their attack putting Liverpool’s defenders under a lot of pressure. There was an injury scare for Liverpool’s returning star, Luis Suarez, when a heavy challenge caused him to receive treatment for a sore thigh. Lucas went in on a reckless challenge and conceded a free kick in a nice position. Sunderland Swede, Larsson rifled it past old boy, Simon Mignolet, only for it to strike the crossbar, saving Liverpool from embarrassment. Sunderland were unable to convert the 60% possession they had for the first twenty minutes though for a team that had no shots on target last weekend, they had managed seven attempts already in the opening quarter. Against the run of play, Daniel Sturridge messily latched onto a cross into the box and what initially looked like a header, flew into the back of the net. Liverpool were one up at the Stadium of Light but the replay seemed to show that it was Sturridge’s arm that had knocked the goal in. It was given though and you have to take your lucky breaks when they are given. Soon after Sunderland forced a few corners, but then Sturridge broke again down the right flank and banged an easy ball into the box for Luis Suarez to make his premiership return a success as he easily tapped it into the back of the net to double the Reds’ lead. Just before half time and Mignolet manages to keep his clean sheet with a stunning close range save. Liverpool get to half time two up and looking a lot healthier for it. If they can keep the scoreline as is for…

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Match Report: Manchester United vs Liverpool (25.09.13) W 0-1

Liverpool started the match with Skrtel and Sakho in the centre, Toure right-back and Enrique on the left. The midfield remained unchanged from the Southampton game and Suarez rejoined the first team up front to partner Daniel Sturridge. Manchester United came out of the stalls strongly and put Liverpool under a lot of pressure for the first ten or fifteen minutes. Liverpool then began to assert their dominance and had United pinned back in their own box. The game seemed to undulate between phases where each side were on top, though neither side seemed able to pierce the defence well enough to get a decent strike on goal. There was a big battle going on in midfield with lots of pressing. Ryan Giggs ended up picking up a caution for a foul on Victor Moses and Lucas Leiva also joined him in the book for fouling Phil Jones. It was a shame that Liverpool couldn’t turn their first half pressure into goals. Immediately after half-time, Man United broke the deadlock. Javier Hernandez latched onto a Wayne Rooney corner, leaving his marker Jose Enrique sleeping, and slotting the ball past Simon Mignolet in the Liverpool goal. We now needed to make a comeback and immediately Liverpool started ramping up their game. Liverpool had most of the possession but couldn’t convert. Shinji Kagawa turned on the ball wonderfully in midfield and, breaking through to the edge of the box, let fly with a stunning shot, forcing Mignolet into a good fingertip save. Luis Suarez started getting closer and closer, hitting a corner from the left of the area into the side netting. Victor Moses was looking really sharp, with most of the attacks going through him. He had a wonderful diving header saved by De Gea which should have really brought us level. Suarez’s fee kick had a deflection off Phil Jones and clipped the crossbar. All he needed now was a goal. Martin Kelly came on for Liverpool, taking the place of Lucas Leiva and forcing Jordan Henderson into the centre of midfield. United started to make some changes from the bench with Hernandez and Kagawa making way for Michael Carrick and Adnan Januzaj. Manchester United were relying heavily on the counter-attack. Henderson managed to get into the book and gave away a nicely positioned free kick on the edge of the penalty area. Rooney stepped up and Mignolet made an excellent…

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Match Preview: Manchester United vs Liverpool (25.09.13)

          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…

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The Return of El Pistolero: Luis Suarez

The ten match ban which has dragged on since last season is finally over. Our star striker, El Pistolero, will be back available for selection this week for our critical clash with Manchester United in the fourth round of the League Cup. After the dismal results in the league for the past two games, hopefully Suarez will be very welcome back at his club. Will the fans support him as vociferously as they have done since he signed from Ajax in January 2011? I for one found the summer particularly frustrating. I love Suarez and especially the goals he scores for us. He is the club’s star player and was unlucky not to have outshined Gareth Bale in all the major player awards last season. Big players do attract interest from other top clubs and Suarez is no different. I can remember how distraught I was when the Gerrard deal to Chelsea was almost done and dusted. This summer brought back those terrible memories. OK, Steven Gerrard finally had a flash of common sense and decided to stay at his boyhood club and the supporters rallied even further behind our iconic club captain. But, will the case be the same for Luis Suarez? At first, I dismissed the early summer transfer talk as pure speculation, but then it slowly started to emerge that the rumours were rooted in truth. Suarez used the press he claimed he hated so much to try to engineer his dream move to Real Madrid. Here we have a player claiming how he wants to leave England because of the press hounding he gets and then in almost the same breath, he uses the very same press to express his discontent at Liverpool. OK, he had a point on several issues. We didn’t qualify for the Champions League yet again, not even the mediocrity of the Europa League can indeed be promised this season. Our league finish was very poor and we finished a country mile away from our targets. A trophyless season leaves both players and fans disappointed. But, stick with the program, Luis. You are our talisman, our lead goalscorer. At Anfield you have the total support of the best fans in the world. Can the likes of Arsenal offer the vibrant crowd action that the Kop generates? Not even Madrid have the dedicated support of Liverpool. As the summer wore on, the player…

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Match Preview: Liverpool vs Southampton (21.09.13)

            Liverpool vs Southampton, 21st September 2013 Liverpool return to Anfield for a 3pm Saturday fixture, that, on paper, looks a lot more winnable than last time out’s draw away at Swansea. However, The Saints have proved a stumbling block to the Redmen in recent years, with Southampton winning four out of the last six clashes between us, though most of those points won have been at their own ground. Last season the corresponding fixture finished in a 1-0 Liverpool victory. Southampton, though, at St Mary’s, were the last premiership side to inflict defeat upon Liverpool after they totally outplayed us there and won 3-1. Southampton are currently 11th in the league with 5 points out of a possible twelve, having won one, lost one and drawn two. To be fair it’s a relatively good start. They finished 14th in the Premiership last season so they are performing above average at present. Liverpool are, of course, perched back where they belong, at the top of the league with ten points, 3 wins and one draw. Both teams have only conceded 2 goals so a low-scoring match today looks likely as both have mean defences. Daniel Sturridge will look forward today to adding to his goals tally and if he does score it will be the fifth consecutive Premiership game in which he has done so. Daniel Agger will be back ready for selection after missing last Monday’s fixture against Swansea with a side strain. Whether Sakho, Toure or Skrtel will fill in in central defence next to him will be a tricky decision for Brendan Rodgers to make. Our key star winger, Philippe Coutinho, is out for several weeks with his shoulder injury, so it looks likely that either new boy Iago Aspas or Raheem Sterling will be called up for duties to replace him. This will be the last match left for Luis Suarez’s ban so he will be back ready for selection as of the next game. The Saints have left back Danny Fox missing due to injury. It will probably be a fairly tight game, though with Liverpool’s good start to the season and Sturridge’s blinding form, I predict a victory and thee points to extend Liverpool’s early dominance at the top of the league. The match kicks off at 3pm and isn’t being televised live in the UK so you’ll have…

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Match Preview: Swansea City vs Liverpool (16.09.13)

                Swansea City Vs Liverpool, 16th September 2013 Back to the premiership, after the international break, and an away visit to the Liberty Stadium looks difficult on paper. In the corresponding fixture last season, the result was a 0-0 draw. At the start of the international break, Liverpool were top of the league with three straight wins, so they are definitely the form side. The Swans, on the other hand, were lingering inside the relegation zone with 2 losses and 1 win, a really poor start for a side that has, in recent years, established themselves as a really decent midtable Premiership side. Will the international break change the fortunes of these two sides or will Liverpool maintain their strong start? Never before in the Premiership have they begun with four straight victories, so the record books are at stake too. Brendan Rodgers is obviously used to Swansea from his time there as manager, so certainly knows how to prepare. Both sides are suited to his preferred tic-a-tak style of play and he’s well aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the Swansea players. We should look forward to a good, quick passing game, with both sides pressurising well, particularly in midfield. Swansea have their recent signing, Jonjo Shelvey, back and ready for selection after a knock ruled him out of the recent u21 international. Shelvey will certainly be looking to impress his former teammates and club, so expect a good showing from him. Liverpool are still without Suarez whose ban extends for a further two games. Sturridge, however, is likely to play, and with 11 goals in his last 9 Liverpool appearances, in front of goal he is certainly on fire. It is touch and go whether Kolo Toure will be fit, so maybe we will see some of the new signings in Sakho or Flori, stepping in. Glen Johnson will be out for a further couple of months so will definitely be missed. Last season, at Anfield,, Liverpool inflicted Swansea’s heaviest loss of the season with a 5-0 victory. We can certainly, therefore, perform against the Swans and have demonstrated past capability. It’s a long old journey for the away fixture, however, and the Jacks have a strong support base. Will home advantage spur the Swans to a much needed three points, or will LIverpool maintain their perfect start? If I…

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