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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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