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Match Preview: Liverpool vs Hull City (01.01.14)

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              Well, we were all wondering what our two Christmas fixtures against Manchester City and Chelsea would bring and unfortunately they brought nothing – well – in terms of points that is. We have slipped from top of the league at Christmas to out of the top four by New Year, the first team ever to record that achievement. Everyone knew Manchester City and Chelsea away would be tough nuts to crack. We need to reverse the slide and get three points today. On paper, Hull at home looks a perfect opportunity to do so. Anfield is a fortress once again. However, it was only the start of last month that saw us put is a dismal display at the KC Stadium and get thrashed 3-1 by Hull City (Gerrard The Red match report here: http://gerrardthered.com/match-report-hull-city-vs-liverpool-01-12-13-474 ). Steve Bruce won the battle of the managers that day and frustrated us defensively and took full advantage of our players not giving a 100% performance. Revenge is on the cards and our New Years Day fixture, the start of the New Year is a MUST-WIN at all costs. The injury crisis has deepened at Liverpool. The two losses unfortunately had an additional toll on our already depleted manpower. Joe Allen is out with a abductor strain and Mamadou Sakho has hamstring trouble. Added to those already missing we really are scraping the sides in terms of squad numbers. Jordan Henderson did take a heavy knock against Chelsea though it looks as though it was nothing too serious and he should be back today. The good news is that Steven Gerrard, who has been back in training, might be available should he pass a late fitness test. We are exceptionally thin on the ground in central midfield and should our captain return it would be a boost in terms of morale. Otherwise, we will be relying on youth team players stepping up in an area which was completely bossed by Tom Huddlestone for Hull back in December.  Daniel Agger should retain his position in central defence and hopefully he can consolidate his role there rather than move out on loan to Napoli during the transfer window. Aly Cissokho is likely to get a recall at left back and has to attempt to prove his doubters wrong. Is he up to the required level for high-class Premiership football? Victor…

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

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Liverpool adjusted their defence: Mamadou Sakho moved out to left back and Daniel Agger came in at centre back, Aly Cissokho losing his place and dropping down to the bench. Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson retained their defensive positions. I can remember when we tried a non-specialist wing back earlier in the season and I’m not overkeen. Let’s hope the formula works today. The rest of the side was the same as it has been for a few games, the upper triangle of Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez taking responsibilities in attack. Two minutes in and we won a free kick in a nice position out on the left. Jordan Henderson was tackled heavily by Samuel Eto’o and needed treatment. The set piece was floated in and Luis Suarez, meeting his bite victim, Branislav Ivanovic with football skills and not barbecue skills, neatly beat him to the ball, heading it towards goal where the hungry Martin Skrtel was waiting to knock it over the line. A goal up in the third minute: A perfect start! And a fine way for Suarez to avenge his ban. Chelsea didn’t take it lying down. They were attacking us straight away and making headway. The ball was floated into the box a lot, far more than it has been from other opposition. Glen Johnson made a vital goal line clearance. Gary Cahill headed a good header wide. Simon Mignolet’s dexterity in goal was tested by a decent Frank Lampard shot. Our midfield wasn’t holding up well at all and Chelsea were cutting through us like butter. The defence looked haphazard too and, when Eden Hazard broke through with a lucky rebounded pass from Oscar that had rebounded off Sakho, the Chelsea danger man curled it nicely past Mignolet and the Blues were deservedly level. The defence was on a back foot and disorganised. Daniel Agger had actually fitted into the side at left back, not in the centre, and he was found out of position for the goal. I don’t think that, as a team, we had settled well. We weren’t controlling the game as we usually do. Perhaps Chelsea were effective in breaking up our pattern of play, or maybe something just wasn’t clicking at Stamford Bridge? Ivanovic had to call it a day and went off injured for Ashley Cole to come on in his place. Our whole formation was…

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Match Report: Tottenham vs Liverpool (15.12.13) W 0-5

John Kelly

Luis Suarez led the team out with the responsibilities of the captain’s armband. It is a big game for us today and we need our star man to step up to the occasion. Liverpool began the game well, giving as good as they got in terms of possession and passing. Tottenham got forward on occasion but it was Liverpool that looked more dangerous in attacking positions. The lack of Gerrard seemed to be made up with Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen both getting into advanced positions. Sterling won a good free kick on the side of the box but unfortunately Philippe Coutinho could do little with it. Luis Suarez almost drew a penalty claim but managed to keep playing on and gained a corner instead. In the eighteenth minute our perseverance paid off and surprise surprise it was Suarez on the scoresheet yet again. Jordan Henderson put a good through ball into Luis, who with remarkable individual brilliance, weaved his way around the Spurs defence and casually placed the ball beyond the keeper into the corner of the net. 1-0 and it is fair to say that Suarez is unstoppable. Shortly afterwards, the keeper Hugo Lloris made some amends for the goal by getting off his line well to deny Joe Allen from getting in on goal. Roberto Soldado in attack for Tottenham looked the principal source of goals for Spurs yet our central defenders (retained from the West Ham game), Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho, had him well in their pockets. Michael Dawson, the Tottenham skipper, made a cynical challenge on a breaking Jordan Henderson and got himself into the ref’s book with a caution. In the ensuing attack Philippe Coutinho hit a messy volley which bounced around and came off the crossbar. Glen Johnson’s follow up was clipped wide. Tottenham were forced into a personnel change, Lewis Holtby coming on for Sandro, who limped off. Nacer Chadli climbed up to head a corner for Spurs’ best opportunity. At the other end, confusion allowed Luis Suarez to have a good chance on goal and what seemed a certainty was stopped. It was very out of character for our man not to score… Liverpool were really dominating possession and were far more incisive. Any chances Spurs had in front of goal were messy and quite easily cut out. A rare defensive slip allowed Lewis Holtby to have an attempt but he snatched…

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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 Report: Liverpool vs Norwich City (04.12.13) W 5-1

Liverpool began the game with manager Brendan Rodgers imposing three changes on the starting line-up, following the defeat at Hull City. Daniel Agger coming back in for Kolo Toure at centre back was widely expected. Philippe Coutinho was fit enough for a starting place and Victor Moses dropped back down to the bench. The big surprise, perhaps, was that Lucas Leiva was left aside in favour of Joe Allen. Maybe, a home fixture against Norwich could be a good opportunity for the young Welshman to demonstrate his abilities? Raheem Sterling kept his place ahead of Iago Aspas or Luis Alberto, and Jon Flanagan also maintained his newly-acquired left back role. We obviously lost the toss, as the visitors were forcing us to attack the Kop in the first half. Norwich showed some initial liveliness which made the Kop stand alert as if they were going to have to dig in for the rare midweek evening fixture. Anfield always has a better atmosphere for evening fixtures, and the crowd seemed in good spirits despite the grumpiness among fans that has lingered since Sunday’s embarrassment. Philippe Coutinho certainly seemed keen and was displaying his silky skills right from the start. For the first fifteen minutes Norwich certainly kept our attention. We were playing loads better than at the KC stadium, with our passes smooth and linking up well. Norwich though looked set to be a test. At the fifteen minute mark, our star Uruguayan, who has a most excellent scoring record against Delia Smith’s outfit, decided to conjure up something special… From out of nowhere, forty-five yards out, Luis hit a spectacular half-volley which absolutely scorched past Norwich keeper, Paul Ruddy, into the corner of the goal. It was a real contender for goal of the season and surely sent out a clear message of intent to the Canaries. They were stuck down a mineshaft for sure and gas was leaking! The deadlock was broken but still Norwich kept their chins up and showed they were here for a game. Wes Hoolahan was one name that was never far away from the commentators tongue. Bradley Johnson managed to find his way into the ref’s book. At the half hour mark, Liverpool’s lead was to double. Steven Gerrard flicked on Philippe Coutinho’s expertly delivered  corner and set Luis up for his brace. It was a left-footed shot this time, from within the area, but…

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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 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: 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: Newcastle United vs Liverpool (19.10.13)

              Well, thankfully, the international break is over, and it’s a return to the Premiership for our club players. We lie second in the table, to Newcastle’s 11th. Luckily no more injuries were picked up by our players during the international break and our injury list actually shrinks ahead of this game with Glen Johnson, Aly Cissokho and Joe Allen all returning to the squad after lengthy absences. Bad news as Iago Aspas is ruled out with a thigh problem. Philippe Coutinho is still in recovery from his shoulder injury. Lucas Leiva though will be back available for selection after completing his suspension. Newcastle have a few notable absences of their own, with two key Argentinians missing. Fabricio Coloccini and Jonas Gutiérrez are both out, defender Coloccini has a groin injury and midfielder Gutiérrez has been allowed to return to his homeland for personal reasons. Newcastle will still be smarting from the heavy 6-0 defeat Liverpool inflicted on them, last time out, in April. If anything, our team has grown even stronger than then, so Alan Pardew may indeed come under heavy pressure. The Liverpool SAS (Suarez and Sturridge) are probably the League’s most prolific striking partnership and with key personnel missing, Newcastle will hopefully be on the back foot. With the return of Johnson to Liverpool’s squad, it could be interesting predicting what Brendan Rodgers decides to do with the defence. The 3-5-2 we’ve been using recently, although I’ve been quite critical of it, does seem to have been delivering results and therefore works. Will Johnson’s reappearance mean we revert back to a standard 4-4-2? These games have traditionally been goal feasts with 122 games being scored in the past 38 league meetings. Let’s hope that it’s one way traffic and that our defence will be tight, with our attack performing to its utmost.Newcastle have had an unbalanced start to their campaign and their defence has been notably leaky. With key players missing today, including their captain, the omens for the passionate St. James Park home supporters aren’t good. Brendan Rodgers has described his squad as being at the strongest yet this season, so looking at the pre-match analysis, everything is in our favour and with luck we should gain the three points here, temporarily catapulting us back to the top of the League. The match will be shown live on BT Sports, kicking off…

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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 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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