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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: 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: 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 Preview: Liverpool vs Fulham (09.11.13)

            Liverpool were humbled last week on their trip to the Emirates and have dropped to third place in the league, with Arsenal opening up a five point gap at the top. Today’s fixture offers Liverpool a good opportunity to recover. A home game against Fulham who are just two points away from the drop zone in sixteenth place. Brendan Rodgers has set a target of gaining two points per game in order to gain Champions League qualification and by beating Fulham today their average will rise above this two points benchmark. Glen Johnson, who was ill for last week’s game, will be back available for selection at right-back. Also, Jose Enrique is back in training and should be fighting it out with Aly Cissokho for the left-back position. Philippe Coutinho is fully recovered from his shoulder injury and should be in contention for a starting place. Fulham welcome back captain Brede Hangeland from injury though a few players will be missing; Sascha Riether is serving a three match FA suspension for a stamp against Manchester United’s Adnan Januzaj; Hugo Rodellega and Matthew Briggs both have injuries. Fulham have conceded 15 goals in ten games and lost the past three on the bounce. Manager Martin Jol is under intense pressure and is odds-on to be the next Premiership manager to be sacked. However’ Fulham have proved a tricky side for Liverpool in the past few seasons and in three of the past five fixtures between them at Anfield they have kept a clean sheet. It’s the last game ahead of yet another international break so hopefully we should achieve the three points on offer as easily as might be suggested. The SAS are the top-scoring strike premiership and Fulham’s weak defensive record means that we could be witnessing a goal fest at Anfield this afternoon. The match kicks off at 3pm and isn’t televised in the UK, but will be shown on Setanta Ireland and you can usually find a good internet live stream at http://wiziwig.tv

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Match Preview: Arsenal vs Liverpool (02.11.13)

            Well, this is the big clash. Ever since the fixtures list was published I’d been eyeing up today’s date as one to watch. Arsenal are a very testing side, one of the most consistently best sides in the Premiership and an away fixture against them is always a challenge. I think our current form and good league position has been helped by a kind fixture schedule so far. Today’s clash will be a big challenge, probably the first time all season we have faced a team residing ahead of us in the league. For all our good cheer, Arsenal have been grinding away and have been top for the past month, with few really acknowledging their almost flawless campaign. For all the criticism of their summer transfer market policy and action, Arsene Wenger’s side are actually having their best run in years. A stable side can often outwit a team full of changes and Arsenal are no slouches. Since the departure of Ferguson, Wenger takes over as the most experienced league manager. He is as cunning as a fox and tactically few can match his astuteness. Brendan Rodgers will face a true battle today and should we overcome Arsenal, then maybe talk of us winning the league can be actually taken seriously. The timing of the fixture is actually quite good for Liverpool. Arsenal were defeated at the hands of Chelsea midweek in the Carling Cup, and at the Emirates. OK, it was a second string side, but a defeat is a defeat and it will have hurt morale. Liverpool have skipped through their dip in form and last week against West Brom was, perhaps, our best performance all season, with the resurgent Luis Suarez really standing out. Of course, the transfer market controversy will be on the tip of everyone’ tongue and Luis today will be under the spotlight. Hopefully he will prove his true value to us today and be keen to demonstrate to his suitors that they really did miss out on a legend. The Gunners did make one key signing and German attacker Mesut Osil has been proving himself to be deadly, although perhaps with fewer headlines than our notorious SAS. Both sides will be welcoming back key players. Mikel Arteta, the former Evertonian will be back to boss their midfield after a suspension, and we all know how anyone…

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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: 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 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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