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Match Report: Liverpool vs Hull City (01.01.14) W 2-0

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Steven Gerrard unfortunately didn’t make the starting lineup, but was present on the bench. Aly Cissokho was recalled at left back with Daniel Agger retaining his place in central defence alongside the stalwart Martin Skrtel. Iago Aspas was introduced to the starting XI. Raheem Sterling and the young Spaniard will be out on the wings, Jordan Henderson and Lucas Leiva in the central midfield and Philippe Coutinho sitting just behind Luis Suarez upfront. So, the injuries have forced a change in formation. All being well, the new-look side can crush Hull here at Anfield. Liverpool started the match positively and were pinging the ball around well. Hull closed down well and were very defensive. The play all seemed to get caught up in midfield with few breakthroughs for both sides in the final third. Some hefty challenges were going in. Hull started to get the odd chance after the first ten minutes. They scored 6 goals in their last outing so it is no surprise that they have confidence going forward. In the eighteenth minute it looked as though Liverpool had got the breakthrough. A nice free kick from Coutinho was floated in from the right and Luis Suarez got nicely on the end of it with an accurate header which skipped past the Tigers’ keeper. Unfortunately Luis was marginally offside when the kick was taken and the linesman had correctly flagged it. Hull escape….for now. Tom Huddlestone became the first player into the referee’s book with a hefty challenge on Suarez, shortly afterwards. Nice to have him on a caution so early on. Philippe Coutinho had a speculative long free kick comfortably sail into the keeper’s arms. The Reds started to dominate and get a few more breaks, though we were not building play up enough and shooting rashly when it might have been better to build up the play. Luis Suarez picked out a perfect pass for the accelerating Raheem Sterling to run onto. As he moved in on the Hull keeper, Allan McGregor, the goalie stepped up well and prevented Sterling from seizing the opportunity. The attacks were coming thick and fast now. Hull’s defence looked unable to cope with our forward force. There was a prolonged period, mid first-half where the game petered out and a midfield battle ensued. Suarez seemed to be the recipient of Hull’s hard-hitting tackles. In he 36th minuted Daniel Agger climbed…

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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 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 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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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