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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 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 Report: Manchester City vs Liverpool (26.12.13) L 2-1

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For Liverpool, the lineup was forced into making one change from its successful one in recent matches. Jon Flanagan didn’t make his fitness test and the talented young left back was replaced by Aly Cissokho. The game was lively from the start, to and fro, both teams looked set out to play a good open game of football. Jesus Navas hit the post with a header after five minutes. The Manchester City defence looked very disciplined and our early attack moves were thwarted as rigorous pressing, good tackling and a very wide formation stopped us in our tracks. Other teams have not forced us to use the whole width of the pitch and have left room to manoeuvre for our wingers down the sides. City stretched us to the max. I thought Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho looked the main danger men. Luis Suarez was being held on a tight leash by the strict Vincent Kompahy, who commands the Man City defence. After 19 minutes Sterling latched on to a Luis Suarez through ball. Behind the defence he did well in his one-on-one with Joe Hart but unfortunately the linesman flagged him offside so the goal was disallowed. At twenty-five minutes Sterling and Coutinho combined, the Brazilian hitting the ball into an empty net after Hart was rounded by Sterling. One-nil and Liverpool haven’t lost a game when they’ve scored first this season and only one of those games has ended in a draw. The lead only lasted five minutes. Vincent Kompany totally outmuscled Martin Skrtel as he rose to head a corner past Simon Mignolet in the Liverpool goal. Joe Allen failed to clear from the goal-line emergency defensive position. Philippe Coutinho almost scored a fantastic response in perhaps our finest move all season. Sterling, Suarez and Coutinho all worked well together and intelligently threaded it through the City centre only for the on-form Joe Hart to deny. On the stroke of half-time Alvaro Negredo gave the home side the lead. Aly Cissokho was out of position and our centre halves were nowhere to be seen. Negredo broke through and with a fairly weak shot, caused Mignolet to make a rare mistake and fumble the ball into the net. Not the best of times to start making unforced errors. Perhaps our luck has run its course? It’s been end to end for the first half and the game could…

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Match Preview: Liverpool vs Cardiff City (21.12.13)

            The Christmas games are upon us and we have almost reached the traditional halfway stage of the league season. Liverpool are sat happy in second and a win today will put them top with Arsenal needing a victory on Monday against Chelsea to regain number 1 spot in time for the festivities. Liverpool fans are in ebullient mood after last week’s demolition of Tottenham. Three straight victories and possibly the world’s best player in untouchable form… All looks good for the Anfielders… Cardiff City come to a tricky away fixture in what has been a bad week for them. They lie in fifteenth in the table, only four points from the drop-zone, but a win today would take them to tenth… It hasn’t been a bad season for them really. For novice top-flighters they are doing well with some impressive results against top sides including a victory against Manchester City and a good draw against Manchester United. This week has seen controversial Malaysian owner Vincent Tan issue an ultimatum to manager Malky Mackay to either resign or be sacked. t’s provoked a great deal of sympathy and reaction for the manager, including in particular from his former colleague, Brendan Rodgers, who was one of the first people to stand firmly behind the under pressure boss. Personally I think that the Cardiff City fans should have forced Vincent Tan out when he started making irrational decisions about their kit colour. How a team nicknamed ‘The Bluebirds’ should be forced to change to red, God only knows. Just imagine the furore if Liverpool suddenly changed colour to blue… It just wouldn’t be possible. We, as a club, know exactly what problems bad owners can cause after the Gillett and Hicks saga. Cardiff should maybe learn from us and see how it is possible to get rid of bad owners, if it is perhaps more difficult than changing manager. On a positive note, something I noticed about a month ago, was an announcement by Liverpool and Cardiff City that both clubs have mutually agreed to offer supporters a discount on tickets for the two matches they have scheduled this season. All supporters get a five pound reduction at the Anfield turnstiles and there will be a similar discount in the Cardiff fixture later in the year. In today’s money-hungry competitive game, it is nice to see two…

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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 West Ham (07.12.13) W 4-1

Man Of The Match:  Prior to the whistle there was a tribute to Nelson Mandela. Whatever your views on Mandela there is no doubt he was an icon of the twentieth century and he did have links to our football club. After he died, I found this post online showing photos of him meeting the Liverpool team and also sporting a Liverpool top. This is enough for me to wish he rest in peace. http://www.thisisanfield.com/2013/12/liverpool-football-unites-pay-tribute-nelson-mandela-died-aged-95/ The match got underway, with further tinkering in the centre backs. Rotation seems to be a fixed policy. Martin Skrtel seems first choice and a constant, but Daniel Agger was dropped today in favour of Mamadou Sakho. I think that Sakho has good potential and he did very well recently for France in their critical world cup qualifiers. West Ham’s attack aren’t great so maybe that elusive clean sheet will come good today? Luis Suarez looked keen and lobbed an early attempt wide, he was linking well with Philippe Coutinho too. West Ham are likely to hole up their defence today (like they did last season) but our attack could be very dangerous. West Ham gave a bit of tit-for-tat and got an early corner at their business end of the pitch. It was straight back up the other end, though, with Jordan Henderson this time putting West Ham under pressure. West Ham were surprising tactically – Rather than shutting up shop, they set up in quite an open formation and were giving as good as they got in terms of attacking. It was an open game and could go either way. Modibo Maiga latched onto a good cross, and finding a good gap between the central defenders, put a strong header in on goal only for the superb Simon Mignolet to save well. It took until 40 minutes for Liverpool to get their breakthrough. Jussi Jääskeläinen saved a blast from Luis Suarez but unluckily for the Hammers it rebounded into the goal off their own player, Guy Demel. Liverpool were a goal to the good and Luis, perhaps angry at not being able to claim this goal, was straight back up to almost get another, this time shooting over the bar. West Ham had done well first half, and we’ll need another goal to secure this game in the second half. Just after half-time Martin Skrtel stepped up to double the lead. Steven Gerrard delivered a free…

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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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