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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 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: 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 Report: Liverpool vs Cardiff City (21.12.13) W 3-1

The game began with Liverpool retaining their lineup from the previous weekend. For Cardiff, Craig Bellamy didn’t make the starting eleven. Early on the game seem fairly balanced. Luis Suarez got on the ball in the penalty area twice, the second being a good opportunity after Raheem Sterling did very well to get ahead and set it up nicely for the captain. After about ten minutes Liverpool began to turn the screw and became dominant in possession, forcing the visiting Welsh side to defend. They set up some counter attacks though and Craig Noone forced a good save from Simon Mignolet in the fifteenth minute. Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling both had good efforts on goal but Cardiff were organised in defence and battling hard. Cardiff’s resolve lasted until the 25th minute when, who else, but Luis Suarez stepped up to wonderfully strike a left-footer bang into the back of the net.Unplayable is an understatement. Philippe Coutinho had a moment of magic, seeing a gap next to the keeper and unluckily striking the post. It wasn’t all one way traffic though and Cardiff showed good discipline in their set up. Martin Skrtel had a good header from a set piece that skipped over the crossbar. Liverpool were playing well as a team and lots of players were getting forward. Jon Flanagan almost scored another goal with it being cleared off the line… Brendan Rodgers nomination of him for the Ballon D’Or may not be so far-fetched! Raheem Sterling seemed to be one of our most effective players, and although his final pass or cross could do with some work, his blistering pace gets him into good positions. A little work on his finishing too and he could prove a very valuable asset. With a few minutes until half-time a beautiful break by the Liverpool forwards saw a two on one situation with the keeper. Luis Suarez unselfishly gave the ball to Raheem Sterling who had an easy conversion. The Suarez show rolled on and at the stroke of half-time, an indescribable curling shot just went around everyone and into the goal. It’s as if the guy has magnets set up in the net at the moment. Nobody can stop Luis. 3-nil half-time and Cardiff need a miracle or to kidnap Luis and force him into a Blue shirt…. In the second half it was one-way traffic. Chance after chance 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 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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Dietmar Hamann

Dietmar Hamann or Didi was known as ‘The Kaiser’ during his time at the helm of Liverpool’s central midfield. The German international was signed for Liverpool by Gerard Houllier in July 1999 for £8 million from Newcastle United. His seven year career at Liverpool saw him make 191 appearances, scoring 8 goals. He was part of Houllier’s treble winning side of 2001, gaining UEFA Cup, FA Cup and League Cup medals. A defensive midfielder, Hamann was a mainstay for Liverpool and a key player. He is renowned as a big game player, someone who was able to step up to the mark in important fixtures. He is probably most loved by the Kop for his game-changing substitute appearance in the Istanbul Champions League Final of 2005. 3-0 down to AC Milan at half-time and in the midst of the crisis, Rafa Benitez turned to the Kaiser’s experience and brought him on for the flagging Steve Finnan. Immediately, Didi impacted the game, and shored up the midfield area, allowing Steven Gerrard to move on up the pitch and initiate the goals needed for our comeback. He was the catalyst for the turnaround and in a demonstration of bravery, did all this with a broken toe. His experience was called for after the game finished in extra time, a  3-3 draw. With his broken foot he stepped up to take the first penalty and with calm German composure, slotted the ball into the back of the net, to encourage his teammates to go onto victory, which of course they did. A year later, in the FA Cup final in Cardiff, against West Ham, Hamann repeated his final heroics, again coming on in the second half, and again shoring up the midfield to get us into a winnable position. Didi’s big match show-outs perhaps were so impressive due to his international experience. He played for Germany in the 2002 World Cup Final, a game they lost 2-0 to Brazil. He was only the third Liverpool player to have ever graced the World Cup Final (others being Roger Hunt and Karl-Heinz Riedle) Hamann moved on from Liverpool in June 2006, initially signing for Bolton but with a late change of heart instead opting for Manchester City. He played there until his contract expired in 2009. After his playing career ended he had spells in management with Milton Keynes Dons and Stockport County. He has…

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Match Preview: Sunderland vs Liverpool (29.09.13)

            Liverpool head to the Stadium of Light in Sunday afternoon’s big game. Sunderland are rooted to the bottom of the Premiership table with only one point from five matches. Their outspoken manager, Paolo Di Canio, was sacked last week. They look red hot favourites to face the drop this season. But, will the players react to the loss of their manager and pull out a performance against a Liverpool side who have lost their early season momentum? The Sunderland players had been critical of Di Canio and now have what they want so it is time for them to show what they are made of and put in a winning display. Will interim head coach, Kevin Ball, have what it takes to turn their fortunes around? The big news for Liverpool is that Luis Suarez is likely to make his first premiership appearance since the ending of his ban. He failed to score in last Wednesday’s defeat in the Carling Cup to Manchester United, so he has a few points to prove himself. Will we see the form of last season’t Suarez, or is he yet to settle? Liverpool still have a stack of injuries and Aly Cissokho, Daniel Agger, Philippe Coutinho and Glen Johnson are all still out of action. Simon Mignolet is set to return to his former club for the first time and we can expect him to raise his game in front of his old crowd. He was the Sunderland player of the season last year and as the busiest keeper in the league so far this season, with 25 saves, his old side are certainly missing him. Jordan Henderson is another player who will face his former club. The Black Cats are without their striker, Steven Fletcher, who suffered an injury is last week’s defeat to West Brom, where Sunderland failed to have a single attempt on goal. Sunderland are the only side left in the Premiership without a league win and have lost 3 on the bounce. Liverpool themselves though, including the midweek League Cup clash, have lost two consecutive games. Fabio Borini, who joined Sunderland on loan on transfer deadline day, is ineligible to play against his parent club. We can expect Sunderland to deploy Lee Cattermole as a tussling midfielder, as he is a Kevin Ball style player, who likes to get stuck in the nitty-gritty….

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