The Liver Bird  

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Let's Hope It's More Entertaining Than Last Time

Football - Stoke City v Blackburn Rovers Barclays Premier League
Fat...(igued)?

Liverpool will face Blackburn tomorrow in another Sunday fixture, these are set to become more prominent as we continue our run in the Europa League.

Our last meeting with Blackburn earlier in the season ended in a rather disappointing 0-0 draw. So there is no doubt Liverpool will be looking to improve on the previous outcome.

We currently sit 6th with a tally of 45 points. Tottenham are to face Everton tomorrow, Villa will not be playing a Premier League fixture this weekend due to their League Cup Final clash with Manchester United.

After Manchester City managed to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge today 4-2 that leaves us slightly on the back foot. However, providing we can get a win that will see us just the one point behind City.

In all honesty, looking at our recent results and the fact that we are at home for this clash, you have to feel quite confident against Sam Allardyce's Blackburn side.

Allardyce appears confident that Blackburn can somehow capitalize on Liverpool's "fatigue" from our European excursions.

Fatigue? It's clear he wanted to look confident in front of the press and being "Big Sam" god forbid him looking worried.

We'll see who's "fatigued" tomorrow shall we, i know where I'll be looking... The Blackburn dugout.

Liverpool injury wise are still without Johnson, although he is looking good in training and it should not be too long until we see him back. We are also without Skrtel after the injury he sustained against Unirea Urziceni on Thursday night.

This proposes some questions for the line up Benitez shall choose, a lot of people are thinking maybe Kelly will make the start and as much as i would like to see him play I'm thinking maybe Rafa will opt to give Degen another run out at right back for this one.

Hopefully we shall see the ace of Spain back up top tomorrow and with a bit of luck we can see a few goals.

My prediction for this one is 2-1, not so sure whether Blackburn will be able to pinch one but feel they may be capable with us having to field a slightly altered defence. With Benayoun & Torres back, plus Gerrard having scored mid week, i reckon we can get a few in the net.

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Friday, 26 February 2010

Wonder Strike Leads The Way For Reds Romanian Victory

Football - Unirea Urziceni v Liverpool UEFA Europa League Second Round Second Leg
Mascherano nets Liverpool's first goal...

Javier Mascherano, Ryan Babel and Steven Gerrard all found the back of the net yesterday evening in Bucharest, after going down 1-0 to the home side when Fernandes scored in the first half, Liverpool managed to complete a very successful turn around.

A strong team was fielded by Rafa, although Torres was left out, perhaps for precautionary reasons. Benayoun however did start along with Ryan Babel on the other wing. Kuyt had been left on the bench and Kyrgiakos was not opted to start.

Up until the Urziceni goal Liverpool were looking rather ineffective, the Romanians were pushing forward, gaining corners and free kicks and looking quite dangerous whereas our only moment of credit was a Steven Gerrard drive which was saved by second fiddle Lithuanian goalkeeper - Arlauskis.

The goal came from a corner for the Romanians, a leaping and in space Fernandes sent the ball past Reina leaving the defence bemused.

There was nobody anywhere near Fernandes, it does sometimes bear the question "why not?" but i think it is safe to say that again, at the moment, this sort of thing does not matter, we can constantly nit pick problems and mistakes from our performances but providing those results keep coming our way then for the time being, nothing else matters.

Up until our equalizer, we still hadn't really shown much improvement, and even the goal set up was in an almost lucky fashion.

When Jamie Carragher crossed in the ball, a bumbling Unirea defence were struggling to deal with the threat, after one of the white shirted players attempted to boot the ball clear, he ended up teeing up Javier Mascherano. Often one to fancy an outside the box smash, Masch hit his shot with immense power, the perfectly targeted attempt flew past Arlauskis and literally 'smashed' the back of the net. By far one of the best goals of the season for Liverpool.

What was great to see too was the sheer passion from Mascherano after he had buried it, his first reaction was to run in the fans direction, fists pumped high in the air, then he followed up with a badge kiss and congratulations from team mates Benayoun and N'Gog.

Masch seems like a player who is extremely happy, all this nonsense about him going to Barca seems more distant everyday, you won't top his reaction too when asked by a journalist about his Man City link, he basically replied "You can't buy history."

Top player. Top bloke.

With this goal it was Liverpool who were set to go through to the last 16. Obviously though, this was far from a comfortable position.

Our next goal came 5 minutes before half time. Steven Gerrard whipped a free kick into the danger zone, as Martin Skrtel was set to have a pop, Ryan Babel with a clever little move decided to control the ball, bringing it back into a more favourable direction and then swept the ball home.

Again Ryan Babel still raises questions and again as i have said before, i will take nothing away from that goal, it was a great piece of football but i do not see enough really in his whole game. This is why i continue to favour others over himself as match starters, i totally agree with the mind set that a lot of other people have, he is an "impact player".

Our third and final goal which saw us seal the deal came from our captain Steven Gerrard. After Benayoun made a rather untidy but great run into the Unirea box his pass set up Steven who took his chance and sent the effort straight through the goalkeeper's legs and into the back of the net.

It was great to see the skipper scoring again. A goal is always great for confidence, whether it is against Unirea or Chelsea, fact is it gives you a great boost.

So with the game effectively won, the only other real moment of note was the injury to Martin Skrtel. Now we all know Skrtel is a big man, a scary one at that (does anyone else think he reminds them of Lurch from the Addams Family? ... "You raaaaaaaaaaang?") and i was struggling to recall a time when i had ever seen him go down in such pain, so even when the replay didn't look so bad it was clear that he was injured.

There is just no way Skrtel would have gone down in agony for no reason and today we know that he has in fact broken his toe. Our official club website are reporting it as "suspected" broken toe, but it is probably safe to say that this is what Skrtel has suffered.

Kelly, Kyrgiakos and Aurelio all made substitution appearances in the dying minutes. It was great to see Kelly back after his injury struggle, he was very impressive in the Champions League games that he featured in and i shall look forward to seeing him in the side again.

So after all of this Liverpool will in fact face Lille for their next tie, despite the idiots on channel five consistently saying that we would be facing Fenerbahce, now i know people can forget but when you get past saying it 3 times and you're still wrong, it becomes a bit pathetic.

From the two teams though, i think it is quite safe to say that given the choice most people would have opted for Lille.

To end with, it is worth pointing out that Steven Gerrard's goal has taken him past Alan Shearer as the British player with the highest European goals tally for an English club.

Long may his European goals continue...

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Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Unirea Urziceni: 2nd Leg

Football - Liverpool v Unirea Urziceni UEFA Europa League Second Round First Leg
Liverpool winners of first leg.

Liverpool travel to Romania tomorrow evening for the second leg of their first Europa League tie. After grinding out a 1-0 win at Anfield, Liverpool hold the advantage and will be looking to seal the deal in order to secure their place for the next round.

If Liverpool do the job in Romania they shall be facing either Fenerbahce or Lille depending on how their match ends. Lille have the upper hand after beating the Turks at home 2-1, the tie is far from over yet though.

Tineretului is Urziceni's home ground but because stadium capacity is only 7,000 , our match tomorrow will be played at Steaua Bucharest's stadium which has a greater capacity of roughly 27,500.

We talk about a home advantage on many occasions so it could be feasible to say that Unirea will be missing the regularity and knowledge of their own pitch but on a plus side, they will have more fans and an atmosphere capable of spurring any underdog on.

Liverpool can look forward to the boost of Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun for this fixture and you would assume that they will be utilised. I feel we have missed Fernando's clinical finishing and ability to make something out of a nothing situation. Not forgetting the skill and ingenuity of Yossi on the wing.

It will be interesting to see how different our play is compared to recent performances should they both start.

Kyrgiakos is also available and after him missing out on Premier League fixtures you may presume he will start in the back four. To be fair though, i thought he would have started for the home leg but Benitez opted to start Agger and Skrtel in the centre so we shall have to wait and see.

Glen Johnson is the only player left to be unavailable through injury so Liverpool have almost full options.

Team prediction:

--------------------Reina--------------------
--Carra-----Soto---------Agger---Insua----
---Kuyt-----Aqua--------Masch----Yossi---
---------------Gerrard----------------------
------------------Torres---------------------

Unirea did not look at all threatening in attack for the game at Anfield and to be honest with the defence on such good form i doubt the away fixture will prove any different. As for score prediction i will go for a 2-0 Liverpool win. Quietly confident that they will not be able to get anything past Reina and with Torres hopefully starting plus Benayoun who can also grab a goal i have a feeling it may be a good game for the Reds.

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Monday, 22 February 2010

Let's Put Things Into Perspective

Sports News - February 21, 2010
RB:"Your scarf makes you look like a pillock." .........."I'm serious."

Liverpool had to settle for just the 1 point yesterday, after both teams failed to score in a 0-0 stalemate. Despite the massive boosts of Torres and Benayoun making shock appearances on the bench and also being utilised, the lads could not get anything past Shay Given.

Neither side really caused problems for each others goal keeper with Reina only being called to make one super save and Given much the same.

City were without Tevez and did not opt to start Craig Bellamy, they were set up in a similar fashion to ourselves and it appears that both formations were cancelling each other out.

In a post match interview Benitez was quoted saying that the idea was to try and break City down but it just didn't work... Too right it didn't.

Before we get all up in arms about it though, let's take a step back and analyse things properly.

Let's look at Aston Villa's run in first...

They are set to play Hull, Sunderland and Stoke City for their next 3 Premier League fixtures. At first glance you would be right to suggest that the only real problem within those fixtures is an away clash with Stoke, but when you throw in that they also have a league cup final against Manchester United to focus on and another FA Cup tie, distractions are present.

As for Tottenham...

Their next three fixtures read Everton, Man City and Blackburn. As much as we may hate to admit it, Everton are on a decent run of form, they have beaten Chelsea and Manchester United and although they were no trouble for ourselves (haha) you get the feeling Spurs may struggle. Man City too will obviously be a big game and to add to it they also have an FA Cup clash to think about.

Moving on to City...

As mentioned above they will have to face Spurs in the midst of their next three fixtures with Chelsea beforehand and an away trip to Sunderland afterwards. Again they also have an FA Cup game to think about.

As for ourselves...

Well our distraction comes in the form of Unirea Urziceni, but in all fairness we are 1-0 up from the first leg, they didn't look as though they would take much beating and although we shall be travelling to Romania hopefully we can just progress smoothly and think about the league.

Our next three fixtures are a gift in footballing terms and assuming that we can go out there and collect maximum points the games against Blackburn, Wigan and Portsmouth could prove vital for Liverpool to stamp their mark on that fourth spot.

With the reintroduction of Torres and Benayoun being such a massive boost and hopes that Glen Johnson will be back soon, not to mention the fact that we have only let 2 goals in, in our last 8 games (all competitions) and only lost once, our run of good form is still well and truly there.

There is no shame in coming away with a 0-0 draw from The City Of Manchester Stadium, especially when you note the fact that their team is filled with big names and talent.

What was disappointing was the sheer lack of chances but again you get the feeling with Fernando coming back, most of that problem will be solved. On a plus side the defence has been solid for a good while now minus that Arsenal goal. Kyrgiakos will be back before we know it too and we all know how great an option he is now.

It's not all bad, we are still in a good situation where a lot of aspects should fall into our own hands, we are far from being on the back foot and although the table does not look fantastic at the moment and although our performances are hardly electric, we all know Liverpool can pull off this sort of thing, none more so when there is some sort of pressure thrown into the mix.

Keep a calm head on things, it's by no means over yet.

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Saturday, 20 February 2010

Liverpool To Face Mancini's City

Football - Hull City v Manchester City Barclays Premier League
Bellamy could cause problems...

New look Man City under Roberto Mancini have not exactly been setting the league on fire since they opted to get rid of Mark Hughes. Liverpool travel to The City Of Manchester Stadium tomorrow with 3 points being the aim.

Man City's last 5 fixtures read LWLWD. Within that time they have suffered defeats to Everton and even relegation battling Hull, they have also dropped points against Stoke and were lucky to have even left with the 1 point.

On the other hand, despite our 1-0 loss to Arsenal, we are on the back of a steady run of form WDWWL compared to City's up and down, at least we have some consistency not to mention 4 clean sheets out of the 5 matches.

We also had a successful night in the Europa League after the lads managed to beat Unirea Urziceni 1-0, again keeping a clean sheet.

So we have more than enough positives to go out and fight for this win.

Man City however unsteady they may have been of late though should not be shunned for their abilities, players like Bellamy for a starters would relish the chance to put one past Liverpool and his pace can always cause problems.

Tevez is also on good form so could prove some difficulties if the defence are not sharp. Recent performances from the back 4 though have been solid so let's hope they can continue this.

As for ourselves, i think maybe it is time to give Babel that start, played very well in the time that he was on the pitch so let him have another chance to prove his worth, if he fails to step up to the plate though it could be disastrous.

Riera was rather poor on Thursday night, some say he's still not match fit, i don't know how true that is but i do feel for this fixture Rodriguez or Babel should be utilised.

Would be quite happy to see N'Gog again although he was a bit shaky for the majority of the match against Unirea he did however score, perhaps go for the option of two up front though? Shift Kuyt up off the wing, N'Gog i feel needs more support at the moment until that confidence comes flooding back.

Be interesting to see if Rafa opts for Masch and Lucas in midfield or starts Aquilani again, i have a strange feeling looking at what the nature of the game could be like it may well be Lucas and Masch.

We're still without Torres, Johnson and Benayoun, plus side though in that the likes of Torres and Yossi have been seen in training so hopefully it is not too long until they are back in action.

As for my prediction, well i have a feeling it shall be similar in play to our 2-2 draw with them earlier in the season and as much as i would love our lads to come away with the win i shall have to be more realistic i think and predict that it will be an eventful 1-1 draw.

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Friday, 19 February 2010

My First Ever Anfield Experience Ends With A Win


My view...

So this was it. Date: Thursday 18th February, Time: 3:00pm, Destination: Anfield.

First point of call was the local BP station, Dave needed petrol, Emz needed some sort of beverage and i needed a paper and something edible. After stocking up on junk we got back into the car and headed straight for the notorious M6.

After hearing the old "oh you're going on the M6 car park are you?" for days before i was expecting the worst, in all honesty, it wasn't all that bad.

Sat Nav at the ready for when we came off the M6 we did end up on the motorway for quite a long time. The first moment of worry was when the overhead signs began to read "slow, incident ahead". I just hoped this incident would be passable in quick time.

Dya know what it was? ...

A National Express coach that had stopped dead in the middle lane of the M6 with some fat driver looking quite bemused at the wheel. I don't know if the passengers knew where they were but it certainly wasn't Southport as the coach suggested.

With that surpassed i continued to skim through the paper, nothing really to note, SuBo has a fella? As for the sport section well it was all dribble really about the Arsenal match the day before.

There was one article about our match but it was clear the journalist who's name i forget could not think of a particularly thriving article to write instead he chose to highlight the weakness of our predicted attendance and spouted some bollocks about Benitez, i didn't finish the article. I did however finish my tic-tacs, it's amazing how quickly you can get through 100 of those little green and orange things on a road trip. Time to look out the window...

Nothing really of interest aside from some strange people who kept staring out Dave and Emz, slightly scary. Out of my window though i spotted a fellow fan, this would amaze me if anybody reads this and it was them but if you were in a silver relatively new Vaxhaull Corsa with a team strip sticker in the back window, you were our view for most of the traffic that was set to hit us.

After thinking that we were going to be lucky, i had spoken too soon "Oh well, at least we haven't actually had to stop yet." Not so long afterwards Dave pointed out the string of brake lights ahead. Oh dear lord...

An accident, which from what I've heard was a pretty nasty one was holding up traffic from junctions 19-21, 26 miles from Liverpool and we began to literally crawl. All we could do was stare out of the window and note some of the random objects that lay in the central reservation, i don't know who throws trainers out the window but i would assume driving with only one would be quite a challenge.

Mile after mile slowly ticked by and we were beginning to actually get worried thinking maybe we wouldn't get there in time, mercifully though we eventually cleared the traffic and took the junction, from here on in it was Liverpool straight ahead.

After some confusion trying to find the multi story at Lime Street, Emz and Dave eventually found the signs, i was no help in the back without my glasses, never realised how bad my eyes really were!

So we parked up and headed down to Lime Street station to meet Kay who would be going to Manchester with Emz whilst me and Dave went to the match.

After that bum number of a drive though first thing we all needed was the loo, upon getting to the toilets i realised that they wanted 30p for the use of them... and i didn't have 30p...

Fear not though, Emz did.

So as we said goodbye to Emz and Kay, Dave and i set out on the hunt for food, most places appeared to be shut but the trusty old Burger King that i have been to on every visit to Liverpool was open.

With the idea being that we would grab something to eat in the price range that would give us both the right change for the bus, that plan was quickly floored. "How many chicken pieces dyer want luv 14 or 7?" Don't know why because i generally have a small appetite but i punted for 14, bad move, no change and they tasted like crap!

So after Dave finished his Angus he went back to annoy the cashier for some change, he also asked if he knew what bus it was to Anfield, he was useless, had no idea! It was okay though, i was pretty sure it was the number 17.

Change at the ready we went to find the bus stop, just as we found the correct one an elderly scouse chap in a high viz jacket approached us shouting "football special buses around the corner" or something to the effect.

Suddenly a string of people started flooding that way, a young Irish lad asked me mid walk if i knew which bus it was to Anfield so i also directed him in our direction.

Upon reaching the road though most people looked confused, there were 3 buses, one with the number hidden, another number 17 which i knew was right and a double decker. Confused people stood on the wrong side of the road trying to guess where to queue up, then i shouted to Dave "Yeah there it is the number 17" again, bad move, it turned into a bloody race!

We managed to get on the second bus as the first was full to the rafters, bus fare was same as last time which was a relief i was beginning to think they may charge extra. Took us straight to Anfield, excellent. Much better than the Fazakerley one that has to stop in all the residential areas.

Spot Anfield out of the steamed up window, wipe it clean to view the place i love so dearly, starts to hit home that i am actually going to see the lads play, Dave and I thank the bus driver and cross the road then head through the Paisley gates.

I get tickets ready out me bag then we start to head in the direction i think we should be going, i spot a programme seller, definitely wanted to buy one, figured i may as well get it now rather than later, handed over the cash then got my change and the programme with a bent over Riera on the front.

"Dave, hold this a sec whilst i put me change in me purse."

Two seconds later... "Splat"

The bloody div had dropped it on the floor! Haha, it survived though with Dave's attempts at drying it, corners are a bit wrecked but apparently that was because of all the crap in my bag lol. I beg to differ haha.

Programme at the ready i followed the direction they took me when i went on the Anfield tour because i knew that they took you through the main stand, although i had no idea what turnstile etc to go to. First steward we spoke to kindly directed us up the car park and to head for turnstile S or T, second steward told me i didn't need to scan my ticket and that i had to give it to him (*hits self on head*) and the third steward upon climbing the stairs told me and Dave that our seats were the next block down.

We looked up at the numbers and then checked the tickets to make sure they fitted with the allocated slot and began to walk up the steps, only then was it that Anfield began to appear through the concrete peripheral vision, i can't explain how that made me feel, it was like a sinking feeling but a good one, that was when it actually did hit me, we were here and i was going to finally experience Anfield.

We asked another steward where our seats were and he was excellent pretty much showed us directly to our actual individual seats. Top blokes all the stewards i came across at Anfield, really helpful and polite.

Got ourselves into position but didn't sit down straight away, i had forgotten that some seats at Anfield were still wooden, to be fair though they provided a lot of leg room. With 15minutes to go till kick off me and Dave took some snaps although Dave's digital camera died after like two... Fail.

My phone camera is terrible in general but mostly blurry photos are ten times better than none!

Time quickly passed by as i took in the sights, sounds and smells of the glorious Anfield, i had been here before but it was light years away from how it felt now, filled with fans & flags.

Then out of nowhere i hear that famous voice - Gerry Marsden.

For years and years i have listened to this song from a stereo or television before kick off but nothing will ever compare to this moment.

Immediately my scarf went up in the air and i began to sing, i knew that this would be a special moment for me, but i never thought it would be so emotional, it nearly brought a tear to my eye, i was so happy to finally be there and be involved in such a historic Anfield tradition, it was awe-inspiring.

For as long as i live i will NEVER forget that moment.

As the lads came out Dave and I and the rest of the Main Stand clapped and cheered as they lined up and then took our seats.

Liverpool had started a slightly different team but nevertheless it was still a strong side put out by Rafa emulating his seriousness in giving this competition a go. Reina, Carragher, Gerrard and Kuyt were all still in, Aurelio replaced Insua in the back four and Skrtel with Agger was the choice for the centre of defence.

Riera started on the left which i was very happy to see, Aquilani also started instead of Lucas whilst Mascherano made up the rest of midfield and N'Gog was opted upfront.

We started very lively, almost all of the possession and play was in Unirea's half, i had lost count of the amount of corners and Unirea were looking generally ineffective especially on the counter attack.

The lively start made me realise that i was in fact going to need to put my glasses on, all our lads dashing around and me hardly being able to make out their blurred numbers was a bad combination, on went the glasses and now i had a crisp clear view. The man who was sat next to me though who had disappeared when i had no glasses on and returned when i had put them on seemed rather confused momentarily.

I blame that man for ruining the smell too, upon sitting down somebody in the vicinity (for some strange reason) had put what smelt like very expensive but nice aftershave on for his Anfield trip, however unnamed hat wearer who was next to me allowed the smell to disintegrate rather quickly as pies & bovril filled the air.

I wasn't the only one with a bovril problem, a faint scouse accent from a lady behind uttered "Errr wos that yer drinkin? Grayveeee?"

There were plenty of attempts in the first half for Liverpool from the likes of Gerrard, Kuyt, Riera and even goal shy Jamie Carragher.

Riera who i am generally a big fan of was playing closest to where i was sitting so i got to view his performance closely in the first half, unfortunately last nights stint for Riera was pretty disappointing. Much to the delight of the mild mannered moaner who was sat behind me.

I was pre-warned by many about the trials and tribulations of the Main Stand and although we were sat in front of a constant moaner it wasn't all that bad, his favourite word appeared to be plonker and he was brilliantly contradicting, he had a field day with Riera though, moan moan moan moan moan.

N'Gog too was a big target for most people, "Oh he's useless, he gets the ball n he does nothin with et." He proved them wrong eventually.

Second half and the disappointment of not being able to get an early goal when we were on top of the game was clear, the spark had gone and play had slowed down a bit. Again players like Riera and N'Gog were getting on the tethers of many people but at least it was relatively safe to say Unirea were not going to punish, barely a chance all game and when they had the opportunity they scuffed it.

Riera was eventually replaced with Ryan Babel. I must admit in comparing the stints from both players in this game Babel has bragging rights, he was strong in attack and did cause many problems.

The following substitution proved to be very effective and much to the joy of many a Liverpool fan Daniel Pacheco was brought on for Aquilani. I had noticed him being spoken to by Rafa beforehand so knew he was coming on but to my surprise many people around me didn't seem to even know who the youngster was although credit given when due mild mannered moaner did.

Within less than 10minutes of him being on the field Danny Pacheco proves his worth yet again, after connecting with the incoming ball he heads back across the face when N'Gog finishes with the end product.

I was already half way out of my seat as the ball came to Pacheco and was ecstatic when celebrating the N'Gog goal, i think i nearly took out unnamed hat wearer with my bag but oh well, celebrating my first Liverpool goal was excellent, everyone becomes one. I've always had to celebrate pretty much alone really but this time was special.

As the minutes ticked down of my first Anfield experience, Lucas was brought into play for goalscorer David N'Gog.

A win was all i asked, of any caliber and a win is what i got. Despite the performance being very lacklustre, Liverpool again have grinded out a result.

We opted to stay for a little while afterwards, as the ground emptied out the Romanian fans were excellent in clapping and showing respect for the Anfield faithful. Was it me or did their main chant sound remarkably like "Who's eaten?!"...

It was time to go, found it quite hard to actually turn my back on the pitch and leave the stand, i would have been quite happy sleeping there but we needed to find a bus.

This proved a right game, not thinking that Walton Breck Road would be closed my plan was to catch the bus opposite the Paisley gates, Dave pointed out the road was closed which to be honest i should have figured out myself seen as though we were standing in the middle of it and not getting run over. (Still in awe maybe?)

We spotted a scarf seller so Dave got a You'll Never Walk Alone one for the parcel shelf of his fiesta. As my Twitter followers may know, i opted for a rather "cringe-worthy" option of scarf from an old geezer further down the road... It was only for a souvenir! Lay off me a bit haha.

Anyway, after we realised we weren't going to be able to catch a bus from where we were we approached a policemen standing in the middle of the road...

"Excuse me officer could you tell me where to get a bus to the city centre from please?"

His first sentence of reply was:

"Well, town is sort of ... that way (hand signal in a sort of westerly direction)."

Great i thought, the one policeman in the whole of Liverpool who doesn't even appear to know where he is and we ask him for directions. He did eventually explain that if we followed the road all the way to the bottom we would find a main road with a bus stop.

It was quite a long walk to be fair although tons of fans were walking in the same direction. As me and Dave continued to talk about the match a middle aged man and what appeared to be his 3 sons turned round...

"Are you from round here?" ... "No, are you trying to get to the city centre?"

"Yes, well Lime Street"

Several words excahnged later i explained that we were following instructions from a policemen who has as good a sense of direction as James May from Top Gear.

Dave and I were still slightly confused as to why he thought we could be from round here, i talk pretty loud and i can talk for England, is my accent really not that noticeable?

We overtook them but eventually when we found a bus stop met them again as they passed us and continued walking the road attempting to flag down a cab.

Bus stop was rammed, no sign of a bus, me and Dave figured we should just carry on walking. As we got close to another bus stop we saw the bus had pulled up at the other one now some way behind us.

By now we had caught up with the middle aged mans group, eventually Dave and one of the mans sons figured that this bus would go to the city centre. Waiting for the bus to pull up from the other stop it was overtaken by another very empty bus. Nicley done haha.

We hopped on complete with middle aged man group who now appeared to be our tag alongs because we knew our whereabouts more than they did and headed for Lime Street.

Kay and Emz were nearly there so we waited for them to appear underneath the giant Lime Street clock, they had been pubbing it up in Manchester although i don't think they were drunk.

After getting some snacks from Upper Crust and Burger King in the train station it was time to head for the car. As we headed out of Liverpool and i began to see the last signs of the North West city i got that slightly sad feeling, my first thought is usually when i can come back next.

We made good time on the M6 and had to follow it all the way to Birmingham as our friend Kay is not a Wolverhamptoner lol.

I rarely ever fall asleep in the car but on several occasions i felt my head drop forward then a sudden jolt would spring me back to life.

Eventually arrived home at about 2AM, completely shattered so was glad to get into the house to my warm bed but still reminiscing on the hours beforehand.

The people i love will always be in Wolverhampton, and in all honesty i love living here, it's not perfect but it's my home.

The football club i love however will forever be in Liverpool, always has, always will.

Til next time...

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Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Liverpool Hope To Start Europa League In Style


Benitez has promised to treat the Europa league with respect and just like the fans is hoping that we can have a good run in the competition. Despite the disappointment and realisation that we do not find ourselves in an elusive Champion's League clash this week but a Europa League one, excitement and an atmosphere appears to be building up for Thursday nights clash.

Unirea Urziceni are unfamiliar opposition to Liverpool to say the least and very unfamiliar in particular. They are a Romanian side who play in Liga I. Strangely enough their nickname is Chelsea de lalomita roughly translated to "The Chelsea of Lalomita", Lalomita being the county of Romania whey they are from.

If they are anything at all like Chelsea on a European night at Anfield then it could prove quite a tasty fixture.

The majority of their team are Romanian born although they do have Brazilian and Argentinian players. Perhaps their most prolific players are long term servers for the club: Marius Onofras and Marius Bilasco and will be worth keeping an eye on.

They recently won their league in the 08/09 season for the first time in their history.

Unfamiliar opposition can sometimes be the worst as you simply do not know what to expect however on paper Liverpool should be victorious.

From Liverpool's side of things we still have a few injuries in the likes of Torres and Glen Johnson. Benayoun is back in training but it does not appear as though he will be named in the squad for Thursday. Jamie Carragher is set to be assessed at Melwood but his injury was not feared to be too bad and if he has any say on the matter chances are he'll be in the back four.

Kyrgiakos will be available due to only serving his 3 game ban from the red card he picked up against Everton for Prem fixtures.

Our loss to Arsenal last week should not really have a damaging effect on the team as this is a whole new game, a new challenge, separate from the trials and tribulations of our current premier league campaign. At the same time however, it is no time to relax.

I would like to see an attacking side fielded perhaps something along the lines of:

------------------Reina------------------
---Carra----Skrtel-------Agger---Insua-
--Kuyt----Masch------Gerrard---Riera-
-------------Aquilani--------------------
-----------------------N'Gog------------

Not sure whether Alberto has recovered from his virus yet but it would certainly be interesting to see how he would link with N'Gog. N'Gog was slightly disappointing against Everton and Arsenal but i just feel this is the sort of game where he could nick a goal which would do wonders for his wavering confidence.

Gerrard has to start, and for me so does Riera. Apparently he is still not fully match fit but i just think the aspects he adds to the game we get from nobody else, great attacking option in my eyes.

As for prediction i shall go 2-0 Liverpool, if I'm honest i think Unirea are going to struggle, especially away from home.

Really cannot wait for this match as most of you should know by now, this will be my first ever match at Anfield! Words can't describe how i'm feeling and you can count on a very descriptive match report/blog of my day.

Enjoy the match folks.

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Play Off For Last Champion's League Spot: Why I Disagree

Everton Training Session In Los Angeles
Champion's what? ... League?

As I'm sure you have all heard/read about by now the latest idea from the fat cats of the Premier League, still not content with how the best footballing league in the world is being run they have come up with this proposal:

A play off for the fourth and final remaining spot for Champion's League qualification, involving whatever teams happen to be placed from 4th to 7th position.

In case you haven't already guessed by the tone of my typing, i am against the whole idea. Most people therefore assume that as a Liverpool fan you must be against it because you are worried? Wrong.

I'd take Man City, Birmingham, Spurs, Villa, Everton, Blackburn, Fulham... anyone in a play off and I'd always have utmost confidence in Liverpool but the point is in my book, finishing 4th and striving throughout the season to get into that spot and then having to involve yourself in more games just to prove that you in fact are worthy of that last Champion's League spot, not Martin O'Neill's Aston Villa that constantly throw 4th spot away, where's the sense in that?

Why should teams like Spurs who have more money than us so apparently should be better poised for 4th spot, mega bucks Man City and Aston Villa who in some senses have a better squad than us be given the chance to get into the Champion's League just because they have fallen at the forefront and failed to get into 4th spot and work for it that way.

As many people have also highlighted, teams like Fulham, Stoke and Blackburn etc could be fighting for this spot.

Some have argued that the likes of those teams are already better than half of the teams from the willy nilly leagues of Europe, but i have to again disagree, if this is so then why are our supposedly "decent" teams always so poor in the UEFA Cup? If they can't even hack that the majority of the time then god only knows how they will fair in the ultimate competition in Europe.

Teams like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan & AC will wipe the floor with these teams and i really do not see why this should be allowed to happen.

If the likes of Tottenham, City or Villa etc did manage to take 4th spot then at least you have the backing that you have played an excellent season and pipped say Liverpool or Arsenal (established CL sides) to the post so you have the right and judging by that years performance the game to go and and give it a run for it's money.

So why risk throwing a team like Birmingham in when as a country England are dominating the Champion's League? Why allow our league to be laughed at? The cream of the best crop should play in the best competition for European silverware and in my eyes that's final.

Look at Everton, in 2005 the year Liverpool had won their 5th European Cup, the bluenoses managed to beat us in the race to 4th. So what did they do?

Got knocked out in the qualifying stages by defeat to Villarreal and then dropped into the UEFA Cup where they were also knocked out by Romanian side Dinamo Bucharest.

The teams that are placed in 5th, 6th and 7th are generally there because they are not good enough, it doesn't take a brain surgeon to point this out, team's like ourselves, Arsenal, Chelsea and United have constantly came up with the goods and this appears to be an annoyance to many of the neutrals.

But the simple fact is, despite last season Arsenal finding themselves in a downwind, did anybody take the initiative to take 4th? No.

Despite Liverpool still in the midst of a dodgy season, is anybody truly convincing you that they have the stamina to complete the task?

Why should teams like ourselves have the prospect of our place being taken away from us when the teams we could be playing have failed to deliver the goods on their own behalf?

If they aren't good enough to do what is already asked since when was it appropriate for them to be thrown a lifeline?

They'll be adding an extra relegation spot next or even a play off to see if you can stay up.

It just gets right on their wick doesn't it?

"Oooo Arsenal may miss out on the Champion's League spot." , "Liverpool look set to blow it." they just absolutely hate the fact that despite when the cards are down we still fight back.

They want a change, they want money and below par sides want an easy way out.

Well I'm sorry but i just don't agree.

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What are your thoughts on this story and how it may affect Liverpool? I realise many people have differing opinions on the matter and it would be really great to hear yours.

Please leave your comments below.

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Thursday, 11 February 2010

We Gave Arsenal Their Boost

Sports News - February 11, 2010
Just in case you missed it.

They had been outdone by United and outdone by Chelsea, unfortunately, Liverpool who make up the big four could not enforce a similar humiliation of a weak looking Arsenal side.

Before we go on though, in all honesty, was anybody realistically expecting much? Although i felt as though we "could" get a win, it was the draw that was looking more feasible and definitely acceptable, but after calming down from the result yesterday, i don't know about your selves but there is a strange feeling of "I'm not really surprised."

We have never won at The Emirates, Arsenal had a point to prove, we are lacking attacking options at the moment, throw in the loss of Kyrgiakos, the forced substitution of Jamie Carragher and Howard Webb's bad eyesight then you have a recipe for Arsene Wenger's bragging rights breakfast.

Let's not fall back on refereeing decisions, substitutions and missing players though because the performance was just not good enough.

The first half reminded me of when we faced Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux back in January, we started the first half in almost identical situations.

Passing the ball around, sitting back, happy to wait until a chance came to us, too patient to go and make something happen.

Now when you are playing a team like Wolves, this attitude can make more sense, however when you are facing an Arsenal side, known for their attacking flair, although we were the ones obviously happy to come away with a draw, this ideology would never work. We should have known Arsenal would come up trumps eventually and when it happened, it was far to late for Liverpool to change tactics and try to get one back.

The first half therefore quite predictably was lacking chances and action, the only real moments to highlight were a Maxi Rodriguez attempt that appeared to hit Vermaelen on the arm, an Arshavin chance that hit the side netting, an Arsenal sub Nasri off, Rosicky on and two cautions given to Arsenal players.

Not forgetting Jamie Carragher running around with what seemed like a split lip, blood everywhere, on the shirt on the floor, did he come off? Did he heck! He was told to change his shirt but then ran straight back onto the pitch good old fashioned English football that. What would follow in the second half for Carragher though would prove a big blow to Liverpool.

Just ten minutes into the second 45minutes and Carragher was forced off due to a tightness felt in his thigh. The problem doesn't appear to be too serious though so hopefully he will be back for the clash with Unirea.

Degen was the man who came on in replacement, now my first thoughts were of his impressive stints in past games and also the attacking aspect he could add to the game, something we clearly needed. However, it didn't turn out to be a good game for the Swiss man, unfortunately, it was mostly him to blame as result of the goal to come.

Thomas Rosicky who had earlier took a terrible second touch on his run into the box and blew a fantastic chance for Arsenal made sure that he could redeem himself. He produced a great cross which was met by a free in space Diaby and Reina was beaten.

Degen who was too far forward when the attack was coming in did track back, and because he is pacey he made it back in time, thing was though he was nowhere near his position, he should have been covering Clichy who was on the left of the picture and although he had hawk eyes on the man miles away from him, even when Kuyt spotted the problem and covered Clichy for Degen he didn't pick up on the forward pushing Diaby and was left standing to watch the header go into the back of the net.

Despite this, and without denying that Degen did have a poor game, fact is, you can't win games without scoring and you can't get a draw from 1-0 without doing that either, and let's be true, we never really looked like getting anything past Almunia.

Our best chance in the second half came from Ryan Babel, no denying this, full credit given although still, i don't see enough in his full game to reason his choice before say the likes of Riera. He did very well to get his chance in though a powerful run and then a snapshot effort which saw the Arsenal goalkeeper tip it onto the cross bar.

Our final and only hope of an equalizer was the last kick of the game, Steven Gerrard lines up for a free kick, if there was anyone on the pitch that could spark a miracle it was him. A fantastic take which was almost certainly goal bound was then saved by Cesc Fabregas's hand.

Well done.

I'm not going to sit back and complain but the camera never lies, ball + Fabregas's hand = Howard Webb is blind.

With Man City up next, we could seriously do with beating them. Although we still find ourselves 4th in the league, above Mancini's side on goal difference, they do still have 2 games in hand. City have been dropping some silly points though and there is no denying that a win here would allow our confidence to continue despite this loss to Arsenal.

One to forget i'd say, time to look forward to Unirea and the prospect of some silverware for Liverpool.

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Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Can Liverpool Shoot Down Gunners?

How punditry can change within the space of... A month?

December was a pretty shoddy month for Liverpool, heads were hanging, confidence was low, we'd been knocked out the Champions League, beaten by Portsmouth and beaten by Arsenal. With things beginning to hit a new low it was Arsenal who were on form winning 5 out of their 6 Premier League fixtures that month.

Now were into February though it appears the tides have turned.

Arsenal are now showing the poor results including a draw with Everton (pah!), loss to Stoke and they have failed to beat either of their big rivals in Chelsea and Manchester United.

Even looking at our own season we can still say we have beaten United, beaten Stoke and also got a draw. Not to mention our double over the bluenoses, yet it's Arsenal who's decline continued to be ignored, pundits remained confident that they would still find themselves in a title race despite all the warning signs.

Warning signs such as their inability to defend pacey counter attacks, even though Arsenal boast one of the best goals for totals in the league, it is clear their other weaknesses were becoming more apparent.

But no.

Liverpool are incapable of going on an unbeaten run they said, Spurs or Manchester City are the most likely to take that fourth spot they said, Arsenal could mount a serious challenge they said, Wenger they praised, Arshavin they applauded...

And now where are they?

3rd in the table, 7 points off United, 9 points off Chelsea and the mighty Reds next up on their fixture list.

So lets look at this properly, it was Liverpool who were questioned when the fixture lists for January and February were examined, would they be able to beat 4th spot challengers Spurs? Could they do they double over an Everton side in good form?

Arsenal on the other hand...

Oh of course Arsenal can give Manchester United and Chelsea a run for their money in both those fixtures, what with all that fire power despite having no real striker at the moment, yes, they'll fend fine against attacks, a draw is highly feasible etc etc.

As much as it pains me to say it though United humiliated them, and this followed by Chelsea doing pretty much the same. Letting in 5 goals from the two matches and their only sense of fight being shown in the consolation goal against United, confidence in Wenger's team has only now began to filter out.

And why is this? Because quietly in the background Liverpool had been grinding out the points, game after game after game, whilst the likes of Villa, City, Spurs and Arsenal all began to falter, our boys had been showing the stamina. So much so that on Wednesday night, if we can beat a poor looking Arsenal side of recent, they will no longer be looking up, they will be looking directly behind them.

Liverpool would find themselves 1 point behind the Gunners providing they could walk away from The Emirates with all 3.

With Man City next up in the league, a win over them and we could find ourselves challenging successfully for 3rd! Never mind that coveted 4th spot.

It amazes me how "all of a sudden" the support for Liverpool has come back, the faith and belief from pundits has instantly come flooding back for a dribble of backing and praise after the Everton game. Well, we don't want it...

A good analyst of football would have noted beforehand to not rule out a Liverpool push and run, but Andy Gray and Jamie Redknapp are more concerned in following a Sky media bandwagon, "Oooo the propaganda of highlighting a none existent Liverpool crisis is of utmost importance, never mind Arsenal's almost imminent fall from grace."

The fact is, they all knew it was possible, and now that it has actually happened, it has come back and quite simply bit them on the arse.

They aren't going to hold their hands up and say i thought Liverpool had no chance, just as they aren't going to be left out of the hype knowing that Liverpool could now find themselves leap frogging Arsenal.

So for this and several other reasons, more obviously the extent of the rewards, i sincerely hope we can come away with 3 points.

Liverpool are still without star men; Fernando Torres, Glen Johnson and Yossi Benayoun. Arsenal are without the likes of Eduardo, Van Persie, Gibbs, Vela, Merida and Djourou.

Liverpool will also be without the massive impact of Kyrgiakos, this could prove to be a problem but the defence as a unit of late has been very good, still scrappy, but nevertheless they have continued to get the job done, conceding only 1 goal in the last 5 games.

In terms of team fielded, I'm not quite sure what Rafa will go for, as many people noted after the Everton clash, it was clear he opted for Masch and Lucas in midfield perhaps due to the physical nature of the game, goals were not going to be scored by skill or flair, that was a fact. However this time out, i feel Aquilani could possibly be of better use.

As for the wing, again, i think against a team like Arsenal we may see Riera started and then Rodriguez used as the late sub.

Back four i should imagine will be Carragher, Skrtel, Agger and Insua. Kuyt will almost certainly start along with Gerrard, whether Kuyt will be on the right, behind the striker, or even take the roll of lone striker, i don't know, it's all left to guess work.

Should be a very good match, especially due to all this build up, knowing what a win could do, i unfortunately am working Wolves v Spurs, so just like the first Merseyside derby this season, i have literally got to "dash" home in order to try and catch at least some of the first half, should definitely be back for second half though so all hope is not lost. Fully charged phone i feel will need to be required for constant scoreline updates until i manage to get in front of the TV.

Enjoy folks.

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Sunday, 7 February 2010

Battle Of Merseyside: Victorious Reds

Kuyt reaches 50 goals.

The "friendly derby" they say, well judging by one of the first crunching tackles from Jamie Carragher on Stephen Pienaar, that was the yard stick for the game ahead. After leaving him on the floor and then trotting back to defence it was clear that this was going to be more about the battle and less about the wits.

With Everton on such a good run of form recently and the fact that they are still waiting to end their 11 year run of not being able to beat Liverpool on Anfield turf. Along with the pitiful fact that it is now 15years of trophy-less seasons for our bitter blue neighbours, they definitely had a point to prove.

Despite this, they never really turned up. They had flashes, but whatever minor threat they posed or chance they had it was dealt with. Perhaps not in a neat and tidy fashion but the fact is, the boys did us proud.

For the first half an hour or so, you would be forgiven for thinking that you had in fact turned up at an amphitheatre with the bulls of Everton charging into Liverpool red, whilst the matador's remained in control. Occasionally during these bouts of physical action, mainly concentrated in the midfield, some sort of footballing counter attack would occur, usually to no avail.

With players like Landon Donovan and Steven Gerrard showing flairs of ingenuity and attempting to be the game changers it was still a successful period for both the red and blue defences.

At 30minutes in, the first real challenge came in. And it was a bad, bad challenge.

When Javier Mascherano finds himself in possession of the ball, poised to make a pass, a charging Pienaar launches a high tackle towards the Argentinian. When the bottom of his boot clatters with Mascherano's shin and then immediately after scrapes down his leg, pulling down both his sock and only means of protection - his shin pad, Mascherano falls to the floor.

As many people have already described, that tackle quite simply could have been a leg breaker, it was late, it was high, it was wrong. But Martin Atkinson? No, he didn't appear to feel that this was a red card challenge. Pienaar walks away just cautioned whilst Mascherano, was quite lucky to even get up.

Not even 5 minutes later and Mr.Atkinson has suddenly realised how to referee, make no bones about it when a player comes into a tackle with two feet off the ground, there is every chance he is going to see red. Despite the fact that Kyrgiakos was quite low with the tackle and that he had ended up needing two stitches, i do not think we can really complain.

What we can complain about though is the sheer inconsistency of the referee, you can't allow Pienaar to remain on the field and then give Kyrgiakos his marching orders for a tackle that looked a lot worse than it was.

By half time it was still a stalemate, and despite the fight going on on the pitch being rather entertaining it was beginning to become rather frustrating, we needed to show Everton how we played football now, there was no more time for this physical battle if there was no end product to be seen.

Liverpool would be with 10 men for the full second half after seeing out the remainder of the first. Mascherano had been called into a right back position and Carragher pushed back into the centre.

Despite the fact Liverpool were disadvantaged numerically, Everton did not appear to be capitalizing on the deficit. Everton's only real chance was when Tim Cahill was presented with a delightful ball on the edge of the 6 yards box, he connected but sent the effort over Reina's cross bar.

For somebody dubbed the king of headers, i think it's only fair to say ... "I could of netted that." And to be honest, i think i could of...

Point being, he missed.

So with Reina still being kept relatively quiet, it was time for Tim Howard to be called to duty.

When Kuyt was stood awaiting a Steven Gerrard corner in the box between Howard and another blue shirt, they both appeared to be more focused on the man rather than the incoming cross. A great ball in by Steven Gerrard was met by a rather cramped Kuyt who made just enough space to connect and send the ball home. Dirk Kuyt may sometimes be frustrating but you can always count on him for a goal. Fantastic.

As the second half continued Liverpool saw David N'Gog leave the field for the controversial Twitterer Ryan Babel, again as always i was prepared to let him show his worth, but considering he was on the field for the best part of half an hour, he made little impact. Nothing in his stint told me he should be chosen before, Aurelio, Rodriguez or Riera for the match against Arsenal midweek.

Everton also made some changes with Yakubu being brought on and Anichebe replacing a very quiet Louis Saha.

Anichebe would prove to be something of a problem, and so would Yakubu but both for differing reasons.

Yakubu ended up having a great chance when he opted to go for goal, an unsuspecting Reina however dealt with the threat with a great save.

Anichebe decided that after Heitinga squared up to Steven Gerrard in apparent disgust at a great tackle by our skipper to run into the situation and get himself involved. Rather pathetically though, he ended up seeing yellow, this could have quiet easily have been prevented... Keep your soddin' nose out of it!

Agger telling him to "F*** OFF" was absolutely priceless.

Just one of the two latter cases of Everton getting impatient and quite frankly - silly.

However, the remaining incident resulted in justice done for Liverpool, and it perfectly wrapped up the game and the result.

When Steven Gerrard jumps up for a header Pienaar finds himself in trouble with the referee again after Gerrard was sent to the floor from the challenge. Perhaps a rather daft yellow card, but i have no sympathy for the man who should have been off the field some 60 minutes earlier.

Maxi Rodriguez was substituted in the dying minutes, his game i would say in general was pretty good, again it was one of those "just get on with it" games for the the new Anfield recruit, he remained relatively anonymous but as much as we may not have been able to highlight moments of brilliance, we could not highlight moments to be criticised.

A brilliant victory for Liverpool in a crucial stage of the season, with Arsenal up next and then Manchester City, the rewards that could be reaped from doing well in both those games are massive!

And on an final note, where are all you Rafa bashers? In my book if you dislike a manager, there is always something from a game, perhaps tactically that has to be questioned, whether it is a win or not, but no... They've all crawled back into Knee-Jerk Cave on No Facts road, ready to gather their opinions without any back up in case we happen to draw with Arsenal.

This behavior just proves how fickle some people are.

Rafa has done brilliantly in these last 7 matches, he deserves nothing but praise.
Oh and in case you haven't seen it...



Quality.

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Friday, 5 February 2010

Can We Do The Double Over Everton?

Football - Liverpool v Everton FA Cup Fourth Round
Jealousy is a very noticeable emotion.

Liverpool are sitting on a mountain of confidence, rejuvenated and also able to pull out the bag the fact we are on an unbeaten run of 6 games, we are perfectly poised for a clash with our closest rivals.

But what do the blue half have to show for themselves, well with the added bonus of some of their more familiar faces coming back from injury, they also have a a run of 5 games unbeaten in their last 6 matches.

Like ourselves, they are also only in one remaining competition, the Europa League, and also like ourselves they have a big game directly after we both meet. Everton having Chelsea at home and ourselves facing Arsenal at The Emirates.

With the recent form of our defence, perhaps notably down to a certain Greek it is no secret that fans are expecting a similar solid display from the back four. We all remember last year, Cahill punching the corner flag on more than one occasion after highlighting Liverpool's fallible display against set pieces. I won't watch that happen again!

Liverpool have let in just one goal in their last 6 matches, Everton have let in 4. In terms of goals for, Liverpool's tally reads a steady 8, and Everton can boast the slightly higher total of 9.

Of course, you could probably just throw all these stats/predictions out of the window, because the majority of the time in these sort of games, form is not a measurement for trying to guess the outcome. However, if Liverpool can reflect recent performances we are right to feel confident.

Injury wise the Reds are still in a bit of a rut with Johnson, Benayoun and Fernando Torres still unavailable, it always feels as though you are already starting a game on the back foot. Fabio Aurelio however may be available if when he is assessed the boss gives the go ahead.

Everton still have injury problems concerning Jagielka, Hibbert and Gosling.

So there we have it "the friendly derby" kicks off tomorrow, but you can guarantee the atmosphere will be far from subdued.

In the battle of the primary colours, let's hope that Red can beat Blue on the Green.

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