The Liver Bird  

Monday, 30 January 2012

Reds Look For Win At Molineux

I'd love for Carroll to score in this one...
Liverpool travel to my hometown of Wolverhampton on Tuesday night as they prepare to face Wolves in the Premier League. Liverpool are on a massive high after knocking both Manchester City and Manchester United out of the League and FA Cup, but can the Reds compose themselves in exactly the sort of fixture that has caused them to stumble in the league?

Liverpool don't have any new injury worries and with Craig Bellamy only featuring in the United game, it is probable the Welshman may start. There were rumours going around from The Times newspaper that Steven Gerrard picked up an injury but I'm not certain how true those rumours are as i haven't read anything else on the matter.

For Wolves, they're in a bit of trouble, especially in midfield. Karl Henry is serving a one match suspension and so misses out and injured are O'Hara and Frimpong. The on loan Arsenal player had an immediate impact in the Wolves side so they will be looking for somebody to step up against Liverpool on Tuesday evening.

The last time the two sides met, Luis Suarez was on the score sheet in a game that Liverpool won 2-1. I have fond memories of this because i was in a pub in Wolverhampton literally encircled by Wolves fans whilst dancing to and singing "I Just Can't Get Enough"... Good times.

We don't have to go too far back though for a Wolves win against Liverpool. They won 1-0 in December 2010 at Anfield. Another game i remember very well because i was in the same pub, surrounded by Wolves fans again but this time jumping up for an offside Skrtel goal and then being humiliated at the final whistle. Not so good times...

Stat Sandwich

  • Liverpool have lost their last two away matches.
  • Wolves haven't beat Liverpool at Molineux since 1981.
  • Liverpool have conceded the second lowest total of goals in the League this season.

As you all know, what with living in Wolverhampton, working at the Molineux, plus having family and the fella as fans, i pick up a fair bit of knowledge about them as the season goes by so here's my two cents...

In my opinion Wolves still have problems with their defence, Berra and Johnson for me are problematic and the last time Wolves kept a clean sheet was back in August against Aston Villa. The positive for Wolves though is that they have a fantastic keeper in Wayne Hennessey behind their defence.

As for the midfield. With O'Hara and Frimpong out, plus the loaning out of Guedioura who is a skillful little player, Liverpool have less to worry about. Milijas has got a shot on him though and the tenacity of Hunt is always difficult to deal with.

The prize possession Wolves have though is that man Steven Fletcher, a truly natural goalscorer, give him even half a chance and the ball will be in the back of the net. Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel have formed a superb partnership of late, if they can keep Fletcher quiet then the chances of Wolves getting anything out of the game are seriously decreased.

From Liverpool's side of things, we're still struggling to score goals. I have the utmost faith in the defence for Tuesday night but I'm slightly concerned as to where the goals are going to come from. Carroll had a cracker against United but in my opinion he needs someone up front with him, he worked well with Kuyt in my opinion.

Bellamy of course is capable of grabbing a goal but it's just knowing whether or not he'll start. Whatever side is chosen, Liverpool need a win and 3 points, they can't afford to keep sliding in the league like they have been.

Enjoy the match folks, i get a free ticket! I might be able to get in with the Liverpool fans but if not i have to make do with the family section of the Billy Wright. Me fella's going too, he'll be in the South Bank so let the banter begin!

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Sunday, 29 January 2012

Evra Mistake Allows Kuyt To Knock United Out Of The FA Cup

Kuyt gets the winner...
Liverpool successfully knocked Manchester United out of the FA Cup on Saturday in a 2-1 win at Anfield. The Reds can now boast getting the better of both teams in Manchester in less than a week. A Dirk Kuyt winner grabbed Liverpool the glory in a game where United had most of the possession.

Kenny Dalglish made some changes to the side that started against Manchester City, namely the introduction of Jamie Carragher and Martin Kelly. The Reds played four at the back with Carragher sitting behind the midfield. Andy Carroll was up front.

For United, they were without the likes of Rooney and Nani but as we all know, this never usually matters, United always seem to find a way through, minus their stars or not.

Liverpool began the game well and were creating half chances despite appearing to allow United to play their own game and keep the ball. United were attempting to create attacks through Giggs and Valencia but their final balls weren't quite cutting it.

A Liverpool corner early on raised questions over De Gea's confidence. Andy Carroll was doing nothing wrong by standing close to the keeper in the box but De Gea and the United defenders just couldn't drop it. Liverpool didn't get a shot on from the corner but it was clear that De Gea felt hassled. The Reds had spotted a hole in United's defence and they took their chance to expose it.

Shortly after their first corner, Liverpool gained themselves another. Steven Gerrard stepped up to cross the ball into a crowded penalty area and as De Gea began moaning once again, he was far too concerned with Andy Carroll in front of him than the ready to pounce Daniel Agger.

As the ball came in De Gea actually pushed Carroll out of the way. Agger has already made contact and before De Gea even gets chance to react the ball has scraped his questionable hair do and flown into the back of the net.

United had conceded a terrible goal, something you don't see happen very often for Fergie's side and with Liverpool in the lead at Anfield it was looking good at this stage.

Unfortunately for Liverpool instead of capitalising on their lead, they once again sat back and allowed United to keep possession. To be fair to the Reds, although they weren't attacking as much, they were still dealing with United's presence pretty well but it was clear we couldn't keep playing this sort of game for long without them taking advantage.

United found their equaliser just before half time. A mistake from Enrique was horrible to watch because in my opinion he's been fantastic so far this season but the defender should have put the ball out of play instead of attempting something clever and unfortunately Rafael Da Silva managed to put in a good cross, Park took his shot first time and put the ball into the right of goal.

It was a good goal to be fair, it's just a shame the way it was conceded.

Everybody who watches Liverpool in the League at the moment will know that scoring lots of goals isn't really out forte so when United equalised it began to raise questions about where we were going to find a winner and if we ever would.

Andy Carroll for me was having a great game, he was winning balls time after time but with nobody in support to collect the second ball, possession was constantly being lost.

By the hour mark, Dalglish thought it was time to change things. A double substitution saw Jamie Carragher and Maxi Rodriguez leave the field and Charlie Adam with Dirk Kuyt take their place.

Dirk Kuyt immediately changed the game i thought and so too did Charlie Adam. Both players ensured we kept more of the ball and Dirk Kuyt was now able to support Andy Carroll, when Carroll brought the ball down or flicked it on, Kuyt was there to collect.

United still however had the majority of possession but unlike the United side we usually see, they weren't using it well. Reina was barely troubled in the second half so all Liverpool had to do was keep going and just hope that their chance came.

Just after the 70 minute mark Dalglish made a very brave decision. In my opinion it takes guts for a manager to take off Steven Gerrard, Liverpool's talisman and a player who can always be a goal threat, in a game where we are level with United. Dalglish though wasn't afraid, he knew exactly what he was doing and on came Craig Bellamy.

At 87 minutes, Liverpool's chance came.

A superb flick on by Andy Carroll set up Dirk Kuyt perfectly. Left with bags of space thanks to Evra's poor awareness, the Dutchman took his shot on the bounce and his strike flew under De Gea and into the Kop End goal.

Anfield went mental, Kuyt ran to the Kop End and everyone ran at him. Dalglish was shouting with arms up in the air on the touchline, Reina had ran to the nearest Liverpool fans, fists pumping in the air and Luis Suarez showed raw delight in the stands, fists clenched and absolutely joyous at the fact his team had done it.

Beating Manchester United is always something Liverpool relish but when you knock them out of the FA Cup in the process, it really is sweet.

Liverpool may not have been the best side in some people's opinions but possession doesn't win you games, goals do.

Add to this the composure and quick thinking from Martin Skrtel to put the ball out of danger when Reina made a misjudgement running out of his box and you have a great team effort and a well deserved win.

Kenny Dalglish's tactics over the two Carling Cup legs and in this FA Cup game were nothing short of brilliant. As i said on Twitter and earlier in this post, it takes a brave man to take off Steven Gerrard and to park the bus at the Etihad, but he did it and it worked.

For those fans calling for the King's head after the dismal display at Bolton... You need to sit down and have a long hard think about what you're wishing for.

Yes our League run could be better but it's hardly abysmal like under Roy Hodgson, we're unbeaten at home and still in the chase for 4th even though it is quite clearly going to be a mammoth task. We've booked our place at Wembley and we've just ensured a chance of getting there again now we've knocked Manchester United out of the FA Cup.

You won't find another man with such passion and such fight to take Liverpool through this transitional period in my opinion.

Next up for Liverpool is a trip to Molineux. As you all know by now, i work at Molineux and so get a free ticket, excitement levels have hit the roof!

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Friday, 27 January 2012

United In Cup For Liverpool

Dalglish would relish a win on Saturday...
The FA Cup has brought Liverpool a massive clash on Saturday as Manchester United make the short trip to Anfield. This is the first meeting between the two sides since the Suarez and Evra case, here's hoping both sets of fans act responsibly, focus on the football and provide a fantastic atmosphere.

After Liverpool's victory over Manchester City, Kenny Dalglish may have to assess his starting XI due to fitness levels of some of the players.

The good news for Liverpool is that Jay Spearing is back in training and so could be a choice for Dalglish.

Manchester United have quite a few injury worries for Saturday. Doubts are hanging over Nani, Jones, Ferdinand and Rooney.

The two sides met in the FA Cup January last year. Liverpool put in a good performance but Manchester United walked away with a 1-0 win.

The last time United beat us at Anfield however was in 2007. The Reds have built up a good run of form against Ferguson's boys at home so here's hoping that continues on Saturday.

This fourth round tie for Liverpool arguably holds more importance than usual at this stage. After getting themselves into the League Cup final by pushing Manchester City aside, the chance to progress in the FA Cup by pushing Manchester United aside would do wonders for Liverpool's season.

Of course, it's vital Liverpool keep fighting for that 4th spot, which at the moment is looking unrealistic but if Liverpool can win some silverware and compete then people might start taking us seriously.

Stat Sandwich

  • Liverpool haven't lost at home in any competition this season.
  • Manchester United are the most successful club in this competition.
  • Liverpool are playing in the fourth round for the first time in three seasons.

After Bellamy's phenomenal performance against Manchester City, it's hard to see him starting against United. Obviously this is a big blow for Liverpool because at the moment Bellamy is easily our best player.

When looking at the rest of the side it's really hard to see where the goals are going to come from. Steven Gerrard is fully capable of grabbing a winner but beyond that we don't have many options at the moment.

After such a good performance in the week though, Liverpool are bound to feel on top of the world. We've done well against United at home of late so what's stopping us from doing it again on Saturday?

Enjoy the match folks!

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Thursday, 26 January 2012

Liverpool Set For Wembley After 16 Year Wait

Get In Bellers!...
Liverpool booked their place in the League Cup final at Wembley on Wednesday night after beating Manchester City 3-2 on aggregate. It was a fantastic tie for the neutral as City took the lead twice at a boisterous Anfield but the home side were the better team over the two legs and Craig Bellamy's 73rd minute goal made sure the Reds would be fighting for some silverware next month.

Liverpool haven't been to Wembley in 16 years, which is quite hard to believe considering the caliber of the side. Kenny Dalglish was visibly delighted after the final whistle, the teary eyed manager showed the world what it meant to him to be back managing Liverpool and helping them get back to winning trophies.

Dalglish chose not to start Andy Carroll but instead Dirk Kuyt up front. Craig Bellamy as expected though was more of a forward than a winger for this one, the Welshman wasn't expected to start due to his knee problem that usually prevents him from starting two games in a row but the Anfield faithful were delighted to see him.

Mancini had no Balotelli but didn't opt to start the troublesome Aguero to the shock of many. A shaken up defence too due to the missing Toure and Kompany was another bonus for Liverpool fans.

Liverpool started the match in great fashion, the possession stats said City were the ones with the majority of the ball but it was the Reds who were forcing Hart into save after save whilst Pepe Reina was left relatively jobless.

The first goal of the game was very much against the run of play. City managed to break but it wasn't Silva or Dzeko about to spoil the party, it was an off balance Nigel De Jong. His goal was sublime and left Reina with no chance. City had now levelled out the aggregate and were well and truly back in the game.

The fact also that away goals would count at the end of a possible extra time also boosted City's confidence. They certainly didn't deserve to be in the lead and i can't have been the only Liverpool fan at this stage thinking "it's going to be one of those days."

We had chances a plenty but we couldn't convert them, thankfully though this wasn't due to a lack of accuracy but due to another superb performance from Joe Hart.

Liverpool ideally needed a goal before half time and the chance came after Phil Dowd awarded the Reds a penalty.

Some are saying this was harsh, others that it wasn't a penalty at all, i personally think it was. Micah Richards slid in for the challenge, the ball deflects off his foot and hits his arm. I understand the point people are making about being unable to go to ground with your arms by your side but at the same time you don't need to wave them at head height and towards an oncoming shot. Split second to think or an hour, you should know as a defender in the box that arms that high are going to cause trouble.

It was Steven Gerrard once again who would step up to face Joe Hart, just like he did in the first leg. Gerrard is one of the most reliable penalty takers in football but it doesn't stop you from getting nervous does it?!

The number 8 confidently put the ball into the back of the net and Liverpool were now 2-1 up on aggregate.

At half time Mancini had realised what the majority of fans had noticed in the first leg; that Savic is terrible.

The defender literally looked frightened at oncoming Liverpool attacks, none more so than when Craig Bellamy was running rings around him. Savic was replaced with Aguero.

Just after the hour mark Man City got themselves back into the game. This time it wasn't as surprising because although Liverpool were still playing well, Man City were finding a small foothold and beginning to attack.

The close range goal from Edin Dzeko put City 2-1 up on the night and level on aggregate. For Liverpool fans the tension was unbearable. It's no secret that the Reds have been struggling to score of late and we needed a goal.

Thankfully we found one.

Craig Bellamy was nothing short of phenomenal on Wednesday night. For a 32 year old who apparently has constant worries about a dodgy knee, he was fantastic, exactly the type of performance you would wish to see from everyone in a Liverpool shirt.

The Welshman produced shot after shot all night and it just felt as though that goal wasn't going to come but being Craig Bellamy, he never gave up.

Dirk Kuyt i must point out was excellent in his efforts to get the ball through to Bellamy.

Craig kept immense composure to curl his effort into the back of the net and the Kop End went absolutely mental.

All Liverpool had to do now was hold on. At 2-2 and 3-2 on aggregate all City needed was another goal to send this to extra time.

To combat this Dalglish made use of his substitutions and brought on Kelly to shore things up even more so, Kenny's tactics over both legs were brilliant and by the final whistle it was clear how much it meant to him.

Liverpool are going to Wembley!!!

There are some fans pulling out the old "it's a mickey mouse cup" line and the fact that it's a nothing competition but when your club haven't been to Wembley in 16 years and you beat Chelsea and Manchester City to get there, how can you possibly maintain these views?

The feel good vibe will resonate throughout February but the Reds now must try to replicate their fantastic performance against City in the league and also they have the small matter of Manchester United in the FA Cup on Saturday...

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Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Second Leg With City In League Cup

Will Gerrard get on the score sheet again Wednesday night?...
Manchester City travel to Anfield on Wednesday night for the second leg of the Carling Cup tie between the two sides. With Liverpool holding the slight advantage, the game is perfectly poised for an exciting clash and the winner is off to Wembley.

Liverpool of course haven't been to the new Wembley, not that any more incentive is required but it sure would be nice to see the Reds there fighting for some silverware.

Man City have a few problems suspension wise, Vincent Kompany serves the last of his four match ban and Mancini's side are left with a dilemma over Balotelli. He's been charged by the FA with violent conduct and unless Man City appeal before 6:00pm on Wednesday, then the striker will miss the match starting his four match ban.

Speaking of suspensions, it's Luis Suarez's birthday this Tuesday and the striker doesn't have long left before he's allowed back into the team. Jay Spearing is a doubt also for manager Kenny Dalglish who will perhaps look to make some changes to his starting line up after some strong words when the lads fell to defeat at Bolton.

Steven Gerrard netted a penalty in the first leg for Liverpool and now the Reds will be looking to capitalise on their aggregate advantage. A win is more than most Liverpool fans expected but just the one goal is always going to provide a nervy situation.

Stat Sandwich

  • Liverpool have failed to score just once in their last 43 League Cup games.
  • Manchester City have won the League Cup twice.
  • This is Liverpool's 14th semi final.

I know i keep droning on about it but i do once again feel that both Craig Bellamy and Maxi Rodriguez should start, they give us nothing but an attacking advantage in my eyes. The section where we appear to be going wrong is in the centre of midfield, there's been a lot of stick for Henderson and Adam lately and although i agree with some of it, i don't with all. 

When Gerrard is forced to play defensively in the midfield i think it raises questions as to what is expected from Hendo and Adam, personally i don't think this set up works, surely it would make more sense to deploy Henderson as the defensive midfielder and then free up Gerrard completely.

Just my opinion of course and obviously it would all be a hell of a lot easier if that little Brazilian Lucas was better but he's not, so we need to think of a plan b for now, one that's consistent and works.

Despite the very poor performance against Bolton, i have faith in the side for this one, we enjoy the big occasions and I'm certain Dalglish has given all of them a kick up the arse.

Here's hoping Wednesday night we'll be celebrating the fact that Liverpool are in the final of the League Cup!!

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Sunday, 22 January 2012

Bellamy Scores In Dismal Bolton Display

That's how we all feel mate...
If i walked into a club, thinking and acting like i was better than everybody else, i'd most probably, within an hour and a half or so, get battered. Which is exactly what happened to Liverpool on Saturday. They walked into Bolton's club, acting like they were better than them, like the three points were theirs before they'd kicked a ball and then, they were battered.

Inferiority complex is usually something i disagree with because i used to believe that footballers, whoever they play for, always want to beat the opposition, they can't be content with just thinking they are better and hope that magic does the rest.

Not everyone on the pitch yesterday suffered from this complex, Craig Bellamy is a good example, but too many players who should have been embarrassing a Bolton side, didn't look arsed.

Dalglish made his thoughts clear post match by saying "If that's the level they expect this football club to play at, they won't be here long." And fair play to him, i personally think Dalglish's team selection was the best under the circumstances and a hell of a lot better than the side he fielded at Stoke, this time, i have to agree, it was the players not the manager.

It took Bolton just 3 minutes to unravel the Liverpool defence. The space available for Mark Davies was ridiculous, he easily put the ball past Reina to the right of goal. It was a strange sight for Liverpool fans because we haven't been able to rely on goals being scored but we've been more than able to rely on our defence, to watch them beaten not once, but twice with such ease was quite shocking.

Their second goal was much of the same, Reo-Coker converted to put Bolton 2-0 up and in the midst of all this Liverpool still didn't appear to have that hunger and commitment to go and turn this game around.

Thankfully, Craig Bellamy is a man full of passion and fight. Personally i feel he has been our best player for a long time now and perhaps a lot of it comes down to the effort he puts in. The Welshman wasn't about to give up on the game. A ball headed on by Andy Carroll allowed Bellamy to go on a run and then sweep his effort past Bogdan.

At this stage it felt like Liverpool may just be able to get something out of the game but that wasn't going to happen.

Bolton scored their third just after half time. A sweet strike from Steinsson left Reina with no hope though Steinsson was perhaps given too much space to get the shot on. Liverpool had crumbled.

Bolton as we all know haven't had the best of seasons but they've always kept their fight, something Liverpool seemed to forget about on Saturday. Yes, we have a very important tie against Manchester City in the week but the last time i checked, at Liverpool and at any football club, your next match always matters most not the big glittering tie you may have coming up.

A performance certainly to forget, i just hope the players take the hint from both Dalglish's and the fans reactions, we understand we're going to lose games, of course we are, we're a side in transition, but losing like that in my eyes is unacceptable.

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Friday, 20 January 2012

Liverpool Require Win After Poor Run In League

Owen Coyle has left his side with a lot to do as they strive to get out of the relegation zone...
Liverpool make the trip to Bolton on Saturday for another Premier League fixture. After a disappointing draw against Stoke at Anfield, the Reds will be looking to put that behind them and take all three points from a struggling Bolton side.

Liverpool don't have any new injury worries although Jay Spearing still hasn't recovered from his hamstring problem. Luis Suarez is also still unavailable as he continues his suspension.

Bolton are welcoming back goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen as he returns from an injury to his thigh, it isn't certain whether he will start though.

The last time the two sides met was in August last year. Liverpool won the game 3-1 with Henderson scoring his first Liverpool goal. Trips to the Reebok have been pretty kind to the Reds too, we have to go back to 2006 for a slim win for Bolton.

Bolton are currently lying in 19th whilst Liverpool are in 7th. A win for Liverpool could potentially move them up to 6th.

Stat Sandwich

  • Liverpool have only scored 24 goals in 21 game in the league this season.
  • Bolton have only drawn once so far this season in the league.
  • The Reds have only won 1 game out of their last 5 in the league.

It was an interesting line up chosen by Dalglish against Stoke and as i said in the match report, i personally think it was all wrong. Hopefully, it won't be a similar set up on Saturday, i would like to see Maxi Rodriguez start because one thing everybody agrees on is that Liverpool are lacking that cutting edge at the moment and along with Craig Bellamy, Maxi is the man to provide a bit of excitement.

If Liverpool fail to win, the prospect of finishing 4th will suddenly seem like a marathon rather than the 10,000 metres. It's a tough task as it is but with the collection of draws and the lack of ability to score several goals, Liverpool could find themselves in danger of missing out on qualifying for the Champions League once again.

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Sunday, 15 January 2012

Drab Draw With Stoke

It's a fortress, but there's just too many draws...
Liverpool were held to another draw at Anfield yesterday as they struggled to get anything past Tony Pulis's Stoke side. The Potters played in their stereotypical way and whilst they would have been extremely happy with the point Liverpool were left frustrated.

It was a rather strange side fielded by Dalglish with Kuyt as the sole man up front and a 3 man defence with Enrique and Johnson pushed forward. A lot of people have been defending Dalglish to the hilt but i have to be honest, even King's make mistakes and i believe Dalglish should hold his hands up and say he got it wrong on Saturday.

Whether a different team would have got the three points who knows but that line up wasn't ideal.

Liverpool once again maintained a lot of possession, something they have become pretty good at this season but there's no spark, no cutting edge. Possession stats always get on my nerves because people use them as a positive, there is no use having bags of possession and doing nothing with it, something Liverpool are very much guilty of.

Steven Gerrard provided a bit of life in midfield and although Kuyt worked his socks off as always the Dutchman aside from a header late on, never really looked like scoring.

Stoke didn't really trouble Pepe Reina but it was quite clear from the onset that they weren't going to be coming out all guns blazing. Pulis even said post match that when he received the Liverpool team sheet he adjusted his side to carry out his original tactics, he didn't change to attack the three man defence.

Just before the hour mark Dalglish made a substitution bringing on Andy Carroll but by taking off Stewart Downing, the Geordie's service was lowered immediately. I'm not fully impressed with Stewart Downing at the moment so usually him being subbed wouldn't bother me but i just thought it was a weird choice considering who was brought on.

Craig Bellamy came on just after 70 minutes and the Anfield faithful hoped perhaps their best technical player could provide some magic but not even the Welshman could get things going.

Two late penalty shouts for Liverpool for me weren't very clear cut, my stream was terrible and I'm going on highlights so some may have got a better view but to be honest, even if it was a penalty, should we really be relying on a spot kick against Stoke at home to grab three points?

It was the right result in the end i feel after a very poor performance from Liverpool. For me, the sooner we invest in a natural goalscorer the better. And the sooner Luis Suarez is back the better too.

I don't know whether Dalglish had some sort of tactics in mind going in to Saturday's match but if he did, they didn't work. Next up for Liverpool is Bolton away, if the Reds don't walk away with three points from that one then alarm bells will be ringing.

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Friday, 13 January 2012

Anfield Welcomes Stoke

Gerrard signed a new deal this week...
Liverpool face Stoke at Anfield on Saturday in the Premier League. After a winning performance at the Etihad in the League Cup, the Reds are brimming with confidence. Interestingly, the last time visitors Stoke lost in the league was at the Etihad, Pulis's boys are on a bit of a roll.

Liverpool still have Lucas Leiva out on long term injury and to make things worse in midfield, Jay Spearing sits this one out with a hamstring problem. Jose Enrique is expected to take back his starting position in the defence  after starting from the bench in the League Cup.

For Stoke, there are doubts hanging over Marc Wilson, Jonathan Woodgate and Ryan Shotton. But manager Tony Pulis can still field a consistent side if these players aren't fit enough.

Liverpool have already clashed with Stoke twice this season both times at the Britannia. Liverpool were victorious in their League Cup tie after a Suarez brace but Stoke got the better of Liverpool in the Premier League.

The last time Stoke won at Anfield was in 1959. Usually when i pull out these sort of stats they don't go back that far but Liverpool appear to have had some good fortune over the years against The Potters.

Stat Sandwich

  • Liverpool are unbeaten at home in the Premier League this season.
  • Stoke have won 3 of their last 4 away games in the League.
  • The Reds have lost only twice in their last 15 League games.

I personally think this should be a win for Liverpool, perhaps not a comfortable one however. Stoke are on a fantastic run but Liverpool's recent performances combined with their home form should mean they have the upper hand.

There is a big "but" though, because Liverpool haven't necessarily been prolific in front of goal. If the Reds fail to score early on there is always a sense of tension and soon play begins to falter. 

Maxi Rodriguez was nowhere to be seen for the tie against Manchester City but his name could be heard, sung by the travelling Liverpool fans, i wonder whether Dalglish will start the Argentinian on Saturday?

Here's hoping we can collect all three points and pile some more pressure on the teams clustered in and around 4th place.

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Thursday, 12 January 2012

Gerrard Penalty Gives Liverpool Win

Captain Fantastic...
Liverpool were victorious in the first leg of the Carling Cup Semi Final with Manchester City last night courtesy of a Steven Gerrard penalty. Manager Kenny Dalglish used tactics to his advantage as Liverpool began to park the bus in the second half. Man City could do nothing to get an effort past the Liverpool defence let alone past Pepe Reina who was left relatively jobless throughout the 90 minutes.

Liverpool's back four was missing the influential Jose Enrique but most agreed that this was a tactical decision by Dalglish. Martin Kelly took his place.

Man City were without Vincent Kompany after he started his 4 match ban. Stefan Savic took Kompany's place in the defence. City were also without Toure and David Silva. Despite the fact that City clearly has a diminished side many critics forgot to point out that Liverpool were missing two quality players too in the likes of Luis Suarez and Lucas Leiva.

It took just over ten minutes for the most important part of the game to happen but beforehand Liverpool had already troubled goalkeeper Joe Hart with shots from Gerrard and Carroll causing fantastic saves from the City keeper.

The decision on 12 minutes from referee Mason to award a penalty was the right one in many peoples opinion so there was little to argue about from City's point of view. A high tackle from Savic on an encroaching Daniel Agger meant Gerrard had the chance to put Liverpool into the lead from the penalty spot.

Steven Gerrard with a calm head as always struck his effort to the left of goal and despite Joe Hart's best efforts, the Reds took the lead.

For the majority of the first half Man City looked a shadow of the side they have been in the league. Liverpool maintained a lot of possession and City were struggling to get hold of the ball, when they did, they were unproductive.

I must admit i wasn't expecting Liverpool to take the lead but when the Reds put themselves ahead not only did they look comfortable, they looked like they could smash a few more into the back of the net.

20 minutes in to the first half and Liverpool suffered a blow when Jay Spearing went down holding his hamstring, thankfully it doesn't appear to be as serious as first thought but Charlie Adam had to replace the young midfielder.

Things got arguably better for Liverpool at the half hour mark too when Balotelli, the man who usually causes some sort of surprise was replaced with Nasri. Balotelli had already thrown one or two hissy fits so i assume Mancini was trying to prevent the inevitable of the forward receiving a red card.

The second half was completely different to the first from Liverpool's perspective,  Manchester City must have got their acts together in their half time team talk because they came out a different team. It was now Mancini's side who had the majority of possession and although Liverpool's defence was dealing with the threats well, it was beginning to become a problem.

Dalglish combated this by parking the bus. Enrique and Carragher were brought on in the second half which in the end meant a 6 man defence to ensure City were kept out. It wasn't pretty but it worked perfectly.

I don't think many expected Liverpool to walk away victorious but many thought they were capable of a draw. The tie now is perfectly poised for the Reds who face City at Anfield on 25th January.

There are a lot of people commenting on Liverpool's performance saying it was boring to watch, that we shouldn't be playing like that, parking the bus is not the way to do it, etc etc but to be honest when you look at it properly, what Dalglish did last night was tactically sound, it may not have been exciting to watch or the sexy variant of football that Manchester City have been known to play but vitally it was effective.

Next up for Liverpool is a home game against Stoke, the Potters stumped Liverpool last time so it should be an interesting fixture.

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Tuesday, 10 January 2012

League Cup Semi Final Take One

Andy Carroll's goal against Oldham has hopefully given him some confidence...
Liverpool are off to the Etihad once again as they prepare to face Manchester City in the first leg of the Carling Cup Semi Final on Wednesday night. The most recent clash between the sides saw City put three past Liverpool, the Reds made a good performance, they just couldn't find the net.

Liverpool don't have any new injury worries and Dalglish is expected to bring back Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Jose Enrique and Glen Johnson into his defence after he chose a totally different back four in the FA Cup game against Oldham.

Manchester City have doubts hanging over the fitness of Balotelli, David Silva and Dzeko. City also have another big blow after Kompany's appeal against his red card received in the FA Cup was rejected, the defender starts a four match ban beginning Wednesday night.

Liverpool last faced Manchester City in the League Cup in 1995. The Reds put 4 past City at Anfield but we all know that things have changed since then, mainly in terms of money for the boys in blue.

Stat Sandwich

  • This is Liverpool's 8th away game in 9 League Cup ties.
  • If City win, it will be their 6th in a row in the League Cup at home.
  • A 2-0 defeat to Chelsea at the Bridge in 2007 is the only time Liverpool have failed to score in 42 League Cup games.

After a mixed up side started against Oldham as mentioned above there should be some consistency back in the line up with the regular back four. One thing most people enjoyed about the FA Cup line up though was Craig Bellamy, with a decent rest in between matches here's hoping he starts this one. I also think with Maxi in the midfield too, the combination against Oldham was a winning one, even if the opposition was of a lower pedigree the way the Reds played was exciting.

Liverpool of course have the home leg to fall back on should something go wrong but i think we're fully capable of getting a draw. Even a 1-0 loss wouldn't be devastating but if City find their footing and turn it into a rout i can't see us coming back at the Etihad.

Enjoy the match folks!

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Saturday, 7 January 2012

Reds Beat Oldham 5-1

Gerrard kisses the ball after netting his peno...
Liverpool put five goals past an Oldham side that took the lead at Anfield on Friday night. A very different starting line up for Liverpool allowed Dalglish to try something new and for once Liverpool could be described as clinical rather than wasteful.

Oldham opened the scoring just before the half hour mark with a superb strike from Robbie Simpson. There were no complaints from the Reds for this goal, it flew past Reina with great speed. Cracking goal.

In the build up to Oldham's first goal, the away side were holding themselves well. For a League One side playing at Anfield they had their fair share of possession.

When Liverpool conceded though, the players immediately realised that trouble was on the horizon and thankfully Craig Bellamy quickly equalised to put the Reds straight back in the game.

Just 2 minutes after the Oldham goal and a Jonjo Shelvey strike carried itself into the path of Craig Bellamy who stuck his head on the end of it to ensure a goal. Bellamy once again was brilliant it's just annoying that he apparently can't play two games in a row.

Some increased pressure from Liverpool in the dying moments of the first half lead to a penalty for the Reds. A push in the box on Maxi Rodriguez was enough for referee Swarbrick to blow his whistle.

Steven Gerrard stepped up to the spot with real intent on putting Liverpool ahead. The captain with a great penalty smashed his effort high into the goal and Oldham were now trailing.

For most of the early moments of the second half it appeared to be the Craig Bellamy show, crosses and shots from the Welshman were troubling Oldham's defence.

By 70 minutes Oldham has lost most of their presence on the game and Liverpool made this more apparent when Jonjo Shelvey smashed in a third goal. His effort to the right of goal was great to see after Dalglish has recalled him back from loan, the lad deserved it.

John Flanagan and Stewart Downing were brought on shortly after our third goal and although Oldham showed fighting spirit it was clear there was no coming back now. Kenny Dalglish also saw his chance to bring on the big man Andy Carroll at 88 minutes as the Reds looked to tie this up.

Carroll has been on everyone's lips of late but i hope that his goal on Friday night has made some of the critics think twice. We know he isn't playing as well as he could be, but that doesn't mean the spark isn't there and who cares if it was "only against Oldham" there's no denying the quality of the striker's finish from outside the box, which bodes the question; why are we playing it to his head when he can do that? Haha.

Stewart Downing finished off the scoring for the home side in the 5th minute of injury time. The winger struck his effort high into the centre of goal and that was Oldham dead and buried.

For Liverpool it was a great win, if anything it should boost their confidence, because as I've already said, who cares if it's only against Oldham. The fact that 5 different players scored just shows you that they are capable of accuracy, maybe they felt more confident against the lower opposition i don't know but they would benefit greatly from taking that attitude into the Premier League game with them.

Next up for Liverpool is Manchester City in the League Cup.

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Friday, 6 January 2012

Oldham Make Short Trip To Merseyside

Oldham have recently updated their badge, what do you think? Wise decision? Hahaha... Owl? Wise?... Ohh nevermind!...
Ahh, the magic of the FA Cup. 6 years now since the last time we got our hands on it, feels longer doesn't it? Well Liverpool have Oldham standing in their way at the moment and if they have any aspirations of reaching the final, they will need to deal with Paul Dickov's side first.

For readers outside the UK, Oldham Athletic are a long-standing football club within the English Leagues. They are based in Greater Manchester and are currently in League One.

Oldham's manager Paul Dickov has been encouraging his side to play with freedom on Friday night and why not? If you're coming to Anfield as underdogs, the best thing to do it go for it. Oldham don't have any real injury worries so the manager will have plenty of choice for his starting XI.

For Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish he of course still has the missing Lucas Leiva and now Luis Suarez out serving his 8 match ban. It will be interesting to see whether Dalglish makes full use of this fixture to bring Gerrard back to fitness and give him a well needed 90 minutes game time.

Oldham's most prolific striker is Shefki Kuqi, the Finnish lad has 8 goals in the league this season and 1 in the FA Cup so Liverpool's defence will need to keep an eye out.

Stat Sandwich

  • The last time the Reds played Oldham in the FA Cup was in 1977. Liverpool won 3-1 at Anfield.
  • Oldham defender Paul Black was a boyhood Liverpool fan.
  • This will be Liverpool's first home draw in a domestic competition since Dalglish returned.

We all know Liverpool's form at home hasn't been great this season and on the back of a heavy defeat to Manchester City, it could quite easily get the nerves going for some fans. Not to mention the fact that anything can and will happen in the FA Cup.

Oldham are currently 14th in League One with 31 points and have only lost once in their last 5 games. The underdogs will be up for it and with just a short trip to Anfield, the rivalry will be present.

Whatever happens it should be an exciting clash but here's hoping Liverpool can progress to the next stage!

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Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Liverpool Lose 3-0 At Etihad

Suarez begins his 8 match ban...
Manchester City put three goals past Liverpool on Tuesday night despite the away side retaining a lot of possession. A goalkeeping mishap and a dubious penalty helped City on their way but despite this, Liverpool still couldn't find a goal to put the pressure on Mancini's side.

Andy Carroll made the start for Liverpool with the likes of Craig Bellamy, Steven Gerrard and Maxi Rodriguez on the bench.

Manchester City were gifted their first goal just before the ten minute mark. A shot from outside the penalty area by Sergio Aguero should have been dealt with by the experienced Pepe Reina but unfortunately the Spaniard allowed the shot to go underneath him and into the back of the net.

It was a rare mistake from Pepe Reina but Liverpool didn't let it knock them. Possession in the middle of the park for Liverpool was top notch but the lack of flair in front of goal was clear. Dirk Kuyt and Stewart Downing saw some chances but there was no creativity.

The possession gained to get into the area was wasted time after time and Liverpool's need for a natural goalscorer was made even more clear. Andy Carroll, the man up front i feel had an ok game due to a decreased amount of service from the flanks. When the ball did come in the air his attempts at goal weren't great but he brought down the ball to cause knock on effects in the area on several occasions.

City found their next goal from a corner. A corner from the right hand side immediately before hand caught Liverpool off guard but the defence who have been so good of late didn't learn their lesson. A lapse of concentration perhaps from Glen Johnson left Yaya Toure with an easy header and Reina with no chance.

When half time was reached it still appeared Liverpool were well in the game. A goal early on after the restart could have changed the whole situation but I'm sure most Liverpool fans were similar to myself in worrying where that goal was going to come from.

Dalglish brought on Craig Bellamy and Steven Gerrard at 55 minutes in order to try and change the game. It was just a shame that they both couldn't have started. Gerrard arguably still isn't at full fitness and Bellamy just doesn't look destined to start two games in a row.

Bellamy and Gerrard immediately injected some life in to a team that could hold the ball but were struggling to do anything with it. Speculative efforts from Bellamy and piercing balls straight through from Steven Gerrard were beginning to fluster the City defence but still the Reds couldn't find a goal.

I think it's key to point out that when Liverpool did put in a good ball Manchester City's Vincent Kompany was almost permanently in the way, he had a stormer of a game.

At 70 minutes Gareth Barry was given his marching orders after a barge on an encroaching Daniel Agger. Some say this was harsh but Barry has been causing problems all game for me so i think it was a long time coming.

Just 3 minutes after this and Manchester City found themselves with a penalty. I personally don't think it was one, Martin Skrtel's foot never made contact from what i could see live and on the replays but some are saying their knees clattered? I still feel it would be open to debate.

City converted their penalty courtesy of James Milner and to be honest although the penalty was perhaps questionable, it didn't really matter because Liverpool didn't look like scoring anyway.

City took all three points and kept a clean sheet. To be fair to the Reds, the scoreline didn't reflect their performance, other teams have crumbled at the Etihad where as Liverpool did well. I just hope we can better our performance in our next two games against them.

Liverpool's next fixture is against Oldham at home in the FA Cup.

Just to end on, i didn't want to go into detail on the Suarez story because i felt it was important to focus on the match so here's the clubs statement for those who havent' seen it. And here's the statement from Luis Suarez.

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Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Round 1 Of 3 Versus City

If Carroll starts he'll be looking for those delicious crosses from Gerrard...
Liverpool travel to the City of Manchester Stadium on Tuesday evening to face Mancini's side for the first of three times this month. The Reds will be looking to take advantage of City after they lost to Sunderland on Sunday. Three points for Liverpool would see them move into 5th place.

Both sides are in pretty good shape and have little if no injuries, although Balotelli could be a doubt after sitting out the last match with an ankle problem. For Liverpool there are no real worries and it is hoped after two appearances from the bench that Steven Gerrard may start.

Craig Bellamy is a key talking point for Tuesday's clash. His performance against Newcastle was superb and with him falling out of Mancini's favour whilst he was at Man City, I'm sure he would relish the chance to put a goal or two past Joe Hart.

The last time Liverpool beat Manchester City away from home was in 2008. The Reds have a decent home record against them but there is also a large collection of draws. We shouldn't forget though that the Reds put 3 goals past Manchester City in 2011, so large victories are still possible.

Stat Sandwich

  • Liverpool have taken 16 points from their first 9 away games this season.
  • Manchester City have not lost in the league at home this season.
  • Liverpool have only lost once in their last 14 league games.

Looking at the stats it's clear to see that this game should be full of surprises, one way or another somethings got to give. Manchester City i think at the moment have hit a bit of a wobble. Nothing major, but nonetheless it is an ideal time for Liverpool to play them.

If Steven Gerrard starts then already the Reds have a massive trick up their sleeve. His goal against Newcastle proved he hasn't lost his touch and Gerrard always lifts the team. He grabs the side by the scruff of their necks and makes them fight for glory.

Hopefully it will be a great game to watch and if i get chance I'm gonna have a cheeky punt on Craig Bellamy for first goalscorer!

Enjoy the match folks.

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