The Liver Bird  

Monday, 9 March 2015

Blackburn Force FA Cup Replay

Image: skysports.com
Liverpool have created themselves an extra fixture as they head towards the final portion of the season after picking up a 0-0 draw with Blackburn in the FA Cup quarter final. It was a game that really on paper the Reds should have had wrapped up but a lack of chances and poor conversion left Liverpool winless.

The first big moment of note in the game involved Martin Skrtel. After he fell awkwardly from a Gestede challenge he actually lost conciousness momentarily on the pitch. Medics were very concerned and couldn't take any risks and so the defender left the field on a stretcher giving a thumbs up as he went. Thankfully Skrtel was fine and after the match he indicated how he wanted to play on but he wasn't allowed to, gotta love the man haha.

The injury shook up Liverpool's already slightly different defence. Brendan Rodgers had pushed Can up into midfield from the back three. Now at the start of the season I would have preferred Can here but after forging such a good partnership with his teammates at the back I felt he would of been better off there. The real issue for me here was that Can had taken the Lucas/Allen role, these players may get some stick but they add much needed balance which in turn allows Henderson the freedom to support the striker. We missed this support on Sunday I felt.

In the first half a couple of penalty shouts grabbed the headlines, firstly a Lallana incident which to be honest I feel we would have been lucky to get. This was then shortly followed by an incident involving Sterling. Whilst defending, the ball hit off Raheem's arm as he was running, I personally don't feel there was any real intention here to handle the ball however Blackburn fans may feel different.

Blackburn were relying on Gestede in the first half as Liverpool struggled to deal with the pressure. I genuinely thought Blackburn were going to find the back of the net in the first half but somehow it just didn't happen. The Reds did get the ball in the back of the net of course but Kolo's effort was correctly ruled offside.

In the second half the Reds began to obtain more possession and it was Blackburn who then had to deal with bouts of pressure. As is often the case with Liverpool though, we create chances but lack that clinical final touch and so the away side remained very much in the game.

Mario Balotelli entered play just before the hour mark, much to my excitement. I was quite shocked Brendan had brought him on but I do feel he definitely boosted our game. For those saying he doesn't "move" or "try" I can't see how you'd back that up watching those 30 minutes. He may not have scored but he did a lot more than most on the pitch Sunday evening.

The second half continued but with no goals for either side. The best chance for Blackburn came after a sudden header from Baptiste was saved brilliantly by Simon Mignolet. For Liverpool a powerful strike from Daniel Sturridge was perhaps their best hope but again, the effort was saved.

Penalty incidents again arose in the second half, particularly when Sturridge was pulled back in the box. For me, there wasn't enough in it here, I was more concerned with the multiple incidents of Balo getting ragged in the box from corners and set pieces.

And so, that was that. The Reds had failed to find a way past Blackburn and must now hope a trip to Ewood Park will prove more fruitful. The game will come in the week we face Manchester United but if Liverpool want to end this season in some form of glory then it should be possible for an in form team like ourselves to nab fourth and get to an FA Cup final in my opinion but I suppose we will have to see.

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Just a reminder folks I will unfortunately be missing quite a few match previews and reports over the coming weeks as I am jetting off to Mexico! I may be able to provide a Swansea preview it depends how busy I am in the run up with packing etc so I may schedule that. There will definitely be no United preview or report which I'm gutted about and there'll also be two posts missing now we have that Blackburn replay.

I'm sure you won't miss me that much but laugh all you want I can promise you it's going to feel very strange for me missing several posts, I may not be many things but I am definitely dedicated haha.

I shall return soon one way or another with more footballing nonsense so stay tuned! 

Kirsty :) 

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Friday, 6 March 2015

MATCH PREVIEW: Liverpool V Blackburn

Image: telegraph.co.uk

The Reds welcome Blackburn to Anfield on Sunday evening as Brendan Rodgers aims to steer his side through to the semi-finals of the FA Cup. After being knocked out of the Europa League by Besiktas, this competition remains Liverpool's only hope of silverware this season.

The Reds will be unable to call upon Jordan Ibe for this fixture and the game may come just too soon for the likes of Steven Gerrard and Mamadou Sakho. For Blackburn they are unable to call upon Josh King who has a hamstring problem.

The last time the two sides met was in April 2012.  The game was filled with goals as the Reds eventually won the tie 3-2.  Maxi Rodriguez and Andy Carroll were on the score sheet that day for Liverpool.

Blackburn's last trip to Anfield ended in a 1-1 draw with Charlie Adam gifting the visiting team an equaliser on that occasion.

The last time Blackburn won at Anfield was actually in the FA Cup in 2000. Perhaps an omen for the weekend's game. Nathan Blake scored the only goal that day with just five minutes left on the clock.

This is actually the 10th occasion that Liverpool and Blackburn have been drawn as a pairing in the FA Cup. Here's hoping for an exciting fixture! I'm not sure who Rodgers will end up starting but it would be nice to see Coutinho allowed to continue a great run of form and I would prefer to start with a striker but I suppose we'll have to wait and see!

Now, for today's match preview I'm actually doing something quite different. Instead of the usual stat sandwich and general dribble from myself we have a brilliant Q&A with @annalouiseadams from www.90minutesmore.co.uk who is a massive Blackburn fan.

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Anna won best female blog at the 2013 football blogging awards and I would encourage you to go and check out her work! 

Blackburn are at the time of writing 11th in the table but where do you expect to see your side finish this season?

Realistically, I think Rovers will finish 9th in the table this season, although I'm clinging on to the play-off dream, and hoping that we make it to sixth. I believe that on paper, we have a top six squad, but there's no denying that we've been struggling recently.

For fans reading who haven't seen much of Blackburn this season, what is your current set up like? Gestede and Rhodes are both in double figures but how are you defensively?

This is difficult to answer, as I believe that we've been playing differently in the FA Cup and the League. The FA Cup seems to bring out a more fearless style of attacking, perhaps aided by the likes of Chris Taylor and Josh King being given a chance which has led to them both getting on the scoresheets. Defensively we are struggling massively. I really rate Shane Duffy, but he's recently undergone an operation for a knee injury he sustained in training, which leaves the club looking for cover. 

It's the 20th anniversary of Blackburn's famous Premier League title win under Kenny Dalglish at Anfield this year, do you ever see a time when Rovers can become supreme competitors again in the PL?

To be a football fan of any club, I think you have to cling on to some sort of hope that your clubs history could be revived at some point, otherwise it would be difficult to keep supporting them through all the tough times. I think it will take a long, long time, and a lot of work, but I don't see why Rovers can't return to the Premier League and create an impact at some stage.

What are your thoughts on manager Gary Bowyer? 

I recently wrote a blog for the Offside Rule Pod about my thoughts on Bowyer, but in a nutshell I believe he's done a fantastic job at Rovers. When you look at the squad he inherited, combined with the state of the finances at the club, and the difficulties being a championship club poses - you can't deny that he's helped stabilise the club. Having said that, unfortunately I can't see Bowyer being the man to take the club back to the Premier League. I wish that he could be - but I really feel that the club is crying out for an experienced championship manager, someone like Mick McCarthy perhaps.

Blackburn have reached this stage of the FA Cup after wins over Charlton, Swansea and Stoke. Having already pushed aside Premier League opposition are you feeling confident going into this quarter final tie?

We've had a wonderful cup run, and after the heartbreak of being knocked out in the quarter finals by Millwall two seasons ago, it would be superb to see us progress to Wembley. I would feel more confident if it had been a home draw. Liverpool are a very strong team, and can easily bang multiple goals in. It's difficult to feel too confident ahead of such a massive game, especially when the pressure has increased given that it's the quarter finals. On the other hand, it's important to have faith in the time, and the away tickets sold out on the day they were issued which shows that the fans are behind the team.

And what were your thoughts on the previous three FA Cup wins, were you happy with your performances or is there room for improvement?

I was more than happy, certainly with the last two performances. Admittedly I didn't see any coverage of the Charlton match, but against Swansea we were excellent, and the Stoke game, from what I've seen, was a thriller. We've played brilliant attacking football in all three fixtures, and had opposition red cards in each game. It's been great to see players like Duffy, King and Taylor (players who don't get as much playing time in the League) excelling in the FA Cup. We've played better in the Cup than we have in the Championship so I'd say any improvements that need to be made are within the League!

In terms of Sunday's fixture who should we be aware of, who would be your player to watch? 

If Josh King starts he poses a huge threat, he has unbelievable pace, and until the Stoke game I had questioned his end product - but he certainly proved me wrong. Tom Cairney is a marvellous midfielder too and should be watched carefully. Liverpool will also likely be aware of Rhodes and Gestede, given that both are such proven goal scorers.

From Liverpool's potential line up, who are you most concerned about?

That's a stinker of a question as I'd be lying if I said I wasn't concerned about the majority of Liverpool's potential line up. Having asked my 14 year old brother who he would pick, he has chosen Coutinho, aside from his ability to score screamers, I'm also told that he's in the team of the week on FIFA and is going for £400k.

The last meeting between our two sides was in April 2012, Andy Carroll scored a 90thminute winner for the Reds, do you expect to see any late drama on Sunday?

I cried for about 30 minutes after that match, as it pretty much sealed our relegation fate in my opinion. It was a hugely dramatic game throughout, but the last minute winner by Carroll was a heartbreaking moment for us. I don't doubt that there will be late drama, as we have a knack for conceding late on!

In terms of recent clashes between the two sides, what would be your favourite of the bunch?

I would say the Boxing Day game at Anfield of 2011. It ended 1-1 and was one of the extremely few highlights under Steve Kean's tenure at the club. A Charlie Adam own goal was equalised by Maxi Rodriguez, but the highlight of the match was a super save by Mark Bunn to deny Andy Carroll a late winner.

Mario Balotelli has been a bit of a headline maker at Liverpool and not necessarily for all the right reasons (it's no secret here on The Liver Bird that I'm a bit obsessed with him). From a neutral point of view, would you have him in your team? 

When he's being sensible he can be a great player, but Blackburn Rovers have experienced a turbulent few years, and we need players who are going to be responsible, reliable and not quite as risky as Balo. My heart would be in my mouth every time he played if he was at my club! 

And finally, what is your score prediction for the game?

I am absolutely terrible at score predictions, but I'm going to go with either a 1-0 win to either team or a 0-0 draw for a replay at Ewood. Although I wouldn't be surprised to see a five or six goal thriller. 

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I think it's going to be an interesting game tomorrow. I don't think we're going to keep a clean sheet here but I believe we will be able to progress through to the semi finals. I don't know about you lot but I'm well excited for this game!

If I get chance to pop some bets on before the game I'll almost certainly have a quid on Skrtel first goalscorer and probably some sort of Balotelli last goalscorer scorecast... (I can dream! haha). Follow me on Twitter to see where my money goes - @LFCKirstyLFC

Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching!

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Thursday, 5 March 2015

Reds Comfortably Beat Burnley

Image: telegraph.co.uk

Liverpool picked up yet another precious three points on Wednesday evening as they continue to pursue a place in the top four. It was Jordan Henderson who netted first again for the Reds after scoring against Manchester City, followed by a Daniel Sturridge effort.

The game started well for Liverpool who flustered Burnley immediately with constant pressure in attack. Burnley were not to be taken lightly as opposition of course as they'd caused trouble for the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea already this season. Brendan Rodgers though had instructed his team to keep up the high tempo and it was just too much for the Clarets.

With the ball, Liverpool were dangerous and without it they were relentless in attempting to gain that possession back. Burnley had no time on the ball and this showed as only the odd flash of trouble arose for Simon Mignolet.

The Reds found their first goal of the game just before the 30 minute mark. For a man who doesn't score very often, Jordan Henderson is on a roll! An attack initially created by Coutinho saw the ball splay out to Jordan Henderson, a powerful strike from 20 yards put the Reds into the lead.

It's fantastic to see Henderson scoring because he deserves it, he gives his all every game and will often have a pop at goal but it just never seems to turn in his favour, luckily it did last night.

The game itself wasn't that exciting to be honest which is a weird feeling when you win 2-0. As the second half got underway the team talk didn't appear to have spurned Burnley on and it was much of the same from Liverpool.

At 50 minutes the Reds had found the back of the net again. This time it was goal scorer Jordan Henderson providing an assist. Some lovely movement from Daniel Sturridge who had been a bit off in the first half allowed him to steer clear of the Burnley defence and head home Liverpool's second goal of the night.

I much prefer a striker on the pitch and this goal proved why. Daniel Sturridge or whoever it is up front allows an option for the wingers and midfielders, Sterling as a false nine simply does not know where he should be.

And so that was that, the Red managed to keep Burnley's real threats such as Danny Ings at bay and the away side could therefore only catch glimmers of hope.

It is another brilliant win for Liverpool who now have an FA Cup tie at the weekend to look forward to.

I asked you for your thoughts on the game and here are a few of the tweets I received:



Next up for Liverpool is Blackburn at home. Stay tuned to The Liver Bird for s special match preview with a Q&A  with @annalouiseadams 

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Tuesday, 3 March 2015

MATCH PREVIEW: Liverpool V Burnley

Image via hard tackle.com

Liverpool welcome Burnley to Anfield tomorrow as the Reds look to continue a sublime run of form. After beating Manchester City at the weekend Brendan Rodgers has his sights firmly set on the top four and will be aiming to pick up another three points against the Clarets.

Injuries for Liverpool mean they are unable to call upon Jordan Ibe who has picked up a knee ligament injury. Also unavailable are Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva. Doubts also hang over the fitness of  Mamadou Sakho and Glen Johnson.

For Burnley, they are relatively strong but manager Sean Dyche will be unable to call upon Marney, Long and Taylor.

The last time the two sides met was in December last year, a Raheem Sterling goal just after the hour mark was enough to give the Reds a win at Turf Moor.  A trip to Turf Moor in 2010 also ended well for Liverpool as the Reds netted four goals with no return. On the scoresheet that day were Steven Gerrard, Maxi Rodriguez and Ryan Babel.

Another recent meeting between the two sides, this time at Anfield also ended 4-0. On that occasion  a Yossi Benayoun hat-trick and a goal from Dirk Kuyt sealed the deal. Burnley's last win at Anfield was in 1974 when they won 1-0.

Stat Sandwich
  • Liverpool have 20 points from their last eight matches in the Premier League.
  • Burnley have only won once away from home so far this season, a 2-1 win over Stoke.
  • Liverpool have kept five clean sheets in their last seven league games.
To be honest this game should be a comfortable win for Liverpool who surely will not be concerned with Burnley. This is perhaps a bit harsh on the Clarets but sitting 18th in the table having failed to pick up a win in their last seven it's very hard to see past all three points for Liverpool on Wednesday evening.

Despite the brilliant win over City I am of course hoping to see a striker up front tomorrow and in fairness this could be the sort of game where Rodgers changes his style but I doubt it.

I asked you for your thoughts on the game and here are a few of the tweets I received:

@BrianSpalliero - "2-0"

@neilgibson2010 - 2-1 - nervy ending

@SG08_ - "I am going with a 2-1 for us"

Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching! 


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Monday, 2 March 2015

Two Magical Strikes Seal Man City Win



Liverpool picked up a victory at home over Manchester City on Sunday afternoon as the Reds put a massive dent in Pellegrini's title hopes. Two simply sublime strikes from Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho took the game away from City who only found the back of the net thanks to a Dzeko goal.

The line up was familiar as Brendan Rodgers stuck with his favoured system of three at the back and no natural striker. I don't like this set up as we all know and hilariously I spent half time tweeting about how "a few moments of magic may not be enough to beat City" however, thankfully I was wrong and magic was just what we needed.

It didn't take the Reds long at all to turn their fast paced start into a lead. After just ten minutes an assist from Raheem Sterling allowed Jordan Henderson to create a bit of space outside the box. He'll often have a pop from range but this time he'd struck his effort with perfection. His powerful shot flew into the back of the net leaving Joe Hart dumbstruck.

As much as I hate playing without a striker I have never denied that we always create problems and strings of attacks. Usually though we struggle to convert but we were oozing with confidence on Sunday afternoon.

Playing against City you simply must attack and with some brilliant performances, especially from the likes of Coutinho and Allen, Manchester City were struggling to find their title winning form.

Two minutes after our opening goal and Sergio Aguero had smashed an effort off the post, I would of put my house on him scoring then but it was City today who were failing to convert their chances. Unfortunately for Liverpool, ten minutes later they found their accuracy.

A brilliantly worked goal, perhaps not helped by a momentary lapse from the Liverpool defence allowed Sergio Aguero to play a ball through to Dzeko who of course slotted the ball home. In fairness to Dzeko he always seems to be considered as the last option for City but he's a reliable goalscorer.

With the game level I did begin to worry. It appeared to me as though City were finding a foothold, whilst Liverpool continued to create attacks our skillful stars would get into a fantastic position only to look up and find nobody in the box to support them. We were crying out for a striker at this stage I thought but I couldn't have been more wrong.

As the teams came out for the second half it was clear Rodgers wasn't prepared to bring a striker on just yet and so with another fast paced start the Reds began to build and build the pressure.

At 74 minutes Philippe Coutinho pulled the rabbit out of the hat. A stunning strike from outside the area seemed to stop time as it swooped perfectly into the back of the net.

Shortly after the goal Daniel Sturridge entered the fray but who needs a striker on ay?? Haha!

Liverpool weathered the minimal storm for the remaining 15 minutes but ultimately Brendan Rodgers had steered his side to a massive win at Anfield.

The Reds are now surely on course for the top four and with Burnley up next in the week it is hoped that our fantastic run of form will continue.

I asked you for your thoughts on the game and here are a few of the tweet I received:

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