The Liver Bird  

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Hungry Like The Wolves

So, yesterday was perhaps one of the worst matches I have ever had the misfortune to watch as a Liverpool fan, a Liverpool fan who hails from Wolverhampton. For those of you not following my Twitter updates throughout the day, this post should give you an idea of how I was feeling from kick off to the final whistle.

I arrived in the pub about an hour and a half before kick off, sat square in front of the big screen with my Liverpool shirt on I was soon joined my my fella, my brother and my brother's best mate, all in Wolves shirts. Full English downed and smiley pre-match photograph taken, I was feeling relatively positive prior to kick off.

After seeing that Jurgen Klopp had chosen to start Firmino, Wijnaldum and Origi I was pleasantly surprised. I expected it to be an even weaker side than the XI he chose to start. What I didn't expect was us to be in dire need of the likes of Coutinho and Sturridge within 45 minutes.

Wolves scored before the first minute of the game had even played out. I don't think anybody in the pub (hoards of Wolves fans included) would have seen that one coming. Then on top of that, the goalscorer was Richard Stearman who I happen to know isn't actually all that good and hadn't scored in three years. My only reaction at that stage was laughter, I was laughing my head off. Yes, there were questions of offside but the fact that Liverpool had given so much freedom to Stearman from that free kick was embarrassing. I was laughing because it was terrible but also because I never seriously thought we wouldn't get back into the game, there was 89 minutes to go, re-focus and find the net I thought but of course, that didn't happen.

Wolves were set up perfectly for this game and manager Paul Lambert must be praised, it was no coincidence they were so lethal on the counter attack and his team selection along with his tactics absolutely flummoxed his old friend Klopp. The work rate of players like Dicko allowed the Midlanders to fight hard and hold up play when required. Defensively they were solid and with the pace of Helder Costa at their disposal for their many counter attacks, the Reds just had no clue what had hit them.

At 41 minutes Wolves found a second goal. At this point it wasn't funny anymore. The whole pub including my fella and brother were going crazy, I had a bit of an outer-body experience at that point, just wishing I could be transported elsewhere. Horrible. Absolutely horrible. I had no excuses in my tank, I had no faith that we could actually get back into the game and I was desperate for us to resort to calling up Coutinho who realistically we shouldn't have even needed.

Half time
Without sounding offensive to Wolves, they are a side lulling around in the bottom half of the Championship at present, they shouldn't pose any massive threat to Liverpool, not at Anfield but they were a force to be reckoned with and one of the main reasons for that in my opinion was their hunger and desire to get through to the next round.

Liverpool just did not look arsed at all. The only player on the pitch who showed any glimmer of passion was Woodburn and let's face it, the responsibility of grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck and trying to turn around Liverpool's fortunes should not fall to a teenager.

Wolves' goalkeeper used to play between the sticks for bloody Telford and yet we didn't even trouble him. When Origi did finally find the back of the net at 86 minutes he didn't even look bothered. There was no urgency, no nothing. Ok, the pressure was heightened and there was one moment where it looked as though the Reds could have scraped a draw but it was nowhere near good enough.

For me also a key point to note was that it was no coincidence Origi scored from a well crossed corner. There is no point whatsoever in playing the likes of Origi and/or Sturridge if you aren't going to use wingers or full backs to whip in crosses for them to get on the end of. After about 20 minutes yesterday, maybe even less than that it should have been apparent that we were not going to be able to walk this ball into the net. Whenever our lads got anywhere near the 18 yard box they were instantly out of ideas, balls through the middle were being sniffed out by the Wolves defence and when possession was lost the away side would hit us hard on the break.

I don't think we should be afraid to resort to route one tactics and more wing play/crosses if that is what is required. At times it almost feels as though Klopp can't bring himself to instruct his side to play that way and whilst that is admirable, the reason people like Jose Mourinho nab points when they desperately need to is because they aren't afraid to resort to those tactics.

Full time...
At full-time I was utterly speechless. I wasn't even angry I was just embarrassed. Sat in a pub in the centre of Wolverhampton with no real answer as to why we were so shite. Unbelievable. We can take nothing away from Wolves, they thoroughly deserved that win but the sooner they get knocked out and I can start laughing back, the better.

Next up for Liverpool is Antonio Conte's Chelsea and if the Reds get anything less than a win on Tuesday night, we are in big trouble.

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Friday, 27 January 2017

Yam Yam Reds Fan

It's not often that your home town team, a team that is supported by your fella and the majority of your family and friends is picked out of the hat to face your own club at Anfield in the FA Cup, but that's exactly what happened earlier this month. 

Conor Coady Liverpool Wolves
Image via Liverpool Echo
Sat down watching the draw with the fella (knowing of course we still had to beat Plymouth to get through) we were both praying for a Liverpool V Wolves fixture. You don't ACTUALLY think it's gonna happen though, when ball number 22 came out Rich knew it was Wolves and I practically kicked him off the bed in sheer excitement. Unbelievable. "We've got to go!!!" , "We've got to go!!!" I shouted. 

Unfortunately, despite my brother and his mate's best efforts they couldn't get tickets. Wolves sold out their 8,000+ allocation before it even went to a members sale. So, Plan B it was. 

Plan B means me sitting in my favourite pub in Wolverhampton centre where I watch most of our matches. The downside of course is that I'm going to be MASSIVELY outnumbered, but I'm not that arsed. 

The last time I watched Liverpool V Wolves in there was not a great experience. Roy Hodgson was manager and Wolves had taken a 1-0 lead via Ward (who wasn't even ever that bloody good) I didn't have a Liverpool shirt on that day as we were going out for the night after the match so I was undercover. The Wolves fans didn't know there was a Kopite in their ranks... until of course I went absolutely mental (few too many rum and cokes probably didn't help) after Skrtel scored a header late on. What I didn't realise after spinning round and drawing my eyes away from the TV was that the flag had gone up. Queue barrels of laughter from the whole pub. 

Anyway, I digress...

After losing to Southampton on Wednesday and failing to find a way through, Wolves would be mad not to enforce a similar tactic on Saturday. One issue Paul Lambert does have though is with his goalkeeping. Carl Ikeme got a bit miffed at Wes Hoolahan last week and pushed him over, he's suspended. Their second choice keeper Andy Lonergran doesn't look like he's going to be fit in time so that leaves Harry Burgoyne: a 20 year old with two senior appearances. 

From speaking to the Wolves contingency many of them are positive about Harry and say in the two games he has played he showed real promise. It would be just typical that he plays an absolute worldy against us. 

Another one to watch out for (if he starts) is of course Coady. The Liverpool lad will be out to prove a point at Anfield and has already revealed in a feature interview with our local paper that he will definitely be celebrating if he finds the back of the net on Saturday. 

Whatever happens it is sure to be a very interesting Saturday for me, so spare me a thought! I can't deal with another loss, especially not to them.

Below you can find the view from the opposition. My fella who is a massive Wolves fan has answered a few questions. Enjoy the match folks wherever you are watching! 

Opposition View

1. Key player/who should we watch out for?

Helder Costa. The ray of light in an otherwise bleak season. He's on loan from Benfica as a result of our owners being on good terms with super agent Jorge Mendes and we have certainly benefitted.
He's our Coutinho, capable of match-winning brilliance.

We're trying desperately to sign him up permanently though Everton are reportedly sniffing around.

2. Thoughts on Liverpool and their current form? 

After the way Liverpool started the season I felt this could be their year for the title, with the front four appearing unstoppable and the general aura around Klopp.
It seems to have unraveled a bit of late for whatever reason, perhaps due to an inability to see off some of the smaller teams. Though it should be said Chelsea have been in astonishing form and Liverpool can't be expected to win every match.

I now feel the five sides behind Chelsea could finish in any order. There doesn't seem too much between them.

3. Liverpool player you would happily have in your side? 

With the attacking talent Liverpool have at their disposal there is no-one I wouldn't want in our side.

While it's tempting to say Coutinho, given our need for a goalscorer I'll choose Daniel Sturridge.

A great goalscorer who has been a victim of unfortunate circumstances which means he just doesn't fit in to Klopp's system. Can we take him on loan?

4.What starting XI do you expect from Paul Lambert? 

For me and probably most Wolves fans this is a no brainer. Play our strongest possible team.

But Lambert brought in a few fringe players for the game at Stoke in the last round who, to the surprise of many, put in an excellent performance.

So there is a feeling he may want to reward those who got us to this stage and Lambert has hinted at changes in the press.

Whatever happens expect to see our most dangerous players: Costa, either Dicko or Bodvarsson and possibly Cavaleiro, a mercurial Portuguese who, on his day, can be sensational.

5. For those who don't follow Championship football how are Wolves doing so far this season? 

Much like 2015/16 it has been another hugely disappointing season.

It is simply not acceptable for a club like Wolves to be lumbering around the bottom half of the Championship.

However, there have been positive signs since Paul Lambert took over, including fabulous wins over Stoke and Villa, and while it appears to be too late to mount a push for the play-offs this season there is renewed hope he could be the man to take us back to the Premier League.

Like every other year, next season will begin with optimism.

6. Score prediction? 

There is cause for optimism. Klopp will surely have an eye on the must-win Chelsea match on Tuesday and I can't see too many of the first XI being involved. I'd expect to see the likes of Can, Lucas, Sturridge and Origi but not a lot else.

We're also in decent form and our win at Stoke in the last round showed, on our day, we can mix it with Premier League sides, even if this is a considerable step up.

That said, we have a keeper crisis of our own with our number one suspended.
I'll go for the draw and another game at Molineux. 1-1.

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Thursday, 26 January 2017

Reds Miss Out On Wembley

A performance lacking any real dynamic or end product left Liverpool with no route to Wembley on Wednesday night as Southampton once again proved they deserved their place in the final.

Image via The Telegraph
A late winner from substitute Shane Long didn't tell the complete story of the match but Southampton undoubtably should get full credit for pushing Jurgen Klopp's team to one side. 

The Saints did not defend for the whole 90 minutes, that would be unfair to say but when they did need to defend they did it well and they did it in numbers. Liverpool just have no clue how to break sides down and it's getting pretty bloody annoying. 

Pit us against a free flowing Manchester City and I'll show you a confident three points, pit us against a supposedly lower calibre of opposition and I'll show you a side that has no idea. 

For me, Emre Can created some of the issues as with both himself and Henderson in the midfield it throws things out of balance. His second half shot almost helped him redeem himself but Fraser Forster had other ideas. 

Then you have the Sturridge issue. I personally don't feel he should be carrying all the blame, he definitely had chances he should have converted but had to wait until the second 45 to even get any service. What frustrates me is that people are quick to lambast the forward but where the hell was Adam Lallana? He was utterly absent last night, one of the only times I saw the camera focus on him was when he had the cheek to shout at Alexander-Arnold for a slightly dodgy pass. Trent was arguably the most inventive player on the pitch for us on Wednesday night so god knows why Lallana thought that was acceptable or more importantly would help the situation. 

There were occasional sparks from Coutinho and Firmino but we all know this set up works better when the latter isn't pushed out wide. It's just a combination of issues that ultimately result in Liverpool having no clue how to break sides down and it's worrying. 

With Wolverhampton Wanderers up next (my home town) I can't deal with watching us lose that one. I actually hope Klopp does play a team of youngsters because at this rate they will probably have more theories on how to break down a championship side...

Stay tuned to The Liver Bird over the coming days for a Wolves match preview with the opposition view from my fella.

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Tuesday, 24 January 2017

MATCH PREVIEW: Liverpool V Southampton

The Reds welcome Southampton to Anfield on Wednesday evening as they look to break a poor run of form and turn their 1-0 deficit around. Liverpool's recent loss to Swansea created major damage to their already dwindling title hopes. With the Saints semi-final followed by an FA Cup tie with Wolves then Chelsea in the league... Jurgen Klopp certainly has his work cut out. 

Image via
A Nathan Redmond goal is all that separates the two sides in this semi-final and whilst Southampton put on an impressive performance at home, whatever form the Reds are in, you'd be a fool to bet against them at Anfield in such an important match. 

The last time the two sides met prior to this league cup draw was in November 2016. A game lacking in action at St Mary's ended 0-0. The Saints last trip to Anfield was in October 2015, another draw, this time 1-1 with Benteke bagging the Liverpool goal and Sadio Mane finding a late equaliser then being sent off shortly afterwards. 

In the last ten matches between the sides in all competitions Liverpool have won four while Southampton have also picked up four wins. The two draws remaining were the games discussed previously. 

Joel Matip has finally been cleared to play after FIFA couldn't decide what their own rules were but it's not clear whether the defender will feature on Wednesday. There are also concerns over the fitness of Jordan Henderson who picked up a knock against Swansea. 

The latest news at the time of writing is relatively positive for Southampton however Virgil van Dijk may not be ready for the game. 

Depending on the team put out by Klopp, Liverpool should walk away with a place in the final on Wednesday night. First of all because they now have a massive point to prove. Some people may not wish to admit to the levels of complacency from the team against Swansea but I for one agree that the Reds sometimes take their position for granted, they simply cannot afford to do that against Southampton with a final at stake. 

Secondly, because on paper and with the type of players we have available the Reds should be beating Southampton under Klopp at home, if they don't, then something is wrong. As many have pointed out we're in need of more depth (doesn't look like we're gonna sign anyone though) but while I agree we need more options and there are areas we need to strengthen I don't think anyone can deny the amount of options we have in attack? 

At the final whistle of the first leg I was 100% confident that we'd turn the tie around however what has unfolded since then has fed some doubt into my mind. 

It should be a very interesting game either way. Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching! 

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Thursday, 19 January 2017

I Scored Last Week In Training...

Get in. Thank god we got past Plymouth, as a Liverpool fan from Wolverhampton I would have never heard the last of it. I was so desperate for us to win last night it was ridiculous, who'd of thought you could get as nervous for Plymouth away in an FA Cup replay as you did for the Champions League final? Haha. 

Anyway, we did win... just about. 

Image via
Klopp fielded a strong side that included Coutinho, Sturridge AND Origi. I certainly wasn't expecting to see that much experience in the XI but none of them ended up being the catalyst. 

That responsibility fell to none other than Lucas Leiva. I've always loved Lucas, he's had his moments throughout the years but I've always stood by him and just when I needed him most he pops up with a cracking header. The look on his face after he scored Liverpool's only goal of the game was priceless. The passion he has for the club visible in his eyes. What put the icing on the cake though was his post match interview... when asked "You haven't scored in seven years have you?" Lucas casually replied... "I scored last week in training." 

Plymouth made it extremely hard for the Reds and on several occasions it looked like an equaliser was going to send the game to extra time. The key opportunity for me was when Jake Jervis hit the post. What a chance that was. Despite Plymouth's best efforts, the Greens just couldn't break through. 

Liverpool had a huge chance in the second half when a penalty was awarded by Graham Scott. It was a poor spot kick with no power or clear destination from Origi and the Reds were forced to grind it out for a few more minutes.

Thankfully, Liverpool held on. Watching with my Wolves supporting fella on his birthday the final whistle led to joint celebration at the fact our teams would be facing each other in the cup. 

Now I'm just hoping that the Wolves contingency of friends and family can get tickets in the away end so I can then take up the kind offer of a spare that I've been presented with by an awesome follower on Twitter. 

If I don't manage to go to the game I'll be sat in a Liverpool shirt in the middle of Wolverhampton in a pub full of Wolves fans anyway... so either way it's gonna be a good un! 

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Monday, 16 January 2017

Reds Have To Settle For Draw

Frustration. Mega frustration. That's not something I thought I would be feeling come 90 minutes at Old Trafford this weekend. In all honesty, prior to kick off I was expecting us to lose. What I didn't expect was us to fight tooth and nail to create a lead and hold on to it only for United to score an offside goal.

Image via
They didn't deserve that equaliser. They'll have you believe they did but if that's what they want to believe then fair enough. If Jose Mourinho is so overcome with desperation to try and beat Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool that he has to resort to his apparently hated "19th century football" via route one to Fellaini and on top of that settle for a blatantly offside goal then fair enough. You can keep looking up at us from 6th eh?

Klopp set up the Reds perfectly on Sunday and even with Alexander-Arnold drafted in to the defence, United never seriously looked like they would break through until the second half. This was mainly down to Simon Mignolet who seemed utterly determined to prevent United from scoring, he pulled off some world class saves in quick succession and for me has once again proved why Karius was rightly dropped. 

James Milner's cool penalty in the first half is what set aside the two teams for so long. Paul Pogba in hilarious fashion as he struggled to mark his man flapped at the cross with his hands. Penalty all day.

Shortly afterwards you could see his idiotic decision was getting to him when he ragged down Henderson by the throat. No card though like. In fact, I'm not one usually to focus on the ref but there were some shocking decisions on Sunday. The Pogba incident with Hendo, Rooney studding Milner in the shin, the offside. Nothing. Not anything given. Yet Dejan Lovren makes two brilliant tackles early on, the latter of which he slides for but wins the ball... booked immediately. It's a joke man. 

Granted, when United did find the back of the net (did I mention it was offside?) they had clearly upped the pressure. Route one is something Liverpool struggle to deal with and it's hilarious to watch the apparently great Manchester United forced into resorting to that tactic at home. The pressure was higher, no doubt about it, but Liverpool were dealing with it and without a stroke of luck for United I think we'd have walked away victorious. 

A strange match all round really but as I say, to feel so bloody frustrated with a draw at Old Trafford shows just how far we've come. With Swansea up next and City to face Spurs then our game with Chelsea... Who knows where we'll be on the evening of January 31st? Things have just got extremely exciting for Kopites all over. 

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Saturday, 14 January 2017

MATCH PREVIEW: Manchester United V Liverpool

Liverpool make the short trip to Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon as Jurgen Klopp aims to get a momentous victory over Jose Mourinho's Manchester United. The match needs no introduction on a standard basis but even less so when the two sides are so closely bunched together at the top of the Premier League table.

Image via
At the time of writing (Saturday during PL matches) Liverpool find themselves in third on 44 points with United sitting in sixth, five points behind. A win for the devils would close that gap to two points and with Jurgen's side due to face Chelsea at the end of the month, a loss on Sunday would be a huge dent in Liverpool's title hopes.

Intertwined with all the excitement for the Manchester United match, the Reds also have a League Cup semi-final second leg and FA Cup replay to contend with over the coming weeks. While only the manager knows where his priorities lie, I asked Twitter this week what victory they would prefer:
It's clear that Liverpool fans overwhelmingly would prefer a big win over United in the league on Sunday as opposed to a win over Southampton and ticket to the final, probably against United. I personally can see both sides of the argument, but if we want to be serious about this year's title then a win at Old Trafford, at a minimum a draw, is simply a must.

Injuries for Liverpool have taken a boost with the return of the ever influential Philippe Coutinho. Hednerson and Matip are also both back in training but we continue to work without Sadio Mane who is playing in the Africa Cup of Nations.

For Manchester United, defender Bailly is also at the Africa Cup of Nations. Aside from a question over Zlatan Ibrahimovic who is apparently recovering from an illness, Mourinhho has a very strong side to choose from.

United are on a great run of form and annoyingly for Liverpool they appear to have found their feet just as we appear to have dipped slightly. The lacklustre performance against Plymouth can perhaps be passed off to youth but there was no real explanation for the poor performance against Southampton. Despite this, a match against United is a completely different beast, if there's a game that will fire you up and trigger a world beating performance, it's this one. To break down Mourinho's United, it's going to have to be something special from the Reds.

The last time the two sides met was in October last year and what a bloody terrible match that was. That game was easily one of the worst Liverpool v United games I've ever watched, absolutely shocking. The gamed ended 0-0.

The last clash at Old Trafford was in the Europa League in March 2016. A 1-1 draw was enough for Liverpool who had already picked up a 2-0 win at Anfield. From the last five meetings in the league at Old Trafford, the Reds have won on just one occasion. A 3-0 win in March 2014 saw goals from Luis Suarez and two penalties from captain Steven Gerrard.

"...give me 11 players and we will be competitive." - Jurgen Klopp

Nowadays, these games have a completely different feel, there's no local boys like Carra or Gerrard to stir up the emotion and rile up the opposition. There's no Suarez to cause sheer panic, it's a clever more patient role we seem to play relying on the link up and speed to somehow cause Mourinho's bus to break down. I'm not sure what to expect on Sunday to be honest, on paper and with my realistic cap on, we should lose. In my heart, I can see Coutinho scoring a worldy within 20 minutes and us catching them off guard.

Whatever happens, it simply has to be better than that 0-0 draw! Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching!

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Thursday, 12 January 2017

First Leg Loss

It was a dire performance from the Reds at St Mary's on Wednesday evening as they failed to find the back of the net against an inspired Southampton side.

A strong team put out by Klopp was unable to produce any real efforts leaving the Saints keeper with nothing to do all game. In contrast, Liverpool's man between the sticks Loris Karius was arguably the only player worthy of praise on the night. He pulled off two or three superb saves to prevent the Southampton damage increasing.

Image via Irish Mirror

Daniel Sturridge, a player you can usually rely on for a pop at goal was extremely quiet yesterday. His highlight perhaps running around the field with a handwritten note from Klopp trying to show it's hidden message to Adam Lallana. In fairness to Studge I don't think it was entirely his fault, he was extremely poorly served last night. For me, we should have brought Origi on sooner. I've said it a million times but in games such as that of Wednesday night I honestly feel when plan A hasn't worked, why not try the two up top for 20 minutes?

Coutinho obviously helped but being rusty from injury it was always going to be a bonus if he did manage to sprinkle some of his Brazilian magic. A solid 20 for Origi and Couts on for about 10 would have been my preferred option.

Despite all this, Southampton's early goal is just that, one goal. I don't care who you are or what team you support, 1-0 over two legs means jack all. The objective remains the same, go out and win. You'd be a fool to back against Liverpool at Anfield in a semi-final.

Roll on Manchester United.

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Saturday, 7 January 2017

Plymouth And Beyond

I haven't posted since the massively frustrating draw with Sunderland so I thought I'd take this opprtunity to do a sort of catch up post while looking forward to Liverpool's next three fixtures in the FA Cup, League Cup and Premier League.

I never saw the Sunderland match so it's not my place to offer an opinion really, what I will say is that I knew we'd slip up against them, it's just bloody typical Liverpool isn't it? Solid performance against Manchester City on New Year's Eve and then scraping a point against Sunderland. Ah well, at least Chelsea lost to Spurs eh?

Next up for the Reds is Plymouth Argyle. Plymouth are currently second in League Two chasing down Doncaster Rovers. The Pilgrims have lost four out of their last ten games in the league and have scored 37 goals.

While Plymouth are expected to field their strongest side, including starting Garita who hasn't quite recoved from a knee injury, Liverpool are expected to do the opposite. Joe Gomez who has been out of action for a considerable amount of time for the Reds is due to feature on Sunday. It will be great to see the youngster back in defence and it will be interesting to see Karius in goal behind him. After being dropped by Jurgen Klopp, Loris will be desperate to make a good impression against Plymouth ready to pounce if Simon Mignolet makes any major mistakes.

The sides at one point in their histories would face each other on a regular basis but the Reds have not played Plymouth since 1962. In their regular meetings in the 50s and 60s, Plymouth were never able to record a win at Anfield.

For me, this fixture should be a win for Liverpool, I think it'll be a close call, maybe a 2-1, but our younger players are more than capable of putting in a strong performance and I expect them to get the better of Plymouth on Sunday.

Image via
Follwoing the FA Cup game, the Reds have the small matter of the first leg of their League Cup semi-final with Southampton. The first leg at St Mary's is the best option for Liverpool, with Manchester United to think about the following weekend, it wouldn't be a disaster if the Reds had to return to Anfield with a draw or even a loss. It's a difficult situation for Jurgen Klopp who will obviously have saved some of his stars after resting several players for the Plymouth game but if he isn't careful he could burn out some key players before the United game.

Manchester United away on the following Sunday is a huge game for the Reds after Chelsea dropped points against Spurs, Jurgen Klopp's side need to build up the damage ready to face Conte's side at the end of the month. Any trip to Old Trafford is a massive one but with the run of fixtures prior to this one and the added pressure of the league, I cannot wait for Sunday 15th January.

With Coutinho back in full training this week you have to assume that the boss will save the Brazilian for the clash with Manchester United. I personally feel that Roberto Firmino ramps up by another 50% when he is paired with Coutinho, here's hoping they link up against Mourinho's side.

Enjoy the next lot of fixtures folks, wherever you are watching and stay tuned to The Liver Bird for some post match blogs.

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