The Liver Bird  

Thursday, 30 March 2017

MATCH PREVIEW: Liverpool V Everton

The Reds welcome their blue neighbours to Anfield on Saturday and if recent match stats are anything to go by it should be a game filled with chances for the Reds. 

Liverpool are currently in 4th, four points ahead of Manchester United and six points clear of Arsenal but both of these sides have two games in hand. Then follows Everton who are in 7th matching Arsenal's 50 points but having played more fixtures. 

Everton's last match was on the 18th March against Hull, the Toffees put four in the net thanks to Calvert-Lewin, Valencia and a brace from Lukaku. 

Liverpool's last game came against Manchester City. I was in Turin at the time (if you haven't seen it yet, check out my blog post on my trip to see Torino v Inter Milan) so watched the match in our hotel room with Italian commentary. I know a bit of Italian but it didn't take a top translator to figure out what was being said when Lallana missed that sitter. The Reds however came away with a draw and to be honest I'd of taken that prior to kick off. 

For the Merseyside Derby, Liverpool will be forced to play without Adam Lallana who picked up a thigh injury whilst playing for England. Some outlets would have you believe Henderson is going to return while others disagree so we'll have to wait and see on that one and apparently Firmino and Coutinho are getting a private jet in order to get back and prep. In positive news for the Reds though, Daniel Sturridge has returned to training.

Everton also have their own injury woes to contend with as McCarthy remains a doubt and Funes Mori has been ruled out with a knee injury. Seamus Coleman of course broke his leg on international duty.

The last time the two sides met was in December last year. A single goal from Sadio Mane on 90 minutes was enough to split the two sides. In April 2016 the Reds won 4-0, Funes Mori was sent off that day with Origi, Sakho, Sturridge and Coutinho on the scoresheet. 

Everton haven't won a Merseyside Derby since 2010. A league game at Goodison Park, the Toffees scored two without a return from Liverpool. 

The Reds should be a shoe in for this one but I can't help but worry. The Reds have walked away with some interesting results this season to put it politely and although we appear to play better in the games where the opposition really comes out to attack (which Everton will) I'm just concerned we might blow this. 

The game is always a massive one but with the battle for 4th really hotting up and  the Reds sitting in a really good position knowing United and Arsenal are chasing, we simply must win this. 

Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching! 

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Wednesday, 22 March 2017

FEATURE: Trip to Turin

So on Saturday 18th March I ticked off a major item on my bucket list, I got to see a live Serie A match. For those who don't know I've had a somewhat unhealthy obsession with anything Italian since I was a young kid. The obsession with Italian football in particular started when I was about eight or nine after my Mom brought me home a fake Totti shirt she'd picked up as a treat for me whilst shopping. I was a massive tomboy and so was obviously delighted at the purchase, though at the time, I didn't know an awful lot about calcio.

As I grew older I learnt more about the big Italian sides, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus, Roma and so on. It was a certain club from Turin though that really captured my imagination. 

A few years ago I purchased John Foot's brilliant 'Calcio' book - I would highly recommend to anybody who is interested in learning more about Italian football. In John's book I was fascinated by Torino's both tragic yet inspiring story. Torino share a tragedy unfortunately familiar to other clubs like Manchester United and Chapecoense after "Grande Torino" were killed in a plane crash. The flight was approaching Turin in poor weather conditions when it hit the Basilica of Superga.

After learning about the tragic fate of Torino's once unstoppable team I then went on to read The Day Italian Football Died by Alexandra Manna and Mike Gibbs. Another fantastic read and a very in depth take on Il Grande Torino prior to the terrible incident and covering what happened in the weeks and months afterwards.

And so I decided to adopt Torino as my Italian side. I try my best to keep up to speed with news about the team and have their scores sent straight to my inbox every week. On Saturday, I got to see them in the flesh.

The build up to the match was brilliant, we were sat in the Tribuna Granata, close to the Curva Sud. The away fans (Opsiti) were sat just across the pitch from us while the main Curva Nord was to the left. 

Prior to the match Torino have a cracking anthem which is sung emphatically by all the tifosi, in particular those sat in the Curva Nord. I didn't get a very good video on the day but the one below gives you a pretty good idea. The chanting and circling of their scarves in unison is a sight I'll never forget.

It was a cracking game at the Stadio Olimpico and myself and the fella celebrated like we'd followed the Granata for years when they netted their two goals. Unfortunately for the Englishman Joe Hart, he ended up being majorly at fault for Inter's two goals in the match. In the typical tale of a goalkeeper though he also pulled off some world class saves to keep his side in the match.

The atmosphere in the section of the stadium where we were sat was great fun, surrounded by not only Torino fans, we also had several Inter fans sat around us. While some stories of Italian football will have you believe all fans hate each other and it's dangerous to mix with the opposition, this good natured affair would suggest otherwise. Of course, none of the ultras would be caught dead doing such a thing but it was brilliant to be involved in such good natured banter. A young lad with his father in front waved his Inter flag high when Candreva found their equaliser, an elderly Torino fan voiceifoursely shouted "vaffanculo" at the referee after one too many poor decisions. It was both hilarious and brilliant.

A major bonus for me was that I put a quid on 2-2 n'all so the draw was both an eventful and fruitful one. The Torino side applauded their fans at the final whistle and we in the stands returned the favour, it was a solid performance from a team who on paper should have lost at the hands of Internazionale who were entering this game on the back of a 7-1 win.

I'll never forget the experience of watching a Serie A game, it's no surprise that when people get their first taste of calcio they only strive for more. My love for Torino has only grown stronger and I hope that one day I'll be able to watch them again.


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Monday, 13 March 2017

Four Things We Learned From Burnley

1) Good to grind out a result

Liverpool's 2-1 win over Burnley on Sunday afternoon may not have been the most emphatic of victories but it was a win that proved the Reds do have the ability to grind out a result.

Going 1-0 down after seven minutes seemed far too familiar for Jurgen Klopp's side. Liverpool have seriously struggled against teams like Burnley all season, the Reds need a team to play openly to stand any real chance of a win but on Sunday they somehow managed to break through the barrier. 

A lovely goal from Gini Wijnaldum brought the game level and a cracking strike from Emre Can soon followed, much to the dismay of several Kopites who had been slating the German for the whole match on Twitter.

In all seriousness though, if Liverpool can collect three points when they aren't at their best then that is most definitely a sign of improvement.

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2) Gary Neville can't make his mind up

Gary Neville has always done my head in but he did so especially on Sunday. To be fair to Neville he is actually half decent at punditry and commentary but he falls into the same trap that a lot of commentators do when they're watching a game and there's nothing much to talk about.

It's almost like they feel as though they have to say something so they keep focus on one player. On Sunday, that player was Klavan. Constantly Neville was complaining about his positioning, complaining that he should be getting into the spaces that Can was and not letting Can "do his job for him"? What made it worse is that from what I could tell Klavan didn't really put a foot wrong, he made some key clearences and was first to every header.

Then towards the end of the match all of a sudden Klavan was the best thing since sliced bread. I mean, I know players can change people's opinions of them relatively quickly but that's usually done over a period of matches not a period of minutes.

It can't be just me that noticed this? Tweet me if you did - @LFCKirstyLFC

3) Can's goal

What a beautiful strike by Emre Can. The amount of times he tries from that distance and he's usually miles off, I was actually begging at the time that he didn't take a shot but thank god he did.

His goal though was somewhat trumped by his slick knee slide celebration afterwards. #Smug

4) Wijnaldum not recognised enough?

Gini is one of those players who can go completely unnoticed but is still grafting away and making a difference to the side. In matches where he doesn't find the back of the net I think sometimes he's just not given the credit he deserves and I include myself in that. I'm forever questioning whether his performances are up to scratch but when he does find the back of the net it puts it all into focus.

Wijnaldum brings more to our midfield than I think we realise and if he can keep composure and score goals in key games like this he will keep going up in people's estimations.

Here's hoping he can put in another good 90 minutes against City! I'm in Turin for that game, really hoping I can find a decent pub with the match on!

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Sunday, 5 March 2017

Five Things We Learned From The Arsenal Game

Mane is class

On his day Mane is absolute quality. The confidence he shows when facing a side like Arsenal is just superb, never afraid to take a man on he caused the Gunners several problems on Saturday and also scored a great goal at 40 minutes.

Frustratingly he can sometimes go missing in some of the smaller fixtures but I still feel he is a player that will have clubs knocking down doors for him in the summer. Mane is a real asset and one we need to make sure we keep hold of.

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Klopp needs a plan B

A solid performance against Arsenal for Jurgen Klopp has once again highlighted his strengths and weaknesses as a manager. At the moment he has proved his side and set up can take on the cream of the crop but he can't seem to find a plan B.

When facing teams like Leicester, Hull, Burnley etc the Reds just have no clue. Against a defensive side favouring the counter attack, Liverpool look completely out of options and Klopp clearly needs to work on that. I partly feel some of it is down to stubbornness, trying to force a system against every opposition instead of adapting slightly or playing less fancy football. Time will tell if anything changes this season or whether we have to wait until the transfer window to truly find out what Klopp's plan B is.

Risky Wenger

Wenger's team selection was definitely related to Klopp's lack of a plan B in my opinion. The massive decision to drop Alexis Sanchez backfired on the manager but prior to the match I could actually see some of the method in his madness. By playing more directly and utilising Welbeck AND Giroud, on paper that should have caused Liverpool problems, but it didn't.

It was no surprise when Sanchez did enter play that Arsenal really started to light up. 

Arsenal fans are always good entertainment

Battle for 4th

Collecting three points from Arsenal at Anfield is a huge bonus for Liverpool as they cling on to their hopes of 4th. With Manchester United failing to beat Bournemouth the weekend has ended very positively for Klopp's side.

However, Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City all have games in hand. Liverpool face City in a couple of weeks and so do Arsenal but United have a relatively easy run in by comparison.

With a Merseyside Derby also coming up for Liverpool it would be just typical for us to lose to Burnely and then go and beat City and Everton. The battle for 4th is getting more and more interesting and the Reds desperately need to find some consistency if they are going to contend.

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Friday, 3 March 2017

MATCH PREVIEW: Liverpool V Arsenal

After a disastrous defeat at the hands of Leicester on Monday evening, Liverpool welcome Arsenal to Anfield on Saturday in the hope of finding a victory. The Reds have had some terrible performances against the so-called lesser teams this season but it's been a complete contrast when Klopp's side have faced teams in the top six.

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Liverpool have picked up 16 points from a possible 24 in games against Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Spurs this season. Against Leicester, Swansea, Middlesborough, Palace and Hull the Reds have picked up just 19 points from a possible 30.

It's no secret that the Reds have been extremely poor against the smaller sides but their set up seems to have the opposite effect against the bigger teams. For example, against Spurs, the likes of Firmino, Coutinho and Mane caused havoc. 

Along with Adam Lallana and on occasions Gini Wijnaldum, these attacking midfielders seem to fluster a lot of sides. I personally feel they work well against teams in the top six because those teams are playing in a more open manner, they aren't necessarily putting ten men behind the ball and are therefore more vulnerable.

So, on paper, Liverpool should have no bother against Arsenal at Anfield right? The previous meeting between the two sides back in August ended 4-3 with goals from Lallana, Mane and a brace from Philippe Coutinho. 

The last meeting at Anfield was another high scoring affair, this time the game ended 3-3 with a brace from Roberto Firmino and a 90th minute equaliser from Joe Allen. In the last ten meetings between the sides in all competitions, Liverpool have only won twice. There have been four draws and four wins for Arsenal.

Injuries for Liverpool mean they are unable to call upon captain Jordan Henderson who has a foot injury. Daniel Sturridge also remains out of action. After recovering from a virus it now appears he has a hip strain. Arsenal are looking relatively strong as Ozil, Ramsey and Koscielny all return to action.

Jurgen Klopp needs to make a statement on Saturday and the team need to ensure they play their part in getting Liverpool back on track. This rut we're in at the moment is only going away with a big win and playing Arsenal at Anfield is the perfect chance to collect a key victory that can act as a catalyst. 

Stat Sandwich
  • Liverpool have kept only two clean sheets in their last 22 league fixtures against Arsenal.
  • Arsenal have scored 28 goals in 12 away games so far this season.
  • Liverpool are currently unbeaten in all 12 league games this season against sides in the top half of the Premier League table.
After feeling completely miffed at the end of the Leicester game, I appear to have sourced some positivity for the game on Saturday. Matches against Arsenal are always exciting and usually involve several goals. I will definitely be placing a few bets so keep an eye on my Twitter if you want some terrible tips haha (though I did win £45 off a pound bet in Serie A last week...).

Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching!

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