Norwich City v Liverpool: We Go Again

Photo courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

Photo courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

By Séamus Leonard

Having overcome Manchester City last weekend, Liverpool has the destiny of this season’s Premier League table in its own hands with just four games remaining. The 3-2 victory over the Citizens came at a cost, however, with Jordan Henderson’s red card ruling him out for three games and Daniel Sturridge doubtful after sustaining a hamstring injury. Continue reading

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Fulham v Liverpool: Three points, and nothing but three points

Photo courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

Photo courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

By Séamus Leonard

How do you follow up a performance that captain Steven Gerrard described has one of the “top three” since he started his illustrious Liverpool senior career way back in November 1998? The Reds’ scintillating 5-1 demolition of Arsenal at the weekend has certainly made everyone sit up and take notice, but they’ll be back lounging in their seats soon enough unless Gerrard & Co do the needful against basement side Fulham on Wednesday night. Continue reading

Tottenham v Liverpool: A White Hart, top-four six-pointer

Photo courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

Photo courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

By Séamus Leonard

The holiday season is often a defining period in the English Premier League calendar, and a visit to fellow title and top four hopefuls Tottenham is the start of a five-game stint that will likely determine what Liverpool’s ambitions for the rest of the campaign will be. Continue reading

Hull City v Liverpool: Reds must cope without stricken Sturridge

Photo courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

Photo courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

By Séamus Leonard

The delight of Liverpool fans at the form of striker Daniel Sturridge has always been tempered by the knowledge that the England international has a history of injury problems. Indeed, since Sturridge joined from Chelsea last January the 24-year-old has missed games through ankle and thigh problems. Even when the Birmingham native was netting crucial goals in 1-0 victories at the start of this season, he was doing so at less than 100% fitness.

So, it was hardly a shock when the news emerged on Friday that the Liverpool attacker had left training on crutches after injuring his left ankle. He is almost certainly out of Sunday’s game at Hull, and there are fears that the former Chelsea man is facing a prolonged spell on the sidelines. The club itself has remained tight-lipped on the matter, merely saying the player will be assessed after “rolling” his ankle.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers left Sturridge on the bench for the first 79 minutes of last weekend’s epic 3-3 Merseyside derby draw with Everton. The Reds’ number 15 salvaged a point with his late headed equalizer, but that goalscoring cameo did not save Sturridge from a stern rebuke from Rodgers. The Northern Irishman had every right to be annoyed. Sturridge went away on international duty with a thigh problem, and yet he was kept on the pitch for 90 minutes in England’s friendly against Germany. He was unable to train properly when he returned to Melwood and so Rodgers deemed the striker was not in a position to be considered for a starting place.

Whether his exertions at Wembley played any part in Sturridge’s latest injury, we’ll probably never know. But we can be sure that playing the full 90 in a meaningless friendly while carrying a knock would not have helped a player with such an injury-plagued past. Almost three years since getting the sack as manager of Liverpool, Roy Hodgson remains a malignant influence on the fortunes of the club.

The upshot of Sturridge’s likely absence will be the placing of even more expectation on striker Luis Suarez to produce the goods up front. Striker Iago Aspas is back training after his thigh problems, and he may come back into the reckoning sooner than was anticipated due to the unforeseen circumstances. And Sturridge’s misfortune may also open the door to Victor Moses to nail down a regular starting spot. The Nigeria international has voiced his desire to see more action, and Rodgers could opt to select the on-loan attacker on the left flank. Alternatively, he could decide to stick with the 11 players who started at Goodison Park. That would mean a reprieve for Joe Allen, who should have given the Reds a 3-1 lead just before the hour mark but somehow contrived to miss from 12 yards having sent Toffees’ goalkeeper Tim Howard the wrong way. While that error received much criticism, the Wales international had impressed on his return to action and Rodgers may feel it is important to keep faith with the midfielder so as not to further damage his already dented confidence.

Photo courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

Photo courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

Defender Jon Flanagan is almost certain to retain his place at left-back after an exceptional performance in the derby last Saturday. With Jose Enrique out for three months after knee surgery and Aly Cissokho yet to convince, there is a great opportunity for Flanagan to establish himself in the first team. To do do, however, he must heed the advice of Rodgers and not become complacent after his heroics at Goodison.

While Hull has readjusted well to life in the Premier League after its promotion from the Championship under the guidance of manager Steve Bruce, last weekend’s loss at home to struggling Crystal Palace was a blow to the Humbersiders. Bruce will also have to cope with the absence of some of his key players. The most notable absentee will be Robbie Brady (groin). The Republic of Ireland international has impressed since his transfer from Manchester United, and is his club’s top scorer with three league goals to date.

With Liverpool slated to play three Premier League games in six days (Norwich and West Ham will visit Anfield next Wednesday and Saturday respectively), a win at the KC is essential to keep the Reds in touch with pace-setters Arsenal and ahead of the chasing pack. A performance anywhere near what was produced in that classic encounter last weekend would surely be enough to tame the Tigers.

If you are in the greater Boston area, you will be able to watch the match at The Phoenix Landing with LFC Boston. If not, you can watch it on NBC Sports Network, with coverage starting at 0905 EST.

 

Hull City v Liverpool
When: Sunday, December 1, 0905 EST/1405 GMT
Where: KC Stadium, Hull
Previous Premier League match: Hull City 0-1 Crystal Palace, Everton 3-3 Liverpool
League Position 2013-14: Hull City 13th (14 points), Liverpool 2nd (24 points)

Projected Hull Starting 11
GK:
 McGregor
DEF: Elmohamady, Bruce, Davies, Figueroa
MID: Koren, Meyler, Huddlestone, Livermore, Boyd
FW: Sagbo

Subs from: Harper, Faye, Rosenior, Proschwitz, Gedo, Chester, Nagy, Graham


Projected Liverpool Starting 11
GK: 
Mignolet
DEF:  Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Flanagan
MID: Henderson, Lucas, Gerrard, Allen, Coutinho
FW: Suarez

Subs from: Jones, Kelly, Sakho, Toure, Cissokho, Ilori, Luis Alberto, Ibe, Sterling, Aspas

Follow Séamus Leonard on Twitter @seamusleonard

Liverpool v West Brom: Clarke returns with ‘bogey’ Baggies

Photo courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

Photo courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

By Séamus Leonard

After a week in which Alex Ferguson’s book launch confirmed what many have suspected for a long time now (that he’s an arrogant, egotistical hypocrite in case you were wondering), a Scottish manager made of better moral fiber will bring his West Brom side to Anfield looking to continue its excellent recent form at the famous venue. The Baggies have won four of the last five league clashes between these two sides, including the last two meetings at Anfield. They have all the criteria to be considered a ‘bogey’ side for Liverpool at this stage. Continue reading

Liverpool v Crystal Palace: Reds seek home comforts

Photo courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

Photo courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

By Séamus Leonard

Second in the English Premier League standings and with a strikeforce that would make most clubs as happy as a pig in a trough, things are looking pretty good for Liverpool at the moment. However, as the recent home defeat to Southampton proved, moods, attitudes and positions in the table can change ridiculously quickly, especially this early in the season.

The trip to Sunderland was always going to be a nervy one, as the Black Cats’ players looked to prove themselves after forcing the removal of Paulo Di Canio as manager. Although Liverpool was in control for most of the encounter, it did require a late Luis Suarez goal (his second of the game) to secure a 3-1 victory.

The Uruguayan’s return after a 10-match ban for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic back in April has inevitably been closely monitored, but the number seven has punters and commentators back talking about his soccer skills and not his penchant for controversy, and long may that situation continue. Daniel Sturridge opened the scoring at the Stadium of Light with a dubious goal after he missed an attempted header and the ball bounced off his upper arm and into the net. While that incident had more than a whiff of good fortune off it, his two subsequent assists for Suarez put paid to the idea that the former Chelsea attacker is inherently selfish in front of goal. Of course, it is easier to turn provider when your partner makes brilliant runs into fantastic positions.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers opted for a 3-5-2 formation on Wearside. While that may initially have appeared to be a way of getting as many of Liverpool’s bounty of center backs into the first 11 as possible, it may also be as much about keeping Sturridge and Suarez high up the field, rather than playing one of them as an attacking midfielder or on the flanks of the attack. Certainly, that is the conclusion you could draw from Rodgers’ comments at his pre-match press conference on Thursday.

Lucas Leiva has amassed five yellow cards in the mere six league games to date, and so the combative midfielder will be unavailable for Saturday’s clash through suspension. His performances have been plagued by second half fatigue to date in this campaign, so hopefully he and the backroom team are using this time off to tackle that issue. The former Gremio man has earned a recall to the Brazilian squad for the upcoming friendlies against South Korea and Zambia, which may also put some extra pep in his step when he returns to Merseyside.

Photo courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

Photo courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

Central midfield has been a major problem for Liverpool thus far, with the holding two of Lucas and Steven Gerrard all too often dropping too deep late in games and putting unnecessary pressure on the defense. This was certainly a contributory factor in the draw at Swansea and loss to Southampton. While not wanting to take Palace for granted, Rodgers will surely have learned from the Southampton game and will not want to see his charges play too deep again and allow the visitors to play the game in the Liverpool half. And with his obvious wish to maintain the Sturridge and Suarez combination up front, the boss could opt to play a traditional 4-4-2 and rely on the energy of Jordan Henderson to compensate for the lack of a third man in midfield. With Philippe Coutinho still recovering from shoulder surgery and his killer ball missing, the way to beat Palace may lie down the wings and on the counter attack. If Rodgers perceives this to be the case, then you would expect to see Raheem Sterling and Victor Moses utilized on the flanks.

Whatever starting side and formation the Reds’ supremo opts for, he will demand a performance much improved from the one that was produced against Southampton. If Liverpool is to clinch a Champions League place this season, that defeat to the Saints needs be looked back upon as a nadir, rather than a portent of things to come.

Palace may be languishing second from bottom in the table, but the Eagles gave Manchester United a fright at Old Trafford last month. Had it not been for a highly dubious red card and penalty award on the stroke of half time, the Londoners might have taken points off the Red Devils.

Manager Ian Holloway guided the Eagles to promotion from the Championship last season, and he enjoyed a 2-1 victory at Anfield in 2010 during his time at Blackpool. It should be noted, however, that Roy Hodgson was in charge of the Reds at the time. Nevertheless, Holloway will no doubt use that experience to try to convince his players that they have nothing to fear at the L4 venue. Liverpool fans, on the other hand, will be looking to their SAS duo up front to offer evidence that Anfield is a place opponents should start to dread visiting again.

If you are in the greater Boston area, you will be able to watch the match at The Phoenix Landing with LFC Boston. If not, you can watch it on NBC Sports Network, with coverage starting at 1000 EST.

 

Liverpool v Crystal Palace

When: Saturday, October 5, 1000 EST/1500 BST
Where: Anfield, Liverpool
Previous Premier League match: Sunderland 1-3 Liverpool, Southampton 2-0 Crystal Palace
League Position 2013-14: Liverpool 2nd (13 points), Crystal Palace 19th (3 points)

Projected Liverpool Starting 11

GK: Mignolet
DEF: Toure, Skrtel, Sakho, Jose Enrique
MID: Sterling, Henderson, Gerrard, Moses
FW: Suarez, Sturridge

Subs from: Jones, Kelly, Agger, Wisdom, Flanagan, Ilori, Cissokho, Luis Alberto, Ibe, Aspas

 

Projected Crystal Palace Starting 11

GK: Speroni
DEF: Ward, Mariappa, Gabbidon, Moxey
MID: Jedinak, Dikgacoi, Bannan
FW: Kebe, Chamakh, Gayle

Subs from: Alexander, Price, Parr, McCarthy, Campana, Bolasie, Phillips, O’Keefe, Puncheon, Thomas, Grandin, Delaney, Guedioura, Sekajja, Wynter

Follow Séamus Leonard on Twitter @seamusleonard

Man United 1-0 Liverpool – Red’s Found Lacking Again

Picture courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

By Jonathan Carroll

Brendan Rodgers switched his formation around for the League Cup match with Manchester United at Old Trafford on Wednesday night. The 3-4-1-2 was deployed and for long periods, especially in the first half, Liverpool dominated the game. There is a tendency to expect perfect games from the team you support and every football supporter is guilty of this. The high standard that has been set at Liverpool has not been matched since Rafael Benitez was in charge. A lot of improvement is needed if Liverpool expect to make the top four after the last two games.

 

This Liverpool squad will find it difficult to finish in fourth spot this season. The reason being the squad and team has players well below the accepted standard of a “Liverpool” player and also players who are prone to switch off and make individual mistakes. Refer to our left back, Jose Enrique. The Spaniard lost Javier Hernandez last night and then tried to blame Steven Gerrard. Even if Liverpool were incorporating a zonal system, there’s no way you can expect a player on the front post to know whats behind him. At that point there needs to be a decision made to follow the attacking player as it’s too late to pass him off to someone else.

Picture courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

The first half started with United threatening but as that subsided Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Victor Moses looked to make an impact on the game. There was a lot of good buildup play but Rodgers men seem to always lack the final pass at the moment. Suarez failed to tee up Gerrard when the skipper was well placed at the top of the eighteen. Buttner glanced an Enrique cross away from the awaiting Sturridge at the back post.

Picture courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

Make no mistake. Manchester United were there for the taking. The sad part is Liverpool looked lost in the final third. Suarez in his first game back following his biting ban looked as if he was lacking match fitness. Some chances fell his way that the Suarez of last season would probably have dispatched.  A Suarez free-kick did hit the bar after glancing off the United wall and later Jordan Henderson side footed wide from a promising position. Ryan Giggs should have seen red when he handled and then proceeded to kick the ball away after already seeing yellow but the referee lacked the necessary decision-making skills to follow procedure correctly.

Picture courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

On a positive note, Mamadou Sakho put the nightmare of Southampton to bed and put in a good shift in the centre of defense. Jose Enrique failed to impress on the left and Kolo Toure worked tirelessly on the right with Henderson. The elephant in the room remains with the Lucas Leiva/Steven Gerrard midfield. It simply isn’t working. Gerrard lays too deep, Lucas is a defensive midfielder. We have no support for the front players when we do have the ball and our transition at times is like watching the titanic turning.

Picture courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

When fit, Glen Johnson should start at left back, Kolo or Martin Kelly at right back and Sakho and Agger in the centre. Philippe Coutinho will likely replace Victor Moses as I doubt Brendan Rodgers would replace Gerrard although it bears serious thought or more him further up the pitch.

Picture courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

So knocked out of the League Cup early on and now only the FA Cup remains. The argument for and against cup competitions can go on and on but the fact remains that until Liverpool qualify for the Champions League again, the club will fail to compete for and sign top quality players. A tricky trip to Sunderland on Sunday awaits Rodgers and co as they face a team eager to impress after the sacking of Paolo Di Canio.

Picture courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

Manchester United

  • 01 De Gea – 6
  • 02 Rafael – 5
  • 06 Evans – 6
  • 12 Smalling – 6
  • 28 Buttner – 7
  • 04 Jones – 6 (Booked)
  • 10 Rooney – 8
  • 11 Giggs – 6 (Booked)
  • 17 Nani – 6 (Welbeck – 90′ )
  • 26 Kagawa – 7 (Januzaj – 73′ )
  • 14 Hernandez – 7 (Carrick – 74′ )

Substitutes

  • 40 Amos
  • 22 Fabio
  • 08 Anderson
  • 16 Carrick
  • 29 Zaha
  • 44 Januzaj
  • 19 Welbeck

Liverpool

  • 22 Mignolet – 7
  • 04 Toure – 6 (Booked)
  • 17 Sakho – 8
  • 37 Skrtel – 6
  • 03 Jose Enrique – 4
  • 08 Gerrard – 5
  • 12 Moses – 6 (Sterling – 82′ )
  • 14 Henderson – 6 (Booked)
  • 21 Lucas – 6 (Booked) (Kelly – 67′ )
  • 07 Suarez – 6
  • 15 Sturridge – 5

Substitutes

  • 01 Jones
  • 34 Kelly
  • 47 Wisdom
  • 06 Alberto
  • 31 Sterling
  • 33 Ibe
  • 09 Aspas