Saturday, November 10, 2007

Match Preview: LiverpooL vs Fulham

Liverpool run out for Rafael Benitez' 200th game in charge, four days after thrashing Besiktas 8-0 - the biggest win in Champions League history. The Merseysiders put their unbeaten Premier League record on the line, against a Fulham side yet to win away, but one who also enjoyed their biggest win of the season last time out (3-1, home to Reading). This is a match between the draw specialists of the Premier League; six of Liverpool's 11 league games have finished all square, and 50% of Fulham's have also ended level (six of 12).

Rafa Benitez has been saying that the heavy defeat of Besiktas on Tuesday has had the effect of galvanising the confidence in the Red’s players who had been struggling for form though still unbeaten. Liverpool’s players have fired too many blanks of late, but the players on Tuesday seemed to have regained the “midas touch”.

Peter Crouch was recalled and repaid the manger’s faith and the backing of the fans by producing a superb striking performance and notching two goals. The much-maligned Ryan Babel also chipped in with a couple of goals. The second was fortuitous but the first was simply majestic – hopefully a glimpse of what this young lad is about.

The Cottagers have never won at Anfield in the Premier League. They probably won’t feel that they are tackling Liverpool at the most appropriate time with the Reds coming of an 8 –0 victory and Fernando Torres returning to the fray. Fulham will look to record their first back-to-back victories in the Premier league. Fulham will go for the Red’s jugular, they play an attacking brand of football, which has seen them notch up an impressive 16 goals – only one less than Liverpool. However, they do ship them in, conceding 18 goals. It’s clear if they want to take some points from Anfield that they will have to defend better. Fulham were the last team to beat Liverpool in the Premier league.

I think the only certain thing I can say about Benitez’s side is that it will not be the same one that played on Tuesday. That would go against the ideology he follows, so I don’t see why he will revert from his norm.

Crouch has staked his claim for a starting inclusion but it’s arguable that the whole team did on Tuesday; there were no poor performances on that night. However, Kewell, Torres, Finnan, Babel, and Kuyt will all be vying for starting spots after missing out from the starting against the Turks.



Nov 6 v Besiktas (H) WON 8-0 (Champ League)
Nov 3 v Blackburn (A) DREW 0-0 (PREM)
Oct 31 v Cardiff (H) WON 2-1 (Carling)
Oct 28 v Arsenal (H) DREW 1-1 (PREM)
Oct 24 v Besiktas (A) LOST 2-1 (Champ League)


Nov 3 v Reading (H) WON 3-1 (PREM)
Oct 27 v Sunderland (A) DREW 1-1 (PREM)
Oct 20 v Derby (H) DREW 0-0 (PREM)
Oct 7 v Portsmouth (H) LOST 2-0 (PREM)
Sept 29 v Chelsea (A) Drew 0-0 (PREM)



The match has come to early for Alonso and Agger, both are still out with damaged metatarsals. Kuyt, Babel, Torres, Kewell and Finnan will all look to come back into the starting line-up.

Squad: Reina, Finnan, Arbeloa, Carragher, Hyypia, Hobbs, Aurelio, Riise, Babel, Benayoun, Gerrard, Mascherano, Sissoko, Kewell, Voronin, Kuyt, Crouch, Torres, Martin, Lucas.


Paul Konchesky and Elliott Omozusi are both banned, but Carlos Bocanegra returns from a suspension. Shefki Kuqi could be given his full debut for the Cottagers.

Chris Baird is fit and will return to the starting line-up, but youngster Nathan Ashton has picked up a thigh injury and misses out. Jimmy Bullard is still out injured.

Squad: Niemi, Warner, Stefanovic, Hughes, Bocanegra, Baird, Leijer, Davis, Smertin, Murphy, Seol, Davies, Healy, Dempsey, Kamara, Kuqi.



Fernando Torres will return to the fray, ready to join in on the goals.


Simon Davies has been in good form and will be the Fulham danger man.

Reds Want Mascherano Deal

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez wants Javier Mascherano to remain at the club on a permanent basis.

The tough-tackling midfielder is midway through an 18-month loan deal following his arrival from West Ham United last January.

Mascherano had failed to settle at Upton Park where he made just three Premier League starts in five unhappy months.

But following his move to Merseyside last season, the Argentina international has started 22 games and caught the eye with a string of effective performances.

"Mascherano wants to stay, he is very happy here," Benitez told the Liverpool Post.

"He is a key player for us and I have been talking with him and he is really pleased to be at Liverpool.

"His family are settled here and his wife is learning English and he is very comfortable here.

"Javier also knows that the supporters like him and I think if everything is okay he will stay with us.

"We are happy with him so it would be good for everyone if he stayed at Liverpool."

Carson Set For £10m Move To Villa

Scott Carson is heading for a British record £10million transfer after Rafa Benitez revealed that Aston Villa had agreed an option to buy him.

The Liverpool manager was initially reluctant to sanction Carson's loan move to Villa Park but admitted yesterday that he had cleared the way for the England keeper to join Martin O'Neill's side on a permanent basis.

Villa have already paid £1.75m to cover his temporary stay and have been told they can keep him by parting with a further £8.25m.

Impressed with his contribution so far, O'Neill is expected to meet Carson, who has given up on trying to dislodge Pepe Reina at Anfield, in the next few weeks to discuss a long-term contract.

The Villa manager may have to move swiftly, though, after it emerged that other clubs are also monitoring the 22-year old's availability.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is known to be an admirer, but Benitez confirmed Villa were in pole position by saying: 'They have first option to buy him.'

The fee would eclipse the British record £9m Sunderland paid Hearts for Scotland's Craig Gordon.

Liverpool Eye First Win In Five Home Games Against Fulham

With an 8-0 Anfield victory against Besiktas still fresh in the memory, it would seem an odd time for Liverpool's home form to be called into question.

But with Rafael Benitez's team set to host Fulham in the Premier League today, the Merseyside club will be aiming to claim their first home league victory since a 6-0 thrashing of Derby on Sept 1.

In the four league games staged at Anfield since that emphatic victory, Liverpool have claimed just four points from a possible 12 after drawing with Chelsea, Birmingham, Tottenham and Arsenal.

And with Arsenal and Manchester United beginning to pull clear of the chasing pack at the top of the table, Benitez admits Liverpool can ill-afford to drop more points against Fulham.

Benitez said: “We cannot continue to draw games at home in the league. We must start winning now. If we want to get as close as possible to the top of the table, we have to win more often at Anfield.

“If you analyse the games we have drawn, the difference on each occasion has just been one goal and it could be the difference between where we are now and maybe being second in the table.

“We need to be as good at Anfield as we have been away from home and that needs to start against Fulham.”

Liverpool's Brazilian defender Fabio Aurelio has challenged his team-mates to forget about the record-breaking Champions League victory over Besiktas and focus on domestic priorities.

Aurelio said: “We did play very well against Besiktas and we can take a lot of confidence from that, but in football the most important game is the next one and for us that means Fulham, so we must now concentrate on that.

“When you have a result like the one on Tuesday night you have to take it in your stride and not get carried away because we have many important games coming up in the Premier League and in the Champions League and we cannot afford to be distracted.

“We have had a lot of draws in the Premier League and our form at home has not been as good as we would have liked.”

Fulham travel to Anfield still searching for their first away victory of the season and manager Lawrie Sanchez admits that the key for his team will be their ability to compete for the entire 90 minutes.

Sanchez said: “We're a top-seven team for 80 minutes and if we can lock off those last 10 minutes we'd be a top-seven team now.

“It's a bit like riding a bike to a certain extent. There's a falling off period between having stabilisers and being able to do it. Once you've done it, you wonder why you ever needed stabilisers.

“Because of the learning process that goes on and the new team shape we've put together, the group of players as a team haven't learnt to get over the last 10 minutes.

“But last Saturday against Reading was hopefully the first of many. The very fact that after 80 minutes we put ourselves into such great situations show we're a decent team.”