Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Premier League Preview: Wigan Athletic vs Liverpool

Martinez’s side could find themselves bottom of the league on Wednesday night if they lose against Liverpool and other results go against them.

The Latics have not won in four games and have only one victory in their last eight games, a run that will have fans worried about where their season is headed.

It is not easy to see where Wigan’s problems lie, as a meagre goal tally of just eight is the lowest in the Premier League.

However, Wigan picked up their first win in ten Premier League games against Liverpool when the side’s last met in March.

Liverpool’s new owners have witnessed a transformation in the club’s fortunes since their takeover.

Three league wins in a row for the first time in 14 months has lifted the Anfield club into the top half of the table, and appeared to quieten speculation about Hodgson’s future as manager.

However, Liverpool fans will not be over-confident going into the game against Wigan as their side have a miserable recent away record, managing just two away league wins in the whole of 2010.


Wigan Athletic

Defender Steve Gohouri will miss the game through suspension as he picked up his fifth yellow card of the season against Blackburn on Saturday.

Manager Roberto Martinez will therefore have a dilemma over who to play at right-back as Emerson Boyce is still a week away from returning.

Midfielder James McCarthy is still recovering from an ankle operation following an injury he suffered against Bolton Wanderers.

Possible starting XI: Al Habsi; Stam, G. Caldwell, Alcaraz, Figueroa; Diame, Thomas; Moses, Gomez, N'Zogbia; Rodallega


Manager Roy Hodgson is likely to keep his side unchanged after their outstanding victory over Chelsea on Sunday.

After impressing against the champions, Martin Kelly should keep his place at right-back, especially as Glen Johnson is still struggling with a groin problem.

Fellow defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos could return after tonsilitis but Daniel Agger (calf), Fabio Aurelio (groin) and Joe Cole (hamstring) remain out.

Possible starting XI: Reina; Kelly, Carragher, Skrtel, Konchesky; Lucas, Meireles; Kuyt, Gerrard, Maxi; Torres

Roy Hodgson: Next Two Results Crucial To Club's Progress

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson has said the next two games will determine whether they are moving in the right direction.

The Reds have beaten Blackburn, Bolton and Chelsea and now sit ninth in the Premier League, facing two away trips - to Wigan and Stoke - in just three days.

"If we can do well in the next two games we'll continue to look up," Hodgson told the club's official website.

"If we were to have a couple of set-backs, once again we'll be looking down; I speak for a large number of teams when I say that.

"It's so tight between the team that's third bottom and the team that's in fifth place; two results are going to make all the difference.

"If the league continues as it's started, we're going to see swings and turns all the time."

Hodgson also backed his summer signings to emulate Lucas Leiva and emerge as key performers.

He added: "Lucas is a young player and I have to keep being reminded he is not that old and does not have that much experience.

"People clearly marked my card as regards to many players and when I came I knew there was a prejudice against him.

"I have got to say I don't see what people really found to criticize in him.

"I find him very hard working, a very diligent player who works hard on his understanding of the game and team performances.

"Christian Poulsen, who has had a bad start to the season, is to some extent also a victim of prejudice at the moment.

"I am convinced in both of these players; we have really useful players who will serve us to great effect for the rest of the season.

"Maybe Christian will have to go through a bit of what Lucas went through but I know the players have the quality we are looking for and I know they are going to help us win matches.

"Raul [Meireles] is a good footballer and was very good in setting up the second goal for Fernando Torres against Chelsea and I think we will get a lot of use out of him.

"I am quite happy players like him don't necessarily get put totally under the microscope from the day they arrive because even coming from a top team like Porto it takes time to settle.

"Every player who comes here has to go through that adaptation process."

Fernando Torres Believes Liverpool Can Still Challenge For 'Big Things' This Season

Liverpool's star striker, Fernando Torres, has been encouraged by the team's and his own performance in Sunday's 2-0 win over champions Chelsea at Anfield.

The Reds have seemingly turned around their disastrous early-season form and have won their last four games, with the highlight being the most recent win over the league leaders.

Torres, who scored both goals in the victory, told the club's official website: "I am really happy with the victory - just like all the fans.

"It was a good result and a great performance from the team. It was a day we have to enjoy but we now have a game coming up in a few days and we have to be focused on that.

"We always play like this against the top teams. When we play Man United, Arsenal or Chelsea we often produce a great performance, but now we have to do the same against the teams in the middle of the table. If we do that we will be fighting for big things at the end of the season.

"We've won four games in a row now. This is what we have to be doing more regularly because this is what Liverpool is all about.

"We are now moving in the right direction."

Liverpool Poised To Land Dutch International On Free

Liverpool are being heavily linked with a free transfer move for Ajax full-back Urby Emanuelson.

The Dutch international defender's contract talks have broken down at the Amsterdam Arena, leaving agent Brian Berkleef to hint that the player could leave the club for free in the summer.

Roy Hodgson is thought to have targeted the 24-year-old as competition for Paul Konchesky at Liverpool, and the player's versatility as a potential left winger is also thought form part of the Merseyside club's interest.

“There are plenty of interested clubs. I won’t confirm or deny any names though. However, I’ve told interested teams that Urby won’t leave Ajax during the winter transfer window,” said Berkleef.

The news means that Liverpool could sign the player for free on a pre-contract agreement in January, meaning he would move to Anfield in the summer.

Emanuelson joined the famous Ajax academy in 1994, and worked his way through the youth system before making his debut as a teenager in 2005.

Capped 11 times by Holland, the player is not short of experience with well over 200 appearances in the Eredivisie, Champions League, and Europa League.

New Liverpool owners NESV have promised the manager a transfer war chest in the region of £35 million, and Hodgson is thought to have targeted 'five or six' players for moves in the opening month of 2011.

Dutch paper De Telegraaf link a host of European clubs with a move for Emanuelson, but Liverpool are thought to be at the front of the queue for the talented player.

Liverpool Edge Closer To Signing Talented £7m Playmaker

It is being reported that Roy Hodgson will push on his efforts to land Tottenham playmaker Niko Kranjcar who appears to be surplus to requirements at White Hart Lane. The Croatian international’s own father is backing his son’s move to Anfield and Harry Redknapp may well allow the former Portsmouth player leave rather than see him rot on the bench.

The 26 year old has started just one Premier League match this season, the weekend defeat at Bolton, and appears to have not impressed his boss with his average performance which ended when he was hauled off for similarly bench bound David Bentley. A move for the talented attack minded midfielder would set Liverpool back around £7m, which seems a fair price for a player with a great deal of experience and adaptability.

Rafa Planning Agger Coup

Rafa Benitez is planning to raid former club Liverpool for Daniel Agger as he hunts a replacement for stopper Walter Samuel.

The Argentine is out for the season after scans showed he suffered serious ligament damage to the knee in the clash with Brescia.

That has left Benitez short of defensive options and he has been given the green light to bring in reinforcements in the transfer window.

Danish international Agger is top of his wish list. The pair worked together during Benitez’s time at Anfield.

And it was on the insistence of Benitez that the Anfield board agreed to hand the defender a new four year, £70,000 a week deal in May 2009.

Agger has missed a large chunk of the season with a calf problem but Benitez is hopeful he will recover his fitness by the time the transfer window opens.

And Benitez said: “Since we’ve lost such an important player as Samuel, we will have to arrange the roster in January.’’

Liverpool To Take On AC Milan For £9million Honda

Liverpool are ready to challenge AC Milan for the services of Japanese superstar Keisuke Honda.

The versatile CSKA Moscow midfielder, who can also operate as a second striker or in the holding role, has been attracting interest from the Serie A giants since starring for Japan in the World Cup.

But Liverpool's new sporting director Damien Comolli is keen for the club to take Honda to Anfield in January.

According to Russian sources, a bid of around £9m should be enough to prize Honda away from Moscow, but should Liverpool make a move, Milan could launch a counter-offer.

Amoo Strikes In Leeds Draw

David Amoo was on target as a young Liverpool reserve team fought back to secure a 2-2 draw with Leeds United at the Academy on Tuesday afternoon.

The Reds went in at the interval trailing to two quick-fire goals after initially struggling to combat the pace and power of an experienced opposition.

However, they reduced the arrears on 53 minutes through Amoo's cool finish before substitute Adam Morgan cracked home the equalizer with a stunning shot from the edge of the box.

John McMahon named a relatively inexperienced starting XI for the visit of the Yorkshire outfit with many of the youngsters on show likely to make up the majority of this season's Youth Cup team.

It gave a fascinating glimpse into the level of talent emerging from the Reds' Academy and they almost got off to the perfect start when they came within a whisker of opening the scoring on three minutes.

Toni Silva cut in from the right flank and teased a clever pass into Suso who saw his audacious 30 yarder arrow just wide of the right-hand post.

The Reds were looking lively on the counter attack and after Suso drilled another effort way off target, Amoo could only help Bruna's drilled cross into the grateful arms of the Leeds stopper.

It had been a solid opening for McMahon's team but just when it seemed they were getting on top, the visitors sprung forward and snatched the advantage on 28 minutes.

It was a shock to the system for the youngsters and before they could recover they were two down as the away side tucked home a penalty after Stephen Sama was penalized.

At this point it was all Leeds and they should have made it three just before interval but the ball cannoned back off the far post, much to the relief of Dean Bouzanis in the Liverpool goal.

A flurry of half-time substitutions meant there were more than a few new faces as the second-half got underway and the Reds made a determined start.

Roy Hodgson was an interested spectator on the sidelines and his quick chat with Amoo seemed to make an immediate impact as the forward gave the hosts a lifeline on 53 minutes.

Suso gained possession just inside the Leeds half and played a sublimely weighted ball into Amoo who made no mistake, rounding the 'keeper and coolly slotting home.

It gave the Reds the lift they needed and within five minutes they were level as Morgan cut in from the left and flashed a stunning shot into the top corner. It was a goal right out of the top drawer and one that must have impressed the watching Hodgson.

The momentum was now with Liverpool and after Suso saw his curling free-kick well saved Amoo drilled just wide of the upright.

Steven Irwin, Nicolaj Kohlert and Amoo all went close before Morgan was denied a last-gasp winner when he saw his shot from point-blank range brilliantly saved.