Saturday, November 20, 2010

Match Preview: Liverpool vs West Ham United

After a poor start to the season, Liverpool had finally begun to show some semblance of form by going on an unbeaten run of six games in all competitions. But a trip to Stoke City saw them relinquish their undefeated run by falling to a 2-0 defeat at the Britannia Stadium.

That game was reminiscent of the Reds’ inconsistency, as it was only a week before that they were celebrating a well-earned victory over Chelsea.

But Hodgson will know that he is one positive run of games away from resurrection, as six points separate the Merseysiders from fourth placed Manchester City.

And playing the bottom placed team in the standings at home can only prove to be a confidence booster in the quest to restore lost pride and reclaim what almost used to be a rightful place in the Champions League.

But for all that to happen, the home side will have to first overcome a few problems in their line-up, as talismanic captain Steven Gerrard has been ruled out for up to four weeks after picking up a hamstring injury whilst on international duty. To add to Hodgson’s woes, Lucas is suspended for this game, and Joe Cole remains a doubt.

This should give Christian Poulsen a chance to shine and redeem himself in the eyes of the fans, after experiencing a poor start to his career on Merseyside.

Thirteen games gone, and West Ham have registered only one victory against their name and are currently at the very bottom of the Premier League - albeit on goal difference. Still, a tally of nine points from 13 games is an underachievement by any standards.

They won’t be able to get out of the drop zone by registering a victory over their opponents, but three points would be a massive step in the right direction.

Avram Grant’s head appeared to be on the chopping block some time back, but vice-chairman Karren Brady has maintained that the gaffer continues to have the owners’ blessing at the moment.

"When you make a very big and important decision to replace a manager you have to take a lot of things into account. We thought very carefully when we appointed Avram and I can assure you there is no finger on the button," she said recently.

"We are not getting results and the table does not lie but we will do everything in our power to support him.”

But having the favour of the upper echelon at Upton Park is far from what the Israeli boss needs at the moment, though it must certainly help in knowing that he is in no danger at the moment.

However, it also means that he has the future of the Hammers in his hands, as a continued inability to register a victory could see the club having to play a deadly catch-up just to secure survival – since they are already four points behind an 18th placed Birmingham City.



Steven Gerrard (hamstring) is sidelined for up to four weeks after suffering an injury during the recent international friendly against France.

Worries abound in the engine room, as Lucas is suspended for this game. This means that the Reds will have two different central midfielders for this game.

Joe Cole (hamstring) is unlikely to return in time for this clash, while Daniel Agger (calf) will be unavailable through injury.

But manager Roy Hodgson is booster by the availability of Fernando Torres, Dirk Kuyt, Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson for this encounter. Fabio Aurelio has also declared himself fit to face the Hammers, after playing 75 minutes in a reserve game against Blackpool.

Possible starting line-up: Reina; Carragher, Kyrgiakos, Skrtel, Konchesky; Meireles, Poulsen, Spearing, Maxi; Kuyt, Torres.

West Ham United

Julien Faubert is back in contention, but is unlikely to make the cut into the starting line-up. Meanwhile, Tal Ben Haim (ankle) is still a doubt, and may not make in time for the game.

Valon Behrami and Kieron Dyer are both doubtful for this encounter, but the latter could come back in time to feature at Anfield.

Manuel da Costa (ankle), Mark Noble (Appendicitis), Thomas Hitzlsperger (thigh) and Jack Collison (knee) all out with respective injuries, and will not make the trip to Merseyside.

Possible starting line-up: Green; Jacobsen, Upson, Gabbidon, Ilunga, Boa Morte, Kovac, Parker, Dyer, Obinna, Piquionne.

Liverpool Track Argentine International Striker

Liverpool are being linked with a January move for Argentine striker Lisandro Lopez.

The Argentine international striker is reportedly poised for the exit door at current club Lyon, and Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson is thought to have been 'sounded out' as a potentially interested party in the player.

Lopez began his career at Racing Club in his homeland before joining FC Porto in 2005. Lyon would pay €24 million for the player in 2009, viewing the striker as a replacement for Karim Benzema.

An impressive strike rate in Ligue 1 has led to interest in the player, and the French club are thought to be willing to let the player leave if the price is right, according to the Daily Mirror.

Liverpool have been promised money to spend in the transfer window by new owners NESV, and Hodgson will have to consider if an £17 million move for the player will represent good value for the Anfield club.

A foil for Spanish striker Fernando Torres is thought to be the priority on Merseyside, and the Argentine maverick could prove to be the perfect addition for Liverpool.

Benzema, Mario Gomez and Carlton Cole have all been linked with January moves to Liverpool as the Reds boss considers his options, and additions seem certain in the opening month of 2011.

Spearing Faces Six Weeks Out

Jay Spearing's dream of making his first Barclays Premier League start at Anfield this weekend is over after he suffered a hairline fracture in his fibula during the closing stages of Friday's training session.

The 21-year-old was hoping to use the absence of the injured Steven Gerrard and suspended Lucas Leiva to stake his claim for a first-team place.

However, he now stands no chance of featuring in the tea-time kick-off against West Ham and instead faces up to six weeks on the sidelines.

"Unfortunately right at the end of the training session, which was 5-a-side and not at all a competitive game, he turned his ankle and cracked a small bone just above the ankle in his fibula," said boss Roy Hodgson.

"That means he is going to be missing for six weeks. It is a terrible blow for Jay and us. He has been doing ever so well and getting closer and closer to a place in the first team.

"I was considering using him in this game, possibly even starting him."

Roy Hodgson Rubbishes Glen Johnson Exit Talk

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson has played down speculation linking Glen Johnson with an Anfield exit and insisted he is the Reds' first choice right-back.

Hodgson has been critical of the England international’s form of late, but the manager is eager for the defender to come back into the team following a spell on the sidelines.

"As far as I'm concerned he has, and I think as far as he's concerned he has. Once again we're talking storms in tea cups and people trying to make something out of nothing," Hodgson told reporters.

"My relationship with Johnson has been very good since I came to the club, and he's always played in the team when he's fit.

"As far as I'm concerned he's the Liverpool right-back and the England right-back and we're very happy to welcome him back into the team now that he's fit again."

Johnson is set to feature against West Ham United on Saturday after a groin injury prevented him from playing against Stoke City last week.

Harry Redknapp Has Defended Fabio Capello Over Steven Gerrard Injury Row

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp has defended Fabio Capello over the row that has emerged between England and Liverpool over Steven Gerrard's hamstring injury.

The Liverpool captain has been ruled out for up to four weeks with the injury he picked up in the 85th minute of England's 2-1 loss to France on Wednesday.

Gerrard's injury has angered Liverpool, as they only expected the midfielder to play 60 minutes of the international friendly.

Capello says he kept Gerrard on the pitch because of injuries suffered to other players during the game and the Italian has found an ally in Spurs boss Redknapp.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Redknapp said: "It's a shame for Stevie Gerrard but no one's more patriotic than him.

Gerrard Asks Hodgson To Stop The England Injury Furore

As Anfield faces up to a critical pre-Christmas period without him, Steven Gerrard intervened to prevent the escalation of Liverpool's club-versus-country row with the FA.

His manager, Roy Hodgson, said Gerrard contacted him, asking him to play down the implications of a hamstring injury sustained late on during England's defeat by France at Wembley. Liverpool expected Gerrard to be used for only the first hour and the incident caused the club's fitness coach, Darren Burgess, to label the FA "amateurish and absolutely disgraceful" on his Twitter page.

"When I spoke to Steven this morning he was at pains to say to me: 'Don't prolong the debate, please say as little as you can and be as diplomatic as you can'," said Hodgson, who faces the dilemma of all Liverpool managers since Gerrard made his debut a dozen years ago – when to bring him back from injury.

"Steven is determined it won't be a month," he said. "He doesn't accept for one minute that this will take a month. But the one thing he doesn't want and I certainly don't want is for him to come back after two weeks, play 60 minutes and then the injury flares up again, perhaps even worse than before – because then we could be looking at a season in which Steven plays intermittently; two weeks on and four weeks off.

"When you get these scans you always get a figure thrown at you but it doesn't always work out like that. Joe Cole was supposed to be out for two weeks and now it's gone on to four. Glen Johnson was going to be 10 days and it's turned out to be three and a half weeks.

"I don't know if I am being diplomatic, I am simply refusing to prolong a debate. Our fitness coach, Darren, in his naivety and frustration, was foolish enough to voice an opinion on Twitter and that's led to these two days of vitriol. I think it's time we got it stopped."

Although the FA will pay his estimated £120,000-a-week wages while he is injured, the anxiety at Liverpool's training ground at Melwood is easy to understand. Of the two outstanding performances Liverpool have produced under Hodgson, the dismantling of Chelsea was the work of Fernando Torres, while the astonishing comeback to cut the ground from beneath Napoli's feet was classic Gerrard.

West Ham will not present the problems Stoke did last Saturday night; they are without Scott Parker, who is as precious to Avram Grant as Gerrard is to Hodgson, and the last West Ham captain to win at Anfield was Bobby Moore in 1963.

However, of the midfielders remaining to Hodgson, Cole and Lucas Leiva are unavailable through injury and suspension while he admits Christian Poulsen and Raul Meireles have yet to find their feet on Merseyside.

Hodgson has known Poulsen since their time at Copenhagen a decade ago but he accepts that he has struggled to find his rhythm. The victory over Napoli was probably the nadir; his substitution was greeted by an ovation from the Kop and then he had to watch as Gerrard turned the night on its head.

"In the first game [the 0-0 draw in Naples] he was outstanding and he did very well in Trabzon," Hodgson said. "But, of course, he has had two very unfortunate games at Anfield, where he's not played to his true ability, he has missed some passes and the crowd have jumped on to him. Christian is a strong person, though, very strong mentally so he is just going to have to get through that, although that won't happen overnight. Nothing I can say will change the fact that, if he misses the first two or three passes against West Ham, the crowd will get on to him again. That's what will happen. That's life, but he will deal with that."

NESV Separates Itself From Former Liverpool Owners With 'Organization and Vision'

It's likely that one of the first emotions that ran through the minds of many Liverpool fans when NESV took over was fear. And who could blame them? It was an American group that had previously run their beloved club into the ground, what would make this group any different?

If it was dread running through the Reds' fans minds, it was quickly diminished when they realized the vision of NESV, and what they have in store for the future of Liverpool.

In a recent article on, a comparison is drawn to the 2004 Red Sox. Soon after John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino took to the helm of the Red Sox' organization, a dream was realized by hundreds of Red Sox fans. A dream that hadn't been reached in 86 years.

Henry looks to bring that same notion of change and hope to Liverpool. No exciting promises of billion-dollar players and spanking-new stadiums -- just the forward-looking promise that things will change.

One of the many differences between NESV and Liverpool's former owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, is what the article refers to as a "sporting philosophy." Henry has proven that he's not in this game for the sake of owning a big-name football club. He's in it to change the fate of a historical club that has a devoted fan base.

This isn't Henry's first time working with a passionate group of fans. Red Sox Nation ring a bell?

Henry has already laid out the groundwork of the upcoming plans for the Reds. Transfers will be made through scouting young talent, and developing players from the ground up, rather than buying big names. A similar framework was run in Boston, weeding out the aging veterans and bringing in a young squad that formed an unbreakable chemistry.

Henry also brings with him a wealth of business experience, and Anfield will be run as a business. Henry has developed the Red Sox into more than just a baseball team, they're a way of life, and several business ventures run through the walls of Fenway, and it's looking like Liverpool will be no different.

The relationship between NESV and Liverpool is still young, but it seems the Reds have much to look forward to in what lies ahead.