Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Premier League Preview: Blackburn vs Liverpool

Since the shock sacking of Sam Allardyce, Rovers have averaged one point per game. The previous regime had a healthy 1.5 points per game average; a tally that would safely stave off relegation.

This has seen owners Venky's discard an expected 57 points finish for the new - far less comfortable - target of just 43 points.

For Kean to stand a chance of stay in good grace, this 33.3 per cent drop must be corrected. Unluckily for him, Rovers have only tasted victory once in this fixture in the last decade.

The executioner's sword may still be hanging over his head, but Joe Cole's last gasp winner has kept the wolves at bay for a few days at least.

Six points off the relegation zone, 11 points from the haloed Champions League places and a huge 16 points from Premier League leaders wasn't on the Anfield hierarchy's agenda when they gave Rafael Benitez the boot, though.

Much of the blame for this disappointing start can be placed on an away record that reads one win, two draws and six defeats. If the final category ticks to seven after Wednesday night, time could finally be up for Hodgson.



The absence of defender Christopher Samba has cut the heart out of interim manager Steve Kean's team. Thankfully for the Scot, the centre-back could return from an ankle knock.

Ex-England goalkeeper Paul Robinson is still sidelined with a calf strain, while the match has come too soon for Jason Roberts' hamstring pull to heal. Keith Andrews remains sidelined with a long-term knee injury, with Phil Jones likely to be out for the rest of the season with a similar ligament problem.

Striker Nikola Kalinic will begin his three-match suspension after he was dismissed in the 3-0 defeat to Sunderland, while Brett Emerton is away at the Asian Cup.

Possible starting XI: Bunn; Salgado, Nelsen, Givet, Olsson; E Diouf, Hanley, Dunn, Goulon, Pedersen; M Diouf.


Steven Gerrard's enforced 70-minute appearance in the 2-1 victory against Bolton means the captain should be ready to start. The man he replaced, Raul Meireles, is likely to be out with an ankle knock.

The Portuguese joins Jamie Carragher on the sidelines due to the veteran's dislocated shoulder. Manager Roy Hodgson will hope injury-prone pair Fabio Aurelio and Daniel Agger came through their weekend run-out unscathed.

Possible starting XI: Reina; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Aurelio; Maxi, Gerrard, Lucas, Cole, Kuyt; Torres.

Roy Eyes Cole Boost

Roy Hodgson is hoping Joe Cole's match-winning goal against Bolton Wanderers will kick-start his Liverpool career.

The former Chelsea and West Ham man has endured a slow start to life at Anfield after being sent off on his league debut for the club against Arsenal.

Injury has also curtailed his availability and form, although Hodgson insists the England international has never lost faith in his own ability.

Cole scored his first Premier League goal for the club on New Year's Day with a crucial last-gasp effort against Bolton which also eased the pressure on Hodgson.

Hodgson now hopes Cole's inauspicious start to his Liverpool career is in the past and that he can start replicating the form that earned him his Anfield move.

"The goal will do a lot for him, but he's quite confident at the moment," said Hodgson.

"Joe is a very confident player. He always thinks he is playing well, so he doesn't have any great worries about that side of things.

"But, of course, one of the things he knows he will be criticized for, I guess, is that he doesn't score enough goals.

"If we think of his time here at Liverpool, we can all think of goal chances which were there to be taken which he didn't.

"So I'm sure he is delighted to have put that behind him by scoring a very, very important winning goal against Bolton."

Agent Confirms Contact For "Next Van Basten" can confirm that Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur have enquired about the availability of FC Utrecht forward Ricky Van Wolfswinkel who has been compared to Dutch great Marco Van Basten.

The starlet has been monitored closely by the aforementioned Premier League duo, while Arsenal and Newcastle United have also kept a close eye on the striker, however the player’s representative has confirmed Roy Hodgson and Harry Redknapp are considering bids for the forward.

“At this moment it is unlikely Ricky will move because I have not received an concrete offer from either Tottenham Hotspur or Liverpool.” Louis Laros explained to

“I cannot say at the moment if it is serious interest, an enquiry, or just rumours. We are waiting for calls from both clubs, as we need an official offer from Liverpool or Spurs to proceed."

Laros did stress that his client was keen to leave FC Utrecht and seal a move to the Premier League.

“He is eager to move and he finds Tottenham and Liverpool both very interesting opportunities.

“In the game against Liverpool he got injured, and he is still a couple of weeks off being fully fit, but everything has gone well. But as I said, I have not had an offer from either club, so we are waiting.”

Van Wolfswinkel, a regular starter for the Dutch under-21s and recently capped at full international level, is regarded as one of Europe’s hottest young talents having been closely watched by the continent's top clubs since making his debut for Vitesse Arnhem in 2008.

The hitman has since moved to FC Utrecht where he has established himself as the club's leading front-man and helped them to a seventh place Eredivisie finish. The striker has scored 17 goals in his last 24 appearances in all competitions.

Liverpool’s new Director of Football Strategy Damien Comolli has highlighted the Dutchman as a great prospect for the future, while Newcastle United under manager Chris Hughton were keeping regular tabs on the impressive youngster..

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has kept a close eye on the striker but has admitted that he will only move for a player in January in “exceptional” circumstances. Harry Redknapp is a big admirer of the forward sending regular scouts to watch van Wolfswinkel but reports this morning suggest the North London club are closing in on a £17 million move for Ajax striker Luis Suarez.

Liverpool Express Interest In Emmanuel Adebayor

Liverpool has made an enquiry to sign Manchester City striker Emmanuel Adebayor.

After falling out of favour at Eastlands, and getting involved in a training ground bust-up with team-mate Kolo Toure, it is understood that Adebayor will be allowed to leave club, and Liverpool have expressed an interest in him, according to Sky Sports.

The former Arsenal striker has fallen behind Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli in the pecking order, and will struggle further as the arrival of Edin Dzeko appears imminent.

Liverpool would be in the market for the Togolese forward on loan, given that City would be keen to recoup most of the £25million fee they spent on him just over 18 months ago.

However, the club is not the only team interested with Tottenham, West Ham and Real Madrid linked with a move.

Liverpool Target 6ft 8in Forward

Liverpool are considering a January bid for FC Cluj striker Lacina Traore, according to reports on Tuesday.

The Reds are desperate for another striker to help propel them back up the table after a disappointing first half of the season, and boss Roy Hodgson has now identified 6ft 8in Traore as a possible solution.

The 20-year-old Ivory Coast forward was linked with Arsenal last summer and Fulham and Newcastle are also thought to be interested.

Aquilani Expected To Stay

Alberto Aquilani's agent expects Juventus to sign the Liverpool midfielder on a permanent basis.

The Italy international is currently on a season-long loan at the Serie A club and has been one of the stand-out performers this season.

Juve have the option of turning Aquilani's spell into a long-term deal and the 26-year-old's representative, Franco Zavaglia, reckons the Bianconeri will honour their agreement with the Merseysiders.

Zavaglia told Radio Sportiva: "The release from Liverpool depends only on Juventus but I think there will be.

"Alberto is very, very happy in Turin and has found an environment where he can express himself."

Zavaglia believes the former Roma schemer benefited from his brief time at Anfield, adding: "The English experience has been good, it has enriched his international background."

Aurelio - We're Behind Roy

Fabio Aurelio has backed Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson and claimed that the whole team are behind him to succeed.

The Reds boss has endured a difficult time in charge since taking over six months ago, seeing boardroom tussles, poor results and performances on the pitch and a lack of popularity with the fans going against him.

With the team sat ninth in the league following a late winner by Joe Cole against Bolton on New Year's Day at Anfield, the veteran boss was afforded a brief respite on the growing pressure on him.

But nothing less than victory over former club Blackburn at Ewood Park on Wednesday will prevent tensions from starting to rise once again, and despite appealing for time, Liverpool's new owners may be forced to take action.

Aurelio, who came back in place of the under-performing Paul Konchesky on Saturday, insisted that he had confidence in Hodgson, and that they would work hard to right the wrongs of what has been a miserable past year.

"We are all behind the manager and we have to try to get out of this situation together," Aurelio told the club's official website.

"We all know the coach is the first person to have the pressure on. He tries to make the team play, but it's the players who have to go out on the pitch and do it.

"Hopefully there will be no more setbacks and beating Bolton will be the start of a good run of results.

"We need to play every game at the kind of level we played at on Saturday and try to improve further.

"There was a lot of pressure on us as we really needed a result. When you are playing for a big team that pressure is always there and we are the first ones to put pressure on ourselves when we are not doing as well as we could.

"The character we showed to come back was good. We left it late but we played better football, created chances and it was a deserved victory.

"The performance was very good. You could see an improvement and that win gives us the confidence to go forward into the next games.

"We've started the New Year well and hopefully we can keep going like this. If we win our two games in hand we could be sixth and things will look better."

Agger Issues Anfield Quit Threat

Daniel Agger has given Roy Hodgson another headache by threatening to quit Liverpool if he is not handed a regular starting berth.

The two have not seen eye-to-eye since Hodgson took over at Anfield, with Agger criticizing the Reds' direct style of play earlier this season.

That row was defused when Agger was ruled out for three months with a damaged calf but, after returning to the team for the 2-1 win over Bolton, he has again taken issue with his boss.

"I still have three years on my contract but it's not me who decides if I'm playing," he said. "But if I'm not playing and I'm not injured, I have no reason to be here. I'm 26 and I feel I can play regularly at this level at this club. So if I'm not going to play and be on the bench for a while, obviously I'm not interested in being here. Then I must see what options I have."

Elsewhere, Hodgson has called for his players to show more belief as they bid to turn their season around. The Reds are currently in tenth place, just five points clear of the relegation zone.

"We've got to build up our sense of belief in ourselves and what we're doing," he said. "We need to have more faith in our play - but I thought that was very evident against Bolton. Taking the game to them and not getting hit in the counter shows a lot of character, faith and belief.

"Football is technical and tactical quality but there's a third dimension - spirit, guts and determination."

Rangnick Interested In Reds

Former Hoffenheim boss Ralf Rangnick's agent has claimed he would love the opportunity to manage in England, though no offers have come his way so far.

The German, who had significant success in guiding his former club from obscurity into the Bundesliga, left on New Year's Day, and has been touted as a potential candidate for Roy Hodgson's Liverpool job.

Rangnick originally demonstrated his potential by leading Ulm from the third tier into the top division in the late 1990s, before embarking on wealthy Hoffenheim owner Dietmar Hopp's ambitious plan to take his boyhood club to the top in 2006.

He duly obliged in delivering that success, however due to differences in opinion with Hopp after the sale of key player Luiz Gustavo to Bayern Munich, he parted ways.

Commenting on the Liverpool job, in which Hodgson is coming under increasing pressure, agent Oliver Mintzlaff acknowledged that the position was "very interesting".

"Ralf Rangnick is very interested in the Premier League and Liverpool is certainly a very interesting club with a great tradition," he said.

"Ralf is a great fan of English football and he has followed it a great deal.

"The English Premier League is something which interests him very much, but there have not been any discussions with Liverpool.

"Of course if you don't have any ambition, then you cannot be a football manager.

"Hoffenheim was an exciting, unique project and he led them into the Bundesliga in only two years, and they were never even close to a relegation berth.

"Now, in the third year in the Bundesliga, it is only understandable that he has the ambition to play in Europe.

"Unfortunately, his aims and those of Hopp were not entirely compatible.

"After four-and-a-half years (with Hoffenheim), it is only normal that he takes a short pause to catch his breath.

"But he is, of course, really burning to get a new job."