Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Premier League Preview: Blackpool vs Liverpool

Back in early October, Blackpool sent shockwaves through the Premier League by travelling to Liverpool and conquering Anfield. It was a body blow for the Reds, and was also one of the low points of former boss Roy Hodgson’s short stint as manager.

During that game, Luke Varney went down in the area as the referee pointed to the spot. Charlie Adam converted in front of the Kop to give his side a shock lead on Merseyside, before Varney doubled the advantage. A header from Sotirios Kyrgiakos eventually proved to be nothing more than a consolation as the victory served to justify the Seasiders’ arrival in the top-flight.

A little over three months have passed since then, and the visitors’ boss Ian Holloway probably feels that his charges can do the double over their more illustrious opponents. He fielded a line-up of several fringe players during the club’s recent FA Cup trip to Southampton, in a game that the travellers lost.

But he should call on his regulars for this encounter, in the hope of repeating the performance put in at Anfield to carve out a similar result.

The latter days of Roy Hodgson’s bitter reign on Merseyside saw him lose the fans completely, as the club’s supporters roundly chanted for his head by calling for the appointment of the legendary Kenny Dalglish.

One could very well argue that the results may not have been a true reflection of the former Fulham manager’s capability, as he was unable to mould the squad to his liking by flexing some muscle in the transfer window. But the Merseysiders have parted ways with the 63-year-old now, and have given the fans what they wanted - King Kenny.

Dalglish’s return to management after a decade-long hiatus began in poor fashion as a controversial penalty coupled with the sending off of his skipper Steven Gerrard ended in a defeat to bitter rivals Manchester United - which in turn meant that the Reds were knocked out of the FA Cup.

However, the feel good factor around the club will have trickled down into the squad as well, and could in turn translate into a positive performance on the pitch.

The Scot will have to capitalize on the initial boost that his appointment has given the team to capture nothing less than all three points at Bloomfield Road to retain hope of salvaging a morose season and qualifying for next season’s Europa League.



The Seasiders have no fresh injury worries ahead of this game, but Elliot Grandin (hamstring), Malaury Martin (knee), Chris Basham (broken leg), Marlon Harewood (hamstring), Matt Gilks (knee) and Billy Clarke (knee) are all expected to remain sidelined.

Manager Ian Holloway fielded several fringe players during the recent defeat to Southampton and will likely revert to his preferred first-choice players once more.

Possible starting XI: Kingson; Eardley, Cathcart, Evatt, Crainey; Phillips, Adam, Vaughan; Taylor-Fletcher, Campbell, Varney


The club’s talismanic skipper Steven Gerrard is suspended for this game, as he saw red in the FA Cup defeat to Manchester United.

Jamie Carragher (shoulder) and Jay Spearing (ankle) remain sidelined. The former will remain unavailable for some more time as he recovers from surgery, while the latter is back in training and still working on getting back to full fitness.

Possible starting XI: Reina; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Aurelio; Kuyt, Meireles, Lucas, Maxi; Babel, Torres

Kenny Dalglish Not Looking For Quick Buys To Fix Liverpool's Problems

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish says he will not be spending for the sake of buying in this month's transfer window and will instead focus on the players currently at Anfield.

The 59-year-old will attempt to get the best out of the existing squad, and will start by getting their confidence up.

He also commented that the current squad is a lot better than the team's critics are making out.

"I think it is the best squad of players I have inherited as a manager since the first time I came here," Dalglish told reporters on Tuesday.

"We don't have much time to get things up and running so the most important people for us are the people here and we will concentrate on them first and everyone will be given an opportunity.

"As far as I can see, the players are 100 per cent committed to what they want to do – to move onwards and upwards. There are no splits or divisions."

Dalglish has achieved great success on Merseyside, both as a player and a manager, winning the old First Division a total of eight times.

However, coming back into management after a gap of over a decade, the Anfield legend believes he has something to prove in this modern day game.

"It's one thing showing people what you've won, it is another thing to get respect out of them for what you are trying to do and that is what I have got to achieve," he admitted.

"I have no preconceived ideas that because of what I've done it gets me any more respect.

"The only way to earn players' respect is to work with them, get them on your side and hopefully get the confidence levels up, get a couple wins and take it from there."

The Scotsman has not ruled out the idea of buying players completely though and will work with director of football strategy Damien Comolli, but his attitude will create peace of mind amongst the current players who may be worrying about their futures.

He added: "What is immediate for us is the staff and players we have working together and the people know who they are there will do their very best to do that.

"If someone comes up who is attractive to the club then fine but at this moment there have not been any conversations about that."

Inter Plan Sensational €30 Million Benitez-Inspired Raid On Liverpool

Inter Milan and Bayern Munich have emerged as the front runners to end Fernando Torres’ Anfield hell, according to reports in Germany.

Despite being sacked as manager of European champions Inter last month, Benitez has left one legacy – an interest in Torres that could revive their ailing fortunes in Serie A.

Benitez signed Torres for Liverpool when he was an aspiring ‘wonderkid’ at Atletico Madrid and it was his intention to take advantage of the turmoil at Anfield to bring him to the San Siro in January or the summer.

However, after his sacking it seems a move for the 26-year-old had been put to one side. Now though Leonardo, Rafa’s successor, has put Torres back on the agenda.

Liverpool are determined to hang on to their prized asset and the striker himself has revealed he plans to see his contract out with the club, which runs until 2013 – anything could be possible after that, though.

Munich has also emerged as a possible destination for the Liverpool ace, as has Turin with a possible offer from Juventus on the cards.

Torres, though, said: “My head is in Liverpool and on helping save our season. I am professional and I always fulfil my deals.

"I haven't considered leaving, although in football that depends on the club,” he added, not totally ruling out moving if one of the mooted offers is accepted by Liverpool.

Liverpool 'Encouraged' To Swoop For Croatia Star

Liverpool is reportedly on the verge of making a move for Tottenham defender Vedran Corluka.

The Croatia international - valued at €15 million by - has fallen down the pecking order at White Hart Lane and, according to the Daily Mail, has his sights set on a move during the transfer window.

Liverpool are thought to be tracking the 24-year-old and now - reports tribalfootball - the Anfield club are being 'encouraged' to launch a bid for Corluka's services.

The former Manchester City player is a versatile defender - able to perform equally competently at right-back or centre-back and, with constant injuries to the Liverpool defence, the acquisition of Corluka could prove to be a shrewd one.

Liverpool is thought to be in a strong position to land the Croatian thanks to director of football strategy Damien Comolli, who signed Corluka in 2008 while occupying a similar role with Spurs.

Whether a move for Corluka comes to fruition remains to be seen, but Liverpool are believed to be in the market for defensive reinforcements in January.

Liverpool have had their fair share of defensive woes of late after were hit with the news that Anfield stalwart Jamie Carragher would be out of action for three months after dislocating his shoulder against Spurs in November.

Centre-back Daniel Agger also reportedly wants out of Anfield so Liverpool could do well to bring in at least one defender during the transfer window.

Liverpool Step Up Pursuit Of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Liverpool are reportedly looking at stepping up their interest in Southampton's 17 year-old starlet Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to fend off interest from Manchester United.

The Daily Mail state that Liverpool's director of football strategy Damien Comolli was at Boundary Park watching the youngster as Southampton beat Oldham 6-0 on Tuesday night, where the player got himself on the scoresheet.

However, this interest could conceivably come to nothing as the report claims that Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was also present in the stands watching the youngster.

It is understood that The Saints value Oxlade Chamberlain at about £10 million and are said to be aware that Liverpool have watched the 17 year-old on several occasions and hold a real interest along with Arsenal.

The England Under-18 international has also reportedly attracted interest from Premier League sides Chelsea, Fulham, Stoke City and Tottenham in the past.

Liverpool Are Winning The Race For Ricky van Wolfswinkel

Liverpool remains the frontrunners for FC Utrecht striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel, according to his agent.

There has been growing speculation in recent days that the 21-year-old could be set to seal an imminent switch to Merseyside, but it has now emerged that - despite interest from Liverpool - there have been no formal discussions regarding a potential transfer.

“We have not had a formal call from Liverpool yet,” Louis Laros told

“Liverpool are the main club following Ricky, but he is being followed by some big clubs throughout Europe and of course England, but without doubt, Liverpool is an interesting club for Ricky. But for the moment we keep his options open and we wait and see.”

And, although Liverpool have registered their interest in the Dutchman, the Anfield club are thought to be considering holding fire on an official £8 million bid until January due to the player's current fitness.

“I know they are [Liverpool] interested in him and they are following him. I think they are looking at him as a signing in the future, but possibly not immediately.”

“Also his injury could be an issue with a move remember. I don’t think that a formal offer will come from Liverpool in this transfer window."

Liverpool have also been linked with moves for Sevilla striker Alvaro Negrado and Ajax captain Luis Suarez as owners New England Sports Ventures look to invest in their squad during the January transfer window.

Alan Hansen: Kenny Dalglish Will Be Targeting Champions League Qualification

Alan Hansen believes that interim Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish will want the job permanently at the end of the season, and will be targeting Champions League qualification.

Dalglish, who previously spent 14 years at the Anfield club as a player and manager, was handed the reins until the end of the season after Roy Hodgson left the club.

When asked if Dalglish would want the job full-time, Hansen told the BBC's MOTD program this: “Absolutely. He Might not say that himself, but I know he is a complete football-man.

"Liverpool is in his heart, he thinks he's got unfinished business there.

"I think, he thinks he owes Liverpool, but I think Liverpool owe him.

"I think the supporters will get right behind him, but again, it's a results based industry, you've got to go out and win, and they've got big games coming up and obviously the players have underachieved."

Quizzed as to what supporters could expect for the remainder of the season, Hansen remained realistic, but insisted that his former team-mate would be targeting a top-four finish.

Daniel Pacheco Impresses For Liverpool FC Reseves In Front Of Kenny Dalglish

Daniel Pacheco scored a superb goal in front of Kenny Dalglish as Liverpool Reserves beat Sunderland 2-1 at the Academy on Tuesday afternoon. Watch highlights now online.

Nikola Saric bagged the other goal on a day when the young Reds played some lovely football as Dalglish, Steve Clarke and Sammy Lee watched from the sidelines.

Liverpool's caretaker boss will also have been delighted to see Jay Spearing come through 90 minutes on his return from a fracture just above his ankle.

The only negative for manager John McMahon was the late dismissal of goalkeeper Martin Hansen for a foul which led to Sunderland getting a consolation strike from the penalty spot.

The result keeps the second string top of their section of the Barclays Premier Reserve League North.

The opening 20 minutes were brought to life by 17-year-old Suso, who showed off his blend of wizardry and composure alongside the returning Spearing in central midfield.

The Spaniard produced a great delivery on 21 minutes which Emmanuel Mendy might have used better.

Tom Ince, back from a loan spell under his dad at Notts County, threatened on 27 minutes with a dainty turn and shot from the edge of the box which slid just wide.

Minutes later Pacheco gained possession before taking his markers one way and then the other. His eventual shot from 20 yards forced a fingertip save from Trevor Carson in the Sunderland goal.

Ince was next up with a well-struck hit which stung the goalkeeper's palms.

Sunderland had to wait 40 minutes for a serious effort on goal when midfielder Adam Reed let fly from distance before watching the ball whizz wide.

Liverpool countered with a cross-field ball from Jack Robinson which was taken well by Ince on the right. The No.7 cut inside and sent a curled effort into Carson's reach.

The breakthrough finally came on 43 minutes after a dinked ball into the box from Saric. Pacheco worked himself into a yard of space to shoot back across goal on his weaker left foot, managing to find the top corner.

The lead was doubled on 50 minutes when Spearing lofted a pass to Pacheco, who cut back to Saric. The former Bosnian refugee - who has missed large chunks of 2010-11 with a broken leg - bent his shot towards the roof of the net before wheeling away in celebration.

Pacheco could have made it 3-0 on 62 minutes following a decent ball from Ince, the Spanish U19 international leading defender Liam Bagnall astray with a superlative touch before shooting against the outside of the post.

Sunderland were gifted a lifeline when Craig Lynch ghosted into the box before falling under the slightest contact from the otherwise excellent John Flanagan. Justice was done, however, when Danish stopper Hansen saved Matthew Fletcher's penalty.

Down at the other end Ince crafted space for a cross before substitute David Amoo headed against the woodwork.

Flanagan was unlucky not to get his name on the scoresheet with a close-range poke after a mistake from the defender.

The one sour note for Liverpool came on 87 minutes after a mistake from substitute Victor Palsson, prompting Hansen to foul Fletcher in the box. The referee flashed a straight red card and Nathan Wilson sent newly introduced goalie Jamie Stephens the wrong way.

PFA Chief Gordon Taylor Defends Liverpool Striker Ryan Babel

PFA chief Gordon Taylor believes that the FA were harsh in charging Liverpool striker Ryan Babel with improper conduct.

The Dutchman appeared to be dissatisfied with the refereeing during the recent 1-0 defeat to Manchester United in the FA Cup, which saw referee Howard Webb award a controversial penalty to the Red Devils in the opening seconds before sending off skipper Steven Gerrard prior to the break.

The 24-year-old later took a pop at Webb on his Twitter page, and also shared a doctored image of the referee wearing a United shirt.

The governing body, however, did not take kindly to the antics of the former Ajax man, as they promptly slapped his wrists with a charge of improper conduct despite the Dutchman's swift apology on the social networking site.

Now Taylor believes that the FA was harsh on Babel as they failed to see the funny side of the issue.

"Where's our sense of humour gone in our game?" he asked BBC Radio Merseyside. "He's apologized, let's move on.

"I would think that Howard Webb is a big enough man, a big enough person and good enough referee to take it.

"To my mind, and to most footballers' minds, it is the same sort of stuff that flies about every weekend via mobile phones, but they are obviously taking a stance on it. I thought a warning would have been sufficient."