Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Premier League Preview: Liverpool vs Fulham

Fernando Torres is back to his scoring self it seems with three goals in two games for Liverpool and has shown solid signs of his early days at the Anfield outfit where ‘The Child’ was scoring goals for fun.

The two goals he scored at the weekend against Wolves marked his 62nd and 63rd on his 100th league appearance for the Red half of Merseyside. However, Torres has quite a bit to go to even start thinking about breaking into the top 10 goal scorers for the team with Jack Parkinson occupying 10th place with 130 goals and current team-mate and captain Steven Gerrard in ninth with 140.

The opening month to 2011 has seen the west London club collect three wins and one draw in the five games that they have played so far since the New Year and is easily the best form they’ve had all season (even if one of the games was a 6-2 thrashing of League 1 side Peterborough).

Striker Andy Johnson has found himself some form after his comeback from injury and is playing some good football which included a goal against Wigan, his first in the Premier League for almost two seasons.

New signing Steve Sidwell made his debut on Saturday and impressed new manager Mark Hughes, but will have to wait until he begins to break into the Fulham midfield with squad staples such as Danny Murphy and Dickson Etuhu. However, don’t be surprised to see him feature at some point during the game.

Ten Of The Best For Liverpool
Liverpool’s second highest win in their history came against Fulham when they met in the second round of the League Cup in September 1986 with a final score of 10-0.

Steve McMahon scored four of the goals on that day with Ian Rush and John Wark both scoring two each and Ronnie Whelan and Steve Nicol scoring the other two.

The win remains Liverpool’s best performance in any domestic competition and is still Fulham’s worst ever defeat in their history.



The home team has an almost full bill of health with just Milan Jovanovic (illness) and Jamie Carragher (shoulder) unavailable.

Captain Steven Gerrard returns from suspension and will be hoping to carry on the Merseyside club’s positive progress since the second coming of club legend King Kenny.

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


The visitors for the rescheduled match are without four players, all with long-term injuries, and include Dickson Etuhu (hamstring), Matthew Briggs (ankle), Bobby Zamora (broken leg) and Philippe Senderos (Achilles).

Also, Mark Schwarzer’s Australia are through to the semi-finals of the Asian Cup and play on Tuesday night against Uzbekistan and so will not be available either, leaving goalkeeper David Stockdale to once again fill his boots.

Possible starting XI: Stockdale; Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Baird; Dempsey, Murphy, Etuhu, Duff; A Johnson, Dembele.

Gerrard Return Adds Impetus To Dalglish's Restoration Act

Steven Gerrard has never made any secret of the fact that he has one of Kenny Dalglish's shirts up on a wall in the trophy room of his home in Formby. Only yesterday did Liverpool's new manager reveal that he has returned the compliment.

"Yes, I've got [one of his] up in my house. We'll have to stop this society," Dalglish said as he contemplated his captain's return after a three-match suspension against Fulham at Anfield tonight. Gerrard, who has a huge picture of Dalglish which was presented to him as a boy by his father, has been limited to the 32 minutes before his dismissal in the FA Cup at Manchester United since the return of the manager – "the best player who ever played for Liverpool," his father once told him.

Gerrard has already indicated that he wants Dalglish to retain the job permanently this summer and the only challenge the Scot seems to have is to maintain the proper manager-player distance between the pair.

"He won't get around me that easy, [by having one of my shirts] but I might sign it for him," said Dalglish, who has indicated Glen Johnson will continue at left-back tonight. "This football club's been here a long, long time and if I played a small part in someone's feelings for this club, then so be it. But certainly since I have been coming to watch this club, Stevie's played a huge role in its history. We all know the games: the most memorable and important ones [he's played in] come easy to mind."

Dalglish will maintain that distance. When he suddenly found himself manager the first time around, in 1985, he asked the players to call him "boss" and put Phil Neal in his place when he failed to do so. It seems inconceivable that Dalglish's presence will not lift Gerrard to new heights, with the manner of Saturday's 3-0 win at Wolves – including a 30-pass move for the third goal – restoring some of Liverpool's old values. One of those is making Anfield a fortress in a season when Wolves, Blackpool and Northampton Town have found it anything but that.

"[The stadium] is just as it was," said Dalglish, who expects midfielder Lucas Leiva to have recovered from a slight thigh strain. "We're very proud of and privileged by what's happened at Anfield and want to be part of the [future] history now. We want to continue with the same principles and philosophies about the club, whether it's the atmosphere within or what we do on the pitch."

The manager's impact on Fernando Torres, whose two goals at Wolves put him into his club's 20 top all-time goalscorers, has also been profound, with Dalglish hinting that his training regime needed altering. "We have done training the way we think it should be done. Fernando is doing better than before."

Liverpool could go seventh in the table if they beat Fulham tonight and there will an immediate reminder of happier days. The last time Dalglish managed a Liverpool team against Fulham at Anfield, in 1986, they won 10-0.

Kelly Confident Of Cementing Reds Place

Liverpool youngster Martin Kelly believes he cam become a mainstay in the Reds first team for many years to come after enjoying a breakthrough season at Anfield.

Kelly, 20, displaced England international Glen Johnson as Liverpool's first-choice right-back under former boss Roy Hodgson and has retained that position under Kenny Dalglish, with Johnson forced to play out of position at left-back under the Scot.

And with the Liverpool academy graduate set to continue at right-back against Fulham on Wednesday, he has confidently stated his intention to hold onto his place in the starting XI.

"It has been good to play in the games," Kelly said. "As a young player you want to play as much as you can and gain experience. To play in the Premier League is more than beneficial to me. Kenny Dalglish just wants me to go out there and show what I can do and push for a place all the time.

"You have to take your chance. Now I just need to keep the consistency going. It is a totally different game at right-back to centre-half but I have found it quite easy to adapt. You get more off the ball for a start.''

Dalglish, who stepped in after the departure of Hodgson, saw his side win for the first time under his stewardship with a 3-0 victory at Wolves at the weekend.

And Kelly has noticed a different atmosphere already around the club following the arrival of a Liverpool legend.

"We have been a bit unlucky with results in the past," Kelly said. "Hopefully they will now go our way. It is like having a 12th man with Kenny on the line encouraging us.

"We are doing a lot of football in training and that helps a lot. It is a bit more enjoyable as well, very competitive as everyone is fighting for a place in the team.''

Dalglish is pleased with Kelly's progress and also sees his him as a long-term fixture at Anfield.

"Martin's done very well for the club,'' Dalglish said.”He's like a new signing for the club because that's four on the spin he's played now. It doesn't matter what age you are, if you are performing you'll have a chance of playing. He's certainly deserved his opportunities.

"He is getting a good bit of help from people around and about him. But it is impressive when you come into a team that isn't playing as well as it can and you play as well as he has done.''

Skrtel Fired Up By Increased Competition

Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel accepts that his form has not always been the best this season, but he is spurred on to improve by the growing competition within the Reds` squad.

The Slovakia centre-back has put in a couple of shaky performances in recent weeks against the likes of Blackpool and Everton. However, he helped secure the club's first Barclays Premier League clean sheet since December 6 in last weekend's 3-0 win at Wolves.

Skrtel is currently being paired with Daniel Agger, but with Jamie Carragher set to return from a dislocated shoulder in the coming weeks, Sotirios Kyrgiakos waiting in the wings, centre-back Martin Kelly excelling on the right and youngster Danny Wilson not even getting close to the squad, he knows he cannot afford to let his standards slip.

"I have played in almost every game this season and each time I always try to do my best for the team," he said. "I know I have made a few mistakes and haven't always played well, but I don't know any player who doesn't make a mistake so I just try to do my best.

"It's important to keep playing well because we have a good squad and there is strong competition for places. I think that is a good thing because everyone has to work hard and make it hard for the manager when it comes to who he will pick in his team."

Sulley Muntari Linked With January Move

Liverpool target Sulley Muntari is reportedly available for transfer from Inter Milan.

The Ghanaian international midfielder is thought to have been unsettled at the San Siro following the departure of Rafa Benitez, and the arrival of Leonardo as manager has done little to convince the 26-year-old that his future is in Serie 'A'.

Italian publication La Gazzetta dello Sport claimed the player would push for a move in December, with several British media outlets claiming Liverpool would be interested in a deal to bring the player to Anfield.

It is thought that the Reds would have to pay in the region of €12 million to bring the player to Merseyside, although previous reports claimed a fee less than that would be enough for Liverpool given the player's desire to leave his current club.

"He has made himself available to leave as long as a team wants him and is interested in him," said Inter technical director Marco Branca.

With Barclays Premier League experience during his time with Portsmouth, the former Udinese defensive midfielder offers a versatility which has also interested Spurs and manager Harry Redknapp.

Liverpool would reportedly be keen on a loan deal to bring the player to Anfield should the parties be unable to agree a fee for the player.

Whilst an attacking foil for Fernando Torres is thought to be the priority for Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish, the opportunity to strengthen in a number of positions is shortening as the transfer window draws to a close.

With money to spend following the arrival of new owners NESV in the autumn, a discount deal for Muntari could prove to be great business for Liverpool as they look to climb up the top flight table.

Luis Suarez Keen To Convince Ajax To Reduce Their £30m Asking Price

Luis Suarez is expected to hold talks with Ajax in the next 48 hours in an attempt to convince the Dutch side to reduce their £30 million asking price and let the Uruguayan striker join Liverpool.

Ajax have informed Damien Comolli, the Premier League side’s director of football strategy, that only an offer matching their valuation would tempt them to sell the 24 year-old, suggesting the £12.7 million Liverpool have tabled is not “respectful”.

The Anfield club’s owners, Fenway Sports Group, would prefer not to pay more than £20 million for the controversial striker but any hope of negotiating an improved price now rests on Suarez persuading Ajax to back down.

Suarez will meet the club’s general director, Rik van den Boog, over the next 48 hours in the hope of pushing a deal through.

Ajax’s manager, Frank de Boer, has made it clear, though, that he will not allow Suarez to be sold “at 23.55 on Jan 31” and the former Holland international is believed to be adamant that a replacement must be identified before the striker leaves, at any price.

Bas Dost, the Dutch Under-21 international currently with Heerenveen but a target for Feyenoord, is one option, while Stoke forward Eidur Gudjohnsen on Tuesday insisted he would welcome a move to the Eredivisie side.

Hoffenheim Confirm Signing Of Liverpool Forward Ryan Babel

Liverpool attacker Ryan Babel has sealed his transfer to Hoffenheim, according to the German club.

The Dutchman was expected to stay at Anfield after initially rejecting the Bundesliga outfit's advances, and Reds boss Kenny Dalglish confirmed on Monday that a deal between the two parties had fallen through and the Dutchman would be staying put on Merseyside, but it seems now that further negotiations have been successful.

Hoffenheim released a statement on their official website to announce the capture of the 24-year-old.

The statement reads: "We are very proud to be able to get Ryan Babel, an internationally experienced player from a top club like Liverpool, to Hoffenheim."

Babel is believed to have passed his medical in Germany and to have signed a two-and-a-half-year deal, with a reported £6 million exchanging hands between the clubs, potentially bolstering Liverpool's chances of signing Ajax hitman Luis Suarez.

The move ends the player's four-year spell at Anfield, where he struggled to find consistent form and first team football after signing for £11.5m in 2007 from Ajax.

Hoffenheim's Demba Ba moved to West Ham United this week and Babel will quite possibly act as his replacement.

Forward Seals Loan Switch

Liverpool has confirmed David Amoo has joined MK Dons on loan.

The powerful reserve-team forward has signed a deal with the League One side until 23 February, 2011

Amoo arrived at the Reds from Millwall in 2007 and spent two years with the club's Academy before progressing into John McMahon's second string.

He continued to impress at reserve level and, as a result, was handed a new two-year deal in 2010.

Amoo has made one senior appearance for Liverpool in a Europa League qualifying tie with FK Rabotnicki in Macedonia last July.

Ajax Set To File Complaint Against Liverpool For Illegally Approaching Luis Suarez

According to a report in Voetbal International, Ajax are far from happy with Liverpool's attempts to lure Luis Suarez away and are ready to file a complaint to Fifa against the Reds for illegally approaching the player.

Liverpool supposedly contacted Suarez's agent Pere Guardiola in the first week of January, but didn't inform Ajax about their interest until January 14.

Fifa rules forbid a club to approach a player whose contract runs longer than six months ahead without the consent of the player's club. Suarez's contract with Ajax is due to expire in the summer of 2013, meaning that Liverpool needed the Amsterdam side's permission to open talks with the forward.

Liverpool is desperate to lure the 24-year-old to Anfield, but they've so far been reluctant to meet Ajax's valuation of the highly rated attacker. The Reds are willing to pay €15 million (£12.8m) for Suarez, while Ajax is holding out for a fee in the region of €30m (£25.6m).