Sunday, February 06, 2011

Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs Liverpool

Chelsea welcome Liverpool on Sunday with all eyes very much focused on one man, Fernando Torres. The Spaniard’s move from Anfield to Stamford Bridge has prompted much discussion and even pictures of his old Liverpool shirt being burnt on Merseyside, yet a quirk of fate means he should make his first outing in a blue shirt against the men in red.

The good news for Torres is that this is a fixture the striker seems to thrive on. The Spaniard scored seven goals in eight games for Liverpool against Chelsea, including both strikes in the Reds’ 2-0 win at Anfield back in November.

The 26-year-old has vowed not to celebrate if he does find the net on Sunday, but having scored on his Anfield debut, few would bet against Torres being on the scoresheet at Stamford Bridge.

The gloom surrounding Torres’ departure did not last long at Anfield, no doubt helped by the arrivals of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll. Suarez then introduced himself to his new fans with a goal in the midweek win over Stoke City to ensure the Kop have a new hero.

Whilst that will undoubtedly have given the Reds a welcome boost, so will their recent form which has seen them win three on the bounce, with three clean sheets to boot, and move up to seventh in the table.

However, their recent Premier League record at Stamford Bridge is poor. The Reds have failed to score on five of their last six visits and have managed just one win since 2004, when they needed Jose Bosingwa to put through his own net to secure victory.



The £50 million man Fernando Torres is expected to make his debut against Liverpool and could be joined by another new boy, David Luiz, who is also available.

Alex, Yossi Benayoun and Yury Zhirkov remain on the injured list but other than that trio manager Carlo Ancelotti has a full squad to chose from and possibly a selection headache over how best to accommodate his new striker.

Possible starting XI: Cech; Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole; Essien, Mikel, Lampard; Anelka; Torres, Drogba.


After scoring on his debut against Stoke City, Luis Suarez is expected to make his first start for the Reds. However, fellow new boy Andy Carroll is still some way off making his debut due to a thigh problem.

Christian Poulsen is a doubt with a back problem and a knee injury may prevent Joe Cole from facing his former employers.

Jamie Carragher returns to the squad after recovering from a dislocated shoulder, however Kenny Dalglish has refused to confirm whether he will go straight into the starting line-up.

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

'We'll Always Attract The Best'

Pepe Reina believes the deadline day arrivals of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll proves that Liverpool will always attract football's top talent.

The Reds swooped to sign the strike pair on Monday, with Suarez already marking his debut as a second-half substitute against Stoke City with a goal.

Reina feels the acquisition of the duo underlines the fact that Anfield remains an attractive destination to the best players on the planet.

"Liverpool will always attract good players because it's an historic club. It's one of the big four teams in England," he said.

"The people will always want to come here, that's clear.

"I hope for many more of the goals that Luis scored within 30 minutes of coming on on Wednesday. We have to welcome him, and Carroll as well."

The victory over Stoke was Liverpool's third successive win in the Barclays Premier League, following triumphs over Wolves and Fulham.

Reina added: "It was important to keep that momentum; we knew they were winnable games, although in the Premier League you cannot say that too often.

"We had respect for the three teams we played but we won them all. And we're a lot better now."

Real Madrid Reignite Interest In Steven Gerrard

Real Madrid are reportedly stepping up their interest in signing Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, which will make Reds fans nervous following the loss of Fernando Torres to Chelsea last week, according to the People.

Jose Mourinho wishes to sign the 30-year-old Kop hero, and Real are apparently ready to mount a £25 million bid for the midfielder.

The Portugese coach is looking to add to his squad in the summer, and has long admired the Englishman’s ability, regarding him as a worthy addition to his Madrid squad.

Mourinho hopes to be third time lucky in attempting to sign the Anfield talisman, as he previously failed on two occasions when manager of Chelsea.

Liverpool are, however, unlikely to let their skipper go, as club owners New England Sports Ventures look to invest and propel the Merseysiders back into the Champions League.

Despite Torres’ departure, Liverpool made consecutive record-breaking bids to acquire the services of Luis Suarez from Ajax and Andy Carroll from Newcastle, defiant statements of intent regarding their ambition and the direction in which they plan to take the club.

The Real Madrid boss has been infuriated by his club’s failure to back him in the transfer market as he looked to sign another striker in the wake of Gonzalo Higuain’s injury and doubts over the suitability of Kerim Benzema.

The Spaniards finally found movement and brought in Emmanuel Adebayor from Manchester City on loan until the end of the season, with a view to a possible permanent transfer.

Romelu Lukaku Pursuit Set To Continue In Summer

Liverpool is reportedly ready to continue their pursuit of striker Romelu Lukaku.

The 17-year-old Belgian international is being courted by the cream of Euruope, with Liverpool one of the clubs heavily linked with a move for the player in January.

Damien Comolli, director of football strategy at Anfield, made contact with Anderlecht during the transfer window with regards to the player's availability, but Liverpool did not follow up their interest with a bid.

Chelsea did make an offer for the player, and they are thought to be the Reds' main competition for the player. Real Madrid, Manchester City and Spurs are also thought to be interested in the player valued at around €30 million.

“What happened on deadline day does not change anything. We know which clubs are interested and Chelsea and Liverpool remain at the front of the queue," a source close to the player told UK.

Both clubs spent big in the transfer window with major striker additions, but the opportunity to sign a teenage 'wonderkid' is one that neither club is keen to pass up easily.

New Liverpool owners NESV proved they are willing to back Kenny Dalglish in the transfer market, and the Scot is thought to be keen on adding the player to the Merseysiders' ranks with the backing of Comolli.

The player fits the criteria set out by the club's new owners, with young, attacking talent wanted to fill the ranks for the future at Liverpool.

Spending power isn't something the Blues are lacking either though, and Carlo Ancelotti could easily challenge his Barclays Premier League rivals should he wish to spend Roman Abramovich's money on the teenager.

Reports claim the clubs will battle again for the player's signature at the end of the summer, and Liverpool will hope Comolli can persuade the player that Anfield can be his future home.

Fernando Torres Blames Tom Hicks And George Gillett For Liverpool Exit

Fernando Torres has told Liverpool fans they should blame the club's former owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett for his decision to join Chelsea.

The Spanish centre forward angered Kopites by demanding a move in the closing stages of the January transfer window and then completing a British record £50 million switch to Chelsea.

Torres is likely to face a hostile reception when he makes his Blues debut against Liverpool today, but although he understands why the fans who used to idolise him may feel let down, the 26-year-old insisted there were good reasons for his exit.

In his first two seasons at Anfield, the Reds reached the semi-finals of the Champions League and finished as runners-up to Manchester United in the Premier League, but Torres believes the club then went backwards due to Hicks and Gillett.

He said: 'Then we were very, very close to being one of the top teams, but when you let Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano leave, it's a clear message.

'The old owners wanted to sell the club too many times and the team was being weakened.'

Torres added the Liverpool players never understood what ex-manager Roy Hodgson wanted them to do and that although Kenny Dalglish's arrival had given everyone at the club hope, the Scot's return came too late to persuade him his future should be at Anfield.

Liverpool used some of the money raised from the sale of Torres to sign Andy Carroll from Newcastle United in a £35 million deal.

However, Reds fans may have to wait until next season to see the England striker's debut, amid reports his thigh injury could keep him out for months.

Pepe Reina Defends Fernando Torres Chelsea Move

Liverpool's Pepe Reina has defended former team-mate Fernando Torres ahead of lining up to face Chelsea's new £50m striker at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Torres's transfer provoked anger from some fans, while Jamie Carragher said there was a feeling among the squad he had wanted to leave since the summer.

But, defending Torres, Reina stated: "Some say he is being disrespectful.

"But, in my eyes, what he gave was huge. He grew up with Liverpool, and Liverpool as a team grew up with him."

Torres, 26, further angered Liverpool supporters after leaving the club on transfer deadline day by saying that he felt a move to Stamford Bridge was a step forward for his career.

Yet Reina, a Spanish international team-mate of Torres, insisted that the former Atletico Madrid forward's decision was no longer relevant to Liverpool's future, repeating manager Kenny Dalglish's message that no one player is bigger than the club itself.

"Players come and go on a daily basis, but what stays is the club and the supporters," he said.

"That is the most important part to the club.

"It is football. It happens season after season, players come and go. Fernando was great for us in three-and-a-half seasons. He did everything for this club.

"Maybe he did not leave at the right time, but it was an opportunity for him. And £50m in the bank is double the price we paid for him.

"It is personal he decided to leave, he thought it was an opportunity for him to keep growing as a player and we have to respect that."

Reina also believes that Liverpool will always be capable of signing top players, a view supported by the recent capture of £35m club record signing Andy Carroll from Newcastle and £23m Luis Suarez from Ajax.

"Liverpool will always attract big players," he said.

"It is an historic club and one of the big four clubs in England and people will always want to come here."

Despite rising confidence after climbing to seventh with three wins in a row, Dalglish played down Liverpool's immediate prospects.

"Our ambition is to get as much as we can from the next game," said the manager. "It's the way I've been brought up. I don't see any need to change it.

"Of course, it's a difficult game. Chelsea is a good side - but I don't think we are too bad either.

"They will be looking at us and see that we are on the up. They will be as concerned about us as we are about them. To have won three on the spin with three clean sheets will give us a lot of confidence."

Torres, meanwhile, has promised Chelsea fans he is on the brink of recapturing the form that made him arguably the best striker in the world.

In his final four games for Liverpool, the Spaniard scored three times.

"In the last two months, I've been playing, if not at my best, close to my best," said the striker.

"I expect to be a bit better for the rest of the season. Last year was difficult with two surgeries on my knees. I needed time to recover. I did."

Despite saying he had a feeling Torres wanted to leave, Carragher also insisted he held no grudge against the Spaniard for moving.

And Torres said: "Hopefully I can play [on Sunday], and he can too.

"I would like to play against him because he's a top player. I like playing against the best, as I liked to play against John Terry and Rio Ferdinand.

"I'm expecting a hard game. I know he's a big Liverpool fan. As a footballer, I'm sure he understands my decision. Plenty of my ex-team-mates have congratulated me for this move."

Steven Gerrard Takes Starlet Conor Thomas Under His Wing

England football superstar Steven Gerrard has taken on the job of mentoring Coventry teenager Conor Thomas since his move to Liverpool.

The Merseyside club’s captain has taken the 17-year-old Coundon lad under his wing this week after he joined from Coventry City.

Staff at Coundon Court School has been told their former pupil is getting lifts to training and one-to-one sessions with one of the best footballers in the country.

Conor joined the Premier League giants on a season-long loan during transfer deadline day on Monday – to the disappointment of many Sky Blues fans.

He had been hailed the brightest young prospect the club have produced for years but left days after making his first team debut.

His former PE teacher at Coundon Court School Marc Thomas said: “Steven Gerrard is his mentor. Dalglish just rang him and said ‘Steven Gerrard will pick you up’. He’s kind of taken him under his wing.

“It’s just one of those things. He would probably have got more game time at City but when you have one of the biggest clubs in the world banging on your door, it’s an opportunity that might not come along again.”

The season-long move with a view to a permanent deal came after Conor made his Sky Blues debut in the FA Cup defeat at Birmingham City.

It’s been quite a week for Mr. Thomas – no relation to Conor. He also taught rugby player Tom Woods at Woodlands School, who made his England Debut in the Six Nations opener against Wales last night.

Mr. Thomas has been teaching for 17 years and joined Coundon Court School on the same day as his talented namesake six years ago.

“We knew he was supposed to be a good sportsman because we co-ordinate with the primary schools,” he said. “He’s a big engine in the middle of the park and a big personality on the pitch.

“If you want to achieve at the top in sport you have to have the desire and the personality for it.

“He has all the attributes and he’s going to be working with some outstanding people at Liverpool. If he keeps developing his game then the world’s his oyster.”

Conor started out playing minor league football for Christ the King before joining City’s Academy under-sevens.

He left Coundon Court School at the end of his Year 11 studies last July. “He was never big headed, just a really nice lad,” said Mr. Thomas.

“He hasn’t got an arrogant bone in his body. We would love to see him playing in the Champions League or on Match of the Day.

“Everyone at the school is so proud of him.”

Capello Has Confidence In Carroll

Fabio Capello is confident Andy Carroll's British record £35million price tag will not weigh the young striker down.

After an eye-catching England debut against France last November, Capello has been denied the 22-year-old's services for Wednesday's trip to Denmark. A thigh injury that could delay Carroll's Liverpool debut for anything between a couple of weeks and a couple of months, depending on who you believe, means Capello will have to look elsewhere for his strikers.

But the England coach already thinks of Carroll as being a regular member of his squad. And he certainly does not feel the forward's progress will be hampered by the size of the fee Kenny Dalglish splashed out to get him.

"The fee won't be a problem for him," said Capello. "He has a strong mentality. When he played for England, he played without fear and with such a lot of confidence for someone making his first appearance. It wasn't an easy game for him either because the team didn't play well. But he was the most important player for us and I am sure he will be OK."

Capello quite wisely opted not to get involved in a debate over the actual size of the fee Carroll attracted, restricting himself merely to an observation that: "Liverpool and Chelsea have spent a lot of money on strikers. As a manager you quickly understand you need a really important forward to win something and improve the team."

And for Carroll's part, the attraction of Liverpool is obvious, even for a born and bred Geordie, the added attraction of European football is something Capello is convinced will help his development.

"It is an important move for him. I respect Newcastle a lot but the pressure he will find at Liverpool will be bigger. He knows Liverpool are a really important team in the world because they won a lot of titles."

And pressure there will undoubtedly be. For while Luis Suarez's big-money arrival means Carroll is not on his own in being introduced to the Anfield way of life, he will be the one most eyes will be on. "He is a really good player," said Capello. "At the moment he is young and strong. He has a different style to Torres, but now they have lost him, Carroll will be a very important player for Liverpool."

Sterling And Morgan Clinch U18 Win

Adam Morgan struck a late winner as Liverpool U18s warmed up for the FA Youth Cup with an impressive 2-1 victory over Manchester City on Saturday afternoon.

The striker showed great composure to drill a low shot into the bottom corner on 82 minutes after Raheem Sterling's first-half opener had been cancelled out by Alex Henshaw's stunning volley.

It means Rodolfo Borrell's side has extended their run to seven matches undefeated ahead of their cup clash with Southend United on February 14.

The hosts made a bright start to what promised to be an entertaining encounter in Kirkby and after Krisztian Adorjan saw a goalbound shot deflected to safety, Morgan should have done better when he angled an effort off target from the edge of the box.

The Reds seemed intent on extending their fine start to 2011 and on 15 minutes great feet by Toni Silva took him beyond two defenders but his drilled cross was brilliantly cut out by a last-ditch City leg.

It was all Liverpool at this point and Sterling really should have opened the scoring when he fired wide after capitalizing upon an error by Tom Skodsgrud.

The young winger was a constant thorn in the visitors' side and it was his run and pass that saw Morgan force a stunning save out of James Wood.

City had rarely threatened but on 38 minutes they almost stole ahead when Bradley Robinson sizzled a low shot inches past the far post.

However, Liverpool responded and they finally broke the deadlock on 43 minutes. Adorjan slipped a ball through to Sterling, who showed great composure to evade a challenge and coolly fire into the corner.

It was no more than the home side deserved and it was Borrell's charges who continued to ask the questions following the interval.

Morgan was the first to show on 48 minutes, firing a low shot into the midriff of Wood before seeing a well-placed attempt crash off the left-hand post following more good play by Sterling.

Liverpool had created enough chances to be out of sight by the hour mark but they inevitably paid the price for their misses when Henshaw drew City level with a stunning volley from 30 yards.

It was a huge blow for the hosts but they almost restored their lead within seconds of the restart. Morgan took up another good position in attack but after rounding Wood he saw his low shot hacked off the line.

It was suddenly anyone's game and City began to look threatening without truly troubling Tyrell Belford in the Reds' goal.

Liverpool needed to find another gear if they wanted to claim the victory their display deserved and they slowly began to assert their authority again, with Silva twice going close.

First, the Portuguese ace teased a defender and struck a curling shot that just missed the far corner before unleashing a venomous 25 yarder that Wood somehow managed to get a fingertip to.

With the clock running down it looked like the Reds would be forced to settle for a share of the spoils until Morgan finally got his goal when he turned on the edge of the box and angled a drive into the near post corner.

There was even time for the home side to put the icing on the cake but Adorjan saw his controlled strike bounce back off the post.