Saturday, February 12, 2011

Match Preview: Liverpool vs Wigan

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish will make a late decision on Steven Gerrard's availability for the visit of Wigan after the captain missed England's midweek friendly victory with a groin problem.

Centre-back Martin Skrtel is a doubt with a thigh problem which prevented him playing for Slovakia in midweek while Jonjo Shelvey has been ruled out for three months with a knee injury.

Defender Martin Kelly, who was withdrawn from the England Under-21 squad with an ankle injury, is expected to be fit but Joe Cole (knee) will probably be on the sidelines again.

Dalglish insists midfielder Raul Meireles' impressive goalscoring form of late is entirely down to the player's talent and his adaptation to English football.

The Reds boss said he was no "tactical wizard" and the Portugal midfielder's four goals in his last five matches were all a result of the 27-year-old's hard work.

Meireles had not found the target in his first 21 matches after joining from Porto in the summer for £11.5million but has suddenly burst into life in front of goal.

He has been deployed in an advanced midfield role, occasionally alongside Gerrard and sometimes on his own, and has been a revelation in the last month.

"Raul has always had the ability he has shown recently," said Dalglish.

"Maybe he's settled down a little bit and is more comfortable and confident because he is playing well but there's been nothing drastic (tactically) for any of the players really.

"It is fantastic to see Raul doing so well. He has always been a talented footballer, he's always had what we are seeing now but it's been trying to get it out and it is coming out now and he's scoring goals."

Former Reds striker Fernando Torres drew a blank on his Chelsea debut on Sunday and admitted Liverpool's formation had taken them by surprise.

Dalglish, though, played down the tactics involved.

"The system change was beneficial to us. It is about the club, about the team, and we are the most important people in our eyes," he added.

"I am not here to try to impress everyone by saying I'm a tactical wizard, I'm just here to get the best from our boys.

"It is part of our responsibility to work out how to do that and we won't do anything to confuse anyone."

Wigan defender Gary Caldwell could play with a mask to protect a fractured cheekbone.

Caldwell missed the victory over Blackburn at the weekend because of the injury but was given permission to train with the Scotland squad this week.

James McCarthy is likely to be available after he was withdrawn from the Republic of Ireland squad as manager Roberto Martinez wanted him to rest his previously injured ankle.

Liverpool Beat Chelsea To Out-Of-Contract French Winger

The Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti was rumoured to be lining up the Rennes winger Sylvain Marveaux to replace Florent Malouda next season, as his contract with the Ligue 1 club runs out in June, but it has been revealed today that Marveaux has instead agreed a pre-contract with Liverpool.

The 24 year-old is currently injured, but his great record of 10 goals from the wing for Rennes last season had persuaded many teams to compete for Marveaux when he became available for a Bosman.

Marveaux was seen at Anfield in December for discussions, and it is being reported that Damien Comolli has now concluded the talks successfully and Marveaux will join Liverpool officially on July 1st this year.

Marveaux has had a troubling groin injury this season, and is scheduled to undergo an operation to fix it next week, so his next game is now certain to be for Liverpool next season.

Rennes general manager Peter Dreossi announced yesterday: “We will never see Sylvain Marveaux in the jersey of Stade Rennais again,”

“He has hardly played this season… Other players have taken his place and showed they are ready – Yacine Brahimi and Abdul Camara, for example.”

If Marveaux recovers well from his surgery he could have many good years ahead of him at Anfield.

Liverpool Track Ajax Academy Wing Wizard

Up and coming Dutch star Lorenzo Ebecilio is a summer transfer target for two top Barclays Premier League clubs reports the Daily Mail.

The 19-year-old winger, who is a product of the famous Ajax academy set-up has made five appearances for the first team this season and was recently capped for Holland U21s.

The highly rated youngster has come to prominence after overcoming a career threatening heart defect that plagued him in his early days but he is now drawing plaudits from all over Europe after a string of fine cameo performances.

Ebecilio has been heavily linked with a move to Liverpool in the Dutch press, but talkSPORT now reports that Chelsea have come to the forefront of negotiations, though it is unclear exactly how much money they have laid down to bring the player to Stamford Bridge.

Blues owner Roman Abramovich has made a renewed financial commitment to the cause after Chelsea blew £75million in the January transfer window on the signings of Fernando Torres and David Luiz, with a view to strengthening their assault on the Barclays Premier League title.

And Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti has earmarked Ebecilio as an additional recruit to strengthen his Stamford Bridge side further ahead of a rumoured summer clear out that could see a number of high profile stars leaving the club as Chelsea look to freshen up an ageing squad.

Liverpool could still attempt to persuade the player that Anfield would be a better destination after director of football strategy Damien Comolli took notice of the player himself while in Amsterdam negotiating the deal to bring Luis Suarez to Liverpool last month.

With new Liverpool owners NESV also keen to strengthen their squad with the finest young talent Europe has to offer, Ebecilio is definitely the sort of player that fits the bill as manager Kenny Dalglish looks to make his mark on the transfer market again this summer.

Liverpool To Move For Real Madrid Star In Summer

Liverpool just missed out on making a late deadline move for Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema.

The Merseyside club has been strongly linked with a move for the French international who has failed to show his best form at the Bernabeu.

Reports in Spain suggest that Liverpool were determined to sign Benzema after Fernando Torres said he wanted to join Chelsea.

But the two club clubs did not have enough time to agree a move for the prolific forward.

Despite Liverpool making moves to sign Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll, the Reds are still expected to make a fresh move for Benzema at the end of the season as they look to assemble one of the best forward lines in Europe.

Liverpool & Manchester United To Lock Horns Over Taye Taiwo

Manchester United and Liverpool are both interested in Marseille defender Taye Taiwo, according to the Daily Mail.

The Nigerian is out of contract in the summer and has already stated his intention to leave France, which has led to increasing speculation that he will move to the Barclays Premier League.

Taiwo is hardly short on confidence - believing he has what it takes to play for one of England's top clubs - something he may have a chance to prove should Liverpool or United step up their reported interest.

“If I was to depart, then I would not join a small club. It will be Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool or Arsenal,” Taiwo told France-Football last year.

“I am not scared by the level in England. I believe I have the right level to defend against [Wayne] Rooney."

The 25-year-old is also being courted by Manchester City, Tottenham, Juventus and Real Madrid as he looks to secure five-year deal worth around £3.5 million a year.

The Daily Mail claims Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson watched the full-back in action against Monaco last month, while other sources allege Liverpool have sent representatives to monitor him previously.

Taiwo, a powerful full-back, would be an ideal acquisition for Liverpool who is currently lacking depth at left-back after the departure of Paul Konchesky from Anfield.

Glen Johnson has recently been switched from his preferred position of right-back and - while Johnson has been competent in the recent revival under Kenny Dalglish - Liverpool are understood to be keen to bring a recognized left-sided player to fill the role.

Newcastle United Plan £5m Swoop For Liverpool Playmaker

Alan Pardew is planning a shock swoop to sign Liverpool midfielder Joe Cole this summer. The Newcastle United boss is looking to bring in significant additions to his St James’ Park squad using the money the club made from the sale of Andy Carroll to the Anfield side and has earmarked a move for the former West Ham and Chelsea man.

Joe Cole has not had a good start to his time on Merseyside, sent off in his first match at home to Arsenal and seemingly not able to break into the first team picture on a regular basis during the short Roy Hodgson reign. The England international currently has problems with a persistent knee injury and was the subject of interest from his former Upton Park club during the January transfer window but no move was forthcoming.

Newcastle United boss Pardew is looking to add more creativity to his Magpies squad and having secured French winger Hatem Ben Arfa on a permanent deal is now looking to bring in more flair players to help provide the ammunition for this strike force, another area the former West Ham and Reading boss is looking to improve.

There has been some speculation that Liverpool may accept offers of as little as £5m for a player who arrived on a free in the summer as they look to remove his large salary from the club’s wage bill. Newcastle United may find it tough though to convince new assistant boss Steve Clarke to allow such a deal as the former Chelsea man is said to have high hopes that 29 year old Cole can still go some way to recapturing his former glory.

Gerrard 'Heartbroken' By Torres Move

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has revealed he was left "heartbroken'' by Fernando Torres' decision to quit the club for Chelsea, but believes the Reds are finally on an upward curve.

England midfielder Gerrard has led the Anfield club through a long period of drama both on and off the field, but he now believes under the ownership of John W Henry and Tom Werner, and the caretaker management of Kenny Dalglish, that good times are not too far away from returning. That did not stop him mourning the departure of Torres, though.

"I was heartbroken. Absolutely gutted. But I also called him after he left,'' Gerrard told the Daily Mail. "There are no hard feelings. I built up a relationship with Fernando and became his friend. He scored some fantastic goals and I have fantastic memories. I enjoyed playing with him. So you can't go from one extreme to another and fall out with him, start criticizing him. But he will also understand how I feel. Fernando is a bright person and he will understand that the Liverpool fans are upset as well.''

Liverpool continue life without Torres on Saturday when they meet Wigan, and the decision whether to play Gerrard, who is recovering from a groin injury that kept him out of England's friendly with Denmark in midweek, will be left until the last moment.

Torres' Chelsea debut was a 1-0 defeat to Liverpool, the latest in a string of impressive results they have put together since Dalglish returned to the club to replace Roy Hodgson last month. And added to the signings of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll - the £60million replacements for Carroll - Gerrard can finally see happier times returning to his club.

He said: "The football club is much happier now. It's in a better place than it has been for a few years. We've got new owners, who I've spoken to quite a lot, who are passionate about what they want to do.

"I trust them, I trust them even more after what's happened in the last week or so. And the way they've acted, coming towards the end of the transfer window, has impressed me. I was a bit wary at first because I was maybe a bit guilty of trusting the previous owners too much.

"This time I've taken a bit more time in judging them. But they've been brilliant so far. They have put the club back in a good place already and the last three or four weeks have been really positive. We've had some good results. The lads are smiling again. I've actually enjoyed going to work again.''

Kenny Dalglish Praises Raul Meireles

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish has heaped praise on midfielder Raul Meireles after a string of fantastic performances and strikes, including a winning goal at Chelsea.

However, the Scotsman has been quick to insist that the Portuguese international's goalscoring form has been down to the player's hard work and ability as he has adapted himself to the English league and not due to any tactical wizardry on his part.

Club legend Dalglish told reporters: "Raul has always had the ability he has shown recently.

"Maybe he's settled down a little bit and is more comfortable and confident because he is playing well but there's been nothing drastic [tactically] for any of the players really.

"It is fantastic to see Raul doing so well. He has always been a talented footballer, he's always had what we are seeing now but it's been trying to get it out and it is coming out now and he's scoring goals."

Meireles has found himself playing in an advanced midfield role of late, often alongside club captain Steven Gerrard or in a solo role feeding the ball to the strikers up top, and is thriving after being picked out of position – often on the right flank – by previous manager Roy Hodgson.

Since Dalglish's return, Liverpool has shown flexibility in formation and tactics, with victories against Stoke and Chelsea featuring three at the back and a host of different midfield setups.

But the Scot has admitted that he is no tactical genius, and the changes in shape introduced by him and new coach Steve Clarke have been purely to get the best out of the existing personnel.

He added: "The system change was beneficial to us. It is about the club, about the team, and we are the most important people in our eyes.

"I am not here to try to impress everyone by saying I'm a tactical wizard, I'm just here to get the best from our boys.

"It is part of our responsibility to work out how to do that and we won't do anything to confuse anyone."

Liverpool currently lie in a season's best of sixth place and are six points behind fourth placed Chelsea, but Dalglish is reluctant to spark any false hope amongst the Anfield camp that the team will sneak into a Champion's League place.

The former Celtic player continued: "It wasn't a realistic proposition last season so it is only this season we can worry about."

"We've won four games, so that's moving in the right direction and that's what we want to do.

"We've had four results, four shut-outs, but that doesn't earn us anything for the game against Wigan.

"We've got to build on what we've done, but that doesn't mean to say that because we've done it [improved form] we're finished - we want to continue to do what we've been doing.

"It's much more enjoyable to be winning matches than losing them, so that's the thing that will be at the forefront of my mind.

"It's more enjoyable for everyone if we get a result."