Saturday, February 26, 2011

John W Henry Praises Kenny Dalglish On Facebook

John W Henry has given further validation of Kenny Dalglish's Liverpool reign by praising the "total team effort" that has transformed the club's season in under two months.

Liverpool's owners, the Fenway Sports Group, are due to announce a permanent replacement for Roy Hodgson at the end of the season but may revise that time frame in light of the impact made by Dalglish.

Liverpool have risen from five points off bottom place to sixth in the Premier League since the Scot took temporary charge and head to West Ham on Sunday on the back of an eight-game unbeaten run. That sequence yielded a place in the last 16 of the Europa League at the expense of Sparta Prague on Thursday night and has prompted another endorsement of Liverpool's management team from Henry. The club's principal owner, posting on his Facebook page, said: "Over the last seven matches, I believe, only one goal (and that may have been offside) has been conceded. Terrific effort on defense with increasing aggressiveness."

Dalglish has been consulted on Liverpool's long-term plans by the owners and was instrumental in the combined £57.8m deadline-day outlay on Luis Suárez and Andy Carroll. However, he insists there have been no discussions over his expected promotion from temporary to permanent Liverpool manager. His immediate concern is West Ham where Suárez, who is ineligible for the Europa League, will be recalled to a side that toiled in attack against the Czech champions. Liverpool will give late fitness tests to Steven Gerrard, Martin Kelly, Daniel Agger and Glen Johnson before the game, with the captain still rated as doubtful having missed the last three matches with an adductor strain.

Kelly and Agger were both injured against Sparta and the match-winner Dirk Kuyt believes their contributions have been invaluable to the side's improved away form.

Under Hodgson Liverpool won one league game away from home in 10 attempts. At West Ham they will be seeking a third consecutive victory in four away league games under Dalglish. "The team is in a much better shape right now," said Kuyt. "The other thing is that we are not satisfied with the results we have been getting. We are hungry to keep progressing and we are working hard in training. It's good that we have had six [league] games unbeaten but we won't be satisfied until we have more.

"We have much more confidence. We have had a lot of clean sheets and defensively we are much stronger. That gives you confidence up front. We have got players to come back and on Sunday, Luis can play. We have got some strength."

Raul Keen To Extend Goal Spree

Raul Meireles will aim to extend the hot-streak that has seen him plunder five goals in his last six league matches when Liverpool visits West Ham on Sunday.

The Portuguese ace has been in scintillating form since Kenny Dalglish took control of first-team affairs and has been a major player in the Reds' eight match unbeaten run.
Earlier this season the Reds won 3-0 at Anfield with goals from Glen Johnson, Dirk Kuyt (pen) and Maxi coming in the opening 38 minutes.

Last season at Upton Park Liverpool emerged 3-2 winners with Fernando Torres (2) and Dirk Kuyt earning the points. Liverpool was twice pegged back before Torres netted the winner with 15 minutes remaining.

The Reds look to record their fifth league double over the Hammers in the last seven seasons.

Liverpool have won five of the last six clashes at Upton Park scoring 13 goals and conceding five and lost just once in the last eight visits.

In the last 46 league meetings home and away Liverpool have lost just five.

Liverpool has failed to score in only 2 of the last 12 league visits.

In those last dozen games the Reds have managed only 2 clean sheets.

In the last 6 meetings home and away Liverpool have prevented West Ham from scoring on 5 occasions, recording 5 wins and a draw.

Three Liverpool players have scored hat-tricks for Liverpool at Upton Park-Roger Hunt in 1965, John Toshack (1976) and Michael Robinson (1983).

Liverpool's biggest wins on this ground came in September 1965 and January 1976 when they won 4-0.

Their heaviest defeat saw them lose 7-0 in September 1930.

The last red cards issued in this fixture came in the same incident when Luis Garcia and the Hammers' Hayden Mullins were dismissed for an altercation.

Joe Cole played for the Hammers on 149 occasions scoring 13 times between 1998 and 2003.

Glen Johnson began his career at Upton Park making 16 appearances before his 2 year spell at the club ended in 2003.

Johnson's last goal for Liverpool came against today's opponents at Anfield in November.

Daniel Agger scored his first Liverpool goal against West Ham in a 2-1 win at Anfield in 2006.

Raul Meireles has scored in 5 of his last 6 league appearances for the Reds including games against 2 of the other W's - Wolves and Wigan.

Dirk Kuyt made his Liverpool debut against West Ham at Anfield in August 2006 while Jamie Carragher made his league debut against the Hammers at Anfield in January 1997.

The Reds are unbeaten in the last 6 league games since losing at Blackpool last month and have taken 14 points out of the last 18.

Liverpool is aiming to record a 3rd successive away win for the first time since May 2009.

Thursday's win over Sparta Prague extended their unbeaten run to 8 games.

Vic Watson is the only West Ham player to score a hat-trick against Liverpool, doing so September 1930 in the 7-0 win.

West Ham's last win over Liverpool came at Upton Park in January 2008 when Mark Noble scored a 93rd minute penalty for the Hammers to secure a 1-0 win.

That victory is their only success against the Reds in the last 17 league meetings home and away.

The Hammers are unbeaten in their last 3 away league games but at home have won just 1 of the last 5 (2-0 against Wolves on New Years Day).

They have scored 14 goals in the last 5 games in all competitions including 5 against Burnley in the F.A. Cup last Monday.

In the Barclays Premier League they have kept one clean sheet in the last 14 games.

Their 3 home wins in the top-flight have come against Tottenham (1-0), Wigan (3-1) and Wolves (2-0).

Frederic Piquionne is the Hammers leading scorer in the league with six goals - his last came in a 2-2 draw at Everton last month with his goal celebration seeing him pick up a second yellow card.

They have scored 14 goals at home this season - only Birmingham (13) have netted fewer in front of their home fans.

Pepe: Confidence Key To Form

Pepe Reina today reflected on Liverpool's eight-match unbeaten run and insisted: 'It's all about confidence.'

The Reds beat Sparta Prague 1-0 at Anfield on Thursday night to extend their undefeated sequence and successfully navigate a passage into the last 16 of the Europa League.

And Reina feels a swell in self-belief has been the main contributing factor to their excellent form.

"We have to go little by little and keep progressing," said the custodian.

"We've had a couple of months of the level we're supposed to be at. It's about confidence. We've said it many times this season but finally we've got the confidence back and results are improving.

"We are winning games and that's what makes a difference to the confidence in the dressing room. Let's keep that momentum and keep progressing."

Liverpool's form has been assisted by six clean sheets in their last seven outings.

Reina added: "Any team that wants to be successful has to build from the back and to defend well is the first step to improve things.

"The understanding between us all is really good and whoever plays always does really well."

Next up for Reina and co is a trip to Upton Park to take on relegation-threatened West Ham United.

"It will be a tough game," said the stopper. "They are involved in the fight to avoid relegation, are under enormous pressure and they need to win points.

"For us it's the same because we need to keep climbing in the table and getting higher."

Kuyt Could Be Pivotal In Liverpool's Bid For Dutch Prodigy

20 year old Georginio Wijnaldum has been immersed in the World of football from the age of six and is another example of Holland’s majestic youth development system. Two-footed, fast and skilful he is also level headed and intelligent.

When asked in 2008 about interest from the likes of Real Madrid and Liverpool he explained that he still had a lot to learn in the Dutch League and would be ready to take the next step in a couple of years.

With great strength and agility he would be a force in the Premier League and will be successful wherever he goes. Liverpool fans should be excited to know that his football icon happens to be Dirk Kuyt who moved to Liverpool from Feyenoord in 2006.

With one more year on his contract Feyenoord may want to cash in while they can whilst Wijnaldum may be interested in a move away due to his club’s dismal form this season. At the moment Feyenoord are languishing in 14th place but out of 18 teams – one place above the relegation play-off places. The 10 – 0 defeat to PSV in October can’t have gone very far in assuring Wijnaldum that now isn’t the time to leave.

With over 100 senior appearances in the Eredivisie he may feel that he has improved enough to a move abroad to one of the bigger European clubs in order to gain some Champions League familiarity. Liverpool will have to work hard to capture his signature, however, and any slip up will be capitalized upon by the likes of Real Madrid and Milan.

With Kuyt no doubt whispering in Georginio Gregion Emile Wijnaldum’s ear Liverpool would seem the most likely destination and if it comes off he would be a welcome addition to Liverpool and the Premier League.

Jose Enrique Nears Anfield Switch

Liverpool is reportedly close to completing a deal for Newcastle defender Jose Enrique.

According to talkSPORT, reports in the Spanish press claim the 25-year-old is poised to seal a switch to Anfield in the summer after the two clubs agreed a fee in the region of £6 million.

Enrique's contract is set to expire in 2012 and it appears Newcastle is ready to cash-in on the Spaniard after Liverpool made their interest known.

Manchester United have also been linked with a move for Enrique - as have Aston Villa - but Liverpool look to have won the race for his signature.

Liverpool has been in the market for a recognized and reliable left-back in order to permanently fill the problematic role.

The departure of Paul Konchesky - albeit temporarily - from Anfield has left Liverpool short on options at full-back and the acquisition of reinforcements remains a priority for the Merseyside club.

Glen Johnson has been deployed on the left by Kenny Dalglish of late, but the Liverpool boss is after a more long-term solution and it now seems Enrique may be the man to plug the gap.

Liverpool have also been linked with Celtic's Emilio Izaguirre and former Kop favourite John Arne Riise, but it looks increasingly likely that Enrique will become their latest recruit when the transfer window reopens in June.

Wolfsburg Ready To Pounce On Liverpool Striker

Reports from Italy have claimed that Bundesliga side Wolfsburg is ready to exploit any stumbling blocks in contract talks between Dirk Kuyt and Liverpool.

The 30 year old is currently locked in negotiations with the Reds and has expressed his desire to stay on Merseyside as he looks to end his career in front of the Kop.

He has described Liverpool as feeling like “home.”

The Dutch striker has made over 160 appearances for Liverpool and his work rate has done much to endear him to the Liverpool faithful. His lack of goals in the Premier League has been the only flaw in what has been a successful five years in the top division. He has managed four goals in 22 games so far this season with four assists to match.

What Kuyt lacks in breathtaking skill or goals he makes up for in determination, dedication and commitment. There aren’t many players like him that will work for every second of a game in every game he plays in. He has seen his character transform his position on the pitch with Liverpool taking advantage of his industrious work rate and employing him on the wing more than upfront – a factor in his reduced goal rate.

Wolfsburg would be extremely fortunate if they managed to pull a deal off for Kuyt with the Netherlands international seemingly happy at Liverpool and intent on ending his career there. Talks are in progress over a deal that will see the Dutchman stay at Anfield past 2012 and if that goes through Wolfsburg will have no chance of signing the 30 year old.

The German side has to hope and pray that there is a major hiccup which at the moment looks highly unlikely. It would take a brave man to put any money on a move to Germany going through.

Grant Gives Cole Backing

Avram Grant admits it would have cost West Ham United 'big money' to re-sign Joe Cole and is confident the midfielder will be a hit at Liverpool.

Cole joined Liverpool on a free transfer last summer after leaving Chelsea, but he has struggled to make an impact at Anfield.

The England international has started only eight Premier League games for the Reds and has been unable to show the Merseyside faithful his best form.

He will return to first club West Ham on Sunday and Upton Park boss Grant expects Liverpool to eventually see the best of Cole's ability.

"Joe is a very good player, a very, very nice player. He has a good spirit and is good to any team on and off the pitch," said Grant.

"I think he started well, then he had an injury, and then it was not so good for him.

"Sometimes when you are injured it's not easy to come back and it was a little bit difficult for them but I am sure he will be very good for Liverpool. If not, then they can bring him to me."

The Hammers were interested in signing the 29-year-old before he joined Liverpool and were also keen on the playmaker in the January transfer window.

Grant would relish the chance to call on Cole, but acknowledged the player's wages proved to be out of West Ham's reach.

He added: "I will always want a player who plays so good.

"He belongs to Liverpool but I will always be happy if a player like this was in my team.

"But everyone knows the situation in our club. We had the opportunity to take him but for West Ham it was big money."

Ref Banned For Inappropriate Liverpool Joke On Twitter & Facebook

It seems footballers aren’t the only ones getting into trouble for posting comments on Twitter or Facebook – Championship ref Mark Brown has copped a three-week ban for a jibe about Liverpool’s title chances.

Rookie referee Mark Brown thought it amusing to poke fun at Anfield captain Steven Gerrard on his social networking pages, highlighting the Reds’ unlikely chance of winning the Premier League this season.

But match officials boss Mike Riley - no doubt still reeling from Ryan Babel’s photoshop antics, didn’t see it that way and requested Brown hand in his whistle and cards.

‘Riley is taking drastic action as there are many ways for referees' integrity to be called into question,’ an insider told the Sun.

‘If Babel posts a picture of Howard Webb in a Man U shirt, then we can't have officials making comments and jokes about players.’

Currently in his first season as a professional ref, Brown’s highest achievement to date is a Championship game he officiated between Ipswich and Doncaster on January 22nd.

A trip to take charge of a game in front of the Kop could now be some way off for Brown, who will have to do his time officiating in League One and Two for now.

Ex-Liverpool man Babel became the first player to be fined £10,000 by the FA, when he posted a mocked-up picture of Webb on his Twitter page following a 1-0 defeat to Manchester United in the FA Cup.