Saturday, September 10, 2011

Match Preview: Stoke City vs Liverpool

Familiar faces will be reunited when Stoke welcome Liverpool to the Britannia Stadium on Saturday, with Peter Crouch and Craig Bellamy both set for their respective debuts.

Former Reds striker Crouch became Tony Pulis' record signing on transfer deadline day after leaving Tottenham in a £10million deal and he is expected to start this weekend.

The 30-year-old, who played for Liverpool between 2005 and 2008, will therefore be playing against a number of ex-team-mates, but could also be in opposition to one he did not expect.

Wales international Bellamy was also on the move on deadline day, when he left Manchester City on a free transfer to return to Anfield, where he spent the 2006/07 season alongside Crouch.

Stoke tried to sign Bellamy in 2010, but missed out as the ex-Blackburn and Newcastle player moved back to Cardiff on loan and they will consequently be well aware of his talents.

Pulis tends to be a busy man in transfer windows and particularly towards deadline day, with this year no exception as Wilson Palacios and Cameron Jerome joined Crouch in arriving on the final day of August.

The Stoke boss will run the rule over the new recruits to see if they are fit enough to make their bows, but it is expected they will feature as his side aims to ensure Liverpool have still to ever win at the Britannia in the league.

Marc Wilson and Rory Delap (both hamstring) will also be assessed ahead of kick-off, when Stoke will aim to maintain their unbeaten season to date in the Premier League and Europa League.

Liverpool, who are not playing in Europe this campaign, have also yet to suffer defeat after a frustrating opening day draw with Sunderland was followed by league wins over Arsenal and Bolton, while Exeter were knocked out of the Carling Cup.

Manager Kenny Dalglish is only expected to name Bellamy as a substitute and he could be tempted to recall Andy Carroll to face Stoke's physical centre-backs after dropping the striker for the victory over Bolton.

Carroll has been at the centre of attention after his lifestyle was questioned by England boss Fabio Capello, but Dalglish has defended his record signing and the £35million man could partner Liverpool's Player of the Month, Luis Suarez.

Captain Steven Gerrard is edging ever closer to returning from the groin injury which has left him unavailable since March, while Charlie Adam is over the hip injury he suffered on international duty and Glen Johnson (thigh) is back in full training.

Possible starting XIs

Stoke: Begovic, Huth, Shawcross, Woodgate, Wilson, Pennant, Whelan, Whitehead, Etherington, Crouch, Jones.

Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Enrique, Lucas, Adam, Kuyt, Downing, Suarez, Carroll.

Dalglish Backs Bellamy To Grasp Second Chance

Craig Bellamy will make his second debut for Liverpool at Stoke on Saturday backed by the ringing endorsement of his new manager and childhood hero Kenny Dalglish.

The Scot believes that the Welsh international is a better player at 32 than he was at 25.

Bellamy took a substantial pay cut and accepted a reduced compensation figure from Manchester City in order to force through a free transfer move to Anfield on deadline day last month.

He returns to the club he supported as a boy but left after just one controversy-stained season in 2007.

That sacrifice immediately endeared him to Dalglish -- the 60-year-old has prioritized signing players who have made clear their desire to feature for Liverpool.

But it is the benefit of his experience which the Scot believes will make Bellamy, for so long cast as a trouble-maker, such a valuable asset.

"I have never managed him before, so I do not know what he was like (day-to-day in training), but from what I have seen watching him I think he is a better player than he was when he was 25," said the Liverpool manager.

"He is wiser now and he uses his experience really well. I think he is ideal for us and he is someone who will really help us.

"He loves football. I know that for a fact. Last time he came here he said he was a fan and had always wanted to play for the club. He has that opportunity again. The older you get, the fewer opportunities you get, and he wanted to grab this one."

Bellamy's arrival on a free transfer completed a remarkable overhaul of Dalglish's squad -- that saw the Scot take his spending to £114m.

But Dalglish insists such a price was necessary for Liverpool to put out a side capable of playing in the style demanded by their fans.

"We had to have the money to change our style and bring in players who maybe offered something different to the boys who were here before," he said.

"The players that come in are going to reflect the person that is in charge. I have got the way that we want to play in my mind."

Liverpool Sniffing Around £20 Million Rated Little Messi

Reports in Germany have resurfaced linking Liverpool with a move for Werder Bremen midfielder Marko Marin, according to the reports Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish has marked the 22 year old German International as his number one winter target.

Marin has previously been linked with a whole host of European clubs, at one stage it was thought that he would be heading to Old Trafford, then Arsenal became the favoured destination for the player labelled as the German Messi, now it is Liverpool’s turn to be linked with the Bosnian born midfield maestro.

Marin will continue to be a target until a team finally comes in and snaps the player up, he is undoubtedly talented, he is a huge prospect and on more than one occasion he carried Werder Bremen almost single handedly, it is therefore no surprise to read that Dalglish wants to bring the 22 year old to Anfield in January.

Marin will not be cheap, figures quoted have been anything between £15 Million and £30 Million, chances are that it will be closer to £20 Million, still a hefty sum, even in these days of inflated prices.

Blackburn Rovers Rival Liverpool & Spurs For Watford Striker

According to reports Blackburn Rovers are interested in Watford forward Marvin Sorrell.

The 20 year-old striker is reported to have been scouted by Rovers as well as Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.

The Sun claims Southampton will make an improved £4 million offer for Sordell in January.

The Hornets snubbed a £3 million Saints swoop on transfer deadline day.

Steven Gerrard Resumes Full Training With Liverpool

Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard has revealed he is nearing a return to first-team football after resuming full training.

The Liverpool captain suffered a groin injury in March which ruled him out for the remainder of last season and having failed to take part in any of Kenny Dalglish's side's pre-season matches, the 31-year-old has conceded he has found the return to training difficult.

"I've been in full training for the last two days," Gerrard told the club's official website.

"It came as a bit of shock to the system actually because I've been one on one with Darren Burgess for the last three or four weeks working really hard to get to a certain level of fitness.

"Now I'm back in with the boys, it's a completely different ball game - it's a lot more tougher, quicker and I've struggled the last two days, so I'm really tired at the moment.

"But I'm back in full training and looking forward to being involved with the lads in games in the coming weeks."

Lucas Looking For September Form

Lucas Leiva is hoping Liverpool can pick up from where they left off prior to the international break, and start September with a bang by winning at Stoke City on Saturday.

The new-look Reds side saw a return of seven points from their first three games in the Barclays Premier League, and having impressed many onlookers with their array of attacking football under Kenny Dalglish, the Brazilian midfielder is eager for the squad to continue performing.

"We know we have two away games now and it's really important to get points in the away games," Lucas told "It always makes a big difference at the end of the season.

"We have to keep going and try to play well - the same way we have in the first three games. If we do, I am sure we will get points and we'll have another good month."

A trip to the Britannia Stadium will provide a tough test for Liverpool - an example of why the Barclays Premier League is the most exciting championship in the world, because of the variation in the way different teams set out. Finding a winning formula for all of them is the hardest challenge according to Lucas.

"We know how difficult it is to play against Stoke, especially on their own ground," he continued. "They have a physical game and big players, and their set pieces are always really difficult to defend.

"We have to go there ready to fight, try to play football and win. A lot of big clubs go there and can't win, but it will be a very good test for us to see how we cope with this type of team."

Much like Liverpool, Stoke were one of the busier teams in this summer's transfer window - most notably strengthening their attack with deadline day arrival of Cameron Jerome and former Reds striker Peter Crouch.

"They will probably be very excited playing their first game at the stadium for their fans, so we have to be aware of that," concluded the 24-year-old. "They have good players, including a couple that played here in the past.

"They have quality and we have to make sure we prepare well and are ready to battle."

Kelly: They'll Be Nervous Now

Martin Kelly believes defenders up and down the country will now be nervous whenever they look at a Liverpool teamsheet.

The Reds have four international strikers on their books once again having acquired the services of Craig Bellamy in the transfer window.

He will compete for places with Luis Suarez, Andy Carroll and Dirk Kuyt - and Kelly thinks the goals will flow no matter who is selected by Kenny Dalglish.

"When you see names like that on the teamsheet, the opposition has got to be looking at that and being a little bit nervous because of the players they are and the respect they've got," he told

"That's great for me because I'm playing with them.

"With teams coming to Anfield, they should be nervous before the game because of the crowd and because they're playing Liverpool Football Club. It should be intimidating coming to Liverpool."

Kelly has witnessed from close quarters the changes instigated by Dalglish and Fenway Sports Group over the last eight months. The revolution began in with the signings of Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez in January, with Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel leaving. Another seven players arrived this summer while the number allowed to leave tallied well into double figures.

"It needed a little bit of change because of the club we are," reflected Kelly. "At Liverpool you need to be pushing for things.

"The changes we've had, the people we've brought in like the manager and the medical staff, it's all knitted together now. We've gelled and we're ready to move forward this season."

The new depth of quality within Dalglish's squad means Kelly has to compete for position against not only England right-back Glen Johnson, but also impressive 18-year-old Jon Flanagan.

"That's the way football goes," he said. "All I can do is play well once selected. I've done that at this club but I need to keep that going and keep fighting for my place.

"As long as the fans and the manager know that when I do play I give my all and I won't let people down, that's the main thing. It's a massive club, you've got a lot of pressure and from a young boy you understand that at this club.

"We don't really discuss it. We help each other out in training and for me and Jon, looking up to Glen, who is the international right-back, it's the best thing we can have to learn from."

Kelly has made 29 appearances for Liverpool so far - one more than his good friend Jay Spearing. The two enjoy a friendly rivalry.

"My ambition as a young kid was to play for Liverpool and now I've done that just under 30 times," said Kelly.

"Now it's to keep going and keep learning from the best here at Liverpool. I want to play as many games as possible, no matter what competition it's in. To be part of a team like Liverpool at this time is a really good thing - they're exciting times.

"It (appearances) is in the program and me and Jay have got a little tab on it because I think I'm a couple ahead of him. I've got to keep that going."

Fans To Pay Tribute To Stephen Gill

A special fundraising night is being held at The Sandon in Anfield next Saturday in memory of legendary Liverpool fan Stephen Gill.

The devoted Red from Kirkby died earlier this year at the age of 56 following a long battle with illness.

‘Gilly’ won the Echo’s Fan of the Year award in 2007 and followed Liverpool home and away for 40 years. Poet and playwright Dave Kirby was a close friend of his and has helped organize the memorial night.

“Gilly was a real stalwart who was well known for his dedication to the Reds,” he said. “He was a great character and always had so many stories to tell.

“As his funeral was held in Newcastle many people couldn’t make it so we wanted to honour his memory in his own city.

“We’re expecting a huge response and all the funds raised will go to his family.”

Reds Mourn Hughes

Liverpool Football Club were saddened to learn of the death of former defender Laurie Hughes at the age of 87.

Hughes was a member of the title-winning team of 1946-47 and also represented England at the 1950 World Cup finals, becoming the first ever Reds player to play at the tournament.

In total, he made 326 appearances for Liverpool, scoring one goal against Preston North End at Anfield in December 1951.

Everybody at Liverpool FC would like to offer their deepest condolences to Laurie's family and friends at this sad time.