Sunday, September 18, 2011

Match Preview: Tottenham vs Liverpool

Tottenham play host to Liverpool on Sunday with both sides looking to enhance their top four aspirations.

Both sides will be aiming for a UEFA Champions League finish come the end of the season and they will be hoping to gain an early psychological edge with victory at White Hart Lane.

The hosts go into the game buoyed by their first win of the season over Wolves last weekend, while Liverpool will be seeking to bounce back from their defeat at Stoke last time.

Spurs boss Harry Redknapp is set to recall his big guns for the visit of Liverpool after resting a number of key players for Thursday's Europa League clash at PAOK Salonika.

Brad Friedel will return in goal against his former club despite Carlo Cudicini's positive showing against PAOK.

Scott Parker and Emmanuel Adebayor will also return to the starting line-up after making impressive debuts against Wolves

Redknapp is waiting to find out if Ledley King will play after his surprise return to fitness in the win at Molineux.

Michael Dawson is missing after he joined Brazilian midfielder Sandro on the long-term absentee list.

However, Rafael van der Vaart (hamstring), Aaron Lennon (groin) and William Gallas (calf) could all come back into contention after making good progress on their fitness.

Steven Pienaar (groin) and Tom Huddlestone (ankle) face late fitness tests but Redknapp is likely to stick with the side that won at Wolves.

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish must decide if Steven Gerrard is ready to return after featuring in a behind-closed-doors friendly earlier this week.

Dalglish is refusing to rush back his skipper from his groin injury meaning the midfielder might have to content himself with a place on the bench.

Glen Johnson is ruled out with a recurrence of his hamstring problem he suffered in last weekend's defeat at the Britannia Stadium.

However, Martin Kelly could be back in the squad after recovering from a hamstring injury of his own and he could slot into right-back after Martin Skrtel was forced to play out of position at full-back in the last two games.

Dalglish has no other injury worries to contend with, but he must decide whether or not to keep Andy Carroll and Craig Bellamy on the bench or bring them into the starting XI.

Possible starting XIs

Tottenham: Friedel, Walker, King, Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto, Lennon, Parker, Modric, Bale, Defoe, Adebayor.

Liverpool: Reina, Kelly, Carragher, Agger, Enrique, Lucas, Adam, Henderson, Downing, Suarez, Kuyt.

Harry Aware Of Carroll Threat

Harry Redknapp has admitted that Tottenham face a difficult challenge to keep Andy Carroll quiet in Sunday's Premier League match against Liverpool.

Carroll became the most expensive British player of all time when he moved from Newcastle to Anfield in a £35million move in January.

Redknapp was also keen on signing the striker, but his price tag put the Spurs boss off and he had to wait until this month before landing a frontman, with Emmanuel Adebayor signing on loan from Manchester City.

Carroll has struggled to make the impact expected of him since his big-money arrival on Merseyside and has scored three goals in 14 games - one of which came against Exeter in the Carling Cup.

England manager Fabio Capello has also had to field questions about Carroll's drinking habits after deciding he was not fit enough to play against Bulgaria earlier this season.

Redknapp has refused to get drawn into the debate on the player's lifestyle, saying only that he will provide a major threat when the Reds visit White Hart Lane this weekend.

Redknapp said: "I don't know anything about his personal life and whether he drinks or not. Kenny Dalglish is the only person who knows that.

"If Kenny is happy with him then that's all that matters really.

"As a player, he is a real handful. He is a great header of the ball. When you go up against him you know you have had a game, that's for sure."

Downing: I Nearly Joined Spurs

Liverpool's Stewart Downing has revealed he was close to joining Tottenham from Middlesbrough in 2008, but the London club was unsuccessful with transfer bids and ultimately missed out on the England international.

Downing instead joined Aston Villa for £12 million, where he enjoyed two seasons before being lured to Anfield by Kenny Dalglish. The 27-year-old is now hoping to show Harry Redknapp exactly what Spurs missed out on as Liverpool travel to White Hart Lane for Sunday's Premier League clash.

"Tottenham made a couple of moves for me when I was at Boro. There were offers in the summer of 2008. Spurs came in again that following January. Then I got injured.

''I got frustrated because [Middlesbrough] were struggling and I thought I'd missed an opportunity. I didn't really put a transfer request in but went in to express my feelings to [club chairman] Steve Gibson, that if another opportunity came to move to a big club, I'd like to do it," Downing is quoted as saying in The Independent.

Middlesbrough's relegation from the Premier League then cleared the way for Villa boss Martin O'Neill to swoop in ahead of Redknapp.

''Steve Gibson rang me and said he'd give me permission to go. I just felt it was the right time. Because I was injured, I think Spurs were maybe thinking they'd wait until the August but I couldn't take that risk. The big thing for me was Martin O'Neill pushed it really hard.

"I'm glad I spoke to O'Neill and I'm happy I went to Villa because it's a great football club and he was really good to me," said Downing.

Since joining Liverpool this summer, Downing says he has enjoyed working under the guidance of club legend Dalglish.

"He has a bit of an aura about him. I think he's bigger than all the players here put together.

''When you look at the bigger picture it's worked out quite well for me,'' he said.

Liverpool Keen On Uruguayan Talent Gaston Ramirez

Sources in Italy have confirmed that Liverpool is interested in Bologna’s attacking midfielder Gaston Ramirez.

Indeed, the Reds are thought to have indicated that they would pay €10M to take the 20-year-old to Anfield, though Bologna’s cooperation in the matter cannot be assumed.

Ramirez has impressed in Serie A since landing at Bologna last summer, being brought to the Rossoblu from Uruguayan outfit Penarol.

The Uruguay international is a player Bologna would love to tie down to a longer deal and there has been talk of a new contract.

But after flashes of brilliance in Serie A, Ramirez is a man in demand, with Manchester City and Manchester United also reported to have begun to track his progress.

Liverpool however look to have become the first club to put a concrete value on the attacking all-rounder and are keen to add to their Uruguayan contingent.

The Reds will surely be confident that, with countrymen Luis Suarez and Sebastian Coates already at Anfield, Ramirez would opt for a switch to the Merseyside giants ahead of their Premier League competitors.

Bologna are adopting a realistic approach to the situation and accept that offers too good to turn down could arrive in January or next summer.

Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard Targeted By Anzhi

Liverpool's Steven Gerrard and Chelsea's Frank Lampard have emerged as the latest transfer targets for big-spending Anzhi Makhachkala.

The Russian club stunned the football world last month by signing Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o from Inter Milan and making him the world's highest-paid player.

Suleyman Kerimov, Anzhi's billionaire owner, is keen to add more big names to a squad that also features Roberto Carlos, Diego Tardelli and Yuri Zhirkov.

Reports in the Russian press suggest the ageing England midfielders are next on Anzhi's shopping list.

Moving to Dagestan would offer Gerrard, 31, and Lampard, 33, the chance to add sizeable sums to their pension funds, as the club are prepared to hand them two-year contracts worth £13million a season.

It seems unlikely either player will be tempted by the move, as they are already multimillionaires and would be reluctant to relocate their families to Russia.

Should they decide the money on offer is too good to turn down, Gerrard and Lampard may find they are managed by a familiar face next season, as Anzhi are also reported to be keen to make England coach Fabio Capello their manager.

Clarke: Craig Gives Us Great Options

Steve Clarke has spoken of his joy at linking up with Craig Bellamy again at Liverpool.

The first-team coach knows from experience just how influential a figure the Welsh striker can be having worked with him at West Ham United.

Clarke insists Bellamy is a great addition to Kenny Dalglish's squad.

"Craig is a good lad and he gives us lots of different options in forward areas on the pitch," Clarke told

"A lot has been said about Craig but his attitude on and off the training pitch is top. He demands high standards, we all demand high standards, so I think there is a good working relationship going forward.

"I knew Craig from working with him before and so did Kevin Keen so we had good background on Craig and really the signing was a no brainer."

Adam Welcomes Skipper Return

Charlie Adam has welcomed the return to fitness of Steven Gerrard despite the fact that his place in midfield could be under threat.

The Scotland ace admits the skipper's comeback has given everybody in the squad a boost and put all the midfielders on their toes with increased competition for places.

"I'm looking forward to seeing Steven come back," Adam told

"He's a top player as everybody knows and every time someone mentions his name they smile because they know how good he is.

"It's going to be difficult for me personally because when he comes back in he will want to play the same as everybody.

"You've just got to play as well as you can in the games coming up next and when he does come back then it's up to the manager to make the decision.

"He's a top player and any team would welcome their best players back into the starting XI."

In the absence of the inspirational No.8, Adam has formed a promising partnership in midfield with Lucas.

"He is a top player, a Brazilian international. There are a lot of good players in this squad so when you come into the team it's made easier for you because there's so many good players round you that can help you," he added.

"I think that's why we've played some good stuff this season because we've got so many good players in this squad.

"We have clicked straight away, so hopefully that can continue for the rest of the season and we can get better every week."

The Scottish international also paid a glowing tribute to Luis Suarez who has continued the scintillating form from last season.

"Luis is just a top player, he makes our life easier and he's a joy to play alongside," he added.

"When I played against Liverpool last season they had Fernando Torres who was a top player but he's moved on and the club have brought wisely.

"They got Luis in and he has justified what they paid for him. He's a top player who can only get better and that's great for us."

Secret To Training Joy Revealed

Kenny Dalglish has paid tribute to his backroom staff after several members of the Liverpool squad gave his training methods a huge thumbs-up.

The Reds boss admits he is delighted that his players are enjoying the Melwood sessions and reckons it is all down to the tireless work of an unsung duo.

Asked if he too wore a smile on his face on arriving at the club's training ground, the boss quipped: "Yes, but I'm a wee bit disappointed with the training matches. Steve Clarke won't give me a game. I keep asking to join in and there is always an odd number, but he never looks my way.

"It's a fantastic compliment to Stevie and Kevin (Keen) that the players are enjoying their training. They organize most of it. There are a lot of things that go unnoticed but certainly the contribution Steve and Kevin are making towards everything shouldn't be. It certainly doesn't go unnoticed within the framework of Liverpool Football Club.

"I enjoy coming in. It's great for me to come in here. It's not so good when you have lost a game but hopefully those days will be few and far between.

"It's enjoyable for everyone. There is a friendly atmosphere here. At the same time they won't be kidding on that the friendliness means they aren't competitive. They know how to compete and the group of players here are really competitive. At the same time they are a bit more relaxed than what they were before."

Barnsley Late Show Thwarts Reds

Liverpool U18s are still chasing their first home win of the season after a last-gasp equaliser earned Barnsley a 2-2 draw on Saturday afternoon.

Mike Marsh's youngsters edged a keenly-contested encounter and looked like taking the spoils through Kristoffer Peterson's header after Jordan Clark's stunning strike had cancelled out Josh Sumner's sublime opener.

However, substitute Josh Alderson pounced in the fourth minute of injury-time to snare a point and leave the Reds stunned.

The Academy kids went into the contest on the back of a dramatic late victory at Leeds United but knew they would need to raise their level against a side still protecting a 100 per cent start to their campaign.

The Tykes had notched up four wins from their first four matches and almost stole ahead inside 90 seconds but Jamie Stephens did well to thwart the prolific Danny Rose.

There was a real confidence about the visitors' attacking play and Joe Rafferty was forced to produce a Jamie Carragher-esque interception to deny Sam Patterson a clear sight of goal on eight minutes.

Liverpool were struggling to get in behind the Barnsley rearguard and once again it was the away team who posed the questions with last season's 23-goal hitman, Rose flicking an effort straight into the hands of the grateful Stephens.

The Reds had no shortage of attacking talent on the field and on the quarter of an hour mark they finally carved out a half chance when Peterson jinked to the byline and cut a ball across goal that Tykes defender, John Stones just about cleared.

It seemed to give Liverpool an immediate lift and less than a minute later they were ahead. Sumner picked up the ball 25 yards from goal and turned his marker before curling a sublime right footer into the top corner.

The diminutive attacker was suddenly at the heart of the home side's play and it was his ball that played in Adam Morgan but the striker delayed his shot and eventually saw it deflect to safety.

Next, it was the No.9 who turned provider when he nodded Sumner's cross into the path of Peterson, but the Swede saw his volley from six yards out brilliantly pushed away by Lukas Lidakevicius.

It looked like Marsh's team now had the initiative but they were pegged back just seconds later when the Yorkshire outfit netted a goal of extraordinary quality.

Clark picked up the ball on the left, exchanged a fortuitous one-two and crashed a stunning shot that seared in off the crossbar.

It brought an end to the flurry of goalmouth activity and it wasn't until Lewis Hatch misjudged the flight of Rose's right-wing cross that there was any danger at either end. Fortunately for the hosts, Clark's looping header was gathered by Stephens with relative ease.

On 40 minutes the Tykes came even closer when Rose was unlucky to see a snapshot rebound off the inside of the post after a free-kick had caused confusion in the Liverpool defence.

The Reds had struggled to put together any sustained periods of pressure but felt they should have had a penalty soon after when Morgan tumbled under a challenge in the middle of the area. The referee waved away the appeals and it looked like the teams would go in all-square at the break until Peterson produced a moment of magic on 45 minutes.

Hatch hoisted a high ball towards the far side of the penalty area where the winger got above his marker to power a fine header into the bottom corner from eight yards out.

It had been an action-packed first period but with the rain continuing to pour down the second 45 developed into a scrappy affair.

Neither side were able to truly stamp their authority on the game and it wasn't until after the hour mark that a half chance fell the way of Barnsley.

Rhys Oates broke through the middle and looked all set to level until Rafferty appeared from nowhere to slide the ball to safety.

The Reds also suffered the blow of seeing goalscorer Peterson helped off the pitch with an ankle injury but should have wrapped up the victory with two chances in quick succession 20 minutes from time.

Morgan was given a free run at goal but opted to try a cute lob that went well wide of goal before Jordan Lussey forced a fine stop out of the Tykes 'keeper with a trademark blockbuster.

The Yorkshire outfit pushed for an equalizer late on but it was Liverpool who looked the more likely and substitute David Moli should have made it count when he wasted a gilt-edged chance.

It would prove to be the pivotal moment in the match as a goalmouth scramble on 94 minutes saw the ball break to Alderson who was left unmarked at the far post to steer home.