Saturday, September 24, 2011

Match Preview: Liverpool vs Wolves

Steven Gerrard could return to Premier League action this weekend as Liverpool aim to put two consecutive league defeats behind them with victory over Wolves.

After back-to-back setbacks at Stoke and Tottenham, the Reds stopped the rot at Brighton in the Carling Cup on Wednesday and welcome Mick McCarthy's side to Anfield on Saturday for the return of league action.

Wolves were wounded in a surprise 3-0 home defeat to Queens Park Rangers last weekend, but went some way towards forgetting that loss with a backlash mauling of Millwall on Tuesday.

And they'll be out to replicate last season's success in Liverpool, having ended a 27-year wait for a win over the Reds as Stephen Ward sealed a 1-0 victory for Wolves in December 2010.

McCarthy's men have reason to be positive, too, as they're unbeaten on the road in four games and a fifth in succession will be a Premier League record for the club.

For Liverpool, boss Kenny Dalglish will hope to shore up a shaky defence which has conceded nine goals in seven games.

Dalglish has midfielder Charlie Adam available again after the Scot served a one-match ban at the Amex Stadium following his red card at Tottenham, but he faces a fight to keep his place with Gerrard now in the running for a central role.

The club captain played the last 15 minutes of the 2-1 win in what was his first appearance for six months after a lengthy injury lay-off, while Craig Bellamy's man of the match display in the game leaves him pushing for a start.

Martin Skrtel, who also served a ban at Brighton, is available again and he is expected to partner Jamie Carragher in central defence with Daniel Agger unavailable through a rib fracture.

Martin Kelly started in midweek and is expected to keep his place at right-back with Glen Johnson still yet to fully recover from a hamstring problem.

Wolves skipper Roger Johnson and striker Steven Fletcher will return to McCarthy's squad after their respective injuries.

Johnson missed the midweek 5-0 win over the Lions with a sore calf while Fletcher has recovered from a recent groin injury.

Kevin Foley (ankle), Jody Craddock (hamstring), Ronald Zubar (groin) and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake (knee) are still sidelined.

Possible starting XIs:

Liverpool: Reina, Kelly, Skrtel, Carragher, Enrique, Lucas, Adam, Bellamy, Downing, Kuyt, Suarez.

Wolves: Hennessey, Stearman, Johnson, Berra, Elokobi, Kightly, Henry, O'Hara, Jarvis, Ward, Doyle.

Home Soil Comforts Skrtel

Defender Martin Skrtel admits a degree of relief as Liverpool return to Anfield this weekend.

The Reds welcome Wolves on Saturday and Skrtel returns from a one-match ban after missing out on the club's 2-1 Carling Cup win at Brighton on Wednesday.

Slovakian Skrtel was red carded at Tottenham last week but he is looking forward to getting back to home soil after three away games on the trot.

"We always look forward to our home games because there is something special about playing at Anfield," Skrtel told the club's official website.

The 26-year-old, who scored Liverpool's second in a 3-1 win over Bolton last month, added: "It's a great feeling every time we win at home and hopefully we can do that on Saturday.

"The crowd is always behind us and it was special for me to score in our last home game against Bolton.

"We know Wolves have a few good players and they started the season well but if we play like we did against Bolton at Anfield we know we are more than capable of getting the win."

Liverpool Told £20m Enough To Land Brazil's Midfield Starlet

Despite being one of the busiest clubs in the summer transfer window it appears as though Liverpool could continue to spend when the January transfer window opens.

The club is being strongly linked with a move for Sao Paulo midfielder Lucas who is considered one of the hottest properties in Brazilian football.

The 19-year-old is being chased by a number of European clubs who all hope to persuade the midfielder to make the move away from South America.

The youngster has been earning rave reviews for both Sao Paulo and Brazil having already made seven appearances for his national side including being included in the squad for last summers Copa America.

The attacking midfielder has cored 14 league goals in 51 appearances for Sao Paulo, including four goals in his last seven appearances for the club as well as four assists.

Tottenham and Italian outfit Roma are also interested in signing the midfielder, whose full name is Lucas Rodrigues Moura da Silva, and are also considering bidding for the player in January.

The Brazilian club have revealed that they would be willing to let the player leave, but will demand in the region of £20million for the midfield star.

Liverpool has a host of midfielders, but it appears they are still keen to bring young, talented players to the club and could move for Lucas in January.

Liverpool Ponder Sensational £25m Move For Playmaker

Liverpool is considering a move for attacking midfielder Marek Hamsik, according to reports.

The Slovakian international has been earning rave reviews for Napoli and is currently being watched by Liverpool scouts.

Reports suggest the Reds are considering a move for Hamsik this January after watching the 24-year old help Napoli earn a draw against Manchester City last week.

The 24-year old was excellent for the Italian outfit, who earned a hard earned point in their Champions League opener.

However, Liverpool will have to fight off interest from AC Milan who is also keen to land the talented midfielder.

The former Slovan Bratislava helped Partenopei finish third last season, scoring 13 goals in the process.

Craig Bellamy Excited By Luis Suarez Link-Up

Liverpool forward Craig Bellamy is looking forward to getting the chance to play alongside the "impressive" Luis Suarez more often.

The Uruguay international helped him open his account in just his third appearance since re-joining the club in the summer, against Brighton in midweek.

Bellamy's last competitive goal came for Cardiff on the final day of the npower Championship regular season on May 7.

But after being given his first start in Wednesday's 2-1 Carling Cup win, and a chance to link up with the player who has played a huge part in the club's rejuvenation since manager Kenny Dalglish took over in January, the Wales international was delighted to be up and running early.

"I managed to link up with Luis Suarez who is such an impressive player and it was a good feeling," he said. "It was a nice goal and I was pleased with it."

Dalglish Warning Over Gerrard

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish has urged Fabio Capello to show restraint when it comes to deciding whether or not to select Steven Gerrard for England's Euro 2012 qualifier in Montenegro on October 7.

England need a point from the fixture in order to guarantee their place at the tournament and, for that reason, Capello will be eager to get his strongest XI out on the field.

Whether midfielder Gerrard will attain 100% fitness by the time of the Montenegro fixture is up for debate, as he made only his first appearance of the season against Brighton on Wednesday, having been laid low for six months following a groin operation.

And Dalglish has asked Capello to think hard before placing his faith in Gerrard. "I don't pick England's team, so whatever they have to do, they have to do," Dalglish said. "I would just hope that they'd be as intelligent as what we have been."

Meanwhile, Dalglish has underlined the importance of easing Gerrard back in to the first-team picture slowly. The Scot moved for Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam in the summer, meaning he now has a wealth of options in central midfield, even in the absence of Gerrard.

"It's fantastic for the football club that Steven's back, but the most important thing for the club is Steven himself," Dalglish said. "We need to continue in the intelligent manner that we have done. There'll be no timescale, we'll just take it as it comes."

Dalglish: Club Bigger Than Carroll

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard's return from injury briefly deflected the spotlight away from striker Andy Carroll but manager Kenny Dalglish knows it is bound to return.

The club's £35million record signing has yet to score in five Barclays Premier League appearances - three of which have been starts - with his only goal so far coming against League One Exeter in the Carling Cup.

Carroll was left on the bench in midweek for the fourth-round tie at Brighton and with Craig Bellamy, Luis Suarez and Dirk Kuyt combining well together it only prompted more questions about how the England international fits in to Liverpool's pass-and-move approach.

In fairness to Carroll he was one of the nine men who had to play the full 90 minutes in the 4-0 runaround Tottenham gave them at last weekend and probably warranted a rest.

And Dalglish put little significance by his decision to rest his record signing, although he now has a selection dilemma for Saturday's visit of Wolves.

"Andy is a professional footballer who understands what goes on in football," said the Reds boss.

"He worked really hard at Tottenham. It was a bad performance and a bad day for us.

"We don't have a team, we have a squad. There will be times when someone will play and others won't.

"Sometimes you'll be lucky and sometimes you'll be unlucky.

"But the football club is more important than one individual - including myself.

"I'm sure the players realize that. Although there will be a disappointment if you aren't playing, I think there's an understanding as well."

Dalglish added no-one should be surprised a side with seven changes - particularly the trio of Suarez, Bellamy and Kuyt - should play so well at Brighton.

"They train together every day and they get that understanding there. They then look to transfer it into the match," he said.

"We have a look at them every day and work out who does well together.

"If you get intelligent footballers playing together you have a good chance of getting a good performance from them and certainly we got that."

Dalglish believes it is important to learn from the Tottenham performance but not dwell on it as they face a Wolves side who have also lost their last two matches and won at Anfield last season during the final miserable throes of Roy Hodgson's short-lived reign.

"We know it was not acceptable (at Tottenham) but the good thing is that the players realize it is not acceptable," he said.

"We don't get carried away with the victories we have and we won't get suicidal over the defeats we have either.

"At the same time we have to address the problems, if we have them, and we will do. We'll do it properly and professionally.

"We'll try and get ourselves back up and running on Saturday.

"I think Mick McCarthy will be a bit disappointed at the moment as they've lost two league games back to back, like us, after a very good start.

"They came here last year and played very well and went away with a 1-0 victory.

"I think he'll be encouraged by that and he'll be looking for more of the same from his players.

"He'll look to repeat what he did here at Anfield with regards to how he sets his team up."

Bellamy Has The Hunger - Dalglish

Kenny Dalglish feels returning striker Craig Bellamy has "unfinished business" at Liverpool.

Bellamy scored in the 2-1 Carling Cup win against Brighton on Wednesday after being given his first start since re-signing for the Anfield club last month.

Despite the 32-year-old's reputation for having trouble follow him wherever he goes, Dalglish has had nothing but praise for a player they picked up for nothing after Manchester City agreed to cancel the final year of his contract.

Bellamy left Anfield in 2007 after just one season but Dalglish believes he has returned with a determination to do better than his first brief spell, in which he scored nine goals.

"We knew what we were getting when Craig came in. We've said many times before what Craig brings to this football club," said the Scot.

"He had a year out last year when he played at Cardiff rather than in the Barclays Premier League and I think we are getting the benefit of that because he has got a hunger to come in and impress.

"He's got a desire because maybe he went away with a bit of unfinished business the last time he left here.

"So he's got a desire to relight that and we'll get the benefit of it.

"He'll make a contribution to the football club over the length of his contract and hopefully Wednesday night was just the beginning for him.

"He loves playing football and is really enthusiastic. He wants to do well and we'll help him to do that all that we can."

David Amoo Joins Bury On One Month Loan

Reserve Liverpool Forward David Amoo joined League One club Bury on a one month loan on Friday. The 20-year-old could play for Bury as early as Saturday, when they host the MK Dons, reports.

The speedy forward, who also plays on both wings, joined the Reds' academy in July 2007 from Milwall's youth setup for an undisclosed fee.

He spent two years in the LFC academy and played a key role in the team’s march to the 2009 FA Youth Cup final.

Amoo was promoted to the reserve team for the 2009-10 season, during which he played 16 games and scored three goals.

He signed a new two-year contract with Liverpool in the summer of 2010 and made his first-team debut in a Europa League qualifier against Macedonia’s Rabotnicki. He spent the rest of the fall in the reserves, before a January 2011 move to League One side MK Dons on a one month long loan. He played three games for the Dons during that spell.

He returned to the Reds' reserve squad for February and joined Championship side Hull City in March on a loan deal through the end of the season. He played seven games for the Tigers, scoring one goal.

The move to Bury will give Amoo much needed match experience. Young players cannot fully develop without playing games and, if he succeeds at Bury, he could join a Championship team on loan for a longer spell. If that goes well, a move to a Premiership team could be on offer for part of the 2011-12 season.

This best case scenario could have Amoo return to Liverpool in the summer of 2012 as a more seasoned professional, who can challenge for a place in the first team in the 2012-13 campaign.

Thommo Backs LFC Initiative

Phil Thompson and comedian Chris Cairns were the guests of honour at a celebratory men's health event held at Anfield on Thursday afternoon.

The duo enjoyed good-natured banter with over 100 attendees proving that laughter really can be the best medicine.

The occasion, which was funded by the Barclays Premier league, the Football Pools and Liverpool PCT, was a fitting way to celebrate another year of this successful men's health program aimed at helping Liverpool men of all ages to improve their lifestyle.

Mark Haig, LFC 'Action for Health' Program Manager, explained why Liverpool Football Club have helped to make a key impact upon the health of members of the local community.

He said: "This LFC Men's Health program is a fantastic example of a partnership working that is making a real difference to the everyday lives of men in our community.

"It's a real team effort. Men have made some small but significant lifestyle changes that can have big benefits for their general health and wellbeing."

The partnership aims to reduce health issues relating to national statistics that show that men are more at risk to ill health than women.

Indeed, 40 per cent of men are more likely to die from cancer than women while 42 per cent do not live beyond the age of 75 years.

Some of the key targets of the partnership include: encouraging men not take risks with their health; to be aware of signs and symptoms; to keep a healthy body weight and to consider small practical lifestyle changes in relation to diet, physical activity, alcohol intake, smoking etc.