Saturday, October 01, 2011

Match Preview: Everton vs Liverpool

Old foes Everton and Liverpool will lock horns once more at Goodison Park on Saturday in the 216th Merseyside derby.

For David Moyes it is the chance to build on some steadily improving home form that has seen the Blues recover from that shock opening game defeat to QPR to go unbeaten in their last four games in all competitions in front of their own supporters.

They also have fond memories of last season's home encounter with Liverpool, when they strolled to a comfortable 2-0 win thanks to goals from Mikel Arteta and Tim Cahill.

It is a very different Liverpool team though that will take to the field on Saturday, complete with a new - or should that be familiar - man in the dugout.

Reds boss Kenny Dalglish is preparing to return to Goodison Park as Liverpool manager for the first time since 1991.

Back then Dalglish famously quit the Anfield club just days after a tumultuous 4-4 FA Cup tie with the Toffees, citing the pressure of the job and the strain it had taken on him over the years.

His return last January was equally dramatic and the intervening nine months has seen him stamp his authority on the squad with a number of big money incomings and notable departures.

The situation could not be more different across Stanley Park, with Toffees boss Moyes forced to work on a shoestring budget, raising nearly £15million in player sales over the summer but only bringing in three loan signings.

Despite the financial disparity the Blues could go above their old rivals with a win on Saturday, with a game in hand.

Liverpool's Dirk Kuyt and Everton's Tim Cahill appear to relish this fixture more than most and the pair have five derby goals to their name. The Australian has scored more derby goals than any other Everton player since the war.

The game could hinge on referee Martin Atkinson, who faces the unenviable task of trying to manage the Premier League's most volatile encounter. This match-up has seen 19 red cards since the start of the Premier League, more than any other fixture.

Atkinson showed six yellows and two reds the last time he was on duty in a Merseyside derby, at Anfield in February 2010.

Therefore the derby spoils could hinge on who keeps their head in the white hot atmosphere of a packed Goodison Park on Saturday lunchtime.

Cahill is a doubt for Everton after he sustained a shin injury in a challenge with Manchester City's Vincent Kompany last weekend. The Australian hasn't trained all week but Moyes will leave it as late as possible before deciding on the 32-year-old's fitness.

Striker Louis Saha is pushing for a recall after appearing as a substitute against City last weekend but fellow forward Victor Anichebe remains side-lined until December.

For Liverpool, skipper Steven Gerrard looks likely to start from the bench as he edges his way back to full fitness. The England man has played just 25 minutes of competitive football since recovering from a groin operation.

Glen Johnson is out with hamstring strain while Daniel Agger will also miss out as he recovers from a rib injury.

Possible starting XIs

Everton: Howard, Hibbert, Baines, Jagielka, Distin, Rodwell, Fellaini, Osman, Coleman, Cahill, Saha.

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

Dalglish: We Must Be Composed & Committed To Win Derby

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish has urged his team to keep their composure while maintaining full commitment when they take on local rivals Everton in the Merseyside derby this weekend.

The Reds started the season in promising form but back-to-back defeats against Stoke and Tottenham knocked their progress somewhat.

A 2-1 victory over Wolves helped to restore their title ambitions but Dalglish knows it will take more than inconsistent form to overcome their bitter rivals in what will be the 216th Merseyside derby on Saturday.

"The most important thing for us is to be confident, composed and have the belief we can win the game," he said.

"It is up to us to get that into our players and get them to believe it.

"We know we have to be totally committed to get the result because if we aren't we won't get anything.

"You have to earn things you want in this life and if we want three points from Goodison on Saturday then we will need to stand up and be counted because they will make it difficult for us."

David Moyes Frustrated By Kenny Dalglish's Spending Power

Everton boss David Moyes admits he is frustrated by the financial constraints bound on him by the club’s lack of money, but insists he is not envious of the spending power of his opposite number at Liverpool, Kenny Dalglish.

The two sides will come together on Saturday lunchtime in the first Merseyside derby of the season which takes place at Goodison Park.

Currently, there is a stark contrast between both clubs, which is easily outlined when looking at the past two transfer windows where Liverpool were able to spend in the region of £120 million on players, whereas the cash-strapped Toffees brought in four on loan and bought another, Apostolos Vellios, for a low fee.

Moyes was quick to make note of the financial divide between his and Dalglish’s sides when being asked about the upcoming grudge match.

"It's always been a tough game for us because we're up against good opposition, and Liverpool have always had a level of finance which has allowed them to buy a different level of player than us," Moyes told reporters.

"Over the years we've tried to be competitive, tried to get as close to them as we can.

"We know it's a big rivalry in the city, and I'm aware of that, but most people are aware there have been differences over the years between Liverpool and Everton, and all of it has been financial."

Moyes also made note of the Reds’ situation this time last season "This time last year Liverpool weren't in great condition.

"They were maybe in a similar situation to us here where they were having to give money back to the banks.

"The supporters were quite restless at the time, but they've had new owners, a change of manager and brought in new players, so they have turned it around quite a lot.

"That's there for everybody to see and everybody knows that. At this present time we've not got the funds Liverpool have had given to them in the last year. That's given them a big help."

Asked if he is frustrated by getting so close to Liverpool last season, he added: "Yes, only because we got really close last year, and things have changed very quickly for Liverpool in that time.

"Last season we had a really good side at times. I think we showed that, although not come the end of the season because our league position wasn't good enough.”

However, Moyes insists he does not look over towards Anfield with envy.

"I don't think I look with envy. I'm just stating facts. It has never been any different here," said the Scot.

"We have always worked within our means, and in many seasons the same things have happened and we've still always found a way of getting there, so hopefully we can do that again this year.

"It has been hard to get above Liverpool in the league table, and we have done everything we can to win as many derby games as we can, which has been tough.

"We've tried to be competitive against them, tried to hang onto their shirt tails, and at times try to get above them, but as I say, it's not been easy."

Gerrard Asks Capello Not To Choose Him For Euro 2012 Qualifier

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has insisted to England boss Fabio Capello that he is not chosen for the nation’s important Euro 2012 qualifier against Montenegro later next month.

Gerrard has played just 25 minutes of football since returning for the Merseyside outfit after six months out of the game and believes other players should be selected ahead of him for the crunch fixture.

“I think everyone knows I'm still not 100 per cent match fit,” he told reporters.

“I have only probably had two 12-minute games. I'm not really sure how much I'm going to play against Everton so, in my opinion, it's probably still a bit too early.

“I don't make the decisions. Those decisions are down to the England manager, whether he picks me or not.

“I'm sure he'll have a discussion with Kenny [Dalglish] and between them they can decide what the right thing is for me.

“In my opinion there are other players out there who are match fit who are probably more suitable for that game, but we'll have to wait and see. If I'm called up, I'll deal with it.”

The 31-year-old will most likely start on the bench once more in Saturday’s derby clash with Everton, but understands that he should not be rushed back into action too soon in order to aid his recovery.

Gerrard said: “With experience I have come to learn about my own body and I haven't been out for two or three weeks with a hamstring or a calf injury. I've had a reconstruction of my groin and it is going to take time.

“To be fair to Kenny and the medical staff, they have handled me perfectly so far and I'm sure they'll do the same in the coming weeks.

“It's important that I don't force it, they don't force it and we don't push it too hard, but I am at the stage now where the only way I'm going to get my match sharpness, match fitness and get back to the form I want to play at is if I get game time.

“But I also understand it's got to be at the right time as well.”

Liverpool have had somewhat of an inconsistent string of results since the start of the campaign and currently find themselves in fifth place, and Gerrard believes his side need to take care during the derby match to not get caught up in the intense atmosphere.

He added: “We need to play without fear. Sometimes in derby games you can get involved in the fight and forget to play. It becomes a battle and a tussle rather than us settling and playing our own game.

“We like to pass and move, attack quick and stay compact when we haven't got the ball, so if we can settle really quickly into the game I'm really confident we can get the right result.”

Liverpool Joined By Manchester City In Race For Crystal Palace Starlet

Liverpool have reportedly been joined by Manchester City in the race for Crystal Palace youngster Wilfried Zaha.

The 18-year-old forward has been the subject of speculation linking him with a move away from Selhurst Park with Liverpool the club consistently suggested as a possible destination.

Stoke and Fulham were both reported to have made unsuccessful approaches in the summer but, according to the Daily Star, City have now registered their interest.

With the Zaha in such demand, and considering he signed a new contract tying him to Palace until 2015, the Championship club are not under any immediate pressure to sell.

However, Palace are reportedly resigned to the fact that they face a struggle to hold onto their prized asset and will listen to offers next summer.

Liverpool Confirm Midfield Starlet's Loan Switch

Liverpool have confirmed that young midfielder Jonjo Shelvey has joined Blackpool on loan until December 31, 2011.

Shelvey was signed by the Reds from Charlton in May 2010 but has thus far struggled to make an impression in the first team with a host of central midfielders all vying for a starting berth.

The 19-year-old knows that he needs to gain some first team experience with the likes of Steven Gerrard, Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson and Jay Spearing all battling for a place in central midfield.

The England youth player has made 22 appearances for the Reds since moving to the club and is considered one of the best young talents at the club.

Blackpool currently find themselves in 10th place in the Championship after nine games and will be hoping to finish the season in the play-off places as they look to return to the Premier League..

Liverpool Starlet Adam Morgan Adds To Growing Anfield Reputation

Liverpool starlet Adam Morgan added to his growing reputation with a double in the 3-0 win over Molde for the club's Under 19s.

Facing a must-win clash against the Norwegian outfit in Group Two of the NextGen Series, Morgan came off the bench to fire the Reds to victory and a chance of progressing to the knock-out stages of the competition.

The Merseysiders will travel to Sporting Lisbon full of confidence after their second-half display at Anfield, and it was Morgan who took the plaudits from manager Rodolfo Borrell.

"In the first half they got a lot of players behind the ball and tried to stop us playing. We needed to play much quicker and we changed our system to a 4-4-2 in the second half when Morgan came on," Borrell told the official Liverpool website.

"He is a player who scores a lot of goals. He could start in the first XI but people need to remember he is still an U18 player. He played the full 90 minutes for the Liverpool U18s and scored twice at the weekend and we want to protect him.

"Last season he scored consistently at U18 level and got many goals. He is capable of scoring a lot of goals and is a very useful player to have in our squad."

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish and director of football Damien Comolli were both in the stands to take in the performance, and are likely to have been impressed with the performance of a player dubbed 'the next Robbie Fowler'.

Teammates Raheem Sterling and Andre Wisdom were also on-song in the victory, and the trio could well be getting involved in first team activities at Liverpool sooner rather than later.

Euro Joy For Starlets

Adam Morgan came off the bench to fire a brace and help keep Liverpool's NextGen Series hopes alive in a 3-0 victory over Molde at Anfield on Thursday night.

The striker, introduced into the action at half-time, displayed great poise to find the back of the net after Michael Ngoo's pass had sent him one-on-one with the Norwegian's goalkeeper on 67 minutes.

Morgan then claimed a second on 90 minutes with a magnificent lobbed finish from 20 yards before Toni Silva stabbed home in stoppage time to secure the points.

It was just rewards for a dominant display from the Reds, in which they also rattled the woodwork on two occasions.

The win means Rodolfo Borrell's side now have a fighting chance of securing qualification from Group 2 of the NextGen Series with one game to go.

Having picked up a point from their two home games so far in the competition, Liverpool were well aware of the importance of securing three points in front of the Kop in their penultimate group stage fixture.

Last week's 2-0 defeat in Wolfsburg was harsh on the young Reds, but a victory over Molde - the team they dispatched so comprehensively by four goals in Norway - would keep alive Borrell's men's hopes of qualification ahead of the final match against Sporting Lisbon in Portugal next month.

After a bright start by Molde on an unusually humid evening in L4, Liverpool soon began to take the game to their guests with a succession of corners and free-kicks.

Indeed, only a fine save from Silvert Beinset prevented Ryan McLaughlin from opening the scoring after the full-back sauntered into the box and struck a powerful low drive towards goal.

The Molde 'keeper repeated the trick soon after, clawing Ngoo's towering header away from danger on the goalline following Suso's corner.

With Kenny Dalglish and Damien Comolli amongst the interested spectators, Silva went closer still to breaking the deadlock. The forward cut in from the right and cannoned an effort against the base of the post.

The rebound fell for the No.7 again on the edge of the box, and he saw a second attempt repelled by the sprawling Beinset.

It was all Liverpool and, as the clock on the Anfield scoreboard reached 28 minutes, a trademark weave into the box from Raheem Sterling resulted in the winger grazing the top of the crossbar with his curler.

Sterling was enjoying a lively evening, but 10 minutes later he was left holding his head in his hands and wondering how he hadn't scored when Suso's majestic through ball sent him bearing down on goal, but the boot of Beinset ensured parity remained intact heading into half-time.

With his side desperately needing a cutting edge in attack, Borrell opted to introduce Morgan into affairs during the interval - though it was Ngoo who had the first attempt of the half when he steered Sterling's low free-kick goalwards, but Molde were able to scramble to safety.

Next, a typically rangy surge into the area saw the No.9 cannon a left-foot strike off the underside of the bar. Sterling quickly worked the ball back into the danger zone, where Morgan's shot was deflected wide.

From the resulting corner, Conor Coady picked up possession on the edge of the area and fashioned space for a shooting chance, which Beinset turned over.

Silva was next to threaten on the hour, twisting and turning inside a packed area before drilling into the Kop.

A goal for the hosts appeared inevitable - and it finally arrived on 67 minutes.

Ngoo's pass sliced open the Molde defence, sending Morgan bounding down on goal. The striker retained his composure and slipped the ball into the bottom corner with his left boot.

It was no more than Liverpool deserved for their dominance - and they continued to test Beinset in the closing stages of the contest.

Molde were finally undone again in the last minute when Morgan pounced upon a wayward pass and found the net with a lob from distance.

Then, in injury time, Silva tricked his way into the box and stabbed home to give the scoreline a more emphatic look and put the seal on a win that could prove invaluable in determining the outcome of the Reds' NextGen Series aspirations.