Saturday, November 05, 2011

Match Preview: Liverpool vs. Swansea

Liverpool could move back into the top four of the Premier League when they host Swansea in the first league clash between the sides in almost 30 years.

Boss Kenny Dalglish, who played in the Reds' 3-0 victory over the Welshmen in April 1983, has overseen a rich vein of form for the Anfield side in recent weeks.

Liverpool are unbeaten in their last five top-flight matches and could leap above Chelsea and Tottenham if the results go their way.

Dalglish believes his new-look team, which was bolstered by seven summer signings, has started to gel and a number of key partnerships are beginning to blossom.

Strike pair Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll have showed signs of forging a deadly attack, while Jose Enrique and Stewart Downing have caused problems for the opposition by linking down the left flank.

But Dalglish has warned the home crowd not to expect Liverpool to cruise past Brendan Rodgers' men.

Swansea, who was thrashed 8-0 when they last visited Anfield for a FA Cup tie in 1990, have made a solid start to Premier League life.

After failing to score in their opening four games, the Swans have found their shooting boots to win their last three home matches.

Now the 10th placed side will be hoping to take this form away from the Liberty Stadium, having earned just one point on their travels.

History will also be created if Rodgers and his players pull off a shock against Liverpool.

It would be Swansea City's first win at Anfield, with the Welshmen's previous success - a 2-1 triumph in February 1964 - coming under their former guise of Swansea Town.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard will miss the clash after being ruled out for at least the next fortnight with an ankle infection.

Gerrard's absence means midfielder Jordan Henderson, who deputised in last week's win at West Brom, is likely to keep his place.

Defender Jamie Carragher's calf injury which forced him to miss the match at the Hawthorns will be assessed late on to see whether the centre-back is ready to return.

Swansea manager Rodgers is boosted by the return of Kemy Agustien.

The Dutch midfielder has been out for six weeks with a hamstring problem, and he is likely to make his return on the bench with Mark Gower, Leon Britton and Joe Allen having performed so well in his absence.

But the trip to face the Reds comes too soon for Stephen Dobbie, who is likely to return following the international break after an ankle injury.

Possible starting XIs:

Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique, Henderson, Adam, Lucas, Downing, Suarez, Carroll.

Swansea: Vorm, Rangel, Williams, Monk, Taylor, Britton, Gower, Allen, Dyer, Graham, Sinclair.

Swansea's Brendan Rodgers Touched By Kenny Dalglish's Congratulations

Brendan Rodgers says he was "honoured" by the congratulations Swansea received from Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish after their Premier League promotion.

Dalglish was among the first to congratulate the Welsh side after their Championship play-off win over Reading.

As the Swans prepare to travel to Anfield on Saturday, Rodgers said he still treasures Dalglish's letter.

"I was very honoured to receive that from such a great man and a wonderful player," he said.

"It was a fantastic gesture - we received a number of those but this was the first to come through.

"It shows you why they [Liverpool] are respected worldwide. It's those class moments and acts that go a long way.

"Kenny's come in and reignited the whole club - and because of that association that he's had his impact has been fantastic.

"I liken the way the club is run and their supporters to our own.

"They're both sets of supporters who understand the traditions of their club [and] the good footballing principles."

Liverpool are unbeaten at home in the Premier League this season, while Swansea have secured only one point on the road.

But Rodgers believes Swansea can do well at Anfield, citing the draws achieved by Sunderland and Norwich as examples.

"We understand no matter what ground it is this season that every game is going to be difficult away from home," said Rodgers.

"We go there really looking forward to the game and we feel our game is progressing and we're getting success in particular at home.

"But we want to turn some good performances on the road into points.

"But you know when you go to the big teams you also need that little bit of luck.

"If we can get that and perform like we can then we want to give ourselves an opportunity."

Midfielder Mark Gower is currently holding talks with the club over a new contract and Rodgers says the former Southend player thoroughly deserves a new deal.

"He deserves it, discussions have been ongoing and I am sure that they will be completed soon," said Rodgers of the 33-year-old.

"Mark has been brilliant since I've been here, he showed his worth last season and has been exceptional when he has come into the team this season.

"He gives his all every single day and is a player I wanted to ensure we did retain."

Liverpool Open Contract Talks With Steven Gerrard

Liverpool have opened contract negotiations with captain Steven Gerrard as the club’s American owners look to reinforce his long-term role at Anfield.

Despite his absence through injury, owners Fenway Sports Group have already held discussions with Gerrard’s representatives about lengthening his current deal.

The 31-year-old has 18 months left on an existing contract, but from the moment they bought the club over a year ago FSG have made it clear they wish Gerrard to spend the remainder of his career at his boyhood team.

The same applies to Liverpool vice-captain Jamie Carragher, who signed a three year deal last year prior to the takeover but is seen by the hierarchy as integral to the club’s identity.

Gerrard’s existing agreement will take him to his 33rd birthday, and an extension, likely to be another two years, represents a show of faith in his ability to overcome recent injury setbacks.

Although the latest negotiations began before he suffered the ankle injury which has put him back on the sidelines, he is expected to make a full recovery from the infection.

Gerrard has been at Anfield since his schoolboy days and after resisting the temptation to leave for Chelsea on three occasions between 2003-2005, and rejecting numerous less publicised offers from Inter Milan and Real Madrid, he said when penning his last deal in 2009 he would remain at Liverpool for as long as he was wanted. He rebuffed another approach from Jose Mourinho after the 2010 World Cup.

There was never a doubt manager Kenny Dalglish would seek to retain the experience of both Gerrard and Carragher as he seeks to mould a new side with the assistance of their invaluable experience.

FSG have informed the pair they see roles for them as part of the staff when they finish playing, should they decide to pursue such a course.

The Liverpool duo have come integral to how the club presents itself both on and off the park and FSG have no wish to allow rivals to benefit from the wisdom and inside knowledge of Anfield which they’ve garnered throughout their two decades.

Liverpool Angry Over Scheduling Of Carling Cup Clash

Liverpool is embroiled in a furious row with the Football League after being ordered to play their Carling Cup quarter-final against Chelsea just 48 hours after a key Premier League fixture.

The Merseyside club is unhappy they must travel to Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, Nov 29, two days after they face Manchester City at Anfield.

An appeal to both the tournament organisers and the Premier League to rethink the schedule to preserve the integrity of the cup competition has been rejected.

City find themselves in the same position as Liverpool, as they must travel to London to face Arsenal in their quarter final immediately after their visit to Liverpool.

However, Robert Mancini’s side — with a vastly deeper squad and other priorities — are understood to be more relaxed about honouring both fixtures within such a short period.

Liverpool had expected to head to Chelsea for a Wednesday evening kick-off, but the Football League claimed it could not do so because of Metropolitan Police advice.

There is a TUC rally in central London on that day and Spurs are playing at home to PAOK Salonika in the Europa League.

These explanations hold little sway with Liverpool, who do not believe they should suffer as a consequence of other commitments in the capital city, especially with other dates available in the fixture calendar.

Manager Kenny Dalglish is deeply concerned Liverpool will not have any time to train for a game ranked as one of the most important of their season.

After a brief warm down on Monday after the City game, Liverpool will have to make their 200-mile journey to London and play with minimal preparation.

Chelsea, in comparison, play Wolves at home on Saturday, Nov 26, giving them an obvious advantage. Liverpool appealed to the Football League for this to be taken into consideration. They asked for the quarter-final to be played in the week of the semi-final, commencing Jan 9.

When that was refused, both Liverpool and City asked the Premier League to bring forward their league meeting by 24 hours. This was deemed impossible because of live television commitments.

Liverpool is especially unhappy with their treatment given how they have supported the League Cup, not only throughout their history, but during the course of this season.

They boast the record number of wins in the tournament and the record number of appearances in the final.

Dalglish has played a strong side throughout the early rounds this season and it has become a major priority due to a lack of European competition. He is determined to lift the club’s first trophy since 2006.

Ryan Babel Reveals Regret Over LFC Mistakes

Former Liverpool winger Ryan Babel has revealed that he regrets his 'dangerous' use of Twitter during the latter stages of his career at Anfield.

Babel, who now plays his trade in Germany with Hoffenheim, admits that he is 'addicted to Twitter', and warned that becoming 'too emotional', can be 'very dangerous'.

Babel got into a couple of high-profile Twitter scrapes at Liverpool, one of which still bothers him to this day:

"The first mistake I made was when I was at Liverpool and I hadn't been selected for the squad.

"We were having problems up front with Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard and Yossi Benayoun all injured, and had to play Stoke away.

"I was left out of the squad completely, and it didn't make sense to me. So I tweeted "Do you guys understand that", to hear fans' opinion.

"Within 15 minutes it was on Sky Spots News as 'Babel blasts his manager'. It put the team and the coach under extra pressure, and when they lost, I felt bad"

Babel must be referring to the 2-0 defeat at Stoke in the 2010-11 season under Roy Hodgson. He shouldn't feel so bad though; until recently, the Brittania Stadium has been a bit of a cursed ground for Liverpool.

Babel seems to be enjoying life at Hoffenheim. In a recent interview with De Telegraaf, he enthused:

“I think I’ve really benefited from the move to the Bundesliga. We do more preparation work at Hoffenheim than I ever saw in England and we do longer training sessions. I’ve never felt so fit".

Babel had a strong start the season, scoring 5 goals in 7 games, but his form has tailed off a bit in recent weeks, and he's failed to find the back of the net in the last 6 starts for his new team.

Reds To Wear Poppy Shirts

Liverpool will wear jerseys embroidered with poppies when they take on Swansea City on Saturday afternoon - before signing and donating them to the Royal British Legion.

With no Barclays Premier League matches next weekend, the Reds will don the special shirts to commemorate Remembrance weekend.

The match-worn jerseys will then be given to the charity, which supports current and former members of the armed forces and their families, to help raise funds.

Jordan Henderson said: "It's important for Liverpool to pay their respects this weekend. The Poppy Appeal raises millions of pounds for the families of those who are involved in the armed forces.

"It's an honour to wear the poppy on our shirts, and afterwards we'll be signing them and donating them to the Royal British Legion.

"Everybody has the utmost respect for the members of those involved in the armed forces, and their families. Saturday is a great opportunity for the players and the fans to pay their respects.

"I'd like to thank all of the fans in the armed forces for the work they do - and I'm sure we'll pay our respects to them on Saturday and try to get the right result for them."

A minutes' silence will also be held prior to kick-off, while Liverpool will host a pre-match bucket collection for the Royal British Legion and have donated perimeter board advertising and an article in the matchday program to the Poppy Appeal.

The two teams will be led out onto the pitch by the Royal British Legion flag bearer Brian Fearn, while Mark Kirwan and John Cadwallader of the Royal Marines Reserve Merseyside will place a large poppy in the centre circle.

Keegan: I Could Have Come Back

Kevin Keegan has spoken of how Liverpool Football Club made him as a footballer and a person - and revealed how the possibility of a sensational Anfield return was once discussed.

Forty years after signing for the club, the player who helped make our No.7 jersey famous has given his most forthright and personal interview ever - and if you're an LFC TV Online subscriber then you can watch the entire 60 minutes before anyone else right now.

Among the revelations from Keegan was an admission that after leaving Anfield in 1977, a clause was inserted into his Hamburg contract giving Liverpool an option to buy him back.

The transfer never happened and instead in 1980 he signed for a Southampton side managed by Lawrie McMenemy.

Keegan explained what happened: "It was an option. I was with Lawrie McMenemy at a charity event the other day and he said he phoned up Peter Robinson, because he wanted me but Liverpool had a clause, but Peter said, 'No, we won't be signing him, definitely, we don't need him.'

"Liverpool had moved on, got different players and partnerships, were just as successful and arguably about to be even more successful.

"In football terms, it's never easy to go back. You've had it happen over the years a couple of times and it's half worked but it's never really the same. My book had been written at Liverpool and it was a nice little book. I had a lot of good fun and a few little downs, which makes a good story.

"Every time I come back, even driving here today, I go past my old digs. You can't take the memories away but it was finished."

Despite firing a century of goals in 323 appearances for Liverpool, Keegan is perhaps associated more with Newcastle these days following his return to St James' Park as manager.

But despite his father being from the north-east, the 60-year-old regards Liverpool as the club to which he owes everything.

"Newcastle and Liverpool are the two," he said. "I played for and managed Newcastle, my father and all his relatives were from up there, so there was a big pull for me in the north-east. But Liverpool made me, not just as a footballer but as a person. The people I met: Shanks, Tommy Smith, Ian Callaghan, Ron Yeats. All these people you take something from.

"You think, what makes Emlyn Hughes so special on the football field? Fitness. I want to be fit. What makes Tommy Smith so special? He absolutely loves the club. I'll take a bit of that. Taking bits of those people made me. It was a very influential time for me.

"The fans made me. When they started singing my name! What am I, five foot seven with Cuban heeled boots? But (because of them) I was six foot six."

Duo Unveil Brand New Facility

Two of Liverpool's promising starlets paid a visit to St Ambrose Barlow Catholic High School to unveil a brand new state-of-the-art training facility.

Conor Coady and Michael Roberts cut the ribbon at the opening of the new £150,000 project, and the new suite will provide a high quality venue for the delivery of training for local businesses and schools in the South Sefton Area.

The Governors, staff and students of St Ambrose Barlow Catholic High School unanimously voted to name the facility 'The Andy Traynor Suite' in memory of their former Headteacher who tragically passed away shortly after his retirement.

Mr. Traynor laid the foundations for the massive success that the school has achieved in recent years, resulting in national awards for excellence.

The state of the art building is a self-contained training facility. It includes a conference room with an attached ICT area for up to 28 users with a SMART whiteboard and internet access. The Training room can be accessed independently from the school and has a purpose built reception area, disabled WC and kitchen.