Saturday, November 26, 2011

Match Preview: Liverpool vs Man City

As if a meeting with the Premier League leaders was not difficult enough, Liverpool will be aware that a Manchester City backlash could be on the cards this weekend.

The Reds will head into Sunday's game in positive mood, with a seven-match unbeaten run keeping them within touching distance of the top four.

They will also be fresh, with no European action at Anfield this season meaning there can be no excuses when the Premier League takes centre stage.

Kenny Dalglish has already seen his side overcome Arsenal and Chelsea this term, while only a late equalizer allowed Manchester United to leave Merseyside with something to show for their efforts.

Liverpool can also boast an impressive record against City in recent times, with six wins and two draws taken from their last eight meetings at Anfield.

In fact, the Reds have lost only one of their last 12 top-flight matches against their North West rivals.

Dalglish's men came out on top the last time the two sides locked horns, with Andy Carroll netting twice in a 3-0 victory back in April.

That match represents the last time City failed to score in the league, with 52 goals plundered in 18 games since.

Liverpool are also the last side to score more than two goals against the Blues, with Roberto Mancini's side having shipped just 14 since their forgettable visit to Anfield.

Such fine form has City sat proudly atop of the Premier League table, with 11 victories taken from their opening 12 fixtures this term.

It is, however, abroad that the Blues have struggled, with Mancini's men in danger of slipping out of the UEFA Champions League at the group stage.

A 2-1 reversal against Napoli on Tuesday has left their European fate hanging in the balance, with favours now required from elsewhere.

A disappointing showing on Italian soil will have been put to the back of their minds, though, by the time they take to the field on Sunday, with City looking to respond positively to a rare setback.

It could be quite some afternoon on Merseyside, with both sides boasting frontmen in imperious form.

Luis Suarez continues to go from strength to strength for Liverpool, while Sergio Aguero and Mario Balotelli have been regular sources of goals for City.

Dalglish is likely to keep changes to a minimum as Liverpool attempt to bring some stability to their season.

Defender Jamie Carragher, who returned to the squad for last week's win at Chelsea but could only make the bench, may have to settle for a place among the substitutes again.

Winger Stewart Downing will be pushing for a recall having been dropped last week after starting the first 11 league matches but captain Steven Gerrard is still not fit to return from an ankle infection.

Manchester City have no fresh injury or suspension concerns to contend with, with Balotelli having recovered from a fever, but Mancini is likely to shuffle his pack.

Gareth Barry and Samir Nasri will be pushing for a recall after being left on the bench on Tuesday.

Aguero will also be hoping to start, with a cameo appearance in Naples suggesting he is over a slight knock and ready to lead the line.

Micah Richards will be another hoping to get the nod against the Reds after being omitted from Mancini's midweek European plans.

Possible starting XIs:

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

Man City: Hart, Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, De Jong, Barry, Toure, Silva, Balotelli, Aguero.

Dalglish Facing Testing Questions

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish knows he has some tough calls to make as he seeks to end Manchester City's unbeaten start to the Premier League season.

The Scot is not averse to effecting a seemingly random change to what appears an established team, often with some degree of success.

He did so last weekend when Maxi Rodriguez marked his first league start of the season with a goal in the win at Chelsea but this Sunday the calculations are likely to be even trickier.

Craig Bellamy was also recalled to the starting line-up at Stamford Bridge and will be desperate to face the club he left in the summer but waiting in the wings are multi-million pound substitutes like Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson.

Dalglish will make his selection knowing just over 48 hours after the final whistle at Anfield he will have to send out another side for a Carling Cup quarter-final at Chelsea.

But his primary focus will be on picking the right team to face City in a fixture which saw £35million striker Carroll score his first two goals for his new club as the Reds won 3-0 in April.

As good as that display was, it will have no bearing on the team which takes the field at the weekend.

"You take into account what is happening at the moment," said the Scot.

"Andy scored two great goals against them last year but we got our reward for that and so did Andy.

"But that is not to say because he scored two last year he will do the same this year - you are giving yourself a bit of a problem if you think that's you finished.

"We will start afresh, Andy included, for the game on Sunday and if we can repeat the same result everyone will be happy.

"Almost every week we say we are happy with the strength of the squad and there are many examples of when that is reflected in the team selection and the results they have got.

"It is no surprise to us so I don't see why it should be a surprise for anyone else.

"We have a strong squad who has been a credit to themselves and the club."

Carroll has scored three goals this season, two in the league, but his demotion to the bench last weekend was not a reflection of his form.

"I went on record as saying Stoke (the Carling Cup win) and West Brom were his two best games for us and I don't think we were too far away in those," added Dalglish.

Bellamy has hardly put a foot wrong since rejoining the club in the summer but he has had to mostly resign himself to the role of impact substitute.

On his first start he scored against former club Norwich and last weekend he was involved in Rodriguez's important opening goal.

The Wales international has impressed Dalglish after returning to the club but even that may not safeguard his position on Sunday.

"Craig Bellamy is a fantastic professional footballer; he knows his profession, he knows himself and how to get himself prepared for the games and he has been a huge plus for us since he came in," said the Reds boss.

"What has happened elsewhere for Craig at other stages of his career doesn't really concern me.

"I am only concerned with what he has done now and we have been absolutely delighted with the way he has gone about his work on and off the pitch."

Striker Luis Suarez has been Liverpool's spearhead almost ever since he signed from Ajax in January.

There are comparisons being made between what impact the Uruguay international has had at Anfield and the contribution of Argentina's Sergio Aguero, who arrived at City in the summer.

Dalglish did not want to play them off against each other but was more than happy to treat them as equals.

"They may both be South American but they are from two different countries," he said.

"I have not seen a lot of Aguero but he has done well there and scored a few goals.

"But I don't think our fella's done much worse than him and I've said many times before that we are delighted to have Luis."

Mancini - Difficult Game Ahead

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini insists that his team's Premier League clash against Liverpool on Sunday will be far from easy.

The Citizens have not won at Anfield since 2003 but their fantastic season so far sees them five points clear at the top of the table after winning 11 of their last 12 league games.

The Blues also won nine successive matches after losing to Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League two months ago and they will be looking to recover from another European defeat this time round.

Mancini, however, respects the talent within Kenny Dalglish's side, saying: "Liverpool will be a very hard game on Sunday.

"Liverpool are a strong team. In my opinion they are 12 points under us but I think they have a team that can win the Premier League.

"The Barclays Premier League is difficult, it is long and hard. We have played only 12 games. The squads now at Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea are why they can fight for the title."

City may end up facing their ex-striker Craig Bellamy who left for Liverpool in August and Blues boss Mancini is delighted that he has settled in nicely at Anfield.

"I am happy for him. I watched the game against Chelsea and he played very well. If he is happy, I am happy for him."

Rush: City No Match For Liverpool

Liverpool legend Ian Rush believes that despite coming up against the Premier League's richest club on Sunday, the Reds remain by fair the wealthiest when it comes to history and tradition.

Manchester City lead the way in the Premier League having gone 12 games unbeaten, and proved their title credentials with a shock 6-1 win over reigning champions Manchester United in August.

Liverpool meanwhile sit 12 points off of City, but go into the showdown at Anfield on Sunday confident after securing a 2-1 win over Chelsea last Sunday.

Rush believes that while Liverpool are unable to compete with the Citizens wealth - something he admits has changed the landscape of the English game - the Welshman believes Liverpool will always have something that money is unable to buy.

“Manchester City's millions have changed our league," said Rush speaking at the LFC - Standard Chartered soccer clinic in Dubai.

"The more money you have and the higher wages you pay then the better players you'll be able to sign and we've seen that with the likes of Aguero and Silva in particular.

"But no matter how much money clubs spend they don't have our history or the special relationship which exists between our club and its supporters. You can't buy that. Money helps in lots of ways but it's not everything. Chelsea had the same thing when Abramovic went in, he spent a fortune but they still haven't won the Champions League.

"I think what City has done is given themselves a great chance of winning the league because they've had a great start and they have top players. But there's more to football than that. We haven't won the league since 1990 but I travel all over the world and am still taken aback by the scale of the support Liverpool enjoys.

Rush also believes that being a supporter of Liverpool is more than about what happens on the pitch, and pointed to the club's famous anthem as evidence of the club's all encompassing ethos.

"I think it's because we're a family club. Our anthem is 'You'll Never Walk Alone' and that means something. It's not just empty words. Of course we all want to see success on the pitch, that goes without saying, but there's far more to being a Liverpool supporter than results.

"We're in Dubai at the moment and I've watched lots of games in the bars out here, and it's brilliant how the people over here - and all over the world - look to try and recreate the Anfield atmosphere whenever they get together to watch the matches. This club means so much to so many people and that's why it will always be so special." He added.

Liverpool Face Fight With Sevilla In Race For Dutch Sensation

Liverpool are set to rival La Liga outfit Sevilla in the hunt for FC Twente sensation Ola John, after stepping up their scouting of the Dutch Under-21 international.

John has emerged as one of the Eredivisie's rising stars after a whirlwind 18 months which has seen him make his first-team debut and snub moves to both Manchester United and Arsenal.

He has since renewed his contract until 2014, on the advice of brother Collins John, who was rated as one of Europe's most promising youngsters before joining Fulham in 2004 in a move that would ultimately ruin his development.

But as Twente plot more talks over another extension to his deal, John is weighing up his options, as Liverpool join Sevilla and a host of Italian clubs in making regular checks on the quick-silver winger.

It's thought Twente would be willing to do business for around £8million, although the chasing clubs value at him at only around half of that, meaning any potential deal may have to wait until the summer.

Liverpool & Arsenal Consider Shock Move For Chelsea Forward

It appears as though there could be a major overhaul at Stamford Bridge with three strikers all out of contract at the end of the season as Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and Salomon Kalou are all linked with moves away fro Chelsea.

One forward who could remain in the Premier League is Ivory Coast star Kalou who despite never managing to become a first team regular for Chelsea is reportedly being linked with both Arsenal and Liverpool.

The 26-year-old has been with Chelsea since 2006 and scored 39 goals for the club, as well as having plenty of success being part of the league winning side in 2010 and helping the club win there FA Cup's.

However, Kalou has never been a regular starter and this season has fallen behind the likes of Fernando Torres, Daniel Sturridge and Juan Mata who is also being deployed as a forward in a front three.

There has been little talk of Kalou receiving a new contract and that has alerted both Liverpool and Arsenal who believe they will be able to pick the forward up with a relatively low offer of £5million.

They are aware that Chelsea would rather sell in January than let him leave on a free transfer at the end of the season and are keen to add the talented forward to their squads in the New Year as both sides push for a top four finish.

While it is not guaranteed that either club would offer regular first team football, it would allow Kalou to remain in the Premiership and the two sides would gain a player with plenty of experience at the top level.

Liverpool Leading The Chase For £10m Rated England Teenage Sensation

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish is preparing to step up his interest in highly rated Crewe striker Max Clayton, according to reports in the Daily Mail.

The 17-year-old has been in impressive form for Crewe in their FA Youth Cup run and last weekend in the league he scored in Crewe's 2-1 win over Morecambe and has already represented England at Under 17's level.

During the course of the season a number of scouts from top Premier League clubs including, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham have been to watch Clayton.

However it is believed that Liverpool boss Dalglish and the clubs director of football Damien Comolli are admirers of the young striker and are leading the chase for Clayton who is seen as one of the countries brightest prospects and are getting ready to table an offer of around £10million.

Crewe's director of football Dario Gradi believes Clayton will develop more if he is to gain experience at the League Two side.

However with Clayton's impressive performances Crewe will find it hard to resist the offers from the Premier League big boys that come in for their prized asset once the January transfer window opens.

Dalglish Reassures Carragher

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish has reassured Jamie Carragher that he still has a big role to play for the club.

Carragher was surprisingly left out of the starting XI for last weekend's win at Chelsea with Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel preferred in central defence and the long-serving defender could again miss out for the visit of Manchester City on Sunday.

The move raised questions over the 33-year-old's long-term first-team prospects at Anfield, but Dalglish is adamant the Reds' vice-captain is central to his plans for the future.

"Carra has only been back a week after his calf injury," said Dalglish. "He's an important part of this football club and of this squad, now and going forward. He knows that and we know that.

"We know what he's done for the football club. The respect and admiration he has here from myself and everyone else connected. He understands."

Dalglish Tells Liverpool Sulks They Can Leave

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish has issued a warning to those players who are given a spot on the bench, maintaining that if they are unhappy then they can leave.

Liverpool had a number of their expensive new signings on the sidelines - Andy Carroll (£35 million), Stewart Downing (£20 million) and Jordan Henderson (£16 million) - during last weekend's 2-1 victory against Chelsea.

However, the Anfield boss has claimed that it is the squad that comes first and that, while he understands players can become frustrated when they don't play, he would not hesitate to sell them if they were upsetting his balance.

Dalglish said: "The strength of the squad is always those who aren't playing. That is where you get your success from. At the end of the day, it is hard for the ones who don't play. It is hard to keep them motivated and keep them going.

"So if they come in with really good attitudes and not sulking when they are left out, it is helpful to everyone. If they are not committed to playing, it is not going to be my problem - it is going to be their problem. We will go and get people who are determined to play.

"There is disappointment if you are not playing every game. But it is a long season and everyone is going to be given their chance.

"The 11 who started at Chelsea did very well. It was great for the three boys that came on as well. They have only been in the door two minutes. For them to come in with positive attitudes hasn't done anyone any harm."

To illustrate his argument that his Liverpool side is entirely united, Dalglish pointed to a photograph that showed Downing celebrating after Liverpool's last-minute winner at Stamford Bridge. "Did you see Stewart Downing's face when Glen Johnson scored?" he asked.

"Print that picture rather than use any words from me to describe how he felt. It says more than I could ever say."

Morgan Likes Liverpool Blueprint

Jon Flanagan and Jack Robinson have set the blueprint for Liverpool youngsters hoping to make an impact at Anfield, reveals academy starlet Adam Morgan.

The 17-year-old striker is delighted to see two of his close friends settle so quickly into Kenny Dalglish's first-team squad, and revealed his aspirations to follow in their footsteps in the near future.

Less than twelve months ago, both Flanagan and Robinson were playing in the youth and reserve teams, before being thrust into senior action in the run-in to the 2010-11 campaign.

The duo have remained part of the first-team fold ever since, and have given the likes of Morgan a renewed sense of optimism.

"I'm an optimistic person so hopefully I can push on with the reserves and try and be around the first-team set-up," he told "It'd be great to train with them a few more times per month.

"When you look at the example set by Flanno and Jack Robbo, you can see it can be done. They've done really well so hopefully that can be me in the future."

Morgan has been in impressive form for both the U18s and reserves sides so far this season, and has already entered double figures in the goal charts.

The youngster is tipped for a bright future at Liverpool, and whilst he continues his development under the guidance of the Reds coaching staff, Morgan insists he is happy to turn out for whichever team needs him.

"I fit in with both the U18 and reserve teams to be fair," he added. "I get on with all of the lads. I'm just told from day to day which team I'll be training with and I'm happy with that.

"I need to keep working hard and I am happy to play for whichever Liverpool team needs me. I've learned a lot off both coaches.

"Mike Marsh has really helped me and I worked with him a lot when I was with the U16s, [and] I really enjoy working with Rodolfo too because he has shown me parts of my game that I didn't think I had."

Dunn At The Double In Utd Win

Jack Dunn struck a double as Liverpool U18s continued their superb away form with a 2-1 win at Manchester United on Friday afternoon.

The highly-rated England U17 starlet got the Reds off to a flyer when he drilled home inside the first minute to net his fifth goal of the campaign.

United responded and Sam Byrne's neat finish soon after looked to have earned the hosts a share of the spoils in what proved to be an end-to-end encounter.

However, deep into stoppage-time Liverpool swamped forward and substitute Nathan Quirk played in Dunn to seal the three points.

Mike Marsh's charges went into the clash on the back of a resounding win at Manchester City and they illustrated their desire to complete a memorable double-trip down the M62 when they went in front inside 20 seconds.

The hosts failed to clear a ball forward from the kick off allowing Adam Morgan to help it on towards Dunn. The attacking midfielder surged into the right-hand side of the area and crashed a low shot beyond ex-Reds stopper Liam Jacob to give Liverpool the perfect start.

The Red Devils were clearly shell-shocked and they were lucky not to be two down on five minutes. Marc Pelosi was left in acres of space on the far left of the area and after his drive was parried into the air by the 'keeper, Kristoffer Peterson somehow failed to convert the rebound from close range.

It would prove a costly miss too as Paul McGuinness's team pushed forward and levelled through Byrne on 11 minutes.

The super-charged opening lit the touch paper for a keenly contested affair and it was the visitors who created the better chances.

Morgan had a shot cleared off the line on the half hour mark and Pelosi saw a blockbuster arrow just over as the Reds looked to regain the lead.

The No.9 has been in fine form in front of goal for both the U18s and reserves this season but was left shaking his head in frustration after missing good chances either side of the interval.

United had rarely threatened but almost stole in front on the hour when Mats Daehli turned well inside the box and curled a smart effort just beyond the far post.

Liverpool responded and a stunning counter attack saw left-back Brad Smith surge through on goal. The Australian-born youngster unselfishly laid the ball across for Morgan who placed his shot wide of the far post.

At the other end, the home team came close again when Adnan Januzaj arced a free-kick in a central position past the upright.

With the game beginning to stretch both sides tested the respective rearguards and Tyrell Belford was forced to produce a superb double stop to deny Byrne his second of the game.

And it was a similar story for Dunn as his low piledriver was brilliantly kept out by Jacob after Morgan had got in behind the United defence and played an intelligent square pass.

A winning goal appeared to be on the cards and deep into injury-time Dunn tucked home to claim a superb victory for Liverpool.