Tuesday, November 29, 2011

League Cup Match Preview: Chelsea vs Liverpool

Chelsea seek to avenge the Barclays Premier League defeat to Liverpool when the two sides take on each other in a Carling Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday.

Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas is set to make changes to his team for the game – with Fernando Torres expected to be handed a start against his former side after sitting on the bench the last time the two sides met.

Villas-Boas could also be tempted to give his young striker Romelu Lukaku a rare start in the game as well.

Chelsea, although not giving up on winning the league title, believes the Carling Cup is definitely within reach.

“This year we’ve looked at it as a trophy for us to win,” Chelsea assistant manager Roberto Di Matteo said.

“It’s a chance to win a cup. It can give a very positive momentum if you win a trophy in that part of the season.

“It’s the first one we can win and we are still in all the competitions, so we have a chance to win them all.

“In terms of the manager, winning a trophy is always very important.”

Liverpool is coming off a energetic 1-1 draw against Manchester City in league on Sunday, while Chelsea cruised past Wolves 3-0 and manager Kenny Dalglish will for sure rest some players.

“48 hours is a bit irresponsible for the people who’ve organised the dates of the matches. It’s not just us, it’s Man City,” Dalglish said on Liverpool official website.

“To ask any team or any players to play two games of high intensity in 48 hours is a bit of a joke.

“I don’t know why the PFA don’t come in and say something about it – it’s their players. For me it’s difficult to understand why they don’t come out and say something. Or do they agree with it?

This means that Dalglish could start the likes of Jamie Carragher, Martin Kelly, Maxi Rodriguez and Andy Carroll.

Craig Bellamy is also expected to start after missing Sunday’s game following the death of his close pal Gary Speed.

Liverpool beat Chelsea 2-1 when the team’s met on Nov. 20.

Match Report: Liverpool 1 - 1 Manchester City

Ten-man Manchester City survived a serious examination of their title credentials to extend their unbeaten Barclays Premier League record to 13 matches at Anfield.

Had it not been for goalkeeper Joe Hart the visitors may have tasted a league defeat for the first time since May 7.

They barely had time to celebrate Vincent Kompany's 31st-minute opener before Charlie Adam's shot was deflected in by Joleon Lescott.

In the second half substitute Mario Balotelli lasted 18 minutes before being sent off for a second bookable offence and had England international Hart not been on top form City would have succumbed to sustained Liverpool pressure in the final 20 minutes.

Having coasted serenely through the domestic campaign, scoring goals at will, this was the first time this season Roberto Mancini's side had failed to score more than once in a league match.

Credit must go to Liverpool who, after a slow start, enhanced their own reputation as genuine top-four contenders with a second-half performance which produced everything but a winning goal.

City may have previously won only once at Anfield in the last 30 years - and that in May 2003 - but they played the first half like they were the home team.

They passed the ball around with consummate ease, as they have done all season, with both Samir Nasri and David Silva threading threatening balls down the side of the two centre-backs.

Liverpool tried to employ the same high, pressing tactics which were so effective in last week's victory at Chelsea and it worked to some degree.

For all City's neat triangles and movement off the ball they did not really threaten and the closest they came was when they were gifted an opportunity by Jose Enrique's backpass.

The Spaniard was obviously unsighted when he rolled a ball too close to Sergio Aguero but Jose Reina raced 15 yards out of his penalty area to first block and then, after the ball rebounded off the Argentinian back onto his arm, clear.

Aguero was doing his best to unlock what is becoming an increasingly frugal Liverpool defence and he twisted past Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger with ease on the left of the area but bamboozled himself and lost balance.

Ironically, considering the silky attacking skills at their disposal, the visitors took a 31st-minute lead from an old-fashioned corner routine.

Silva swung in a left-footed cross and centre-back Kompany glanced a header into the far corner after marker Dirk Kuyt and Glen Johnson got in each other's way.

That is usually the key for Mancini's side to go into attacking overdrive but within two minutes they found themselves pegged back as indecision and a bad decision cost them.

Kompany's weak clearance dropped to Kuyt who squared for Adam to unleash a left-footed drive which was heading wide until Lescott tried to clear and succeeded only in diverting past Hart.

If he was helpless to stop that shot the England goalkeeper showed his quality as he stuck out a leg to brilliantly divert Adam's right-footed shot over.

Suddenly the momentum was with the Reds and Johnson, last week's match-winner, flashed a left-footed shot past Hart's right-hand post.

Reina saved low from Aguero in first-half added time but the open football continued after the break as Stewart Downing's cross ballooned up off Kompany and Kuyt's diving header missed the target.

The languid, measured play of the first half had been replaced by a more frenetic approach after the break, evidenced by Hart's hurried punch to Downing's cross.

Hart did better with his England team-mate's shot into the turf from Adam's corner, tipping over just as the ball was about to dip under the crossbar.

The increasingly manic atmosphere hardly needed enhancing but the arrival of Balotelli for Nasri did exactly that.

Right on cue the Italian produced a comedic stumble, a fraction of a second after Skrtel had slipped trying to reach the ball, just when he was about to burst into the penalty area.

Liverpool had steadily grown more comfortable over the course of the game and they had the momentum entering the final 20 minutes.

Enrique and Downing shot wide before Balotelli's propensity for getting himself in trouble surfaced late on.

Having been booked for pulling back Johnson, he was shown a second yellow card for catching Skrtel across the face.

Hart kept his side in it with another good save at his near post from Luis Suarez before Silva over-complicated things in Liverpool's area having beaten Reina and Skrtel cleared off the line.

But Hart was the one being worked the hardest and another brilliant one-handed save from Andy Carroll's header in added time preserved City's unbeaten start.

Dalglish Sees Encouraging Signs

Kenny Dalglish believes the nature of Liverpool's performances against both Manchester clubs is an indicator of the headway being made on Merseyside.

Sunday's 1-1 draw against 10-man Manchester City may have been the fourth successive time they have been held at home but that does not really tell the full story.

Having gone behind to Vincent Kompany's 31st-minute goal they equalized within two minutes when Charlie Adam's shot was turned past Joe Hart by Joleon Lescott.

From that point most of the attacking was done by the team in red and when Mario Balotelli was sent off for a second bookable offence just 18 minutes after coming on, the pressure only increased on Roberto Mancini's side.

Had it not been for England goalkeeper Joe Hart, who pulled off a series of good saves, Liverpool would have inflicted City's first Premier League defeat of the season.

It was a similar story just over a month ago when Manchester United were the visitors and although there have been dropped points against Norwich and Swansea in between, manager Dalglish can see the positives.

"We have played both Manchester clubs here now and we have walked away a little bit disappointed we have only take one point off each," said the Scot.

"Maybe that is the mark of the improvements we have made here.

"We are delighted with the way we played and the quality of the performance and with a bit more luck we could have had three points.

"We will play a lot worse than that and get three points."

Dalglish was full of praise for his players who, certainly for the majority of the second half, made City look ordinary - something very few English teams have done this season.

"They had fantastic attitude, commitment, determination and pride in playing for the club and we can't ask for much more than that," he said.

"If you are playing a team the quality of Manchester City you can't afford to have anyone playing below standard.

"I don't think any one of our players could be - or should be - disappointed with their performance.

"If we can continue doing what we are doing then they will get more points than they lose."

Kuyt Confident Reds On Course For Champions League

Dirk Kuyt claims Liverpool's performances against the Premier League's top sides have given the Reds the belief they can regain Champions League football.

Kenny Dalglish's side drew 1-1 with Manchester City at Anfield on Sunday and was unlucky not to be the ones to end the league leaders' unbeaten start to the season. Only the brilliance of England goalkeeper Joe Hart kept the visitors in the game in the second half.

Liverpool have not lost in the league to either City, Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal since September 2010 and this season have two wins and two draws from their matches with those teams.

And having beaten Chelsea at Stamford Bridge the previous weekend Kuyt thinks that gives an indication of the direction the team is heading.

"In my opinion City have so far been the best team in the Premier League so we can take lots of positives from our performance,'' said Kuyt.

"I think if you had said we would take four points from Chelsea away and City at home you would probably have signed up for it - but I think we could have walked away with all six points.

"That's football and we can't blame ourselves. We worked really hard, did everything we could, and we just have to keep going from here.

"The way we have played against the top sides has been fantastic - we beat Arsenal and Chelsea away and I think we deserved more against United and City. We will keep going in this way.

"We have also played well against the other teams and I think the future is bright.

"We are on the way forward. That's what we want and we need to keep going and hopefully we can do enough to qualify for the Champions League at the end of the season.''

Liverpool are now unbeaten in ten matches in all competitions but that will be tested when they return to Stamford Bridge on Tuesday for a Carling Cup quarter-final.

Enrique - Tiredness No Excuse

Jose Enrique insists playing twice in 48 hours can be no excuse if Liverpool are knocked out of the Carling Cup by Chelsea, after manager Kenny Dalglish described the scheduling as 'irresponsible'.

Liverpool drew 1-1 at home with Premier League leaders Manchester City on Sunday and travel to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea in the cup quarter-final on Tuesday.

Reds boss Dalglish is likely to make several changes for the game and Enrique is disappointed that a compromise regarding the schedule could not be reached.

However, the left-back will not point to fatigue as a reason for any failure to reach the semi-finals and he would be happy to start again in West London.

"If the manager decides I have to play, I play," said Enrique.

"The Premier League and Football League didn't make a good decision.

"We played on Sunday and have to play in another 48 hours, whereas Chelsea played on Saturday. This is not normal. It just happens in England.

"It is no good for us because we play against Chelsea away and it is hard to win, and normally when you play 48 hours after a game you are more tired.

"But there will be no excuses. We can still win there and will try to get that win."

The Premier League was reluctant to bring the league match against City forward because of concerns it would cause major inconvenience to fans at short notice.

Also the Metropolitan Police could not sanction a move to Wednesday because of a Trades Union Congress rally taking place in central London that day and Tottenham's Europa League game at home to PAOK Salonika.

However, Dalglish told Liverpool's official website: "Forty-eight hours is a bit irresponsible for the people who've organized the dates of the matches. It's not just us, it's Man City.

"To ask any team or any players to play two games of high intensity in 48 hours is a bit of a joke.

"I don't know why the PFA (Professional Footballers' Association) don't come in and say something about it - it's their players. For me it's difficult to understand why they don't come out and say something. Or do they agree with it?

"We know we've got to accept it although we don't agree with it, and it won't affect the application or give us an excuse.

"There'll be one or two bumps and bruises I would have thought, and maybe one or two missing, but we have a strong squad and we've made changes in other Carling Cup matches."

Liverpool Continue To Be Linked With Bid For Germany Striker

Liverpool have continued to be linked with a move for Manchester City and Arsenal target Marcos Reus, who has been in fantastic form for Borussia Monchengladbach.

The Reds boss Kenny Dalglish watched from the sidelines as Liverpool dominated the second half against table topping Manchester City but were unable to break the deadlock as Liverpool were held to a 1-1 draw.

This has seemingly prompted Dalglish to persuade the owners to make the funds available for him to be able to sign the 22-year-old forward has been attracting a lot of interest following a series of impressive performances for Gladbach.

Manchester City and Arsenal have both been linked with a move for some time while Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich have also been keeping tabs on the talented young forward.

Liverpool have started the season well but have thrown away plenty of opportunities with too many draw coming at home as Dalglish has seen his side draw their last four games at Anfield in the league.

Dalglish is reportedly on the look-out for new attacking options and his search has led him to Reus, with the Germany international being in superb form this season.

It is believed that Liverpool would have to offer as much as £15million to try and persuade Gladbach to part with their star striker, but the player certainly fits the new transfer policy of the Reds who are trying to recruit the best young talent.

Liverpool Become Shock Contenders To Sign Man City Striker

Liverpool have reportedly become shock contenders for the signature of Manchester City striker Emmanuel Adebayor as manager Kenny Dalglish looks to bolster his forward line.

The 27-year-old Togo international's career at City appears certainly over having spent the second half of last season on loan at Real Madrid before joining Tottenham on a temporary basis for this campaign.

He has started life brightly at White Hart Lane, scoring five goals and setting up two in nine games. Spurs boss Harry Redknapp has made no secret of his desire to sign Adebayor on a permanent deal at the end of this season, but has admitted the club may struggle to finance the move.

However, according to caughtoffside.com, Dalglish is ready to tempt the former Arsenal striker to Anfield as he looks to bolster his front line.

Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll were both signed during last season's January transfer window, but have so far failed to sparkle as a partnership.

The arrival of Craig Bellamy in the summer for a second spell at the Reds has bolstered their attacking options somewhat, but it is thought Dalglish is keen to make Adebayor the team's number one centre-forward.

City are asking for £15m to make any deal permanent and with Liverpool eager to sign an established marksman to fire them back into the Champions League, it is thought the Reds are prepared to make a competitive offer.

Brazilian Superstars Agent Reveals Interest From Liverpool & Chelsea

The agent of Brazil international midfielder Lucas Moura has revealed that there has been contact from both Liverpool and Chelsea as the Premier League pair attempt to lure the youngster to England.

Lucas is considered one of the hottest properties in South America and has consistently been linked with a move to Europe after becoming a regular for Brazil.

The attacking midfielder has already managed to earn 10 caps for Brazil and has been a in superb form for his club side Sao Paulo where he has scored a total of 12 goals this season.

Now, the 19-year-old's agent has suggested that Liverpool and Chelsea are keen to snap up the talented midfielder, but has warned that it will take a mega offer to land the player.

"Chelsea, Inter Milan and Liverpool have demanded details from me and Sao Paulo knows the situation," Wagner Ribiero told The Sun.

"At the moment they are not interested. Perhaps in the summer they may negotiate but only an enormous offer could change things as I want continuity for the player for a couple of years."

The Premiership duo had been linked with a £15million move for the midfielder in January, but it seems they will have to make a far bigger offer to persuade Lucas to make the move to Europe.

Liverpool Trial For Steaua Stopper

Liverpool are keen on rookie Romanian goalkeeper Valentin Cojocaru according to talkSPORT.

The 16-year-old stopper is widely regarded as one of the brightest young talents to come out of eastern Europe, and is currently on the books at Steaua Bucharest.

Cojocaru has been offered the chance to train with Liverpool at the club's Melwood academy - where Reds boss Kenny Dalglish will ask his team of coaches to determine whether or not the teenager could have a future at Anfield.

The Merseysiders are blessed with great goalkeeping options, with Pepe Reina, Alexander Doni and Brad Jones the three first-choice stoppers vying for the No.1 spot.

And with Peter Gulacsi and Martin Hansen also making a name for themselves in the youth and reserve teams, Cojocaru will face a difficult task in convincing Liverpool he can bring additional value.

Anfield Ace Pleads For Extension

Blackpool loanee Jonjo Shelvey is hoping Liverpool will agree to extend his stay at Bloomfield Road.

The 19-year-old midfielder is enjoying a spell of regular first-team football, chipping in with six goals for the Seasiders.

Having helped Ian Holloway's side cement their place within the promotion-chasing pack in the Npower Championship, Shelvey is eager to see the challenge through, and help Blackpool bounce back to the Barclays Premier League at the first time of asking.

"Blackpool is a good team with good players and I have asked Liverpool if I can stay here for the season," he said in an exclusive interview with Vital Football.

"It is not that far from home and I think we could achieve something - I am really enjoying it here."

Reds boss Kenny Dalglish has high hopes for Shelvey - who has been tipped for a bright future at Anfield. But with competition for places in the Liverpool side stronger than ever, the youngster believes an extended run of games will be more beneficial to his long-term development.

"Obviously I want to break into the Liverpool side," he added. "But I think playing at a good club gives me the best chance of doing that."