Sunday, December 25, 2011

Kuyt Eyes Perfect Present

Dirk Kuyt is aiming to deliver the perfect Christmas present to Kopites on Monday and help maintain Liverpool's push for a top-four finish.

The Reds play host to Blackburn Rovers in the traditional Boxing Day fixture - and Kuyt is determined to provide some festive cheer to supporters.

"We all want to be happy and get the three points, especially on Boxing Day," the Dutchman told "It's going to be a very important game for us - as will all of the games around Christmas. To win on Boxing Day at home will be massive for everyone.

"They will give everything they've got. They're not a bad team. They are physically very strong, so we have to be ready for them, believe in our own strengths and get the three points.

"It's a crucial period. If we can get as many points as possible it will be great because if we get the right results, we will be right up there where we want to be.

"Hopefully we can go on another good run and take it into the New Year."

Blackburn will arrive at Anfield bottom in the Barclays Premier League table following Tuesday's 2-1 home defeat against Bolton.

Kuyt feels an early goal for Liverpool could be key for Kenny Dalglish's men - and he's hoping he can get on the scoresheet to end a statistic of having never scored against the Ewood Park side in eight previous appearances.

"In every game we play, if we can score in the early stages it can make a huge difference," he said. "If you are one-nil up after 20 minutes, the crowd is right behind you and it makes football much easier.

"It would be brilliant to score against Blackburn. I've scored against many teams, but Blackburn is still on the list.

"Hopefully I can score a goal on Boxing Day - that would be great."

Suarez Replacement Solved At Liverpool

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish has a problem, and the solution is sitting in his dressing room.

The Reds’ scoring record has been rightly criticized over the past two months, as it is pretty sub-standard for a team who are supposed to be challenging for a top four finish.

The record was then coupled with their best player and forward being handed an eight-match ban from the FA - this issue has caused much controversy, but the fact remains that Liverpool are facing a significant amount of time without him.

Another problem Dalglish has had to face is the apparent flop of £35million record signing Andy Carroll.

The former Newcastle forward has not really got going since his switch to Merseyside and has struggled to get games, never mind score the goals needed to maintain the challenge for a Champions League place.

Considering this, there has been much speculation over which striker the Scot is likely to bring in during January to remedy the problem - there appears to be a general assumption that a new recruit is needed.

Dalglish has no need to do this; he has the answer to his problems staring him in the face.

Well, maybe not right in the face, but the answer is definitely in his vicinity.

That answer is Dirk Kuyt and Dalglish needs to begin using him in the middle if he wants to increase his side’s number of goals.

For too long has Kuyt been stranded out on the right hand side, working his socks off but not getting much luck in the scoring charts.

The Holland international started his career as a centre forward with Utrecht and really broke through at Feyenoord, where his scoring record is exceptional.

The 31-year-old has spent most of his Liverpool career stationed out on the right of midfield or a front three and was never really given a proper chance to lead the line.

Despite this, Kuyt has always chipped in with goals in his career with Liverpool – he has finished every full season in double figures.

He is no Luis Suarez but he can bring certain attributes to the central striker role that could boost Liverpool’s goal record.

First and foremost, Dirk Kuyt works tirelessly and any defender will have a hard time trying to shrug him off. His touch is good and his link play can be slick when it needs to be.

Suarez does get into good positions and his movement is very clever, but he is wasteful in front of goal and his final ball often lets down some highly skilful and creative build-up play.

Kuyt would not be able to carve out the same kind of chances as Suarez but he would pose more of a physical problem for defenders, while holding the ball up more effectively than Carroll is capable of.

Part of Liverpool's current problem is that Suarez’s knack for beating defenders and making deep runs into opposition territory often causes him to become isolated.

Kuyt would be more inclined to bring others into the play and this would aid a more rounded style of play, with more people in the box to convert effective crossing from the flanks.

The Dutchman is also a far superior header of the ball and Stewart Downing’s, so far, fruitless attempts at assisting a goal may well find more success with a player more inclined to attack the aerial ball.

Downing has the ability put in some exceptional crosses, but this skill is not utilized quite so well when he only has Suarez to aim for.

Kuyt is a more clinical finisher than most of the other strikers at Liverpool, though he does not possess the dribbling ability to create chances for himself.

There is no suggestion that the 31-year-old should occupy the position permanently – Suarez’s obvious brilliance overrules certain tactical advantages that may be gained by playing the Dutchman. It does feel, however, that those at Anfield have forgotten Kuyt's ability to play in a lone role and that it may prove an affective, though sparingly used while Suarez is available, alternative.

So, rather than paying for an expensive striker from somewhere around Europe, Liverpool could use the Uruguayan’s ban to try and find a different way of attacking the opposition.

Problems of this ilk often provoke rash responses, like calling for the purchasing of a new player, as if that will immediately fix things, but this is rarely the case.

Rearranging what you already have is a way to experiment new systems and styles of play, while maintaining some kind of squad continuity – new arrivals can often take time to gel.

So Anfield bosses should put their chequebooks away – it’s time to put Dirk Kuyt back where he belongs.

Kenny Hoping Spearing Learns

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish is hoping Jay Spearing learns from his sending off against Fulham.

The Reds midfielder was dismissed in their 1-0 defeat at Fulham for a sliding challenge on Moussa Dembele.

Dalglish felt Spearing may have been slightly over-zealous, although he does not believe there was any malice in the challenge.

The Anfield chief does not feel Spearing needs to change his game greatly, adding he will benefit from his experience.

"There was no maliciousness in his tackle. He was totally focused on winning the ball," explained Dalglish.

"He did win the ball but his momentum came through and made contact with Dembele.

"It was maybe over-enthusiasm but that is not something you'd complain about in football - at that age you'd expect him to be.

"I'm sure he'll be more knowledgeable for his experience but there is nothing he needs to change greatly.

"Everybody's character is different but character is what makes you successful - and the wee man has certainly been successful here.

"We don't intend, or need, to change the boy's character.

"He just needs to be a bit more mature and I'm sure the three games (suspension) has taught him that."

Dalglish had been pleased with the midfielder's form and he is hoping he can recapture his displays following suspension.

"It was disappointing to lose him because he was doing really well," said the Reds boss.

"He's served his punishment and maybe that's an advantage with the games coming quite quickly.

"But he's got nothing to prove to us - we know what Jay can do, we know what he's about and he's done very well for us in the past.

"There is no reason to think he's not going to do well in the future."

Liverpool Poised To Raid FC Porto For Fernando

Liverpool look poised to open talks with FC Porto for the transfer of defensive midfielder Fernando.

The Reds recently lost Lucas to injury, depriving boss Kenny Dalglish of his favoured holding midfielder.

But Dalglish is looking beyond Lucas’ spell on the sidelines – Fernando’s potential presence at Anfield would allow the Scot to play two midfield enforcers when required, but at other times the option to play Lucas in a more advanced role would be explored.

Fernando is a non-nonsense holding player who has impressed at Porto for his ability to win the ball and quickly supply it to team-mates – vital in the transition phases of games.

The Brazilian is highly rated by the Portuguese champions, who would not be keen to lose his services, especially in mid-season.

Fernando is under contract with Porto until 2014 and is believed to have a buyout clause of around €30M.

Liverpool would look to pay less than the Brazilian’s release fee however and have recent experience of negotiation with the notoriously hard to deal with Portuguese champions, having snapped up Raul Meireles last summer.

Dalglish has money to spend in the January transfer window, but is also aiming to add another attacking string to his side’s bow, as well as bolstering the midfield with Fernando.

Reina Bemoans Form Of Opposition Goalkeepers Against Liverpool

Jose Reina has bemoaned the form of his opposite numbers when coming up against Liverpool.

The Anfield goalkeeper is rated as one of the best in the business, but he is more concerned by the form of fellow shot-stoppers who are preventing Kenny Dalglish’s side from pushing up the Premier League table.

Wigan’s Ali Al Habsi was named man of the match in the 0-0 draw with Liverpool in midweek, one of many goalkeepers who seem to have saved their best form for the Reds.

And Reina reckons Liverpool could be a lot higher in the league table if they had been more clinical in front of goal.

"Once again it is the goalkeepers - Al Habsi was man of the match and he prevented us getting those three points," said Reina.

"But we didn't lose the game and we kept a clean sheet which is always positive. We have to take the positives and that is the team is defending very well and we can take a lot of confidence from that."

Cole Keeping Options Open

Joe Cole has not ruled out a return to Liverpool but is enjoying his time on loan at Lille and feels it would be 'logical' for him to stay with the French club.

Cole joined the Ligue 1 champions on a season-long loan deal over the summer and has caught the eye with a series of impressive performances both in their domestic games and the UEFA Champions League.

Lille boss Rudi Garcia has expressed his desire to keep Cole beyond the summer, although Kenny Dalglish has not yet heard anything about the possibility of turning the move into a permanent arrangement.

Cole is not sure what the future holds but is open to the idea of going back to Anfield, where he would have the chance to prove his worth after a frustrating 2010/11 campaign.

However, he has indicated that his preference would be to remain at Lille as he feels he is finally getting back to his best form.

Asked about a possible Liverpool return, the midfielder told Sky Sports News: "Who knows what will happen? I might get the chance to change that round.

"At the moment I am happy here. I am playing and I am playing well, so it is all going good.

"If it continues going like this, it would be the logical option (to stay at Lille).

"The football's gone quite well, considering I didn't play for so long at Liverpool, but I've had a good start and I'm only going to improve as I get closer to my best level.

"I am edging closer to what I was at my peak at Chelsea."

If he can keep performing well until the end of the season Cole may put himself in contention for a place in England's Euro 2012 squad.

He is keen to be involved but will not build his hopes up too high after falling down Fabio Capello's pecking order over the past 18 months.

"It is at the back of my mind, but you can't drive yourself mad because it is out of my hands," said Cole.

"I am a proud Englishman and I love playing for my country. I have had some great times in an England shirt and I don't want to not ever play for England.

"I definitely have a lot more to offer."

Cole continues to follow the Premier League from afar and has given his backing to Andre Villas-Boas to rise above the pressure and succeed at his former club Chelsea.

"It is a difficult time for the club because things have to change, and he is definitely the man to take them through it in my opinion," said Cole.

"It would be rash if anything happened to him because you are just restarting the engine again."

Liverpool Manager Dalglish Calls For Racism Rules

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish declared that football required specific guidelines about what language was considered racist, at the end of a week in which his striker Luis Suarez has been dealt an eight-game ban and his former team-mate Alan Hansen has been engulfed in controversy over his use of the word “coloured.”

Dalglish, who fully expects Suarez to face a torrent of abuse from opposition fans with Liverpool possibly several weeks away from receiving the written explanation of his FA charge for his abuse of Manchester United's Patrice Evra, said: “It would be helpful to everyone if someone gave us some guidelines about what you can and cannot say.”

The manager's request came during a discussion of the criticism Hansen has come under after using ‘coloured' twice on Wednesday night's ‘Match of the Day’, though he feels it applies equally to the case of players' language.

The manager's tone was markedly softer two days after the FA's independent regulatory commission verdict, and his message was the one Liverpool would have been well advised to adopt 48 hours earlier: that they would not discuss Suarez's conviction until they have received the full written details.

Dalglish is concerned about the abuse Suarez will receive in relation to the FA charge, with at least five Manchester United chants already in circulation.

He said he expects the authorities to be as decisive in their judgment on the fans of offending clubs as they were on Suarez, who has also been dealt a £40,000 fine.

“I think where they (the FA) have to be more supportive is the reaction from people — and then antagonism of the crowds — towards Luis,” Dalglish said. “It could be problematic. That is the great problem.”

Ironically, Liverpool would need to contact and work with the FA if they want assistance to counteract abuse, much as Tottenham Hotspur did for the systematic purge on homophobic and racist abuse at Thursday's match with Chelsea, though the Anfield club has positioned themselves at a vast remove from the FA in their response to Suarez's charge.

The FA is unlikely to be able to offer any guidelines on acceptable language, given that the response to specific words is subjective. Liverpool must apply their sensibilities.

Dalglish has received most criticism for the decision to wear a Suarez T-shirt at Wigan on Wednesday night, 24 hours after the Suarez judgment, though he stood by that decision and by Liverpool's statement questioning Evra's reliability as a witness.

“The statement couldn't have caused anybody any trouble, nor the players with their statement or by their support with the T-shirts,” he said.

“If we are not in any trouble, we will just leave it at that before we do get into any trouble.”

Former Manchester United and Aston Villa centre-half Paul McGrath described the move as “shameful” and said he would not have worn such a T-shirt.

“If I was in Glen Johnson's situation, I'd have thrown the shirt to the floor,” the former Republic of Ireland international said.

Johnson later responded on Twitter: “I will support who I want when I want! There are a lot of reasons why I'm standing by Luis Suarez!”

Asked if Liverpool would have been better advised to wait until the written judgment, rather than attacking the commission's decision on Tuesday, Dalglish said: “We don't know what the (written) judgment is and why they came to that judgment. We only know what we know.

“I think if everybody waited until the statement is written and shown on the FA website, you will have a better idea for why they came to their reasoning.”

It is conceivable that the written judgment will be released by the commission chairman, Paul Goulding QC, before the New Year — and if not, very early into 2012. Contrary to the popular impression, it is Goulding who decides when to release the document to the case's two interested parties — Liverpool and the FA.

Despite the FA's battles of the past 12 months with Sir Alex Ferguson, United see out 2011 with the respect of the FA for the dignity with which their manager has avoided any vitriol over Liverpool's renewed attack on Evra.

Whether United would have acted in the same way had the decision gone for Liverpool is another story.

Dalglish said Suarez had been “emotional” about the players' support for him and that he had no intentions of removing him from the line of fire, given his own relentless desire to play.

Manchester United Boss Unsympathetic To Liverpool & Dalglish

Sir Alex Ferguson has implied his indifference at the way in which players and staff at Liverpool has conducted themselves in the aftermath of Luis Suarez being handed an eight-match ban following alleged racist comments towards Manchester United left-back Patrice Evra.

Suarez was handed the punishment at the start of last week after a rather tedious few months of allegations and accusations.

Since then, the Merseyside club have rallied round their player and those associated with Liverpool, led by manager Kenny Dalglish, have been critical of the severity of the recriminations. However, speaking yesterday, 69 year-old Ferguson was adamant that the decision was correct.

"Our support of Patrice was obvious right from the word go and that's still the same," he told The Guardian.

"The matter is over and I think we're satisfied that they [the FA's independent commission] found the right decision.

"This wasn't about Manchester United and Liverpool at all. It was nothing to do with that. This was an individual situation where one person was racially abused."