Friday, December 30, 2011

Premier League Preview: Liverpool vs Newcastle United

With just a point separating the two sides, Liverpool take on Newcastle United at Anfield on Friday, knowing the importance of a win.

After six games without victory, Newcastle beat Bolton Wanderers 2-0 at the Reebok Stadium on Monday.

Alan Pardew's men had only taken two points from their previous six games, before Hatem Ben Arfa and Demba Ba scored in the second half to topple Bolton and get within a point of sixth-placed Liverpool on the English Premier League table.

Ben Arfa came off the bench after recovering from an ankle injury to score only his second goal for Newcastle since his debut against Everton in September 2010, and the winger is keen for more against Liverpool.

"I just hope that the goals are going to come one after another now," Ben Arfa told the club's website.

"The atmosphere at Anfield is very special but the most important thing will not be the ground - it will be the three points."

With Davide Santon out after suffering a knee injury against West Bromwich Albion, Ryan Taylor returned to the starting line-up and is expected to start against Liverpool.

Ba brought his league goal tally to 13 goals in 16 games against Bolton, and is looking for a win against a Liverpool side which have drawn six games at home so far and won only three.

"It was a very important win because six games without a win is a long time. Now we have to make sure that next Friday (at Liverpool), we get something too," Ba said.

Liverpool once again dropped points against a lower side in their 1-1 draw against last-placed Blackburn Rovers on Monday - their second-straight draw after their goalless stalemate at Wigan last Wednesday.

Luis Suarez, Maxi Rodriguez and Dirk Kuyt scored the three goals in Liverpool’s 3-0 win last season at Anfield against Newcastle.

Rodriguez scored Liverpool's equalizer against Blackburn - his 11th goal in his last 12 starts - Kenny Dalglish will be hoping that the Argentine will continue to link up well with striker Luis Suarez, who is still stuck on five league goals for the Reds.
Captain Steven Gerrard finally returned from an ankle injury in the second half against Blackburn, but his lack of match fitness failed to lift the Reds, who have scored just 21 goals this season - four less than Newcastle.

Liverpool have dropped points at home against Swansea City, Sunderland and Norwich City and Dalglish will hope that Gerrard can raise his game against a Newcastle side looking to overhaul their opponents on the table.

Dalglish Praise For Maxi

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish has piled the praise on Maxi Rodriguez ahead of Friday's Premier League clash with Newcastle.

The Argentinian attacker is expected to play a key role against the Magpies, with striker Luis Suarez missing due to a one-match suspension.

Rodriguez has been prolific at Anfield with 11 goals in his last 12 home starts, including finding the back of the net in their Boxing Day draw with Blackburn.

Dalglish has joked the 30-year-old, who he has to man-manage in order to maintain fitness, may take the team's training sessions in order to boost their goals tally.

"Maybe Maxi has the secret - he can take training for shooting this morning!" he quipped in the Liverpool Echo.

Dalglish added: "Maxi is a very intelligent footballer. He knows how to play and he loves to play.

"He's not able to play in every game and we have to manage him as best we can. But when he does play he doesn't give you many bad performances. He's a real credit to himself and to his profession."

Liverpool's home draw with Rovers means they have now been held at Anfield in Premier League action on six occasions; no other side has drawn five.

Dalglish Urges Gerrard Caution

Kenny Dalglish will continue to ease Steven Gerrard back into action, with Liverpool wary of asking for too much, too soon from their skipper.

Gerrard made his eagerly-anticipated return from injury on Boxing Day as he stepped off the bench during a 1-1 draw with Blackburn.

A 21-minute outing in that Anfield stalemate was only his sixth appearance of the season, with an ankle infection having kept him sidelined for long periods.

It is hoped that he can put his injury troubles behind him and help the Reds' push for a top-four finish, but Dalglish insists he will not be rushing his captain back into a regular role.

"We will manage it as professionally as we did before," said the Scot.

"Steven was back to full fitness before he got a freak injury and that's why he had to recuperate again, but the two of them weren't related.

"He is back and looks even better than he did the last time he came back but we are not going to be irresponsible and throw him in and take a chance.

"We know he's fit and we know he just needs game time; in the same way as we monitored him through the last time and we'll do the same this time.

"It has been disappointing for us not to have him fit and available for selection.

"He has been frustrated but I think he feels the bad luck may be behind him and he deserves a bit of good fortune."

Dalglish will hope that Gerrard's return can help to galvanize Liverpool, with the Reds boss looking for his side to build on recent showings on home soil and turn Anfield into a fortress - starting with Friday's meeting with Newcastle.

"If you want to be really positive you could say we are undefeated at home but we've said before we don't want to set our standards that low," the Scot said.

"We want to be winning our home games as often as we possibly can and we've certainly given ourselves opportunities to have won every home game.

"We haven't done that but we will keep going and we believe we will do.

Liverpool Keen On Swansea City Youngster Joe Allen

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish has his eye on young Swansea City midfielder Joe Allen and after a lengthy scouting assessment the Anfield manager is said to be considering making a move for the Welsh international.

The pint sized 21 year old has been in fine form this term and has managed to adapt well to life in the top tier and shown maturity beyond his years as he helps pulls the strings in the Swansea City midfield. The Carmarthen born youngster has become a pivotal member of Brendan Rogers’ side and he would be loathed to lose such a talented asset but may fear that Allen may be tempted by the thought of a high-profile move to Anfield.

Though Liverpool brought in a number of central midfield options in the summer, including Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson, Messrs Dalglish and director of football Damien Comolli are plotting moves with the long term future of the club in mind and have been scouting youthful talents they feel have the potential to become part of a new generation of talent at the club.

Allen has already racked up over 100 appearances for the Swans and as well as being a part of the side that secured promotion from League One to the Championship the intelligent midfielder was a crucial member of the side that triumphed in the play-offs to make the leap into the Premier League.

Dalglish has scouted Joe Allen and believes the Welshman could be a very useful addition to his Liverpool squad and even though the Swansea City man is tied to a long term contract the Scot will look to make an offer for the central midfielder either in January or more likely next summer.

Kiev Star Linked To Liverpool

Dynamo Kiev forward Andriy Yarmolenko has emerged as the latest striker to be linked with a move to Liverpool.

Despite being linked with a host of players including Colombian striker Teo Gutierrez, Jan Klaas Huntelaar, Eden Hazard, Adam Johnson and Christian Eriksen, are reporting the Anfield giants have now switched their sights to Ukraine international Yarmolenko.

The 22-year-old has scored 40 goals in 119 appearances for Kiev, not to mention six goals in 17 games for the International side.

Yarmolenko can operate up front or on the winger meaning his versatility would appeal to Kenny Dalglish and is reportedly available for £10m.

Liverpool Linked With Porto Defender

Porto defender Jorge Fucile is being touted as a January signing for Liverpool as they look to improve their defence, according to The Daily Mail.

The 27 year old can operate at either fullback position and has been capped 34 times for Uruguay. Liverpool already has two Uruguayan players in their ranks with Luis Suarez and Sebastian Coates. Fucile may be interested in not only a move to the Premier League, but a move with his compatriots. Suarez and Coates have told the Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish that Fucile would be a great signing and the Reds are expected to press home their interest.

Liverpool’s defence is one of the best in the Premier League this season and Dalglish wants to keep up that formidable record. A signing of Fucile’s calibre could put Glen Johnson in the background at Anfield. The England international is often accused of being too attacking minded and Fucile’s defensive qualities may tip Dalglish to deploy him over Johnson.

Fucile’s Porto teammate Fernando has also been targeted by Dalglish in the central midfield. A season-ending injury to Lucas has left the Reds short in the anchor role and Fernando is highly rated across Europe. Dalglish could complete his January signing with the transfer of Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha, who tore apart Manchester United in the Carling Cup tie at Old Trafford.

Liverpool Consider Celtic Star As Lucas Replacement

Liverpool are reportedly contemplating a January move for Celtic midfielder Beram Kayal.

The Israel international has impressed all and sundry since his move to Parkhead from Maccabi Haifa in the summer of 2010, and has made 55 appearances for the Hoops.

According to the Daily Mail, Kayal is a target for Liverpool as Kenny Dalglish considers bolstering his midfield during the transfer window.

Injury to Lucas Leiva last month has prompted the Liverpool boss to identify potential replacements for the Brazil international, who is sidelined for the rest of the season.

Kayal, it would appear, is one of the names on the shortlist of Dalglish, while Fernando of Porto and Barcelona's Seydou Keita have also been linked with moves to Anfield.

Liverpool Told To Forget About Bent

Former Anfield star John Barnes says Aston Villa striker Darren Bent does not fit the bill for Liverpool, as the Reds consider goalscoring reinforcements in January.

The Merseysiders have scored only 18 times in as many Barclays Premier League fixtures this season and, with Luis Suarez set to begin an eight-game ban in the New Year, Kenny Dalglish has been tipped to bolster his attack.

Bent, meanwhile, has been linked with Liverpool in the past, but it would seem unlikely that Dalglish would attempt to bring the England international to Anfield next month.

Barnes certainly does not expect to see the 27-year-old sign for the Reds, and does not believe Bent is suited to the style of football Liverpool have adopted under Dalglish.

“It all depends on the way you actually play and you have to play to someone’s strengths,” Barnes told talkSPORT.

“I don’t know if he is the type of player that they want, he likes to be direct, play over the top, run on quickly.

"Liverpool doesn’t play that way and as good as Darren Bent is a good goal-scorer in the right team, I don’t know whether he’d fit at Liverpool.”