Friday, November 30, 2012

Match Preview: Liverpool vs Southampton

Liverpool will look for just a fourth win of a stuttering Premier League campaign when Southampton makes their return to Anfield for the first time in eight years on Saturday.

The visit of a team in the relegation zone should be an early Christmas gift for Brendan Rodgers and his men, but Southampton have won just as many games this season as Liverpool - who despite playing some decent football at times have found wins hard to come by.

Again Rodgers was happy with the performance of his team at Tottenham in midweek, but again the result did not match that level of performance and it is an open secret that scoring goals continues to stunt any growth in his developing team.

The fact Southampton sit just four points behind Liverpool tells its own story, but with a decent run of fixtures coming up in December though now is the time to start turning things around at Anfield.

Returning midfielder Lucas Leiva could help by freeing up Steven Gerrard and Joe Allen to do more of their work further up the pitch, and offering some help to Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling - who is still seemingly stalling over a new contract.

Former Liverpool youth player Nigel Adkins hopes to enjoy his return to Merseyside and his Saints have started to breathe life into their season with an unbeaten four-match streak including back-to-back wins lifting them to within a point of leaving the drop-zone.

But for a goalkeeping error from Paulo Gazzaniga against Norwich, Southampton would be travelling north as high as 15th in the table but they have improved since the start of the season and will aim to keep the home crowd frustrated early on.

Midfielder Lucas Leiva returns to Liverpool's match-day squad to face Southampton at Anfield after a three-month injury absence.

The Brazil international has finally recovered from a thigh injury, while Joe Cole has overcome a hamstring problem which forced him out of the midweek defeat at Tottenham.

Defender Andre Wisdom, on the bench at White Hart Lane after a knee injury, could come back into contention for a starting place.

Under-fire goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga looks set to start for Southampton again when they travel to Liverpool.

The 20-year-old Argentinian has come under increasing scrutiny following a number of recent high-profile mistakes, including the one that saw Norwich grab an equalizer in midweek.

Danny Fox could return from a knee complaint, while Frazer Richardson and Richard Chaplow are closing in on a return.

Displays Keep Rodgers Happy

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers admits he is satisfied with the progress of his charges since his appointment in the summer.

The Reds are currently fourth in the Premier League, 10 points behind leaders Manchester United, but Rodgers believes his team should be better placed.

Liverpool's eight-match unbeaten run was ended at Tottenham in midweek, but Rodgers was able to take comfort from the performance at White Hart Lane.

And the Reds manager is looming to get back to winning ways when Southampton visits Anfield on Saturday.

Rodgers said: "We are not in a position we deserve to be in, but ultimately we have to turn the performances into results and that is what we aim to do.

"It has been terrific to watch; you've seen the growth of the group, the mixture of young and senior players really playing with freedom and all you can do is keep your head down and work hard.

"The level of our game is a good one but we have to align that with results and that is important. Once we find the solutions to scoring more goals I believe we can push on."

Lucas Leiva In Contention To Face Southampton

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has revealed that midfielder Lucas will be in the squad for the visit of Southampton on Saturday after being out through injury since 26th August.

The Brazilian had missed the majority of last season through injury and his availability will be a huge boost to the Reds.

In his press conference at Liverpool's training ground Rodgers also confirmed that midfielder Joe Cole will also return for an injury that kept him out of the game at Spurs on Wednesday night.

“The squad is fine,” said Rodgers. "Joe Cole will come back into contention. He had a scan on an injury but that showed up fine, so he should be available again at the weekend.

"Lucas Leiva will return to the squad, which is great news because he's been working very, very hard and played the reserve game last week.

"He's been training for a few weeks and looked very good, so we'll look forward to bringing him back in.

"Other than that, the mood is very good and we're really looking forward to the game."

The Northern Irishman continued to talk up the impact that Lucas' return will have on the team.

"He's very much looking forward to it. He's worked tirelessly in his recovery. We're just trying to nudge him along and make sure it's the right time.

"He had a few weeks of training before he played his reserve game. He looked very capable in that game and he's had another week of training and I don't think he can go any further with regards to training.

"His next step is games, so hopefully in the next couple of weeks he'll get opportunities to play and improve his football fitness.

"Mentally he's a tough boy. His mental fitness is very strong and he's looking forward to helping the team.

"It's a big boost because he's well in tune with what we're trying to do here. He's been kicking his heels on the side wanting to help his mates and the group, so I am delighted to have him back.

"He's a good guy and has a lot to offer the team, both on and off the field, and it'll be great to have him back in the squad."

Liverpool and Chelsea Linked With Transfer Move For Dutch Defender

Liverpool has joined Chelsea in the race to sign Dutch defender Stefan de Vrij.

The 20-year-old centre back is out of contract at Feyenoord in 2014 and is unwilling to commit beyond that point despite holding the captain’s armband at De Kuip, according to The Daily Mail.

The paper goes on to claim that Liverpool are now on the trail of the player, with manager Brendan Rodgers in the market to add a centre back at Anfield.

Sebastian Coates is attracting interest from Italy, the report claims, and the former Nacional starlet could be replaced by De Vrij on Merseyside. Any new addition at the back would provide competition for Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel and Jamie Carragher.

Liverpool isn’t the only Premier League club interested in the two-cap Holland international however, with the Blues also linked.

The Metro claimed earlier in the week that Chelsea were leading other English clubs in their pursuit of the player, and were ‘believed to be ready’ to table a £5 million offer for a player who has turned down two new contract offers with the Eredivisie outfit.

Rafael Benitez has taken the reigns at Stamford Bridge on an interim basis following the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo, and it’s unclear how much control of the purse string the Spaniard will have in the January transfer window.

That hasn’t stopped De Vrij being linked with a move to west London however, and he’d compete with David Luiz, John Terry, Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic for a place in the Chelsea side.

Liverpool Target Out-Of-Form Spanish Striker

Liverpool is being linked with a move for Spanish striker Nolito.

The 26-year-old forward is struggling to make an impact at Benfica this season, losing his place in the first-team after an impressive debut season with the Portuguese side.

After moving from Barcelona to the Estadio da Luz on a free transfer in the summer of 2011, Nolito netted 11 goals in 37 appearances for last season’s Primeira Liga runners-up.

However, his fall down the pecking order has led to speculation over a move to the Premier League, with The Daily Express claiming that Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is interested in bringing the player to Anfield.

The paper goes on to claim that Rodgers is eager to revive the former Ecija starlet’s career on Merseyside, as the Reds look to bolster their attacking line in the transfer window.

Luis Suarez currently leads the line alone at Anfield, with Fabio Borini and Andy Carroll – the other senior options at Liverpool – unavailable.

It’s unclear how much Rodgers would have to pay to bring the player to the club, but the paper also suggests that Benfica may be willing to part with the player in 2013.

Liverpool Lining Up Deal For Former Leeds Winger

Liverpool could make a surprise January swoop for former Leeds United star Max Gradel.

Gradel, who now plays for Ligue 1 side Saint-Etienne, came through the ranks at Leicester City but established himself at Leeds, whom he signed for following a successful loan spell.

The Ivory Coast international's displays at Elland Road lead to him being named the Fans' and Players' Player of the Year for 2011, and he earned himself a move to his current club in August of that year.

Gradel hit the ground running in France and has been scouted extensively by Liverpool, but Ukrainian heavyweights Shakhtar Donetsk are also keeping tabs on the winger.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is desperate to strengthen his attacking options and the 24-year-old, who can play as a winger and as a striker, fits the bill perfectly.

Harry Redknapp Flirting With Joe Cole Enquiry

QPR manager Harry Redknapp has called Liverpool midfielder Joe Cole a top player but insists that he has not made an enquiry for him yet.

Redknapp bought Cole through the youth system into the first team at West Ham and now as he looks to save West London club Queens Park Ranger from relegation he has praised the former Chelsea man but says that he has not made enquiries about any potential transfers.

"I like Joe, I had him as an 11-year-old," Redknapp told reporters.

"The talent is there and I think there's still a top player in there. I haven't made any enquiries yet - I haven't made any enquiries for anyone."

The QPR boss has also been linked with Marseille striker Loic Remy, who was close to joining Tottenham during Redknapp's reign at White Hart Lane.

But despite the speculation, the 65-year-old has reiterated that the side's current objectives are to turn performances around.

He added, "I was interested in Remy but that was then. It's a different situation now. He would be expensive. It depends on where we are in January.

"I've never discussed players with anyone. Here we are, we need to win matches now. January is way off."

Match Report: Tottenham 2 - 1 Liverpool

Gareth Bale scored a stunning free-kick and set up Aaron Lennon with a wonderful solo run to bring Liverpool's eight-match unbeaten run to an end at White Hart Lane.

The Welshman scored what has to be one of the most unlucky own goals in Premier League history to tarnish his evening slightly, but Tottenham still managed to come away with their second successive win despite an edgy second half in north London.

Bale tore West Ham apart at White Hart Lane on Sunday and he began Wednesday evening's game in similarly devastating fashion, embarking on a 50-yard run before playing in Lennon for the opener after seven minutes.

The Welshman then smashed home a brilliant swirling free-kick to make it 2-0 after 16 minutes, the ball looping and dipping over the wall leaving Pepe Reina completely non-plussed.

The win, which moves Spurs above Arsenal and Everton into fifth, did not come easily - but it did remind the club's critics that in Bale they have a man capable of winning a match almost single-handedly.

Playing at the same high tempo that helped them to destroy West Ham on Sunday, Tottenham flew out of the blocks and stamped their authority on the game from the off on a bitterly cold night in north London.

Reina got a taste of things to come when he saw a swirling Bale free-kick fly at him from 30 yards in the fourth minute, punching nervously away.

Bale was key to Tottenham's quick start. The Welshman latched on to Jermain Defoe's pass after the England striker had pinched the ball off Steven Gerrard, but he could only shoot at Reina.

Tottenham's early pressure paid off as Spurs took the lead in style. Bale collected the ball on the half way line and breezed past four players before squaring to Lennon, who tapped home from close range.

Luis Suarez spearheaded the Liverpool fightback, testing Hugo Lloris with a low drive after Michael Dawson's tackle had knocked the ball in to the Uruguayan's path.

A mix-up between Lloris and Kyle Walker then almost gifted the visitors an equalizer. The Frenchman rushed out of his goal to clear Suarez's through-ball - but the defender took the ball away from his goalkeeper into the path of Jordan Henderson, who blazed wide of an open goal.

The Spurs fans mocked Henderson for his miss and the midfielder's evening took another turn for the worse moments later when he was harshly adjudged to have fouled Dempsey 30 yards out.

Bale took a five-yard run up and despatched a powerful drive which dipped and swerved over the wall, completely bamboozling Reina, who could only stand and watch the ball sail in to his right.

Liverpool thought they should have had a penalty in the 36th minute when Steven Gerrard went down under pressure from Mousa Dembele, but Phil Dowd waved play on. The danger was not over for Spurs though, as Dawson dribbled in to the path of Suarez, whose shot was cleared off the line by Walker.

Liverpool continued to push for an equalizer after the break, but they almost conceded a third when Martin Skrtel's poor clearance set Defoe free but Dempsey selfishly muscled his team-mate off the ball and shot wide.

Spurs were struggling to get on the ball and their best threat came from set plays. Bale fizzed another long-range bender just wide in the 68th minute.

Two minutes later the former Southampton man unwittingly put Liverpool back in the game.

Lennon was well-placed on the line to clear Gerrard's header, but unfortunately for Spurs, the winger's clearance cracked Bale square in the face and flew in to the home net.

Bale was then jeered by the away fans after being booked for diving, although replays showed Daniel Agger did make contact with the winger's trailing leg as he charged at the Reds defence.

With 10 minutes to go Agger hooked the ball back for Suarez, but the striker snatched at the ball and his volley flew over.

Jonjo Shelvey chipped just wide and Suarez thought he should have had a penalty in a nervous final few minutes, but Tottenham held on until the final whistle, which Villas-Boas greeted with a huge double fist-pump.

Rodgers Rages At Referee

Brendan Rodgers launched in to a tirade against referee Phil Dowd for his performance as Liverpool's eight-match unbeaten run came to an unfortunate end at Tottenham.

Spurs ran out 2-1 winners at White Hart Lane thanks to a stunning free-kick from Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon's first half tap-in.

Rodgers, whose team pulled a goal back courtesy of a Bale own goal, was infuriated at Dowd for not awarding them two spot-kicks - one for a foul on Steven Gerrard by Mousa Dembele, and the other when William Gallas took out Luis Suarez in the dying minutes.

Earlier this season, Rodgers complained that his team were not getting enough decisions from officials, and he was deeply unhappy tonight that Dowd awarded the free-kick that led to Bale's goal when Clint Dempsey went down under the slightest of touches from Jordan Henderson.

"Nothing is going for us away from home, that's how its been all season in terms of decisions," Liverpool boss Rodgers said in his post-match press conference.

"Clint Dempsey has been clever (with the free-kick). He gets a hand in his back and goes down.

"We should have had two penalties. It's incredible to have gone through the season without getting a penalty.

"The Steven Gerrard one was nearly assault. How is that not a penalty?

"Watch the second one. Luis Suarez spins, William Gallas swings his left foot, catches him and he goes down.

"The statistics will tell you that we've been in the box as much as anyone, but to arrive at this stage of season and not get a penalty..."

Tottenham were left desperately hanging on pretty much from the moment that Bale's free-kick doubled the hosts' advantage, with Suarez and Henderson both guilty of missing good chances.

"We will struggle to play as well as that and not get anything," Rodgers added.

"We were absolutely outstanding. We would have been disappointed had we come away from that game with a point."

In the end it was Bale's masterclass performance that proved to be the difference between the two sides.

The Welshman eased past four Liverpool players on a 50-yard run before squaring to Lennon for Tottenham's opener and his 30-yard swirling free-kick was a strike Cristiano Ronaldo would have been proud of.

The only negative for the former Southampton winger came with his comedy own-goal in the second half when he found himself in the way of Lennon's goal-line clearance and saw the ball rebound in off his head.

Bale has now scored 10 goals for club and country this season - and Andre Villas-Boas admits the biggest teams on the planet will have been alerted by the winger's form.

"Tottenham as a club want to keep him here as long as we can but we understand players like this have propositions, have market which is the nature of the game," the Spurs boss said.

"At the moment he's doing extremely well for Spurs and we are absolutely amazed with what he can do for us. Hopefully, we have no doubt he can become a top player in the future. He is on to a great career."

Reina was powerless to stop the ball as it dipped and swerved in to the net for Tottenham's first and Bale nearly beat the Liverpool stopper twice more from similar range.

"Ronaldo showed you can almost hit the ball from the bottom to the top and it has an effect it changes direction," Villas-Boas said.

"Gareth has the power to hit the ball at that pace and that's why the ball gets so many effects."

Liverpool Hoping Big Things From New Barry

Liverpool academy director Frank McParland hopes Reds teenager Marc Pelosi can develop into one of the finest midfielders in the Premier League, and has compared the American to Manchester City star Gareth Barry.

Pelosi joined Liverpool a year ago, despite keen interest from Major League clubs in his native USA, and the 17-year-old continues to impress in the Anfield club's youth system.

The teenager has been tipped by USA under-20 manager Tab Ramos to play his country's senior side for the 'next decade', and Liverpool are also hoping for big things from Pelosi.

According to Liverpool academy chief McParland, Pelosi is similar in style to Barry - a former target for the Anfield club - and the Californian has what it takes to reach the top.

"He reminds me of Gareth Barry of Man City," McParland told "We think he has really high potential."

Liverpool's pursuit of Barry in the summer transfer window of 2008 was well-documented, with Rafael Benitez striving desperately to bring the England international to Anfield from Aston Villa.

Barry outlined his desire to leave Villa for Liverpool, but the Reds were unable to meet the club's demands, and the midfielder joined Manchester City for £12 million a year later.

Liverpool FC’s U19s Keep NextGen Qualification Hopes Alive

Liverpool’s Under-19s earned an excellent victory in their latest NextGen Series match on Wednesday night.

In his first game in charge of the side since being appointed earlier in the week, Alex Inglethorpe’s team defeated their counterparts from Borussia Dortmund 3-0 in the match played at St Helens’ home ground, Langtree Park.

The victory, which keeps the Reds’ hopes of remaining in the competition, was built on a first-half double from skipper Conor Coady.

Liverpool completed the scoring in the second period when Adam Morgan found the net 13 minutes from time.

The result gave Liverpool some revenge after they fell to a 2-1 defeat to the same opposition in the competition at the end of last month in Germany.

Liverpool is now third in Group 5 behind leaders Rosenborg and Inter Milan. The Reds have one group game left, home to the Italians on January 8.

Inglethorpe’s team was dominant throughout the clash and took the lead midway through the opening period when Krisztian Adorjan combined with defender Brad Smith. His cross to the back post was perfectly struck and Coady headed home from close range.

The advantage was doubled five minutes later when Morgan was upended by Dortmund keeper Cedric Wilmes inside the penalty area.

Coady took the responsibility from 12 yards and duly dispatched the spot-kick.

Both Marc Pelosi and Jordon Ibe both went close to making it three before Morgan saw an effort cleared off the line.

Adorjan was unfortunate to see a neat flicked effort come back off an upright in the second half but the Reds eventually wrapped up the points when Morgan coolly netted via a pass from his Hungarian team-mate.

There was still time for Adorjan to strike another effort against the woodwork but the win was already secured.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Match Preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs Liverpool

Tottenham Hotspur will be looking to secure back-to-back home wins and end Liverpool's eight-match unbeaten run on Wednesday.

A 3-1 derby success over West Ham United on Sunday saw Spurs returning to winning ways following three straight defeats, and they will want to build on that result and close back in on the top four.

History would appear to be in Spurs' favour, with the north London outfit having emerged victorious in their last five meetings with Liverpool at White Hart Lane in all competitions.

Bringing an end to that sequence of results will be Brendan Rodgers' top priority, with Liverpool heading to the capital still searching for a spark to ignite their season.

The Reds have become hard to beat, which is a step in the right direction, but seven draws in 13 games this season have held them back.

It is, however, worth noting that only reigning champions Manchester City have gone longer without tasting a Premier League defeat than the men from Merseyside and Rodgers will feel that his side can kick on once momentum is established.

Emmanuel Adebayor will serve the second game of his three-match ban in midweek, meaning Jermain Defoe will get the opportunity to lead the Tottenham lead once more.

Mousa Dembele, who returned from injury to make a 10-minute cameo appearance against West Ham, may be returned to Andre Villas-Boas' starting XI, but the Portuguese tactician is not expected to make too many changes to a winning team.

Scott Parker is back in light training following an Achilles injury, but is some way short of full match fitness, while Benoit Assou-Ekotto (knee) and Younes Kaboul (knee) remain on the sidelines.

Midfielder Sandro has been passed fit after being carried off on a stretcher with a stomach injury against West Ham.

Andre Wisdom has recovered from the knee injury which kept him out of a goalless draw with Swansea at the weekend and returns to the Liverpool squad.

If the teenager regains his place in the back four, winger Stewart Downing - who played at left-back at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday - would be the player most likely to make way.

Midfielder Lucas Leiva, who played an hour for the reserves on Friday, will not be included but could come into contention at the weekend.

Rodgers Dismisses Spurs Links

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has shrugged off talk that he was a target for Tottenham prior to the appointment of Andre Villas-Boas.

Rodgers, who takes his Liverpool side to White Hart Lane on Wednesday was reported to be a target for Tottenham following the sacking of Harry Redknapp in the summer.

Rodgers dismissed as "irrelevant" the suggestion Tottenham had made a serious approach to him to replace Redknapp, insisting he had no regrets over his decision to move to Liverpool

"I was very happy in my work at Swansea," said Rodgers. "Harry had done a brilliant job there, and for whatever reason, the club decided that it wasn't to be and looked elsewhere.

"For me to leave Swansea was going to be a big ask, but I had the opportunity to come here, and I've not regretted any moment of it."

Asked if there had been contact with Tottenham over a move to White Hart Lane earlier this year, Rodgers said: "It's irrelevant. Tottenham have chosen a manager. Obviously, Harry had done a great job there, and they decided to go down the route of Andre Villas-Boas.

"Andre's gone in, he's looking to continue the great work Harry had done. My only thinking is about Liverpool."

Villas-Boas Foresees Rodgers Impact At Liverpool

Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas believes that Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is the man to bring Champions League football back to Anfield.

The Portuguese boss goes into the game against the Merseyside club knowing that a win can take the club into the top four, but, with their opponents currently on an eight-game unbeaten streak of their own, he remains wary of the threat that they pose.

"At the moment they [Liverpool] are on a good run in terms of form," Villas-Boas told reporters.

"They would want ideally to turn the draws into wins. In a couple of games there were very close to winning but they didn't get the result that they wanted.

"They are in an awkward position in the league at the moment but the distance between the teams [in the middle of the table] is not a lot so it can change dramatically for them and they can join the top ten very soon.

"The power of the club is extremely high and the quality of the players and I think eventually they will join the battle for the top spots."

The 35-year-old is very familiar with former Swansea City manager Rodgers, after having worked as part of Jose Mourinho's backroom staff at Chelsea together, and has admitted that he's followed his career ever since.

He added: "The first time I came across Brendan was at an FA coaching course when we were trying to get our degrees and qualifications, we didn't know that our ways would cross paths.

"I saw him again when we were at Chelsea in 2004, when he was there as a youth team coach and he had done really well since then.

"He started his career at the right time, went through a difficult period at Watford. He came strong at Reading and Swansea. [And now] he's in a position which he deserves to be and he has a bright future."

Chelsea Star Anxious To Make Liverpool Move

Liverpool is hoping that the change in manager at Chelsea will not affect their January transfer plans for striker Daniel Sturridge.

The England international forward has been heavily linked with a move to Merseyside in recent months, with The Daily Telegraph claiming the 23-year-old remains the Reds’ prime target for the New Year.

The report goes on to state that Sturridge is ‘anxious’ to make the move to Liverpool, with the player spending large spells of the current season on the Stamford Bridge substitutes bench.

Whether Rafael Benitez aims to utilize Sturridge’s ability more than former boss Roberto Di Matteo is yet to be seen, but with ‘executive level’ talks already taking place, the former Manchester City forward’s future may already be sealed.

“You never know when new managers go into clubs, but we will see what happens over the course of the market for us,” Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is quoted as saying in the same newspaper.

“Hopefully we can get a few in. Obviously Ian Ayre (Liverpool Managing Director) has been dealing with transfer stuff in the background and doing a great job along with the recruitment team.”

Liverpool is short of options in attack this season, with Luis Suarez leading the line alone for the Merseyside giants in the absence of Fabio Borini (injury) and Andy Carroll (loan).

Chelsea isn’t bulging in the attacking department either though, with a lack of competition meaning Fernando Torres continues to get the nod in west London.

Sturridge’s exit would limit the club’s options further, although Ivorian international Wilfried Bony and Atletico Madrid star Radamel Falcao have both been linked with Chelsea moves in 2013.

Liverpool To Rival Manchester City For New Alonso

Liverpool have joined Manchester City in the hunt for exciting Spanish midfielder Benat, reports the London Metro.

The 25-year-old Real Betis star, who has been likened in playing style to Real Madrid's Xabi Alonso, has emerged as one of La Liga's leading lights over the past two seasons, prompting admiring glances from a host of Premier League clubs.

Manchester City scouts are believed to have been monitoring Benat's progress closely in recent months - including in Betis' 1-0 victory over Real Madrid, where he scored the winner - as Roberto Mancini considers a bid to bring the playmaker to the Etihad Stadium.

However, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is also keen on the technical midfield maestro, after being promised by Anfield owners that he will be given funds to strengthen his squad in January.

Spanish publication AS suggest Benat could cost upwards of £15million, which could prove to be a sticking point for Liverpool. Rodgers might only be willing to spend half that amount, but could maximize his budget by selling the likes of Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson in the New Year.

The Reds boss is targeting a forward as a priority in the forthcoming transfer window, but knows the Spanish international could add vital balance and creativity with his impressive range of passing, to Liverpool's lacklustre midfield.

Man United & Liverpool Eyeing Henrik Larsson's Son

Manchester United and Liverpool are both chasing the signature of teenage prodigy Jordan Larsson.

The 15-year-old Hogaborgs BK midfielder is on United’s radar with Sir Alex Ferguson sending scouts to watch him play.

More famously, Larsson is the son of football legend Henrik, who enjoyed a brief spell in 2007 at Old Trafford, and maybe the family connection could be a deal breaker.

Brendan Rodgers has also been keeping tabs on Larsson and Liverpool’s reputed success in developing talent through the youth ranks should not be understated.

Raheem Sterling is a prime example of this, and after signing for Liverpool in 2010, he has been setting alight the Premier League this season.

United also have a good track record of developing and nurturing youth talent, with Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley, two high-profile graduates who have gone on to become established first-team players.

Larsson scored five goals last season for his club.

Arsenal Identify Liverpool Star As Top January Target

Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina has been identified as Arsenal's No.1 target in their pursuit of reinforcements in the January transfer window, it has been claimed.

Reina has been linked with a transfer to Arsenal for some time, while Liverpool is reportedly considering replacing the Spain international in the New Year.

Wigan's Ali Al Habsi is reported to be under consideration by Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, and Reina could seemingly be offered the opportunity to jump from Anfield before he is pushed.

According to, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has outlined the acquisition of a new 'keeper as a top priority for the transfer window, and Reina is the player he wants to bring to the Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal want to secure the services of a proven Premier League custodian to challenge, or replace, incumbent Wojciech Szczesny and Reina fits the bill for Wenger.

Szczesny, 22, has struggled with injury and for consistency of late, and his position as Arsenal's undoubted No.1 now appears to be under threat.

However, should Arsenal miss out on the Reina, the Gunners will reportedly instead focus their attention on recruiting Swansea star Michel Vorm or Stoke City's Thomas Sorensen.

Liverpool have also been linked with a move for Vorm, who played under Rodgers at the Liberty Stadium, and a swoop for the Netherlands international could prompt Reina to leave for Arsenal.

Reina, 30, moved to Anfield from Villarreal in 2005 and has made 385 appearances for Liverpool during his time with the club.

Enrique Calm Over Future

Jose Enrique claims he never feared for his Liverpool future and is enjoying life at the club.

The Spaniard appeared to have fallen out of favour at Anfield after a slump in form but is back in the team and performing impressively for the Reds.

"Football is for moments and now I am playing well so I hope I can continue like this and help the team as much as possible," he said.

"Last year, up to December, I played really well and then I don't know why I dropped my form.

"Now I've started to do it again and it is more important to think in the present and live from now and I will try to do my best now.

"To be honest I've never been worried because I've always believed in myself.

"From the start I had knee problems so I have to prove myself with the manager; you have to do that always.

"It is not what you did before, it is what you do now. Every time you have to play well - if not there are players who will play better than you do.

"But I am really happy here. It is the biggest club I've played for, the fans are amazing and I really like the city so of course I want to play here for a long time."

Enrique had not made a promising start under new boss Brendan Rodgers and saw Glen Johnson and Stewart Downing preferred at left-back.

But the 26-year-old has found a new role on the left side of midfield playing off Luis Suarez and claims he will play anywhere as long as he is in the team.

"I like to play there but to be honest my position is left-back, it is where I am more comfortable and is where I have been all my life in the Premier League," he added.

"Of course, you enjoy it when you attack and I don't have to defend that much and playing there with Luis is really easy as his movement is everything and he is a really clever player.

"But it depends on where the manager wants me to play - I don't care where.

"It is the manager's decision and if you are not happy you go. He preferred Glen or Stewart before and I have to respect his decision.

"I did what I always did - train as hard as I could and to try to get my chance like I have now. I am playing now so I am happy but I still have to improve in myself."

And the former Villarreal and Celta Vigo player has plenty of praise for Rodgers' tactics, hailing him as the best coach he was worked with in the Premier League.

"From the start he is the best manager I've had in England in terms of tactics and everything," he said.

"Tactically he is like the Spanish. It reminds me of what happened at Villarreal. He has a mentality like a Spanish manager and I really like that."

Henderson Out To Prove A Point

Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson is determined to prove his career at Anfield is going to last for the long-term.

The £16million summer 2011 signing from Sunderland was part of a big-money squad overhaul conducted under former boss Kenny Dalglish.

But Henderson only made his first Premier League start of this season under new manager Brendan Rodgers in the weekend draw at Swansea City after being restricted to substitute, Capital One Cup and Europa League appearances.

The 22-year-old has been offered encouragement from Rodgers but knows he still has to prove his credentials at five-time European champions Liverpool.

Henderson said in the Daily Star ahead of Wednesday's game at Tottenham Hotspur: "If you move to a club like Liverpool, you have to try to make it for life and not just for Christmas.

"When I signed for Liverpool, I definitely wanted it to be long-term and I will give it everything I have got.

"It is a lot easier to throw a tantrum and walk away from a big club than fight to make it work, isn't it?

"Other players might treat it different ways but it just gives me a different incentive to push on and go forward.

"I think the manager has seen that I have improved since he came to the club and I need to keep on improving."

Borrell Promoted Ahead Of Critical NextGen Qualifier

Amongst all the turnover of the past few seasons, one of the mainstays has been U18s, Reserves, and now Head of Academy Coaching Rodolfo Borrell, who's transitioned into his new role as Alex Inglethorpe takes over the Reserves ahead of their penultimate NextGen qualifying match against Dortmund.

The NextGen Series has seemed like a whirlwind in its second season of existence, last year we had all the introductory information and a fairly high level of attention paid, but this time around it's sneaked up on us a bit, and all of a sudden we're looking at the last two matches of the qualifying round and Liverpool potentially on the outside looking in.

Liverpool's fortunes in the competition have been the polar opposite of what they've put together in the U21 Premier League, with three losses in their first three before picking up their lone win of the tournament last time out, managing to put four past a Rosenborg side that'd defeated them 3-0 in the reverse fixture. A win over Dortmund on Wednesday still wouldn't keep them safe, as they'll need Inter to lose to Rosenborg and then to defeat the holders in the final match of group play on the 8th of January.

The personnel on the pitch won't likely be surprising for many, as Adam Morgan, Conor Coady, and Stephen Sama are all expected to feature, but there's significant changes in management, as former Reserves and U18s boss Rodolfo Borrell, who's left the team in every match of the competition across two seasons to this point, has been promoted to Head of Academy Coaching, and former Tottenham U18s coach Alex Inglethorpe takes over.

Frank McParland, who was the subject of an enlightening interview back in September with Sachin Nakrani in the Guardian, retains his role as Academy Director, with Borrell now responsible for, in the words of Brendan Rodgers, "(making) richer the philosophy we are creating at the club from U9s through to the first team." Inglethorpe, who was with Spurs for six years, will presumably see his duties start immediately ahead of Wednesday's match.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Match Report: Swansea 0 - 0 Liverpool

Brendan Rodgers secured a point on his return to the Liberty Stadium but will feel his Liverpool side deserved more at the home of his former employers.

The Reds had Jose Enrique's first-half strike ruled out for a marginal offside decision, while teenage prodigy Raheem Sterling rattled the bar and Jonjo Shelvey's late strike was beaten out by Gerhard Tremmel.

Man of the match Pablo Hernandez had Swansea's best chances. The Spain winger curled narrowly wide in the first half before having his low-free-kick brilliantly tipped wide by Jose Reina.

Ashley Williams, who shook hands with Luis Suarez prior to kick-off after his criticism of the Liverpool striker, also saw former Swan Joe Allen clear his header off the line.

Despite seeing his side only secure a point, which extended their unbeaten league run to eight games but keeps them below Swansea in the table, Rodgers will have taken heart from another promising performance as he looks to rebuild at Anfield, with Sterling, Enrique and Glen Johnson excelling.

And with his intimate knowledge of Swansea's style, the Northern Irishman, who received a good reception from the home faithful, set Liverpool up to press his former club as high up the pitch as possible.

It proved effective, and Johnson should have given them the lead from Steven Gerrard's corner after Allen had dispossessed Leon Britton.

Wayne Routledge forced a sharp near post save from Reina after turning on the edge of the area, but the game was being played almost exclusively in the Swansea half.

Suarez should have capitalized when Swansea again surrendered the ball, but strayed offside as Enrique advanced, before the Spaniard steered narrowly wide from Sterling's superb cross.

Enrique turned provider with a lovely pass for Johnson in the 26th minute, but Tremmel was out quickly to block his effort.

Swansea were limited to counter-attacks, and one sharp break saw Hernandez go close to breaking the deadlock, his curling strike beating Reina but also the far post.

Liverpool went straight up the other end and failed to convert a trio of clear-cut chances that would have given them a deserved reward for their dominance.

Angel Rangel's brave block denied Suarez a simple finish, before Sterling struck the bar with a thunderous volley.

Enrique had the ball in the net after 34 minutes from Suarez's delicate pass, but the assistant referee ruled offside, although replays suggested he may have been level.

Hernandez, Swansea's most lively operator, shot over the bar as half-time closed in, but there was no denying Liverpool's superiority.

Michael Laudrup brought Ki Sung-yueng on for the anonymous Itay Shechter at half-time and pushed Michu up front in an effort to alter the pattern of the game.

The change succeeded in solidifying the Swans midfield but the visitors still looked the more likely to break the deadlock, with Tremmel beating away a fierce angled drive from Suarez.

After that scare the hosts enjoyed their best spell of the game.

Michu had a header saved by Reina when Hernandez broke free of Johnson's marking before Allen denied his former team by clearing a Williams header off the line at the far post.

Nathan Dyer, just on as a substitute, raced through on goal after robbing Stewart Downing at left-back, but could not beat Reina as the two slid for the loose ball and collided. Both players were fine to continue after treatment.

Michu had a penalty appeal turned down after a grapple with Daniel Agger, and Swansea would have gone behind had Liverpool not blown a golden opportunity with eight minutes to play.

Suarez and Sterling broke from a Swansea corner and had only Ben Davies in front of them, but a laboured pass from the winger forced the Uruguayan wide and Tremmel held his shot.

Hernandez thought he had stolen the points with just three minutes remaining, only for Reina to make a superb fingertip save, before Tremmel blocked Jonjo Shelvey's fizzing strike to ensure the points were shared.

Rodgers Pleased With Liverpool Quality In Swansea Draw

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers was impressed with the ‘marked difference’ in his side despite a 0-0 draw with Swansea.

Liverpool came close to securing three points with Raheem Sterling hitting the crossbar after Jose Enrique had a goal disallowed and Rodgers believes his side is constantly improving.

"I thought there was a marked difference," Rodgers told Sky Sports. "I was really pleased with the quality of our game on Saturday, I thought our build-up play was good and we got through the thirds well.

"I just thought we needed a fraction more belief in the final third. There were opportunities around the box where we could have got a shot off a bit quicker.

"That comes from certain types of player and personnel you have in. I thought the method in our game was good, and people who would have seen the game at the end of last season would have seen a difference, hopefully.

"We were unfortunate with the offside goal that was ruled out. I thought that was a goal having seen the replays of it.

"I'll never say coming here is two points dropped because it's a difficult place to come. Our performance level is continually improving. We're just chipping away at climbing up the league, and we'll do that."

Skrtel: Liverpool Deserved To Beat Swansea

Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel feels his team deserved more than just a point after the 0-0 draw with Swansea City on Sunday, but was happy to have kept a clean sheet.

The Reds were the more threatening side on show, with Jose Enrique seeing his first-half goal ruled out for offside before Raheem Sterling hit the crossbar with a fine half-volley.

However, despite disappointment at not winning the game, Skrtel underlined the importance of not losing and stretching Liverpool’s unbeaten run to eight matches.

"The main thing if you don't win the game, don't lose the game," the Slovakian told the club’s official website. "We try to work hard in the defence, try to keep a clean sheet, and as defenders help the team to get the points.

"But we knew before the game it was not going to be easy in Swansea and we could see it wasn't.

"We took the point and remained unbeaten, that's good, but I think we were feeling we could win and get more than we got."

Liverpool travel to Tottenham next as Brendan Rodgers reaches 25 games in charge of the Reds, and Skrtel has admitted that the new methods the manager is trying to implement have taken time to take effect but is confident the methods are starting to reap rewards.

"It wasn't easy at the start of the season because all the things changed when the new manager came in," Skrtel added.

"He wanted to change the style, the way we play - it needs time. The last few games we have started to play the way we want to play and we just need more wins.

"Too many games we have played well, created chances, just couldn't take them and score. That's the thing we need to improve and start getting the points."