Friday, January 06, 2012

FA Cup Preview: Liverpool vs. Oldham

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish is likely to rotate his squad for the game against the League One Latics.

That could mean recalls for defenders Jamie Carragher and Sebastian Coates, who have not started since the Carling Cup win at Chelsea in late November.

Striker Luis Suarez serves the second game of an eight-match ban, but captain Steven Gerrard will probably be given another chance to continue building up his sharpness having made three substitute appearances following his comeback from an ankle infection.

Oldham manager Paul Dickov expects to have on-loan trio Luca Scapuzzi, Tom Adeyemi and Nathan Clarke available for the game.

The players' loans expire ahead of the tie, but Dickov is confident that respective agreements with Manchester City, Norwich and Huddersfield will be reached to make them eligible for selection at Anfield.

"Hopefully that will be done so they will be available," said the Latics boss at a Thursday press conference. "Nathan, Luca and young Tom will hopefully be sorted out today."

Midfielder James Wesolowski is expected to recover from a dislocated shoulder to contest a place in the starting line-up having taken part in a practice match on Wednesday.

Striker Matt Smith scored on his first start since August in the 1-1 draw with Chesterfield on Monday but is expected to make way for top scorer Shefki Kuqi, and Dickov admits he is suffering from selection headaches.

"The good thing for me is that I've got more or less a fully fit squad to pick from," he said. "The sad thing for me is I'm going to have to leave a couple of players out of the starting XI and the 18 who work ever so hard for me, which isn't going to be nice, but that's my job as a manager."

Dalglish Won't Undermine FA Cup

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish hopes his team's football will do the talking against Oldham in the FA Cup on Friday night after a week in which the club's off-field actions have made the headlines.

The Reds decided not to appeal Luis Suarez's eight-match ban for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra earlier this week but have faced criticism over the way they have handled the whole controversy.

Dalglish is now keen to focus on matters on the pitch and is looking for a good performance from his side at Anfield on Friday.

"To get back on the pitch after the week we've had on and off it is the best thing we can do," said the Scot.

"It'll be a great time too for our people to show support for one another - for the players to show their gratitude towards the fans for the support they've given us recently and also vice-versa.

"The FA Cup has been undermined in many ways and in many quarters, for varying reasons, but we certainly won't ever undermine it.

"It's a competition that's there to be won so we'll go into the Oldham game with the same attitude and desire as we went into the Carling Cup.

"The Carling Cup is something people have done the same with - undermined and undervalued - but we went about our job as well as we possibly could and we've got our reward for that (with a two-legged semi-final against City starting on Wednesday)."

Dalglish is certain to make several changes for the League One visitors but that does not mean he will take Paul Dickov's League One side lightly.

"We've always said how strong the squad is and maybe it's an opportunity for us to give the people in that squad the gratitude they deserve by giving them an opportunity to start the game," added Dalglish.

"But that's not to say we're undermining or being disrespectful in any way. We'll treat Oldham with complete respect.

"League positions don't matter in cup competitions or in any game. On any one day, any team can beat anyone else.

"If you're not prepared for it mentally and physically, you're going to make it much more difficult for yourself."

Friday represents the Reds' first home cup draw Dalglish has had since taking over almost exactly 12 months ago - his first match in charge was the FA Cup third-round defeat at Manchester United.

"When we've had home draws before that we've not been too successful have we?" he told Liverpool's official website.

"We don't want to rewrite that history. It's going to be difficult because it's a big draw for them to come to Anfield and I'm sure if they lose the game it won't be because of lack of effort.

"We've got to match them for effort and make sure we come out on top."

Dickov To Take Fight To Reds

Paul Dickov insists his Oldham side will look to attack when they chase an FA Cup upset against Liverpool on Friday night.

A second-round replay victory over Southend at Boundary Park in December booked a mouthwatering trip to face Kenny Dalglish's side for the Latics, who currently lie 14th in League One.

Only veteran striker Shefki Kuqi has played at Anfield before among Dickov's largely youthful squad and, while acknowledging the magnitude of the task in hand, the former Manchester City forward is determined that his players enjoy the tie.

"I'm not going to say we're going to go to Anfield and win the game - I think I'd probably get taken away in a straightjacket - but the one thing we are going to do is go there and have a right good go," he said.

"People are saying you've got to go there and play five at the back or five in midfield, but we don't want to change too much. We're trying to keep it as normal as we can this week.

"As to how the players will react, we won't know until eight o'clock on Friday night, but the one thing we're just trying to say to them is go and enjoy the occasion by doing the right things.

"I've been lucky enough to play in big games over my career at big stadiums and at Wembley. You can get carried away with the occasion and before you know it the game's finished.

"I want all my players to remember every single minute of the game and take it with them for the rest of their careers."

This term Oldham began their 15th consecutive season in the Football League's third tier - the longest tenure of any side in the division - but a pair of famous cup occasions over the past decade have allowed supporters to hark back to the club's early 1990's heyday in the top flight.

On their previous third-round trip to Merseyside, Gary McDonald's goal sank Everton 1-0 in 2008, three years after Manchester City fell foul of Latics at the same stage.

More that 6,000 travelling supporters will make the short journey down the M62 dreaming of a repeat, with Liverpool's recent history of cup mishaps at the hands of Barnsley, Reading and Northampton providing further encouragement.

"We know that economically times have been hard for the town and the fans, and the support we're getting is quite humbling for myself and the players," said Dickov, who was on hand to pour hot drinks for fans queuing outside Boundary Park for Anfield tickets last week.

"Tomorrow night is a big thank-you to the fans, but that's not to say we're going there to make up the numbers."

And, straightjacket or otherwise, Dickov admits he has already cast his minds eye towards the improbable.

"I do dream, I just hope it's not a nightmare," he said. "I'd be daft to say that I'm not thinking about going there and winning and what would happen. Every single round in the FA Cup there's a shock.

"Win, lose or draw I want my players to do themselves proud. And I'm going to stand on the touchline and be proud of my players and the football club."

Gerrard's Return Can Lift Carroll - McManaman

Steve McManaman has backed Steven Gerrard to set Liverpool striker Andy Carroll on the path to becoming a "number nine superstar".

Carroll has scored just five goals in 30 appearances since his £35million switch from Newcastle and this season he has appeared bereft of confidence.

But former Anfield favourite McManaman believes Gerrard, who is back in action after an injury-dogged 2011, has the quality to bring the best out of Carroll.

And McManaman warned that Oldham could feel the backlash in the FA Cup third round tie.

"Steven is Liverpool's best player, he is arguably England's best player," said McManaman. "His assists are wonderful. Just ask Fernando Torres what his assists were like.

"His delivery, his ability to put a ball through is second to none. It should help any centre forward, whether it is Luis Suarez, Torres or Andy Carroll and hopefully it will do.

"Against Manchester City he was a little bit isolated. Liverpool huffed and puffed and lacked that real goal threat.

"I felt a little bit sorry for him because he was up front on his own and Liverpool felt 'we have a big man here, let's chuck everything into the box'.

"It is about quality. Andy Carroll will improve significantly by being at Liverpool. The time to judge him is not now.

"I hope in years to come we are talking about a number nine superstar. You hope that Steven plays against Oldham because he is trying to get his fitness back and that Andy Carroll does play."

McLeish - No Reds Bent Contact

Aston Villa boss Alex McLeish insists he has not had any contact with Liverpool about a possible move for Darren Bent.

Rumours have suggested Liverpool are weighing up a move for Bent as they look to bring in cover in attack with Luis Suarez currently serving an eight-game ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra.

Bent, Villa chief executive Paul Faulkner and McLeish had all previously said the England international was going nowhere and McLeish insists they would not consider selling the former Tottenham and Sunderland man.

"We've not heard a thing from Liverpool," said McLeish. "I'm aware of the speculation.

"But there has been no contact with this club and I think you've had three parties telling you that.

"But, even if there was contact, we would not entertain that (selling Bent).

"We wouldn't want to entertain selling our top scorer of last season. He is a prolific marksman."

Liverpool Alerted As Moses Stalls On New Contract

Wigan forward Victor Moses is being linked with a possible move away from the DW Stadium after the player’s agent revealed that he is yet to sign a new contract.

The former Crystal Palace player initially struggled to make the step up to the Premier League but this season has rediscovered his best form and has been one of Wigan's best players.

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez has continually praised the youngster and was hoping to tie him down to a new deal in the coming weeks, however, it has been revealed that talks have so far been unsuccessful.

Tony Finnigan, Moses' agent, said: "We talked to Wigan about a contract five weeks ago but still haven't seen anything. My phone goes all the time. Victor's got his admirers out there."

As well as Liverpool, Tottenham and Sunderland are also said to be tracking the progress of the 21-year-old and may consider moving for him at the end of the season.

Moses represented England throughout his youth career but still has the opportunity to play for Nigeria as he is yet to make an appearance for the senior England side.

Martin O'Neill is said to be an admirer of Moses and with rumours that Stephane Sessegnon is unhappy at the Stadium of Light, he may consider the Wigan man as a replacement.

Yet, it is Liverpool that is thought to be leading the race to sign the youngster after scouting the player on a number of occasions.

The Metro believes that a bid of £8million would be enough to persuade Wigan to part with the attacker, who also has the ability to drop into midfield and play in wide areas.

Moses record in front of goal is not particularly impressive, with just four league goals for Wigan, but glimpses of his ability have led sides to believe he will improve as he matures.

Liverpool And Arsenal Battle For Brazilian Striker

Liverpool and Arsenal face a major battle with Fiorentina and Borussia Dortmund to sign Spartak Moscow striker Welliton.

The Brazilian, 25, is rated one of the best forwards in Russia and has attracted interest from a number of European clubs.

Both Liverpool and Arsenal are keen to bolster their forward line and have been linked with a move for the 5ft 9in forward.

Spartak Moscow is desperate to keep their prolific forward but would consider offers in the region of £7m.

Kenny Dalglish and Arsene Wenger will have to act fast if they want to sign him as reports in Russia suggest that Fiorentina and Borussia Dortmund have also entered the race to clinch his signature.

FA Urged To Take Further Action Against Liverpool

The head of European football's anti-racism group has urged the Football Association to charge Liverpool with bringing the game into disrepute over their response to Luis Suarez's eight-match ban.

Piara Powar, executive director of European football's anti-discrimination body FARE, said Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish's comments had been ''undignified'' and that their reaction had damaged the club's brand across the world.

He said: ''This is a lack of respect for the governing body by Liverpool and the FA should charge Liverpool FC and Kenny Dalglish.

''I think the FA should come back now and be very clear that Liverpool could be construed to have brought the game into disrepute by the way in which they have consistently undermined the judgment and by Kenny Dalglish's comments.

''Liverpool have been too keen to support their man and in doing so have whipped up a sense of paranoia amongst their fans. This is not the Liverpool FC that we have applauded in the past for their support for a whole range of issues.

''The responses from Kenny Dalglish have been undignified; the way in which they have dealt with the whole matter has been unprofessional. For the club to so aggressively militate against what looks to most people a considered judgment from the FA leads to a potential for anarchy.''

Powar said reaction from his colleagues in other parts of the world made him believe the affair was damaging Liverpool.

He added: ''They have damaged their brand, no question. There is no question that Liverpool do have a global appeal, but I have emails from colleagues in Africa asking me what the hell is going on.

''I think people will be watching this and I believe there is no question that their plans for global expansion will have been damaged by this. That's not to say they cannot come back from this but it has done them a lot of damage and they have not conducted themselves in a very palatable way.''

Powar's call comes after Lord Ouseley, the chairman on British football's anti-racism group Kick It Out, called Liverpool ''hypocritical'' and Suarez's apology ''lamentable''. Ouseley also described Liverpool players wearing T-shirts in support of Suarez as ''dreadful''.

Dalglish Hails Team Behind Team

Kenny Dalglish today praised the team behind the team as he prepares to celebrate a year since his memorable return to Melwood.

Our most famous No.7 was invited back into the dugout 12 months ago this weekend following the departure of Roy Hodgson from Anfield.

Since then he has transformed the fortunes of the team on the field by bringing unity back to the club where he scored 172 goals in 515 games as a player.

But, speaking to today, Dalglish was quick to exalt those who have stood by his side during the past year.

"It's been busy, especially when the transfer windows have been open," he said. "On the football side of it you can see the progression that's been made on the pitch.

"We've been delighted with the work Steve Clarke's put in - he's been fantastic. Wee Sammy (Lee) was here at the beginning and Kevin Keen has come in since. The support we've had from the people I've mentioned has been fantastic.

"Damien (Comolli) has put in a lot of hard work in the recruitment and selling of players. It's been hectic and a bit eventful at times but I wouldn't have changed it.

"Just being asked to come back - that's my highlight. I was very fortunate to be asked the question and when John (Henry) said he'd like me to stay on, it was equally as much of a highlight.

"I'm delighted to be here and happy with the way things are going, but at the same time I think we can do better."