Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Match Preview: Liverpool vs Fulham

Kenny Dalglish is on Tuesday night likely to give his players the chance to audition for a place in Liverpool's FA Cup final team when Fulham visit Anfield in the Premier League.

The Merseyside club's extremely disappointing league campaign has long since been limping towards its conclusion and the best they can hope for is a seventh-placed finish.

Attention has consequently been upon a second domestic cup final appearance of the season ever since Merseyside rivals Everton were defeated in the FA Cup semi-finals on 14th April.

Dalglish has told his players they have a chance to submit their 'CVs' ahead of facing Chelseaon Saturday at Wembley and all will be keen to impress against Fulham, although the Scot is also likely to rotate his squad in order to avoid any risk of injury.
But visitors Fulham will not view this midweek fixture as a dress rehearsal and, in contrast to their hosts, they have enjoyed the 2011/12 Premier League.

Martin Jol, who it is understood will return to the dugout after missing the weekend defeat by Everton due to a chest infection, has guided Fulham into the top half of the table.

Indeed, with three league games of the season remaining, the Londoners could yet finish above a Liverpool squad containing more than £80million investment from last summer.

The omens are not brilliant for Fulham as they prepare for their second game on Merseyside in four days given they have never won a Premier League game at Anfield, failing to score in their last five.

But they have only suffered defeat on two occasions in the last five overall league fixtures with Liverpool, who are far from comfortable at Anfield after winning just once in their last seven home games in the top flight.

Liverpool striker Andy Carroll has recovered from the injury which meant he missed Saturday's victory at Norwich and is available for selection.

The club's record signing was left out because of a minor groin complaint, but has returned to training.

With the FA Cup final four days after facing Fulham, there are likely to be other changes to the team.

Andy Johnson is a doubt for Fulham's after he missed Saturday's 4-0 thrashing at Everton with an adductor injury and he is not expected to recover in time.

Stephen Kelly may also have to wait before making his comeback, while winger Bryan Ruiz (foot), Steve Sidwell (hernia) and Zdenek Grygera (knee) are long-term absentees.

Former Liverpool full-back John Arne Riise, who won the UEFA Champions League with the club in 2005, will likely start for Fulham on his emotional return to Anfield.

Possible starting XIs:
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Coates, Enrique, Shelvey, Henderson, Spearing, Maxi, Bellamy, Carroll.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Hughes, Hangeland, Senderos, Riise, Duff, Diarra, Frei, Dempsey, Pogrebnyak, Dembele.

Dalglish Wants Final Applicants

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish will allow all of his players to 'put their CV in' for selection for the FA Cup final.

The Reds face Fulham at Anfield in the Premier League on Tuesday, but the most significant game in terms of their season is the Wembley encounter against Chelsea four days later.

Dalglish is usually adamant he and his players focus on the next match only, but even he has hinted he may pick his team to face the Cottagers with one eye on the final.

"We've said to all of the players, 'we want to give you the best possible chance to be available for selection on Saturday'," said the Scot as he plans for a second trophy of the season.

"We want the strongest possible squad we can to pick from for Saturday's game, and there are many ways we can do it.

"If someone needs a break, we'll give them a break and if someone needs a game, we will give them a game, because every single one of them are more than capable of playing in a cup final for this club.

"It's going to be a difficult selection as it always is, but it's a difficult selection for tomorrow night as well.

"Everybody will be treated fairly and equally and everybody will be allowed to put their CV in for selection on Saturday."

Fulham visit Merseyside for the second time in three days, but despite their abject performance in a 4-0 defeat at Everton on Saturday, Dalglish will not underestimate the visitors.

"They're a good side, Fulham, and difficult to play against," he told Liverpool's official website.

"They got battered 4-0 at Everton on Saturday so I'm sure they will be a bit upset with that and they might be wounded animals coming to play against us.

"We will just play the best we possibly can and for us it's an important game.

"It's one we want to get three points from, and we'll put a team on the pitch we think can win and we want to win, then we can concentrate on the final afterwards."

Carroll Boost For Reds

Andy Carroll has handed Liverpool a boost by returning to training after missing the weekend win over Norwich.

The striker was forced to miss the 3-0 victory at Carrow Road with a slight niggle, but he was able to take part in training on Monday.

Carroll could now return to the side for Tuesday's home clash with Fulham ahead of this weekend's FA Cup final with Chelsea at Wembley

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish admitted he rested Carroll as a precaution for the trip to Carrow Road.

"He's training today," Dalglish told the club's official website. "It was just a niggle.

"Players are either going to be rested or they are going to play to give them the best possible opportunity to be available for Saturday, and Andy comes into the category. The safest thing to do was rest him on Saturday."

Enrique Targets Home Boost

Jose Enrique wants Liverpool to build confidence ahead of the FA Cup final by beating Fulham at home in the Premier League on Tuesday night.

Liverpool meet Chelsea at Wembley at the weekend, but enjoying a positive end to the league season is also a priority for the club.

A 3-0 victory at Norwich last Saturday gave the Reds a lift and Kenny Dalglish's side now welcome Fulham to Anfield, looking to improve their home form.

The Reds have won just five games at home all season and Enrique is determined to head into the cup final on the back of three points.

"It was a good start to a big week for us," said the Spaniard.

"We have to beat Fulham first before we think about the cup final.

"I know we aren't playing for anything in the league but it's important for us to get three points to get some confidence ahead of the final.

"It's a home game and we want to do well. Then we have an amazing final to prepare for."

Scoring goals has been the problem, particularly at Anfield, this season and their last appearance there highlighted that all too plainly.

In probably the most dominant performance of the season they created chance after chance against West Brom only to lose after a defensive mistake.

Striker Luis Suarez was the difference against Norwich with a hat-trick to take his league tally to 11 and Enrique has praised his team-mate.

"It was an amazing performance from Luis," Enrique told the Liverpool Echo. "I don't think I've ever seen a better hat-trick than that.

"I told him after the game that he just needed a little bit of luck.

"I know he will score many more goals here in the Premier League."

Liverpool Agree £8m Deal For AZ Alkmaar Midfielder

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish has moved quickly to reinforce his midfield by agreeing a £8million deal to sign AZ Almaar midfielder Rasmus Elm.

The Sweden international has long been linked with a move to England and the Sun has reported that Dalglish recently flew to Holland in order to watch the player one more time.

However, when he arrived at the club he found out that Elm would be missing the game as his wife had gone in to labour and he would not be in action against Feyenoord.

Despite not being able to take one last look, Dalglish and his team have now made the necessary arrangements with the Dutch club and the 24-year-old should be a Liverpool player next season.

The Sun believes that Elm has agreed personal terms with the FA Cup finalists and that he will sign a five-year deal with wages of around £40,000-a-week.

Liverpool has moved quickly to complete a deal for the midfielder as Dalglish looks to strengthen his squad after a disappointing season in the league.

Liverpool Eyeing De Jong Move

Liverpool is interested in bringing prolific Eredivisie striker Luuk de Jong to Anfield this summer in a deal worth a reported £12.5million.

The FC Twente star has been on Kenny Dalglish’s radar for some time and the Reds boss believes he could be a good addition alongside top scorer Luis Suarez, according to Metro.

Liverpool are not the only team who have been monitoring the Holland international, his 23 goals in the league this season have reportedly attracted a number of European suitors.

The report claims that Dalglish is one of these and that the 21-year-old will be purchased with part of a £20million transfer kitty that will be granted the Liverpool manager this summer.

De Jong is not the only option being assessed by Dalglish, according to the report, Newcastle United’s Demba Ba has been singled out as a possibility but Tottenham Hotspur’s involvement could affect that move.

De Jong could be brought in as another Dutchman, Dirk Kuyt, looks set to leave the club this summer.

Dalglish Makes Personal Check On Montpellier Winger

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish is using the last few weeks of the league campaign to check on potential transfer targets, one of which is Montepellier winger Younes Belhanda.

The winger has been instrumental in helping Montpellier enjoy a fantastic season as they push for the Ligue 1 title, scoring 11 league goals in his 27 appearances.

The Metro has reported that Dalglish travelled to France with assistant Steve Clarke to make a personal check on the winger who is renowned for his pace and ability on the ball.

The duo are certain to have been impressed with the performance of Belhanda who scored the only goal of the game as Montpellier remained top of the league with a 1-0 win over Toulouse on Friday evening.

Belhanda, 22, has been a regular starter for the past two seasons, but this year has been his best to date in front of goal, while Montpellier have all but won the league title after moving five points clear of PSG with just four games remaining.

The paper believes that Belhanda is likely to quit the club in the summer after hearing that their is interest from the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and fellow French club PSG.

Liverpool will seemingly face stiff competition for the Morocco international after learning that Arsenal have sent scout Gilles Grimandi to watch the player on a number of occasions.

Hamburg Hoping To Secure Move For Liverpool Attacker

Hamburg appeared to move one step closer in the battle for out-of-favour Liverpool attacker Dirk Kuyt, after club coach Thorsten Fink described him as a “class” player.

The Dutchman has struggled to nail down a starting place in Kenny Dalglish's Liverpool team, with the Kop boss opting to play Jordan Henderson in a wider role.

As such, Kuyt has been regularly used as a substitute this season, and has been told he is free to look for a new club as he enters the final year of his contract.

The former Feyenoord man has been heavily linked with a move back to his former club, with suggestions that he could be offered a player/coach role.

However, Bundesliga side Hamburg has also been touted as a realistic destination, and Fink has fuelled speculation that the club may move for the 31 year-old, by outlining his qualities.

As reported by Sky Sports, Fink told Kicker.de: “He has class, and he is also a fighter. There is nothing more that needs to be said about the quality of this player. Whether this is something we feel we want to commit to, we will see."

Hamburg has endured a difficult campaign, finishing just above the relegation zone.