Saturday, May 12, 2012

Match Preview: Swansea vs Liverpool

Swansea play host to Liverpool at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday as both sides look to end the season in style.

The home team will be aiming to reward their fans by taking another famous scalp after a memorable first season in the Premier League.

Swansea has won just one of their last eight top-flight games, but they comfortably achieved their aim of securing safety among the elite.

Liverpool will go into the game buoyed by their midweek hammering of Chelsea and they will be looking to overtake local rivals Everton in the race to finish seventh.

Swans boss Brendan Rodgers has no fresh injury worries to contend with ahead of the season finale.

Angel Rangel and Leon Britton suffered no ill effects after returning from injury in last weekend's 2-0 defeat at Manchester United.

Kemy Agustien (ankle) and Ferrie Bodde (knee) remain long-term absentees.

Steven Caulker will play the final game of his loan spell from Tottenham before returning to White Hart Lane.

Liverpool is waiting on the fitness of skipper Steven Gerrard after he missed the win over Chelsea with a back problem.

Jose Enrique is also doubtful after he was forced to miss the victory over the Blues through injury.

Midfield duo Lucas and Charlie Adam remain on the sidelines as they recover from serious knee injuries.

Andy Carroll will be hoping to keep his place in the starting line-up after impressing against Chelsea as he looks to maintain his push for a place in the England squad for Euro 2012.

Possible starting XIs:

Swansea: Vorm, Williams, Caulker, Taylor, Rangel, Britton, Sinclair, Dyer, Allen, Sigurdsson, Graham.

Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Agger, Kuyt, Henderson, Gerrard, Downing, Suarez, Carroll.

Dalglish Targets Liverpool Title Tilt

Kenny Dalglish has set out his stall for Liverpool to mount a title challenge next season.

The Reds scooped the Carling Cup this year, but it has proved to be a season of disappointment with the Reds in eighth in the table going into the final game of the season.

Dalglish claims plans are being made to take the club forward, with possible transfer business taking place in the summer, and is looking for the Reds to be challenging at the top of the table next season.

"We're not happy finishing below anybody in the table," Dalglish said. "We want to be finishing above everybody.

"Whoever is in our road, it is up to us to be better than they are and get there when we can - but it's not been too bad [a season] for us.

"To win a trophy after six years was a good result for us, to get to the FA Cup final was a good result, and to get into the Europa League is also a measure of success."

The end of the season will hand Dalglish the chance to recharge the batteries, but he is likely to be busy in the summer.

He said: "We talk to the owners throughout the whole season, we discuss many facets, we also discuss about availability and possibilities. It is an ongoing process. Nothing much changes but maybe because the transfer window opens some business will be done."

Carroll Thanks Dalglish

Liverpool striker Andy Carroll admits he has had a disappointing campaign but has thanked manager Kenny Dalglish for sticking by him.

The England international has scored just nine goals this term in 47 appearances for the Reds, but he has bagged three in his last six games.

And whilst Carroll admits he has not been happy with his form, he is pleased with how Dalglish and the club's fans have stood by him.

"Kenny has shown a lot of faith in me," the 23-year-old said.

"I haven't had the greatest season but he has stuck by me and defended me and encouraged me a lot.

"I am confident of doing well all the time and I think it is not just the last two games, I think I have played well in a few games.

"I am enjoying it and I think you could see I have been enjoying my football and training.

"I am just confident every time I step on the pitch and I think it has shown in the last few games. I think I just needed a bit of a run.

"In training I have been doing well and all the lads have been enjoying it now.

"We have all been sticking together and playing well. I can't wait till next season."

Liverpool fans have been willing Carroll to do well ever since his arrival in January 2011 but, because he has not weighed in with the goals he was expected to and at times looked like he was struggling to fit into the system, he has come in for criticism.

Recently, the 6ft 2in striker has looked more mobile and energetic and has shown a willingness to not only get involved in build-up play but follow it through into threatening positions in the penalty area.

Having given John Terry a torrid night at Anfield, he produced the knock-down for Daniel Agger to score the third against Chelsea and also won the late first-half penalty which Stewart Downing drilled against a post.

After the break he received a standing ovation for chasing the ball into the corner to ensure Chelsea earned only a throw-in close to their own byline and the Kop sang his name on regular occasions.

"I thought the fans were great," he said. "Getting beat at the weekend I didn't know what it was going to be like, but from the minute we kicked off we were fantastic."

Shelvey Out To Impress

Jonjo Shelvey has revealed how he is hoping to begin next season by picking up where he left off in 2011-12 and continue to challenge for a regular first-team berth.

The 20-year-old has started six of Liverpool's last seven Barclays Premier League games and claimed his first top-flight goal with a well-taken long-range effort in the 4-1 victory over Chelsea in midweek.

Shelvey is aiming to get another chance to impress in Sunday's trip to Swansea City and take his impressive form into next campaign.

"It's been great to play more regularly in recent weeks and hopefully I've shown people what I can do," Shelvey said.

"The fact that the gaffer has given me more chances towards the end of the season gives me a lot of confidence going into the summer.

"I need to go away, keep myself in shape and then come back for pre-season and really kick on next season. I want to hold down a first team place. That's the challenge facing me next season."

Shelvey spent time away from Anfield this season on loan at Blackpool, where he scored six times in 10 appearances before being recalled following an injury to Lucas Leiva.

"That time away from Liverpool really helped me come on as a player," he added.

"I benefited a lot from the games I got at Blackpool. It was good for me and I came back better for the experience. Playing week in, week out gave me that match fitness.

"It was a great club to play for and I hope they get promoted. It would be good to see them go up and get back into the Premier League.

"But the time there also made me realize just how much I want to be playing in Liverpool's first team.

"It's been a stop-start season for me but it's a great honour to play here."

Liverpool Kit Launch Sparks Anger Among Hillsborough Families

The launch of the new Liverpool home kit has prompted an angry response from a number of the families of those killed in the Hillsborough disaster.

The club's home shirt for the 2012-13 season, designed by American company Warrior, was revealed on Friday.

Fans have welcomed the design, but the decision not to consult some families over the decision to move the symbol honouring the dead, has angered many.

The Hillsborough Justice Campaign (HJC) said the actions were "insensitive".

The new shirt sees the club's logo, which featured an image of the Shankly Gates, replaced by the original Liver Bird crest that became synonymous with Liverpool's success in the 1970s and 80s. As a result the two Justice flames honouring the Hillsborough campaign have been moved to the back of the shirt.

The decision to move the flames is not the source of frustration but the decision to only consult one Hillsborough group has sparked anger.

Liverpool did take time to meet with the seven members of the Hillsborough Family Support Group (HFSG) committee but other groups were not consulted.

The HFSG was the first group formed after the disaster in May 1989 and provides support for many of the bereaved families. The HJC also acts for a number of the families but its priority is to fight for the truth behind the events that took place at Hillsborough on 15 April 1989.

A HJC statement read: "We have noted that the Hillsborough flames and '96' will now appear on the back of the shirt 'after consultation with family members'.

"We can confirm that no bereaved families of the HJC were contacted or consulted. The first we were aware of this was via the minutes of the Supporters' Committee March meeting. Once again LFC has chosen to ignore the HJC and their families.

"The continued refusal of the club to acknowledge the HJC is insensitive, divisive and deplorable - 96 is more than a number. LFC would do well to remember that."

Liverpool moved swiftly to defend their part in the process and claimed they had made every effort to deal with the issue as sensitively as possible.

A spokesman said: "The club consulted with the HFSG committee and shared a number of alternative designs which were considered.

"The committee selected a design, which includes the number 96 to recognize those who lost their lives. Nobody has more respect for the 96 and their families than this football club."

Margaret Aspinall, chair of HFSG, lost her son James, 18 at the disaster. She said: "It is difficult for everyone to be consulted all the time. I know there are a number of the bereaved families in the HJC and I can understand what they are saying."

Andy Heaton, editor of Liverpool fanzine The Anfield Wrap, added: "Is it really that hard to consult all of the families, not some?"

The row threatens to taint the launch of the kit, which represents the start of the biggest deal of its kind in English football history.

The £25m-a-year contract with Boston-based Warrior Sports more than doubles the Anfield club's previous agreement with adidas.

Director Of Communications To Leave LFC

Fenway Sports Group and Liverpool FC confirmed today that Director of Communications Ian Cotton will leave the Club on 13th May 2012 by mutual consent.

Managing Director Ian Ayre said: "We would like to thank Ian for the important contribution he has made to the Club during his long career here.

He has played a key role as a member of the Executive Team in managing our relationships with key external stakeholders in the media and in the community.

We wish Ian every success in his future career."

Ian Cotton commented: "It has been a privilege to be at Liverpool FC for the last 16 years.

I would like to thank everyone I have worked with for all their support during that time and wish this great Club all the best for the future."

Further communication regarding the Communications and Community Departments will be announced in due course.

Dalglish Transfer Budget Slashed

Kenny Dalglish will stay on as Liverpool manager next season – but the Scot will have his transfer budget cut drastically, according to The Mirror.

Liverpool have spent over £100 million in the last 18 months, bringing in the likes of Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson and Luis Suarez.

Dalglish has achieved mixed results from his dealings in the transfer market, with Suarez proving an instant hit while the likes of Carroll and Henderson have struggled to turn around the Reds inconsistent form.

Director of football Damien Comolli reportedly paid the price for his part in Liverpool's high-profile transfer failings earlier this season after it was revealed he would leave the Anfield club.

Liverpool go into their final league game of the season against Swansea at the Liberty Stadium needing rivals Everton to slip up in order to secure seventh place - a position well off the top four finish they had targeted at the start of the season.

Dalglish has come in for criticism following his side's poor league form that was compounded by defeat in the FA Cup final, but The Mirror report that Liverpool’s owners have no intention of dumping the Scot, who guided the Reds to the League Cup in February, in the summer.

The paper also reports that he will not have the freedom to splash the cash in order to help remedy their league woes, despite Dalglish insisting otherwise last month.

Reports surfaced in April that the former Blackburn boss would have only around £20 million to spend this summer, but The Mirror reports that Fenway Sports Group, the club’s owners, are encouraging Dalglish to chase cheap signings and free agents.

U18s Triumph In St Vincent

Jack Dunn was amongst the goals as Liverpool U18s beat St Vincent U20s 3-1 in the Caribbean to retain the Harlequin Cup.

Mike Marsh's charges are on an end of season trip to one of the most beautiful places in the world, and as part of the tour, they played a match with the St Vincent U20 national side.

Spanish star Nacho and Henoc Mukendi were also on the mark for Marsh's side.

Members of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation, government ministers and Buccament Bay Resort guests were in attendance with a partisan local crowd giving strong support throughout.

A frenetic first half in the burning Caribbean sun was followed by a slower but no less eventful second with welcome cool showers doing nothing to dampen a heated contest as the teams battled it out.

SVG held their own against the next generation of one of the world's best league teams, whilst the Liverpool U18s showed their quality by winning the Harlequin Cup in difficult conditions that saw members of the squad and staff beneath umbrellas in the sunny first half, before discarding them in the second when the rain began to fall.

In a great gesture to their hosts, the Academy players kindly gave their kits to the SVG team after the game.