Saturday, August 25, 2012

Match Preview: Liverpool vs Man City

Liverpool face a tough challenge to bounce back from their defeat on the opening weekend as they welcome champions Manchester City to Anfield.

Brendan Rodgers' honeymoon period in the Anfield hot seat came to an abrupt end last Saturday when his side was put to the sword at The Hawthorns.

Daniel Agger saw red and Joe Cole pulled a hamstring again as Liverpool slid to a 3-0 defeat against the side now coached by their recently departed number two, Steve Clarke.

Their new manager had one eye on the visit of the Premier League champions when he rested several senior players for the midweek Europa League tie against Hearts.

Rodgers will be keen to impress the Anfield faithful in his first league game since taking charge, and memories will be fresh from a spirited two-legged win over City in last season's Carling Cup semi-final.

But whether Andy Carroll will be involved on Sunday remains open to question. The striker was absent from the win over Hearts with a slight hamstring twinge, but overall the England international does not appear to fit into Rodgers' long-term plans.

The L4 postcode is not the happiest of hunting grounds for Roberto Mancini, who has yet to win a game in three visits to Anfield - and is also without a victory when taking City to the blue side of Stanley Park.

But the Italian takes his team on the short trip along the M62 on the back of a stirring comeback that ensured they started their Premier League title defence with three points.

The 3-2 win over Southampton recalled the astonishing way they clinched the title in May, but Liverpool will have noted how City conceded with the first-choice defence of Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott in the ranks.

Jack Rodwell will get a warm reception if selected for a swift return to Merseyside, but Nigel de Jong may get the nod ahead of the former Everton man. Indeed the Dutchman would relish the chance, having bagged a rare, and spectacular, goal at Anfield in the Carling Cup in January.

A win for City would be their first at the home of the five-time European champions since Nicolas Anelka's last-minute strike gave them three points in May 2003.


Captain Steven Gerrard will be back after being rested for the Europa League tie against Hearts, while Luis Suarez, Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson are also set to return.

Luis Enrique could also be in the mix after being forced to miss the defeat to West Brom with a knee injury. Cole's involvement must be under question after he aggravated a hamstring injury at the Hawthorns.

Daniel Agger is out due to the one-game ban the Dane received for his red card against West Brom. Andy Carroll missed the midweek Hearts game with a hamstring twinge.

Sergio Aguero's knee injury, sustained early in the win over Southampton, keeps the Argentinean out for around a month and leaves Mancini with an interesting choice over who to partner Carlos Tevez.

Edin Dzeko looks to be in pole position having scored off the bench last week, and Mario Balotelli had a poor time at Anfield in this fixture last season, getting sent off just 18 minutes after coming on as a substitute.

Gareth Barry is still absent following surgery on the abdominal problem that kept him out of Euro 2012, while Micah Richards' ankle injury could keep him out until the end of October.

Rodgers Wants Team Goal Ethic

Brendan Rodgers does not want his Liverpool team to rely on goals from their strikers this season.

The Reds manager says there is a need for all his outfield players to contribute, and he is keen for there to be less emphasis on the number of goals from his forwards.

Liverpool drew a blank in their defeat to West Brom on the opening day of the Premier League season, and Rodgers says they cannot simply look to their strikeforce to open their account.

"It is no good having a goalscorer scoring 30 goals and no-one else scores - I've always been against that theory," Rodgers declared.

"For me it is a team ethic. Luis Suarez will score goals, Steven Gerrard can score goals, young Fabio Borini will score goals, but we also need goals from our centre-halves.

"If you can get your centre-halves scoring five goals that will always add and then you are looking at your full-backs doing a bit more.

"It is a team responsibility, not just one player. You bring in one striker who can score you goals, which is great, but it's not good for the team if the rest don't score."

Borini struck the post in Liverpool's Europa League win over Hearts, an echo of a frustrating aspect to their 2011/12 season where the woodwork was hit over 30 times.

Rodgers added: "I told the players this year you can't blame referees and crossbars, you have to be clinical, you have to be ruthless.

"We will always create enough chances, but even if we don't, if there are only one or two chances as in big games it is tight as defences are harder to break down, when you do get those chances you have to put them away.

"When you get chances you have to take them, but I believe I have a number of players who can score goals."

Mancini - Reds Will Be Up There

Roberto Mancini believes his Manchester City side will go up against potential Premier League title rivals in Liverpool when they travel to Anfield this weekend.

Mancini is expecting the champions to be given a stern challenge on Merseyside despite the Reds' unimpressive start to the campaign.

Liverpool crashed to a 3-0 defeat in their Premier League opener at West Brom last weekend, a result which underlined the difficulties facing their new manager Brendan Rodgers.

But Mancini, remembering last year's draw at Anfield as well as a League Cup semi-final defeat to the Reds, believes they will soon recover.

The Italian said: "I think Liverpool will fight for the title this year because they play well, they bought good players, they have a good manager and they have changed their style of play.

"Every game you play at Anfield is really tough.

"They come from a game against West Bromwich where they didn't deserve to lose but football is strange. For this I think it will be a hard game."

City was made to come from behind for their opening win against Southampton while chief rivals Manchester United were beaten at Everton.

And with Liverpool having changed manager, Mancini does not believe much should be read into their result at The Hawthorns.

He said: "They can have a problem in the first month like all teams when they change the manager or some players, but I think they have a strong team for the title.

"When Liverpool play at home it is always difficult for the opponents."

Rodgers Hails Sahin Quality

Brendan Rodgers has sung the praises of transfer target Nuri Sahin, believing his 'extra quality' will help Liverpool's squad.

The Liverpool boss confirmed on Friday evening the club hopes to sign the Real Madrid midfielder on loan.

And if the Reds do land their man, Rodgers believes his 'extra quality' will benefit his existing squad.

He said: "I believe, from the club, everything has been organized and sorted in terms of paperwork so we're hoping in the next 24 hours that can be done.

"He is a great technician. He was player of the season in Germany, captain of Dortmund and fantastic at a very young age.

"He got a move to Real Madrid and obviously through injury it has not quite worked out for him.

"But he is a wonderful player technically and tactically who understands the game and we hope his extra quality coming in will help the group."

Liverpool Set To Renew Sturridge Interest

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is set to make another move to bring Daniel Sturridge to Anfield - with a deal for Chelsea forward believed to be within touching distance at last.

Sources close to the Reds have told ESPN that Rodgers has been pursuing Sturridge all summer, with the glut of attacking midfield signings at Chelsea this summer pushing the Team GB Olympic star down the pecking order of Blues boss Roberto Di Matteo.

Inter Milan have also been linked with a move for Sturridge, but the promise of regular first-team football in a Liverpool side playing to his strengths would appeal to the 22-year-old.

Sturridge, who recovered from meningitis earlier this summer, arrived at Chelsea from Manchester City in 2009 and after two seasons struggling to break into the starting line-up became a Stamford Bridge regular under Andre Villas-Boas last season.

However, when Villas-Boas was replaced with Di Matteo in March, the England Under-21 international found his opportunities restricted and that has continued to be the case at the start of the 2012-13 campaign.

Rodgers Quiet Over Dempsey

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers will not be commenting further about Fulham's complaint in regards to the Reds' alleged 'tapping up' of Clint Dempsey.

The Cottagers approached the Premier League to express their unhappiness with what they felt was the Reds' public pursuit of the United States international.

Fulham manager Martin Jol feels Dempsey has been distracted by the speculation and - having left him out of the squad for last weekend's opening fixture - he will do the same again on Saturday for the game against Manchester United.

However, Rodgers insists Liverpool have made their response privately to the Premier League and he will not be commenting any further.

"For me there is nothing to say on it," said the Northern Irishman.

"This was something I was aware of a number of weeks ago. That has been dealt with in-house."

Match Report: Hearts 0 - 1 Liverpool

An own-goal from Andy Webster was all that separated the two sides as Liverpool scraped a narrow victory over Hearts in the first leg of their Europa League play-off at Tynecastle.

The Edinburgh side impressed for much of the tie before suffering a late blow against their Barclays Premier League visitors, who made the trip across the border without a number of star players.

The result was far more credible than Hearts' 5-0 thrashing against Tottenham at the same venue last season and at least provides some hope ahead of the second leg at Anfield next week.

Andy Carroll failed to make the Reds squad for the game - despite his presence at the stadium - as a question mark remained over his Liverpool future, with the £35million striker linked with a return to Newcastle.

Boss Brendan Rodgers opted instead for the goal threat to come from Fabio Borini and Raheem Sterling.

Daniel Agger also started following his red card in the 3-0 defeat at West Brom, but Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez, Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson were all left on Merseyside ahead of Sunday's visit of champions Manchester City.

Goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald was between the sticks for Hearts - agreeing to play after his partner gave birth to a baby girl on Wednesday - meaning Peter Enckelman had to settle for a place on the bench rather than his Jambos debut.

The home side was boosted further by the news that skipper Marius Zaliukas was able to start after recovering from a dead leg.

The first chance fell to Liverpool when Charlie Adam embarked on a surging run that took him to the edge of the box before unleashing a low drive that was blocked by MacDonald.

At the other end, Hearts had a decent chance of their own to open the scoring when a long range effort from Arvydas Novikovas forced a great save from Pepe Reina.

John Sutton then dragged his shot inches wide of the post and David Templeton fired just over the crossbar as the home side continued to threaten in front of goal.

After the flurry of chances for Hearts, Liverpool gradually came back into the game without causing too many problems for the home defence, until a swerving shot from Sterling was punched to safety by the goalkeeper.

The visitors looked dangerous again when Jordan Henderson delivered an inviting cross from the right into the box but Borini just failed to connect in front of goal.

Hearts then claimed Jamie Carragher handled a Templeton corner in the box but the pleas for a penalty were ignored by referee Florian Meyer.

Liverpool should have been ahead just before the break when Mehdi Taouil was dispossessed by Sterling and he set up Borini for a shot that appeared net-bound but crashed off the post instead.

Hearts, bolstered by their performance so far, were not too far away after the restart when Callum Paterson's powerful angled drive dipped just over the crossbar.

Adam then had another go at goal but he was off-target and succeeded only in smashing his shot off the advertising hoardings.

The breakthrough came with 12 minutes to go and Hearts fell behind in cruel circumstances when an excellent Martin Kelly ball from the right was missed by Borini but came off the shin of Webster and into the back of his own net.

Substitute Andy Driver could have snatched a leveller a couple of minutes from time but his effort was smothered by the goalkeeper.

Carragher Tips Sterling To Be Reds Star

Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher has declared that winger Raheem Sterling has a "big future" at the club after impressing in the Reds' 1-0 Europa League victory over Hearts.

Sterling, 17, joined the club from QPR's youth set-up in 2010 and has emerged as one of Liverpool's most promising young players in recent years.

The Jamaica-born winger was the star performer as Brendan Rodgers' side toiled for a narrow victory on Thursday, with Andy Webster's 79th-minute own goal giving the Reds an advantage for next Thursday's second leg at Anfield.

And Sterling, who made his debut for the club against Wigan in March, has made a case to play more regularly, according to Carragher.

"I think the way the manager wants to play is with wide men and that suits Raheem down to the ground," Carragher told ITV. "He's come in and he's done very well. He's only a 17-year-old and it looks like he's got a big future at the club.

Carragher also believes teenager Adam Morgan, who scored in Brendan Rodgers' first match at the Reds helm in pre-season, could impress in the first-team.

"This club's got a great tradition of bringing young players through and we brought another one on in Adam Morgan," Carragher added. "He's also come through the academy and Raheem's got a few starts now this season."

Carroll Absence Explained

Brendan Rodgers has revealed Andy Carroll missed Liverpool's Europa League win over Hearts with a hamstring problem.

Carroll failed to make the squad for the play-off first leg in Edinburgh - despite his presence at the stadium - with the £35million striker linked with a return to Newcastle.

However, Rodgers says the forward was set to start against Hearts and he remains hopeful he will be fit for Sunday's Premier League visit of champions Manchester City.

He said: "Andy was due to start. He had a slight twinge on his hamstring. We had a scan on it and it didn't show a tear, just a slight disruption.

"We tried to give him 48 hours, let him travel and he trained one day before to see how it was. It was still a bit tight and the medics' advice was it was too much of a risk for him to play.

"It was unfortunate because he has worked well and I know he was desperate to play.

"Hopefully missing the game on Thursday night will allow him to recover for the weekend."

An own goal from Andy Webster with 12 minutes to go was all that separated the two sides on Thursday night and Rodgers refused to concede the outcome of the tie is now a foregone conclusion in the second leg at Anfield next week.

He said: "We always respect every opponent. We're not that good to be that complacent to be honest. We've got an awful lot of work to do but I was delighted for the players tonight.

"Once they got the positioning right in the second half, they were excellent at times.

"It was great for me to see some of the players who haven't been playing so much, some of our young talent as well.

"All round it was a good win and another clean sheet, which is important."

Allardyce Retains Interest In Liverpool Striker Carroll

West Ham boss Sam Allardyce has stated that the club has not yet given up in their pursuit of Liverpool striker Andy Carroll.

Allardyce believes that he would have little left in his budget for a permanent move for Carroll, but that he'd still happily take the player on loan before the close of the transfer window.

"Many things in the final week of the transfer window emerge and should it be the case that we would be able to do something then I think it would probably only be a loan," Allardyce told reporters.

"We would see if we could pursue it and clinch it, but if we only finish with Matt and nobody else I would be happy with the squad I've got.

"While it is not quite as big as I'd like it to be, I think it has got a lot of quality.

"My problem is there may not be funds available for Andy now.

"If Andy became available or anybody became available and they wanted to join West Ham, I would ask the owners.

"At the moment that is not the case and we just have to wait and see if and when that situation arises."

Allardyce admitted his concern at few of his strikers having Premier League experience, with only Carlton Cole having previously featured regularly in the English top flight.

He added: "If we play Carlton Cole, Nicky Maynard, Ricardo Vaz Te, [Modibo] Maiga - they are all players that play in the front three wide positions.

"What isn't there is a proven Premier League goalscorer, apart from Carlton Cole who can get 10 or 11 goals a season.

"Nicky, Ricardo and Maiga are not proven so you hope it will be all right, but you cannot tell until you get eight or 10 games in."

Fulham Make Dempsey Complaint

Fulham have made a formal complaint to the Premier League about the actions of Liverpool FC in relation to Clint Dempsey.

It has emerged that Liverpool, and the club's owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG), could be in hot water over their transfer pursuit of Fulham's Clint Dempsey.

The American international was Fulham's top scorer last season but has since expressed a desire to leave Craven Cottage and subsequently refused to play, resulting in a hefty personal fine.

The Reds are known to be interested in signing the 29-year-old and it appears Fulham are unhappy with their 'indirect' approach to securing Dempsey and feel the speculation generated has further unsettled the player.

The complaint was lodged last month and confirmed today by the Premier League. Fulham's stance follows comments from Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers and after an article published on FSG's own website,, wrongly indicated Dempsey had signed for the Merseysiders.

Rodgers said, in quotes published on the club's official website "Clint is a player we've inquired about, it is as simple as that.

"Ian Ayre, our managing director, has spoken with the club to see what the position is. That is where we're at. He's a very talented player but we don't like to talk about other clubs' players."

Premier League rules state "a statement made publicly by or on behalf of a club expressing interest in acquiring the registration of a contract player or by a contract player expressing interest in transferring his registration to another club... shall in either case be treated as an indirect approach".

Rodgers is still thought to be interested in buying Dempsey but has so far refused to meet the £9m asking prize.

If Liverpool is adjudged to have broken the ruling then they can expect to be fined heavily.