Saturday, September 15, 2012

Match Preview: Sunderland v Liverpool

Liverpool must focus on on-field matters following an emotional week which saw the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report into the 1989 disaster.

The Reds travel to the Stadium of Light to take on Sunderland in the Saturday evening kick-off.

Both sides will be going all out to notch their first Premier League win of the campaign.

The Black Cats followed-up a creditable goalless draw at Arsenal with a 2-2 stalemate at Swansea.

Sandwiched between those draws was a 2-0 Capital One Cup victory over Morecambe and now back on home soil, Martin O'Neil's side will be looking to push on against the Reds and post their first win in 11 league attempts stretching back to last term.

Liverpool has taken just one point from their opening three league games under new boss Brendan Rodgers.

The Reds opened with a 3-0 loss at West Brom, then held champions Manchester City 2-2 at home before slipping to a 2-0 defeat to the Gunners at Anfield.

But the Reds have fared better in Europe, seeing-off Gomel and Hearts to progress into the group stages of the Europa League.

Sunderland winger Adam Johnson is battling to retain his place in the starting line-up after returning injured from international duty.

The 25-year-old missed England's World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine with a thigh problem and will only be considered if he emerges unscathed from training on Friday.

Full-back Danny Rose could make his debut for the club and midfielder David Vaughan, who played 45 minutes for Wales in their 6-1 defeat in Serbia on Tuesday night after recovering from an ankle injury, may figure, while defenders Phil Bardsley (also ankle) and Wes Brown (knee) are making good progress, but are well short of match fitness.

Left-back Jose Enrique's knee injury will be assessed ahead of the Reds' trip to Sunderland.

The Spaniard has been training this week after the recurrence of a problem which has dogged him since the start of the season.

Midfielder Joe Allen has recovered from illness which disrupted his international duty while manager Rodgers is confident Luis Suarez and Sebastian Coates will be fine after international duty having travelled back from South America.

Allen Confident Of Success

Reds midfielder Joe Allen, a £15m summer buy from Swansea City, has acknowledged that his new side has endured a 'frustrating' time so far this campaign but remains confident success is just around the corner.

"There have been frustrating moments, it just shows the fine line between winning and the frustration you can get," commented Allen to

"I think the Manchester City game is a great example of that. We could have come away with all three points, but we're faithful and confident that things are going to come good for us. We've got too much ability and talent in the team for it not to.

"Everyone knows the style of play the manager is looking to bring and is bringing to the football club.

"With the talent and ability that the players have got here, it's only going to bring the best out of everyone. In time, I'm sure we'll bring success, so I'm thrilled to be a part of this project and can't wait for the season to unfold."

Allen, who is available for Saturday’s game with Sunderland after overcoming an illness suffered on international duty, has impressed in his short Reds career to date. An Opta passing accuracy stat of 94% has helped the 22-year-old to win the club's first Standard Chartered Player of the Month award of the new season.

Speaking of his pride at playing for Liverpool, Allen continued: "Everyone knows what a special football club it is, the support we have, the history we have.

"But I don't think you realize just how big it is until you actually get here as a player. That feeling when you go out at Anfield is something I don't think you can experience in many other places, if anywhere in world football.

"It's very exciting for me to put on that shirt and get out there in front of those fans."

He also added: "In terms of the football club, everyone has done everything they possibly can to make me feel welcome but also to settle my family here as well. We have fallen in love with the city straight away - it's a great place that we're looking forward to living in. It's a city that's football crazy, which suits us down to the ground."

Rodgers Turns To Academy Players

Brendan Rodgers is ready to look to Liverpool's academy to bolster his attack after insisting that he will not try to sign any free agents before January.

Liverpool manager Rodgers was left with just two senior forwards after failing to bring in either Clint Dempsey or Daniel Sturridge to replace Andy Carroll, who has joined West Ham on a season's loan.

Rodgers has made it clear that he only let Carroll go before the transfer window closed because he thought he had a replacement lined up.

Liverpool have since been linked with a number of free agents, who can be signed outside the transfer window, but Rodgers said no moves were ever made to sign Michael Owen, Emile Heskey or Alessandro Del Piero.

Asked about any bids to bring in strikers on free transfers, he said: "There have been no attempts." Rodgers said none were in the pipeline and added: "The players I've got here have been terrific. It's going to be an opportunity for young players.

"There's money invested into the academy here. We have some wonderful people who work in the academy, and we've got some young talent.

"Sometimes, at the big clubs, it's very, very difficult to get an opportunity. And now some of these young players are going to get that opportunity to play some games. The platform will be there for them. I'll always look to what I've got from within before looking outside, and I'll look at some young talented players."

Rodgers also insisted his relationship with Liverpool's American owners, Fenway Sports Group, was as strong as ever despite the club's transfer deadline day frustrations.

And the manager believes he will be helped in his search for new talent in January by the arrival of scouts Dave Fallows and Barry Hunter, who joined the club from Manchester City this week.

It was initially thought that City would not allow Fallows and Hunter to move until the New Year, but Rodgers has managed to rush the appointments through.

"One of a number of reasons I came to Liverpool was the owners," Rodgers said. "There's no damage been done [to their relationship]. I have total respect for the people I work for and, like I say, there will be lessons learned from the window because it's a new group of people.

"We were behind because we were waiting for people to work on our recruitment side. Those guys have joined us this week, which has been great, and that will really help us now going forward.

"It was always going to be a difficult summer for us. But moving forward over the next number of months, we're going to see some young players. The senior players have been brilliant since I came in, and now we hope we'll move forward and revisit it again in January."

Rodgers Had No Owen Interest

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers insists he did not consider trying to bring Michael Owen back to Anfield.

The former England international was linked with a move back to Anfield prior to his switch to Stoke after the Reds failed to bring in a replacement for Andy Carroll before the close of the transfer window.

However, Rodgers claims the ex-Reds striker was never on his radar as he wants to give some of the young players at the club a chance to impress.

"Liverpool didn't consider Michael Owen," Rodgers told Talksport. "If we didn't get the targets that we hoped to get in the transfer window, I was going to go with what I had.

"There's no point putting money into the academy and then not giving young players a chance. Look at the impact Raheem Sterling has made as a 17-year-old. All I've given him is an opportunity and he's gone on and taken it.

"We've got a number of other young talents and hopefully over the coming months we can see them and see how they flourish."

Rodgers Rejects Reina Rumours

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers insists he has no problem with goalkeeper Pepe Reina and expects the Spaniard to stay at Anfield.

Reina's future at Liverpool has been the subject of speculation after an indifferent start to the season.

It has also been claimed Rodgers was looking to bolster his goalkeeping options, paving the way for a possible exit for Reina in the January transfer window.

However, Rodgers believes Reina is happy to stay at Liverpool and remains a key part of his future plans.

"I've never had a problem with Pepe. He's been brilliant for me. He's a key member of the squad here," insisted Rodgers.

"Absolutely first class, he's been. He understands what it is I'm trying to do. He understands the philosophy and he's a really, really good guy.

"Off the field, he's important for the group, he's a big voice in the changing room, and I've had no feelings at all that he's ever wanted to leave. I've never felt anything like that whatsoever.

"I've good communication with him. I speak regularly with Pepe. He's one of the senior players."

Ferguson Calls For An End To Liverpool Hostility

Sir Alex Ferguson has praised Liverpool and called for an end to the hostility between the two clubs.

Speaking on the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s report – which cleared Liverpool fans of blame for the tragedy where 96 fans died - Sir Alex explained, “We are two great clubs, ourselves and Liverpool. We should understand each others problems. Maybe a line will be drawn in the sand in terms of their behavior to each other.”

As the two most successful clubs in the UK, the rivalry between them is steeped in history. Unfortunately, recent clashes have turned unsavory with Luis Suarez receiving an eight game ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra when the sides met last October. The following fixture in February was once again controversial when Suarez refused to shake Evra’s hand.

Brendan Rodgers has mirrored Sir Alex's sentiments. When speaking on chants centered around the Hillsborough and Munich tragedies he said, “I speak as a human being and I don’t ever like to hear anything like that associating other clubs’ tragedies and deaths.

“But let’s hope we can all move on and hopefully we will all learn from this process.”

The sides meet each other next weekend at Anfield and Ferguson and Rodgers will be hoping the supporters have taken their advice.

Liverpool and Sunderland players will wear black armbands at The Stadium Of Light in memory of those who died.

Rodgers Calls For Disrespectful Chants To Stop

Liverpool boss, Brendan Rodgers, hopes that the disrespectful chants that fans sing on the terraces are stopped after the independent panel brought the actual details of the Hillsborough disaster to light.

The fans of the club, many of whom were related to victims of the tragedy, have had to endure the songs from rival fans including Manchester United over the past 23 years. Manchester United has themselves been at the centre of mindless chants after the Munich air disaster in 1968.

Northern Irishman, Rodgers, hopes that the chants will come to an end as a result of the independent panel's findings, he said, “I speak as a human being and I don't ever like to hear anything like that, whatever club it is, that associates with other people's tragedies and death,"

The Liverpool manager went onto add, "Unfortunately you have a very small percentage of idiots at any club who will always try to smear another club's reputation. Of course, it is obvious these are chants that no-one wants to hear about any club. Unfortunately there are that minority of supporters who will maybe disappoint but let's hope we can all move on and we can all learn from this whole process."

Rogers carried on to discuss the heartbreak and courage of the people of Liverpool who had to face the propaganda and misleading of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster, "We have all suffered death in our lives but to have it happen to your son, daughter, brother, sister, and then have a campaign against that - you can't begin to imagine what that must feel like."

He continued, "It is absolutely incredible it has taken all that time. My respect goes out to everyone involved in that process over 23 long, hard, arduous years and hopefully they found some sort of justice.”

South Yorkshire Police Reopen Hillsborough Case

South Yorkshire police are reopening investigations in the force's conduct over the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

This follows reports that police statements were changed in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster on 15th April 1989, shifting the blame onto Liverpool fans for the crush which killed 96 people.

On Wednesday an independent panel, who had spent the last 18 months going through over 400,000 documents regarding the tragedy, announced their findings.

In a statement from the force, South Yorkshire's Chief Constable said that those who broke the laws should then face charges.

The statement read, the BBC Reports: "South Yorkshire Police is currently reviewing a wide variety of matters raised in the report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel with a view to making a referral to the Independent Police Complaints Commission."

South Yorkshire Police also confirmed that they still employed 195 officers working for the force at Hillsborough that day.

West Yorkshire Police force is also investigating the role played by Chief Constable, Sir Norman Bettison, who was an off-duty inspector with South Yorkshire Police at the game and took part in an internal inquiry after the 1989 tragedy.

Due to Sir Norman's involvement in the case Liverpool Mayor, John Anderson, has asked Liverpool John Moores University to strip Sir Norman of an honorary fellowship that was given to him in 2004.

Since the independent panel announced their finding on Wednesday, high numbers of people involved with politics and the media have come out and publicly apologized for statements or pieces they wrote following the disaster. Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, offered his apology for the article he wrote in 2004 that said that the fans were partly to blame for the death the 96 Liverpool fans.

The editor of the Sun, Dominic Mohan, said he was deeply ashamed for the infamous 'The Truth' headline, sanctioned by then-editor Kelvin MacKenzie.

Another to release a statement of apology was MP Sir Irvine Patnick, who was identified as one of the sources contributing to the Sun's reporting of events that day. Many in and around Liverpool believe that the apology is not enough, especially as it was 23 years and 30 hours too late.

John Henry Denies Plans To Sell Boston Red Sox

Liverpool owner John Henry has denied rumours that he is looking to sell his other major sporting franchise, the Boston Red Sox.

Reports in America indicate that Henry and Fenway Sports Group are looking to offload the baseball team for a figure of around $1 billion (£600 million).

However, Henry, who has previously been accused by some Liverpool fans of prioritizing the Red Sox over the Premier League club, has rebuffed the suggestions.

“A sale of any kind is so far from our thinking it hasn't even come up apart from technical planning issues involving death or disability,” he told the Boston Globe.

“This report is completely without foundation. The Sox and any of the other components of FSG are not for sale and will not be for the foreseeable future.”

The reports also suggest that executives at FSG questioned whether they have the financial capacity to support both the Red Sox and Liverpool, but Henry said these claims were untrue.

"We have separate budgets for each entity, so they really aren't interrelated," Henry added.

"The budgets of the Red Sox are based on Red Sox revenues and the budgets for Liverpool are based on Liverpool revenues."