Sunday, October 07, 2012

Match Preview: Liverpool vs Stoke City

Liverpool will hope their mini-revival has not lost any momentum when they host Stoke City on Sunday afternoon.

The Anfield club hammered Norwich City 5-2 in the Premier League last weekend but then threw away the lead to lose at home to Udinese in the Europa League on Thursday night.

Manager Brendan Rodgers was very critical of his players after the midweek defeat, describing them as making 'lazy' errors, and he will be demanding improvements.

The win over Norwich was Liverpool's first of the season in the league and so they will be fully aware they cannot slip back to any more mistakes.

But they will be confident ahead of welcoming Stoke, having never lost at home to the Potters in the top flight in a record 49 previous meetings.

Last season's meeting was one of several forgettable 0-0 draws at Anfield which ultimately cost Kenny Dalglish his job, while Stoke also lost on Merseyside in the FA Cup.

Stoke boss Tony Pulis will therefore be desperate to try and break his club's hoodoo in Liverpool and they could aim to utilize some momentum.

A 2-0 win over Swansea City last weekend gave the club their first three points of the Premier League season after four draws and a defeat.

And so Pulis will be aiming to build on the result, which was earned with the help of two goals from in-form ex-Liverpool striker Peter Crouch.

Joe Cole (hamstring) and Jose Enrique (knee) could return to Liverpool's squad following injuries.

Midfielder Cole has been back in training and scored for Liverpool's Under 21s, while Rodgers has said Enrique will be assessed before the weekend.

Jonjo Shelvey will serve the second match of his three-game domestic ban following his red card against Manchester United.

Glenn Whelan had to be substituted with what looked like a hamstring problem against Swansea but the midfielder has not yet been definitely ruled out of facing Liverpool.

Charlie Adam hurt his shoulder last weekend but has been training and should be available against his former club, while Michael Owen will also hope to feature at his old stomping ground.

One Potters player who will not feature is defender Andy Wilkinson, who serves the third match of a three-game suspension.

Liverpool Target PSV Winger Mertens

Liverpool are targeting PSV Eindhoven winger Dries Mertens as their first acquisition in the January transfer window.

The Belgian winger has been attracting a lot of interest around Europe and it is believed that long term admirers Liverpool will make the first move in trying to bring the PSV man to the Premier League.

The 25 year old is valued at around £10 million as he is tied down to a contract with the Dutch side until 2016, but it is thought this will not put of manager Brendan Rodgers who has also spend similar figures on Joe Allen and Fabio Borini in the summer.

A source close to Liverpool told, “Liverpool first wanted Mertens when Kenny Dalglish was manager but they are still making their interest well known.

“He would obviously love to play for such a prestigious club in English football but right now he can only focus on producing strong performances for PSV.”

Mertens, who was in inspired form as PSV defeated Napoli 3-0, only moved to Eindhoven in June 2011 from Utrecht and a move maybe more feasible in the summer window rather than a January. It is believed by that time Mertens will be looking to make another step on the European football ladder.

Anzhi Ready To Outbid Liverpool For Nicolas Gaitan

Liverpool's hopes of landing Nicolas Gaitan look to be over, after Anzhi Makhachkala expressed an interest in signing the Benfica star in the January transfer window.

The Reds were reported to have made a £14million bid for the Argentina international during the summer, but no deal was forthcoming.

Gaitan, who was also linked with Manchester United, is now likely to be given the chance to join the big-spending Russian Premier League club early next year.

Anzhi failed with a bid for the 24-year-old attacking midfielder over the summer, but will return with a £20million offer in January, reports Lifesport.

Benfica are likely to accept the bid, as there is no chance of either of the English clubs trying to beat it.

Should the transfer go through, Gaitan will link up with manager Guus Hiddink at the Dagestan-based club, along with expensive signings Samuel Eto'o and Lassana Diarra.

Liverpool is believed to have turned their attention to Belgium international Dries Mertens and are rumoured to be planning a £10million January raid for the PSV Eindhoven winger.

Manchester United Plot Contentious Liverpool Playmaker Raid

Manchester United are being linked with a contentious transfer move for Real Madrid midfielder Nuri Sahin.

The Turkish international is currently plying his trade on loan at Liverpool, scoring three goals in four matches in all competitions for the Reds.

Brendan Rodgers intimated that he’d be interested in bringing the player to Anfield on a permanent deal after the 5-2 win against Norwich last weekend, but had to admit that availability and price would be two factors which affect the potential length of his stay on Merseyside.

That could all change if Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson attempts to make in January though, with the Daily Stay claiming the player could be in the plans of the Red Devils as part of a swap-deal for Javier Hernandez.

The same report mentions a number of players from Madrid who could be on the Old Trafford radar, with Kaka, Sergio Ramos, Raul Albiol and Raphael Varane all named as part of a potential deal.

It’s a move for Sahin that would cause most controversy though, with the 24-year-old appearing to be well settled at Liverpool under the style of Rodgers.

However, Manchester United are said to be ‘tempted’ by the possibility of getting one over on their great rivals, and his recent performances have done little to put last season’s Premier League runners-up off a move.

Agger Has Signed A New Contract With Liverpool

Defender Daniel Agger has pledged his future to Liverpool by signing a new long-term contract at Anfield.

The Denmark international says he is convinced that Brendan Rodgers is the right man to lead the club forward and is delighted to commit himself to the club.

"It means everything to me. This is where I want to be and I'm happy the club wants me. I am really happy right now. I've never wanted to go anywhere else," the 27-year-old told the official Liverpool website.

"I feel I am a part of this club - and I want to be a part of this club in the future. I like the way it is going right now with the style we're playing, and hopefully the results will come soon as well.

"The support from the fans has been unbelievable. The game when they were singing all the songs about me, it was difficult to focus on the game!

"It was such a good experience for me and I'd never experienced anything like it before.

"That is why I am so happy here. That for me is Liverpool Football Club. I feel I belong here and as long as the manager and the owners want me, I'll be here."

Agger joined the Reds in a £5.8m move from Brondby in January 2006 and quickly established himself in the first-team, racking up 176 appearances to date.

Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre said: "Daniel's contribution since joining the club in 2006 has been absolutely fantastic and his loyalty to the team is recognized by the deal he has signed.

"Daniel always made it clear he wanted to stay at Liverpool and we're delighted that he's committed his future to the club.

"We brought in some very exciting players this summer - some of whom chose Liverpool over clubs in the Champions League.

"But it's equally important to retain your most important players and the fact that Daniel has now followed Luis Suarez, Martin Skrtel and Jonjo Shelvey in signing a new contract is testament to the fact that the players believe in what we're trying to achieve here under Brendan Rodgers."

Henderson To Fight For Liverpool Future

Jordan Henderson has set his stall out to turn his career round at Liverpool.

The midfielder was one of a glut of big-money signings for the Reds last year, but his first season at Anfield did not turn out as he had envisaged. His form was patchy and he struggled to win over the Liverpool faithful.

His future was cast into doubt, but the arrival of Brendan Rodgers as manager saw the deck swept clean. Rodgers has brought in Joe Allen, while Joe Cole has returned from a loan spell in France, which has increased competition - but Henderson feels he has already improved under the new Liverpool boss and is ready to take his chance.

"I love playing for Liverpool, it is a real passion of mine," Henderson told Sky Sports News.

"When I put the shirt on it is a real honour to go out and play for Liverpool so I want to do that for the rest of my career.

"I will keep fighting and I have belief in my own ability that I can be a success here."

Henderson is happy with the arrival of Rodgers and feels he is already reaping the benefit.

He said: "I have got a good relationship with the manager; I think everybody has, and I feel he has improved my game since he came to the club.

"I think I have got that bit more confidence in my ability and I think you can see that in my performances."

Gerrard Reveals Agger Almost Ended His Career

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has revealed that a challenge from Daniel Agger last season almost ended his career.

The England international makes the claim in his new book, ‘My Liverpool Story’, with the ankle problem from a freak training ground tackle almost bringing the player’s distinguished career to an abrupt conclusion.

“I don’t think people realize how close I was to not playing,” writes the 31-year-old.

“If I hadn’t had the fluid out (of my ankle) within 24 hours I wouldn’t have had a cartilage. The bug would have eaten it. I’d probably have never played again, or even trained. In my mind, as the operation began, was, ‘This could be the end’.”

Gerrard has been a professional at Anfield for 14 years, making his Reds debut in 1998 before going on to become one of the greatest players in the club’s history.

Three League Cups, two FA Cups, one UEFA Cup and one famous Champions League have all been won during his time at Liverpool, with the later victory the greatest moment of the 98-cap international’s career. Gerrard inspired a comeback from 3-0 down against AC Milan to win on penalties.

A Premier League title has always eluded the Liverpool skipper however, and he’s grateful to still be on the pitch with a chance to lift the biggest prize in domestic football as Brendan Rodgers’ revolution begins to take shape.

Adams Explains Liverpool Exit

Stoke midfielder Charlie Adam has revealed the reason he had to leave Liverpool ahead of his return to Anfield on Sunday - he just wants to play football.

Adam joined the Potters in the summer after just one season with the Reds and admits playing time was the biggest factor in his decision.

"I want to be a footballer - and that means playing on a Saturday afternoon," Adam told the Daily Mirror.

"I could have stayed at Liverpool and played maybe 15 to 20 times a season, but that isn't enough for me.

"I want to play 30 to 40 times a season.

"For me, playing on a Saturday is what being in his profession is all about and thankfully I'm at a club where the manager wants to use me.

"Obviously I know that I have to perform to stay in the team and I'm happy with that.

"We have good competition here and that is only a good thing for every member of the squad."

The Scotland international has no bad feelings on his return and claims he will always be grateful to former boss Kenny Dalglish for giving him the chance to play for Liverpool.

"Yeah, I'm looking forward to it," said the 26-year-old. "It will be nice to go back and see a few familiar faces again.

"I was there for a year and it was a special year for me. Playing for a club the size of Liverpool was a real experience for me and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there.

"I'm a Stoke player now, though, and I'm looking forward to going back to Anfield and hopefully getting the three points.

"If we can perform the way we know we can, then we can win the game for sure."

Stoke are notorious for their direct approach but Adam rejects the notion that he has joined a mere long-ball team.

"Everyone labels this club as [playing from] back to front but, believe me, we have players who can pass the ball," said the former Blackpool man.

"We have a lot of quality here and I'm very happy to be part of that.

"I don't think the gaffer is going to change the way he approaches games, and rightly so. What he has achieved in the game with this club is absolutely incredible.

"Tony's formula is obviously a successful one and he would be silly to try and change it too much.

"When you have a player like Peter Crouch up front, who is 6ft 7in, then why not use him?

"Yes, the new players who have arrived with me will hopefully add that little bit more quality to the team, but it's fundamental that we evolve as a team by playing the way the gaffer wants us to.

"If we do that, then we will enjoy even more success and, if we play to our capabilities, a top-10 finish is certainly a realistic aim for us."

Superb U18s Overrun Boro

Liverpool U18s were in superb form as they inflicted a 3-0 defeat on Middlesbrough at the Academy on Saturday afternoon.

Steve Cooper's side didn't have the best start to the season with two draws and two defeats, but they now have consecutive victories following last weekend's win against Fulham.

Their latest victory could have been even more emphatic but for the woodwork and some decent goalkeeping from away stopper James Montgomery.

It was Daniel Trickett-Smith who opened the scoring on 19 minutes when he turned a couple of men and fired left footed from inside the penalty area.

Jordan Lussey (pictured) made it 2-0 on the half-hour mark with a brilliant right-footed curler into the top corner after being set up by Kris Peterson.

Then on 39 minutes the club's youngest ever first-teamer, Jerome Sinclair, made it three with a solo effort in which he cut inside from the left, beat several Middlesbrough defenders and found his spot in the bottom corner.

Liverpool U18s team: Fulton, Quirk, Maguire, Jones, Heaton, Baio, Peterson (Brannagan), Lussey, Sinclair, Trickett-Smith (O'Hanlon), Gainford (Randall).