Saturday, October 20, 2012

Match Preview: Liverpool vs Reading

Liverpool welcome Reading to Anfield still searching for their first home win of the season.

Liverpool were held to a goalless draw at home to Stoke last time out, while Reading picked up a 2-2 draw at Swansea before the international break.

The Royals won their last visit to Anfield in an FA Cup replay in January 2010 which was Brian McDermott's first victory as manager of Reading.

Much of the focus will be on Reds striker Luis Suarez after he came in for criticism for going to ground too easily against Stoke.

Suarez will lead the line for Liverpool who are short of attacking options after Fabio Borini was ruled out for three months.

The Royals are unbeaten in their last three games and they will be hoping to move out of the bottom three with a positive result at Anfield.

Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina faces a late fitness test on a minor hamstring problem sustained on international duty with Spain prior to the game against Reading.

Striker Fabio Borini has been ruled out for up to three months with a fractured foot but defenders Jose Enrique and Jon Flanagan returned to training this week.

Midfielder Jonjo Shelvey is available again after serving a three-match suspension.

Reading forward Noel Hunt is a doubt for the game on Merseyside because of a heel problem.

Midfielder Mikele Leigertwood has been passed fit after recovering from a dead leg.

Reading boss Brian McDermott has no further injury concerns as the club seek their first Premier League win of the season.

Rodgers Counting On Suarez

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers admits the need to win games means he may not be able to protect Luis Suarez as the club battle a striker shortage, but says he has not considered cutting Andy Carroll's loan spell short.

Fabio Borini could be out for up to three months after requiring surgery on a broken foot, leaving Rodgers with Suarez as his only recognized first-team striker.

England international Carroll's departure to Upton Park was supposed to signal the arrival of Fulham's Clint Dempsey late on August's transfer deadline day but the deal fell through.

Rodgers is looking to manage the situation as best he can, although just one Premier League win and a UEFA Europa League defeat to Udinese means he may have to call on Suarez more than he planned.

"I've rested him a couple of times knowing the squad we have and the games we have, looking to prioritize, but like most footballers he wants to play every minute of every game," said the Northern Irishman.

"It is something I need to assess. The most important thing is winning games - that is what we need to do and in order to do that as often as we can I need the best players on the field.

"Luis will absolutely love playing three times a week but I need to try to nurture him because there are still many games to play between now and January.

"And even in January if we bring someone in it may not be January 1, so that is something which, over time, I need to assess and we'll look to manage the squad."

On Carroll, Rodgers added: "It isn't something I have considered, to be honest."

The boss continued: "Andy has obviously gone out to get games. We have people watching when he plays and they report back on how he is doing.

"But with Fabio's injury just coming up we will assess it from there."

McDermott Backing For Rodgers

Brian McDermott believes Brendan Rodgers deserves to be manager of Liverpool and is confident his Reading predecessor will be a success.

Rodgers took over at Anfield in the summer following an impressive first season in the Premier League with Swansea City, but has endured a stuttering start to his reign.

McDermott, who replaced Rodgers as Reading boss in 2009, takes his team to Anfield on Saturday and feels the Northern Irishman is an inspiration to other coaches.

"I'm sure he will succeed. It's a fantastic story if you think about it, what he's actually done and where he's got to," said McDermott.

"It's a great story for any aspiring young coach to see where he's ended up. And he's done a lot of work over the years, he's worked with the young kids here.

"Absolutely he deserves to be at Liverpool. He deserves to be there because he's there. And what he did at Swansea - they played some fantastic football in the league. Now it's another big, big challenge for him at Liverpool."

McDermott attended Liverpool's goalless draw with Stoke nearly two weeks ago in preparation for Saturday's clash.

"I just went to watch the game. I went up there in the morning and just came straight back. It was a bit like my scouting days," McDermott said.

"Look, we don't speak. I spoke to him at the LMA do when we saw each other this summer. But we'll have a drink after the game."

A 5-2 drubbing of Norwich is Liverpool's only victory in seven Premier League games, while Reading are searching for their first win of the campaign.

"You need time. Brendan's philosophy is his philosophy and his players have to get used to the way he wants them to play," said McDermott.

"They've played some good football at times and in Luis Suarez they have a world-class player who we have to be aware of.

"In our last three games we've been in winning positions so what we need to do is finish the job off.

"Going anywhere in this league is a big challenge and a big opportunity so we just want to make sure we enjoy every moment of it and put on a performance."

Jose Eyes Good Fee For Sahin

Jose Mourinho believes Nuri Sahin's loan spell at Liverpool will help Real Madrid get a larger transfer fee when the Spanish club go on to sell him.

The 24 year-old Turkey international is spending the season at Anfield and many expected him to return to the Bernabeu to win a place in the team there, but the coach has other ideas.

Despite only joining Madrid in 2011 from Borussia Dortmund,Mourinho already has plans to make his club money by ensuring that they sell Sahin for a high price, possibly next summer.

"Sahin belongs to Real Madrid and is on loan at Liverpool," Mourinho told France Football.

"That costs us nothing because Liverpool are paying for everything.

"He is young and playing in a league that will help him grow. We want to sell him one day and he will go for a very good price. We made no mistakes."

Mourinho then launched another attack on old foe Jorge Valdano claiming that the former Real Madrid director had no idea who he was signing while at the club.

"If we are going to do some analysis then the president and the director general will confirm it and agree," the Portuguese continued.

"Nobody here knew who Khedira was. The person charged, hypothetically, with this [Valdano] did not know who Khedira was. I can say that for sure.

"They did not know that Khedira was in the last year of his contract and could have joined us very cheaply.

"Neither was it known that Ozil had problems with Werder Bremen. We paid €15million."

When Mourinho took over at Madrid he wanted Valdano to be ousted and won that battle early on in order to be given unprecedented control over the ins and outs of his squad.

One player that Mourinho did flop on was Turkish star Hamit Altintop, but he is still proud of a deal that saw the player arrive for free and move on for €3.5million after a year and four appearances to Galatasaray.

"Then there is Altintop. Was a failure in sporting terms but he was an economic success. We signed him for nothing and he came here with an injury. That is not my fault," he added.

"I do not do the medical exams, but he was then sold for a good fee."

Liverpool Step Up Interest In Birmingham City Starlet

Liverpool’s interest in Birmingham City's Nathan Redmond has been heightened ahead of the January transfer window, as talks between the player and his club regarding a new deal continues to stall.

The Daily Telegraph report that Brendan Rodgers has been targeting the inventive winger for the last 12 months, as he has progressively enhanced his reputation in the Championship after becoming Birmingham’s second youngest ever player behind Trevor Francis.

Redmond was reportedly set to be offered a new deal by the club back in September, but Birmingham City’s reluctance to meet his terms has frustrated the 18-year-old, who could now seek a January move away from St Andrews.

A number of Premier League clubs reportedly hold interest in Redmond, including Premier League champions Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, but the Anfield club currently leads the queue. Brendan Rodgers’ penchant for gifting young and talented players a chance in his first team - as he has done with Raheem Sterling and Spaniard Suso - may present a more attractive offer for Redmond, as he considers his options.

The England U19 international has just 18 months remaining on his current deal, which is still the player’s first professional contract.

Celtic Manager Rubbishes Hooper & Liverpool Link

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has rubbished suggestions that star striker Gary Hooper has had his head turned by Liverpool.

Contract talks between the Glasgow giants and Hooper have temporarily stalled, as interest emanating from south of the border grows. The former Scunthorpe United striker has been in remarkable form this season and ever since his arrival at Celtic Park, which has reportedly brought Liverpool into the equation.

The news that Fabio Borini will be sidelined for at least three months due to a fractured ankle has heightened Liverpool’s need to recruit another forward, and 24-year-old Hooper is a name that has immediately been linked. Lennon, however, has been quickly dismissive of the striker, in addition to goalkeeper Fraser Forster, leaving Celtic Park.

"It is speculation," Lennon said, BBC Sport report. "It wouldn't surprise me if there are a number of clubs in for Gary because of the way he is but I would poo-poo the Liverpool link.

"We are still in negotiations at the minute and I don't think we are too far away. There will be interest in them (Hooper and Forster) but they are not going anywhere.

"Fraser has signed a new contract and hopefully we are close to getting Gary's signature. If there are offers coming in, they will have to meet our valuation.”

Both Hooper and Forster left Newcastle United and Scunthorpe United respectively to find great success in the Scottish Premier League. Forster received his first England call up for World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Poland, while Hooper’s continued exclusion from Roy Hodgson’s squad has left his club manager perplexed.

Suso Signs New Anfield Contract

Spanish playmaker Suso has pledged his future to Liverpool by signing a new contract, which the Anfield club describes as "long-term".

Suso, who signed from hometown club Cadiz in 2010, has impressed in the early weeks of the season.

"I am really happy," the 18-year-old told the club website. "Liverpool is one of the biggest clubs in the world and this is the right place for me.

"I had no questions about signing and I am really glad to have done so."

The midfielder added: "I am happy Brendan [Rodgers, manager] has shown trust in me.

"I am comfortable here. I have played some games for the first team and I hope to continue doing that, but I need to work hard every day for that to happen. This is one of the best days of my life."

The Spain Under-19 international made his first-team debut in September's Europa League victory over Young Boys and made his first Premier League start nine days later.

With surgery on a fractured foot ruling out forward Fabio Borini for up to three months, Suso is expected to get many more first-team opportunities.

"At 18, he has demonstrated outstanding technical qualities but also shown very good temperament to play for such a prestigious club," explained Rodgers.

"His commitment is very good news for all our young academy players and the excellent work by the academy coaches and staff."

Robinson Hoping To Impress Rodgers

Jack Robinson has set himself a long-term target of being Liverpool's first-choice left-back, and a short-term goal of impressing manager Brendan Rodgers.

Robinson, 19, has made eight first-team appearances for the club in two-and-a-half years, but three of them have come this season. Rodgers' willingness to use young players has seen Robinson feature in Europa League games against Hearts and Udinese, as well as a Capital One Cup victory at West Brom.

The Warrington-born defender was the youngest first-team player in the club's history when he made his debut as a substitute, aged 16 years 250 days, in a Premier League match at Hull in May 2010. That record was broken by forward Jerome Sinclair in the cup win at West Brom last month, and Robinson sees that as a sign that youth will be given its chance this season.

Rodgers has also given opportunities to teenagers Raheem Sterling, Andre Wisdom and Suso in both league and cup games this season. The likelihood is that several youngsters, including Robinson, will be given further chances to make an impact against Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala in the Europa League next week, and Swansea in the Capital One Cup the week after.

And the defender is keen to stake his claim for a left-back slot that, in the long term, appears to be up for grabs. With Jose Enrique struggling for fitness and form this season, Rodgers has preferred to use Glen Johnson, nominally a right-back, in the role, but has also tried Robinson and winger Stewart Downing there.

"I think this is a big chance for me to impress this season," Robinson told Liverpool's website. “This year has been the best year for me. I've been injury free and managed to get a few games for the first team, so it has been really good so far.

"If I can keep improving in my game and show the manager what I can do, then hopefully he'll give me a few more chances. If I get the chance, then I'm sure I can make that position mine one day.

"Seeing the manager give us young lads this season has given me a lot of confidence. Raheem has been doing fantastic, Suso has done well and Andre has come in and done well. The confidence is sky high with all the youngsters coming through together.

"We have all come through the Academy and played together at Under-18 level and now to get that chance at first-team level is just brilliant."

Robinson earned his first England Under-21 call-up last week, but had to withdraw from the squad for the European Championship play-off against Serbia due to illness.

"I had the flu so the doctor said not to train, but just being a part of the squad was a fantastic experience," he said. "Hopefully if I can keep progressing and playing well then I might get another chance with the England Under-21s, but first I have to concentrate on Liverpool and trying to get a place in the team."

Liverpool & Ajax Push For Tough FFP Sanctions

With Financial Fair Play moving closer to full implementation, the managing directors of both Liverpool and Ajax have renewed calls for tough sanctions against offenders—including the possibility of banning clubs from Europe.

With prize money from European competition being withheld by UEFA—at least until further investigations can be completed—from 23 clubs as the first step towards full implementation of Financial Fair Play in 2014, the governing body's attempt to reign in unsustainable spending is finally beginning to move from talk to implementation.

So far, a handful of recognizable names such as Athletico Madrid, Malaga, Fenerbahce, and Sporting CP have found themselves in the firing line, but many won't believe that UEFA is willing to punish bigger clubs who break their financial guidelines until the investigations and warnings turn into meaningful punishment.

Given that the purchase of Liverpool Football Club by Fenway Sports Group was largely predicated on UEFA following through on Financial Fair Play, then, it's no surprise that Ian Ayre has of late begun to publicly push for UEFA to follow through.

"It is very important for the credibility of the UEFA to impose sanctions," said Ayre, who as reported by Agence France-Presse went on to suggest stadium naming rights deals like ones that saw Manchester City and PSG each given nine-figure paydays by companies with ties to their ownership groups are little more than attempts to get around Financial Fair Play regulations

"We need a rigorous application of the rules when it comes to all parties," he said. "There is a legitimate market when it comes to legitimate sponsorship contracts, and what is reasonable must be respected." Ayre further went on to say that Liverpool would support a transfer ban for clubs found guilty of breaking UEFA's regulations once the rules go into full effect.

Meanwhile, Ajax managing director Henri van der Aat went even further when talking about his desire to see those who spend beyond their means punished. "We need tough sanctions," he said, "because if clubs like Real Madrid don't pay the price it has no effect."

And his answer for how UEFA should punish such willful over-spenders as the Spanish giants was harsh but simple: ban them from European competition.

"The Champions League will survive without one or two of the best clubs. There are plenty of other good teams."