Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Match Preview: Liverpool vs Swansea

The main talking point in the build-up to this Capital One Cup tie will surround Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, who will be coming up against his former employers for the first time on Wednesday night.

The hosting Reds have been tipped to make a number of changes to their starting lineup, with the likes of Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing and Jamie Carragher all believed to be in contention.

Luis Suarez may also start the tie because of Liverpool's lack of options in the goalscoring department.

Visiting Swansea is also likely to make a few alterations for the encounter. Veteran defender Alan Tate and Garry Monk should be included, while Luke Moore will lead the line as a lone striker.

Liverpool and Swansea have not faced each other too many times. In their previous two meetings, Swansea has won once. The other meeting finished in a draw. Swansea can play good football and has done so for much of this campaign. They will trouble Liverpool undoubtedly.


Liverpool: DWWDL

Swansea: LWDLW


Liverpool: Jones; Wisdom, Carragher, Coates, Johnson; Downing, Sahin, Shelvey, Assaidi; Suso; Suarez

Swansea: Tremmel; Tate, Monk, Davies, Situ; Britton, Gower, Michu, De Guzman, Routledge; Moore

Allen Looking Forward To Swans Reunion

Though there is lingering disappointment for the way in which Sunday's match against Everton ended for Joe Allen, a bigger focus for the midfielder is Wednesday's cup tie against Swansea City, his former club Wednesday's League Cup tie against Swansea City at Anfield was always going to draw interest mainly for pitting Brendan Rodgers against the club he used to manage, but it also marks a reunion for Joe Allen.

Until he joined Liverpool over the summer, in fact, Allen had spent more than half his life playing football for Swansea, having joined the Welsh side at the age of nine and spending the next thirteen years—bar a one month loan spell at Wrexham where he played in two games—there.

"It is going to be a strange fixture for me," Allen admitted, "and I'm looking forward to coming up against some good friends at a club I was at for many years. It will be an interesting game and one I'm looking forward to."

Given the length of time spent at his boyhood club, moving up the ranks as he refined his game and grew into a Welsh international and one of the most composed British-trained footballers in the game, calling his first match going up against Swansea "interesting" is probably a bit of an understatement.

There is, however, some reason to doubt whether Allen will actually see the pitch on Wednesday given the ninety minutes he played against Everton on Sunday and that Rodgers will almost certainly need him against Newcastle on the weekend. If the player is truly looking forward to it, though, and not simply trying to make the right noises, then there's always the chance Rodgers could be convinced.

And even if Allen is looking forward to Wednesday, when he spoke to the media his mind was still at least in part lingering on Sunday's derby match—and, as was the case for his captain, on the poor decision that cost Liverpool the win in stoppage time.

"It was a great feeling for a split second because we thought we had won the game," he said. "Credit to Everton and the way they fought back, but we feel disappointed we didn't get the three points as we had a goal dubiously disallowed right at the end which would have given us the victory."

Still, despite the disappointing end to Sunday's match, Allen was eager to look for positives in the draw against Liverpool's local rivals:

"It was a tough and physical battle but we expected that and I enjoyed it. Goodison Park is a tough place to come for anyone, so at least with the point we maintained our unbeaten run and we want to climb up the table as high as possible.

"We are heading in the right direction and this was another positive performance from us."

Whether he starts or not, Wednesday offers the club the chance to take another positive step if they can get past Swansea and secure a spot in the quarter-finals of the League Cup.

Laudrup Plays Down Rodgers Reunion

Swansea manager Michael Laudrup believes Wednesday's Capital One Cup clash with Liverpool will be a special occasion, but not because it marks the first meeting with former boss Brendan Rodgers.

The Northern Irishman left south Wales for Anfield in May, having guided Swansea to an impressive 11th place finish in their maiden Barclays Premier League campaign.

Despite having led Swansea to the promised land of the top flight, Rodgers can expect a hostile reception from the travelling support at Anfield, particularly after also prising midfielder Joe Allen away from the Liberty Stadium.

While the focus will be on Rodgers' facing his former club, Laudrup is unsurprisingly keen to divert attention elsewhere, not least because a win would send Swansea into previously unchartered territory.

The Swans have never advanced further than the fourth round of the League Cup, and could reach the last-eight for the first time in their 100-year history.

When asked if facing Rodgers added an extra spice to the occasion, Laudrup said: "I want to win every game we play, not only the ones where we are against ex-managers. There was one of those 10 days ago (against Roberto Martinez's Wigan) and we won that.

"But for me this is nothing different, I want to win all the games.

"I know there is something special when you see former players and coaches, but for me it is Swansea against Liverpool, not against Brendan Rodgers or Joe Allen.

"It's at Anfield and it is a big game in a competition where if we win we can claim a place in the record books of Swansea City."

Laudrup is set to make changes for the trip to Merseyside, and will be forced to replace goalkeeper Michel Vorm, who suffered a groin injury in Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Manchester City.

Gerhard Tremmel will take the Dutchman's place with David Cornell coming onto the bench, and Laudrup is backing the pair to step up.

"I have confidence in Gerhard and also in David," he said. "Of course what I need to have is confirmation of how long it will be with Michel, but I have no problem using Gerhard and David.

"It is a very special position on the pitch and Gerhard has not played many games over the last year and a half and suddenly he will have to play a lot and he starts with two easy games at Anfield and against Chelsea at home!"

He added: "There will be changes, a couple of them are obviously enforced, but I don't know yet how many there will be."

African Hitman Back On Liverpool Radar

Liverpool is once again being linked with a move for striker Demba Ba.

The Senegalese international has a £7 million minimum fee release clause in his contract at Newcastle United, which is set to be re-activated when the January transfer window opens.

And, with Fabio Borini out until the New Year with a broken right foot, the Sunday Mirror claims Liverpool will look to raid the Magpies in the opening month of 2013.

Brendan Rodgers is short of options in attack at Anfield, with Luis Suarez the only fit senior striker currently on the club’s books. Andy Carroll – who cost the Reds £35 million from Newcastle last January – is out on loan at West Ham United and appears out of favour with the Reds boss.

Rodgers has urged the club’s American owners to make funds available at the next opportunity, according to the report, with a strike partner for Liverpool’s Uruguayan hitman at the top of the agenda.

With Ba not set to feature at the African Cup of Nations early next year, it’s little surprise that interest in his services has risen, and Liverpool will be looking to capitalize on the relatively low release fee. It's not the first time the club has been linked with a move for the player this month either, with The Daily Mail claiming a fortnight ago that he was on the radar.

Liverpool Target Ex-Chelsea Striker In Loan Swoop

Liverpool is being linked with a shock loan move for ex-Chelsea striker Didier Drogba.

The 34-year-old Ivory Coast international left Stamford Bridge for China in the summer, joining Shanghai Shenhua on a free transfer after lifting the Champions League trophy under Roberto Di Matteo.

However, The Sunday People claims Drogba could make a quick return to the Premier League, joining Liverpool on loan when the Chinese season comes to an end next week.

The paper claims that Reds boss Brendan Rodgers will make an ‘extraordinary SOS call’ to bring the player to Anfield on a two-month deal, with Drogba looking to maintain his fitness ahead of the African Cup of Nation, which begins in January.

Rodgers already has a relationship with Drogba from his time on the Chelsea coaching staff, and the striker’s parent club is reportedly willing to agree the deal providing Drogba returns for the start of the new season.

Liverpool is desperately short of options in attack, with Uruguayan hitman Luis Suarez the only fit senior forward currently on the club’s books.

A move to Merseyside could jeopardize Drogba’s position as a Chelsea legend however, especially if he played for the Reds in the clash against the Blues in west London on November 11th.

There is still plenty of work to be done before the veteran pulls on a Liverpool shirt however, and if Drogba really is available, then there is little to stop other European clubs from attempting to broker a deal.

Liverpool Plot Lower League Goalkeeper Raid

Liverpool is being linked with a shock move for Middlesbrough goalkeeper Jason Steele.

The England U21 international is available for the right price in the January transfer window, according to The People, with Reds boss Brendan Rodgers considering a move.

Pepe Reina’s in-different form at the start of the season has raised questions over the No.1 spot at Anfield, with Australian international Brad Jones taking the Spaniard’s place between the sticks for Liverpool in Sunday’s 2-2 Merseyside derby draw at Goodison Park.

Whilst Reina had been nursing a hamstring injury picked up on international duty, the stopper was fit enough to take his place on the bench for the match. Reds boss Rodgers denied the keeper had been axed in favour of Jones.

Either way, it’s led to speculation over Liverpool making a move for the one-cap Great Britain international, who has been in sparkling form for Boro in the Npower Championship this term.

Were Steele to make the move from Middlesbrough to Liverpool, he’d be following in the footsteps of Jones, who completed the same transfer for £2.3 million in the summer of 2010.

Ajax Demand €30 Million For Liverpool Midfield Target

Liverpool have once more been linked with a January move for Ajax star Christian Eriksen – but will have to pay €30 million to land their man according to reports.

In recent weeks The Reds have been heavily linked with a move for the Danish international, who admitted it was ‘special’ to be associated with a transfer to the Anfield club earlier this month.

Liverpool are expected to be active in winter window after a disappointing summer in the market which saw them fail to bring in a striker on deadline day despite allowing Andy Carroll to join West Ham on loan.

The 20-year-old has been watched by a host of Premier League cubs and has been linked with a move to Manchester United in the past.

However Liverpool appear to be the most keen on securing Eriksen’s services and will make a move for him when the January window opens, with some claiming he is viewed as a long-term replacement for Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard.

According to the National, The Anfield club are keen on securing players who can operate through the middle or out wide, although they will not overspend on individuals as they have done in the past.

However the paper reports that if Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers wants to land Eriksen, he will have to part ways with €30 million, while Ajax are said to be more willing to sell up in the summer rather than mid-way through the season.

Eriksen himself has previously insisted he will not be leaving the Dutch club until the end of the season at the earliest, and with Liverpool prioritizing a move for a striker in January a summer move may suit all parties.

That may include a move to take Marseille forward Loic Remy to Merseyside, who the National claim could make a move to Anfield in January.

Liverpool Identified Spain Midfielder As Joe Allen Alternative

Liverpool had reportedly identified Spain midfielder Benat as a potential summer acquisition, had they failed in the pursuit of Swansea star Joe Allen.

The Reds completed the signing of Allen in July for a fee of £13.5 million, with the Wales international following Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers from the Liberty Stadium to Anfield.

Rodgers had outlined the signing of Allen as a top priority after moving to Liverpool but, naturally, would have had alternative players in mind had the Reds been unable to sign the 22-year-old.

According to respected Spanish football journalist Guillem Balague, among the possibilities for Liverpool - prior to the signing of Allen - was Real Betis' Benat, who could now leave La Liga in the January transfer window.

Benat has a €10 million release clause written into his contract with Betis, which may appeal to Liverpool should Rodgers decide he wants to bring further midfield reinforcements to Anfield in the New Year.

The 25-year-old has the attributes to fit into Liverpool's high-intensity, possession-based system adopted by Rodgers since his arrival, although they may have to fend off interest from Arsenal should the Reds formalize an approach.

Liverpool Striker Target Linked With Italian Return

AC Milan could rival Liverpool for the signature of prolific Schalke striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, reports talkSPORT.

The 29-year-old - who spent a season at the San Siro before moving to the Bundesliga in 2010 - has been linked with a host of top European clubs, as he continues his scintillating scoring form.

In addition, Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo is one manager believed to be considering an attempt to sign Huntelaar, as Fernando Torres continues to flounder at Stamford Bridge.

However, Chelsea could face direct Premier League competition for his signature, as Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers plans to strengthen his Anfield attack in January.

The Dutch international has scored 40 league goals during a two-year stint in Germany, but will be out of contract at the end of the season, meaning Schalke could be forced to sell him, in order to avoid losing Huntelaar on a free transfer next summer.

According to sources in Italy, the forward could make a shock return to Serie A, with Milan languishing in mid-table, and on the lookout for a new striker, in a bid to fill the void left by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who joined Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint Germain in August.

Match Report: Everton 2 - 2 Liverpool

Luis Suarez was controversially denied an injury-time winner as Liverpool had to settle for a Merseyside derby draw with Everton.

Suarez reacted first to fire into the roof of the net with time almost up only to see his effort ruled out by the assistant referee, who adjudged him offside.

Television replays immediately showed the former Ajax striker was onside as he poked the ball beyond Tim Howard for what would have been his hat-trick.

Earlier, Everton displayed all the qualities which have kept them in the top four this season as Liverpool blew a two-goal lead at Goodison Park.

When Suarez headed in his sixth goal in eight league matches in the 20th minute, after Leighton Baines had earlier turned the Uruguay international's cross-shot into his own net, the Reds appeared in control.

However, in a pulsating first half Leon Osman pulled one back almost immediately before Steven Naismith equalized 10 minutes before half-time.

The remaining 55 minutes subsequently failed to match what had gone before, and although both sides could have won it after the break, the point was enough to keep Everton in fourth, six points ahead of their near-neighbours.

Liverpool fielded five derby debutants - Raheem Sterling, Andre Wisdom, Nuri Sahin, Suso and Joe Allen - with Everton having just two in Kevin Mirallas and Naismith.

That may have contributed to what was a first 45 minutes so open it belied its history of being the oldest and longest-running cross-city rivalry in English football.

Suarez opened the scoring in the 14th minute. Steven Gerrard's pass sent Jose Enrique, on his first start since October 2, racing down the left and although his cross flashed through the six-yard area it was collected by the Uruguay international, whose drilled cross-shot return was deflected in by Baines.

His reaction was to race to the dug-out and dive full-length - in a celebration reminiscent of Jurgen Klinsmann's for his debut goal in English football in 1994 - in front of Toffees boss David Moyes after his pre-match comments about players going to ground easily.

Ironically, later in the half, it was one of Moyes' own players Phil Neville who was booked for diving on the edge of Liverpool's penalty area.

That prompted a swift retort from injured Reds defender Glen Johnson on Twitter.

"Haha classic P Neville battering Luis for diving, then what does he gets booked for....?! Haha," he wrote.

Six minutes later Osman's slight trip on Sterling presented Gerrard with the chance to curl in a free-kick and Suarez's deft header helped the ball past Tim Howard and into the far corner of the net.

For a team whose problems in scoring were well documented, things seemed to be going better than expected for Brendan Rodgers' side.

But Everton have not forced their way into the top four this season on a wing and a prayer, and they produced an instant response.

When goalkeeper Brad Jones, still deputizing for the recovering Jose Reina who was on the bench, could only punch a corner to the edge of the area, Osman controlled and volleyed home.

The game, surprisingly, became even more open with Suarez shooting just wide before Marouane Fellaini, back from injury after two matches out, ran the ball out of play as he bore down on goal when teed up by Nikica Jelavic.

Derbies can do strange things to people - highlighted by Neville's diving aberration - and the sight of Tim Howard, one of football's genuine nice guys, hurtling out of his goal in an attempt to get 17-year-old Sterling sent off for what he thought was a second bookable offence was ungentlemanly and unnecessary.

But the hosts soon put the focus back on football when Fellaini's cross was left by Martin Skrtel and Naismith nipped in front of Enrique to equalize from close range.

Everton poured forward with the excellent Mirallas marauding down the left against the inexperience of Wisdom and Sterling.

The Belgian had one shot turned away by Jones and another blocked by Skrtel after a brilliant turn took him past Wisdom, reluctant to make a challenge in the penalty area, while Seamus Coleman also blazed over.

After such a rousing 45 minutes, the second half failed to live up to those standards.

Everton suffered a blow when Mirallas failed to appear after the break and was replaced by Magaye Gueye while Rodgers made a tactical switch by bringing on Sebastian Coates, another derby debutant, and Jonjo Shelvey to go 3-4-1-2.

Chances continued to be created with Sterling clipping an excellent chance wide having been put through by Enrique while Jelavic, surprisingly quiet in such an open game, just failed to connect in the six-yard box before heading wide Leighton Baines' free-kick wide.

Suarez, never far from the action, was fortunate to escape with a yellow card after standing on Sylvain Distin's Achilles after the ball had gone.

Gerrard had a shot blocked by Phil Jagielka before Suarez was incorrectly denied an injury-time winner.

Gerrard Bemoans Controversial Decisions

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard believes the Reds have every reason to feel sorry for themselves after controversial striker Luis Suarez was denied a late winner in the Merseyside derby draw at Goodison Park on Sunday.

David Moyes’ side overturned a two-goal deficit to grab a draw in a high quality encounter at Goodison Park, but Liverpool can count themselves unlucky not to have taken all three points as Uruguyan striker Suarez had the ball in the net in the closing minutes only to see his effort ruled out by the linesman’s flag.

Earlier Everton had equalized following a throw which should have gone to the visitors.

“I’ve seen it (Suarez’s disallowed goal) again and we can feel sorry ourselves because it was a clear goal,” Gerrard said.

“We should have taken away the three points rather than just one. There is no offside and it’s difficult for me to explain it. The only person who can explain it is the linesman.

“I asked him after the game if it was offside and he said ‘I think so’. That’s not good enough. If every decision in this league is based on ‘we think so’ then we’re in trouble.

“The linesman got it badly wrong. The benefit of the doubt is supposed to go to the attacking player anyway.

“And for their second goal, it’s a clear throw-in to us. The linesman (not the one who flagged Suarez offside) gives us the throw but the referee (Andre Marriner) saw something different.

“He gave Everton the throw and their second goal came from that.”