Saturday, November 17, 2012

Match Preview: Liverpool vs Wigan

Liverpool will be focused on stretching their six-game unbeaten streak to climb the Premier League table when they host Wigan at Anfield.

The Reds have not lost in the league since their defeat to Manchester United on September 23rd but four of their six matches since then have ended in draws.

Brendan Rodgers' side return after the international break, which saw talismanic captain Steven Gerrard earn his 100th cap for England, knowing they have to start picking up wins if they want to put their woeful start to the season behind them.

The Merseysiders currently sit 13th in the standings - a place and a point ahead of their visitors the Latics ahead of Saturday's clash.

They will be heartened by their 1-1 draw at Chelsea last weekend, when a second-half equalizer from the in-form Luis Suarez snatched an important share of a spoils.

Rodgers' men will be looking to build on that result with a much-needed home win, which would mark only their second league triumph at Anfield this season, having beaten Reading last month.

Wigan, meanwhile, suffered a 2-1 defeat at West Brom last weekend to halt a run of back-to-back successes.

The Latics will be hoping to recover from that setback on Merseyside to leapfrog their hosts in the standings.

Manager Roberto Martinez saw his side make history at Anfield last year, when Gary Caldwell's strike sealed Wigan's first-ever win there.

The Spanish boss was linked with the Liverpool manager's job before Rodgers took over in the summer and after committing to the Latics he will be keen to pull off another upset.

Goalkeeper Jose Reina is set to return for the visit of Wigan after a five-week injury absence.

The Spain international has recovered from a hamstring injury and is likely to replace Brad Jones, who has deputized in the last four league matches.

Midfielder Jonjo Shelvey is fit after a thigh problem forced him out of the England squad this week while centre-backs Daniel Agger (groin) and Martin Skrtel (illness) are expected to be included.

Wigan have winger Ryo Miyaichi back available for the trip to Merseyside.

Miyaichi, on loan from Arsenal, has not been involved in the last five games due to a pubic injury but is now training with the group again.

James McArthur, who has been sidelined recently by a dead leg, is a doubt, while fellow midfielder Albert Crusat (knee) and defender Antolin Alcaraz (groin) are not yet ready to return.

Martinez Lauds Liverpool Squad

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez says snuffing out the threat of Luis Suarez is only one part of his plan for the clash with Liverpool.

The Reds have had a stuttering start to the season but Uruguay striker Suarez has been a shining light, netting 11 times already this term.

Martinez has no doubt Suarez is crucial to Liverpool but has dismissed suggestions they are a one-man team at the moment.

"Luis Suarez is vital at the moment, but I think it would be wrong to give him special treatment because then there are other players around him who can really take advantage of it," Martinez said.

"You are not talking about a one-player team - that would be dangerous and wrong.

"It is true that in front of goal at the moment, Suarez is the most influential player in that squad and the stats reflect that.

"But it would be wrong to allow other players to have extra space because the quality is all over the pitch.

"The quality of this side is such that they are ready to go to fight for a Champions League spot, as they will do with time."

Suarez Planning Liverpool Stay

Luis Suarez has dismissed talk linking him with a move away from Liverpool saying he is happy with life at Anfield.

The 25-year-old has been linked with a big-money move to Manchester City with reports suggesting the Premier League champions were lining up a move for the Uruguayan in January.

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers played down the rumours earlier on Thursday insisting his star striker was not for sale.

Suarez, who signed a new deal at Anfield in the summer, insists he has no plans to quit the club and that he is enjoying working under Rodgers.

"I have a very long contract here and it's a dream come true to be playing at a club like Liverpool because, as I've said, as a boy I dreamt of playing for a team like this," Suarez told the club's official website

"Now I'm here, it's all about enjoying myself and trying to be here for as many years as I can, because I'm at a club where I'm very happy, my family is happy, I've got fantastic team-mates and a manager from whom I'm learning so much.

"As a player, it's vital to have the backing of your manager and so I think that the confidence Brendan is showing in myself and the team as a whole is very important and it's down to us to repay that trust out there on the pitch."

Suarez added: "Let's hope we can keep improving. I'm working well and I'm very happy at a club where I've always wanted to be. At a club to whom I'm very grateful for the trust everyone is showing in me - a club with amazing supporters and team-mates who are all great people.

"The other important thing is that the squad is very united. In spite of not getting the results we would have liked, we have a great spirit of togetherness and let's hope we can continue to pick up points."

Rodgers backed his striker and insisted: "There will be no bidding war, he's staying here. If we lose Luis then we have no strikers, so we can't afford to lose anyone.

"He is certainly not someone we want to sell or move on. He has been a brilliant player to work with and we want to add to our squad, not take people out of it, especially a world-class player.

"Luis has already showed in the summer his commitment to the club by signing a new deal, he is scoring goals and working well.

"I'll just continue to communicate with all the players and Luis in particular. Like I say, he's very happy here."

Liverpool Swoop For €15 Million Bilbao Defender

Liverpool is targeting Athletic Bilbao defender Fernando Amorebieta in January and is hopeful of securing the deal for around €15 million.

Amorbieta's current deal runs out in 2014 and he as shown little indication that he wants to sign another deal with the Basque club and this has drawn interest from Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers according to Spanish media outlet Fichajes.

The Venezuelan was brought up in the Basque country and represents the Basque Country national team after making his debut back in 2007 and it is believed his lack of desire to sign a new contract at the club will pave the way from a move to the Premier League side.

Athletic Bilbao wouldn’t stand in the way of Amorebieta leaving for the Premier League so Liverpool can be confident in landing him and therefore if any bid came in at around €15m the La Liga club would be likely to accept this because it would enable them to find a replacement.

The Venezuela international would have no issue in leaving the Basque and playing in the Premier League. Fichajes says that the defender is keen on joining Liverpool and it looks like both parties are happy to let a deal happen. Athletic Bilbao manager Marcelo Bielsa is looking to sign a new centre half to replace Amorebieta.

Mancini Denies Suarez Rumours

Roberto Mancini has rubbished reports Manchester City are interested in signing Luis Suarez.

Rumours have surfaced recently that the Sky Blues have lined up a £50 million raid in the January transfer window for the Uruguayan.

"It is not true, I don't know," Mancini said. "For two weeks we talk about Monaco, after [Pep] Guardiola, after another manager, now Suarez, now Mario [Balotelli]. We have a good team and we don't need to buy another player in January. We can't buy Suarez or another player because we have four strikers and Suarez plays for Liverpool."

Both Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli have been linked with moves away from the Etihad which would leave City with only Segio Aguero and Carlos Tevez.

City sit two points behind rivals Manchester United and will hope to take three points this weekend when they play Aston Villa.

Liverpool Ready To Sell £20 Million Flop In January

Brendan Rodgers may have given up on under-performing winger Stewart Downing, with reports suggesting the club have told the 28-year-old he can leave Anfield as soon as the January transfer window opens.

The Liverpool Echo suggest that the Reds will listen to offers for the man they paid £20 million to Aston Villa for during Kenny Dalglish’s reign in the summer of 2011. The winger has been a peripheral figure at Anfield this campaign, slipping down the pecking order substantially, a slip contributed to by the emergence of Raheem Sterling and Suso.

Downing has not started a Premier League game since Liverpool’s opening day defeat to West Brom, making three additional appearances off the substitute’s bench. Downing’s exposure this season has come predominantly through Europa League games, and despite grabbing a winner in Liverpool’s home tie against Anzhi some weeks ago, it would appear his time at the Merseyside club is up.

Brendan Rodgers suggested back in September that Downing needed to show more “hunger and desire” in his game if he wished to remain part of the Liverpool set up. "You have to work hard; you have to fight for the shirt,” Rodgers told BBC Sport back in early October. “I will keep private the discussions Stewart and I have had but he is under no illusion that he has to fight.”

Liverpool necessity to strengthen their striking options may have also had a hand in the reported decision to let Downing go, although the club will be expecting to make a sizeable loss on the former Middlesbrough man.

Gerrard Hails 'Phenomenal' Teenage Liverpool Star

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard believes Raheem Sterling will be a 'phenomenal talent' for the Anfield club and for England.

The Reds and England skipper played alongside Sterling for Roy Hodgson's Three Lions on Tuesday night as the 17-year-old made his debut, and Gerrard was full of praise for the youngster.

Sterling, who is also eligible to play for Jamaica, was composed on his England debut, and although he gave the ball away cheaply on occasion, Gerrard believes the young winger will become a top player.

"We had a 17-year-old making his debut who was brilliant," Gerrard said in The Sun. "So it goes to show how far he has come in a short space of time.

"He has learned really quickly in a Liverpool shirt and he will do the same for England. He will be a phenomenal talent."

Sterling made his Liverpool debut under Kenny Dalglish last season, but it has only been since Brendan Rodgers took charge at Anfield that the youngster has stepped into the first-team on a regular basis.

The teenage winger scored his first goal against Reading earlier this month, and has formed part of an impressive attacking trio alongside Suso and Luis Suarez for Liverpool.

The Reds have reaped the rewards of their academy this term, as Brendan Rodgers has promoted Sterling, Suso, and Andre Wisdom to the first-team, while Adam Morgan and Conor Coady have made Europa League appearances.

Chelsea Star Thinks Liverpool Hired Wrong Manager

Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech has revealed he was surprised Liverpool did not offer Steve Clarke the chance to take over at Anfield following the departure of Kenny Dalglish.

Clarke was part of Dalglish's backroom staff at Liverpool, but when the Reds parted ways with the Scot, the former-Swansea boss Brendan Rodgers was hired by the Anfield hierarchy.

But Cech reckons Liverpool missed out by overlooking Clarke, who spent more than 10 years at Stamford Bridge as a coach.

"I was surprised that it took people so long before he actually got the job because I would have thought that he might have got his chance already when he was at Liverpool," said the Chelsea keeper in the Fulham Chronicle.

Liverpool instead turned to Rodgers, although Wigan boss Roberto Martinez was also reportedly considered.

Gerrard Reveals Coaching Desire

Liverpool and England captain Steven Gerrard has revealed his intention to undergo coaching qualifications and aim for a career in football management, but only when he calls time on his international career.

Having reached a century of appearances for his country against Sweden on Wednesday, the 32-year-old is not contemplating retiring from his England duties just yet but admits he is seriously assessing what options are available to him when that time comes.

“I’m going to go into my coaching badges after my England days are over and when I’ve got the time," Gerrard told the Football Association's official website.

“When the international breaks are on, I’ll go and do my coaching badges and we’ll see where it goes.”

Gerrard understands that his achievements on the pitch will not determine his success as a coach or manager, and will have no qualms about walking away if he feels out of place in the dugout.

“I’ve always said I’ll only become a coach or a manager if I’m good enough,” he explained.

“I don’t think you go down that road because you’ve been a decent player. That’s a mistake that a lot of footballers have made.

“Only go down that road if you’re good enough. You have to try it, get your badges first and make sure you’re comfortable and have your own belief in your own knowledge of the game.”

Jen Chang Leaves Liverpool

Jen Chang has left his post as director of communications at Liverpool by "mutual consent", the club has confirmed.

Chang, only appointed in May, was recently involved in a controversial meeting in Manchester with Sean Cummins, a Liverpool fan behind the parody Duncan Jenkins Twitter account that purported to have inside knowledge of the club. During the meeting, it was alleged that Chang made threats to Cummins.

Although Cummins insisted his alter ego was nothing more than a spoof, Chang wrongly believed Cummins was being fed information by an Anfield insider and had apparently become vexed by "Jenkins" costing the club money in the £10.5m Fabio Borini transfer.

Chang denied the allegations and said he "will not be responding to total nonsense" the day after Cummins had accused him.

But the incident still caused Ian Ayre, the club's chief executive, to apologize on behalf of the club last month. "Clearly it is not appropriate for me to comment on how the club is managing this internally, and I trust you understand this," Ayre wrote. "It is apparent that you clearly feel that you have not been treated in a manner that is becoming of Liverpool FC.

"Based on everything I have heard and seen, including information provided by parties involved in this matter, I acknowledge that some of the elements you highlight were not appropriate. If you perceive them to be threatening that is not behaviour that is acceptable for a member of staff. I would therefore like to apologize to you on behalf of Liverpool FC for any upset and distress this has caused you."

Liverpool did not specifically link Chang's departure to that incident but a spokesman said he had returned to the US, where he previously worked Sports Illustrated, "for family reasons".

A statement continued: "Jen brought a fresh perspective to the overall communications function through the use of a variety of media channels, including social media and blogs.

"He reviewed and refocused the Liverpool Ladies and created a new impetus in relation to their structure, organization and future playing strategy.

"We would like to thank Jen for his contribution to Liverpool football club during his time here and wish him well in his future career back in the US.

"Jen would like to thank everyone he has worked with during his time at Liverpool for their support and respect and wishes the club every success."

When contacted Chang declined to comment.