Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Match Preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs Liverpool

Tottenham Hotspur will be looking to secure back-to-back home wins and end Liverpool's eight-match unbeaten run on Wednesday.

A 3-1 derby success over West Ham United on Sunday saw Spurs returning to winning ways following three straight defeats, and they will want to build on that result and close back in on the top four.

History would appear to be in Spurs' favour, with the north London outfit having emerged victorious in their last five meetings with Liverpool at White Hart Lane in all competitions.

Bringing an end to that sequence of results will be Brendan Rodgers' top priority, with Liverpool heading to the capital still searching for a spark to ignite their season.

The Reds have become hard to beat, which is a step in the right direction, but seven draws in 13 games this season have held them back.

It is, however, worth noting that only reigning champions Manchester City have gone longer without tasting a Premier League defeat than the men from Merseyside and Rodgers will feel that his side can kick on once momentum is established.

Emmanuel Adebayor will serve the second game of his three-match ban in midweek, meaning Jermain Defoe will get the opportunity to lead the Tottenham lead once more.

Mousa Dembele, who returned from injury to make a 10-minute cameo appearance against West Ham, may be returned to Andre Villas-Boas' starting XI, but the Portuguese tactician is not expected to make too many changes to a winning team.

Scott Parker is back in light training following an Achilles injury, but is some way short of full match fitness, while Benoit Assou-Ekotto (knee) and Younes Kaboul (knee) remain on the sidelines.

Midfielder Sandro has been passed fit after being carried off on a stretcher with a stomach injury against West Ham.

Andre Wisdom has recovered from the knee injury which kept him out of a goalless draw with Swansea at the weekend and returns to the Liverpool squad.

If the teenager regains his place in the back four, winger Stewart Downing - who played at left-back at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday - would be the player most likely to make way.

Midfielder Lucas Leiva, who played an hour for the reserves on Friday, will not be included but could come into contention at the weekend.

Rodgers Dismisses Spurs Links

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has shrugged off talk that he was a target for Tottenham prior to the appointment of Andre Villas-Boas.

Rodgers, who takes his Liverpool side to White Hart Lane on Wednesday was reported to be a target for Tottenham following the sacking of Harry Redknapp in the summer.

Rodgers dismissed as "irrelevant" the suggestion Tottenham had made a serious approach to him to replace Redknapp, insisting he had no regrets over his decision to move to Liverpool

"I was very happy in my work at Swansea," said Rodgers. "Harry had done a brilliant job there, and for whatever reason, the club decided that it wasn't to be and looked elsewhere.

"For me to leave Swansea was going to be a big ask, but I had the opportunity to come here, and I've not regretted any moment of it."

Asked if there had been contact with Tottenham over a move to White Hart Lane earlier this year, Rodgers said: "It's irrelevant. Tottenham have chosen a manager. Obviously, Harry had done a great job there, and they decided to go down the route of Andre Villas-Boas.

"Andre's gone in, he's looking to continue the great work Harry had done. My only thinking is about Liverpool."

Villas-Boas Foresees Rodgers Impact At Liverpool

Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas believes that Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is the man to bring Champions League football back to Anfield.

The Portuguese boss goes into the game against the Merseyside club knowing that a win can take the club into the top four, but, with their opponents currently on an eight-game unbeaten streak of their own, he remains wary of the threat that they pose.

"At the moment they [Liverpool] are on a good run in terms of form," Villas-Boas told reporters.

"They would want ideally to turn the draws into wins. In a couple of games there were very close to winning but they didn't get the result that they wanted.

"They are in an awkward position in the league at the moment but the distance between the teams [in the middle of the table] is not a lot so it can change dramatically for them and they can join the top ten very soon.

"The power of the club is extremely high and the quality of the players and I think eventually they will join the battle for the top spots."

The 35-year-old is very familiar with former Swansea City manager Rodgers, after having worked as part of Jose Mourinho's backroom staff at Chelsea together, and has admitted that he's followed his career ever since.

He added: "The first time I came across Brendan was at an FA coaching course when we were trying to get our degrees and qualifications, we didn't know that our ways would cross paths.

"I saw him again when we were at Chelsea in 2004, when he was there as a youth team coach and he had done really well since then.

"He started his career at the right time, went through a difficult period at Watford. He came strong at Reading and Swansea. [And now] he's in a position which he deserves to be and he has a bright future."

Chelsea Star Anxious To Make Liverpool Move

Liverpool is hoping that the change in manager at Chelsea will not affect their January transfer plans for striker Daniel Sturridge.

The England international forward has been heavily linked with a move to Merseyside in recent months, with The Daily Telegraph claiming the 23-year-old remains the Reds’ prime target for the New Year.

The report goes on to state that Sturridge is ‘anxious’ to make the move to Liverpool, with the player spending large spells of the current season on the Stamford Bridge substitutes bench.

Whether Rafael Benitez aims to utilize Sturridge’s ability more than former boss Roberto Di Matteo is yet to be seen, but with ‘executive level’ talks already taking place, the former Manchester City forward’s future may already be sealed.

“You never know when new managers go into clubs, but we will see what happens over the course of the market for us,” Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is quoted as saying in the same newspaper.

“Hopefully we can get a few in. Obviously Ian Ayre (Liverpool Managing Director) has been dealing with transfer stuff in the background and doing a great job along with the recruitment team.”

Liverpool is short of options in attack this season, with Luis Suarez leading the line alone for the Merseyside giants in the absence of Fabio Borini (injury) and Andy Carroll (loan).

Chelsea isn’t bulging in the attacking department either though, with a lack of competition meaning Fernando Torres continues to get the nod in west London.

Sturridge’s exit would limit the club’s options further, although Ivorian international Wilfried Bony and Atletico Madrid star Radamel Falcao have both been linked with Chelsea moves in 2013.

Liverpool To Rival Manchester City For New Alonso

Liverpool have joined Manchester City in the hunt for exciting Spanish midfielder Benat, reports the London Metro.

The 25-year-old Real Betis star, who has been likened in playing style to Real Madrid's Xabi Alonso, has emerged as one of La Liga's leading lights over the past two seasons, prompting admiring glances from a host of Premier League clubs.

Manchester City scouts are believed to have been monitoring Benat's progress closely in recent months - including in Betis' 1-0 victory over Real Madrid, where he scored the winner - as Roberto Mancini considers a bid to bring the playmaker to the Etihad Stadium.

However, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is also keen on the technical midfield maestro, after being promised by Anfield owners that he will be given funds to strengthen his squad in January.

Spanish publication AS suggest Benat could cost upwards of £15million, which could prove to be a sticking point for Liverpool. Rodgers might only be willing to spend half that amount, but could maximize his budget by selling the likes of Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson in the New Year.

The Reds boss is targeting a forward as a priority in the forthcoming transfer window, but knows the Spanish international could add vital balance and creativity with his impressive range of passing, to Liverpool's lacklustre midfield.

Man United & Liverpool Eyeing Henrik Larsson's Son

Manchester United and Liverpool are both chasing the signature of teenage prodigy Jordan Larsson.

The 15-year-old Hogaborgs BK midfielder is on United’s radar with Sir Alex Ferguson sending scouts to watch him play.

More famously, Larsson is the son of football legend Henrik, who enjoyed a brief spell in 2007 at Old Trafford, and maybe the family connection could be a deal breaker.

Brendan Rodgers has also been keeping tabs on Larsson and Liverpool’s reputed success in developing talent through the youth ranks should not be understated.

Raheem Sterling is a prime example of this, and after signing for Liverpool in 2010, he has been setting alight the Premier League this season.

United also have a good track record of developing and nurturing youth talent, with Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley, two high-profile graduates who have gone on to become established first-team players.

Larsson scored five goals last season for his club.

Arsenal Identify Liverpool Star As Top January Target

Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina has been identified as Arsenal's No.1 target in their pursuit of reinforcements in the January transfer window, it has been claimed.

Reina has been linked with a transfer to Arsenal for some time, while Liverpool is reportedly considering replacing the Spain international in the New Year.

Wigan's Ali Al Habsi is reported to be under consideration by Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, and Reina could seemingly be offered the opportunity to jump from Anfield before he is pushed.

According to, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has outlined the acquisition of a new 'keeper as a top priority for the transfer window, and Reina is the player he wants to bring to the Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal want to secure the services of a proven Premier League custodian to challenge, or replace, incumbent Wojciech Szczesny and Reina fits the bill for Wenger.

Szczesny, 22, has struggled with injury and for consistency of late, and his position as Arsenal's undoubted No.1 now appears to be under threat.

However, should Arsenal miss out on the Reina, the Gunners will reportedly instead focus their attention on recruiting Swansea star Michel Vorm or Stoke City's Thomas Sorensen.

Liverpool have also been linked with a move for Vorm, who played under Rodgers at the Liberty Stadium, and a swoop for the Netherlands international could prompt Reina to leave for Arsenal.

Reina, 30, moved to Anfield from Villarreal in 2005 and has made 385 appearances for Liverpool during his time with the club.

Enrique Calm Over Future

Jose Enrique claims he never feared for his Liverpool future and is enjoying life at the club.

The Spaniard appeared to have fallen out of favour at Anfield after a slump in form but is back in the team and performing impressively for the Reds.

"Football is for moments and now I am playing well so I hope I can continue like this and help the team as much as possible," he said.

"Last year, up to December, I played really well and then I don't know why I dropped my form.

"Now I've started to do it again and it is more important to think in the present and live from now and I will try to do my best now.

"To be honest I've never been worried because I've always believed in myself.

"From the start I had knee problems so I have to prove myself with the manager; you have to do that always.

"It is not what you did before, it is what you do now. Every time you have to play well - if not there are players who will play better than you do.

"But I am really happy here. It is the biggest club I've played for, the fans are amazing and I really like the city so of course I want to play here for a long time."

Enrique had not made a promising start under new boss Brendan Rodgers and saw Glen Johnson and Stewart Downing preferred at left-back.

But the 26-year-old has found a new role on the left side of midfield playing off Luis Suarez and claims he will play anywhere as long as he is in the team.

"I like to play there but to be honest my position is left-back, it is where I am more comfortable and is where I have been all my life in the Premier League," he added.

"Of course, you enjoy it when you attack and I don't have to defend that much and playing there with Luis is really easy as his movement is everything and he is a really clever player.

"But it depends on where the manager wants me to play - I don't care where.

"It is the manager's decision and if you are not happy you go. He preferred Glen or Stewart before and I have to respect his decision.

"I did what I always did - train as hard as I could and to try to get my chance like I have now. I am playing now so I am happy but I still have to improve in myself."

And the former Villarreal and Celta Vigo player has plenty of praise for Rodgers' tactics, hailing him as the best coach he was worked with in the Premier League.

"From the start he is the best manager I've had in England in terms of tactics and everything," he said.

"Tactically he is like the Spanish. It reminds me of what happened at Villarreal. He has a mentality like a Spanish manager and I really like that."

Henderson Out To Prove A Point

Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson is determined to prove his career at Anfield is going to last for the long-term.

The £16million summer 2011 signing from Sunderland was part of a big-money squad overhaul conducted under former boss Kenny Dalglish.

But Henderson only made his first Premier League start of this season under new manager Brendan Rodgers in the weekend draw at Swansea City after being restricted to substitute, Capital One Cup and Europa League appearances.

The 22-year-old has been offered encouragement from Rodgers but knows he still has to prove his credentials at five-time European champions Liverpool.

Henderson said in the Daily Star ahead of Wednesday's game at Tottenham Hotspur: "If you move to a club like Liverpool, you have to try to make it for life and not just for Christmas.

"When I signed for Liverpool, I definitely wanted it to be long-term and I will give it everything I have got.

"It is a lot easier to throw a tantrum and walk away from a big club than fight to make it work, isn't it?

"Other players might treat it different ways but it just gives me a different incentive to push on and go forward.

"I think the manager has seen that I have improved since he came to the club and I need to keep on improving."

Borrell Promoted Ahead Of Critical NextGen Qualifier

Amongst all the turnover of the past few seasons, one of the mainstays has been U18s, Reserves, and now Head of Academy Coaching Rodolfo Borrell, who's transitioned into his new role as Alex Inglethorpe takes over the Reserves ahead of their penultimate NextGen qualifying match against Dortmund.

The NextGen Series has seemed like a whirlwind in its second season of existence, last year we had all the introductory information and a fairly high level of attention paid, but this time around it's sneaked up on us a bit, and all of a sudden we're looking at the last two matches of the qualifying round and Liverpool potentially on the outside looking in.

Liverpool's fortunes in the competition have been the polar opposite of what they've put together in the U21 Premier League, with three losses in their first three before picking up their lone win of the tournament last time out, managing to put four past a Rosenborg side that'd defeated them 3-0 in the reverse fixture. A win over Dortmund on Wednesday still wouldn't keep them safe, as they'll need Inter to lose to Rosenborg and then to defeat the holders in the final match of group play on the 8th of January.

The personnel on the pitch won't likely be surprising for many, as Adam Morgan, Conor Coady, and Stephen Sama are all expected to feature, but there's significant changes in management, as former Reserves and U18s boss Rodolfo Borrell, who's left the team in every match of the competition across two seasons to this point, has been promoted to Head of Academy Coaching, and former Tottenham U18s coach Alex Inglethorpe takes over.

Frank McParland, who was the subject of an enlightening interview back in September with Sachin Nakrani in the Guardian, retains his role as Academy Director, with Borrell now responsible for, in the words of Brendan Rodgers, "(making) richer the philosophy we are creating at the club from U9s through to the first team." Inglethorpe, who was with Spurs for six years, will presumably see his duties start immediately ahead of Wednesday's match.