Saturday, December 22, 2012

Match Preview: Liverpool vs Fulham

Liverpool will be aiming to make amends for last Saturday's shock home defeat to Aston Villa when they host Fulham.

Prior to the visit of Villa, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers had made brave noises about a top-two finish in the Premier League.

But those words had a hollow ring to them when the Reds headed for the dressing room 3-0 down at half time.

Rodgers has since admitted that Liverpool had a "bad day at the office", and with Liverpool languishing in 12th place he will be keen to bring some Christmas cheer to Anfield.

But there was some brighter news this week when Raheem Sterling committed his long-term future to Liverpool.

Fulham fans had to suffer the indignity of seeing their side become the first to lose to QPR this season at Loftus Road last Saturday.

This weekend they make the considerably longer trip to Merseyside, with their only away win this season coming in their previous visit to the north west, at Wigan in September.

The Cottagers have just one win in their last nine games, and they will be anxious not to move nearer the drop zone over Christmas.

But the travelling Fulham fans can take heart from their victory the last time they visited Anfield on 1 May this year.

Jose Enrique is in contention after returning to training following a hamstring injury.

Nuri Sahin is also available, having recovered from surgery on the broken nose he sustained against Udinese earlier in December.

Brazilian midfielder Lucas has started the last three league games following his lengthy thigh injury, but has said he is still short of full fitness.

Raheem Sterling, who has inked in a new contract at Anfield, could be rested with Suso likely to step in.

Fulham midfielder Steve Sidwell is suspended for the trip to Anfield after reaching five bookings for the season so far.

Full back Sascha Riether is available after recovering from a knee problem picked up in the derby defeat to QPR last weekend.

Mahamadou Diarra and Bryan Ruiz are still missing with knee and hamstring issues respectively.

Goalkeeper David Stockdale is likely to be on the bench after being recalled from his loan at Hull City due to Neil Etheridge's knee problem.

Liverpool Confirm New Deal For Raheem Sterling

Raheem Sterling has committed his future to Liverpool after signing a new long-term deal this afternoon, the club has confirmed.

Brendan Rodgers announced in recent days that he expected the 18-year-old to put pen to paper on a new contract amid growing interest from Manchester United and Arsenal, speculation that has been put to an end with this afternoon’s announcement.

The former Queens Park Rangers youth player has flourished under Brendan Rodgers, who has thrown his faith into the teenager with positive results. Sterling has made 25 appearances for Liverpool so far this season, quickly becoming an integral part of the Rodgers’ first choice eleven, and has his eye on delivering more in the New Year.

“It's every 18-year-old's dream,” Sterling told Liverpool’s official website. “I'm just really grateful to be at such a big club like this.

"There's a lot more to be done. I haven't begun yet, as the manager has said. Hopefully I can kick on after the New Year and try to do my best for the team and the football club."

Sterling made the move from Loftus Road to Anfield in February 2010, a transfer instigated by current Chelsea boss Rafa Benitez. The Kingston-born starlet joins Luis Suarez, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Suso and Jonjo Shelvey on a list of players who signed new deals at the club since the summer.

Liverpool To Turn To Gameiro

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is considering a move for Paris Saint-Germain forward Kevin Gameiro after a deal to sign Daniel Sturridge hit trouble.

A £12 million deal for Sturridge has been agreed with Chelsea, but Liverpool is having problems agreeing personal terms due to the demands of the striker’s agent.

Rodgers is still hopeful that the problems will be ironed out by the time the transfer window opens on January 1. But he is determined not to be caught out again after a failure to sign either Sturridge or Clint Dempsey in August forced him to negotiate the first half of the season desperately short of senior forwards.

Rodgers allowed Andy Carroll to join West Ham on a season’s loan on the understanding that he would be able to bring in Sturridge from Chelsea or Dempsey from Fulham.

Neither move materialized, with Dempsey instead joining Tottenham, and Liverpool were left with only Luis Suarez and Fabio Borini as senior attackers.

Borini picked up a foot injury in October and has not played since, while Rodgers has had to use midfielder Jonjo Shelvey as a stand-in when Suarez has been unavailable.

France international Gameiro, 25, is available after seeing his chances at Paris Saint-Germain limited by the summer arrival of Sweden forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Liverpool is keen to do a deal with Sturridge, but is also determined to get value for money out of the deal.

The club has spent more than £30 million in agent fees over the last four years, and owners Fenway Sports Group want to reduce that amount.

Ashley Williams Is A Reported Target For Liverpool

Liverpool is set to renew their interest in Swansea defender Ashley Williams in January, according to Sky Sports.

The 28-year-old Wales international has attracted attention from a host of Premier League clubs, as he continues to impress in only his second season in England's top-flight.

Reds boss Brendan Rodgers knows Williams well from his time in charge in New South Wales, and reports suggest he could be planning to entice him to Anfield when the transfer window reopens in the New Year.

Liverpool boasts a strong central defensive partnership already with Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger, and has Sebastien Coates and club veteran Jamie Carragher in reserve.

But, Rodgers is believed to be keen to find a long-term replacement for Liverpool's record appearance-maker, as he enters the twilight of his career.

Williams tops the Premier League's defensive charts for blocks, interceptions and pass completion, so it's easy to see why he is a target for a number of sides, including Newcastle United.

With that in mind, Liverpool will face a fight to secure his signature, with Swansea boss Michael Laudrup equally eager to keep his captain at the Liberty Stadium.

Tottenham & Liverpool Striker Target Available For £15million

David Villa will be allowed to leave Barcelona in January, and will be available for £15 million with Tottenham and Liverpool among the clubs interested in the striker, according Marca.

The Spanish newspaper also reports that the former Valencia forward will be allowed to leave for £10 million in the summer if he cannot complete a move away from the Nou Camp in the winter window.

Villa has fallen out of favour at the Nou Camp and hasn’t completed a full 90 minutes since returning from breaking his leg in the Club World Cup final last year.

According to Marca, Villa is unhappy with his lack of chances and sees his future away from Barcelona. The £40 million signing in 2009 is said to open to move in January, with Spurs and Liverpool said to be amongst a host of clubs vying for his signature.
Both Tottenham and Liverpool look short of options in attack and could be ready to make a move for the 31-year-old in January or at the end of the season.

Liverpool appear close to landing Chelsea forward Daniel Sturridge but could still look to add options in attack in January given that Luis Suarez and the injured Fabio Borini represent their only options up front.

Tottenham meanwhile have only Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor to lead the line at White Hart Lane, with the Togolese striker currently struggling with injury.

Both Spurs and Liverpool could move to sign Villa in the new year or at the end of the current campaign, although his high wages could prove prohibitive for both clubs.

Liverpool To Be Priced Out Of Move For Benfica Star

Liverpool target Nemanja Matic is set to sign a new contract at Benfica that will increase his buy-out clause to £24.6m.

The former Chelsea youngster has established himself in the first-team at the Portuguese club this season following the departure of Javi Garcia to Manchester City.

And that has led to speculation linking him with Liverpool, who is keen to sign a midfielder to bolster Brendan Rodgers' options in the centre of the pitch.

But O Jogo have reported that Matic is on the verge of signing a new contract at Benfica that will see his deal extended to the summer of 2018 and his buy-out clause increased to €30m (£24.6m).

And that seems certain to end Liverpool's pursuit of the 24-year-old Serbian international.

No Liverpool Deal For Ince, Claims Blackpool Manager

Blackpool manager Michael Appleton has denied that Liverpool already have a deal in place for coveted winger Tom Ince, but has admitted the Merseyside club have been in contact regarding the England U21 international.

Reports earlier the week suggested that Liverpool had come to an agreement with Blackpool over the January transfer of the 20-year-old, in addition to agreeing a deal with Chelsea for Daniel Sturridge. But while there have been talks between the club, Appleton has revealed that Liverpool’s offer fell well short of the Tangerines’ valuation of the player.

"I think there's been a conversation between (chairman) Karl Oyston and Liverpool about an offer,” Appleton told BBC Radio Lancashire.

"But as far as I'm aware, its way below the type of money we'd expect for someone of Tom's talent."

Liverpool reportedly lodged a bid in the region of £6million for Ince, who has also been targeted by Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. Ince was released by Liverpool just 18 months ago after he was deemed to be not of a sufficient standard for the club, but Brendan Rodgers appears to be keen to re-enlist the winger, However, Appleton is not considering life after Ince just yet.

"He'll continue to play as long as we hold his registration," the Blackpool boss continued.

"I wouldn't say I'm resigned to losing him just yet though. There's still a lot of work that we feel has to be done before anything like that happens."

Liverpool Star Set To Be Redknapp's First Signing

Out of favour Liverpool midfielder Joe Cole is set to be Harry Redknapp's first signing as QPR manager when the January transfer window opens.

The 31 year old has struggled to establish himself under Brendan Rodgers after he returned from a season long loan spell at Lille in the summer and now Redknapp hopes to take Cole to Loftus Road on loan for the rest of the season according to the Daily Express.

The former England star is on a £90,000-a-week deal at Anfield and while QPR owner Tony Fernandes is prepared to cover most of that sum, he wants to come to a deal with Liverpool in which they pay a portion of it.

Redknapp is today set to sit down with Fernandes with a list of his requirements for January, mainly loan deals. Apart from Cole, who was with him at West Ham, they include Nicolas Anelka, Peter Crouch and Kenwyne Jones.

Andy Carroll Wants Newcastle United Return

Liverpool’s £35million striker Andy Carroll has reportedly given up on making at Anfield and wants to return home to play for his boyhood club.

Carroll’s famously expensive move from Newcastle United to Merseyside looks to have finally been written off and he wants to return to St James’ Park, according to the Daily Star.

The report claims manager Brendan Rodgers has told the 23-year-old his career at Anfield is over and that he is free to leave in the summer.

Carroll is currently on loan at fellow Premier League side West Ham United after being allowed to leave on transfer deadline day.

Former manager Kenny Dalglish signed the England international in January of 2011 as a replacement for Fernando Torres after the Spaniard’s £50million transfer to Chelsea.

Struggling with injury and form, Carroll failed to impress for much of his first season and a disappointing eighth place finish last year for Liverpool saw Dalglish dismissed.

New manager Rodgers never appeared to have the tall striker in his plans and the Daily Star report suggest he does not see a future for Carroll at Anfield.

Lucas Close To Full Fitness

Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva feels he is close to being back to 100% following a frustrating spell with injuries.

A knee ligament problem restricted the Brazil international to just 15 appearances in 2011/12, while a thigh complaint has kept him sidelined for much of the current campaign.

Lucas has, however, been able to figure in Liverpool's last three fixtures, allowing him to edge his way towards full match sharpness.

He believes it will not take long for him to reach that level, with the busy festive period offering plenty of opportunities in which to get further game time under his belt.

"After a long time out and two difficult injuries, I'm just very happy to be back," Lucas told Liverpool's official website.

"I'm still progressing in terms of fitness, confidence and strength but I will get there again. I just need to be patient and when I get back to 100 per cent fitness and the level I was at before, the better it will be for myself and the team.

"In terms of fitness, I'm very close to being 100% but it's just a question of time and games, to be honest. It's very hard to predict how long it will take to get back to my best but I can see an improvement every week, especially in the training sessions.

"I'm starting to feel sharper and better every day so I try to take that into the games. It's important to play well at this crucial time over Christmas, especially because we have a lot of games."