Thursday, January 31, 2013

Match Report: Arsenal 2 - 2 Liverpool

Arsenal fought back from two goals down to draw with Liverpool in a thrilling Barclays Premier League clash at the Emirates Stadium.

Both sides knew defeat could prove fatal to their hopes of closing back up on the top four, but neither looked ready to settle for anything other than all three points in an open and entertaining match.

Liverpool took an early lead through Luis Suarez after terrible defending by Arsenal, and then looked to be in complete control when Jordan Henderson walked in a second on the hour.

However, as so often in a frustrating season, the Gunners suddenly burst into life as in-form Olivier Giroud reduced the deficit with a close-range header and Theo Walcott then rattled in an equalizer.

There were more chances at each end, but defeat for either side would have been an injustice.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers had recalled his regulars, making seven changes from the side humiliated at Oldham in the FA Cup on Sunday.

It was a bright start by the Reds, their travelling support displaying a banner protesting against the infamous £62 tickets for away fans.

An early slip by Bacary Sagna let Glen Johnson away down the left.

His cross into the Arsenal penalty area was miskicked by Thomas Vermaelen, just back from an ankle injury, and Wojciech Szczesny produced a good reaction save from Daniel Sturridge at the far post.

Midfielder Aaron Ramsey, though, failed to clear with a tame flick and the ball broke for Suarez, whose curling shot then deflected off Per Mertesacker to wrongfoot the goalkeeper.

Arsenal almost produced an immediate response as Walcott got ahead of Jamie Carragher, but his snapshot was straight at Jose Reina.

The match remained open, with Sturridge dragging an angled shot across the face of goal. Arsenal also continued to press, and Reina was again called into action as he turned a curling effort from Walcott around the post.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard then produced some desperate defending as he hooked Lukas Podolski's cross through the six-yard box behind.

The visitors, though, almost made it 2-0 on 27 minutes when Szczesny got nowhere near a corner from the left and Daniel Agger's header was hacked off the line by Podolski.

Arsenal was forced into a change before half-time when Kieran Gibbs hobbled off and Brazil defender Andre Santos came on.

Szczesny was almost caught out when rushing from his goal to close down Henderson on the left corner of the penalty area, but the Liverpool midfielder chipped the ball onto the roof of the net - much to the relief of the backpedalling Poland goalkeeper.

Arsenal came close to a leveller early in the second half when Podolski floated a pass from the left out to the far post, where Walcott arrived to head it just over.

It proved a costly miss as Liverpool extended their lead on the hour.

Henderson battled past Santos and into the right side of the penalty area, before then holding off two more defenders. As the ball bounced back off Ramsey's boot, he stabbed it past Szczesny.

Arsenal needed an immediate response, and got it on 64 minutes when Giroud planted a header into the far corner from Jack Wilshere's right-wing free-kick.

Before Liverpool could settle, the Gunners were level.

Santi Cazorla worked the ball out on the right side of the penalty area to Giroud. His lay-off teed up Walcott just outside the six-yard box and the England forward lashed an angled drive across Reina into the far corner.

Walcott curled a 20-yard effort just wide after running along the edge of the Liverpool box.

Gerrard was somewhat fortunate to only have been shown a yellow card by referee Kevin Friend after jumping in with his foot raised on Mertesacker.

The 6ft 7in German was, though, soon up again as he headed a free-kick from Wilshere just over at the near post.

Reina saved at full stretch from Giroud as Arsenal looked for a late winner, with the Frenchman then scuffing an effort from close range.

Suarez saw a late strike turned away by Szczesny in stoppage time as a thrilling encounter finally ended all square.

Rodgers: The Kids Are Alright

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has highlighted the positive performance of the club's youth brigade despite his squad letting a two-goal lead slip against Arsenal in the English Premier League.

Ready to forgive and forget for the shock FA Cup defeat to Oldham, Rodgers praised the ability of Liverpool's next generation to jump back from an abysmal performance.

And in a surprise about-face from the conciliatory 40-year-old, Rodgers said it was he who should shoulder the blame for Liverpool's untimely FA Cup exit.

"Sunday was more my fault than theirs," Rodgers admitted. "I'm a great believer in young players, I look at the depth of our squad and put a lot of trust in them.

"The problem is when I put them in and I don't have some of our big players its difficult. And that's how it as on Sunday. But I never had any second thoughts that I would get a reaction."

However, Wednesday's 2-2 draw at the Emirates Stadium was another blow for the Anfield club after Theo Walcott and Oliver Giroud cancelled out the earlier strikes of Luis Suarez and Jordan Henderson, leaving Liverpool three points behind its London rival and three spots outside a Champions League berth.

Jordan Happy To Make His Point

Midfielder Jordan Henderson said Liverpool were satisfied to be taking a point back to Merseyside after their thrilling 2-2 draw at Arsenal.

Luis Suarez and Henderson put Liverpool 2-0 up at the Emirates but Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott hit back with two quickfire second-half goals to level it up.

Henderson admitted there was some disappointment in the Liverpool changing room because they had let a two-goal lead slip - but insists that overall the mood was "positive."

"It was a good game of football. I thought we played well at times but we had a spell when they scored two goals when we were under pressure," he told Sky Sports.

"But overall I think we've got to go away positive, it's a good point - Arsenal are a good team.

"I think we've got to be happy but having gone 2-0 up, we're a little disappointed to have conceded two goals so quickly."

Henderson has now scored two in his last two games and after a difficult start to his Anfield career he admits he is finally enjoying himself.

"It's nice obviously to be getting chances and scoring as well but I think the team is helping me get in some great positions because of the movement of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge," he said.

"I think as a team we're playing quite well at the moment. We've just got to keep going and keep pushing up the league."

No More Signings At Liverpool, Insists Rodgers

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has claimed that it’s very unlikely they will sign any more players on transfer deadline day.

The Reds have already brought in Daniel Sturridge and Phillipe Coutinho during the January window as they look to strengthen their squad for a late assault on the top four.

But Rodgers reckons they won’t be doing any business, despite the usual late scramble for signings.

He said: “We got Sturridge in early on and obviously young Coutinho will be a terrific signing for us. He’ll add that excitement and offensive threat at the top end of the field.

“I can’t see any more coming in.”

Liverpool Unlikely To Sign Ince In January

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers admits that there is little chance of the club signing Blackpool winger Thomas Ince before the January transfer window closes.

The Reds boss has been keen on bringing the starlet back to Anfield, the 21-year-old having scored 15 goals in 27 appearances for Michael Appleton's side so far this season.

"It will be difficult. I don't think there'll be any more coming in," Rodgers told the post-match press conference after his team's 2-2 draw with Arsenal on Wednesday night.

"If Tom stays at Blackpool [in this window] it doesn't mean he will never come to Liverpool.

"We could've done the deal but it looks too complicated at this stage. It's about affordability as well."

Liverpool is believed to have tabled an offer of £6million for the highly rated winger but the bid falls short of the Seasiders' valuation of the player.

Premier League strugglers Reading have also made an attempt to snap up the youngster, with Brian McDermott hoping the lure of first-team football will convince Ince to move to the Madejski Stadium.

Liverpool Sign Inter Milan Midfielder

Liverpool has completed the £8.5m signing of Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho from Inter Milan.

The 20-year-old was granted a work permit by the Home Office after a hearing in London on Tuesday.

"I'm feeling very happy, it's a very important step in my career," Coutinho told Liverpool's official website.

"Liverpool is a great club with great players. We've always heard about Liverpool's history in Brazil. I know they believe in me and my football."

Southampton were also interested in Coutinho, who becomes Liverpool's second signing of the transfer window following the capture of striker Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea at the beginning of the month.

Playmaker Coutinho, who has one cap for Brazil, is a product of Vasco da Gama's youth system.

He was bought by Inter in 2008, at the age of 16, for €4m, although the Serie A side immediately loaned him back to Vasco, because foreigners are prohibited from playing professional football in Italy until they are 18.

However, he struggled to make an impact when he returned to Italy and spent half a season on loan at Spanish side Espanyol in January 2012 before attracting strong interest from Liverpool.

"We're always delighted when we get the players we go after," said Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre.

"It has been a successful transfer window for us, coming off the back of acquiring Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea and now Philippe from Inter Milan.

"I think that bodes well for us for the rest of the season and the future."

Coutinho Hails Liverpool’s History

Philippe Coutinho has paid tribute to Liverpool and their rich history after completing his £8.5million move to Anfield from Inter Milan.

The 20-year-old play-maker, who has signed a five-year-deal contract after completing a medical, moves to the Reds after turning down a switch to Southampton.

And according to Coutinho, it’s Liverpool’s history that made the transfer a no-brainer.

‘Liverpool is a great club with great players,’ said Coutinho.

‘We’ve always heard about Liverpool’s history in Brazil. They are the club that have been interested in me and that have showed this interest so I know they believe in me and my football.’

The switch comes about after Liverpool finally agreed terms with Inter over the weekend, having initially fallen behind to Southampton in the race.

Liverpool will pay the full price up front, and Coutinho says he is delighted after signing up and being handed the number 10 shirt.

‘I’m feeling very happy, it’s a very important step in my career and I’m expecting to come here and play good football to give my contribution on the pitch.’

We Had To Fight For Coutinho

Liverpool have confirmed the signing of Philippe Coutinho and managing director Ian Ayre has said that they had to fight off other clubs to capture the Brazilian.

Coutinho is the second January signing that the Reds have made during the January transfer window and Ayre hopes that the 20 year old can build on an impressive start to his career at Anfield.

"We're always delighted when we get the players we go after," Ayre told

"It has been a successful transfer window for us, coming off the back of acquiring Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea and now Philippe from Inter Milan.

"I think that bodes well for us for the rest of the season and the future.

"He's obviously a very young player but has already proved himself in the Brazilian U19s, U20s and a first cap. He has been a really important player for them and now for us.

"The most important thing is that he gets settled with training, the backroom staff get him involved and then get him on the pitch as soon as possible.

"We certainly fought off strong competition from others. In the early parts of discussions, I know Inter Milan were reluctant.

"But we did some good work, the whole team that work around this got involved and I'm pleased to say we secured him."

Diakite: Liverpool First Choice

“Liverpool is our first choice,” said the agent of Lazio defender Modibo Diakite, although only on a free transfer in June.

The 25-year-old centre-back has only made one Coppa Italia appearance this season due to a contract dispute, as he has refused to sign an extension and turned down several transfer opportunities.

“Liverpool is our first choice for June,” declared agent Ulisse Savini.

“It would be very difficult to say no to a club like that.”

Diakite has also been linked with Juventus in recent weeks and will be a free agent at the end of the season.

Liverpool Will Offer Gerrard A New Contract

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has hinted that the club will offer Steven Gerrard a new contract at the end of the season.

The club captain is contracted to Anfield until the summer of 2014, but the club is yet to enter serious discussions regarding an extension for the 32-year-old. After an injury-ravaged 2011/12 season, Gerrard has been ever-present in Rodgers’ side this season, helping maintain the balance between experience and youth in the side.

Gerrard has maintained an influential role in the Liverpool side under Rodgers’s management, and the former Swansea City boss’ comments strongly suggest the midfielder will be offered a new deal to keep him at Anfield beyond 2014.

"As yet I don't believe anything has been done [about a new contract]," Rodgers told The Guardian.

"Steven and I have spoken a number of times. His feeling the last time we spoke was to get through this season and see how that goes. His focus is on really helping the group to go forward.

"There's no doubt that, between now and the end of this season, the contract will be looked at. With each day that goes on, you see the real importance he still has to the club. At 32 years of age, he still looks so fit, strong, and you can see his influence on the team."

Despite his advancing years, Gerrard has featured in every minute of every Premier League game this season, underlining his continued influence in Liverpool’s young side.

Roy Hodgson Risks Liverpool Wrath

Roy Hodgson has decided Raheem Sterling should play in this summer's Under-21 European Championship in June but wants to keep Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with the senior team as he prepares for the next World Cup.

Hodgson has also decided to free up Manchester United's new signing Wilfried Zaha and Sterling's Liverpool team-mate Jonjo Shelvey for the Under-21 tournament in Israel after discussions with the team's manager, Stuart Pearce.

However, Hodgson's decision means the Under-21s will effectively be without their two best players and Pearce will be unable to build his team around Wilshere as he had wanted.

Hodgson's thinking is that Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain are now such an important part of the senior team it would be better to take them to Brazil for the 2 June friendly in the Maracanã and give them a taste of football in South America before England, qualification permitting, return for the World Cup next year.

The England manager's intentions will become clearer on Thursday when he excludes Sterling, Zaha and Shelvey from his 25-man squad for next Wednesday's game against Brazil at Wembley. All three were included in England's last game, the defeat by Sweden in November, but will miss out this time after Hodgson and Pearce agreed it would be better for the trio to be involved in the Under-21s game against Sweden in Walsall on Tuesday, with a view to preparing for this summer's tournament. Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain will stick with the senior side.

The move heads off another potential club-versus-country row with Arsène Wenger after his previous complaints about the England team putting Arsenal's players at the risk of burn-out. However, Hodgson's decision is not guaranteed to go down well at Liverpool, where there are similar concerns about Sterling in his breakthrough season. The 18-year-old has started 19 of Liverpool's 24 Premier League games and appeared in all six of their Europa League games. No other player at Anfield has been involved in more matches this campaign and Sterling's season will now not finish until potentially 18 June.

Hodgson, who has been giving strong consideration to calling up Chris Smalling, has debated his selection at length with Pearce and agreed that it would be better for Zaha, Sterling and Shelvey to get tournament experience rather than being involved in the trip to Rio. Hodgson would not relax his position, however, when it came to Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain. The provisional plan is for the two players to play against the Republic of Ireland on 29 May and then fly to Rio with the rest of the squad the following day.

The Football Association has spoken to its Brazilian counterpart about wearing black armbands at Wembley and possibly holding a minute's silence or applause for the victims of the nightclub fire in the South American country last weekend. The game also falls on the 55th anniversary of the Munich air disaster and the FA is looking at ways of commemorating both tragedies.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Match Preview: Arsenal vs Liverpool

Arsenal and Liverpool will go into their match at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday looking back up the table rather than down after victories in their last league outings.

Arsenal were back to their best in thrashing West Ham United 5-1, while Liverpool's fluid 5-0 demolition of Norwich City at Anfield left home fans wondering why they can't play like that every week.

Brendan Rodgers' side then lost at Oldham Athletic in the FA Cup, but he will no doubt be reminding his players of the highs they reached against the Canaries, not the lows of Boundary Park, as they head to north London for a crucial game in the two sides' respective bids for European qualification.

On paper, Arsenal look the favourites. They may have lost two of their last five matches, but those were against Manchester City and Chelsea, and their home form appears solid enough in the face of a Liverpool side that has struggled on the road this campaign.

Arsene Wenger's men have six wins and three defeats from 11 games at the Emirates, while Liverpool have won only three times away from Anfield and have leaked as many goals as they have scored - 18.

Where the visitors will take encouragement, though, is that there are goals to be had for away teams at the Emirates, with only one side in the top 15 having conceded more at home than Arsenal's total of 16.

Add in Arsenal's forwards seemingly reaching peak form and Luis Suarez being joined by Daniel Sturridge for Liverpool, and a high-scoring game could well be in the offing.

Arsenal will welcome back captain Thomas Vermaelen after he missed the win over Brighton with an ankle injury picked up against West Ham United.

Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla are all also poised to return after being rested for the FA Cup, but Mikel Arteta (calf) and Francis Coquelin (hamstring) are both still injured.

Gervinho is also unavailable as he is at the Africa Cup of Nations, while Lukasz Fabianski remains dogged by a foot problem.

Liverpool will be boosted by the return of three key men in their back line: Jose Reina, Jose Enrique and Glen Johnson.

Enrique has been out for a month with a hamstring tear, Reina missed two games with face and thigh injuries, and Johnson returns after being ruled out of the FA Cup defeat against Oldham Athletic with a hamstring problem.

Liverpool boss Rodgers is likely to revert to a more familiar line-up after heavily criticizing his young players for their performance at Boundary Park on Sunday.

Rodgers Looking For The Right Mentality

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has challenged his players to show the right mentality as they travel to Arsenal on Wednesday evening as the look to bounce back from the FA Cup exit to League One side Oldham.

Rodgers believes that there is a question mark over some of his players mentality and wants them to show just how much they care for the club on the pitch rather than just telling him how much they love it at Liverpool.

"I'm trying to piece together here a group who are mentally on the same wavelength," Rodgers explained.

"There are certainly question marks about the mental strength and not just in this period.

"They have to step up to the demands and do it week in, week out. If they don't they won't be here and that goes for both youth and senior players. This is a great season of learning for me in terms of what we have here.

"What I've found from working with players is that plenty of people tell you they care. The greatest benchmark and way I assess it is what people do physically.

"People tell me: 'I want to be in your team, I want to play and do this or that'. I say 'okay', but the minute they walk out the door I look to see what they do physically.

"What you do physically is your commitment mentally. If they are one of the last ones in in the morning and one of the first ones away in the afternoon, then really they don't care."

The Reds boss criticized his younger players in the clash with Oldham and even though he states he is fully behind them he wants them to start taking the opportunities that he presents them.

He added. "The young players know they have a manager here who is 150 per cent behind them.

"They have had great support since the first day I walked in here, but you can't be too nice to young players, especially the modern player.

"The modern player has been brought up differently to the likes of the Carraghers and the Gerrards. Being young doesn't exempt you from criticism.

"But they know they have a manager who will be up in the room going through their mistakes with them individually.

"We never leave them hanging out to dry. We will look at where they need to improve. But they have to understand the responsibility to play for such a club.

"You need resilience and steel. When you go to places like Oldham, you know what you're getting. It's not a Premier League game. You need to roll your sleeves up and fight. It was too soft.

"This is very much about the group. For me the pressure starts higher up the pitch, that's the first point. It was too easy for the ball to be played forward.

Walcott Wary Of Wounded Liverpool

Theo Walcott believes momentum is growing for Arsenal ahead of Wednesday's crucial Premier League clash with Liverpool at Emirates Stadium, but has warned that they cannot afford any more slip-ups if they are to succeed this season.

Walcott is predicting the clash with Brendan Rodgers' wounded men will be intense and has urged his team-mates to prove they can handle the pressure.

Liverpool were dumped out of the FA Cup by League One side Oldham on Sunday and Walcott is wary of the Anfield side as Arsenal go head to head against one of their main rivals for a top-four finish.

"Momentum in growing for us," Walcott told the Arsenal website. "It has been up and down, there have been patches of brilliance, but we need to do it in every game. We need to believe how good we are.

"We have tended to start slowly and then wake up and that's something we need to get out of our system. It's about being concentrated.

"The Liverpool game will be intense. Both teams are fighting for that fourth position and are very close together, but we are strong enough to beat them."

Borini Wants To Put Sunday's Defeat Right Against Arsenal

Liverpool forward Fabio Borini wants to put Sunday's embarrassing FA Cup exit to Oldham behind him as the Reds travel to Arsenal on Wednesday night.

Borini had been sidelined for four months following an ankle injury and made his first start against the League One side but was withdrawn after just 55 minutes as Liverpool trailed 3-1.

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers criticized his younger players after defeat and one of those could have been Borini, who wants to put the result right in the coming games.

He told media in Italy, "Physically, I am now at 100 per cent.

"On Sunday, it went wrong but now we have so many big games and opportunities to put it right."

After Liverpool this summer became Borini's fourth club in just three years as a senior professional, he is also now planning for a long career at Anfield.

"Roma is my past," the £10.5million signing said. "My present is Liverpool. If I am here, it is because Roma decided to sell me to Liverpool.

"In the last two years, I have changed many teams. Now I want to find stability at Liverpool".

Liverpool Boss Hopeful Of More Signings Before Transfer Deadline

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is hopeful the club can secure a couple more signings before this Thursday’s transfer deadline.

The former Swansea City boss had maintained before the window opened that he was looking to make a couple of additions to his Liverpool squad, but the club as of yet have brought in just one player in Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea.

Rodgers came under severe criticism following Liverpool’s shock FA Cup exit at the hands of Oldham on Sunday afternoon, an outing which highlighted Liverpool’s lack of squad depth. The Northern Irishman is hopeful the club can make an effort so somewhat rectify that add to the squad before the window slams shut.

"Sunday highlighted that when we do change the team around, we don't quite have that bit of depth yet,” Rodgers told a press conference ahead of Wednesday’s trip to Arsenal, the club’s official website reports.

"It was another marker in the fact that we want to develop and improve the group, and that's something that I'm sure we'll do over the coming windows.

The Reds have been heavily linked with a move for Inter Milan attacking midfielder Philippe Coutinho in the past weeks, with Inter reportedly ready to cash in on the 20-year-old as they look to secure their own swoop for Corinthians midfielder Paulinho. But Rodgers is hopeful the club can make at least two signings in time, but is prepared to wait until the summer if the right deals cannot be done.

"There's no number on it but we'll see what we can do before Thursday. If we don't get everything done that we would want - which we won't do, that's the reality - I have always said that it's going to take a few windows for us to get the squad competitive.

"If we can add another player, if not more, then great. If not, we'll look in the summer to keep the building process going."

Coutinho Completes Liverpool Medical

Inter forward Philippe Coutinho has completed his medical at Liverpool and is expected to confirm the move within hours.

The Brazilian playmaker is set to sign for the Premier League in a deal worth around €12m, with Sky Sport Italia confirming that his medical examination has been a success.

The 20-year-old has struggled to make an impression at San Siro since his arrival from Vasco da Gama in 2010.

The Brazil international has made just 47 appearances for the club, scoring five goals.

Liverpool Facing Transfer Fight Over Lazio Striker

Liverpool face a Premier League transfer battle in the race to sign Lazio striker Mauro Zarate.

The Reds are amongst a number of clubs to be linked with a move for the 25-year-old, with Sunderland and Stoke City also reported to be keen on the former Birmingham City loanee.

And, after struggling to make an impact at the Stadio Olimpico this season, Sky Sports understands that English sides are now weighing up a move for the player in the final days of the January transfer window.

Zarate began his career at Velez Sarsfield, spending three years at the Estadio José Amalfitani before joining Al-Sadd.

During his time with the Qatari outfit, the player enjoyed loan spells with Birmingham and Lazio before moving to the Eternal City permanently. But, after an impressive start to life with the Biancocelesti, the Argentine’s spell in Serie ‘A’ has gone down hill.

A spell on loan at Inter Milan last season did not lead to a permanent move, and Zarate now appears surplus to requirement under Vladimir Petković.

Liverpool has already strengthened in attack this month, with Daniel Sturridge joining Luis Suarez at Anfield.

However, manager Brendan Rodgers remains relatively light up-front on Merseyside, with Fabio Borini the only other senior option currently available to the Northern Irishman.

Zarate would certainly add another dimension to the Liverpool attack, but given his lack of football this season, a move would be seen as something of a gamble.

Liverpool To Miss Out On Sevilla Star

Liverpool look set to miss out on reported target Federico Fazio following the news that Sevilla have agreed in principle to sell the defender to St Zenit Petersburg.

Spanish newspaper AS reports that the Spanish club has accepted an offer in the excess of €6 million from the Russian champion.

Sevilla have found themselves in a position where they must offload one of their prized assets, and while selling one the club’s three key performers this season in Ivan Rakitic, Alvaro Negredo and Gary Medal has been considered, the club have opted to cash in on Argentine defender Fazio.

It had previously been suggested that Liverpool were planning on making an offer for Fazio, after the club failed to secure a move for Vergard Forren, who chose a move to Southampton.

However it would now appear that the 25-year-old is poised to join Zenit, with just personal terms and minor details of a payment plan reportedly left to be agreed.

Liverpool Ready To Loan Out Sebastian Coates

Liverpool is ready to give Sebastian Coates a break from Anfield by loaning him out before the transfer window closes.

Coates has failed to make an impression on Merseyside and under Brendan Rodgers has seen first team opportunities limited.

Rodgers is looking to do some last-minute business, and with Jamie Carragher hinting at a possible Anfield exit, sorting out the defence is one of his priorities.

Although no offers have come through for the player, Rodgers maintains that Coates could benefit from the loan experience.

He was quoted on ESPN, as saying: “I have said in the last couple of weeks that he is a player who I believe needs games and needs to go and play but obviously, I need to protect the club as well in relation to the size of the group.

"Everyone knows how small we are as a squad. There are still a few more days to go, so we'll assess that and take it from there.”

There have been fleeting moments of brilliance from Coates, most memorably the superbly executed goal he scored against QPR last season.

Forren Snubbed Liverpool On Solskjaer's Advice

Former Manchester United hot shot Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was vital to ­Southampton new-boy Vegard Forren to snubbing a move to Anfield.

Forren was offered a trial by Reds boss Brendan Rodgers before completing a £4million move to Saints from Molde, where United legend Solskjaer is manager.

Defender Forren, 24, will make his Premier League bow at Old Trafford tomorrow, said, “I never came close to joining Liverpool because Southampton felt right for me.

“There was a lot of interest from the Premier League but after coming here and speaking with the chairman I really felt wanted.

“Ole was very supportive of the move and I spoke with him a lot before coming here. He really wanted me to take this opportunity.”

Reds Into Al Kass Quarters

Liverpool's U18s booked their passage into the knockout stages of the Al Kass International Cup with a 0-0 draw against Esperance Sportive of Tunisia on Tuesday.

Jerome Sinclair struck in the Reds' opening encounter of the tournament and came close to adding another in the first half, while Ryan Kent nearly found the target during the second period.

But they could find no way past their African-based opponents and the game finished goalless.

The result leaves Steve Cooper's side with four points from two games in Group B and guarantees the youngsters a quarter-final spot.

After the match, Cooper told "It was tough game, because of the conditions and two games in two days. They were fresher than us - they were physical and athletic. The physical demands made it tough.

"But we were really pleased with the boys; they played with good style and created some really good chances. We looked really solid at the back - we played well.

"It was a different challenge - Monday was more tactical, it was about who could break the deadlock. Tuesday was more about resisting and letting our football take over. On another day, you take your chances.

"The competition is only going to get tougher. The stronger teams are going to get through. We've done okay but we know it's going to get tough and we need to play with even more focus. The lads are working really hard and playing positive football."

The quarter-finals get underway on Friday, with the final set to be held on Thursday, February 7. PSG were crowned the inaugural champions in 2012 after beating Juventus on penalties.

Final positions in the section will be decided on Wednesday, when Esperance face Aspire Qatar in the last group match. Depending on their eventual position, the Reds could meet one of three teams in the last eight.

Boca Juniors, Inter Milan and Yokohama are Liverpool's potential opponents at the next stage.

New Shirt Logo For West Brom Game

Liverpool will sport a new logo on their jerseys for the Anfield clash with West Bromwich Albion next month as they once again give their backing to Standard Chartered's 'Seeing is Believing' initiative.

Just as they did for the final home game of last season, the Reds will replace the logo of Standard Chartered with Seeing is Believing - our main sponsor's global campaign that raises funds to tackle avoidable blindness in developing countries.

Then, after the game is over, fans can bid for a shirt on eBay, with all money raised going towards Seeing is Believing.

In just nine years, more than 28 million people in the world's poorest communities have been helped by Seeing is Believing, preventing and treating avoidable blindness.

It is Standard Chartered's official charity and has gone from strength to strength since the bank teamed up with LFC.

Last season's logo swap was just one of several events organized around the Chelsea game - known as the 'Perfect Match' - to help raise awareness of Seeing is Believing and its aims.

LFC Legends John Barnes and Robbie Fowler took blindfolded penalties in front of the Kop at half-time, while Steven Gerrard and Martin Skrtel also supported the campaign with a session at Melwood involving one of our LFC Foundation coaches.

The results of the campaign were outstanding. Tweets from celebrity fans Gary Barlow and John Bishop reached a combined following of 3.3 million fans, while social media updates from the club reached more than 9.9 million followers on a daily basis for five days.

Overall, this Seeing is Believing campaign reached more than 25,825,740 people, with US $140,000 raised to-date, as all donations were matched by Standard Chartered.

So successful was the project, it claimed two awards - scooping an accolade in the Best Corporate Social Responsibility Campaign category at the Football Business Awards in London and winning the Corporate Social Responsibility Campaign of the Year gong at the North West Football Awards.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Match Report: Oldham 3 - 2 Liverpool

Striker Matt Smith chose the perfect occasion to score his first goals at Boundary Park as his first-half double helped npower League One Oldham produce an FA Cup upset in beating Liverpool.

The 23-year-old, who 18 months ago was playing non-league football with Solihull Moors, had the best day of his fragmented professional career after giving the Reds' defence a torrid time.

He scored either side of Luis Suarez's 21st of the season in the first half before Reece Wabara's header put the Latics into the last 16 despite Joe Allen's goal 11 minutes from time.

It was the first time Liverpool had been beaten away from home in the FA Cup by a team at least two divisions below them since defeat at non-league Worcester City in 1959.

Smith had given up on professional football after being released by Cheltenham aged 18 and went on to gain a degree in International Management with American Studies from the University of Manchester.

While studying he played for the likes of Redditch United, Droylsden and Solihull Moors - where he was spotted by Oldham.

Prior to this game he had scored only scored seven times in 60 appearances for the Latics but none will have been as enjoyable as his two in the first half against the seven-time FA Cup winners from the Barclays Premier League.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers' decision to alter three of the back four among six changes proved calamitous as infrequent starter Sebastian Coates had a game to forget.

Oldham, with only one win in their last nine games, had beaten progressively higher-ranked opposition in Kidderminster, Doncaster and Nottingham Forest to reach the fourth round for the first time in five years.

But it was not fate which got them through as the Latics' no-nonsense, battling approach deservedly put them ahead.

Smith gave indication of his threat in just the third minute with the sort of goal you associate with a player of his physical stature.

Youssouf M'Changama swung over a cross from the left and the 23-year-old used every inch of his 6ft 6in frame to out-muscle Coates and head past Brad Jones.

The first half had an edge to it as Oldham, having taken one point from a possible 24 in the league, tried to close the gap of 56 places with endeavour and exuberance.

However, it was Liverpool youngster Raheem Sterling who was first to be booked for challenge on M'Changama which ultimately forced the Oldham midfielder off after just 10 minutes.

Robbie Simpson, a scorer at Anfield in Oldham's 5-1 third-round defeat last season, was also cautioned for going in on Jones after the goalkeeper had failed to hold the ball - which turned out to be a pre-cursor of what was to come.

Former Everton midfielder Jose Baxter did his best to make life difficult for the red half of Merseyside, twice shooting wide from distance, but it was Suarez who was next to feature and significantly so.

The Uruguay international, captaining the side, set off on a driving run from deep and looked to pass but got a lucky rebound off defender Cliff Byrne and reacted quickly to hammer the ball inside Dean Bouzanis' left-hand post.

It was his fifth goal in six FA Cup appearances and his eighth strike in as many games.

His touch to Jordan Henderson's inswinging free-kick then diverted the ball into the net only to be denied by an offside flag.

Sterling should have scored after Suarez's pass was backheeled into his path by Fabio Borini but he shot straight at the keeper.

But Oldham remained unbowed as they took great heart from the physical battles they were winning and were rewarded with a second goal moments before the interval.

Smith, who had already had a header tipped over by Jones in added time, converted the simplest of chances after a howler by the Liverpool goalkeeper who fumbled Wabara's cross to allow Simpson to square a pass for the striker to poke home.

Borini had the chance to equalize from Jack Robinson's cross with the second half less than a minute old but he side-footed over and it proved costly.

The visitors' defensive fallibility in the air was exposed again as Carl Winchester swung a cross to the far post and Wabara rose above Robinson to head over Jones into the far corner.

Steven Gerrard's introduction from the bench was not long in coming and the England captain soon had a shot blocked from which Daniel Sturridge blazed over.

Allen pulled one back with 11 minutes to go to with a shot which deflected in off Baxter but Oldham held on to reach the fifth round for the first time in 19 years.

Rodgers Disappointed By Liverpool Youngsters

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers expressed disappointment with his young players following the Reds' shock FA Cup defeat to Oldham Athletic.

The Northern Irishman gave the likes of Jack Robinson, Andre Wisdom and Sebastian Coates an opportunity to start at Boundary Park but saw his side end up on the wrong end of a 3-2 result.

"We were coming here in good form and obviously we are bitterly disappointed," Rodgers told BBC Sport.

"I was bitterly disappointed with the young players as they had a chance to show they can play for Liverpool and compete for a club that has to challenge for trophies.

"We lost our concentration, and only had spells in the last 35 minutes when we were at the right level. Congratulations to Oldham, though.

"Our mentality was poor and it ended up costing us.

"We are trying to give [young players] experience and let them see what it's like to play for Liverpool, but you've got to be able to be competitive and part of a group that is going to challenge for trophies.

"If you are going to win trophies and go far, then you need to come to places like Oldham and win. We were not good enough.

"Gerrard has come on with Stewart Downing and, for 35 minutes we were terrific, but it was too late then. We were 3-1 down and it was not good enough.

"But I can't rely on Steven for 70 games. He's been incredible, but he shouldn't be expected to have to come and win games on his own.

"You can't be comfortable at Liverpool. The youngsters are never allowed to be. This is a different type of football to the Premier League and you have to stand up and be counted."

Inter President Urges Coutinho To Make Liverpool Switch

Inter Milan president Massimo Moratti has urged Coutinho to take the opportunity to move to the Premier League, as Liverpool attempt to bring the young Brazilian to Anfield before the transfer window closes.

Brendan Rodgers has been hopeful of making the attacking midfielder his second signing of the January transfer window following the arrival of Daniel Sturridge at the beginning of the month. The club has already made two bids for the 20-year-old in recent weeks, and it is thought that the two clubs are close to coming to an agreement on a fee for the player, boosted by Moratti’s latest comments.

"There are certain opportunities that should be taken," Moratti said, ESPN report. "Sometimes players are able to get more playing time, and so I think it could be a great opportunity for Coutinho and a deal that might work out well for us."

Southampton has previously been in the running for Coutinho, with Saints reportedly ready to outbid Liverpool for the Brazilian. A €13.7 million bid could be enough for the Merseyside outfit to get their man, with Inter keen to secure the funds needed to push through a move for Corinthians midfielder Paulinho.

Liverpool Taking A Look At Christian Benteke

Aston Villa fear that a selection of the top Premier League clubs want to sign their prized asset Christian Benteke.

The Belgian has already scored 11 goals for a struggling Aston Villa side and the Daily Mail believe that Champions Manchester City, Tottenham, Liverpool and Arsenal have all expressed their interest in signing him.

Benteke was signed for £7.5 million in the summer from Genk and they feel that despite the interest they will be able to keep hold of him until the summer but they could struggle to keep him, especially if they were to get relegated.

Villa fans will be concerned given the history of owner Randy Lerner when it comes to the club’s top players. He has cashed in on the likes of Ashley Young, Stewart Downing, James Milner and Gareth Barry in recent years.

Chelsea & Liverpool Scramble For Vitesse Arnhem Star

Vitesse Arnhem are ready to sell Wilfried Bony before the end of the transfer window and this has caught the attention of Premier League duo Chelsea and Liverpool.

The 24 year old is contracted at the Dutch club until 2015 and is currently away at the African Cup of Nations, but Vitesse general manager Erwin Kasakowski has said that they will not stand in his way if a big club comes in.

"We have promised Wilfried that we will consider any serious offers from him that would take him a step higher," he told AD. "But it must be good for both parties.

"Currently we have received no bids, and frankly we would rather Wilfried stays."

Russian side CSKA Moscow is also tracking the forward and could ramp up their interest before the close of the transfer window.

Bony has scored 16 goals in 18 league outings this term after striking 17 times last season.