Saturday, August 31, 2013

Match Preview: Liverpool vs Manchester United

Liverpool will be aiming to celebrate the birth of their most famous manager Bill Shankly with victory over arch-rivals Manchester United.

Monday marks 100 years since the birth of Shankly and the home fans would see victory over United as the ideal birthday present for the Liverpool legend.

Brendan Rodgers' side go into the game above United in the table after winning their opening two games of the season and they will be looking to set down a marker against the reigning champions.

Rodgers lost both meetings with United last season and breaking his duck against their old foes would be a major boost to their top-four aspirations.

United boss David Moyes has never won at Anfield during his time in charge of Everton and he will be seeking to end that record on Sunday.

United have won their last three league meetings against Liverpool 2-1, with Robin van Persie scoring in both fixtures last season.

Andre Marriner is the man in the middle for what should be as usual a passionate, fiery encounter between England's two most successful club sides.

Jose Mourinho went to Old Trafford on Monday night and shut up shop, making sure Chelsea didn't get beat. He put the pressure on Man United and they didn't do enough. This is now a big game for David Moyes because if they lose to Liverpool a few questions will be asked. They've had a tough start and if they go unbeaten in the first three games, I think that will be positive. However, if they lose the game, then that'll be two big games against big rivals that he hasn't won.

Liverpool has a number of injury concerns to contend with before Brendan Rodgers finalises his line-up.

Defensive duo Kolo Toure and Aly Cissokho and midfielder Joe Allen picked up injuries during the midweek Capital One Cup win over Notts County.

If Toure fails to recover from his groin problem, Liverpool is hoping that Martin Sktrel will recover from a knee injury to take his place alongside Daniel Agger in the heart of their defence.

Luis Suarez remains absent for Liverpool as he serves the eighth game of his 10-match ban meaning the in-form Daniel Sturridge will continue to lead the attack.

Sebastian Coates is a long-term absentee for Liverpool as he recovers from a cruciate knee injury.

Wayne Rooney could keep his place in the starting XI after impressing against Chelsea on Monday night.

Phil Jones is expected to shake off a back injury he picked up against Chelsea to start at right-back in place of the injured Rafael.

United boss David Moyes has no other injury concerns to deal with as he prepares for his first experience of Manchester United versus Liverpool at Anfield.

Moyes Prepared For Anfield Reception

David Moyes expects a fiery reception from Liverpool fans when he takes Manchester United to Anfield for the first time on Sunday.

Having managed city rivals Everton and the Reds' arch-enemies, the Scot knows that he will not be a popular man inside the stadium but is relishing the occasion.

United won on their last visit and completed the double over Brendan Rodgers's side later in the season while Moyes has never won at Anfield, only tasting victory on three occasions against Liverpool, but he is confident of turning that record around.

"Everybody tells me about the big rivalry between Liverpool and United and it was certainly there when I was at Everton as well," he told the press. "I would think I'll get as good a reception as I did with Everton.

"It has always been a difficult place to go but I am looking forward to going back there."

Toure Could Be Fit To Face United

Liverpool defender Kolo Toure could make a surprise return to action against Manchester United, just days after being stretchered off with a suspected groin injury.

Toure was stretchered from the field in the early stages of extra-time in the Capital One Cup win over Notts County and afterwards Brendan Rodgers admitted the Ivorian could be out for some time.

However, the injury is not as bad as first thought and Rodgers has hinted that he could be available for the visit of the champions.

“His injury is nowhere near as bad as what we thought. We’ll just assess that over the next 24/48 hours,” Rodgers said at his pre-match press conference.

“I think we were all thinking that he might be out for longer after the game, but he’s made an excellent recovery. The diagnosis isn’t anywhere near as bad as we thought, so we’ll see how he is for this weekend.

Liverpool prepare Move For Deni Hocko

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is preparing a move for a player dubbed the 'next Pirlo', Deni Hocko, according to the Daily Star.

The Reds are in a battle with Premier League new-boys Crystal Palace for the youngster’s signature and sources in Italy have claimed that both sides have contacted Buducnost Podgorica over his availability.

Hocko has represented the Montenegrin national side at Under-17, U19 and U21 levels and has impressed going up the ranks.

Rodgers is also reportedly interested in Richairo Zivkovic, a Serbian youngster, who is currently FC Groningen's youngest ever goalscorer.

FC Groningen director Hans Nijland has revealed Liverpool's interest in their star, saying: "All the top clubs in Holland want him but Liverpool are here every week too.

"They are watching him closely and are very keen."

Liverpool is currently preparing to take on Manchester United at Anfield in a crunch game this Sunday.

Rodgers' side have started the Premier League season well, with two victories out of two and are yet to concede a league goal.

However, they face their biggest challenge yet as they welcome David Moyes' side to Merseyside.

Liverpool Set To Capture Ilori

Liverpool is on the verge of announcing the signing of Tiago Ilori from Sporting Lisbon.

Manager Brendan Rodgers has been in the market for a new defender after seeing injuries to Kolo Toure, Aly Cissokho and Sebastian Coates spread his options at the back very thin.

The highly-rated centre back has been attracting the interest of big European clubs but Liverpool look to have agreed a deal in the region of £8m according to the Mirror.

The 20-year-old, who was born in London, joined Sporting’s youth setup in 2006 and has progressed into the first team becoming one of the most highly-sought after talents in Europe during the process.

The Portuguese youngster has represented his national side at U18, U19 and U20 level but does have the option to play for England as his father is English.

His father and agent have apparently flown into London to complete the deal and he could be unveiled by the beginning of next week.

Liverpool Move For Shay Given

Liverpool is closing in on a shock move for Aston Villa goalkeeper Shay Given, according to reports.

Given had been linked with dropping down into the Championship in a bid to gain first team football after he failed to displace Brad Guzan at Villa Park.

However, according to the Daily Mail, Brendan Rodgers is aiming to bring in experienced back-up for Simon Mignolet, whom he brought into replace Pepe Reina in June, and has identified Given as being an ideal. Should talks go smoothly, a deal could be completed before the weekend.

The Reds have been busy during the transfer window and look to continue their movement in the transfer window after Kolo Toure sustained a groin injury in League Cup on Tuesday night against Notts County.

Liverpool Suffer Alderweireld Setback

Liverpool looks set to miss out on defender target Toby Alderweireld, according to the Daily Mail.

Brendan Rodgers had been keen to bring the 24-year-old stopper to Anfield, and was hopeful of securing the player's signature ahead of the September 2 deadline.

But Atletico Madrid have jumped to the head of the queue, with Alderweireld - who has just one year remaining on his Ajax contract - opting for a move to La Liga over an Anfield switch.

Alderweireld has not been short of admirers this summer, with the likes of Everton, Norwich and Tottenham all linked to the Belgian international.

Ajax have accepted numerous offers for the versatile defender, with Spartak Moscow coming closest to landing the £5 million-rated star, only for Alderweireld to reject a move to Russia.

However, the lure of playing Champions League football with Atletico proved to be too good an opportunity to miss, and Alderweireld is expected to complete his move to the Spanish capital imminently, paving the way for Manchester City to tie up a deal for Martin Demichelis.

Liverpool must now turn their attentions elsewhere, as boss Rodgers continues in his search for defensive reinforcements.

Injuries to summer signing Kolo Toure and Sebastian Coates - as well as persistent rumours linking Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger with an Anfield exit - led the Liverpool chief into stepping up his search for a new defender.

With the Reds' missing out on Alderweireld, Joleon Lescott has been touted as a possible alternative, with a reported £7.5 million bid likely to be enough to prize the England international away from the Etihad stadium.

Allen Misses Wales' World Cup Qualifiers

Liverpool's Joe Allen will miss Wales' World Cup qualifiers against Macedonia and Serbia.

Midfielder Allen was injured playing for his club against Notts County in the 4-2 win at Anfield on Tuesday night in the Capital One Cup.

Allen joins Swansea City's Neil Taylor on the sidelines.

They will be replaced in Chris Coleman's squad by David Vaughan of Sunderland and Ashley Richards of Swansea City.

There were fears over Aaron Ramsey's fitness after the midfielder suffered a groin injury late on in Arsenal's Champions League win over Fenerbahce.

Ramsey finished the match on the bench but is expected to be available for Sunday's North London derby against Tottenham.

Fellow midfielder Allen limped off with a hamstring injury during Liverpool's victory over Notts County.

Defender Taylor is not included after being ruled out for four to six weeks after suffering severe bruising on his thigh during Swansea's Europa League win over Petrolul Ploiesti last week.

Liverpool Defender Set For Six-Week Layoff

Liverpool has been hit with the news that defender Aly Cissokho will miss up to six weeks with an ankle injury.

25-year-old Cissokho, who arrived on Merseyside from La Liga outfit Valencia this summer, picked up the problem during the early stages of the Reds' dramatic 4-2 victory over Notts County in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday that was sealed by extra-time strikes from English duo Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson.

Despite initial hopes that he might be able to shake off the injury and feature in the coming weeks, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers confirmed the French international is set for an extended spell on the sidelines.

"Young Aly Cissokho will be slightly different - he could be out for four to six weeks, which is a blow because he came in and trained really well last week," Rodgers was quoted by Sky Sports.

"He's on crutches at the moment and we'll look at that over the coming weeks."

Liverpool, who won both of their opening Premier League fixtures against Stoke City and Aston Villa without conceding a single goal, are set for a far sterner test of their top four credentials on Sunday as they host champions and fierce rivals Manchester United.

Young Reds Suffer Barca Loss

Liverpool's Academy youngsters suffered disappointment when they lost 3-0 to Barcelona in the final of the prestigious Soccer World Challenge in Japan.

Led by coaches Stephen Torpey and Dave Rowe alongside Academy technical director and head of coaching Rodolfo Borrell, the U13 squad had produced a brilliant performance to beat Kashiwa Reysol 4-0 in the semi-final.

Reysol are the Japan champions at U13 level and had only conceded one goal in their first five games of the tournament.

However, fatigue played a big part in the showpiece final as the U13 squad struggled in the heat and humidity as they lost to a strong Barcelona team.

Despite the loss it was an invaluable experience for the youngsters who won seven out of eight games in the competition.

Borrell told "We are really proud of the lads. They performed brilliantly in this tournament and they were a real credit to the club."

Friday, August 30, 2013

Luis Suarez Could Return For United Clash

Luis Suarez could make his long-awaited return for Liverpool in the Capital One Cup encounter with Manchester United, if the Uruguay international stays on Merseyside beyond next week's transfer deadline.

The 26-year-old's future has been the subject of intense speculation this summer after stating he hoped to leave Liverpool during the transfer window, with Arsenal and Real Madrid emerging as potential destinations.

Arsenal made two formal offers for Suarez but, with Arsene Wenger now having conceded defeat in his pursuit of the player, Real Madrid would appear to be the only likely candidates to sign him.

Real Madrid, however, remain focused on the acquisition of Gareth Bale in the final days of the window, and would have to shift a number of players before being able to launch a bid for Suarez.

The Uruguayan has now returned to full training with Liverpool after initially being banished from the first-team by manager Brendan Rodgers, and the most likely outcome after September 2 would appear to be him staying with Liverpool.

Should this transpire, Liverpool's match against Manchester United at Old Trafford on September 24/25 would be the first game in which Suarez would be eligible to play following the end of his 10-match suspension for biting Branislav Ivanovic.

A return against Manchester United would seem to be a fitting way for Suarez to re-enter the English game given the controversy he has courted for the duration of his time as a Liverpool player.

Gerrard Confident Liverpool Can Contend For Premier League Title

Steven Gerrard has suggested that he thinks Liverpool can close the gap on Manchester United and Chelsea this season and therefore challenge for the Premier League title, it has been reported.

Sky Sports reported that the Liverpool captain is confident that his side can challenge for the top spot this season and are hoping to continue their 100% start to the season against United at Anfield this weekend.

The article reported comments made by Gerrard to the Liverpool Echo about trying to keep up with teams like Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City.

He said, “Each year we have been trying to close the gap. That’s something we have been trying to do for a long time, not just with changes in the summer.”

However the midfielder did reveal that this year was different, “It does feel slightly different this year. The team spirit is really good and there is belief within the squad.”

“The changes the manager has made during the summer are really positive and hopefully there are still one or two more players to come in.”

Gerrard is hoping that the team’s recent form winning three on the trot will help them against their old rivals Manchester United, “We know it’s going to be a very tough match, but we’re at home and have got to take the game to them.”

Gerrard has never won the Premier League in his career at Liverpool with his best finish being second in both the 2001-2 and 2008-9 seasons.

Despite not winning the domestic league with Liverpool, he has lifted the Champions League, UEFA Cup, FA Cup and League club at the club.

Liverpool Rushing To Complete Sakho Deal

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has admitted that Liverpool are looking to add Paris Saint-Germain defender Mamadou Sakho to their squad after watching two of his defenders go off injured in their Capital One Cup tie against Notts County on Tuesday night.

Summer signings Kolo Toure and Aly Cissokho both suffered injuries as Liverpool needed extra time to beat Notts County on Tuesday night, leaving Rodgers extremely short of options.

The Daily Mail report that Sakho is Rodgers’ first port of call with Liverpool set to face Manchester United on Sunday.

Martin Skrtel, who has been linked with a move to Napoli this summer, is fit to face United, however, bringing back a possible partnership with Danish defender Daniel Agger, the article suggests.

“Kolo Toure has overstretched his groin, so we need to assess that, which doesn't look so good to be honest,” said Rodgers after the match.

“It was obviously disappointing with Cissokho getting injured so early on - he was distraught coming off as you can imagine.”

Daniel Sturridge scored twice to raise his goal tally to four from three games, whilst Raheem Sterling opened the scoring for his first goal of the season.

Jordan Henderson made sure of the victory in extra time after Notts County had clawed back a 2-0 deficit through Yoann Arquin and Adam Coombes, setting up a possible upset.

Liverpool Make Offer For Ukrainian Star

Liverpool has tabled a £19.7m bid for Dynamo Kyiv striker Andriy Yarmolenko according to reports from Ukrainian newspaper Gazeta.

The 23-year-old is highly-rated in the Ukrainian league and was described by Andriy Shevchenko as a ‘great player.’

He has featured 126 times for Kyiv scoring 44 goals and is a versatile through the middle or as an attacking wide man.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has spoken of his desire to further strengthen his side before the window shuts in four days and see’s Yarmolenko, who has been capped 32 times for his country, as a perfect acquisition to his squad.

They may have to face a battle with Italian giants AC Milan after Shevchenko recommended the player to his former club.

If the deal does come off, it will cast doubts on the future of Luis Suarez whose future continues to be in limbo following his intentions to leave Anfield before making a dramatic U-turn and stating his desire to stay with the club.

Liverpool Open Talks Over Deals For Alderweireld & Ilori

Liverpool has opened talks with Sporting Lisbon over Tiago Ilori and Ajax for Toby Alderweireld as the club look to strengthen their defensive options.

The Reds, who are already without the injured Martin Skrtel and Sebastian Coates, lost Kolo Toure to a groin problem this week and are short of centre back cover.

But manager Brendan Rodgers hopes to rectify that with the double signing of Sporting ace Illori and Ajax hard man Alderweireld.

Illori, a Portugal under-20 international, was born in London and is keen to try his hand in the Premier League after breaking through in Lisbon.

Liverpool is believed to be ready to offer £6million for his services, and believe he would accept a switch to Anfield over the Spanish clubs who are tracking him.

A deal for Alderweireld is more complicated, with Atletico Madrid and Roma both already in negotiations over a switch, but the player has admitted his desire to play for Liverpool before – and that could be key.

Liverpool are expected to put in a £10million bid before the weekend, but consider PSG’s Mamadou Sakho as another option if the transfer doesn’t go ahead.

Liverpool & Villa Front-Runners In Ba Race

Liverpool and Aston Villa are preparing bids for FC Porto's Senegalese defender Abdoulaye Ba, according to reports in France.

Ba is understood to have resolved to leave Porto, after spending the vast majority of last season on the bench.

The 22-year-old made just six appearances in the Primeira Liga last year and played eight times for Porto's reserve team, who feature in the Segunda Liga.

Liverpool and Villa are two of several clubs believed to be monitoring Ba's situation at Porto, with French sides Rennes and Nice also having expressed an interest.

Porto are understood to prefer a loan deal but may even consider putting a transfer on hold altogether if fellow centre-back Eliaquim Mangala leaves the club.

Mangala has been strongly linked with a switch to Manchester City, who is reportedly ready to meet the player's buyout clause at Porto, believed to be in the region of £38.5 million.

Liverpool To Make Fresh Bid For Papadopoulos

Liverpool look set to launch a fresh offer for Schalke star Kyriakos Papadopoulos.

The Anfield side has been heavily linked with a move to the Premier League side, and his return to fitness could see a flurry of activity to try and secure his services.

Reds Boss Brendan Rodgers is a huge fan of the Greek star, although the Reds have been reluctant to pay the £13m Schalke wanted.

Liverpool are keen to try and land the 21-year-old on a season long loan, with a guaranteed fee of around £12m being mooted if the Greek star can stay injury free.

Papadopoulos was able to make just 10 appearances, down from 29 in 2011, with his long absence caused by the need for a knee operation in November to help deal with a persistent injury.

A national newspaper claims Schalke want to settle for an upfront cash deal but know they will have to compromise over a deal because of the player's long-term injury problems.

Schalke sporting director Horst Heldt revealed the club's stance on Papadopoulos' future, saying they were willing to speak to Liverpool if they launch a bid for Papadopoulos.

He said: "There are a lot of clubs to take into account.

"We're going to speak to each other when it takes concrete form.

Liverpool To Miss Out On Juventus Striker

Liverpool and Everton look set to miss out on the signing of Juventus Alessandro Matri after he agreed a move in principle to join Serie A rivals AC Milan, according to talkSPORT.

Brendan Rodgers was known to be a keen admirer of the £10million-rated man, as he looks to add to his already much-changed Liverpool side.

But he won't be signing Matri this summer, alongside Everton manager Roberto Martinez. The newly-appointed Blues manager was also thought to be tracking the movements of the 29-year-old, but it looks like neither side will sign the striker.

Juventus were keen on selling Matri having added former Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez to their ranks this summer. This meant that Matri could not be promised game-time, something that he craves in order to break into the Italian national team.

Matri was also keen on playing Champions League football this season, something that the two Merseyside rivals cannot offer. However Milan can offer this to Matri, having already qualified for the group stages earlier this month.

With both Rodgers and Martinez both having lost out on the Italian international striker, their transfer interest looks set to move elsewhere as they continue to look for players to add to their respected squads.

Gerrard Blames Extra Time For Toure Injury

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard believes the whole team must accept responsibility for Kolo Toure's groin injury.

Brendan Rodgers' side were cruising 2-0 at half-time of Tuesday's Capital One Cup second-round tie against Notts County before a second-half lapse saw the game head into extra time.

Liverpool won 4-2 in the end, but the victory came at a price as Toure was carried off on a stretcher and is now doubtful for Sunday's Premier League encounter with fierce rivals Manchester United.

And Gerrard believes he and his team-mates have to share the blame for not beating the League One side in normal time.

"There's no doubt playing extra time was a blow for us," Gerrard is quoted as saying by The Liverpool Echo.

"Kolo's injury came in extra time. He wouldn't have done that during normal time. We have ourselves to blame for his injury. We have to take responsibility for that.

"There's an international break coming up, so fingers crossed he doesn't miss that many games for Liverpool."

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Match Report: Liverpool 4 - 2 Notts County

Daniel Sturridge scored twice as Liverpool survived a major scare against Notts County at Anfield to book their place in the third round of the Capital One Cup.

The Reds opened the scoring in the fourth minute through a fine solo effort from Raheem Sterling.

Sturridge then made the most of a defence-splitting pass from Steven Gerrard to put the hosts 2-0 up in the 29th.

That lead was the very least Liverpool deserved from a first half they utterly dominated and which also saw Gerrard and Daniel Agger hit the woodwork.

Their goalkeeper Simon Mignolet had been called upon shortly after Sterling's effort, though, to keep out a Joss Labadie free-kick.

And Sky Bet League One outfit County, perhaps feeling as if they had nothing to lose, then went at their opponents early in the second half and were rewarded with a headed goal in the 62nd minute from Yoann Arquin.

Liverpool looked to have regained control of the contest from there and Kolo Toure became their third player to hit the post when he might have done better.

But the visitors then stunned Reds fans by snatching an equalizer with six minutes of normal time remaining, substitute Adam Coombes slotting in.

County had penalty shouts turned down in extra-time when Enda Stevens went down under the attentions of Sterling in the box, and moments later Sturridge stroked in his second goal of the night and fourth of the season.

That strike was in the 105th minute and in the 110th, substitute Jordan Henderson cut through the County defence to wrap up the win for the Barclays Premier League side.

County were under pressure from the word go and Liverpool soon had the ball in the net.

Sterling, having collected the ball from Glen Johnson midway into the Magpies' half, proceeded to skip through their defence and into the box before firing home past goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski.

Three minutes later Gerrard sent a free-kick curling off-target.

But it was the visitors who then might have scored through a free-kick of their own, drilled by Labadie to bring a decent save out of Mignolet.

Aly Cissokho, on his first Liverpool start, had to come off soon after with an injury and was replaced by Agger.

Normal service then resumed as Gerrard powered over the bar from distance and then whipped a free-kick into the area which Agger headed against the post.

Joe Allen teed up Sturridge, who lifted a shot just beyond the corner of the net.

And after Sterling had also shot too high, the second goal duly arrived just before the half-hour mark as Sturridge collected Gerrard's delightful through-ball and cracked a shot in.

Agger's header from a corner was well kept out by Bialkowski, and Gerrard then struck the post having been put in on goal by Sterling.

County emerged after half-time looking intent on making an impression and after Labadie had sent a weak header wide, Callum McGregor drove into Mignolet's arms.

Bialkowski had little trouble dealing with a tame Glen Johnson effort and County were then suddenly back in the contest.

Manny Smith flicked a free-kick to Arquin and the striker beat his marker Andre Wisdom - who appealed unsuccessfully for offside - to nod past Mignolet.

That appeared to shock Liverpool into life and in the 69th minute the ball came to Toure in the danger zone, but he could only shoot against the post.

Sturridge then headed wide and Wisdom struck a lacklustre effort to Bialkowski.

But County were not done, and in the 84th minute Coombes found space in the box to finish from Arquin's cut-back and send the away section of Anfield into raptures.

Liverpool desperately scrambled for a late winner, with Agger's shot deflecting wide and Sturridge trying a clever chip that did not work.

The game went into extra time and the Reds, having made all three substitutions, were reduced to 10 men when Toure was carried off on a stretcher.

Towards the end of the first period Stevens went to ground in the area after contact from Sterling, but no penalty was awarded.

And soon after, Sturridge converted into the far corner, with Henderson then surging through County and applying a cool finish to restore the two-goal advantage.

Chelsea Line-Up £30m Player Exchange Deal For Suarez

After seemingly giving up on their pursuit of Wayne Rooney, Chelsea is lining-up a shock player-plus-cash swap deal involving Fernando Torres for Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, according to reports.

Chelsea has been chasing Rooney all summer but any potential deal for the Manchester United’s ace appears unlikely now that the striker has decided against submitting a transfer request to force his exit from Old Trafford.

This snub seems to have led to Jose Mourinho looking at other targets and Sport Direct News claims that the Blues are now ready to offer Liverpool £30m plus former striker Fernando Torres in exchange for unsettled hitman Suarez.

The Reds have so far resisted any attempts to lure the Uruguayan away from Anfield with Arsenal already seeing two bids rejected after Suarez went public with his desire to leave Merseyside in search of Champions League football. Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has recently claimed that his interest in the player is ‘dead’ and he’s moved on to target other strikers.

However, the 26-year-old remains unsettled at Liverpool and this report suggests that Brendan Rodgers may be tempted by Chelsea’s player-exchange offer as it provides him with a ready-made replacement, as well as a sizeable sum to reinvest in his squad before the window closes.

Rodgers men have also coped extremely well during Suarez’s absence – winning five and drawing one of the six games he’s been banned for so far – so it could give the Northern Irishman confidence that their is life without the controversial striker and persuade him to cash-in rather than keep hold of a disgruntled player.

The idea of Torres returning to Anfield is an intriguing one. After making himself a Kop hero, the Spaniard left under a cloud when he elected to join Chelsea in 2011 but many sections of the Liverpool support still hold him close to their hearts and may welcome him back after a failed stint at Stamford Bridge. Whether the 29-year-old would be willing to go back to Liverpool with his tail between his legs is another question though!

Liverpool Fail In Loan Bid For Juan Mata

Chelsea has rebuffed an approach from Liverpool to take Juan Mata on loan, talkSPORT understands.

The playmaker’s future has been the subject of intense speculation since the return of Jose Mourinho to Stamford Bridge.

The imminent arrival of Anzhi Makhachkala playmaker Willian for £30million has cast further doubt over the 25-year-old's first-team prospects, and Mata was reported to be attracting interest from Tottenham.

However, talkSPORT can reveal there has been no inquiry from the north London side for the World Cup winner and the only Premier League club to make a move is Liverpool.

The Reds wanted to take the attacking midfielder on loan, but that was quickly rejected, with Chelsea insisting Mourinho sees the Spaniard as an integral part of his new-look squad.

Mata was an unused substitute in Monday night’s goalless draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford, but the Blues have no intention of letting the former Valencia man go.

Liverpool Set To Rival Arsenal For Griezmann

Liverpool could be set to enter the race to sign Real Sociedad winger Antoine Griezmann, but may face strong competition from Premier League rivals Arsenal.

Griezmann, 23, made the move to Spanish side Sociedad as a youngster and has since emerged as one of the hottest prospects in the European game.

Arsenal was rumoured to be close to tabling a bid for the player but SportsDirect News has learned they may now face competition from Liverpool.

The Anfield club is expected to be one of several clubs keeping tabs on Griezmann as Sociedad take on Lyon at home in the second leg of a Champions League playoff tie.

Sociedad go in to that encounter with a 2-0 aggregate lead from the first leg in France, where Griezmann caught the eye with a sensational scissor-kick goal.

Rodgers Lines Up Lescott Bid

Liverpool is ready to reignite their interest in Manchester City defender Joleon Lescott.

The Reds were linked with the star earlier this summer but no deal ever materialized – with Kolo Toure signed on a free transfer instead.

But the injuries to Toure and Sebastian Coates have forced boss Brendan Rodgers’ hand, and he is keen to recruit at least one centre-back before the end of the transfer window.

Lescott has emerged as a target, with the England international set to be frozen out by the impending arrival of Martin Demichelis at the Etihad Stadium.

Lescott, who has started both of City’s opening two games, would cost around £7.5 million, but Rodgers would have to convince the Anfield money-men to cough up for a player who falls outside of their normal recruitment policy.

The 31-year-old’s age may yet put the buffers on any deal, but Rodgers is keen to inject his defence with both quality and experience.

Liverpool Worried Over Kolo Toure Fitness

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has conceded that Kolo Toure is doubtful for Sunday’s clash with Manchester United after suffering a groin injury in Tuesday night’s League Cup match.

Toure was stretchered off with the injury during extra-time in Tuesday night’s 4-2 over win over Notts County, leaving Liverpool to play out the remainder of the tie with 10 men.

Rodgers revealed that Toure’s knock will be assessed today but initially looks worrying, making the Ivorian unlikely to start against United.

He told The Independent: “Kolo Toure has overstretched his groin, so we need to assess that, which doesn't look so good to be honest."

Toure has been ever-present for the Reds so far this season, helping his new side earn successive victories over Stoke City and Aston Villa.

Rodgers also lost Aly Cissokho and Joe Allen to injury against County, giving the Reds boss plenty to ponder ahead of United’s visit this weekend.

The Reds are yet to taste defeat this season thanks to four goals in three appearances for Daniel Sturridge, including a brace against County to stave off the threat of a giant-killing.

Assaidi Relishing Chance To Impress

Assaidi completed a season-long loan switch to the Potters from Liverpool, whom he joined a year ago from Dutch side Heerenveen.

The 25-year-old Morocco international made only four appearances in the Premier League - all as a substitute - for the Reds last term, as well as featuring eight times in cup competitions.

Assaidi could make his Stoke debut in Wednesday night's Capital One Cup second-round home clash with Sky Bet League One outfit Walsall.

He told his new club's official website: "It was frustrating last season, especially having not been given too many opportunities on the pitch.

"But I am here now and I am looking forward to playing in the Premier League.

"When I did play last season I thought I did well, and the experiences I did have on the field has given me an understanding of what to expect in the Premier League."

He added: "I spoke to the manager here (Mark Hughes) and he told me his hopes for the season and how he sees me fitting into the team.

"He made it a very attractive move for me to be honest.

"He plays football the right way, the way that I want to play, and it was quite an easy decision for me to make in the end.

"I came to the game on Saturday (Stoke's 2-1 Premier League home win against Crystal Palace) and watched the match and I was impressed. I feel I can fit in here well and help the team to progress."

Hughes has stressed his intention to field a "strong" team for the Walsall match.

The Potters - then managed by Tony Pulis - were beaten by a visiting third-tier side in the second round of the competition last year as Swindon emerged after extra-time with a 4-3 victory at the Britannia Stadium.

Pulis had made six changes to his first XI on that occasion and his successor Hughes, wary of not giving the opposition enough respect in terms of selection, says he is only looking to make "one or two" adjustments from the Palace victory.

"I don't give up competitions lightly," Hughes said.

"We want to do well in it and we want to progress in it, so I'll be putting out a strong team. There will be one or two changes but nothing wholesale."

Fit-again Stoke pair Wilson Palacios and Brek Shea are poised for a return to first-team involvement, but fellow midfielder Jamie Ness (thigh) is not yet ready to feature.

Rodgers: Borini Will Not Leave Liverpool On Loan

Liverpool striker Fabio Borini will not leave the club on a loan deal, manager Brendan Rodgers has confirmed.

The Italian has struggled with injuries since moving to Anfield last year, making just 20 appearances, and he faces strong competition for a first-team berth following the summer arrivals of Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto.

Despite Daniel Sturrdige's starring role in the opening two games of the season, the Rodgers still believes the 22-year-old Borini has a role to play at Anfield.

Asked if the Italian would be made available for loan, Rodgers said: "Not at this moment in time.

"There would be a queue of clubs wanting to take him if he was available. We want to keep a strong group - it's a very long season for us.

"You've got Daniel, Fabio, Aspas and Luis [Suarez] to come in a number of weeks. We want to make sure the competition in the group is there."

As well as keeping Borini at the club, Rodgers also remains intent on making new signings before the transfer window shuts on Sept. 2.

"We've got targets," Rodgers said. "While the window is still open we'll continue to look to improve the squad. We'll hopefully come out of the back of it with a stronger group.

"The idea is for us to strengthen that little bit more and hopefully we can do that."

U18s Off To Winning Start In America

Liverpool U18 coach Mike Garrity insisted there's more to come from his side after they got off to a winning start in the Newark Liberty International Soccer Summit in New Jersey.

The young Reds recovered from an unusually sluggish first-half performance on Tuesday afternoon to beat Colombian side Fuddercol 2-0 at Lubetkin Field, NJIT.

A Nathan Burke penalty three minutes into the second half and a great strike from substitute Louis Robles four minutes from time were enough to earn all three points, but Garrity believes his players will get better as the tournament progresses.

"I thought the performance could have been a lot better," he told "It was nice to get the result but when you travel this far for a tournament, the first game is never easy.

"The heat was difficult for the boys and the pitch was not the easiest to play on but overall we need to be happy that we took the points even if we know that we can play a lot better than that.

"What we don't want to do is give the lads any excuses, because if they want to make it, they'll need to get used to travelling long distances to games and playing in hot conditions like this. That's what the first-team players do and that's why these trips are so good because they help prepare the boys for what is hopefully to come.

"South American teams are usually quite physical so we told the boys to keep the ball as much as possible and at times we struggled to do that but hopefully as the week goes on, we'll improve on that part of our game.

"I thought as the game went on, we got better and I thought Ryan Kent influenced a lot of our attacking play while Dan Cleary was very solid at the back.

"Some of the boys have just come back from injury, so it was nice to get them back out there playing and now we'll brush ourselves down and get ready for the game against St Benedict's Prep on Wednesday evening."

Garrity's sentiments were echoed by team captain Burke after the game when he told the official website that he'd never played in such hot conditions.

"That was definitely the hottest I've ever been on a football pitch," he said. "We're obviously used to much cooler conditions in England but we had to adapt to it and I thought we did that in the second half.

"The first half was a struggle but I thought we became more composed in the second half and got the ball down on the ground and passed it much better.

"It was nice to score the penalty but it's about the team not me. Louis scored a fantastic goal at the end to make sure we got all three points and we were made up for him because he's working really hard."

Monday, August 26, 2013

Match Report: Aston Villa 0 - 1 Liverpool

Daniel Sturridge proved Liverpool's match-winner for a second successive weekend as the Merseyside club edged out Aston Villa to make their best start to a Premier League season for five years.

The Birmingham-born striker, who started his youth career with Villa, delivered a moment of pure quality midway through the first half, receiving Jose Enrique's left-wing pass before dancing past two defenders, rounding Brad Guzan and transferring his balance to poke home with his left foot.

It came after the England marksman fired the Reds to a 1-0 opening-day win over Stoke, leaving Brendan Rodgers' side with six points from their first two league games for the first time since 2008.

Liverpool finished second to Manchester United that season and, although that appears unlikely this term, Rodgers can only be delighted with the start his side have made without the suspended Luis Suarez.

For Villa, it was their third game in a tough opening eight days of the new season after victory at Arsenal and defeat at Chelsea, and they appeared off the pace in the opening 40 minutes against a sharper Reds side.

A late flurry at the end of the first half set the tone for a second period in which the hosts dominated and could well have taken a share of the spoils. Liverpool's new goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, who saved a late penalty against Stoke, denied the in-form Christian Benteke with a superb one-handed stop.

There was plenty of cause for optimism for a youthful Villa side who has already showed signs of development from the one which struggled against relegation last term, despite failing to keep a Premier League clean sheet for a club-record 25th match.

Villa manager Paul Lambert handed full debuts to summer signings Jores Okore and Leandro Bacuna, while Rodgers kept faith with the starting XI who saw off Stoke.

Both sides looked to feel each other out inside the opening 15 minutes, with the visitors showing the greater incision, although neither goalkeeper was forced into action.

Philippe Coutinho sent an effort high and wide after good work down the left by Enrique as the Reds started to dominate possession.

And it was no surprise when they made the breakthrough after 21 minutes.

Sturridge started the move before losing his marker, Okore, and when Enrique's pass from the left was dummied by Coutinho on the edge on the area, the former Chelsea striker showed great footwork to evade two defenders as well as Guzan and convert.

The goal only further boosted Liverpool's confidence while the hosts were chasing shadows at times.

With the home faithful becoming slightly frustrated, Bacuna sent Villa's first effort harmlessly wide after 32 minutes before Benteke's control let him down at a crucial moment.

And then with half-time approaching, Villa had two decent openings.

Benteke finally forced Mignolet into action, tipping the Belgium international's effort around a post, before Andreas Weimann saw his shot deflected narrowly over the crossbar.

Lambert's side started the second half with more purpose and, roared on by a sell-out Villa Park crowd, Ashley Westwood twice fired over from distance.

Importantly, however, Mignolet was barely troubled by the time Liverpool boss Rodgers handed a debut to new loan signing Aly Cissokho in the 69th minute.

Benteke and Weimann then headed wide before an unmarked Gabriel Agbonlahor volleyed off target from 12 yards having been presented with a great chance to level.

Matt Lowton finally forced Mignolet into action from long distance before Liverpool's summer signing from Sunderland produced a superb 86th-minute stop to keep out Benteke.

Karim El Ahmadi headed on to fellow substitute Nicklas Helenius and he found Benteke, whose powerful drive was brilliantly pushed around a post by Mignolet - ensuring Villa have now beaten the Reds just once in their last 16 Premier League meetings at Villa Park.