Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Match Preview: Liverpool vs Sunderland

Liverpool will be aiming for back-to-back wins when they take on Sunderland at Anfield - something they have only achieved only once so far this season.

However, the Black Cats are a side which has hit form in the past month, despite their narrow loss to Tottenham on Boxing Day, having won three of their last five Premier League matches.

The Wearsiders will hope to overcome their rotten record against their opponents - having only beaten the Merseysiders three times in 23 attempts -and they have never beaten Liverpool at Anfield in the top flight.

Reds boss Brendan Rodgers is hopeful of being back in the dug-out after being struck down by illness at the weekend. Head of performance Glen Driscoll and back-up goalkeeper Brad Jones all missed Sunday's impressive 3-0 win at QPR.

England midfielder Jordan Henderson managed played an hour at Loftus Road despite being sick the previous night. Most of the team who were involved in the game were given a day off on New Year's Day in order to prevent further cross-infection.

Martin O'Neill has relied heavily on summer signing Steven Fletcher for goals and the Scotland international has bagged an impressive eight in 20 matches so far this season.

But the fact that the Black Cats are in talks with New York Red Bulls over a loan move for Tim Cahill suggests the Northern Irishman is looking for fresh firepower - despite his side scoring at least once in their past seven matches.

O'Neill will hope his side's defending continues the way they left off last year after keeping an impressive 15 clean sheets in the Premier League, only champions Manchester City (17) kept more.

Liverpool defender Jose Enrique will miss the visit of Sunderland with a hamstring injury.

Winger Stewart Downing, who has filled in at left-back previously, is expected be asked to provide cover again by manager Rodgers.

Midfielder Henderson and back-up goalkeeper Jones could be back in the frame after both were affected prior to Sunday's win over QPR with illness which has been sweeping through the camp.

Sunderland manager O'Neill will be without defender John O'Shea for the clash at Anfield.

The Republic of Ireland international damaged a hamstring during Saturday's 2-1 home defeat by Tottenham and is ruled out.

Full-back Danny Rose returns to the squad after being ineligible against his parent club, but skipper Lee Cattermole and central defender Wes Brown (both knee) remain on the sidelines.

Brendan Rodgers Expects To Return For Sunderland Match

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers expects to be back in the dug-out to face Sunderland at Anfield on Wednesday after being struck down by illness.

The Reds boss, head of performance Glen Driscoll and back-up goalkeeper Brad Jones all missed Sunday's win at QPR, while midfielder Jordan Henderson played an hour despite being sick the previous night.

Even assistant manager Colin Pascoe, who took charge in Rodgers' absence, was prevented from going into the dressing room at half-time by medical staff as he was also ill - although not with the same problem which laid low the others.

Most of the team who were involved at Loftus Road were given a day off on Monday and all media activity ahead of the midweek game was cancelled as the club tried to keep the Melwood training ground off-limits to prevent further cross-infection.

The club is confident their methods will reduce the chances of other players being affected and Press Association Sport understands Rodgers is likely to be back at the helm on Wednesday.

Henderson returned to the starting line-up for a league match for the first time in a month and admitted he was not prepared to give up his chance just because of illness.

"I was close to not playing. I had a bad stomach and was sick on Saturday night, which is unusual for me," he said.

"I caught the bug a few people and the boss got, but I love playing football and I want to play every chance I get for this club.

"There's a lot of competition for places, so when you are given the opportunity you can't let anything get in the way. So I was pleased to be able to play.

"The coaches just said to me see how I felt in the warm-up. I felt okay so I managed to play for an hour which I'm pleased with."

Henderson felt the performance not only did a lot for his reputation but helped the side regain some pride after their limp Boxing Day defeat at Stoke.

"Many people could see we put in a good performance at QPR," he told

"We played some really good football, defended really well, scored some good goals so overall we are delighted.

"It's always good to bounce back from a defeat with a win in your next game and it was a good test of character for us.

"We just have to keep working hard and keep progressing. I definitely think we are getting better.

"We've just got to take each game as it comes and keep that winning mentality.

"It's another big game for us against Sunderland, who have been doing quite well of late and they beat Manchester City.

"Sunderland will always have a special place in my heart but we are confident we can do well and get the right result."

Although the transfer window opened on Tuesday, Liverpool will not make any announcements about new signings until prior to Wednesday's match.

A deal for Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge has virtually been completed but it may not be formally concluded until later in the week.

Dortmund Interested As Liverpool Consider Sahin Future

Borussia Dortmund general manager Michael Zorc has not ruled out the possibility of Nuri Sahin returning to the club.

Sahin, 24, left Dortmund for Real Madrid after their Bundesliga title success in 2011, but he failed to secure a regular spot in Jose Mourinho's team.

In the summer, he was loaned to Liverpool, where the holding midfielder has also struggled for first-team football under Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, leading to conjecture over his future.

Reports in England have this week speculated Inter Milan could sign Sahin during the January transfer window, although Dortmund's Zorc has expressed his interest in the Turkey international.

He told Bild: "Of course we follow Nuri's career. He is our boy. The problem in Liverpool is he is not playing in his best position.

"We once said: 'If Nuri says he does not want anything else but to play for Dortmund then this will be an issue for us. But it has to be doable.' Nothing has changed."

Liverpool Hope To Seal Loan Deal For Kevin Gameiro

Liverpool is pressing ahead with a loan bid for Paris St-Germain striker Kevin Gameiro, despite the imminent arrival of Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea.

Manager Brendan Rodgers had originally lined up the Frenchman as an alternative to Sturridge, in case the deal for the England striker faltered.

But he is now keen to add even more striking power to his ranks and hopes to sign Gameiro as well to revamp his attacking options.

The 25 year-old would be a versatile addition to the squad, able to play in a variety of forward roles. His age also fits the profile of the club’s American owners, who have made it clear they do not want to sanction expensive deals for players in their late twenties or thirties.

Gameiro was one of the most highly sought after attackers in French football when he moved to PSG for £9 million in the summer of 2011. He scored 14 goals last season, and is also a France international.

But the arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic at PSG has limited his opportunities during this campaign.

Liverpool is not the only side interested in the player, but Rodgers will hope a fresh start on Merseyside will enable Gameiro to recapture his best form.

Sturridge’s signing will be confirmed this week, but it will be too soon for the £12 million purchase from Chelsea to make his debut against Sunderland on Wednesday. He has already completed a medical and agreed personal terms, but he will not be registered in time.

The 23 year-old has been pencilled in to face Mansfield in the FA Cup third round on Sunday.

Negotiations for Blackpool midfielder Thomas Ince have temporarily stalled after fraught discussions with the Championship club. Liverpool’s valuation of around £4 million – for a player who left Anfield last season for £500,000 and is available for free this summer – was considered ‘too low’. There is no prospect of Liverpool bidding any higher since Ince will be out of contract in the summer.

After similarly difficult negotiations when Charlie Adam made the same move – a deal which actually led to Ince moving to Blackpool – Liverpool is wary of overpaying again. Ince’s heart is set on a return to Merseyside.

Liverpool is also keen to loan out Uruguayan defender Sebastian Coates. Napoli, Juventus, Lazio and Santos are interested.

Rodgers is looking at 21-year-old French defender Nicolas Isimat-Mirin from Valenciennes, but Liverpool has also rejected a potential swap deal involving Joe Cole and Lille’s Salomon Kalou.

The Liverpool players were given Monday off to avoid the spreading of the illness which affected Rodgers on Sunday. The club’s pre-match press conference ahead of their Sunderland fixture was also cancelled.

Liverpool Loan Bid Fails For Barcelona Striker

Liverpool has failed in an audacious loan bid for David Villa.

The Daily Mail claims Barcelona will not 'entertain' the idea of letting the player leave the Nou Camp on a short term deal, and will only consider a 'bumper transfer offer' during the January transfer window.

Villa has become frustrated in Spain because of a lack of opportunities in the Barca side, according to the report, and is keen on a move to the Barclays Premier League.

Brendan Rodgers has targeted the Spanish international as a player who could add both quality and experience to his Reds side, and could also slot seamlessly into the 4-3-3 formation played at Anfield.

Despite a deal already being agreed for Daniel Sturridge, according to the paper, the Reds are still light in attack on Merseyside, with Uruguayan international Luis Suarez currently the only senior striker fit and available to the Liverpool boss.

However, Barcelona wants £16 million for the player, the Mail claims, and Liverpool isn’t the only Premier League club keen on a move.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has also been linked with the forward, as the Frenchman looks to bolster his attacking ranks at the Emirates Stadium despite the recent success of Theo Walcott in the position.

Chelsea interim manager Rafa Benitez has also shown an interest in the player, but the Mail reports that a move to west London is now unlikely, and the former Valencia star will not join compatriot Fernando Torres at Stamford Bridge.

No New Approach From Liverpool For Tom Ince

Blackpool manager Michael Appleton insists there has been no fresh approach from Liverpool for Tom Ince amid reports the winger is close to rejoining his former club.

Ince initially left Liverpool for Blackpool 18 months ago and the England Under 21 international has shone at Bloomfield Road, scoring 13 goals in the Championship this season.

Liverpool held talks about re-signing the 20-year-old last month, but Appleton said at that time the offer was below Blackpool's valuation.

Speculation has since claimed that Ince's appearance in the New Year's Day draw against Hull City could be his last for the Seasiders, but Appleton says that is not currently the case.

"We have not heard anything since an initial Liverpool approach a couple of weeks ago," said Appleton following claims Ince is on his way back to Anfield for £6million.

"As far as I am aware Thomas will have a day off on Wednesday like everyone else and come back to prepare for the next game with us."

Redknapp: Cole Will Only Join QPR At The Right Price

QPR boss Harry Redknapp has admitted he would love to bring out-of-favour midfielder Joe Cole to the club in January, but only if a cut-price deal can be struck with Liverpool.

The Hoops are currently rock bottom of the Premier League, eight points adrift of safety and are strong favourites for the drop.

But Redknapp has highlighted Cole, to whom he gave his first-team debut as a youngster at West Ham, as a player who can help transform Rangers’ fortunes, but insists the deal must be right for both parties.

‘I have got a lot of time for Joe as a player and a person,’ said the QPR boss. ‘He is a good lad to have around your football club – a good player.

‘I would like to bring Joe here if we could but the deal has to be right for the club.’

Redknapp recently hit out at QPR’s high-earning players and criticized his predecessor Mark Hughes for his free-spending attitude, saying the club’s owners previously had their ‘pants taken down’ with inflated transfer fees and agent costs.

But the former Spurs manager insisted that wouldn’t be the case with Cole, who is reportedly receiving around £100,000-a-week at Anfield.

‘We couldn’t do a deal for what his contract is at Liverpool. We would have to look at doing a deal with Liverpool if they are willing to let him go,’ Redknapp added.

‘I will have to speak to [Liverpool manager] Brendan (Rodgers) when the time is right and see what he has to say.’

Liverpool Rubbish Sneijder Transfer Speculation

Liverpool has dismissed claims of a £9.5 million bid for Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur target Wesley Sneijder.

Weekend reports in Italy speculated that Reds boss Brendan Rodgers had tabled an offer for the Inter Milan playmaker, who is currently unsettled in Serie 'A'.

However, a club insider has 'rubbished' claims over a bid for the player, with The Sun reporting that Liverpool have not made an offer.

The 28-year-old attacking midfielder is in dispute with the San Siro outfit after the club suggested Sneijder take a £1.6 million pay cut.

Currently earning £200,000 a week, according to the national newspaper, Sneijder is out of the first team because of the situation and is poised to leave the club in the New Year.

"Clearly, it’s best for everyone if I’m transferred in January. If that doesn’t happen, I’ll stay with Inter — I have a contract with them until 2015,” he's quoted as saying by the paper.

Despite a move to Anfield to join Liverpool now looking unlikely, other Premier League clubs are said to be keen on the player.

Rodgers Hails Liverpool Owners

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists he has "no complaints" about the backing he has received from owners Fenway Sports Group.

The Reds boss enters a new transfer window knowing he does not have a lot of cash at his disposal.

And although his plans to bring in Clint Dempsey in August were scuppered by FSG's refusal to pay an inflated fee for the 29-year-old, leaving him short up front having loaned out Andy Carroll to West Ham, Rodgers has taken it all in his stride.

"The owners have been great and I have no complaints in terms of where we are as a club at this time," he said.

"The support the club will give us (for transfers) will be excellent."

Most of it is likely, however, to be held back until the summer when the multi-millions from a new lucrative Premier League television rights deal come on line.

In the mean time Rodgers is hoping to provide some much-needed support for top-scorer Luis Suarez with the recruitment of Chelsea forward Daniel Sturridge in a deal which has been pending for days.

Nothing is likely to be concluded before Wednesday night's visit of Sunderland, though, as all the focus is on preparing the side to face the Black Cats.

After illness prevented Rodgers, head of performance Glen Driscoll and back-up goalkeeper Brad Jones being involved in the win at QPR the manager will be hopeful none of his other players will have been affected in the ensuing days.

Midfielder Joe Allen, who made a return at Loftus Road having been rested for two games, is keen to retain his place.

"I am feeling good. Obviously I wasn't involved too much in the last couple of games, which has given me a little bit of a rest," he said.

"Hopefully it has freshened me up for that game.

"It is a massive privilege to play for this club so I enjoy every minute of it.

"Sunderland have had three wins in their last five games and really picked up.

"Obviously they beat Manchester City at home, which will have given them massive confidence, and we'll have to be at our best.

"We drew away from home when we played them so we will be hoping to get all three points when they come to Anfield."