Saturday, January 05, 2013

FA Cup Preview: Mansfield vs Liverpool

Brendan Rodgers is expected to ring the changes for his Liverpool side's trip to Field Mill to face Mansfield Town in one of the standout glamour ties of the FA Cup third round.

New signing Daniel Sturridge will be pushing for his first start for the club since his move from Chelsea, and the forward has seven goals in his last seven starts in the FA Cup.

First-team regulars Daniel Agger, Steven Gerrard and Martin Skrtel are expected to be rested, whilst the decision about whether to rest Luis Suarez is, as yet, unclear.

Fringe players that Brendan Rodgers will possibly choose to utilize include Sebastian Coates, Oussama Assaidi and Jamie Carragher. Suso, Jonjo Shelvey and Nuri Sahin are also pushing for recalls.

Brad Jones could be called up to replace Pepe Reina after recovering from illness.

Whilst Liverpool will clearly be heavy favourites, Mansfield have lost just one of their last 12 games, and the Reds have only won three away games in the Premier League since April.

Stags manager Paul Cox is expected to name a strong side as he bids to cause a huge upset, and he will be able to call on the services of top scorer Jake Speight. He will be partnered by Matt Green. Both players have scored eight goals this season. No other Mansfield player has scored on more than four occasions.

Goalkeeper Alan Marriott will presumably be kept busy, and last week made his 500th appearance in non-League football, but at the end of last season he was effective in an attacking sense, scoring from his own area against Wrexham in April.

Henderson: We Will Treat Mansfield Like FA Cup Finalists

Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson has told his team mates that they must treat the trip to Mansfield for the 3rd FA Cup tie as if it was the final.

The Reds travel to the One Call stadium on Sunday to face the side who are in the fifth tier of English football and Henderson knows that they will face a tough test.

"It'll be a tough game for us. It won't be a pushover. We will have to go there with the right mentality and do a good job," insisted the midfielder.

"It'll be different to what we're used to in the Premier League. But you always have different challenges in football. If we play like we are, then we can get a positive result.

"We'll have to adapt to the situation. I'm sure all the players will have played at small stadiums like that before, and it'll be a good atmosphere. It'll be noisy. We have to make sure we are on it from the very start and try to keep the home fans quiet.

"It'll be the biggest game for many of those Mansfield players. They'll be really up for it. It'll be a cup final for them, so we have to treat it as a cup final for us and do the job properly."

Rodgers Hints At Central Role For Sturridge

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has hinted heavily that Daniel Sturridge could be set to play in a central position with his new club, and that Luis Suarez could be asked to perform a different role as a result.

Sturridge was unveiled as a Liverpool player on Wednesday after holding talks with the club throughout December.

Meanwhile, Luis Suarez has enjoyed a successful season to date as the Reds' frontman, with his 15 Premier League goals this season placing him behind only Robin van Persie in the Premier League scoring charts.

However, the Guardian quotes Rodgers as saying he would be prepared to move Suarez out wide: "For the common good of the team."

The former Swansea and Reading boss went on to deny suggestions that the transfer could have an adverse effect on Suarez's form.

"That is not the case at all," said the 39-year-old. "It is not a problem having top players. Don't talk about problems with players. We need good players.

"I spoke with Luis at length on it a number of times. This has been in the plan for a few months.

"When he played at Ajax he played in behind as a number 10, in between the lines, and he played as a reverse winger from the left side so he wasn't quite out wide - he was tucked in round the corner.

"Wherever he plays he will make the same movements and he will find the space because he is a world class player.

"Daniel's best position is as a central striker," he continued. "I have said that 4-3-3 will become richer because of the type of players. There is not one way to play 4-3-3.

"You can have one up and two wingers, a floating nine like Luis Suarez, you can have one like Daniel Sturridge central, two in around him narrow with full backs bombing on.

"I think for Daniel his best position will be straight through the middle with his pace," he added.

Josip Ilicic Agent Rubbishes Liverpool Transfer Rumour

The agent of Palermo playmaker Josip Ilicic insists that there is no truth in speculation linking his client with a move to Liverpool.

Reds boss Brendan Rodgers is still in the market for creative talent, according to Sky Sports, with Daniel Sturridge the only addition to-date at Anfield during the January transfer window.

The website goes on to claim that Liverpool are considering an offer that could test the resolve of the Serie ‘A’ outfit, with Ilicic one of Palermo’s star performers since joining the club in 2010.

However, the Slovenian international does not appear to be interested in a move to Merseyside, with representative Amir Ruznic dismissing the rumours out of hand.

"Ilicic moving to Anfield? Please, I don't know anything at all about that. I haven't spoken to anybody about such a move,” he told Ekipa.

"Palermo would not want a transfer to happen. I had a meeting with Palermo boss Maurizio Zamperini and he doesn't want to hear about this kind of scenario."

Tom Ince To Try And Push Through Liverpool Move

Liverpool target Thomas Ince is in showdown talks with Blackpool - as he tries to push through a move before the weekend.

England under-21 starlet Ince wants the move back to Anfield and is worried about playing in the FA Cup and becoming ineligible for the competition.

Ince and father Paul are in discussions with the Seasiders about thrashing out the fee and issues over a 10 per cent sell-on that are due to the young attacker.

Liverpool has made an offer at £5 million and may go further, but talks between the clubs have been difficult in the past few weeks.

Now Ince junior and senior are keen to keep the deal alive and have taken matters into their own hands.

Chelsea, Arsenal & Liverpool Track Matt Targett

Southampton starlet Matt Targett is being tracked by Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool, understands.

The 17-year-old left-back is regarded as one of the jewels of the Saints academy and the long-term successor to Luke Shaw, whose own future is the subject of intense speculation.

Shaw has been consistently impressive in the Premier League this season, and boss Nigel Adkins felt compelled to warn off potential suitors before he again caught the eye in Tuesday’s goalless draw with the Gunners.

But Targett, too, has been attracting the attention of some of the country’s biggest clubs with a string of promising displays for Southampton reserves in the Under-21 Premier League.

While only two months younger than Shaw, Targett would be available at a considerably lower price, due to his lesser profile and the fact he has yet to sign professional terms with the Saints.

Under the new rules laid down by the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP), players under the age of 18 on youth contracts can be transferred for a fixed fee determined by the player’s length of service in the selling club’s academy.

Consequently, despite Targett having been with the Saints – his boyhood club – since the age of eight, any transfer fee would be only a fraction of the £9 million received for fellow youth graduate Theo Walcott, or the £12m Arsenal paid for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in August 2011.

Southampton's academy enjoys Category One status – the highest possible rating – under the new system, but this has no bearing on the fees they are entitled to receive for their youth products.

Borini Closing On Comeback

Liverpool striker Fabio Borini is set to return to training next week as he steps up his comeback from a broken foot.

Borini initially suffered the injury during a 2-1 Premier League defeat at home to Manchester United on September 23, and has not played since aggravating it while on duty with the Italy Under-21 squad in October.

The 21-year-old, signed from Roma last summer, is approaching full fitness again, and is ready to give manager Brendan Rodgers an extra option in attack.

Rodgers strengthened his forward line on Wednesday with the £12 million signing of Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea, and is hopeful that the additional forward power in support of Luis Suarez will help his side climb the Premier League table over the second half of the season.

"Fabio will start training next week," Rodgers said. "We've got players coming back now, which is great. Having Daniel come in the door and Fabio Borini returning from injury will be great for us.

"That will give us flexibility within the group."

Rodgers has indicated that Sturridge will be in the squad for Sunday's FA Cup third-round trip to non-league Mansfield, and that Suarez may be given a breather after a productive Christmas that brought him five goals in four matches over 12 days.

"Luis is a player who loves playing," Rodgers said. "That's why he's here - to play games and score goals.

"But he's coming off the back of a real busy period where he's given everything in the games and scored goals.

"I'll assess the team. We'll look at that. We'll pick a team to win the game."

Rodgers, though, will definitely be without left-back Jose Enrique, who is facing six weeks on the sidelines with the hamstring injury sustained during the 3-0 win at QPR on December 30.

He said: "Jose Enrique was our only real disappointment over the Christmas period.

"He's looked fantastic in the games, but it looks like he will probably be out for up to six weeks with his hamstring.

"It's a shame, because in the game, he felt nothing. Sometimes you can enter into the games and be tight and stiff, but he felt great even within the game, so it's unfortunate that he's done that."

Liverpool Star Ruled Sidelined For Six Weeks

Brendan Rodgers has confirmed that full back Jose Enrique will be out of action for six weeks after tearing his hamstring.

Enrique was forced off during Liverpool's 3-0 win over QPR on 30th December and it was hoped that the injury would not be too serious, but ahead of the Reds trip to Mansfield at the weekend Rodgers said that this was not the case.

"He has looked fantastic in the games but it looks like he'll probably be out for up to six weeks with his hamstring.

"It's a shame because in the game he felt nothing. Sometimes you can enter the games and be tight and stiff. He felt great, and even within the game."

Rodgers will probably use Glen Johnson at left back as he has often deputized in that position.

Barnes: Rodgers Needs Patience In A Transition Season

Former Liverpool man John Barnes believes Brendan Rodgers should be afforded the patience he deserves as he attempts to take the club back to the top after a series of failed attempts over the past 20 years.

The former Swansea City manager has set about instilling a youthful vibrancy within the Liverpool ranks, optimized by the likes of Raheem Sterling, Suso, Joe Allen, Jonjo Shelvey and Andre Wisdom. Liverpool may be two places and three points worse off than they were at this stage of last season but Barnes believe patience will be key in the club’s fortunes this season and beyond.

“I would be willing to rely on Rodgers to make whatever decisions he feels he has to,” ESPN analyst Barnes said, speaking exclusively to Sportsvibe. “If Liverpool were to finish eighth and go out early of the FA Cup for example, I feel the development of the club in the long-term would outweigh that.

“Rodgers can see that, he can see the development of his players better than anyone else and when it is best appropriate to put them in to the first team, and for the development next year and in the coming years. He should be given this season to take whatever decisions he feels need to be taken.”

Under Kenny Dalglish’s reign as Liverpool manager, there was a different outlook on the club. Money was infamously squandered on Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson and Andy Carroll, and while there does remain some hope for the latter two, the club’s penchant for overspending was a step in the wrong direction, Barnes believes.

“If you look at what has happened in the past in terms of the money they have spent, and the players they have signed, it hasn’t gone to plan,” Barnes continued. “The club felt at the time maybe it would have given them immediate success, which is not always the case. Whereas now the fans will recognize that the club haven’t spend that much money, but are instead giving those promising youngsters a chance. And everyone likes to see youngsters breaking through at their club, and are therefore willing to give you a bit more time.”

Rodgers himself has insisted that his side must develop an element of consistency to their game, something which the club have been bereft of at times this season. A humiliating 3-1 defeat at home to Aston Villa left Rodgers with questions answer, before a scintillating 4-0 win over Fulham allayed some of those concerns. A loss to Stoke at the Britannia Stadium then followed, before two consecutive wins over QPR and Sunderland restored Liverpool’s on-again-off-again resurgence.

“On occasions such as the Stoke and the Villa games fans felt concerned, but on the other hand there is the performances against Fulham were the plan has flourished. But you have to expect that consistency with such a young side. But fans have seen what can happen in those games [against Fulham and QPR] and once that consistency is developed, it will be happy days.”