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.