Saturday, March 09, 2013

Match Preview: Liverpool vs Tottenham

High-flying Tottenham make the trip to Liverpool on Sunday looking to stretch their four-match winning run as they target a UEFA Champions League spot.

Andre Villas-Boas' men have enjoyed a hot streak of form of late to propel them into third place in the Premier League, five points behind second-placed Manchester City and two ahead of London rivals Chelsea.

Spurs' latest triumph came in Europe on Thursday night as they took control of their UEFA Europa League tie against Inter Milan with a comfortable 3-0 first-leg win at White Hart Lane, extending their unbeaten run in all competitions to eight, while they have lost just one since mid-December.

That success came on the back of victory in last weekend's North London derby, when they saw off neighbours Arsenal 2-1 in a fourth straight league win.

Liverpool are likely to be wary of the in-form Londoners ahead of Sunday's showdown but can take comfort from their own resurgence, with back-to-back wins leaving them seventh in the table and within touching distance of sixth-placed rivals Everton.

Those convincing triumphs, over Swansea and Wigan, mean Brendan Rodgers' men have lost just one of their last six league encounters.

They will look to build on that run at Anfield on Sunday in an encounter which will see two of the Premier League's hottest stars pitted against each other in Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale.

Bale has stolen the headlines for Spurs with his recent scoring exploits, netting 10 in his last eight games for the club in all competitions, while his league tally stands at 16.

He will go up against the league's current top scorer in Suarez, who has grabbed 21 goals this term as Liverpool's star man, including a hat-trick in the 4-0 thumping of Wigan last weekend.

The two sides met earlier in the season at White Hart Lane, with Bale's own goal unable to derail Spurs' 2-1 win after he and Aaron Lennon had scored in the opening half.

Should the Welsh winger add to his goal rush on Merseyside he would become the first Tottenham player to score in six successive Premier League games.

Striker Daniel Sturridge and defender Martin Skrtel will both return from injury for Sunday's match at Anfield.

Sturridge has overcome a thigh problem which kept him out of last weekend's 4-0 win at Wigan and he is likely to regain his spot in the side.

Skrtel also returned to training this week after a knee injury but he will have to settle for a place on the bench.

Tottenham winger Aaron Lennon is a doubt for Sunday's game at Liverpool after suffering a hamstring injury in last night's win over Inter Milan.

Midfielder Mousa Dembele is expected to be fit despite coming off in the second half of last night's game while Emmanuel Adebayor will return to the squad after overcoming a knee injury.

Tom Huddlestone (knee) and Clint Dempsey (calf) are doubts, but Younes Kaboul and Sandro (both knee) are definitely unavailable.

Suarez: Liverpool has Slight Chance Of Champions League

Liverpool's pursuit of a top-four Premier League finish this season can really take off with a win against third-placed Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, red-hot striker Luis Suarez said.

Liverpool, in seventh, are 10 points behind fourth-placed Chelsea and 12 in arrears of Spurs with 10 games to go in another mediocre season where Suarez's goalscoring has been the highlight.

"We've been in good form recently and it's a good opportunity to reduce the gap between ourselves and Spurs," said Suarez, who with 21 goals leads the Premier League scoring charts by from Manchester United's Robin van Persie.

"There is a slight chance we can make Champions League football - and if we want to do that, this is the sort of game we need to win," added the Uruguayan on the club's website ( ahead of the clash at Anfield.

Liverpool last played in the Champions League in the 2009/10 season after memorably winning the trophy in 2005 and then making the 2007 final.

Suarez said Liverpool's performances have improved after bolstering the squad in January with attacking options in Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho.

Liverpool has scored nine goals without conceding in drubbing Swansea and Wigan in their last two league games.

"Things have been going really well with Daniel, but not only him - there's also Philippe. They have both brought something and maybe given us an extra cutting edge.

"The lads who were here before their arrival were doing a fantastic job, but now we have more options as a team."

Liverpool defender Jose Enrique will also be a key component of Brendan Rodgers' line up against Tottenham, whose greatest threat will come from the in-form Gareth Bale.

Enrique said there was nothing to fear from the Welsh winger, who has scored 11 goals in his last nine appearances.

"Every player is just a person. Gareth Bale is a person as well. Of course, he's a good player and a complete footballer," said the Spaniard.

"Even if you are a really good player, like Bale, if you are against two players it can be really difficult to play. So we will try to stop him and all his team mates."

Liverpool Braced For Barcelona Bid

Danish defender Daniel Agger could be leaving the Premier League at the end of the season as Barcelona prepares an offer for the Liverpool centre-back.

The Spanish La Liga leaders will be looking for a future replacement for Carles Puyol (34), as the skipper faces the end of his career and the club plans to rejuvenate the defence, the Mirror reports.

The Catalans are ready to approach Liverpool with a formal bid, although the Reds seem likely to resist given the club already faces a back-four change this summer.

With Jamie Carragher hanging up his boots at the end of the season, Skrtel likely to be sold and Sebastian Coates failing to meet the expectations, keeping Daniel Agger is a top priority for the club.

The Spanish giants targeted the 28 year-old last season after first priority Thiago Silva signed with PSG, and the club has been keeping tabs on the Danish since then.

Manager Brendan Rodgers counts on Agger as the focal point in the back-four. The club could be preparing three signings for that line, possibly funded with the sale of Andy Carroll as West Ham seem to have decided not to keep the player after a six-month loan.

Liverpool Could Use Henderson To Land Mignolet

Liverpool is ready to sacrifice Jordan Henderson to land a replacement for Pepe Reina.

According to the Daily Mirror, Anfield boss Brendan Rodgers wants Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet and could send Henderson back to his old club as a makeweight in any deal.

There has been much speculation surrounding Reina’s Liverpool future this season and he has been linked with moves to Manchester United, Barcelona and Arsenal.

Rodgers is rebuilding at the Reds and the report claims Mignolet’s form for the Black Cats this season has led the former Swansea boss to believe he could succeed Reina as Anfield number one.

A switch back to his former club would confirm Henderson’s move to Liverpool an expensive failure, having failed to hit the heights since they paid a staggering £17million for him.

However, the England international has improved of late and the report claims Rodgers would only let him go reluctantly.

Arsenal & Liverpool On Alert Over French Hitman

Arsenal and Liverpool have been put on ‘red alert’ over the availability of Kevin Gameiro, according to reports.

TalkSPORT cite speculation in French publication Le Parisien when claiming that the eight-cap French international striker will leave Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the season, starting a potential transfer scrap for the player in the summer.

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers attempted to lure the 25-year-old to Anfield in the January transfer window, according to the report, but failed to secure a loan deal.

Instead, the Reds welcomed Daniel Sturridge to Merseyside instead, but remain short in the attacking department with Luis Suarez the only other out-an-out forward at the club.

Arsenal are another side short of attacking options, with Olivier Giroud the only senior central striker currently available to manager Arsene Wenger.

And, that particular Frenchman also made the move to the Emirates Stadium from Ligue 1, a route well travelled by players during Wenger’s 16-year stint with the Gunners.

Gameiro could be the next in a long line of players switching France for Arsenal, but Liverpool is unlikely to let the player join their rivals without a fight.

Liverpool Eye PSG Star Mamadou Sakho

Liverpool is eyeing up Paris Saint-Germain defender Mamadou Sakho as a potential replacement for Jamie Carragher.

Reds legend Carragher will hang up his boots at the end of the season, and manager Brendan Rodgers has identified Sakho as an ideal replacement.

Rodgers is thought to have asked Carragher to re-consider retirement, and stay for another season, but the 35-year-old is adamant this will be his last campaign as a professional footballer.

‘I’ve not had any second thoughts,’ said Carragher.

‘I want to stay in the team for the rest of the season and help the club get as many wins as possible – that’s my target. I can’t think of a better way to go out.’

That news has meant Liverpool have ramped up their pursuit for a replacement, and with interest cooling in Lazio’s Modibo Diakite, Sakho has emerged as another option.

The PSG star is keen to move on at the end of the season, having lost his place to Thiago Silva and Alex, and Liverpool could offer up to £8million to try and land him.

Arsenal and Tottenham have previously scouted Sakho.

Liverpool Eye Shock Move To Bring Back Xabi Alonso

Liverpool could be in for a shock move to bring Xabi Alonso back to Anfield, with the midfielder stalling on a new contract at Real Madrid.

Alonso left Merseyside in 2009 after five hugely impressive years at Liverpool, which saw him become one of the most highly-rated midfielders in the Premier League.

But despite winning the Copa del Rey in 2011 and La Liga last season with Real Madrid, the Spanish international now appears to be keen on a move away from the Bernabeu as he stalls on talks over extending his contract, which expires at the end of next season.

And Alonso’s apparent reluctance to stay in Madrid has caught the interest of his former club, according to reports in Spain.

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has allegedly made enquires as to the 31-year-old’s availability in recent months and the Reds could be prepared to step up their interest while Alonso decides on where his future lies.

Valencia Star Shows Interest In Liverpool Move

Valencia defender Aly Cissokho has admitted it is pleasing to see himself linked with a move to Liverpool, while underlining his admiration for the Premier League.

The fullback has only been at the La Liga outfit since last summer, when he left Lyon to join the Spanish side, but has been continuously linked with a move to Anfield.

The 25-year-old has often spoken of his admiration for English football, and has highlighted reported interest from Liverpool as something of particular interest.

"I've never hidden the fact that the English league is the one that attracts me the most. It's pleasing to see my name linked to Liverpool," he told Le Parisien newspaper, ESPN report.

"They're a great club, and not just anyone can wear that shirt. But it's still just an article in a newspaper."

Tottenham & Liverpool Left To Fight It Out For Eriksen

Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur will battle for the signature of Ajax starlet Christian Eriksen this summer, reports suggesting.

The Danish international is contracted to the Amsterdam ArenA until the summer of 2014, but recent comments made from Ajax’s director of football Marc Overmars suggest that the midfielder has his eye on a move this summer.

The London Evening Standard report that the Ajax are now fully prepared to cash in on the highly-rated 21-year-old with Tottenham and Liverpool now the only two English clubs remaining with firm interest in Eriksen.

An Ajax source told the Standard: “Christian wants to play in the Premier League and we think he will do well there. The club had discussed the option of keeping him until the end of his contract but it makes sense now to sell.

“Liverpool and Spurs are scouting him almost every week. Arsenal is no longer interested and Man United is not on the scene. The club will not let him go cheaply so there is a long way to go but it seems likely he will move to Tottenham or Liverpool.”

Arsenal and Manchester United’s summer purchases of Santi Cazorla and Shinji Kagawa respectively leave both clubs equipped in the playmaker role Eriksen thrives in, leaving it between Andre Villas Boas and Brendan Rodgers to battle it out for the coveted Dane.

Napoli Join Liverpool In Race For Barcelona Star

Napoli has joined Liverpool among the growing pack of clubs chasing Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez.

The 24-year-old, who plays for Chile at international level, has had mixed fortunes at the Nou Camp this season, managing just nine league starts and one goal.

Barca managed to fend off competition from across Europe when they signed him from Udinese in a £23m deal back in July 2011, but he has struggled to nail down a first-team place.

However, he is still highly rated in Italy, with Juventus and Napoli both keen to rival Liverpool in order to bring him back to Serie A.

Despite being contracted to Barcelona until 2016, he has been tipped to seek pastures new at the end of the season, although the Spanish giants will be looking to reclaim a large portion of their initial £23m outlay.

Carr Liverpool Trial Confirmed

Dulwich Hamlet has confirmed strike sensation Daniel Carr is undergoing a trial at Liverpool.

As revealed by Sky Sports earlier this week, Liverpool has invited the former Reading youngster for a trial at Anfield after scoring 23 goals in 23 appearances this season for Dulwich Hamlet.

A number of Premier League and Championship clubs are thought to be keeping tabs on Carr, but Liverpool are keen to have a look at him at close quarters.

Dulwich Hamlet boss Gavin Rose believes Carr is good enough to go on and enjoy a successful career in the professional ranks.

"Daniel has done well for us since he joined us in September," Rose told talksport.

"He came to us after being released from Reading. He went on trial at a few league clubs and signed for us as a winger but we saw something in him as a central striker and he's done really well, progressed every week and scored goals.

"He will train with Liverpool's academy team for two days. He will then return to us on Friday afternoon and they will let us know how he did and inform us if they want to take their interest any further.

"We have to make sure the boy keeps his feet on the ground. He's played a lot of football this year and the last thing we need is his concentration disturbed by going to other clubs."

Liverpool Eye Frankfurt Star

Liverpool has inquired about Eintracht Frankfurt defender Carlos Zambrano, the German club has revealed.

Reds boss Brendan Rodgers looks set to revamp his backline in the summer, with veteran Jamie Carragher hanging up his boots and Martin Skrtel linked with a move away.

Swansea skipper Ashley Williams is reportedly on the Anfield club's radar, although it appears Rodgers is prepared to cast his net wider in the search for defensive recruits.

Bruno Hubner, a director at Eintracht Frankfurt, has revealed the Merseysiders have made a tentative approach for Peru international Zambrano.

The 23-year-old came through the youth academy at fellow Bundesliga outfit Schalke, though he left the club in 2010 for St Pauli in order to secure regular first-team football.

After two years with the Hamburg-based club he moved to Frankfurt last summer, playing his part in a fine campaign for Armin Veh's men to date.

The club are currently riding high in fourth place in the Bundesliga after earning promotion from Bundesliga 2 only last season.

"There's interest from Liverpool in Carlos Zambrano," said Hubner. "They have asked about him, but there has not been an offer yet."

Rodgers Joy At Lucas Progress

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has praised midfielder Lucas Leiva for the way he has battled back to full fitness.

The 26-year-old is back in the Reds side again after seeing the last 18 months decimated by serious injury.

The Brazil international suffered knee ligament damage in a League Cup clash at Chelsea in November 2011, forcing him to spend eight months on the sidelines.

He returned to first-team action in time for the start of this season, but in just his fourth game back he suffered a thigh injury, ruling him out for a further three months.

The former Gremio man returned to fitness at the start of December and has been a regular in the first-team since, with boss Rodgers full of praise for the way he has applied himself during his rehabilitation, despite so many setbacks.

"I've been delighted with Lucas," he told the Liverpool Echo. "We were very wary of the fact he had had a serious knee injury last season, and then obviously another problem on top of that this season.

"It was important for the team to get him back, but it was important for him that we did so at the right pace and that we paced his recovery right.

"It is a big credit to him as a professional. He has worked so hard, and his attitude and his application has been first class. He deserves every praise for the way he has conducted himself."

Despite his progress, Rodgers believes the Anfield fans will not see the best of Lucas until next season, adding: "I still believe, having worked with these kind of injuries in the past, that it won't be until the summer, and beyond even, that we see him back at full level.

"It will be great for him to get a full pre-season with the group under his belt, but you can see in recent games that his mobility and the speed of his game is getting better and better all the time.

"As I say, it is a credit to him. He's been fantastic."

No About-Turn For Carragher

Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher insists he will not postpone his retirement plans as he prepares to make his 500th Premier League appearance against Tottenham.

Carragher announced last month that he will bring his glittering 16-year career at Anfield to an end in May.

The 35-year-old has been in good form of late, but he is pragmatic over his limited opportunities at Liverpool in the long term.

"I made my decision and nothing that's happened since has changed my mind about that," said Carragher. "I've not had any second thoughts just because things are going well.

"People say because I'm playing I should carry on for another year. But in fact being back in the team only confirms for me that I've made the right decision.

"I want to go out on a high, proving I can still perform at that level. I want to stay in the team for the rest of the season and help the club get as many wins as possible - that's my target. I can't think of a better way to go out.

"Obviously the previous 12 months had been difficult in terms of starting games. You never lose that buzz of wanting to play every week and I'm delighted to be back in the side.

"I could play on for another season but the fact is the club will be buying players in my position in the summer and I can't go back to being a substitute again."