Friday, April 05, 2013

Match Preview: Liverpool vs West Ham

Liverpool will be looking to remain in the hunt for Europe when they welcome West Ham United to Anfield on Sunday.

The Reds sit seventh heading into the latest round of fixtures, three points adrift of arch-rivals Everton and five short of fifth-placed Arsenal.

Overhauling the Toffees will be a top priority for Brendan Rodgers and his players, with it important for them to end the campaign as the top team on Merseyside.

Should they succeed in that quest, they may find themselves back in the Europa League for 2013/14.

Four wins in their last five have helped to keep Liverpool in contention and they will be determined to end a campaign which started slowly with a flourish.

West Ham are, however, looking to end any lingering doubts regarding their top-flight status.

Two victories in their last three Premier League outings have helped to lift them six points clear of the drop zone and one more win should be enough to see them safe.

Sam Allardyce will, however, be setting his sights higher than that, with a top-half finish still very much on the cards at Upton Park.

They may find the going tough this weekend, though, with the Hammers yet to secure a Premier League victory at Anfield - taking just four points from 16 previous visits.

Liverpool has no fresh injury or suspension concerns to contend with heading into the weekend.

Long-term absentees Martin Kelly (knee), Joe Allen and Fabio Borini (both shoulder) remain the only men on the sidelines.

It is possible that Rodgers will keep faith with the starting XI that came from behind to beat Aston Villa 2-1 last time out, meaning Daniel Sturridge and Martin Skrtel will once again have to make do places on the bench.

West Ham will be unable to call upon the services of in-form Andy Carroll, as the terms of his loan agreement prevent him from playing against his parent club.

Joe Cole may, however, line up against former employers, with the midfielder expected to shake off a hamstring complaint in time to put himself in contention.

Mark Noble (shoulder) and George McCartney (knee) are unlikely to figure for the Hammers again this season.

Other Facts:

Liverpool has won six of their last eight clashes with West Ham United in the Barclays Premier League (L1 D1).

After masterminding a draw on his first Premier League trip to Anfield (Jan 2002), Sam Allardyce has seen his teams lose on each of his last eight trips there.

Liverpool have won five of their last six home league matches; losing the other.

Philippe Coutinho has three times as many Premier League assists for Liverpool in six apps (3) as Joe Cole managed in 26 for the club (1).

The Brazilian playmaker has been involved in a Premier League goal every 74 minutes on average since joining the club (scoring two and assisting three in 369 minutes).

Joe Cole scored in the last Premier League meetings between these two teams. At the time, he was a Liverpool player. The England international has netted three times against Liverpool in the Premier League; against no other team has he managed more.

Steven Gerrard has been involved in 18 Premier League goals this season, only in 2008-09 (25) and 2007-08 (19) has he been more productive.

Luis Suarez has created 77 chances from open play this season; more than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues.

Liverpool has fired 242 shots off target in the league this season; 35 more than any other side (Man City).

Reds Confirm Minute's Silence

Liverpool have confirmed they will hold a minute's silence before Sunday's game against West Ham as a mark of respect for the 96 people who died in the Hillsborough disaster.

The Anfield clash with the Hammers is the final home game before the 24th anniversary of the tragedy, which will be the first since the Hillsborough Independent Review published its findings.

In September the panel concluded that no Liverpool fans were responsible in any way for the disaster, and a lack of police control was the main cause.

The annual memorial service will be held on Monday, April 15 at Anfield at 2.45pm.

Margaret Aspinall, chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, told the club website: "Every day we remember those who lost their lives. During the service we will light a candle for each and every life that was extinguished prematurely and the eternal flame of the Hillsborough memorial will continue to light our way through the darkest days.

"For many, April 15 may be a working day and there will be those who are unable to attend. We invite you to join us in thought and spirit and keep us in your prayers at this difficult time."

Rodgers: I Want To Rebuild Liverpool Like Shankly

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has stated that his ultimate goal at the helm of the famed club is to rebuild the side in the manner of legends Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley.

The Scotsman's work with the Merseysiders from 1959 to 1974 ushered in a new era of prosperity on the pitch for the Anfield outfit, setting the stage for former assistant Paisley to initiate the club's most successful era over the following nine years.

With the Reds having brought home only a single piece of silverware, the 2012 Capital One Cup, since the start of the 2006 season, Rodgers is hoping to follow in the footsteps of his celebrated predecessors in returning the side to prominence.

"First and foremost there is no comparison in relation to those greats of the past; those two managers will always be remembered here. For someone like me, my job is to build the club again, like Bill Shankly did very successfully and that set up the many successful eras that everyone remembers Liverpool for," he said.

"That’s what I’m trying to replicate and it’s a huge challenge, because the club is an institution, but it is a challenge that I’ve enjoyed every minute of and all the staff and players have also. I’ve seen real progress this season and I would expect us to continue that over the next couple of years. "

Rodgers went on to point to Liverpool's fans as the greatest source of inspiration in his endeavors at Anfield, and commented that while he is constantly reminded of the club's illustrious history, he does not feel held captive by the past.

"I’ve been very pleased because at the end of the day the supporters are the people that count. You always want to win games and to develop the team, so it’s very important that you have encouragement from your fans. Our supporters have shown exactly why they are so well renowned – I’ve really felt and appreciated their support," he continued.

"It’s everything and things like the ‘This is Anfield’ sign are symbols of the great past. What is also important, though, is that we are not held hostage to our history.

"This is an incredible club, you only need to walk into the reception to see a European Cup in the hallway, so you know that everyday you come in you have to be good.

"It’s important that we use that as motivation and commitment for our future. The wonderful players and managers that we have had here provide inspiration to us all and it gives us a great focus going forward to try and recreate those memories."

Johnson Backs Brendan Business

Glen Johnson has described Brendan Rodgers as 'very clever' for the signings he completed during the January transfer window, which the defender believes could boost Liverpool up the table next season.

The boss swooped for Johnson's England teammate Daniel Sturridge and Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho at the beginning of the year - with both making instant impacts at Anfield.

With just seven matches remaining in 2012-13, the 28-year-old expects the Reds to maintain their momentum and build a platform for the next campaign.

"Brendan has been very clever with the signings he's made and the squad is getting to where it needs to be," Johnson told

"We've won six out of seven games at Anfield so if we can finish the season with a record very similar to that then that would put us in good stead for the start of the campaign at Anfield for next season.

"We're playing well at home, dominating games and picking up most points so the longer that continues the better.

"Then pick plenty more points up on the road and hopefully we'll be a fighting force again.

"Nine times out of 10 we're putting in good performances - we haven't always picked up the points but more times than not we've played well.

"Next season, if we can play well and pick up the points, we'll be a lot further up the table."

Liverpool welcomes West Ham to Anfield on Sunday in the Barclays Premier League, pitching the international defender against one of his former clubs.

Allen: Liverpool Haven't Seen The Best Of Me Yet

Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen has promised fans of the club that they have yet to see the best of him, and is pledging to make a significant impact at Anfield next season.

The Welshman joined the club from Swansea last summer but has endured an injury-hit maiden season and after having had persistent problems with his shoulder, underwent surgery recently which has ruled him out for the remainder of the campaign.

Nevertheless, the 23-year-old is confident he can improve on his performances next season and pleaded with the Kop faithful for time to impress.

"The fans have definitely not seen the best of me yet," Allen told the club's official website.

"It's no secret that recent months haven't gone great for me. I am confident and faithful that next season I can perform a lot better.

"Unfortunately this season's a write-off in regards to the injury but the plan is, and I've got a bit of time, to make sure it's right over the summer break in time for pre-season."

Allen also revealed the injury had been plaguing him throughout the season and felt he should have addressed the situation earlier than he did.

"It had been there for a while so I'd almost grown used to it but it's got worse and worse and I was probably kidding myself by not getting it sorted a bit sooner," he continued.

"It's difficult to say whether it affected my game - I don't want to use it as an excuse, that's for sure. But I'd like to see how it is once it's fixed and I'd like to think it's going to help me massively."

While some Liverpool fans are still dubious about the signing of Allen, the Welshman is looking forward to playing his way back into the plans of manager Brendan Rodgers and proving his critics wrong.

"I'm excited and looking forward to being 100 per cent fit," the midfielder added. "These things can often play on your mind. Hopefully this will bring out the best in me."

Liverpool & Manchester United Invited To Bid For Dede

Liverpool and Manchester United have both been invited to come to the negotiating table to make an offer for Dede.

The highly-rated Vasco da Gama defender has also generated interest from AC Milan, who is looking to revamp their defence.

Vasco da Gama is believed to have financial troubles and selling Dede could help pay off their crippling debts.

United are looking for a long-term successor to Nemanja Vidic, whereas Liverpool is considering offloading Martin Skrtel and Jamie Carragher will retire at the end of the season.

The Vasco president, Roberto Dinamite, is open to appropriate offers for the centre back.

He told Brazilian publication Lancenet: "We must do what is best for Vasco and what is best for the player himself.

“There is a price. You need to see if Milan intends to reach that number, then we talk.

“Of course, the player likes Milan and the club has a great charm. The player can perform very well in Italy and has a potential of great quality.

“Let's see if we got a great proposal; obviously, it must be in the interest of the player and Vasco.”

Liverpool & Newcastle Ponder Carroll & Ben Arfa Swap

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is ready to send Andy Carroll back to Newcastle - in a swap deal involving Hatem Ben Arfa.

France international Ben Arfa and is one of three attacking midfield players Rodgers is looking at as potential summer recruits for the Reds.

Tentative contact has been made over the prospect of a possible trade that would see Carroll returning to the hometown club he left for a record-breaking £35million in January 2011 in exchange for brilliant but brittle Ben Arfa.

Newcastle are now seriously considering a bid for the England international, in an attempt to engineer what would be a popular homecoming.

The alternative for Carroll, whose season-long loan deal with West Ham ends next month, is a role as a fringe player at Anfield next season.

But, ideally, Rodgers wants to recoup the £17million option the Hammers held on the player.

The Mirror understands relations between Liverpool and Newcastle have thawed dramatically since last summer, when there was a major bust-up between Rodgers and counterpart Alan Pardew following a loan bid for Carroll.

Manchester United Rival Liverpool For ENNPI Starlet Gomaa

According to reports Manchester United are battling Liverpool for ENNPI midfielder Saleh Gomaa.

The 19-year-old recently impressed for Egypt during their triumph at the African Under-20 championship in Algeria last month and was voted Player of the Tournament.

talkSPORT claims scouts from the major clubs are taking an interest in the youngster.

Gomaa, who has been compared to Xabi Alonso, has been linked recently with a move to Manchester United. Liverpool are said to have joined the chase along with La Liga outfit Granada and clubs in Italy.

Gomaa said: “I have been followed by a number of scouts, including two from Granada and Manchester United.

“The Manchester United scout enquired about the possibility of having a trial with the club and he also asked me about ENPPI’s readiness for a potential transfer.”

Chelsea & Liverpool Chasing Croatian Sensation

Chelsea and Liverpool are going up against some of the biggest club in Europe to try and sign Croatian starlet Marko Dabro.

According to his club HNK Cibalia, Dabro has had an offer from Fiorentina, but has the likes of Juventus, Bayern Munich and AS Roma has indicated an interest, along with Chelsea and Liverpool.

The 16-year-old has reportedly been showing huge potential and recently became the youngest ever player to appear in the Croatian top flight.

“On the table we have an official offer from Fiorentina, whose delegation was our guest about two months ago and we've visited Florence two or three times,” Cibalia sporting director Drazen Pernar told.

"Direct contacts are still with Roma, Parma and Juventus, as well as two English clubs in whose camps are actively involved, they are Chelsea and Liverpool.

"Bayern Munich and Manchester City are waiting in line to talk to him too.”

Liverpool Keen On Ajax Defender

Liverpool is the latest side to express an interest in Ajax defender Toby Alderweireld.

The central defender, who can also play at right-back, has a contract at Ajax until 2014 and the club is trying to get him to sign an extension.

However, with news of interest from the likes of Tottenham, Manchester United and now Liverpool, the Belgian could be on the move.

Alderweireld would be able to sign a pre-contract agreement with a foreign side in the next winter transfer window and his club is desperate to avoid that.

It means they could be willing to listen to offers of around £8m for the 24-year-old.

Liverpool has sent scouts to track his progress in recent weeks and their interest appears genuine, with Ajax gearing up for a summer bidding war for one of their stars.

No Contact From Fiorentina For Borini

Fabio Borini’s agent, Marco De Marchi, has rejected reports that the Liverpool forward is on the verge of a move to Fiorentina.

The 22-year-old only joined Anfield last summer but has had a frustrating first season after a series of niggling injuries has made it difficult for the Italian to break into the first-team, resulting in just five starts in the Premier League.

His lack of opportunities has led to reports in Italy suggesting the forward could move back to his homeland at the end of the campaign but his agent insists there has been no contact with Viola representatives.

"I've heard the Fiorentina rumours, but there has been no direct contact," De Marchi told Tuttomercatoweb.

"Fiorentina are a club on the launch pad, they have laid the groundwork for an important project by signing great players and results will soon arrive.

"However, Borini has bought into the Liverpool project and they are one of the most important clubs in the world.

"He wants to be back by the end of the season to play in the European Under-21 Championship with Italy."