Saturday, May 04, 2013

Match Preview: Liverpool vs Everton

Liverpool play host to Everton aiming to close the gap on their neighbours as both sides look to claim local bragging rights.

Brendan Rodgers' side welcome their city rivals across Stanley Park on Sunday knowing defeat will ensure that they will be unable to finish above David Moyes' men.

Everton sit five points clear of Liverpool with three games to go - on course to finish above Liverpool for the second season in a row.

Liverpool is unbeaten in the past five meetings between the clubs and they will go into the game on a high after their impressive 6-0 win over Newcastle last time out.

Everton retain slim hopes of finishing in the top four as they are currently five points behind fourth-placed Arsenal.

Everton have recent history against them as Moyes has not won any of his 11 previous visits to Anfield with the Toffees last tasting victory at the home of their local rivals 14 years ago.

Liverpool will again be without striker Luis Suarez as he serves the second game of his ten-match suspension.

Daniel Sturridge, who scored twice in last weekend's demolition of Newcastle, will lead the line in Suarez's absence as he makes his Merseyside derby debut.

Fabio Borini made a successful return from injury when he came off the bench to score at Newcastle and he is likely to start on the bench again.

Martin Kelly and Joe Allen are out for the rest of the season, whilst Raheem Sterling also remains sidelined and is unlikely to be involved.

Jamie Carragher will play in his final Merseyside derby before he hangs up his boots at the end of the season.

Everton are waiting on the fitness of midfielder Darron Gibson after he missed last weekend's win over Fulham with hip and thigh problems.

Tony Hibbert will keep his place in the squad after making his return to the fold on the bench last weekend following calf surgery.

Everton boss David Moyes has no other injury concerns to deal with, but he must decide who will lead his attack with Nikica Jelavic and Victor Anichebe both vying to start up front.

Liverpool & Swansea Line Up Move For Scott Sinclair

Liverpool and Swansea City are on red alert after Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini hinted that Scott Sinclair's future could lie away from the Etihad Stadium.

The 24-year-old winger has started just three games for City since his £6.2million move from Swansea last August.

Sinclair has been linked with a return to the Welsh club while Liverpool is also interested in his services.

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers worked with Sinclair during his time in charge of Swansea.

Mancini said: "This situation with Sinclair is difficult because I didn't give him a lot of chances to play. He is very unlucky.

"It is my fault, not his fault. A young player like Scott who is a good player deserves to play always.

"For him, it was a really difficult year this year."

Mancini added: "Scott is young and he has good quality but this year was difficult for him.

"I think it is better if he can have another solution.

"If he stays here, maybe, everything can change but I can understand his frustration in this moment because he didn't play a lot of games.

"I can understand when one player can't play often it is difficult."

Swansea boss Michael Laudrup said: "He [Sinclair] has quality and he has already shown it. We will see what decisions we make on that for the future.

"Good players in his position are always an option and he has a British passport which is another thing we have to look at in an overall perspective."

Liverpool Renew Interest In David Villa

Liverpool is reported to have thrown their hat into the ring for the signature of David Villa from Barcelona.

Liverpool once had a Spanish striker who was regarded as truly great by the Anfield fans, Fernando Torres.

While he walked out on them in a failed bid to win a Premier League title with Chelsea, the Reds could be about to get a belated upgrade.

At every international tournament in which they have both played with Spain, Torres has been matched or outshone by David Villa - now of Barcelona.

With Barcelona's beating at the hands of Bayern Munich, the Catalans are poised to make some big changes in the summer - with Villa tipped for the exit.

Now Spanish daily newspaper AS is reporting Liverpool is keen to attract the services of the Spanish all-time leading goalscorer, who is now 31.

However their claims can be taken with a pinch of salt, because the paper says Villa is wanted at Liverpool, as a replacement rather than a complement for Luis Suarez.

This is despite managing director Ian Ayre repeatedly stating Suarez is not for sale, and the Uruguayan featuring prominently in Liverpool's 2013/14 kit launch earlier today.

The paper quite fancifully says that Suarez is wanted by Atletico Madrid, in turn as a replacement for Falcao. Atletico may end up with the funds to bid for Suarez, but again it's unlikely Liverpool will sell.

It is a shame for Liverpool fans there isn't more promise to the report, because a striker of Villa's calibre would be the difference make Liverpool need to join the Premier League's big guns once again, and also would be a terrific finisher for Daniel Sturridge to learn from.

Arsenal was previously interested but Arsene Wenger has last month said he was keen to look at other targets. Liverpool have previously been linked with Villa but no move or developments came to fruition.

If Liverpool is interested in Villa as a complement for Suarez, with Barcelona's stance as it is; if the desire was there, and the right pitch put to the player by the club, they may just have a chance of getting him.

Interest Mounts In Ibrahim

Sky Sports understands Manchester City face a battle to keep hold of Abdisalam Ibrahim, with a host of Premier League clubs tracking the midfielder.

The 22-year-old has been earning rave reviews at Stromsgodset where he is currently on loan until the end of Norwegian season.

Ibrahim has started all six games this season for Stromsgodset and his performances have been instrumental in helping the club to joint-top of the Eliteserien.

The likes of Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool, Everton, Fulham and Swansea are all thought to be keeping tabs on Ibrahim's progress and they will continue to monitor his situation over the summer.

Ibrahim is entering the final year of his contract at City and he could be tempted to move on in search of regular first-team football if he fails to establish himself at the Etihad Stadium next season.

Liverpool & Man United Face Competition For Torino Star

Liverpool and Manchester United face another contender for the signature of Torino defender Angelo Ogbonna with Bayern Munich now on his trail.

talkSPORT told you last month that Liverpool, who need a replacement for Jamie Carragher, had scouts in attendance during Torino's 2-2 draw at Bologna.

The Reds have watched the Italy international several times this season and are keen to bring him to the Premier League.

Torino chairman Urbano Cairo has previously been unwilling to sanction the sale of the 24-year-old but La Gazzetta dello Sport claim the centre-back is now expected to depart in the summer.

Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, who have already agreed a summer deal for Mario Gotze, are believed to have made preliminary enquiries, while AC Milan are also in the hunt.

Rodgers Happy To Qualify For Europe Via Fair Play

Brendan Rodgers says he would have no issues with Liverpool qualifying for Europe via the Fair Play league next season.

The Merseyside outfit is second behind Arsenal in the Premier League’s disciplinary standings but the Gunners are expected to finish in the European places, meaning Liverpool would receive England’s potential Fair Play spot.

Uefa awards a place in the Europa League first-round qualifiers to the three European nations with the best disciplinary record and England were in fourth position when the standings were last published on 31 December.

Earlier this week, Rodgers rubbished talk of the club using the Fair Play route, which would mean a return to action in June and would clash with the club’s pre-season tour of Asia and Australia the following month.

But at a news conference on Friday, the 40-year-old insisted Liverpool want to be in Europe next season and would not snub the Fair Play league despite his initial reservations.

“I think I was asked the question last week and [my reply] was obviously meant as a joke, but it gets reportedly differently. We want to be in European football however it comes, but obviously we’d prefer to go down the football route,” Rodgers said.

“As a football club you have to [accept the offer]. I don’t think it’s something you can turn down if you get an opportunity to go into European football.

“The journey we had this year in the Europa League, all the players thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a great exercise for us. We were bitterly disappointed to go out. If we got the chance to do it again, for sure we would.”

Liverpool crashed out of the Europa League at the hands of Zenit St Petersburg in the last-32 stage this season.

Coutinho Reveals Striker Bond

Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho admits he has already forged an understanding with fellow January recruit Daniel Sturridge.

The Brazilian midfielder joined Liverpool from Inter Milan in an £8.5m deal, while striker Sturridge also arrived at the start of the year in a £12m switch from Chelsea.

Both players have already started repaying their sizeable fees with some impressive displays as Coutinho's creativity and Sturridge's goals have given Liverpool fans some fresh hope for the future.

Coutinho has been impressed with the England player's clever movement and believes they have developed a fruitful partnership.

"He is an excellent player and very intelligent. He has a lot of technique and scores a lot of goals - I am very pleased to play alongside him," Coutinho told the club's official website.

"Luis and Sturridge move a lot and that makes things easier for the player with the ball - we can put the ball in the empty space and I think that makes things easier for the player that plays behind them.

"By playing with huge players like the ones we have at Liverpool I can learn a lot and I hope to be able to learn more every day to get better and better."

Coutinho's ability to prise open defences was evident in last weekend's 6-0 thrashing of Newcastle and he relishes the chance to create goals for his team-mates.

"I believe the game was very important, all of the players played well and we achieved a very important result," he said.

"I believe my performances have got better and I think it was my best game here. I hope that I can continue to improve.

"I love to create assists. When you play up front you want to create chances, either for yourself or your teammates, and score goals. I hope to help the team by doing this."

Gerrard: We'd Have Been In The Top Four If Sturridge & Coutinho Joined Earlier

Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard believes that they would be pushing for a top four place this season had Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho signed at the start of the campaign.

The two January signings have had a huge impact at Anfield, especially in recent weeks and Gerrard believes they could have dragged them further up the league table given a longer season.

"I don't really like jumping ahead but for me there's a lot of optimism," the midfielder told Sky Sports.

"When you make signings you need to contribute. If they are attacking players, you need them to score and set up goals and be better than we already have.

"Sturridge and Coutinho are both signings for the starting XI, and they can both be even better next season.

"I'm convinced they will be two big players for us.

"And if you add another striker to that and you have Luis coming back (from a 10-match ban), then that's the firepower we need to be challenging nearer to the top four.

"In fact, if we had got in Sturridge and Coutinho at the start of the season then I think we'd have been right up there among the top four."

Liverpool face Everton on Sunday and Gerrard believes that the Toffees season is not in much better shape than their own, despite being further up the league table.

Yes, Everton have been consistent, but they are still only sixth," he said.

"They have had a good season but maybe their targets were slightly different to others around them in the table.

"For real consistency, the example has to be Manchester United. Not Everton.

"Liverpool, though, is my main concern. Our target at the start of the season was the top four so it's clear our consistency hasn't been good enough.

"I'm not really a stats man, I prefer to look at the bigger picture, but if you look at our amount of goals and clean sheets, it's clear we are moving in the right direction.

"It's not all gloom and doom. We've played some fantastic stuff this season, and besides a handful of games we've always been in with a shout."

Purslow Expects Luis Suarez To Remain At Anfield

Former Liverpool managing director Christian Purslow thinks Luis Suarez's 10-game ban for biting was “very harsh”, but he has no doubt that the forward will remain at Anfield this summer.

The Football Association handed down a hefty 10-game suspension on Suarez after it found the Uruguayan guilty of violent conduct following his bite on Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic.

The suspension, one of the largest meted out by the FA, came 16 months after Suarez was banned for eight matches for racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra.

Given that Suarez thought he should be suspended for just three games for the biting incident, many had speculated that the 26-year-old would take the news badly and push for a summer move away from Anfield.

Suarez has certainly attracted many suitors after scoring 30 times this season, but Purslow, who helped bring Suarez to Anfield from Ajax, is convinced the 26-year-old will stay.

"I don't understand the link between a disciplinary issue and whether a player should be at the club or not," Purslow said at the BT Sports Industry Awards last night.

"A player commits an offence, you discipline him, and then the authorities might discipline him. That is the issue.

"What has that got to do with whether Luis Suarez should be playing from Liverpool or not?

"He is easily the most effective and important player in the team. He is enormously valuable.

"What would a commercial enterprise get from getting rid of their most important player, probably at a discounted price, because of a disciplinary problem?

"No football club in the world would do that."

Although Suarez's bite on Ivanovic, which came on the meeting between the two sides on April 21, sparked major criticism of the player, many were not expecting the FA's punishment to be so tough.

"I thought it was a very harsh ban," Purslow added.

"It was probably more than most of us expected, but that should not diminish in any way the seriousness of the offence.

"It was a terrible incident, a very unusual, graphic, and unappetising incident."

Liverpool proved they can cope without Suarez last weekend when they hammered Newcastle 6-0 at St James' Park.

The Reds are finishing the season on a positive run, further easing doubts about the ability of Brendan Rodgers, who swapped Swansea for Anfield in the summer following the dismissal of Kenny Dalglish.

A top-four finish is out of Liverpool's reach, but victory in this weekend's Merseyside derby will put the Reds within two points of neighbours Everton, who sit in sixth position.

"Results have been generally improving and we are playing an exciting brand of football," Purslow added.

"Everything came together last weekend and I think we are ending the season on a really positive trend.

"Brendan has made a good start. It was a massive step up from what he did previously. You are hiring a young, improver and he is going to learn and improve as he goes along and I think certainly for a first season, given how much of a step up he made, and given the amount of change at the club, he has done pretty well.

"A new manager and new players need time. At the start of the season we were probably looking at finishing between fourth and seventh and that's the way things are going to work out."

McAllister: Liverpool Need £200m To Be Title Contenders

It would take £200 million of transfer spending to turn Liverpool back into Premier League title challengers, according to former Reds star Gary McAllister.

The Merseyside giants' last league triumph came in 1990 and their most recent meaningful challenge in the 2008-09 season under Rafa Benitez.

In the meantime, Manchester United have overtaken Liverpool as the most successful club in English football, winning 13 of their record 20 league titles under Sir Alex Ferguson.

This season Brendan Rodgers' men languish in seventh in the Premier League, and McAllister believes that significant investment is required to bring back the glory days.

"I think it's purely down to finances," he told Goal.

"For Liverpool to be really competing where they want to be competing – that means winning the league – they're a couple of hundred million quid away.

"They're going to finish seventh this season, behind Everton, and, if the owners can't come up with those funds, it's going to be gradual; developing players, picking players from Europe in that £8m, £9m, £10m bracket and developing them into stars that can compete right at the very top."

Liverpool Continue Scout Coup

Liverpool’s raid on Manchester City’s scouting network is to continue with two more positions to be filled at Anfield ahead of next season’s hunt for a Champions League spot.

Andy Sayer and Kevin Hunt will move to the Merseyside club in time for the new campaign following on from the defections last summer of Dave Fallows and Barry Hunter.

City have placed Sayer, whose remit covered Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavia, and Hunt, a former player with Bohemians, on gardening leave ahead of their official departures.

Fallows and Hunter left the Etihad last summer, taking up their positions at Liverpool when the August transfer window shut, and are influential in the committee who liaise with manager Brendan Rodgers over transfers.

Next season will be the fourth in succession that the club has been outside Europe’s elite. But for Liverpool to reach their target, much will depend on whether Luis Suarez stays following his 10-match ban for biting.