Sunday, August 11, 2013

Match Report: Celtic 1 - 0 Liverpool

Despite conceding a huge amount of possession to their English rivals the Hoops, with five serious matches behind them thanks to Champions League qualifiers, succeeded where it mattered most - in front of goal

Amido Balde scored with their first chance of the game and while they spent a long time defending they did it effectively even though Liverpool created enough chances to have won the game themselves.

Brendan Rodgers' side had gone into the game on the back of six friendly victories, conceding just once against Valerenga on Wednesday, but they lacked a cutting edge.

The return of Daniel Sturridge, out with an injured ankle since May, for 45 minutes in the second half, could not have come soon enough with the Premier League season only a week away.

With last season's leading scorer Luis Suarez suspended for six matches even if he remains at the club - Arsenal are still keen despite owner John Henry adamant they will not sell to a rival - and summer signing Iago Aspas still looking lightweight up front there is a real need for someone of Sturridge's ability to provide the spearhead.

Stewart Downing, whose future is again in doubt after interest from West Ham, provided some positive moments but it may have come too late to save his Anfield future.

Philippe Coutinho produced some flashes of brilliance but also failed to threaten goalkeeper Lukasz Zaluska, who was kept busy in the first half against a tide of attacking red shirts.

But the most significant impact was made by Balde, who gave young centre-back Andre Wisdom, deputizing for vice-captain Daniel Agger who was left on Merseyside, a tough time for over an hour before he was substituted having done the hard work.

In the 13th minute the Portuguese striker easily turned Wisdom after being put through by Anthony Stokes and drilled in a low shot which caught the underside of Simon Mignolet's body but bounced up and over the line.

Downing almost equalized immediately with a shot which was blocked while Coutinho latched onto Glen Johnson's through-ball only for Zaluska to save.

The goalkeeper was also required to palm Downing's shot around a post after the winger had cut in from the right and he also denied Johnson.

With Liverpool enjoying a vast amount of possession Celtic defended resolutely and sought to hit their opponents on the counter-attack but their only other chance came right at the end of the half, with Stokes' header from Emilio Izaguirre's cross failing to test Mignolet.

Sturridge was sent on for the second half in place of Aspas and within three minutes he did what the Spaniard had failed to do in 45 by producing a threat with an early shot.

Coutinho somehow managed to completely miss Downing's cross and shoot wide having created an opening for himself either side of Sturridge forcing a near-post save from substitute goalkeeper Fraser Forster.

Late on, Sturridge's lob from another inch-perfect Coutinho pass drifted wide of the far post and a fierce strike from the edge of the area rippled the side-netting.

The last thing Liverpool wanted with Stoke to face in next weekend's curtain-raiser was for doubts to creep in about their capabilities up front in the absence of Suarez, but Sturridge may yet provide the antidote if he can persuade Rodgers he is fit enough.

Wenger Intent On Pursuing Suarez

Arsene Wenger maintains Arsenal will continue their "amicable" pursuit of Luis Suarez despite Liverpool's insistence that the striker will not be sold this summer.

Liverpool owner John W Henry claimed recently that his side would not sanction the Uruguay international's move to the Emirates Stadium, regardless of the bid from the north London club.

Wenger, who said on Wednesday that a move for Suarez is on "standby", has reiterated that the club will be honourable in their bid for the 26-year-old but claims a change of heart from Liverpool could allow the deal to be completed.

“There is nothing to add to what I said already about the transfer of Suarez,” Wenger told the club's official website. “If it will be done, it will be done in a respectful and amicable way with Liverpool.

“I didn't read [Liverpool owner John W Henry’s] statements but we'll be faithful to the way we want to behave.

“To make a transfer happen, you need the agreement of three parties - the buyer, the seller and the player.

“We know what we want to do. The player, if I look at the statements [does] as well. Liverpool at the moment do not agree. If they change their minds or not, I don't know. We'll respect that.

“We are looking at possibilities to strengthen our squad. Suarez is one of the targets. If he's not for sale, he's not for sale. We have to accept that.

“Every club has its own way of dealing with things, we have our way and we respect all the other clubs.”

Liverpool Owner States Suarez Is Not For Sale

Liverpool’s owner, John Henry, has announced that star striker Luis Suarez will not be sold this summer for any price, according to reports.

BBC Sport reported comments made by Henry that seem to quell any transfer for the Uruguayan away from Anfield.

He said, “We are not going to sell Luis. It’s very important not to sell to a rival, but especially for Liverpool because we’re not in Europe this year.”

On the subject of selling the player to Premier League rivals Arsenal, Henry said that it would be “ludicrous” to make such a deal.

The transfer speculation surrounding Suarez’s future has been well document this summer and the same article highlights that the striker has been told to train alone following his outburst against the club and since he is seeking a move to Arsenal.

It is well known that Arsenal has already have had two offers for the player rejected this summer but it is thought that Suarez may still move abroad, according to the same article.

Henry, however, is claiming that offers from foreign clubs will also be rejected. The article reports the owner saying, “He won’t be sold even if a foreign club comes in because we do not have time to sign a suitable replacement.”

“It is not about finances. So late in the window....we can’t replace him. So for football reasons we can’t sell, and especially to Arsenal.”

It is unknown whether Arsenal will make another offer for the player after Henry has so adamantly stated that Suarez will not be leaving Anfield this summer.

Liverpool Approach Bayern Over Loan Deal For Contento

Liverpool has approached Bayern Munich over a deal for Diego Contento as their search for a new left back continues.

Reds boss Brendan Rodgers is desperate to add another option to his squad ahead of the new season, with Jose Enrique the club’s only recognized left-sided defender.

And according to reports in Germany the man being lined up is 23-year-old Bayern ace Contento, who has been told he can leave by manager Pep Guardiola.

Contento made just five appearances last season but is highly rated, and has been strongly linked with Werder Bremen and Hertha Berlin in the last few days.

However, it’s thought Liverpool are ready to put down a £1million loan fee and bring him to the Premier League with a view to a permanent deal.

Talks between the two teams are believed to be at an early stage, but Contento would prefer a switch to England over the other options on the table.

The move represents a breakthrough for Rodgers, who has already seen two deals collapse in recent weeks for other targets he had in mind.

First a move for Benfica’s Lorenzo Melgarejo hit the buffers after he failed to win a work permit, while a row over wages has meant Aly Cissokho’s proposed transfer from Valencia has stalled.

Contento will be a far easier deal to complete, as he bids to try and force his way into the Germany squad ahead of the World Cup next year.

Assaidi To Swap Liverpool For QPR

Liverpool winger Oussama Assaidi looks set to join Championship outfit Queens Park Rangers on a season-long loan as Harry Redknapp looks to increase his attacking options.

Assaidi has only been at Liverpool for a year having signed for £3million last summer from Dutch side Heerenveen.

His lack of first team appearances have meant he was looking elsewhere for regular football, the Daily Mail reporting that he also had offers from clubs in Holland and Belgium.

QPR have lost Adel Taarabt, Ji-Sung Park, Loic Remy and Jamie Mackie this summer and are looking to replace them as quickly as possible.

The article suggests Redknapp has turned his attentions to Peter Odemwingie, who wanted a deal with the club during the January transfer window, and West Ham target Duvan Zapata.

Sixteen players left the club permanently this summer as part of a mass exodus following their relegation to the Championship last season.

Arsenal & Liverpool After Santos Youngster

Victor Andrade has been hailed as the next Neymar and is being targeted by a whole host of English clubs, including Arsenal and Liverpool.

Santos, the club that nurtured Neymar before his big money move to Barcelona this summer, now has 17-year-old Andrade on their books and he is being hotly tipped as the next Brazilian star.

The youngster is yet to be tied down by Santos on a long-term contract and this has grabbed attention from Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City, as well as Liverpool and Newcastle, Sky Sports report.

Sky Sports reveal that Andrade is represented by the NVA Entertainment Group in England.

A spokesman for the company spoke to Sky Sports and said: "We can confirm that there is interest in England in Victor, and not unsurprisingly from some of the bigger clubs.

"Victor is a wonderful talent, but we and his family are calm and we are confident his future will be resolved at the right time, in the right way."

Former Manchester City striker Robinho is the 17-year-old’s godfather and he has told him what it was like to play in Europe.

"Quite simply, I would love to play in Europe," Andrade was quoted by the Mirror.

"My godfather Robinho has told me of the great experiences he had at Real Madrid, Manchester City and AC Milan. He told me how it made him a better player because playing in Europe means you must adapt to different styles and systems."

It looks likely that one of the English clubs interested in Andrade will sign the striker after he revealed that the Premier League was on his mind.

"I think it will be a great education for me. Everybody around the world knows about the strength of the Premier League.

"It is a very exciting prospect for me. My dream is to play for Brazil in the World Cup and I believe that moving to Europe will help me because it will help my all-round game.

Andrade has decided to take the plunge quicker than Neymar, stating he is ready to leave this season even at just 17 years old.

"I have no problem with Santos. They have helped me a lot. But I think the time is right for me to experience a change."

Javier Mascherano Ruling Nothing Out

Javier Mascherano has revealed to El Pais that he cannot say with any certainty whether he will be staying at Barcelona.

The versatile Argentina international is reported to be considering his future at Camp Nou following the arrival of Gerardo Martino as coach.

A return to former club Liverpool has been mooted, with Mascherano having enjoyed three-and-a-half productive years at Anfield before heading for Spain in August 2010.

The 29-year-old is ruling nothing out with the summer transfer window still open and admits he would have no qualms about moving on if informed that he is surplus to requirements.

Mascherano told El Pais: "You never know. In football, you have to be prepared for anything.

"There were calls from somewhere else, but no offers.

"There are always doubts. You are at Barcelona and you have to fight for your place.

"The question is whether you now fight in the same circumstances, as I have always had to win my starting place throughout my career. It's as it should be.

"If Barca tell me they don't need me, I will be off within a minute."

Liverpool Target Sakho Considers Move Away From PSG

Liverpool has been given hope in their pursuit of Mamadou Sakho with the defender admitting he may need a move away from PSG to resurrect his international career.

Reports in France suggest that Sakho is considering his future in the French capital after missing out on Didier Deschamps' squad to face Belguim.

According to L'Equipe Sakho has been stung by comments from Deschamps about why he was overlooked in favour of Monaco's 33-year-old Eric Abidal and is now ready to contemplate a transfer.

Asked about Sakho, Deschamps said: "This is life. This is his career. He had a choice to make and apparently he made it. I do not know if everyone understands [why he was overlooked] but he does. His choice is PSG."

"He returned a little later because he went with us [to the Confederations Cup]. Since then he has played twice, 60 minutes.

"He did not play the Champions Trophy. I do not know if he will play Friday against Montpellier. They know [they will not be selected if they are not playing].

"They make a choice. After all, it is their career. They have people who are there to guide them.

"In his situation it comes down to the fact that he has to be selectable to be selected."

Liverpool and AC Milan have both been linked with a move for Sakho but the player previously expressed a preference to remain with boyhood club PSG.

Last month he said: "I am flattered by the interest of historic clubs like Liverpool and AC Milan. We will see what happens in the near future.

"I have to make a decision. PSG is my club, I was born here and I learned my football here. I want to play for this club all my life, but it is clear that I do not want to sit on the bench."

And Liverpool may now be encouraged to rekindle their interest in the hope that Sakho's desire to work his way back into Deschamps' plans in a World Cup year outweighs his desire to remain in Paris.

Liverpool continues to be linked with a host of central defenders with the futures of Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel still up in the air.

West Ham In Shock £6m Bid For Downing

West Ham last night made a surprise bid for Liverpool flop Stewart Downing.

The Merseyside club is looking to offload the winger after a couple of disappointing seasons at Anfield following a big money move from Aston Villa.

But they were struggling to find a suitor until West Ham stepped up with a £6m bid yesterday evening, the Mirror reports.

The paper says that talks between the player and the Upton Park hierarchy are at an advanced stage, with Downing’s current wages of 80,000 being one of the only stumbling blocks left.

The fee would represent a significant loss for Liverpool, who paid £20 for the England international just two years ago, but Brendan Rodgers is being ruthless as he looks to totally transform his squad.

Downing would not be the first cut price Liverpool flop West Ham manager Sam Allardyce has picked up this summer; the Hammers have already signed Andy Carroll from Anfield.

Rodgers Rules Out Move For Cissokho & Costa

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has ruled out a move for Aly Cissokho of Valencia and says Diego Costa deal now seems unlikely.

Rumours suggested that Liverpool had agreed to pay Valencia £870,000 for a year-long loan with the option to make the deal permanent at the end of the season for a further £3.5million.

'There’s nothing on the Cissokho story,' Rodgers said.

The full-back had claimed that terms have been agreed with Liverpool, although admitted that any move is far from finalized.

'Liverpool has made me an offer and it is true that I have reached an agreement with them,' Cissokho told Le 10 Sport.

'It is now up to the clubs to agree terms. I expect to know more later this week.

'If nothing happens this week, it probably means that I will not be going to Liverpool.

'The conditions of the transfer are the problem. Liverpool prefers a loan deal with an option to buy, while Valencia wants to sell straight away.

'If the transfer doesn’t take place, it’s not a problem either. I am feeling well at Valencia.'

He added: 'I believe Costa has signed an extension. There’s nothing in terms of players to add.

'We’ve signed players early on and we hope to sign some more before the end of the window.

In the meantime, there’s nothing at the minute.'

Atletico Madrid striker Costa, who scored 20 goals in 44 matches for the Spanish club last season said earlier in the week: 'I'm well here, I'm happy here.

'As I've been in Argentina and Uruguay I've not heard anything about this. I'm happy here, if the club wants me to be here, I'm going to be here.

'I think that our coach (Diego Simeone) counts on all of us, not just me. He knows how important it is to maintain the squad, the fans know it as well.'

Jay Spearing Joins Bolton

Jay Spearing has completed his move to Bolton from Liverpool for an undisclosed fee.

The midfielder spent most of last season on loan with the Trotters, featuring in 37 games, and boss Dougie Freedman had made capturing him on a permanent basis one of his highest priorities this summer.

Spearing, who signed a four-year deal, endeared himself to the Bolton faithful last year which led to many fans chanting his name during the draw with Burnley last Saturday.

"Jay wanted to come here and wanted to play for the Bolton Wanderers jersey. He brings qualities to the football club both on and off the field," Freedman told the club's official website.

"He turned down a few other clubs to come here and he knows and likes the style of our management team.

"We really have to thank the board and owners on this one. The support we've had has been great in helping us to acquire such a fantastic young player."

Agger Named Reds Vice-Captain

Daniel Agger has been confirmed as Liverpool's new vice-captain.

The defender replaces Jamie Carragher following the 35-year-old's retirement at the end of last season.

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers considered a number of candidates for the role over the summer before confirming the decision to appoint Agger before the Reds departed for Dublin on Friday.

Rodgers said: "The job of the captain and vice-captain here at Liverpool is very, very important. I wanted to give myself time over the course of the pre-season to assess a number of the players and obviously Daniel was one of them.

"His loyalty and his passion for Liverpool is second to none. And if you add that on to his footballing qualities, then I think it's a good choice for everybody."

Agger, 28, joined Liverpool in January 2006 from Brondby and has gone on to make more than 200 appearances for the club, scoring 12 goals.

The Denmark skipper signed a new long-term contract with the Reds in October 2012 and played 35 league matches last season - his highest since joining the club.