Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Liverpool Set For Glory After Successful Summer

When Brendan Rodgers arrived at Anfield in the summer of 2012 the air of anticipation around Liverpool fans was a sure sign that the club was pulling itself out from the lows seen under Kenny Dalglish.

While Rodgers' first year in charge may not have been the most successful for Liverpool, a strong second half, seeing them only score two points less than champions Manchester United in the final 18 games, gave Kopites much to be excited about.

In the summer transfer window all the speculation was surrounding the future of Luis Suarez. Comments by the Uruguayan and interest from Arsenal seemed to make it more likely the man who all but carried Liverpool for much of last season would be heading through the door.

Fast forward to present day however and Luis Suarez is still a Liverpool player, solid signings for good prices mean the Reds have not broken the bank but have strengthened the squad and three wins from the opening three Premier League games have fans believing the Anfield side can fight for a top four finish this season.

That target is perhaps more in reach now than it ever has been in recent years and should success return to Anfield, this summer will be remembered as the moment fortunes turned.

In keeping Luis Suarez, Liverpool now have two out-and-out strikers with the potential of scoring 20+ goals a season- something that has been desperately lacking at Anfield, even in the Fernando Torres days.

Suarez and Daniel Sturridge were forming a good partnership until the Uruguayan's biting incident with Branislav Ivanovic but with Suarez set to return to action, probably against Manchester United in the Capital One Cup, the current average of a goal a game will surely increase.

To further that, Suarez has plenty of motivation this season. He is not where he wants to be in terms of Liverpool not playing in Europe so his desire means not only will he have to lead Liverpool's assault on the Champions League places but also prove himself to clubs currently in that competition that he is worthy of playing for them.

Liverpool fans are more than aware that should another year pass without making it back into the top four then Suarez will be out the door and this time they won't have a case of which to argue.

Liverpool however is probably in their best place now since the last time they made the Champions League back in 2009, and that is thanks to a more balanced, stronger team.

Philippe Coutinho continues to terrorize defences throughout the Premier League with his pace and skill, as does Raheem Sterling. The signing of Iago Aspas also looks very promising with the British-born Spaniard looking a threat as he continues to adjust to the Premier League.

While Luis Alberto hasn't been used much thus far, he too will provide the impetus from midfield with Jordan Henderson and Steven Gerrard the powerhouses in the centre of the pitch. The arrival of Victor Moses on loan from Chelsea is another signing that only adds strength in depth to Liverpool going forward.

In defence Lucas continues to be the rock just in front of a back four that is also now looking very formidable. The importance of keeping Daniel Agger, following interest from Barcelona, is under-estimated and with Martin Skrtel keen to prove a point as he did against United the ability to keep clean sheets will only be a help to Liverpool's chances.

Jose Enrique and Glen Johnson add their own challenge for opposing teams being a major force going forward and at the back and the signings of Mamadou Sakho and Tiago Ilori along with Kolo Toure mean Liverpool have plenty of very capable options in defence.

Finally, the arrival of Simon Mignolet has certainly given Liverpool another future stalwart in goal. Pepe Reina remains on Liverpool's books (currently on loan at Napoli), but the start Mignolet has made with the fine penalty save against Stoke City and the good performances against Aston Villa and Man Utd only add to the sense that Liverpool have a team to be afraid of this season.

Certainly with all the potential there and confidence currently sky high it is all about momentum this season, the red half of Merseyside has had it's best summer window in years and if the gains made on paper continue to show on the pitch then maybe a return to the Champions League could be just the start of a new successful era at Anfield.

Liverpool Star Urges Fans To Celebrate

Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva has urged Reds fans to celebrate the club's impressive start to the season after three 1-0 wins and a Capital One Cup victory over Notts County has lead to their best start since 1995.

The Brazilian told of his delight going into the international break at the top of the table.

"It's a great start, we can't deny that. That's the way we wanted to start," he said.

Liverpool has won all three Premier League games with a single Daniel Sturridge goal, a small margin that won't continue, but Lucas is remaining optimistic of the season ahead.

"I don't think it's dangerous for the fans to get a bit carried away after a win like this - they should celebrate," he added.

Liverpool did not qualify for Europe last season but after such a promising start and with the recent additions of Victor Moses from Chelsea (loan), Tiago Ilori from Sporting Lisbon and Mamadou Sakho from PSG, there's no wonder the red half of Liverpool is even more optimistic than usual.

"There's a greater belief among us now. We all believed previously, but now we have a stronger team," said the Brazilian.

Brendan Rodgers has recently said that the club's lack of European football this season will help to create an added incentive to win a domestic cup competition but Lucas is focusing on finishing in an elusive top-four position.

"We've always said the main target this season is a top-four finish as we all want to play Champions League football," said the 26-year-old.

Lucas is not getting carried away with the early-season hype but is reminding the Liverpool fans to appreciate every important victory as they come.

"If we keep going like we have done now, then it's going to be a great season. But the fans just have to celebrate, and if they have the belief then they will support us even more," he concluded.

Suarez Insists He Is ‘Delighted’ To Stay At Liverpool

Luis Suarez has claimed he is happy that he remains a Liverpool player following late speculation that Real Madrid would make a move for the striker.

The Uruguayan announced his intention to leave Anfield at the beginning of the transfer window amid speculation that he wanted to join Arsenal in search of Champions League football.

Liverpool made it obvious that they didn’t want to sell, rejecting high offers from Real Madrid and Arsenal and it became increasingly clear that Suarez would have to stay put.

But the controversial striker insists that he made his mind up a number of weeks ago and wanted to repay the Liverpool fans for the faith they showed in him.

He told the Daily Mail: “I closed this subject a while ago. I have already taken the decision to stay at Liverpool.

“If I play I am talked about, if don’t play it's the same… They’ve already put me in every team.

“In that moment I said if something happens then good, but if I was staying at Liverpool I'd be delighted. This is over a while now.”

Skrtel: Liverpool Exit Never An Option

Martin Srktel has insisted that he never gave the possibility of leaving Liverpool serious thought during the summer, with his focus firmly on fighting for a first-team place at Anfield and helping the Reds fight for Champions League qualification.

Srktel was consistently linked with clubs across Europe for much of the close season, including a reunion with former Reds boss Rafael Benitez at Serie A giants Napoli.

The Slovakian defender started for the first time in Sunday's 1-0 win over Manchester United, filling in for Kolo Toure to help Brendan Rodgers' side maintain their 100 per cent start to the Premier League.

With French international Mamadou Sakho and Tiago Ilori both joining to strengthen Liverpool's defensive options, Srktel believes that the Reds are well placed to challenge for a top-four finish this season.

He told SITA: "I'm staying at Liverpool. The rumours were never as strong as it was made out. There has been no contact with other clubs because the Liverpool management told me that they were counting on me. That is why a transfer was never in my plans.

"I have never considered it [the United game] to be a chance to show that I deserve to stay at Liverpool. Players come, players leave, it's a normal thing and we will see how it develops. It was a big derby but, on the other hand, it was also just another league game.

"You may say that the number of clubs competing is increasing from one year to the next. Again we have seen clubs spending big sums of money - City, Tottenham, Chelsea and even Arsenal. Competition is big but when I look at how we have played, I would say that we belong in the top four."

Since signing for Liverpool in 2008 Skrtel has played more than 200 times for the Merseysiders, with the 28-year-old scoring nine goals in all competitions during that spell.

Liverpool Tried To Hijack Madrid Bid For Alderweireld

Liverpool tried to hijack Atletico Madrid's deal for Ajax star Toby Alderweireld.

The Belgian international revealed the Anfield side came back with a deal in last few days of the window, but was convinced the La Liga side would be the better choice.

"The club has been following me now for two or three weeks, and you could see they really wanted me," he said.

"That is why I turned down approaches from other teams.

"Liverpool, for example, appeared in the last few days, but the truth is that Atletico made a huge effort to convince me."

Alderweireld also said his international colleague Thibaut Courtois helped him decide to join the Spanish side after a chat.

"Courtois is naturally very happy with my arrival," he said.

"In the end I am coming to 'his Atletico'. He said positive things to me as I was studying the offer. He said it was a club with great fans and that he was very happy playing at the Calderon."

Schalke Were Open To Late Liverpool Bid For Papadopoulos

Schalke remained open to a late Liverpool bid for Greek defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos right up until the final day of the transfer window.

Reports in Germany suggest that while Schalke had essentially completed their transfer business prior to the final day, they were still prepared to let Papadopoulos leave if they received a compelling bid.

According to Kicker however, the 21-year-old had no real desire to leave this summer even if a bid had come in for him, with Russian club Zenit St Petersburg also linked.

Papadopoulos has been linked with a move to Liverpool throughout the summer after being spotted at the club's game against Fulham near the end of last season.

Indeed, some reports even suggested that a deal for Papadopoulos had already been agreed in principle and was only being held up by the player's inability to undergo a medical until he had recovered from a knee injury.

However, any chance of Papadopoulos moving to Anfield this summer was essentially killed off after the club announced the signings of both Mamadou Sakho from PSG and Tiago Ilori Sporting Lisbon.

Liverpool also successfully held onto Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel, who both featured prominently in rumours of a move to Barcelona and Napoli respectively.

It now remains to be seen whether Liverpool continue to track Papadopoulos, with Schalke seemingly willing to let the player leave should they receive an appropriate bid in the future.

Sturridge Absent From England Training

It's been almost uncomfortably positive around these parts over the past week, Liverpool's late-window transfer business was mostly settled by Saturday, with Tiago Ilori and Mamadou Sakho arriving on permanent deals and Victor Moses coming in on a season-long loan.

All moves were arguably necessary, and all make the squad stronger. Not perfect by any stretch, but combined with a loan for Fabio Borini and a final exit for Dani Pacheco on Monday, Liverpool were making plenty of sense while others panicked. Oh, and the win over Manchester United didn't hurt either.

But an international break always ushers in a bit of uncertainty and hand-wringing, and this time is no different after Daniel Sturridge played through a thigh injury in the win over United on Sunday.

Rest and recovery would be the preferred approach for a player with a lengthy list of previous fitness concerns, yet after having played every minute of Liverpool's three wins in a week, he was still optimistic about representing his country in their World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine.

England Want Tiago Ilori To Switch Allegiance

Roy Hodgson will attempt to convince Liverpool’s new signing Tiago Ilori to snub Portugal and adopt English nationality.

No sooner had Ilori completed his £7 million switch to Anfield from Sporting Lisbon, it emerged that the Football Association has opened the door for the 20-year-old defender to represent England.

Ilori was born in London before returning to the birthplace of his Portuguese mother, and although he has represented Portugal at youth level, he has not won a senior cap and would be eligible to make the switch.

Whether Ilori has any interest in playing for England is yet to be established but, given the worrying shortage in home-grown players emerging through the academies into the top Premier League teams, Hodgson and the FA are taking a more proactive stance in tracing players with English roots.

Moses Hails Sturridge Influence In Liverpool Move

Chelsea winger Victor Moses has revealed that Daniel Sturridge helped to persuade him to join Liverpool on loan.

The 22-year-old, who made just 12 starts for the London club in the Premier League last season, completed his switch to Anfield on deadline day, with Mamadou Sakho and Tiago Ilori also arriving.

But the Nigeria international confirmed that former team-mate Sturridge helped him to make his mind up, though he did not need much convincing.

Moses told the club's official website: "I spoke to Sturridge and he wanted me to come here. He said I'd love it here but he didn't need to say much.

"The next morning, I had a word with my agent and told him it could be the right move for me.

"It's a massive club with great history. The club is doing well, so I wanted to come here and enjoy my football.

"I just want to come here, help my team-mates however I can to try and get into the top four, and get as many games as I can at the same time."

Moses will now link up with his country ahead of their crucial World Cup qualifier against Malawi on Saturday before possibly making his Liverpool bow against Swansea City on September 16.

Wisdom To Skipper England U21

New England U21 coach Gareth Southgate has appointed Anfield starlet Andre Wisdom as his captain.

The 20-year-old wore the armband during the 6-0 friendly victory over Scotland last month and will now retain the honour for the upcoming European U21 Championship qualifying campaign.

Speaking at a press conference ahead of Thursday's match with Moldova, Wisdom commented: "It's a great honour to captain England at any level, so I'm delighted to have retained the captaincy."

The Leeds-born youngster has eight caps to his name in this age group and has also represented the Three Lions at U16, U17 and U19 level.

Left-back Jack Robinson, currently on-loan at Blackpool, is also in Southgate's squad for the fixture which is followed by a trip to Finland on Tuesday.

Wisdom featured for the Liverpool first-team as a late substitute against Manchester United on Sunday, taking his senior Reds appearances to 21.

The previous regular England captain at U21 level was Anfield colleague Jordan Henderson but at 23 the midfielder is now ineligible.