Friday, September 06, 2013

Reds' Hunger Refreshing To See

Liverpool FanZoner Richard Garnett gives his take on the Reds' current squad and their 100% start to the Premier League campaign.

No you haven't woken up in 1990, Liverpool really are top of the league.

It's get better too. A 1-0 victory over the old enemy has maintained a 100% start to the league campaign in which the Reds are yet to concede a goal.

Daniel Sturridge has scored five goals in four domestic matches. Luis Suarez hasn't kicked a ball yet and Liverpool has even scored a goal from a corner. You couldn't make this type of stuff up.

Monday's calm completion of deadline day deals for Mamadou Sahko, Tiago Ilori and Victor Moses bolstered a compact but improving squad, which is understandably high on confidence.

Of course, there is no need to get carried away here. The Premier League season is only three weeks old and there is a sufficient sum of other clubs with stronger squads to suggest that any hope of Liverpool finishing in the position they now find themselves is pure fantasy.

Nevertheless, something has changed at Anfield. Overnight the team appears to have developed a mental strength that was previously conspicuous by its absence.

Perhaps the catalyst for this welcome upturn in resilience was Simon Mignolet's penalty save against Stoke on the opening day of the season.

The Belgian's inspirational 'thy shall not pass' moment appears to have set an example to his new teammates who are now displaying a hunger that is refreshing and in all honesty, unexpected.

On paper Liverpool should finish sixth this season - a one-place improvement on the previous campaign.

But leagues aren't won on paper and after a perfect start, Brendan Rodgers must be buoyed by the knowledge that instilling belief in his players is now not the hard sell it must have seemed last season, when Liverpool were incapable of beating any team above them in the table.

The deadline day acquisitions of Sahko and Ilori bring much welcome competition to the centre of defence - an area that proved to be an Achilles heel for Liverpool last season.

Competition for places has already made a positive impact, with Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel delivering stellar performances against United. Exactly what Rodgers would have wanted.

Without question however, Rodgers' finest piece of business was holding on to Suarez amidst a whirlwind of speculation that he was out the door.

There's little doubt that Suarez wanted to move on and play in the Champions League but now that the transfer window is shut, I expect him to be fully committed to the Liverpool cause.

With no European football to offer this term, players like Suarez are very difficult to replace. It was vital that Rodgers held onto him if the club is serious about fulfilling its ambition to return to the Champions League and kick on from there.

But Liverpool currently sits at the top of the table without the help of the Uruguayan. That in itself is refreshing as new stars emerge from his shadow at Anfield.

As Liverpool dug in for victory against Manchester United, bufferflies fluttered in the stomach of supporters. It was a feeling of nervous anticipation as belief started to grow on mass that Liverpool could be a force to be reckoned with again after a period of relative obscurity.

It's too early to say how the Reds' season will pan out from here with injuries already providing an unwanted distraction, but with confidence rocketing and new recruits inspired by Sunday's uplifting victory there could be some fun times ahead.

United will get an early opportunity to make amends for this defeat when the two sides meet in the League Cup at Old Trafford on 25th September.

That is if they can handle the returning South American gun-slinger of course.

Hamann Believes The Reds Can Gain CL Qualification

Ex-Liverpool star Dietmar Hamann believes Liverpool have a realistic chance of gaining Champions League qualification this season.

The Reds have made an impressive start to the Premier League season, winning their first three games of the league season. Brendan Rodgers' side, who beat Manchester United in their last outing, have yet to concede a league goal in this campaign.

Additionally, the Merseyside outfit will soon be welcoming star-man Luis Suarez back into the fold as he only has two games left to serve on his 10-game ban.

And, the former German international believes that the Reds can secure a place in next year's Champions League by ending in the top four this season.

Hamann told "They've given themselves a chance because, last year, they had a terrible start to the season [but] top of the league now, haven't conceded a goal yet and, with Suarez coming back, you expect them to score more goals.

"If they keep the defence as tight as it is, I think the top four is a very realistic target."

Hamann believes keeping central-midfielders Steven Gerrard and Lucas fit could be key to Liverpool's season.

He continued by saying: "They've bought two centre-halves, [Martin] Skrtel came back into the side but, in midfield, they have to make sure [Steven] Gerrard and Lucas stay in one piece because they're vital players to the team."

And, the former Reds man believes the Merseyside outfit can soon make a challenge for the Premier League title and believes another couple of additions to Rodgers' squad will allow the club to further improve.

Hamann finished by saying: "Other than that, I think they're only one or two players away from being a top, top side and, with the squad Brendan Rodgers has built there, if they continue to improve the way they have over the past 12 months, then I wouldn't rule out Liverpool being a competitor for the Premier League title in the next four or five years."

Henderson Hails Liverpool's Deadline Day Business

Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson has praised the club’s deadline day activity as the Reds bid to secure Champions League football for the first time in five seasons.

Brendan Rodgers capped a successful transfer window with the addition of three new players on Monday, with defenders Mamadou Sakho and Tiago Ilori joined by on-loan Chelsea forward Victor Moses.

Having claimed maximum points from their first three league fixtures, Liverpool has signalled their intent to mount a serious challenge for a top-four place and Henderson was delighted to see the trio arrive on Merseyside this week.

"I think they are fantastic signings. I think we've brought some great quality into the team," he told the club’s official website.

"It will boost us up again and so hopefully they will contribute well this season. Hopefully we'll have a really good season altogether.

"I've played with Victor before and he's a fantastic talent. He'll come in here and contribute to the team like the rest of the new signings.

"He's very talented. He's powerful, he's good with the ball, he can use both feet and he's good at cutting inside or going on down the outside."

Gerrard Dreams Of Liverpool Management

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has revealed his aim to go into management once he hangs up his boots and dreams of taking over at Anfield one day.

The 33-year-old continues to play an integral role for the Reds on the pitch but is already planning for life after retirement by commencing work on his coaching badges within the next year.

"The dream come true would be to manage Liverpool, when the Liverpool job becomes available," he told TwentyFour 7 Football.

"There are world-class managers there ready already but we'll have to wait and see; it would be the icing on the cake.

"When you get to a certain age, my age, you need to start thinking seriously about a life after football.

"I am planning on doing my badges and qualifications over the next 12 months. I definitely see myself as a manager rather than a coach but that could change.

"I remember speaking to Jamie Carragher and he really fancied it but he's decided media is what he wants to do. It'll be strange seeing him on Sky but I'm really delighted he's doing it. He can leave managing Liverpool to me!"

The England skipper has two years remaining on his current contract and has previously spoken of his intention to finish his career at the club where he has spent his entire professional career.

Reds Line Up Adan Swoop

The Reds are looking for quality competition for current number one Simon Mignolet, having failed in a summer move for Aston Villa stopper Shay Given.

Brendan Rodgers allowed Pepe Reina to leave the club for Napoli on loan after landing Mignolet from Sunderland in a £9 million deal.

Rafael Benitez, who is currently in charge of the Serie A club, expressed his surprise at the Reds’ decision to allow Reina to leave, and his departure has left the Anfield outfit desperately short of quality cover for the big Belgian.

Australian Brad Jones is the only other goalkeeper named in the Reds’ Premier League squad list, and Adan has now emerged as a target.

The Spaniard rescinded his contract with Real Madrid on transfer deadline day, and is currently on the lookout for a new club.

Rodgers has long admired the 26-year-old, and could now swoop in with a contract offer.

However, Adan may yet choose to further his career elsewhere after playing second fiddle to Iker Casillas for three years.

A number of La Liga clubs are believed to be monitoring his situation, and it is understood he would rather remain in Spain than move abroad.

That is unlikely to deter Rodgers, though, who is desperate to recruit a ‘keeper before the January transfer window.

Should he fail in his bid to land Adan, he may look to the emergency loan market – which opens on 10 September – before looking to bring in a stopper permanently in the next transfer window.

Liverpool Ruled Out Fabio Borini Sale

Lazio president Claudio Lotito has revealed Lazio tried to buy Liverpool striker Fabio Borini this summer but the Reds refused to sell the Italy international.

The 22-year-old sealed a season-long loan move to Sunderland on deadline day after the forward had previously rejected speculation linking him with a return to Serie A.

Lazio president Lotito admitted the Italian side was keen to sign the former Roma man but the Reds wanted Borini to remain in the Premier League.

“His name was under consideration, but Liverpool didn’t want to sell him outright and they preferred to keep him in the Premiership,” Lotito told Corriere dello Sport.

On Wednesday, Rodgers explained the reasoning behind the decision to send Borini out on loan to Paolo Di Canio’s side.

“It’s just to get games. He had a stop-start season last year with his injuries and I just felt this year he needed to go and play football,” Rodgers told Liverpool’s website.

“With Daniel Sturridge, Luis Suarez, Iago Aspas and some of the other attacking players, that might have been limited.

“I have a real belief in Fabio – he is a talent and we’ve seen that on occasions, but he needs to be playing regularly to demonstrate that talent.

“We had a host of clubs wanting to take him, but with Sunderland having the Italian connection there and being a big club where he can go and play, I’m sure he’ll get the chance to shine and we’ll look closely at his development this year.”

Sturridge To Miss Moldova Clash

Daniel Sturridge has been ruled out of England's World Cup qualifier against Moldova on Friday, and faces a race against time to prove his fitness for Tuesday's crucial clash with Ukraine.

The withdrawal leaves Roy Hodgson's options up front limited, with Wayne Rooney also unavailable after suffering a severe cut to his head in Manchester United training last week. Hodgson confirmed Rickie Lambert will start against Moldova.

Steven Caulker - who was called up to the squad after Glen Johnson and Phil Jones suffered injuries in Sunday's clash between Liverpool and United - will also miss out on Friday after turning his ankle in training, but like Sturridge could be back to play a part against Ukraine.

Hodgson said: "We won't know until training on Sunday if Daniel Sturridge will be fit for the Ukraine game.

"We've not been lucky with injuries, we've lost five players, but it's an opportunity for others and up to them to do a job."

Sturridge has netted five goals in four games after a red-hot start for Liverpool this season, including the winner against United that took his side to the top of the Premier League.

However the striker has admitted he was not 100 per cent fit for the match, even restraining himself from long-range efforts on goal because of a thigh injury.

Hodgson may not have too much cause for concern with Sturridge's absence on Friday, however, with England never having lost to Moldova, thrashing them 5-0 last year. But Ukraine will provide a much stiffer test - defeat would deal a severe blow to England's hopes of qualifying for next year's World Cup in Brazil.

England are two points behind group leaders Montenegro but have a game in hand, while Ukraine are in third place, a point off Hodgson's side.

But Hodgson remained bullish on England's qualifying chances. He said: "I would say we need ten points from four games as long as we don't lose to Ukraine and we beat Montenegro."

The FA have confirmed Sturridge will return to Liverpool to receive treatment, but he could rejoin the England squad if his injury improves.

England Defender Sings Sturridge's Praises

England and Chelsea defender Gary Cahill believes Daniel Sturridge can replace Wayne Rooney as England's main striker ahead of Friday's vital World Cup Qualifier against Moldova.

Wayne Rooney will miss England's next two matches after sustaining a deep cut to his head which needed stitches.

Liverpool striker Sturridge is the Premier League's form-player after the Reds' perfect start to the season see's them top of the table with three clean sheets and three Sturridge goals.

Cahill, a former team mate of Sturridge' at Chelsea and Bolton Wanderers, expects the forward to prove his worth for his country this weekend.

"Daniel is ready to step-in for Wayne for sure, with the form he is in. If you're a centre-forward, confidence and goals are what helps you in your performances.

"At the moment, he's a guy with both those things in abundance and playing really well. He is the kind of player that the Moldova and Ukraine defenders will be worried about. He can strike fear into any defence," said Cahill.

Sturridge sustained a calf strain leading up to Liverpool's defeat of Manchester United last weekend and admitted he couldn't shoot properly during the match. The 24-year-old still managed to bag the winner and looks set to start on Friday.

Sturridge, whose only England goal came against San Marino last year in an 8-0 win, is still doubtful for the game at Wembley but Cahill believes the striker can overcome the injury and continue his good form for his country.

"He's flying at the minute so hopefully he can shake-off this niggle and be ready to have a huge impact," said the Chelsea man.

The England centre-half has been a witness to the rise of Sturridge since the Liverpool man had an impressive loan spell at the Reebok, with the defender moving to Stamford Bridge half way through Sturridge' returning season at Chelsea.

At Chelsea, Sturridge played a wide-role in a font three, and Cahill knows a more central role is bringing the best out of the forward.

"Obviously he's started the season tremendously well. Everyone knew what talent he had. Not potential, but what he could actually do. Daniel is flourishing in the role he's playing at Liverpool now, and confidence-wise, the manager has put him up top where he always wanted to be. He has repaid him with three fantastic performances and goals," he added.

Michael Carrick Praises Liverpool Star

Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick has praised England teammate Daniel Sturridge after an outstanding start with Liverpool in this season's Premier league campaign.

The Liverpool striker has hit great heights scoring three winning goals in three games for the Reds. And, the long serving United player hailed the 24 year old forwards talent.

Reported in The Daily Express, Carrick said: "He has started the season very well but that is no surprise.

"He has so much ability and so much talent. He has had a good run of games since he has been at Liverpool. He has done ever so well.

"We have some real attacking options now [for England], which is nice."