Saturday, September 21, 2013

Match Preview: Liverpool vs Southampton

Liverpool welcomes Southampton to Anfield aiming to cement their place at the top of the Premier League.

Liverpool saw their 100% start to the season ended after being held to a 2-2 draw at Swansea on Monday and they will be keen to return to winning ways against Southampton.

The home side will again look to the in-form Daniel Sturridge for goals after becoming the first player in Liverpool's Premier League history to score in the team's opening four games of the season.

Southampton have endured an inconsistent start to the campaign, winning one game, drawing two and losing the other in their opening four games.

Mauricio Pochettino's men have struggled for goals having scored two goals so far in the Premier League and they have yet to score in open play.

Liverpool defender Daniel Agger is expected to return to face Southampton after missing Monday's draw at Swansea with a side strain.

Playmaker Philippe Coutinho is out for several weeks after undergoing a shoulder operation so the likes of Iago Aspas and Raheem Sterling will be pushing for a recall.

The match marks the completion of striker Luis Suarez's 10-game ban, which was carried over from last season.

Southampton left-back Luke Shaw is fit for the Premier League trip to Anfield.

The teenager limped off in last weekend's 0-0 draw with West Ham, but Mauricio Pochettino has revealed he has overcome that knock.

Fellow left-back Danny Fox remains a doubt with an ankle complaint and Tadanari Lee may also miss out.

Pochettino Hopes Southampton Can Keep Sturridge Quiet

Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino is hopeful his side can keep an 'awesome' Daniel Sturridge quiet and secure three points against Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday.

The unbeaten Reds currently sit top of the Premier League table after three wins from their opening four matches, including a victory over old rivals Manchester United.

Sturridge has scored in each of those matches and Pochettino is aware his players must nullify the attacking threat posed by the striker and his team-mate's to get what would be a surprise three points.

"We're very much aware that Sturridge is an awesome threat," he said.

"He started off the season quite well, can change the game on his own, but our main concern is blocking the connections from Steven Gerrard and other midfield players.

"We know Coutinho will probably be out of this game, but we need to take care of that midfield to make sure the balls don't go through to Sturridge.

"It's clear that they are a very powerful side and Anfield is a great stadium to play in.

"It will be a great place to perform, to do well in and actually try to get the three points."

The Saints have fired blanks in their past two matches, with talisman Rickie Lambert still looking to add to his opening day strike at West Brom.

Despite record signing Dani Osvaldo impressing, he is yet to hit the back of net and was denied on more than one occasion during the goalless draw with West Ham last weekend at St Mary's.

Rodgers Dismisses Title Talk

Brendan Rodgers will only assess Liverpool’s title prospects when the season is further advanced as he is only concentrating on the next game for now.

The Reds have enjoyed an unbeaten start to the season to leave them top of the table, one point clear of Arsenal and Tottenham, and their early form has raised questions about their ability to challenge for the title.

Rodgers is delighted with the start to the season but he knows there are tougher challenges ahead and feels now is not the time to be talking about their title aspirations.

“I haven’t even considered that at all – the only focus is the next game,” said Rodgers.

“We’ll assess it after 10 games, see where we sit there, then the halfway point and we’ll probably have a more realistic idea of where we can be.

“At this moment, we’ve played four – won three and drawn one – and we’re in a good moment.

“There’s a lot more to come. We’ve made a good start. People will talk that it’s early stages, as will I, but these are hurdles you have to get over.

“We’re on 10 points already; at the end of last season we finished on 61 points and we talked about those extra 10 points that might have taken us into the Champions League – at this early stage we’ve got them.

“I believe the team has still got a lot of improvements to make because of the nature of what I’ve seen in the games and the potential we have in the players.

“We’ve got to sustain that but I’m really happy that in these early stages we’ve shown at least potential.

“I think that potential can grow even more.”

Liverpool Return For Agger

Liverpool has been boosted by the news that Daniel Agger is set to return from injury to face Southampton tomorrow, according to the Daily Mirror.

Agger suffered a freak injury in training this week which forced him to miss The Reds 2-2 with Swansea on Monday night.

The defender supposedly hurt himself whilst trying to evade a dumbbell that he dropped during gym-work.

However, the Danish centre-back may be in line for a return to action at Anfield as Brendan Rodgers' side host the Saints.

Agger has established himself as key player for Liverpool since his move from Danish club Bronby back in 2006.

The tall defender has featured 158 times in the Premier League scoring seven goals and has 58 caps for Denmark.

The retirement of Reds legend Jamie Carragher at the end of last season prompted Rodgers to install Agger as the clubs new vice-captain.

Liverpool will be hoping to continue their good start to the season, which has put them top of the table after four games, against a mid-table Southampton side who have struggled for goals in recent weeks.

Liverpool Lining Up Move For Hernandez

Liverpool is set to make a £4 million move for Palermo and Uruguay striker, Abel Hernandez during the January transfer window.

According to the Metro, the highly touted striker is unhappy with life in Italy and is looking to move as soon as he can.

A proposed deadline-day switch to Arsenal fell apart at the last minute and it's put the rest of Europe on notice, especially Liverpool, who're looking to find ways to appease Luis Suarez and keep him at Anfield.

The bargain move would see Hernandez line-up next to Suarez, just like they do for Uruguay.

Brendan Rodgers has previously said that he hadn't conducted all the business he wanted to and that having another striker would've been ideal.

The addition of Hernandez would make for an exciting partnership with Suarez but he may find it a struggle to get ahead of in-form Daniel Sturridge, if he can keep up his fantastic start to the year.

Hernandez has scored 21 times in 86 games for Palermo, who're currently in Serie B, another factor in his wish to move. He's also scored seven times in 10 games for Uruguay and will be a key player at next year's World Cup - should they qualify.

Enrique Looking Forward To Fighting For His Spot

Among the early storylines crowded out in the early season by Daniel Sturridge's goalscoring form and the confident, assured performances by Simon Mignolet has been the relative improvement by Jose Enrique at left-back. The Spaniard started his Liverpool career with talk of a call-up to the Spanish national team; he was inserted into the starting eleven almost immediately under Kenny Dalglish and didn't look back, cementing himself as one of the top left-backs in the country.

As was the case with much of the squad that season, his form started to fade, however, and the first few months under Brendan Rodgers saw Enrique slip further down the pecking order through injury and poor form, with a sale mentioned as a possibility despite the club not really having another left-sided fullback in the senior squad. As fitness and form improved, though, Enrique gradually worked himself back to a serviceable level, and even through a shaky preseason, he's managed to perform well in each his of four starts in the Premier League.

And while we can't quite attribute it to actual competition just yet, there's at least the idea of it looming just around the corner--Aly Cissokho's injury in his first ten minutes as a Liverpool player ruled him out until early October, but Enrique's managed to pick up on the fact that his spot is anything but secure if he suffers another lapse in form:

For a player who so often--even when he's seemingly on a run of good form--seems to go on a mental walkabout in the middle of matches, competition would appear to be the right tonic. Enrique can, at times, be absolutely devastating for the opposition at both ends of the pitch, using his frame and speed to get up and down the left flank, showing good awareness in the defensive third and solid distribution at the attacking end. Or, he can completely lose track of himself and his surroundings, showing a complete lack of awareness anywhere and distribution that either ends up at the opposition's feet or in Row Z.

Those forehead-slapping moments haven't been as frequent early this season, and while he hasn't yet returned to the heights of his early Liverpool career, he's done all that's been asked of him with little fuss. And if right now it's just the idea of competition pushing him to improve, let's hope Aly Cissokho's return to the squad helps Jose Enrique improve even further.

Sterling Cleared Of Assault On Former Girlfriend

The assault case against the Liverpool footballer Raheem Sterling collapsed on Friday when his former girlfriend failed to support the prosecution's case by giving "disappointing" evidence.

Sterling was alleged to have attacked the 19-year-old model Shana Ann Rose Halliday following a row about a text message, Liverpool magistrates court heard.

But Sterling, from Southport, was formally found not guilty when the Crown Prosecution Service withdrew its case after magistrates refused to treat Miss Halliday as a hostile witness.

Sara Drysdale, prosecuting, made an application to the bench asking for the complainant to be "treated as a hostile witness".

She said: "The crown would say that Miss Halliday has demonstrated an unwillingness to tell the truth about what has happened."

She said Miss Halliday, who gave evidence to the court behind a screen, had given "conflicting accounts" to her previous statements to the police and which also differed from her original 999 call to the police on the night in question.

But Stuart Driver QC, defending, said the prosecution was engaging in a "straw-clutching exercise" and just because the witness had given "disappointing evidence" did not mean she was a hostile witness.

He said: "A hostile witness is just that; and it requires a lot more than a witness who disappoints the prosecution by saying things happened in a way that doesn't amount to a criminal offence. That's just what we have here."

At times Miss Halliday failed to answer prosecution questions and was often so quiet she was inaudible.

She told the court: "We just had a heated argument because I seen a text on his phone and asked who it was. We were pushing and shoving, both of us, and I started it because I was trying to get his phone."

Mr. Driver added: "She has given evidence, slowly but in detail, and it's unfavourable to the prosecution case. She is far from being a hostile witness."

Anthony Leo, chairman of the bench, told the court: "Although she is an unfavourable witness for the prosecution, she is not hostile."

After the bench made its decision, Miss Drysdale said there was "no longer a realistic prospect of conviction".

Sterling, wearing a black suit, white shirt and blue tie, was called back into the dock and formally found not guilty to the charges.

Sakho Broke Fitness Machine During Reds Medical

Brendan Rodgers calls him “a monster” - and Liverpool new boy Mamadou Sakho has already proved he packs a punch.

Sakho, 23, broke one of the cardiovascular machines in the Reds' gym during his medical for the £15million switch from Paris Saint-Germain he made at the start of the month.

The 6ft 2in man-mountain of a centre-half, who made his debut in the draw at Swansea on Monday, said: “How do you know this? Yes, it’s true!

“It’s true that one of the machines did break. Something went wrong with it, so they had to fix it, not reinforce it.

“Strength is one of my attributes and I want to continue developing my strength as it is a key part of my game.

“I’m a defender and I need to use that, but I need to fill out more and bulk up to progress.”

Premier League opponents will not relish facing the French international.

Sakho has been a fighter since his childhood in the tough Paris suburb of Goutte d’Or, or ‘Little Africa’.

“I grew up in an area of Paris that isn’t all sweet and nice,” he said. “At that age, you have to put yourself about a bit and earn some respect.

“When I was 14 or 15, I tried to impose myself on the other players at PSG, but it was soon made clear to me that I needed to focus and concentrate, that I needed to go to bed early and work hard. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

“I think I will be suited to the English style of play. I felt I had done it all with Paris and that it was time for me to turn a new page in my career.”

Rodgers: Williams’ Challenge On Coutinho Was Clumsy

Brendan Rodgers has described Ashley Williams’ challenge on Philippe Coutinho as “clumsy” after the Brazilian was sidelined for six weeks.

The 21-year-old had to be substituted in the 55th minute of Liverpool’s 2-2 draw at the Liberty Stadium after clashing with Swansea City captain Williams.

The South American requires surgery on a shoulder injury and the Reds expect to be without the former Inter Milan playmaker for at least a month-and-a-half.

“He’s only just having it [surgery] today so the timescale from the medics is obviously up to six weeks,” Rodgers to a pre-match news conference on Thursday.

“We wouldn’t anticipate any sooner than that. It’s unfortunate for him because he’s been in great form since he came here in January.

“Hopefully we’ll get him back sooner rather than later and then he can come into the group again.

“It was one where it was more the fall than the challenge. The challenge was probably a bit clumsy but it was actually more the fall that did the damage.

“In those scenarios the bone may be bruised but unfortunately for Philippe the bone came through the muscle. That’s what the pain was and why the operation was needed.

“It’s unfortunate because he was a really pivotal player for us in the game. When he went, we lost that connection between our midfield and the front line; it disrupted our balance a bit.

“These things happen in football. Hopefully he’ll recover quickly and come back to us in good shape.

“We want to have all the best players available here that we possibly can. You want the problem, as the manager, of who to choose and especially how we’ve started.”

Dalglish: My Liverpool Overachieved In 2012

Kenny Dalglish has defended his record during his second spell as Liverpool boss, claiming the team’s achievements were “beyond any expectations”.

Dalglish was sacked by Liverpool’s American owners Fenway Sports Group in May 2012 because the Reds finished eighth in the Premier League.

The Anfield legend insists winning the Carling Cup, which remains their only trophy since 2006, and reaching the FA Cup Final that season were more memorable than finishing fourth.

“Liverpool Football Club is massive and the support it gets is fantastic,” he said. “They had not won anything for six years when I got there, but we won something in our first season.

“What those boys achieved in 2012 was fantastic. To win the Carling Cup and to get to an FA Cup Final was beyond any expectations.

“People will turn around and say we finished eighth in the league, but how many points would you swap for three Wembley trips?

“Because of the cup runs, it was probably a reason why the league results were not what we had hoped for, but the lads were fantastic and that can only stand them in good stead.

“That League Cup was a trophy for Liverpool Football Club. I don’t see that as anything but a positive. It’s always pleasant to get a winner’s medal.

“For Dirk Kuyt, to have won his first medal at Liverpool Football Club after so long must have meant so much to him and to win a trophy at Wembley again clearly meant a lot to the fans.

“Nowadays it’s also a success to finish in the top four and get into the Champions League.

“It might be more rewarding to qualify in Europe after finishing fourth, but who remembers that game when you finished fourth to get there?

“Winning a cup final against Cardiff at Wembley and walking away with the Carling Cup was a day to remember.

“Yes, I would have loved to have finished fourth and I would have loved to have won the Champions League and won the Premier League, but it was never going to be achieved overnight.

“If you take short steps, you’ve got a chance and what we achieved was a positive move.”

Dalglish spent £60million the previous summer on the likes of Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing and Charlie Adam and says they needed more than just one season to settle at Anfield.

“We signed seven new players and for Liverpool Football Club to try and assimilate so many in one season was a huge ask for the players,” he said.

“Some of those young lads at Liverpool are going to be really good footballers, but the club had never brought seven new players in before, who would all start at the same time.”

Despite his hurt at leaving Liverpool, Dalglish, who was a club ambassador before succeeding Roy Hodgson as manager in January 2011, says he would jump at the chance to return again in any capacity.

“I’ve always said that I’m happy to help Liverpool Football Club in whatever way I can and that hasn’t changed in any way, shape or form,” he said.