Friday, October 04, 2013

Match Preview: Liverpool vs Crystal Palace

Liverpool play host to Crystal Palace on Saturday aiming to return to the top of the table for 24 hours at least.

Liverpool bounced back to winning ways with a 3-1 victory at Sunderland last weekend and they will be keen to keep pace at the top of the table with all three points against Palace.

Brendan Rodgers' side go into the game two points behind leaders Arsenal and victory at Anfield will move them to the summit for 24 hours at least, with the Gunners not in action until Sunday.

Rodgers has recently changed his formation to 3-5-2 and he has a decision to make about whether or not to stick to that when playing at home.

Palace find themselves second from bottom of the table after losing five of their opening six games on their return to the Premier League.

Ian Holloway's men have now gone three games without scoring and they have gone 16 top-flight games without a victory away from Selhurst Park.

Liverpool is without midfielder Lucas Leiva as he serves a one-match ban for picking up five bookings already this season.

Jordan Henderson is expected to revert to Lucas' defensive midfield role with Raheem Sterling hoping to earn a recall to the starting XI.

Luis Suarez is expected to make his first appearance at Anfield after returning from his 10-game ban for biting Branislav Ivanovic after making his comeback in away games at Manchester United and Sunderland.

Philippe Coutinho remains on the sidelines as he recovers from shoulder surgery, while Glen Johnson, Aly Cissokho and Joe Allen are all expected to return after next week's international break.

Sebastian Coates is a long-term absentee after suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury on international duty.

Crystal Palace welcome back winger Yannick Bolasie after recovering from a hamstring injury which has sidelined him since pre-season.

The 24-year-old came through a practice game in midweek and he is set to be included in the squad by Ian Holloway.

Long-term absentees Glenn Murray (knee), Jack Hunt and Jonny Williams (both ankle) remain on the sidelines for Palace.

Defensive trio Patrick McCarthy, Damien Delaney and Jonathan Parr are all doubtful for the trip to Anfield.

Rodgers Pleads For Patience

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has urged his team to be patient when Crystal Palace visits Anfield on Saturday.

The Northern Irishman's Reds welcome Ian Holloway's Londoners knowing that a fifth victory of the campaign would see his side sit top of the Premier League on Saturday evening.

Struggling Palace lie second from bottom after one win and five defeats on their return to the top flight but Rodgers insisted he would not underestimate the visitors.

"In the modern game, teams are set up defensively well. Tactically, there is limited space - especially at home," Rodgers told

"You have to be patient, teams aren't going to just turn up and roll over. Especially if you don't get an early goal - a goal in that first 20-25 minutes - then it can be difficult.

"However, we're a team that's evolving and starting to understand that side of football; with every attack, you can't score.

Since the 1-0 defeat by Southampton at home in the league, Rodgers's men have gone down 1-0 at Manchester United in the Capital One Cup but won comfortably 3-1 at Sunderland's Stadium Of Light.

"I'm not one to dwell on too many negatives, to be honest," added the 40-year-old. "We were disappointing in that (Southampton) game; we maybe didn't deserve to lose it but we certainly didn't do enough to win it.

"We reflect on the areas, in terms of the corners, that we can be better at. But then we move on, and we have moved on well with a good performance at Sunderland.

"We love playing at home; Anfield is a good place for us to be. This year, 2013, has shown that. Hopefully we continue with our record, which is playing well there and getting results, and improving that record.

"We understand it will be a difficult game and we will look to get the three points and perform well."

Rodgers Aims To Build Liverpool Around Suarez & Sturridge

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers believes the partnership between Daniel Sturridge and the retuning Luis Suarez is so good he is comfortable revolving his team around the duo.

In recent weeks, the Northen Irishman has opted to field just three defenders, a tactical choice rarely seen in the Premier League.

The decision allows the Reds manager to pack his midfield with creativity and provide service for in-form Sturridge, who has netted seven goals from eight appearances so far this season.

The England international has done well to carry the Merseyside outfit’s attacking threat on his shoulders over the past months, but his burden has been lessened somewhat with the return of Suarez, who scored a brace in his return to top-flight action in their 3-1 win over Sunderland.

And Rodgers revealed he satisfaction with the current set-up’s suitability to getting the best out of the frontmen.

"It's about exploiting the strengths of our players and I think this does it well for us," said the Liverpool chief.

"In Suarez and Sturridge, I've got what I call two 'nine-and-a-halves'.

"They both like to move, they like to drift and they both like to go into the half-positions in between the lines.

"You've got two great players as your front two and then you build the structure around that.

"I'm not the traditional 4-4-2 man and with the players we've got we can make this system work.

"If you have got them [Sturridge and Suarez] through the middle, moving and inter-changing then your structure has to then change behind that and that's obviously something that we have done."

Second-placed Liverpool has enjoyed a positive start to their Premier League campaign and have a chance to leapfrog leaders Arsenal, who play Sunday, with a victory at home to Crystal Palace over the weekend.

Their last appearance at Anfield saw them slip to a surprise, but slim, defeat to Southampton, but Rodgers is adamant they will not fall into that trap again.

"I am not one to dwell on too many negatives," he said.

"We were disappointing in that game, we maybe didn't deserve to lose it but we didn't deserve to win it. We have moved on well.

"There are still lots of areas that we can be better but we have confidence and belief at the moment.

"We are team who are evolving and we are starting to understand that side of football that with every attack you can't score, sometimes you have to disrupt your opponents' organization and then make goals from there and that requires patience from the players and supporters.

"The beauty for me is that I think we've still got a lot of improvement to make and we'll just look to keep winning the next game."

Liverpool Line Up January Move For PSG Rebel

Liverpool is preparing a £5million move for Paris Saint-Germain winger - and former Manchester United and Arsenal target - Jeremy Menez, reports the London Metro.

The 26-year-old was heavily linked with the Merseyside club during the summer, after an impressive season in France, where he scored eight goals and made 11 assists to help PSG to the Ligue 1 title.

But, after a transfer failed to materialize, the France international remained at Parc des Princes, and began the 2013/14 campaign under the new stewardship of Laurent Blanc.

However, Menez's future is now shrouded in doubt, following a bust-up with the PSG manager during last night's 3-0 victory over Benfica.

The forward stormed off the bench in the closing stages of Wednesday's Champions League encounter, after Blanc refused to bring him on as a second-half substitute.

And, with Menez now banned from first-team training, Brendan Rodgers is ready to swoop when the transfer window reopens in January, as the Liverpool boss looks to lure the player to Anfield in a cut-price deal.

Arsene Wenger has also been previously credited with an interest in bringing the player to the Emirates Stadium, but with the Gunners now enjoying a wealth of attacking midfield options, it's unlikely that Menez can be accommodated in the first-team.

Manchester United is another old suitor, but that was before the appointment of David Moyes as Sir Alex Ferguson's successor at Old Trafford.

As a result, it's unclear whether the reigning Premier League champions will rival Liverpool or AS Monaco - who are also monitoring Menez's situation - with a bid for the player at the turn of the year.

Liverpool Trio Set For Return

Glen Johnson, Aly Cissokho and Joe Allen are all on course to make their Liverpool comebacks after the international break.

Right-back Johnson is back in training as he steps up his recovery from a sprained ankle suffered during the 1-0 Premier League victory over Manchester United on September 1.

Left-back Cissokho is on the way back from an ankle problem sustained during the 4-2 Capital One Cup victory over Notts County on August 27.

And midfielder Allen is also close to recovery after picking up a hamstring injury during the same match.

None of the trio will be available for Saturday’s Premier League home game against Crystal Palace -- where Liverpool will also be without suspended midfielder Lucas Leiva and playmaker Philippe Coutinho, who is recovering from shoulder surgery.

But Reds manager Brendan Rodgers is hopeful of getting most of his absentees back after the international break, in time for the trip to Newcastle on October 19.

He said: “Glen’s out on the field, and we hope that after the international break, he’ll be ready to come back into the squad.

“Aly Cissokho has trained over the last week or so, and I think he’ll be ready to come back in after the international break.

“Joe Allen, likewise, should be ready for the Newcastle game, along with Glen Johnson, and Coutinho will not be long after that.”

Lucas is serving a one-match ban after picking up five yellow cards in the first six league matches of the season.

The Brazilian will be difficult to replace as Rodgers does not have an obvious stand-in with the same qualities.

But the Reds boss says that whoever does fill in will need the tactical discipline to ensure the team do not leave themselves too open.

He said: “Whoever plays in there understands the dynamics of what’s required -- that they may have to curtail their game a little bit. If you go in and move freely in that space, it just leaves you too open.

“Our movement and fluidity in the other half of the field is getting better, but you always have to make sure you have that tactical discipline. We talk about that every day. Tactically, we work very hard on our game. That’s something that whoever plays in there will have to do.”

Rodgers has made clear that he prizes tactical flexibility and an ability in his players to operate in different positions.

Midfielder Jordan Henderson has proved one such case, playing as a right wing-back in the absence of the injured Johnson in last Sunday’s 3-1 win at Sunderland, as Rodgers switched from his usual back four to a three-man central defence.

Rodgers said: “I think for Jordan, his versatility is only one thing -- it’s a compliment. I’ve been so impressed -- since I’ve been here, Jordan’s got better and better. His level tactically is very good. He wants to improve all the time. If I didn’t think he could play in the roles properly, I wouldn’t put him there.

“So it’s a great credit to him. At the end of last season, he played as a false winger from the left coming inside, he played wide on the right in his first season here, he’s played as wing-back, wide in the midfield in a four. But in all the systems, you get a work rate and a mentality. Jordan’s got quality. I don’t see it as a hindrance for him. I see it only as a positive.

“I know he really enjoys playing. And wherever he plays, there’s no drop off. You can play him at right-back, as I have, and he’s got forward well. He’s a good young footballer whose understanding of the game is improving all the time, and that allows him to play different positions.”

Liverpool Goalkeeper Targets Barcelona Switch

Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina has confirmed that he wants to move to Barcelona next summer.

The Spanish international, who is currently on loan at Rafa Benitez's Napoli side, has targeted a return to the Catalan ouftit.

With current Barca 'keeper Victor Valdes expected to leave the Nou Camp at the season's end, Reina could be the man to replace his fellow Spaniard in goal.

The 31-year-old has already given up hope of returning to Anfield. Brendan Rodgers signed goalkeeper Simon Mignolet in the summer and the Belgian has impressed so far for the Reds.

So, Reina will now hope to make the switch to Barcelona once his deal with Napoli comes to an end.

Speaking to Catalunya Radio, Reina said: "I would very much like to return to Barcelona. I'm delighted that my name has been suggested, but my goal now is to have a good season in Naples. And in the summer, we will see.

"Nothing is signed. I imagine that the club [Barcelona] has spoken with many and have several in the pipeline. We will see what happens next year with Victor Valdes."

Reina's immediate focus will be with Napoli. Benitez's side has made a strong start to Serie A winning five of their opening six fixtures.

However they will be hoping to get over their recent setback after they were beaten 2-0 against Arsenal in the Champions League.

Raheem Sterling To Return To Under-21 Squad

Raheem Sterling has been recalled to the England Under-21 squad as boss Gareth Southgate aims to extend his unbeaten start to life in charge.

The Liverpool starlet missed the last two games for the Young Lions after being called up to Roy Hodgson's senior side.

But Sterling, who has had problems off the field in recent months, has not been named in his 23-man squad for the crucial World Cup qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland.

Southgate, who signed a three-year deal as boss in August after Stuart Pearce's departure, took the opportunity to name the 18-year-old in his squad for the European Championship qualifying double-header against San Marino and Lithuania.

Joining him in the 24-man party are Blackpool's Tom Ince who is fit again after injury ruled him out of the previous games against Scotland, Moldova and Finland and West Ham's Ravel Morrison.

Perhaps the biggest surprise, though, is the inclusion of Burnley's goal ace Danny Ings who has never represented his country at any level before.

A lot was expected of the likeable 21-year-old this season after the high-profile departure of Charlie Austin from the Lancashire side.

But Ings has not disappointed having blossomed under boss Sean Dyche, nicknamed 'the ginger Mourinho', and his call up is just reward for a 10 goal haul in just 13 games has fired Burnley to the top of the Championship .

Southgate's side travel to San Marino for a match on Thursday October 10 before facing Lithuania at Portman Road five days later.

Not joining them on the plane is Sterling's Liverpool team-mate Andre Wisdom after the FA decided not to appeal his four-game ban for seeing red in the 1-1 draw against Finland.

Stevie Joined Brendan In Bayern Scouting

As reigning European champions Bayern Munich dismantled Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday evening, both the Liverpool boss and skipper were in attendance on a scouting mission.

The German side, now coached by Pep Guardiola, served notice of their intention to retain the Champions League crown - which the Reds lifted in 2005 - with a handsome 3-1 victory over City.

Brendan Rodgers was joined by Steven Gerrard and a number of his players to watch the action up close, and the Northern Irishman returned to Merseyside with a healthy amount of inspiration.

"Steven Gerrard was at the game with me, and one or two other players as well," Rodgers revealed.

"For anyone in football, if you have a love for the game, it's interesting watching two top teams come together.

"That was as good as it gets; you would do well to see another performance like that one anywhere in Europe. You have to learn from that.

"You look at that level and, for me, it's important because Liverpool want to return to that level. You have to keep one eye on the future and if you look at that you see the quality required.

"There's an awful lot of work to do, but watching that game was a real motivation. That's where every coach, every manager and every player wants to operate.

"You want to compete at that level and be judged at that level. Obviously this club was doing that for a lot of years."

Liverpool Legend Dreams Of Becoming Reds' Boss

Former Liverpool star Sami Hyypia has revealed that it is ambition to one day become the manager of his old club, according to talkSPORT.

The ex-centre half, now in charge at Bayer Leverkusen, enjoyed 10 years at Anfield, where he became captain and won two FA Cups, two League Cups, the Champions League and the UEFA Cup.

Hyypia moved to Germany in 2009, where he became head coach at Leverkusen last year.

The former Finland international has largely impressed so far in his short career in the dugout, and has now revealed that he one day plans to return to Liverpool as manager.

""I have two special places in my heart. I was born in Finland. And there the national team coach is the biggest job. Liverpool has a different place in my heart," Hyypia said.

"I will not say that it is a goal, but after the ten years that I played there, it would be a dream someday to be Liverpool manager. But I live in the here and the now. And that is Bayer Leverkusen, and it is great fun."

Hyypia's Leverkusen have made a remarkable start to the current Bundesliga season, winning six games and only losing one, leaving them in third place and only one point behind Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

His former club is also enjoying a successful campaign so far, with Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool sitting second in the Premier League table following four wins, one loss and a draw.