Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Liverpool Can Make Premier League Title Challenge

Liverpool can make a challenge for the Premier League title, according to Sky Sports pundit Niall Quinn.

The Reds have made an impressive start to the season and currently sit in second place in the division after seven games.

And, after Brendan Rodgers' side comfortably beat Premier League new-boys Crystal Palace this weekend, Quinn has backed the Merseyside outfit for a title challenge.

Speaking on Sky Sports Saturday Night Football Match Choice, Quinn said: "When you've got a team like Liverpool that have made this great start and finished last season quite well - I think it's one Premier League loss in 15 - you'd have to say Liverpool fans can start thinking about challenging for the title again. "

Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez were both on the scoresheet in Liverpool's 3-1 victory this past weekend and Quinn believes the pair will be key for the club's success this season.

He continued by saying: "With these strikers and if they prevent goals from going in the other end, Liverpool can challenge for the title.

"Any good Liverpool team has always had great centre forwards. If you look back there was Keegan, Dalglish, Rush, Aldridge - they all got 20 goals plus and that's the secret.

"Here you've got two players that could possibly do that, you still believe between them they could go on and achieve that.

"Now Brendan Rodgers will play it down, but at that end of the pitch everything looks great for Liverpool and others are coming in to as well.

"The likes of Jordan Henderson are much more mature now, they know more about it and [Steven] Gerrard still has so much to offer.

Quinn also believes Rodgers' new goalkeeper Simon Mignolet will be key to the Reds' campaign.

"I think it will possibly boil down to Simon Mignolet and the season he has, because he's been brilliant up to now but, overall, there are lots of positive signs for Liverpool."

The Reds will be hoping their fine run of form continues after the international break as they travel to St James Park to take on Newcastle United in their next fixture.

Sturridge Crucial To England's World Cup Hopes

England hurtle towards their destiny-defining World Cup qualifiers with total faith in Daniel Sturridge, a centre-forward with only 55 minutes’ competitive international experience and who has partnered Wayne Rooney only in friendly combat and only for 30 minutes. It’s not blind faith. England’s belief is understandable because at 24, and liberated at Liverpool by Brendan Rodgers, Sturridge has finally come of age.

He has been at major clubs before, at Manchester City and Chelsea, but never given the trust and run of games he craved, always finding his path blocked by £50m signings or his influence inhibited by being pushed out wide. For too long, Sturridge has been adjacent to major events rather than in the middle of them. He has featured in an FA Cup final but also sat frustrated on the bench in a Champions League final. Too often the onlooker, rarely the leading light.

Sturridge’s career was also stymied by injury and flaws in his approach. Too selfish, the critics said. Too one-footed, they added. A promising career meandered. This is a player who first stepped on a Premier League pitch more than six years ago and who first scored in the Champions League three years ago. Only now is potential becoming eye-catching reality. Eight goals in nine Liverpool games this season signals the change. This maturing has come through listening and learning.

Sturridge has always been surrounded by those offering good advice. Aged seven, he was shown videos of Pele by his father Michael, a decent non-League player. He acquired his dribbling skills slaloming through cones at Michael’s soccer school where Nathan Delfouneso’s talents were also nurtured. His education continued at the Academies of Aston Villa, Coventry City and then City.

His spell on loan from Chelsea at Bolton Wanderers helped: Owen Coyle gave him the starting place he desired, building his confidence, while Kevin Davies toughened him up in training. Back at Cobham, Sturridge noted how hard the right-footed John Terry worked on his left foot, allowing him to pass with either whatever the pressure. Sturridge was having lessons but was just unable to put them into action.

Wise family voices are all around Sturridge, including uncles Dean and Simon, former strikers of considerable repute in the Midlands and elsewhere. Dean talks to Daniel regularly, encouraging him to practice, practice, practice. This year, Sturridge’s determination to make himself a more effective all-round centre-forward has led to extra training at Melwood devoted purely to his right foot. The left remains his principal weapon but an increased willingness to shoot with either foot was noticeable against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

If England do qualify for Brazil, Roy Hodgson should buy Rodgers the first Caipirinha. Liverpool’s current manager brought Sturridge to Anfield for £12 million, gave him the belief, the stage and the support both on and off the field. Assiduously attentive to detail, Rodgers has overseen Sturridge’s burgeoning partnership with Luis Suárez, spending time with the pair at Melwood, shaping their understanding. Some of it is instinctive. A few days after joining, Sturridge dummied for Suárez to score against Norwich. With Philippe Coutinho or Victor Moses in the hole of Rodgers’ new 3-4-1-2 system, Sturridge does not need to drop off and can stay up where he belongs, darting and dribbling in and around the box.

Liverpool, and Rodgers’ management, has been the making of Sturridge. On arriving at Anfield, Sturridge spoke of his delight and also his gratitude to Rodgers. He knew this was a huge chance, possibly his last chance at a heavyweight club following disappointment at City and Chelsea. He spoke of being “humbled” by the opportunity.

Everyone from Rodgers to the Sturridge family deserves credit for his development but ultimately it was the player who decided to leave Chelsea, who tackled the gaps in his game, who improved his decision-making with his final ball.

Those who have long followed Sturridge’s career have seen him transformed from the slightly selfish, slightly hit-and-miss target-man for Team GB at last year’s Olympics.
He is now a more authoritative presence on the pitch, his thought process apparently assisted by reading Jamie Smart’s “Clarity”, a book aimed at focusing the mind better. Established at Liverpool, Sturridge now needs to cement himself in England’s starting line-up.

He has only one goal in six caps under three coaches, Fabio Capello, caretaker Stuart Pearce and now Hodgson. Of Sturridge’s 201 minutes with England, less than an hour is competitive (21 minutes in the 1-1 home draw with Ukraine when he replaced Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and 34 minutes against San Marino in Serravalle last March when he came on for Rooney).

Rooney and Sturridge have shared a field for only 30 minutes until Sturridge limped off in the friendly with the Republic of Ireland in May. Now they form an international rescue double act. To think it was only a month ago that Sturridge was being assailed on social-media sites by England fans for withdrawing from the games against Moldova and Ukraine and for some misinterpreted comments. In an interview with Liverpool’s website, Sturridge remarked that he was “more worried about putting in good performances for us [Liverpool]” than thinking about England.

He was simply making the sensible point that England is a privilege that comes to those who deliver for their clubs. Annoyed by fans’ splenetic reaction, Sturridge tweeted a clarification, noting that “England is the pinnacle”. Sturridge’s ascent towards the pinnacle has been circuitous but he’s getting there.

Suarez Targets World Cup Qualification

Striker Luis Suarez hopes his goalscoring return from suspension for Liverpool will benefit Uruguay in their bid for World Cup qualification.

The 26-year-old has three goals in just two appearances following his 10-match ban for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic in April.

During the time he was suspended Suarez's only competitive matches came for his national team, scoring three times in four matches at the Confederations Cup and then twice in the qualifying victory over Peru last month.

But he thinks his return in a Reds shirt can help even more ahead of of Friday's crucial clash against Ecuador, who hold the fourth and final automatic qualification spot, which is then followed their final game at home to Argentina.

"I feel very happy because I have returned to play at the club and that helps," Suarez told reporters on his arrival in Montevideo.

"Playing in Quito is difficult and we are aware that they have a a lot at stake. We cannot be complacent, we are realistic.

"We have been winning and doing things right, but we cannot rely on anything.

"A couple of months ago we were resigned to the play-offs, now all we want, based on the good results, is qualifying outright.

"We know we have the team to push through qualifying to reach the World Cup."

Arsenal & Liverpool Face Fight For Young Swede

Arsenal and Liverpool face fresh competition in the race to sign Alexander Milosevic, according to reports.

The Daily Express claims Fulham boss Martin Jol has taken an interest in the 21-year-old Swede, and is set to keep tabs on the youngster in an U21 international match against Poland this week.

Jol is chasing a new centre-back, the paper reports, but face strong competition for the player’s signature, with Spurs, Celtic, Fiorentina, Eintracht Frankfurt and AC Milan all credited with an interest at different stages in the past.

Arsenal and Liverpool are among the clubs who have also been linked with Milosevic, whose contract with AIK runs out at the end of the season.

The Gunners have looked strong at the back this season, shipping just eight goals in seven games as they sit atop of the Premier League table.

However, manager Arsene Wenger is renowned for bringing top young talent to the Emirates Stadium, and it will be interesting to see if the Arsenal boss goes back in for the former Vasalunds IF starlet.

The Reds have been even better at the back this term, conceding just five goals on their way to second-place in the English top flight.

Brendan Rodgers is another manager who’s happy to gamble on youth, with several youngsters involved in the Liverpool first team this season.

Milosevic would be another player for the future at Anfield if he were to arrive on Merseyside, but again there is plenty of competition standing in the Reds' way if they wish to pursue the signature.

Liverpool Target Will Hughes Destined To Leave Derby

Derby boss Steve McClaren admits the club will not be able to retain the services of highly-rated teenage midfielder Will Hughes, amid speculation linking him with Liverpool.

The 18-year-old has attracted interest from the Reds, while Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Spanish giants Barcelona have also scouted the Rams academy graduate.

Despite being linked with a move away from Derby during the summer, the club received no bids but McClaren has accepted it will be difficult to keep the player in the long term.

‘Our job is to make sure he makes it, and eventually he will be too good (for Derby),’ said McClaren following his first game in charge against Leeds on Saturday, which saw Hughes on the scoresheet in a 3-1 win for the Rams.

‘What we need behind that is players coming through to replace him.’

Gerrard Joins 15-Year Premier League Goalscorer Club

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard broke another Anfield record after scoring from the penalty spot in Saturday's comfortable 3-1 victory over struggling Crystal Palace.

The 33-year-old midfielder netted his 99th Premier League goal, and in doing so, became only the seventh player in English top-flight history to score in 15 (or more) consecutive seasons, and the first to do it with the Merseyside club.

It's a run that stretches all the way back to 1999/2000, when the England captain fired his first senior goal for Liverpool in a 4-1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday.

Yan Dhanda Could Have Joined Chelsea

Liverpool teenager Yan Dhanda has revealed that he once missed the opportunity to undertake a trial with Chelsea, but believes he ended up at the right club after moving to Anfield this summer.

The 14-year-old has the ambition of becoming the first Indian player to feature for the club's first team, but may have had the chance to establish himself at Chelsea if things had gone differently.

During his time with West Brom, Dhanda won a competition held by Chelsea in search of an Asian star, and his prize for success was the chance to go on trial with the Stamford Bridge club.

But, says Dhanda, he had to forgo the offer from Chelsea in order to fulfil his commitments with the Baggies.

"I was surprised to win because I was at West Brom at the time," Dhanda told the official Liverpool website.

"I won a trial at Chelsea but I was away with West Brom so I didn't go."

Dhanda, though, is perfectly content with having eventually secured a switch to Liverpool, and explains how the influence of manager Brendan Rodgers persuaded him to reject other offers in favour of a move to Merseyside.

He added: "I was so excited and the fact that Brendan Rodgers was manager made me even more excited.

"It made me want to join Liverpool more than ever because of the way he has faith in young players."

Cissokho Makes His Return In U21 Victory

A match that produced plenty of talking points for the U21s will be recapped more in-depth during Jake's Academy Update, but among the pieces worth noting--of which there were many, especially in a rampant first half--was the return to action for left-back Aly Cissokho, who started in his natural position and proved an integral part of the squad's early successes while logging a full ninety minutes in the 5-0 win. His clipped through ball for Cameron Brannagan led directly to Liverpool's second, and he was largely solid in his first taste of organized action since coming off injured against Notts County shortly after making his debut against Aston Villa.

There had been talk that Cissokho would be available for selection against Crystal Palace on Saturday, but after that proved either too soon or simply deemed unnecessary, today provided a chance to start to get himself back in contention and get a bit of match fitness as the international break kicks off. He'll have plenty of time to wait to see where he fits once club football resumes, and that will be one of the more interesting storylines to watch as Liverpool's squad comes back together.

The window seems open with the continued inconsistent play of Jose Enrique; many have Cissokho penciled in as the regular starter at either fullback or wingback straightaway, though the Spaniard's creativity and decision-making have improved slightly as Luis Suarez made his return to the squad. Suarez and Enrique had some lovely linking play last season and have shown signs of it again over the past few weeks, and if their combination is an actual thing, Cissokho might find a breakthrough more than a little difficult.

His versatility could prove a strength in that regard, with his first appearance coming at Villa as a substitute in a slightly more advanced role on the left after replacing Iago Aspas. It's hard to see him crowding anyone other than Enrique out of the starting eleven, though, and his time at Liverpool is going to be ultimately graded on how much he can offer in a fullback and/or wingback role.

Five-star Reds Run Riot Against Spurs

Liverpool U21s were in scintillating form as they hammered Tottenham 5-0 at Langtree Park on Monday night.

Alex Inglethorpe's side were ruthless as five different scorers added their name to the score-sheet during an emphatic win.

Adam Morgan netted the first from the spot before Cameron Brannagan side-footed home the second.

Ryan McLaughlin tapped in Liverpool's third, Brad Smith curled a beauty for four and Joao Carlos Teixeira sealed the rout with a sumptuous chipped finish.

The Reds controlled the game from the off; Brannagan probed in possession as Jordan Rossiter hounded the opposition in the middle of the park.

Morgan saw two efforts go close early on - the first when he sped clear of Spurs' defence and shot wide of Jonathan Miles' post.

However, the Halewood lad made amends on 25 minutes. McLaughlin hurtled down the left flank before being hacked to the floor in the penalty area and Morgan stepped up to bury the opener from 12 yards.

Summer signing Aly Cissokho, playing his first minutes since sustaining an ankle injury in August, was included in Inglethorpe's side - and he carved the Reds' second goal with a sublime pass.

Tottenham's back-line was suddenly in disarray and Brannagan exploited the gaps with a late run from deep. Cissokho spotted his burst, dinked the ball over the top and the youngster calmly tucked his shot below the 'keeper.

Rossiter was on the ball seconds later and he pieced apart the Spurs defence with a 35-yard inch-perfect pass; however, McLaughlin saw his curling effort palmed clear.

It was 3-0 before half-time when Smith, playing for the first time since January 14, danced down the right flank and squared the ball to McLaughlin, who prodded home Liverpool's third.

The Reds picked up where they left off after the interval. Smith scooped the ball out on the right flank, cut inside and unleashed a sensational curling effort from the edge of the box that dipped under the crossbar for 4-0.

Smith was then replaced by Samed Yesil, who came in to play his first minutes since January 28 – and the forward went agonizingly close to crowning his return with a goal when he struck the post with a fine effort.

Teixeira was the next substitution, and he took seconds to make his mark on the game when he pounced on a defensive mix-up, raced through on goal and dinked the ball over the onrushing 'keeper to seal a fantastic win for the young Reds.