Ahead of Liverpool’s first Champions League away game in five years Paul is joined by Ste Hoare, Mike Kennedy and Dan Kennett to bring you all the Uncensored Match Build Up!
Sunday Sep 28Posted by: Ben Green Comments Off
A last gasp rasping effort from Jim Jagielka robbed Liverpool of a thoroughly deserved three points in a hotly contested Merseyside derby yesterday as the game finished all square with a goal a-piece.
Against the advice from LFC File match preview, Brendan Rodgers opted for Martin Skrtel to partner Dejan Lovren in the centre of defence with Javi Manquillo and Alberto Moreno becoming customary in the right and left back positions respectively. Steven Gerrard was accompanied by his vice-captain Jordan Henderson in front of the back four. Lone striker Mario Balotelli was supported by Adam Lallana, Raheem Sterling and the so far ineffective Lazar Marković.
This time the real Liverpool team turned up to play and kept a high tempo for their visitors to contend with, moving the ball crisply and showing good movement. A definite improvement on previous showings it has to be said. The usual early, tasty derby day challenges came with Gareth Barry challenging Lallana robustly in the first minute to earn himself a yellow card, and Moreno craftily holding onto Romelu Lukaku as the Everton forward made a bustling run into the home area. Unpunished.
Marković spent most of the first half getting caught in possession, whilst Henderson made some good interceptions and runs from deep. Sterling and Lallana making good use of the space and kept the blue defence on the back foot. Lallana it has to be said was particularly bright. Balotelli went close with a free kick after being fouled by Barry who in all fairness, should have received a second yellow having escaped a handball shout in the Everton penalty area moments earlier. Tim Howard went well to parry away striker’s shot. From the resulting corner, Lallana forced another fine save from Howard from his close-range header.
The second half saw the introduction of Philippe Coutinho in place of the hopeless Marković on 60 minutes. Five minutes later, Liverpool were in front. Balotelli done well to dispossess the pantomime villain (Gareth Barry), and found Sterling on the edge of the visitors’ box. The return pass to the former Man City striker was unfairly intercepted by Leighton Baines to concede a free kick 25 yards from the Everton goal. Up stepped Gerrard to show the Italian international just how a free kick is converted, sending a dipping, curling effort to Howard’s left.The ball , despite Howard’s outstretched hand, hit the back of the net sending Gerrard, the team and 44,000 fans into raptures. 1-0 and Liverpool in the driving seat.
As with all things Liverpool this season, drama comes included, not to mention a huge drop of crunching disappointment. Having seemingly secured the three points and playing the game out, the unimaginable, up until now impossible occurred. With no huge threat to the Liverpool goal, the ball fell to Jagielka who, 25 yards from goal, unleashed a shot that on 364 days of the year would have ended up in the Mersey. However, this typically being the 365th day, it flew past a helpless Simon Mignolet and into the goal. 1-1. The visiting fans in heaven, as you’d expect from them. The hosts utterly deflated. Another win in hand, cast aside. This time, though in the cruelest of ways.
To be fair, Liverpool deserved to win this match. They showed real hunger from the first whistle to the last. Lallana and Balotelli were particularly impressive. In the latter we’re beginning to see a new Mario Balotelli. Miles better than the old one. This one works for the team as well as himself. This one chases apparent lost causes and refuses to quit having lost possession. This one knows what playing for Liverpool is all about. If he continues in this vain, he will be an undoubted success for the team. Lallana also, is showing why Rodgers shelled out – what amounts to more than a lifetime’s earnings for most people – on the 26 year-old.
A few more performances like this with the new Mario, Lallana and the return of Daniel Sturridge. The continued efforts of Henderson, Gerrard and the defence will see Liverpool’s season come alive. Hopefully, the early season lapses can be put behind them, but already, the side has it all to do. There’s a hell of a lot of football to be played between now and May. Yesterday we saw that anything can happen in that time. Get strapped in. Tight!
Follow me on Twitter: @Mrbengreen
Saturday Sep 27Posted by: Ben Green Comments Off
Liverpool host neighbours Everton this afternoon in the early kick-off with the intention of reasserting their dominance of last season over the boys from across Stanley Park.
Going into the match, Brendan Rodgers remains without Joe Allen (knee), Emre Can (ankle), Jon Flanagan (knee) and Glen Johnson (thigh). Although Daniel Sturridge should be available after overcoming his thigh injury sustained whilst with England.
Formation-wise, Rodgers should be looking to retain Mamadou Sahko and Dejan Lovren as the central defensive pairing. The two give a good mixture of passing – both short and long as well as good positioning over the erratic Martin Skrtel. The pair have come in for some criticism this morning from Jamie Carragher in the Daily Mail. But let’s face it, their the best we have right now in my opinion. I expect Alberto Moreno and Javi Manquillo to remain at left and right back respectively, and Steven Gerrard returning to the side in front of the back four.
Unfortunately, it’s likely that Lucas will return to the midfield along with Jordan Henderson in the absence of Can and Allen. Adam Lallana played very well in midweek and he looks as if he’s returning to form. I expect him to start alongside Mario Balotelli with Raheem Sterling in support. On the midweek performance, I don’t see any place for Lazar Marković, who for me remains the only totally unconvincing summer purchase.
Philippe Coutinho may also feature but on recent form, it’s unlikely he’ll get the nod over Lucas. The former’s dip in form this season has been startling and bewildering to say the least and I’m hoping he can play a part today and get his confidence back on track. I’m also looking for a good performance from Simon Mignolet between the sticks as he’s been less than reliable of late. Hopefully the rumors surrounding Victor Valdes will prove to be true and Rodgers can bring in some real competition for the last line of the defence.
Considering the recent run of poor form, Liverpool need to return to their high intensity game that served them so well last season. So far this term they’ve looked to play more to the strengths of Balotelli. Not a good plan. It would be better to stick with the winning formula. The Italian, despite his lack of mobility could still contribute in a high tempo environment and we need to see this again. likewise the centre back pairing, whoever Rodgers goes for needs to start showing more awareness, ability and courage in games and what better time to get things going than now against an Everton side that’s been arguably just as poor so far.
Elsewhere, the match to watch today will be the North London Derby between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspurs at the Emirates Stadium for the late kick-off. Last week only Chelsea recorded a victory from the ‘top’ sides, although Spurs will be looking to extend their form with a win over Arsene Wenger’s inconsistent Gooners. For me, the dark horse this year is going to be Southampton who under Ronald Koemann who has put together an impressive unit. They face QPR today so I’d expect another three points for them!
So, let the talking stop and the games begin. Hopefully the mast have report this evening will recount a better affair than last week’s gloomy, rant. Come on Brendan, give the fans something to cheer for.
Follow me on Twitter: @Mrbengreen