Thursday Mar 27Posted by: Guest Writer Comments Off
The question on many football supporters and pundits lips are can Liverpool really sustain a real title challenge with the remaining games they have to play. With the continuous denial of the 3 main contenders managers it is becoming a very frustrating time as a Football follower to make any real sense of the interviews that particular managers give. According to Jose who is as ever playing mind games with everyone Chelsea are not the favourites for the title despite the extensive wealth of title-winning experience in the team. Jose has on numerous situations shifted the attention of the media towards the other blues in the title race. Manchester City currently have 3 games in hand and have a much superior goal difference in comparison to Chelsea but also face a less so tolerable time when you look at the fixture list with Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool still to play. Despite the games in hand Jose will still be a lot happier than City boss Pellegrini as he currently has the points on the board which only puts more pressure on the City players who are not strangers to such pressure winning their first ever Premier league title on the final day with a final flourish from Aguero.
In and amongst all of the back and forth claims between the two financial heavyweights of the league, Liverpool have been the dark horse going under the radar winning games and beating their total goals scored in a season already with 7 games still left to play. Liverpool on 17 occasions this season have scored 3 or more in 20 of their wins which is a ridiculous amount of goals for a team who last year didn’t lack creativity but the final part of the game hitting the back of the net. The obvious difference being this season that Liverpool have got the prolific strike force of Sturridge and Suarez who between them currently have 47 goals which has significantly contributed to the team. The two front men for Liverpool can go out and win games themselves which is a considerable difference between them City and Chelsea’s forwards they are consistently scoring and winning games for the side without needing the aid of goals from other areas of the field,
Are Liverpool real title contenders, I would say so but the pivotal games coming up like Spurs, City and Chelsea will probably decide who the champions are.
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Thursday Mar 27Posted by: Guest Writer Comments Off
It was a story of first goal nerves last night at Anfield, and when it did arrive courtesy of a trademark Steven Gerrard free kick, the crowd erupted into a celebration as loud as had been heard on Merseyside all season.
This wasn’t the trademark Liverpool side whose attacking play has seen them compared to Europe’s elite, yet there was still an air of confidence about the players, that no matter what the situation, they were always going to see this Sunderland tie out and take the three points home.
Sunderland, fighting for their lives near the bottom of the table, may have left Liverpool with a sense of disappointment giving that they had chances near the end to share the points. It is a credit to them that they kept Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge quiet for the majority, staying disciplined and contained at a ground where Liverpool have only lost once all season.
Philippe Coutinho was the man who controlled proceedings in the middle, the little Brazilian utilising the ball well and always looking for the killer through ball. Coutinho has a presence about him which draws players in, and when he is closed down he knows his pass, drops the shoulder and sets the next play away.
Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson again worked tirelessly, although not having the same effect on this game than in previous weeks. Their fitness and work-rate will no doubt prove vital in the last 7 games, with Liverpool still to face fellow title challengers as well as the teams fighting at the bottom for relegation.
The nerves and perspiration oozed out of Anfield, perhaps a dress rehearsal for the final 7 games of the season, a message to let the fans know that they are in for an emotional rollercoaster of a ride.
At 2-0, Brendan Rodgers will have hoped for the cushion of a third, but it is credit to Sunderland and Gus Poyet that this did not happen. He introduced Ki Sung Yeung and Adam Johnson into the game midway through the second half, the pair adding a flair and determination to a tired looking Sunderland team.
The train came close to falling off the tracks after Ki’s 76th minute header, the ball somehow making its way through the Liverpool defence on the near post. Just before the South Korean’s goal, Lee Cattermole struck the bar and John O’Shea came close on 88 minutes with a header which will almost sent shockwaves around Manchester as well as Merseyside.
Suarez and Sturridge- A mixture of perfection and friction?
It has been nothing but plaudits this season for the two Liverpool forwards who have lit up the Premier League with 48 goals between them.
Many have spoken about how different both players they are, how there is almost a friction on the pitch. The inevitable articles questioning their relations on and off the pitch have sprung up from nowhere, no doubt trying to add fuel to the growing fire of this year’s league title run in, and whether their supposed ‘friction’ will see Liverpool fall just short of their 19th league victory.
Brendan Rodgers on Talk Sport post-Sunderland- “Everyone goes on about this partnership they have, but I don’t see it as that, they’re both soloists, they’re both individual players with different qualities”
The 48 goals they have racked up between them this season is nothing short of miraculous, defying the doubters on an almost weekly basis with their cunning and trickery.
This success in front of goal has come about because they are two gifted players, working not as two, but as a whole unit with the rest of their teammates. Whatever this ‘friction’ is, whether it exists at all in fact, it can stick around if this is the scoring rate these two phenomenal talents are producing.
A look ahead to Tottenham
Tim Sherwood’s Tottenham side travel north on Sunday for the 4pm kick off, and with the rest of the 7 playing before this clash, pressure will be on both teams given the nature of the up and down movement of the top teams this campaign.
A recently stuttering Tottenham side will still pose a danger however, and after being so close to Europa league progress away at Benfica then coming from behind to beat a quality Southampton side, they will be wanting to take all the confidence they have in what has been an up and down season.
Expect goals in this game, the fixture last year a memorable 3-2 Liverpool victory, Steven Gerrard scoring the winning penalty in the closing minutes. Tottenham have seen over 2.5 goals scored in 8 out of their last 10 away games they have been involved in, whilst Liverpool’s last 11 homes games out of the last 12 have seen 2.5 goals, with the Reds failing to score just once all season at Anfield.
Brendan Rodgers will look to implement the 4-1-3-2 diamond formation, an effective set-up over the last few games in which Liverpool have won their last 7. In the reverse fixture in December, a busy midfield at White Hart Lane made for a busy and frantic first half, one which Liverpool dominated proceedings throughout and saw Andres Villas Boas lose his job.
It is doubtful the same 5-0 scoreline will pan out this Sunday however, with Tottenham’s away form being their main positive this season, winning 6 of their last 9.
They sit 7 points off 4th and many have written them off Champions League qualification, but with Arsenal stuttering and a fixture list that will see them play just one team in the current top half after their visit to Anfield, a late surge by Sherwood’s men could add a little more to the end of season drama we are all anticipating.
Thursday Mar 27Posted by: Guest Writer Comments Off
Liverpool put in a gritty performance at Anfield last night against a resolute Sunderland side to return to second place in the Premiership. The Reds withstood heavy pressure late on from Gus Poyet’s men and despite some nervous moments on the pitch, the team hung in to claim the three points.
Sunderland arrived for this fixture determined to stifle this rampant attacking Liverpool side with three central defenders deployed across their back line. The plan worked for a large portion of the first half as the home side struggled to find a way past the crowded defence in front of them. The visitors brought with them a huge slice of luck when Santiago Vergini avoided a red card after cynically bringing down Luis Suarez when the Uruguayan appeared to be through on goal with a scoring opportunity. Referee Kevin Friend however, disagreed and chose the lesser sanction of a yellow card.
The anxiety in the fans was clearly felt and the usually vocal Kop was somewhat muted and, like their team struggled to find their best form. The tension was etched on the home fans’ faces as the half wore on. The expectation of Liverpool’s now customary sprint to an early two or three goal lead evaporated and turned into the jitters. The crowded Sunderland defence thwarted Liverpool’s free-flowing, attacking style and the frustration started to show in Brendan Rodgers’ men. Just as they could bear it no longer, up stepped captain Steven Gerrard to convert the free kick awarded as a result of Vergini’s infringement on 39 minutes. In the process showing Luis Suarez how to take a free kick against stubborn opposition.
As the second half began, Sunderland’s intent to stick to their gameplay was evident but the home side had other ideas. Liverpool pressed forward and applied a certain patience to their game that was wanting in the first half. The ball was pushed forward at every opportunity and then passed round the opposition box as they probed an opening.
The midfield diamond of Gerrard at the back, the industrious Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen in the middle and Philippe Coutinho behind the front pair kept the pressure on and the reward came after 48 minutes. Another pass across the visitors’ back line from Coutinho found Henderson on the edge of the box. Daniel Sturridge only had one thing on his mind with the squared pass, shimmying to the left to unleash a deftly placed shot toward goal. The slight deflection off Wes Brown wrong-footed Vito Mannone and he watched helplessly as the net bulged for number two.
The celebration from Sturridge hinted more of pressure relieved than joy and one has to wonder if that underpinned his performance yesterday. It was definitely apparent that both he and Suarez were being particularly single minded yesterday and I have to say that it was to the detriment of the team on occasion. The Kop found it’s voice and jubilation reigned. The smell of a title tilt was evidently in the air as they sang “we’re going to win the league”. Will they? We’ll have to wait and see. Sunderland though, had other ideas.
The introduction of Adam Johnson and Ki Sung-Yeung on 61 minutes for Conor Whickham and Emanuele Giacherini showed Poyet was not here simply to spectate. The visitors began to apply some pressure of their own and the hosts were clearly rattled by this show of audacious defiance of the rules of their manor. The home defence, largely untroubled until now came under constant pressure as Sunderland pushed forward. They showed belief. They showed intent. The Kop showed angst and this seemed to transmit to the erratic unit that is the Liverpool back line who looked on as Lee Cattermole sent a rasping shot cannoning off Simon Mignolet’s bar.
Poyet’s courage bore fruit after 76 minutes. A corner from the Liverpool left caught the defence static. The delivery, just the right height for Jimmy Cranky, completely bypassed the six-foot defenders and landed for Ki to stoop and gratefully nod home to give the visitors a sniff of a share of the spoils. Liverpool were rattled and hung on for the remaining 15 minutes of the game. The fourth official’s signalling of three minutes added time was greeted by the home team and fans alike as if it was 30 and those last few minutes felt like exactly that. The Kop must have been awash with fingernails after the game, nervously chewed off in those dying minutes.
Hang on they did and the three points were in the bag. Brendan Rodgers’ men return to second place and keep the pressure on Chelsea at the top. All attention now turns to the visit of Tottenham on Sundaywho, themselves will be feeling rejuvenated after overturning a two-goal deficit against Southampton at the weekend to win 3-2 and rekindle their place in the hunt for European football qualification. If Liverpool want to keep their hopes alive there really needs to be no room for the kind of nerves that were evident against Sunderland yesterday and for me, if they don’t succeed in bringing the title home this season it will be for this reason.
I believe Liverpool can win it, but the team has to be brave. The fans must be brave. We all have to believe because belief is the difference between winners and losers. The team needs to feel the belief in the fans – in the moment and not just acting so on the way to the ground. As Muhammad Ali said “Champions aren’t made in gyms… They have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be greater than the skill”.
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