I had a great chat with Martin Skrtel on Friday. Martin, who was speaking at the launch of Need for Speed Rivals on PS4, told me that he was feeling good and had no injury worries. Just a few minutes before I spoke with him The Daily Express had just put out a headline on how he was ‘injured’ during training. Something Martin laughed out saying it was nothing and he 100% fine.
We talked about the good start to the Liverpool season and asked Martin what was the main difference from this season to last season. He explained that the fact we had a new manager, new trainers and a new style last season made it hard until everyone got used to it. Now that the squad has settled the fruits of the hard work can be seen.
Of course Martin has had an exceptional start to the season and he even scored a goal against Fulham three weeks ago, when asked how he felt about scoring after a year he replied “Very nice feeling, as a defender you don’t get to score many goals so when you do it is always very special”.
I have always wondered if players see stuff that is posted about them on the web so I did ask him about a particular cartoon on the web which shows him eating nails for breakfast. The cartoon was created by @kitster29LFC
Martin of course laughed as he had seen it and I followed it up with “So what do you have for breakfast?”. “Not nails” he replied, “I usually have brown toast and scrambled egg with some cereal”.
Sticking to the humourous note I asked him what his favourite Liverpool banner was (I knew what his answer was going to be).
Martin Skrtel’s favourite banner.
Yep :-) The famous Burger King Big Mac banner from Wembley was his answer.
We then turned our attention to Twitter and I asked Martin when he will be joining?
Martin did say that he has no plans at this point as he not a big fan of Twitter and social media however he did leave the door open “Maybe someday, you never know”.
Focusing back on football I asked him who was the toughest opponent he ever faced. He did say that the Premier League has some very tough players and he rates them all highly however from his international duty a certain Zinedine Zidane stands out.
Liverpool have played only six games during the months of October and November combined, I asked Martin on how does the squad prepare when now then have to play seven games in the month of December alone. He did admit that it was a very hard schedule especially with two of those games being against Chelsea and Manchester City. However the entire squad is working very hard to prepare for the festive season.
When asked about Liverpool’s chances of a top four finish Martin is convinced that we will qualify for the Champions League and again he spoke how the entire squad is working very hard to achieve this goal.
And finally I asked him about the game on Sunday against Hull and Martin did admit that it is not going to be easy as it is at any away ground in the Premier League. However he also added that they are determined to take all three points on Sunday.
Martin Skrtel was speaking at the launch of Need for Speed Rivals. The latest instalment in the ever-popular franchise is the only driving game launching on PS4. Need for Speed Rivals is also available on Xbox One and all other formats. Watch the trailer here and let the rivalry commence!
Need for Speed Rivals
This Sunday see Liverpool travel the length of the M62 to face Steve Bruce’s massive head (and Hull City) at the KC Stadium. Ahead of the game, the lads bring you all the Uncensored Match Build Up, plus an exclusive RMTV music performance from Hull’s own Vinnie and the Stars
Not the ideal result, not one most could complain over either. A 3-3 draw away to Everton, under new manager Roberto Martinez, should be seen as a positive one for Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool side, who still sit 2nd in the table with Chelsea. There were definitely a few major positives to take away from this tough away fixture, but there are some worrying signs for Rodgers to ponder over this next week before visiting Hull this Sunday.
First up, the positives. Luis Suarez, even after jetting back less than two days before the derby in owner John Henry’s private jet, got on the scoresheet with one of the goals of the season and managed to trouble Everton’s rearguard. He even managed to soldier on after Kevin Miralles’ horror high, studs-showing farce of a tackle that left him with two open wounds on the side of his thigh. Daniel Sturridge got over his mini goal drought as he grabbed the crucial equalizer. Philippe Coutinho got his first goal of the season, but in actual fact he did not trouble Everton as much as he would like, being stifled by Seamus Coleman’s attacking strides forward, forcing the Brazilian to track back more often than not.
The man of the match, for me, was Jon Flanagan. Why? He’s primarily a right-footed right-back. Secondly, he was playing left-back. Thirdly, his last game was against Arsenal a few weeks ago, his first game in months. And still, he performed like a seasoned regular, intercepting passes, closing Miralles down, tackling anyone on his flank as aggressively and fair as Rodgers have liked. He even managed to bomb forward well and laid the ball off to his more offensive-minded team-mates whenever possible. Put it simply, Flanagan could not perform any better.
Now, the negatives. Or sort of negatives. First off, referee Phil Dowd. How is Miralles’ challenge not a red, I, and many others, even neutrals, will never know. Secondly, with more focus on Liverpool themselves, their defence just could not handle Everton’s attack. Liverpool’s favourite tormenter-in-chief Romelu Lukaku was at it again, bullying both Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel (sometimes at the same time, it seemed), and getting two goals, one directly off a corner which Glen Johnson could have defended better and another indirectly off his own free-kick. The whole Reds defence dropped too deeply while reacting to the rebound, which gave Lukaku the space he needed to get his side-footed shot away. After Kolo Toure’s fine performance early in the season against Christian Benteke, maybe he should have started this game. Or since Rodgers dropped Sturridge, a revert to a back-three with Lucas and Steven Gerrard sitting in front while the wing-backs and other two midfielders support Suarez?
Thirdly, Joe Allen’s horror miss and below-par performance. I don’t get how anyone could say Allen played well at all, even when you take away his miss. He showed his usual short passing, but he was weak in the tackle and could not challenge the likes of Ross Barkley and James McCarthy in midfield. And then that miss that compounded it all. That was the turning point in the game, that gave Everton the confidence and impetus to grab their equalizer and subsequent go-ahead goal. Allen is one or two games away from being dropped more permanently and potentially being classed as another expensive midfield flop, or simply put another “Aquilani”, or in the same class as Charlie Adam and Salif Diao.
Win the next game against Hull, put simply. After Crystal Palace managed their first away points of the season at the KC Stadium, Liverpool cannot not win at Hull. A draw will feel like a defeat, even if it was a last-minute equaliser for the Reds.
Allen should start, for the sake of his confidence, even though I personally am not comfortable with that, being an away game at an aggressive and graft-y Steve Bruce side. Lucas might be the man to make way to accommodate Sturridge’s return to the starting XI. A narrow 4-4-2 would be a good way to go about this game, with Jordan Henderson tucking in from wide right and Coutinho cutting in from the left.
Keeping pace with Arsenal is a must, and only 3 points against Hull will do any good for the Reds to start the week on a positive note, which would leave them in good stead for their next two games at home to relegation battlers Norwich City and West Ham United. In fact, only the full 9 points will do, I’m not going to tempt fate though.
Data supplied by the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. Select and manage your own team of stars at http://fantasy.premierleague.com/ or with FIFA Ultimate Team for FIFA 14
Kick off 14:05
Steve Bruce pointed to a lack of creativity after his side succumbed to a 0-1 defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace last time out. They will face a much sterner test of their Premier League credentials when they host Liverpool this weekend.
An ability to rack up enough attempts which really test the opposition goalkeeper continues to be a problem for Hull this season. Of the two Hull players who have registered more than 10 attempts on goal this term (Aluko – 11; Huddlestone – 12), neither have managed to achieve an on-target rate of more than 50% (Aluko – 45.5%; Huddlestone – 41.7%)
Midfielder Ahmed Elmohamady has so far been one of the focal points in the Hull engine room this season. He currently leads the Hull squad for passes completed in the opponent’s half this term, with 255 to his name.
Defender James Chester is currently ranked as one of the most effective defenders in the league according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. So far this season he’s won an outstanding 93.3% of his 15 attempted challenges.
Defensive colleague Curtis Davies has also been one of the league’s outstanding performers at the back this season, something which indicates the amount of work Steve Bruce’s defenders have had to go through this season. Davies has certainly been willing to through his body into the cause though, with 13 blocks to his name which places him joint third in the league.
A quite incredible Merseyside derby saw honours divided at the final whistle, with a late header from substitute Daniel Sturridge claiming a point for the Reds in a 3-3 draw. Luis Suarez’s customary goal, as well as a fine finish from Phillippe Coutinho contributed towards a result which kept them in touch with Arsenal at the top of the table.
Despite being one of the league’s most in-form strikers, you wonder just how many more goals Daniel Sturridge might have been able to conjure had he been a touch more accurate with his overall shooting. He currently ranks joint second in the league for most off target number of attempts on goal, with 17 of his attempts (47.3%) failing to test the keeper.
However, in ‘SAS’, Liverpool undoubtedly still have the form strike partnership in the league. They both currently rank joint second for attacking contributions (shots on goal, assists, dribbles, crosses) with 64 apiece to give them a joint total of 128. This is 26 more than the collective total of their rival partnership of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie. Suarez is 11/13 to score at any time this weekend with 888sport.com.
Lucas Leiva might have been pulled up for a foul 25 times this season, but such is the territory for one of the league’s most destructive midfielders. The Brazilian has completed an excellent 77.7% of his 72 attempted tackles this season, with this tackle total also representing the second highest in the league. According to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, only Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey can boast more defensive attempts with 75.
Steven Gerrard continues to exert an incredible amount of influence on this Liverpool midfield, his stats showing that he remains the dominant box-to-box force that he has been for the last decade. He currently ranks joint second in the league for assists with 5 and of the players in the top 10 in this category, he has completed the highest number of passes in the opponent’s half with 439.
12 games into the 2013/14 season, Liverpool sit in second spot, just 4 points away from league leaders Arsenal. After our transition season in our previous campaign, everyone was expecting the Reds to mount an attempt at a Champions League berth this season. Realistically, how many people actually thought that we would be in second place?
While sitting in second is an achievement that we ought to be happy about, fans must realize that the title race this season is extremely tight – one win could send you to the top 4, and one loss could send you spiraling down to 9th. Again, Kopites should be very happy about the progress we’ve made this season. In the previous campaign, Liverpool only managed 28 points at the end of December (that’s 20 games). This season, however, we’ve already hit the 24-point mark in 12 games. Finally, Rodgers’s system seems to be able to clock in consistent results in the league, something we haven’t seen in years. Anfield as well is once again regaining its status as a “fortress”. This season we have only lost to Southampton at home, and after that game we’ve blown away every other home game: Crystal Palace (3-1), West Brom (4-1) and Fulham (4-0).
With December looming over the horizon, the average citizen would look forward to receiving their Christmas presents and enjoying a party on New Year’s Eve. For BPL fans however, everyone knows that December is crunch time – teams have to play a massive 7 games in the space of a month. Liverpool’s festive season opponents will truly test if Liverpool is quality enough to remain in the top four. On the 15th of December, Liverpool visits White Hart Lane to take on the Spurs. 11 days later, the Reds will make the short trip to Manchester to face the blue half of the town, and 3 days after that, Stamford Bridge awaits us. If our prolific “SAS” strikeforce keeps on performing the way they are now, i am confident we would be able to reach the January transfer window still in the top 4 and further cement our place in Europe’s top competition next season.
Speaking of the January window, reinforcements are needed to boost the current squad. Fans worldwide are calling for a CM to be added to the squad, along with a RB and maybe a right sided winger. Rumors about English wonderkid, Will Hughes, has been circulating around the web for the past 2 weeks or so. Even though he is young, he obviously shows why big clubs are going for him – talented young player who could become a big player for Liverpool in the years to come.
I personally think that the addition in central midfield is vital. I believe that currently, our central midfield lacks the tenacity found in top-4 teams. The likes of Allen and Henderson will take maybe another a year to fully reach their potential. To ensure that we are able to continue contesting for the top 4 spots, we need a quality and experienced central midfielder to take opponents by the horns. I think Yann M’vila, Radja Nianggolan or Bender (either one) would be a solid addition to the team, not regarding their price tags. Purchasing a classy CM will also give Rodgers the chance to loan one of our CM’s out for experience. As for a RB, Rodgers has his eyes set on Chelsea’s young English fullback, Ryan Bertrand. I think he will be able to provide enough competition to Glen Johnson’s starting spot in the team.
Looking forward, this season is crucial to both the Liverpool board and the fans. Reminder, if we do not make it into the Champions League this season Suarez is sure to leave. While i believe that no player is bigger than the team, losing Suarez will put a huge dent in our squad, both in terms of quality and morale. Getting into the Champions League will also convince world-class players to sign for Liverpool, something we’ve been lacking over the past few seasons.
Come on Redmen.