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Raheem Sterling: Is Alexis Sanchez the Player He Should Look to Emulate?

Сб, 20/12/2014 - 22:00

With Brendan Rodgers comparing the two, the potential for Raheem Sterling to emulate Alexis Sanchez at Liverpool is clear, writes Jack Lusby.

 Liverpool's Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring the first goal against Southampton during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool welcome Arsenal to Anfield on Sunday, along with their most-coveted summer transfer target in Alexis Sanchez. Without him in the side, manager Brendan Rodgers will be looking Raheem Sterling to emulate his ability on Merseyside.

Earlier this week, Rodgers pined over Sanchez. “To not get him was obviously bitterly disappointing,” he said, “He’s a world class player with outstanding quality and even bigger work rate. He would have been perfect for us.”

It was clearly a disappointment for all—it is widely consider than signing Sanchez would have transformed Liverpool’s fortunes this season.

Without him however, Rodgers must look elsewhere.

 Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers and Raheem Sterling during the Football League Cup 4th Round match against Swansea City at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

He did so after the loss to Manchester United last weekend, claiming: “At Old Trafford [Sterling] was unfortunate not to score and in that role he plays you think of Sanchez when he plays for Arsenal.”

At 20 years old, Sterling has a long way to go.

But if he is going to make it to the top, Sterling should be looking to emulate the success and playing style of Sanchez, as they are already hugely similar.

Goals and Assists

.@Yayasanogoal22 and @Alexis_Sanchez secure #Arsenal's place in the last 16. #AFCvBOR report: http://t.co/BE6xTFl0DV pic.twitter.com/aEeljcH4E7

— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) November 26, 2014

The main aspect Liverpool are lacking without Sanchez are goals—particularly with primary goalscorer Daniel Sturridge suffering long-term injury this season.

So far at the north London club, Sanchez has scored nine goals, prior to this weekend’s clash.

Furthermore, the Chilean has made five assists, in particular working well in tandem with England striker Daniel Sturridge—a player similar in style to Sturridge.

Over his 15 Premier League games this season, Sanchez has also lead the Arsenal side in terms of chances created and through balls made.

In the Arsenal team this season A.Sánchez has the most: Goals (9) Assists (5) Chances created (41) Through balls (7) pic.twitter.com/jNx7ivtbRk

— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 19, 2014

On average, Sanchez makes 2.8 key passes and 0.5 through balls per game.

Sanchez is Arsenal’s key man, both in converting and creating chances.

Sterling isn’t quite at his level in terms of a return in goals or the creation of chances, but is arguably Liverpool’s most important player on both of these levels.

With three goals and four assists in 15 league games so far this season, Sterling tops the charts at Liverpool—only Steven Gerrard has scored as many league goals, but only one of these has come from open play.

 Liverpool's Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring the third winning goal against Queens Park Rangers during the Premier League match at Loftus Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Sterling makes 2.5 key passes and 0.1 through balls on average per game.

The difference in these comparative returns is age: At 26, Sanchez is six years Sterling’s senior and naturally, on this level, the Reds No. 31 will improve with age.

 

Style of Play

 Liverpool's Raheem Sterling in action against Chelsea's Cesc Fabregas during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Where the pair are perhaps most fairly compared is in their respective styles of play.

Prior to Sunday’s Anfield tie, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger claimed Sanchez chose a move to the club as he convinced him he could “help him to develop the quality of his game, that the way we play football would suit him.”

Arsenal are a patient, attack-based side and Sanchez’s direct style suits this, but the player has arguably transformed their style.

This can be seen in his dribbling ability—a key component on the counter—and this is similar to that of Sterling.

caasi un GOLAZO, Alexis Sánchez vs Stoke City #Arsenal https://t.co/AdqdrHQv70

— Guillermo Cortés (@zorroyisus) December 6, 2014

A devastating solo charge in Arsenal’s 3-2 loss away to Stoke City is the perfect evidence of this; Sanchez made his way past several Potters defenders, embarrassing them in the process.

Sterling did something similar in the midweek Capital One Cup victory over Bournemouth:

Check out this run by Sterling vs 4 Bournemouth players tonight. Incredible pace… pic.twitter.com/vJ6Skkjrgi

— MostarLFC (@MostarLFC) December 17, 2014

Both have the pace and dribbling ability to terrorise opposition defences, and as Rodgers claimed “how I ask teams to play[,] speed is critical.”

Another way Sanchez has transformed Arsenal’s style is in a way akin to that of Luis Suarez at Liverpool last season—the complete forward’s attribute of defending from the front.

Wenger recently described Sanchez as a proprietor of “street football,” and the forward’s average of 1.9 tackles per league game this season is the most of any Arsenal attacker.

Wenger on @Alexis_Sanchez: "He has a huge desire with a fighting attitude. Missing chances doesn't affect him" pic.twitter.com/jnC0vleL69

— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) December 5, 2014

Sterling averages at 1.3 tackles per game, behind Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson of Liverpool’s more advanced players.

However, it is clear to see how Sterling’s pressing game and impressive strength benefits Rodgers’ style of play—in the last two games, Sterling has pressed and harried diligently.

What is perhaps even more clearly comparable with the two is their ability to do this in a wide variety of positions.

Versatility

 Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers gives instructions to Raheem Sterling during the Premier League match against Southampton at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

In his recent praise of Sterling and Sanchez, Rodgers outlined how “[Sterling] can play across the front line,” continuing “His best position is on the left, dipping inside, making runs in behind, creating one-on-ones. I put him in the position because I believe he can play in it.”

Like Sterling, Sanchez has a best position—that being just behind the striker in an attacking midfield role—but is able to operate all across the front line.

Sanchez’s versatility can be highlighted by his starting positions this season across both the Premier League and the Champions League.

Sanchez Versatility 14-15

Sanchez has started in seven different positions for Arsenal, suiting various tactical outlines and formations.

No surprises here then, as the comparisons with Sterling continue.

Sterling Versatility 14-15

Sterling has also started in seven different positions this season, and has been effective in most of these roles.

Rodgers’ recent experiments with Sterling as a lone, mobile striker highlight his faith in the 20-year-old’s ability to perform consistently across a wide variety of positions, and this is very similar to that of Sanchez at Arsenal.

Sanchez offers Wenger a similar tactical versatility.

Congratulations @sterling31, who was today announced as the winner of the prestigious 2014 European Golden Boy award pic.twitter.com/v76Ab90KAk

— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 20, 2014

Clearly Sterling has a fair way to go to reach the heights that Sanchez has at Arsenal, and previously Barcelona, but his 2014 European Golden Boy win underlines his potential to do so.

Brendan Rodgers missed out on Alexis Sanchez in the summer, and has seen his side flounder as a result, but perhaps elevating Raheem Sterling to his level is the next best option.

Can Raheem Sterling be Liverpool’s Alexis Sanchez in the future? Let us know in the comments below.

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Lazar Markovic urged to be more aggressive for Liverpool

Сб, 20/12/2014 - 19:34

Liverpool winger Lazar Markovic looks like he is starting to finally settle into English football after manager Brendan Rodgers urged him to be more aggressive.

 Liverpool's Lazar Markovic in action against Bournemouth during the Football League Cup 5th Round match at Dean Court. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

That advice backfired when he was sent off just 15 minutes after coming on as a substitute in the club's Champions League exit against Basle last week after flailing an arm into an opponent's face.

However, employed on the left-hand side of a midfield four, requiring more defensive effort than he is used to, against Bournemouth on Wednesday the 20-year-old impressed and scored his first goal for the club.

"I thought it was a great finish. I thought he was excellent in a role where we asked different tactical elements from him," said Rodgers.

"His energy and quality was good and he was a real threat for us."

Rodgers added on liverpoolfc.com: "It has taken him a bit of time to get going and we have talked to him about being more aggressive in his game.

"In the 15 minutes before he got sent off against Basle – and it was disappointing that he was sent off – because he started really well. That's the Markovic that we know.

"Playing in that role (against Bournemouth) he was outstanding; he was defensively good and pressed the ball at almost all of the right times, so tactically he was very good.

"And with the ball his speed and movement was excellent. He has got good quality and is a good footballer. It is pleasing. At 20 years of age, he looks like he is improving all the time."

Markovic cost Liverpool B£20million when he moved from Benfica as one of Europe's brightest talents but he has so far failed to show many glimpses of his potential.

 Liverpool's Lazar Markovic scores the second goal against Bournemouth during the Football League Cup 5th Round match at Dean Court. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Serbia international will hope he did enough in midweek to retain a place to face Arsenal at home on Sunday.

Liverpool need a good performance against the in-form Gunners, who have scored four goals in their last two matches in the Premier League and Europe.

They have scored just seven goals in eight matches at Anfield in the league this season, goals which have produced just 12 points at home, and they are five points adrift of sixth-placed Arsenal before this weekend's matches.

Having lost to Manchester United last weekend to fall 10 points behind their arch-rivals they can ill-afford another defeat to a top-four rival.

Asked what a victory over Arsenal would do for their season, never mind their confidence, Rodgers added: Internally, it will continue our spirit and our focus.

"For us it will good for confidence. But it will be a difficult game.

"They are a top side with outstanding players. They did okay at home last week winning 4-1 against Newcastle and they played really well.

"They have outstanding players but we will look to focus on ourselves."

Defender Dejan Lovren faces a late test to see whether he has recovered from the groin problem which forced him off against Bournemouth but it seems likely Mamadou Sakho could deputise in a newly-formed back three, which would be his first start in the league since mid-September.

PA

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London Reds! Win a meet and greet with Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler!

Сб, 20/12/2014 - 19:11

Don’t say we never treat you! We’ve teamed up with 5 Times to offer one lucky winner the chance to meet Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler in London in February.

fowlerlondon

Following the success of 5 Times nights around Europe and soon to be Australia, Fowler will speak to fans at the O2 Academy in Islington, London for one night only. This is your chance to meet one of Liverpool’s greatest players.

If meeting him is a bit nerve racking you can just sit back and enjoy the night with the show only tickets. Hosted by LFC TV’s Peter McDowall you’ll hear all about Robbie’s career and what its like playing for the greatest club in the world.

Fowler made 369 appearances in two spells for Liverpool, scoring 183 goals. He’ll be sharing some hilarious, fascinating and emotional insights in what promises to be a great night for Reds fans in London.

5times Presents
A Night With Robbie Fowler

O2 Academy Islington
Date: Thursday 12th February 2015
Doors open: 6.30pm – Meet & Greet
Doors open: 7.00pm – General Admission
Curfew: 11.00pm

Tickets prices:
£25 advance STBF General Admission
£45 advance STBF Meet & Greet

5 Times are offering one lucky This Is Anfield reader the chance to meet and greet Fowler at this very special event. Simply answer the question below correctly to be entered into the 5 Times prize draw. Closing date is Thursday, 1st January 2015. Good luck!

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Raheem Sterling named European Golden Boy

Сб, 20/12/2014 - 14:53

Raheem Sterling has been named European Golden Boy, a prestigious award voted for by journalists around the continent.

 Liverpool's Raheem Sterling in action against Bournemouth during the Football League Cup 5th Round match at Dean Court. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The recently turned 20-year-old has had an impressive 2014, crucial in Liverpool’s push for the title in the second half of last season and becoming the main man for both club and country.

He shone in a central role behind Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, and did similarly for England against Italy in the World Cup before Roy Hodgson moved him out wide to accommodate Wayne Rooney.

Lately, Sterling is on a run of nine consecutive starts for Brendan Rodgers‘ side – having missed only one match all season. He’s played more football than any other Liverpool player this campaign, despite being a teenager for all but a fortnight of it.

The award was introduced in 2003 and Sterling is the first Englishman to win it since Rooney in 2004.

Since then some pretty illustrious names have featured; Lionel Messi, Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Aguero, Mario Goetze, Isco and… Mario Balotelli!

With Sterling’s new contract the subject of much discussion, his agent will no doubt be delighted by this news.

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4 games in 11 days: Predicting Liverpool’s Festive Fixtures

Сб, 20/12/2014 - 00:00

Liverpool’s festive fixtures get underway on Sunday, with four games in 11 days from now until New Year. We predict how each one will play out.

 Liverpool supporters on the Spion Kop make a mosaic of European Cups before the UEFA Champions League Group B match against PFC Ludogorets Razgrad at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)tball - UEFA Champions League - Group B - Liverpool FC v PFC Ludogorets Razgrad

The Christmas fixtures are always one of the highlights of every Premier League season, and although a winter break appeals to some, we’d all be lost without Liverpool playing every few days during the festive period, wouldn’t we?

A relentless run of matches is always a big test of each team’s squad, and in the space of a couple of weeks the league table can quite easily change drastically. The Reds were top at Christmas last year but fifth on New Year’s Day, for example.

Brendan Rodgers‘ side have been dealt a relatively kind hand this year, having faced back-to-back games at Manchester City and Chelsea on Boxing Day and 29th December a year ago, and they will hope to get some precious wins under their belt.

England’s top-flight is very difficult to predict these days, but here is how we think the Reds will fare in their four matches over Christmas.

Liverpool vs Arsenal- 21st December

 Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers and Arsenal's manager Arsene Wenger during the Premiership match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Sunday’s showdown with the Gunners at Arsenal is a hugely important game in terms of Champions League qualification. Liverpool are already five points adrift of Arsene Wenger’s side, and defeat would be catastrophic.

Both teams are often guilty of blowing hot and cold, and it is a fixture that is always very tough to predict. Last season’s 5-1 mauling was one of the Reds’ greatest ever Premier League displays, and the fact that Arsenal were going well at that point highlights their unpredictability.

Arsenal are clearly in the better form of the two at the moment, although without the fantastic Alexis Sanchez things would be very different.

The Chilean has been one of the Premier League’s stars players in 2014/15, and Rodgers must pay extra attention to him. If he doesn’t, he will have a field day.

Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Bournemouth on Wednesday should give them a confidence boost, but the Gunners are a different proposition all together. That’s not to say they can’t be got at though.

Raheem Sterling‘s pace will terrify the cumbersome Per Mertesacker, and they lack a quality holding midfielder to sit in front of the defence.

It’s a game that will surely have goals in it, and a share of the spoils seems the most likely outcome. It could easily be decided by a piece of individual brilliance or a defensive howler, however.

PREDICTION: 2-2

Burnley vs Liverpool- Boxing Day

 Liverpool's Raheem Sterling scores the first goal against Bournemouth during the Football League Cup 5th Round match at Dean Court. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

This is a fixture that Liverpool simply have to win if they have genuine top-four aspirations this season.

Sean Dyche’s Burnley side have predictably struggled since their return to the Premier League in August, and currently sit one place above the relegation zone.

They are a side of limited quality but with an admirable work ethic, and they rely heavily on striker Danny Ings for goals.

Despite the Reds’ woes this season, they still have a considerable amount of attacking quality on their day- the Bournemouth game proved that- and although the Clarets’ will cause Liverpool some problems at the back, the class of stars like Sterling, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana should inspire Rodgers’ men to a much-needed three points.

PREDICTION: 1-3

Liverpool vs Swansea- 29th December

Football - Football League Cup - 4th Round - Liverpool FC v Swansea City FC

Swansea are a side who have always given Liverpool a tough game, and this clash at Anfield will be no different.

These are the kind of matches the Reds tend to struggle in- breaking down mid-table sides at home- and it would be no surprise if that trend continues on 29th December.

Garry Monk’s side are more than just a solid defensive unit, however, with plenty of attacking threat and an attractive brand of football.

Wilfried Bony is one of the Premier League’s most dangerous strikers, while the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Jefferson Montero and Wayne Routledge are also in inspired form.

Rodgers will have had to rotate his squad by this point in the Christmas period- if he hasn’t it would be madness- and there will be fringe players expected to step up to the plate. It will be a real test of Liverpool’s strength in depth.

This will be a tight game from start to finish, and although many will expect a Reds victory, they will have a tough afternoon against the Swans.

PREDICTION: 1-1

Liverpool vs Leicester City- New Year’s Day

 Liverpool's captain Steven Gerrard celebrates scoring the second goal against Leicester City during the Premier League match at Filbert Way. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

2015 sees the Reds start with what should be a relatively routine victory on Merseyside. No Premier League side can be written off these days, in fairness, but failure to beat Leicester City would not be a good start to the New Year.

Liverpool dispatched of the Foxes 3-1 at the King Power Stadium earlier in the month, and the hosts’ defensive weaknesses were exposed time and time again.

Although the Reds’ back-line is calamitous at the moment, their attacking threat should prove far too much for Nigel Pearson’s side, and a comfortable win should follow.

PREDICTION: 3-0

 Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers before the Football League Cup 5th Round match against AFC Bournemouth at Dean Court. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Conclusion

Eight points from Liverpool’s four Christmas games would prove a good, if not spectacular, return.

The Arsenal game will be a very tough test, and could literally be any outcome, while Swansea’s talented attacking unit will cause the Reds’ defence problems.

Burnley and Leicester City are relatively straightforward on paper, and although they may both have spells of good play, it would be disappointing if the Reds didn’t pick up maximum points against the two promoted sides.

It’s sure to be a fascinating few weeks for Rodgers and his side, and it could either kick-start their season into life or leave it in tatters. It will likely be somewhere in between.

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How Liverpool will lineup vs Arsenal: Sakho in for Lovren?

Пт, 19/12/2014 - 23:00

Arsenal arrive at Anfield to take on Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool on Sunday afternoon in a game of real importance for the Reds as they look to turn their Premier League fortunes around. Ben Twelves takes a look at the all-important team selection options available to the Liverpool boss.

 Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers and Arsenal's manager Arsene Wenger during the Premiership match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool return to action at Anfield for the first time since exiting the Champions League against Basel when they host Arsenal on Sunday in what is shaping up to be an extremely important game for both teams.

Since the draw against the Swiss champions, Liverpool have produced two far more positive performances on the road – despite the mixed results – and the Reds will need to reproduce the plus points again as confidence slowly but surely returns to the squad after a long absence.

 Liverpool's Raheem Sterling scores the first goal against Bournemouth during the Football League Cup 5th Round match at Dean Court. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

While Rodgers’ side have become more recognisable in attack with clear cut chances being created again, defensively the Reds still leave a lot to be desired as they continue to afford too much space to opponents in danger areas – something that Liverpool must tighten up on at the weekend and going forwards if they’re to re-launch a top four challenge.

In an attempt to provide some continuity to his recovering team, Rodgers named a strong side for the Capital One Cup success over Bournemouth in midweek, and that feat could have consequential impact on potential rotation for Sunday’s fixture against Arsene Wenger’s side, who have won three of their last four Premier League games.

Rodgers: "Arsenal are a top side with outstanding players. It will be a difficult game for us."

— James Pearce (@JamesPearceEcho) December 19, 2014

The Team

Mario Balotelli is unavailable for the match after being handed a one game suspension by the FA for making racist and anti-Semitic comments on Twitter and Glen Johnson is also missing through a groin injury which is set to keep him out for the duration of the Christmas period.

Rodgers says #LFC still waiting on fitness of Lovren who has groin problem

— James Pearce (@JamesPearceEcho) December 19, 2014

Dejan Lovren was substituted at half time against Bournemouth on Wednesday night with a groin injury, and he is set to be afforded maximum recovery time ahead of the clash to prove his fitness, with Mamadou Sakho ready to deputise.

 Liverpool's goalkeeper Brad Jones slips as he controls the ball against Bournemouth during the Football League Cup 5th Round match at Dean Court. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Rodgers has some interesting selection choices ahead of him for the clash – especially in midfield where rotation is needed – but the on-going fiasco that is the Liverpool goalkeeper situation is set to see Brad Jones keep his place in goal, despite his performances since replacing Simon Mignolet being even less convincing than the Belgian’s – who at least proved himself to be a decent shot stopper aside from the rest of his faults.

The Steven Gerrard/Lucas Leiva combination in the middle of the park must be broken up against a mobile Arsenal midfield, and with the Gunners universally known for being soft in the centre, it could be a chance to deploy an energetic and powerful presence – with Emre Can an option after his rare outing in midweek – and Alberto Moreno fit to come back into the side after being on the bench.

 Liverpool's Lazar Markovic scores the second goal against Bournemouth during the Football League Cup 5th Round match at Dean Court. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Rodgers on Markovic: I thought he was excellent. His energy was good, he was a real threat for us.

— This Is Anfield (@thisisanfield) December 19, 2014

Lazar Markovic impressed greatly on the south coast and he should keep his place as a result, as should Adam Lallana – who enjoyed his best game to date on Wednesday – alongside Philippe Coutinho to provide support in the final third to Raheem Sterling up front.

Rodgers on Sterling: The kid’s been fantastic wherever he’s been played this season.

— This Is Anfield (@thisisanfield) December 19, 2014

The Line Up

Rodgers has confirmed that has been “no change” on the goalkeeping situation meaning that Jones will start his third consecutive game, but with Lovren a doubt Sakho should come into the side after a solid if unspectacular showing in midweek.

 Liverpool's Mamadou Sakho in action against Bournemouth during the Football League Cup 5th Round match at Dean Court. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It’s the ideal time for the Liverpool boss to play a mobile and fully functioning midfield to cause the away side issues, and that should see Markovic move to the right side of the four man midfield, with Jordan Henderson tucking in to take up a central position with Emre Can, creating space for Moreno to come in on the left side.

That dynamic quartet should once again have the three of Lallana, Coutinho and Sterling ahead of them leading the Liverpool attack, and this is how the Reds’ XI should look on Sunday – again in the 3-4-2-1 formation:

Arsenal 3-4-2-1

However, unless injuries dictate that changes need to happen – with question marks over Lovren only – it’s realistic to expect Rodgers to name the same team that improved again in midweek against the Championship league leaders, and therefore this is how I expect Liverpool to look come 4pm kick off on Sunday:

Arsenal 3-4-2-1 3

As Liverpool begin their journey on the road to recovery, it’s vital that Rodgers’ side continue to build on the small but positive steps taken in the last two fixtures, but now is the time to start translating the improved aspects of the displays into goals, results and points.

The Reds now sit seven points adrift of fourth palce and Sunday’s fixture really is significant if they want to rekindle their pursuit of a top four place this season.

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Report: Liverpool agree deal to bring Divock Origi to Anfield in January

Пт, 19/12/2014 - 22:16

Reports in France on Friday claim Liverpool have agreed a deal with Lille to bring Divock Origi to Merseyside in January.

 Lille OSC's Divock Origi in action against Everton during the UEFA Europa League Group H match at Stade Pierre-Mauroy. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

According to Sporting Witness, AFP – the French Press Association – are reporting that Liverpool will pay €6 million (£4.7m) in compensation in order to cut short the season-long loan deal.

However, Liverpool have since denied the report, according to Sky Sports.

The Reds signed the Belgium forward for a reported £10 million in the summer, but agreed to allow Origi to be loaned back to the French side for the 2014/15 campaign.

Lille though are struggling in Ligue 1 and Origi hasn’t scored for them since the start of October. Last weekend he missed a penalty and was booed by his own supporters.

Clearly, being at Lille is not helping Origi’s development and he’d be better off at Liverpool.

Dad Mike Origi told on Wednesday that Divock (19) is a bit tired. "A World Cup, a short pre season, his age… You can't underestimate it."

— Kristof Terreur (@HLNinEngeland) December 12, 2014

His arrival won’t solve Liverpool’s goalscoring problems, but clearly bringing in Origi, allowing him time to settle before next season would be beneficial for all parties.

If Liverpool are able to sell Fabio Borini in January and get a good fee for the Italian in order to strengthen other areas, while bringing in Origi early, it would strengthen The Reds’ squad.

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Video: Brendan Rodgers’ pre-Arsenal press conference

Пт, 19/12/2014 - 19:28

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was in an uncharacteristically abrupt mood ahead of Sunday's visit of Arsenal.

[embedded content]

The Northern Irishman, usually so expansive in detailing his thoughts, provided only short responses to questions at his weekly press conference.

His briefing routinely lasts at least 15 minutes but Friday's session in the press room at the club's Melwood training ground took all of four-and-a-half minutes – and that included 11 questions.

Rodgers should have been in an upbeat mood after a morale-boosting Capital One Cup quarter-final victory over Bournemouth in midweek, not only because of the result but aspects of the performance, but it seemed far from it.

Criticism of Liverpool and their manager has grown over the course of the season, which has so far failed to ignite for a variety of reasons after the fireworks of the previous campaign saw them finished second.

Most of it has made little difference to Rodgers' demeanour but the Reds boss is known to be unhappy about recent media coverage suggesting there is unrest in the dressing room. He has denied there is a problem.

He was reluctant to provide anything other than cursory answers but did confirm Liverpool have accepted Mario Balotelli's one-match ban, imposed on Thursday for his controversial social media posting, that Brad Jones would continue in goal and that they missed out on Arsenal striker Alexis Sanchez in the summer.

Balotelli indicated on Thursday evening his intention was to comply with the judgment of the independent panel and Rodgers confirmed that was the course of action Liverpool were taking.

"We accept the ban so that's fairly clear," he said.

Asked about the goalkeeping situation, whether he would consider signing a replacement in the January transfer window and whether he had money to spend, Rodgers said: "There's no change. It's not something I'm thinking about at the moment."

Rodgers faces the prospect of his primary summer target Sanchez returning to haunt him at Anfield on Sunday.

He had hoped to secure the Chile international as part of the deal which took Luis Suarez to Barcelona, but when that was not possible he lost a straight fight with Arsenal, with the striker preferring London over Merseyside.

"All I know is that he's a world-class player. He was identified as someone who could come in and be perfect for us," Rodgers said.

"He's a brilliant player with outstanding quality and even bigger work-rate. We know he will be a threat."

While Sanchez has scored 14 goals this season, Liverpool have struggled up front in the continued absence of injured Daniel Sturridge, with both Balotelli and Rickie Lambert failing to offer a significant contribution.

In a change of tactics Rodgers has played Raheem Sterling in the central striking role in the last two matches, and while the 20-year-old fluffed his lines at Old Trafford he looked sharp in scoring twice against Bournemouth.

"The kid has been fantastic wherever he's played this season. He was outstanding the other night," Rodgers said.

"It's been incredible the stick the kid has received, with people trying to criticise him and put the focus on to him.

"He's been outstanding for us and it was another great performance from him the other night in a difficult game."

In terms of where he will play Sterling on Sunday, Rodgers added: "We'll see what's in the best interests of the team."

PA

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Liverpool fixtures: Several moved for TV

Пт, 19/12/2014 - 18:13

Four further Liverpool Premier League games have been announced for live television broadcast in the UK, with five fixtures being effected in total.

 Liverpool's new manager Brendan Rodgers' image on a television camera during a press conference to launch the side's North American pre-season tour of Toronto, Baltimore and Boston at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The second Merseyside derby of the season against Everton at Goodison Park stays on Saturday, 7th February 2015, with kick-off moved to 5.30pm to accommodate Sky Sports’ coverage.

On Tuesday, 10th February, Liverpool v Tottenham will be shown live on BT Sport. Kick-off remains at 8pm.

Liverpool’s visit to Southampton later that month has been moved to Sunday, 22nd February with a 4.15pm kick-off (Sky Sports).

The Reds host Manchester City on Sunday, 1st March with a 12noon kick-off and this means that the home clash against Burnley has been moved back to Wednesday, 4th March with an 8pm kick-off.

Scheduling for Liverpool’s League Cup semi-final tie against Chelsea in January was also announced on Friday.

Over the imminent festive run of fixtures, Liverpool’s home clash against Arsenal this Sunday is live on Sky Sports (4pm), as is Swansea’s visit to Anfield on Monday, 29th December (8pm).

The Reds’ FA Cup 3rd Round tie at AFC Wimbledon on Monday, 5th January is live on BBC One, kicking off at 7:55pm.

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Liverpool v Chelsea League Cup Semi-Final Dates Confirmed

Пт, 19/12/2014 - 17:45

The scheduling of Liverpool’s League Cup semi-final tie against Chelsea has been confirmed.

 Liverpool take on Chelsea, with all 11 players inside their own penalty area, during the Premiership match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

After beating Championship leaders Bournemouth 3-1 on Wednesday night to book themselves a place in the semi-final stage, the Reds were drawn out against Jose Mourinho’s side, who lead the Premier League table by three points from Manchester City.

Sky Sports will show both legs of the tie, with Liverpool hosting Chelsea at Anfield in the first leg on Tuesday, January 20th 2015 at 7:45pm.

Then it’s back to Stamford Bridge a week later for the second leg on Tuesday, January 27 — also a 7:45pm kick-off.

Chelsea beat Derby County 3-1 to book their place in the final four of the League Cup, with Liverpool’s on-loan youngster Jordon Ibe putting in an impressive performance for the Rams.

The last time Liverpool met Chelsea in the League Cup was back in 2011, when the Reds came out 2-0 winners in the 5th Round at Stamford Bridge. Maxi Rodriguez and Martin Kelly got the goals for Kenny Dalglish‘s team.

The other semi-final tie will see Tottenham take on Sheffield United after they beat Newcastle Utd and Southampton respectively.

The final, should Liverpool get through, takes place at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, 1st March.

How important is the League Cup to Liverpool’s season? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. Or for general Liverpool FC discussion, head to our forums.

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Brendan Rodgers’ pre-Arsenal press conference: Jones to continue in goal

Пт, 19/12/2014 - 15:18

Brendan Rodgers held his pre-match press conference on Friday morning ahead of Arsenal’s visit to Anfield on Sunday.

[embedded content]

It was an unusually short press conference, with Rodgers giving very brief responses to questions and not his typically talkative manner. Here’s what was said.

Rodgers on Dejan Lovren‘s injury:

“Waiting to hear on that, hopefully he’ll be fit for the weekend.”

Rodgers on the January transfer window:

“I’m not thinking about that at the moment.”

Rodgers on goalkeeper situation:

“No change.”

Rodgers on Alexis Sanchez:

“He’s a world class player. He was identified as a player who could come in for us.”

Rodgers on Raheem Sterling:

“The kid’s been fantastic wherever he’s been played this season.”

Rodgers on Balotelli’s ban:

“We accept the ban, it’s really clear.”

Rodgers on Lazar Markovic vs Bournemouth:

“I thought he was excellent. His energy was good, he was a real threat for us.”

Rodgers on Arsenal:

“Arsenal are a top side with outstanding players. It will be a difficult game for us”

Rodgers on Fabio Borini:

“Like all players they get the opportunity.”

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Raheem Sterling urged to sign long-term Liverpool deal by Steven Gerrard

Пт, 19/12/2014 - 14:44

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has told team-mate Raheem Sterling to commit his future to the club.

 Liverpool's captain Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling after their 2-2 draw with PFC Ludogorets Razgrad during the UEFA Champions League Group B match at the Vasil Levski National Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Despite his current deal having two and a half seasons to run, Sterling has seen his contract situation at Anfield become a talking point.

Sterling's versatility in being able to operate as a striker has provided under-pressure boss Brendan Rodgers with a welcome boost, and Gerrard hopes to see the 20-year-old stick around for a lot longer.

He told a number of national newspapers: "I hope he signs a new contract at the club because I think this club is perfect for him, certainly for the next few years.

"He's going to play most weeks, the fans love him here. He can progress here and become a top, top player here so I hope the people around him give him the right advice because he should stay here.

"He's great to watch, great to play with, he's got that pace. When you look up he's always giving you an option and that's what I've thrived on throughout my career at Liverpool with the likes of Fernando Torres, Michael Owen.

"There's nothing better as a midfielder when you look up and see pace running in behind. I saw it on numerous occasions [against Bournemouth in midweek] and hopefully it will continue because it stretches teams and creates chances."

 Liverpool's Raheem Sterling in action against Bournemouth during the Football League Cup 5th Round match at Dean Court. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Sterling's brace in a 3-1 win at Bournemouth on Wednesday was a real pressure reliever after a run of poor results.

His finishing was also impressive, having squandered a number of clear-cut chances at Manchester United on Sunday.

"You've got to be able to have that [versatility] in your locker if you want to be top drawer," added Gerrard.

"Raheem's got potential to be top drawer for sure. He took a lot of stick after the weekend but I thought his all-round performance was magnificent, the only thing that was missing was a finish and that came [against Bournemouth].

"The exciting thing for all of us is that he's English and going to be a top, top player. I think he can play anywhere along the front, he's that intelligent. He's got to keep learning, he's got to keep wanting it."

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10 realistic goalkeeping options for Liverpool in the January transfer window

Пт, 19/12/2014 - 14:38

Brad Jones’ unconvincing performance against Bournemouth on Wednesday raised further doubts about Liverpool’s goalkeeping options. We look at 10 potential signings that could come in during the January transfer window.

 Liverpool's goalkeeper Brad Jones slips as he controls the ball against Bournemouth during the Football League Cup 5th Round match at Dean Court. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Jones’ display was one of the few negatives from the win over Bournemouth, with poor distribution on show and another goal scored which he should have done better with, following the three conceded at Old Trafford.

Is Jones really a better option than Mignolet? It’s doubtful.

Liverpool are unlikely to make many signings in January, but they will seek a goalkeeper. We find 10 realistic options who could provide either short-term or long-term solutions for The Reds.

PETR CECH

Cech is being kept out of the Chelsea side because of the brilliance of Thibaut Courtois, but he remains one of the best in the world in his position.

The 32-year-old would be the perfect signing for the Reds, and could have a similar effect on the team that Edwin van der Sar did at Manchester United when he joined during his older footballing years.

Of course, persuade Jose Mourinho to sell may be difficult, but The Reds are reportedly keen on exploring a loan move which may be a little more viable.

ASMIR BEGOVIC

 Stoke City's goalkeeper Asmir Begovic in action against Liverpool during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Begovic was reportedly close to joining the Reds back in 2012, but they opted for Mignolet instead. In hindsight, it was a dreadful decision.

Despite not always hitting his most convincing form for Stoke City this season, the 27-year-old Bosnia international is one of the Premier League’s standout goalkeepers. His general presence and consistency would make such a difference to Liverpool’s leaky rearguard.

MATTIA PERIN

perin

The young Italian has been earmarked as Gianluigi Buffon’s replacement for the Azzurri for a while now, and he is a player with huge potential.

The 22-year-old Genoa would be open to a move to one of the biggest clubs around, and he could prove to be an exciting long-term option at Anfield.

SERGIO ROMERO

Romero was excellent for Argentina at the World Cup in the summer, and was the hero in the semi-final penalty shootout triumph over Holland.

The 27-year-old, who is currently at Sampdoria, has been linked with a move to Anfield in the past, and would be a definite upgrade on the Reds’ current goalkeeping duo.

MAT RYAN

Ryan is another who enjoyed a highly impressive World Cup, despite Australia’s early exit.

The 22-year-old Club Brugge star is very highly-rated in Belgium, and his terrific distribution is a particular strength. He is young and has huge potential, which ticks two of FSG’s and Rodgers’ transfer boxes.

GUILLERMO OCHOA

Ochoa has been strongly linked with a move to Merseyside in recent days, with the Express even claiming a deal had been agreed.

The Mexican number one was superb in Brazil in the summer, but he has found himself down the pecking order at Malaga this season. Whether he’s the answer is debatable.

If Liverpool were to spend money signing him, it would certainly call in to question why they didn’t sign him on a free in the summer.

KIKO CASILLA

 Spanish Stopper Casilla and Teenage Sensation Odegaard Linked

The 28-year-old Spaniard has been linked with an £8 million move to Liverpool in recent months.

Casilla made his Spain debut in a friendly against world champions Germany last month, highlighting his pedigree and continued improvement. He is just coming into his prime.

NETO

Like many of the ‘keepers on this list, there have been rumours of Neto moving to Liverpool in the last few months, and the Fiorentina star would be a shrewd signing by Rodgers.

The 25-year-old’s contract runs out next summer, which makes a January move for the Brazilian more likely.

TIMO HORN

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Horn is part of a superb young batch of German goalkeepers, including Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen, and although the 21-year-old is relatively inexperienced, he would be a terrific capture.

The FC Koln starlet has been performing excellently for the Bundesliga club, and made his first-team debut while still in his teens. He has played at every youth team level for Germany, and it’s a matter of time before he is handed his senior debut.

VICTOR VALDES

 FC Barcelona's goalkeeper Victor Valdes celebrates the second goal against Manchester City during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 match at the City of Manchester Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The former Barcelona man is still a free agent, and although his rumoured move to Anfield collapsed back in October, Liverpool could still resurrect the deal once he’s proven his fitness.

The 32-year-old may be a little rusty, but he remains a top class ‘keeper with plenty of years ahead of him still. He is particularly good on the ball, unlike Jones and Mignolet, which would surely appeal to Rodgers.

A short term deal could see us through to the end of the season at least.

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Liverpool vs Arsenal: Combined XI

Пт, 19/12/2014 - 03:47

Ahead of Sunday’s visit of Arsenal to Anfield, we pick a combined XI from the two squads – read ours then share yours below.

 Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers and Arsenal's manager Arsene Wenger during the Premiership match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Sunday’s showdown on Merseyside is important for both the Reds and the Gunners, as the two battle for a place in top-four of the Premier League.

With Manchester United seemingly pulling clear in third and Southampton predictably falling away once injuries and suspensions have hit them, there is every chance that vital fourth Champions League spot could come down to Liverpool and Arsenal.

Both sides have some wonderful, and mediocre, talent at their disposal, but who makes it into a combined XI?

(NOTE: Assuming all players fit and on form)

GOALKEEPER- Wojciech Szczesny

Like a few positions, neither Liverpool and Arsenal are exactly oozing world-class brilliance in goal. Szczesny has to get the nod though.

The 24-year-old Poland international can make the odd howler but he is consistent on the whole, while Simon Mignolet and Brad Jones are both total disaster areas for the Reds.

RIGHT-BACK- Mathieu Debuchy

Debuchy is not as solid as Bacary Sagna was for Arsene Wenger’s side, but the France international still has plenty of attacking quality and defensive resilience.

Glen Johnson remains increasingly erratic week in, week out, while Javier Manquillo is still very much maturing as a player. Jon Flanagan would be the closest to ousting the Frenchman, but he is still not the finished article.

CENTRE-BACK- Laurent Koscielny

The 29-year-old has matured into one of the finest centre-backs in the Premier League, and Arsenal struggle hugely without him. He is one of their most influential players.

Although predominantly left-sided, he can slot comfortably in on the right in place of teammate Per Mertesacker, who reads the game well but is so slow it’s problematic.

CENTRE-BACK- Mamadou Sakho

 Liverpool's Mamadou Sakho in action against Middlesbrough during the Football League Cup 3rd Round match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Sakho is comfortably Liverpool’s best centre-back, and his lack of playing time even when fit is completely baffling.

The 24-year-old is dominant in the air, good on the ball and generally commanding. Martin Skrtel is too erratic, Kolo Toure is past his best and Dejan Lovren has been abysmal in a Reds shirt so far.

LEFT-BACK- Kieran Gibbs

The Englishman is arguably the Gunners’ most underrated player, and has been terrific for them for a number of years now.

Gibbs may not be as adventurous going forward as Alberto Moreno, but he is underrated in that area and very solid defensively. Jose Enrique and Nacho Monreal are lacking.

CENTRE MIDFIELD- Jordan Henderson

 Liverpool's Jordan Henderson celebrates scoring the third goal against Leicester City during the Premier League match at Filbert Way. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Henderson might not be having the greatest of seasons, but he is still undoubtedly one of the first names on Brendan Rodgers‘ team-sheet. The 24-year-old offers energy, drive, understated creativity and the odd goal here and there.

Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini are limited, as is Lucas Leiva, while Steven Gerrard, despite his enduring quality on the ball, is not the force he once was.

CENTRE MIDFIELD- Aaron Ramsey

Like Henderson, Ramsey has not had the outstanding season he did in 2013/14 to date. On his day he is a fabulous footballer though.

The Wales international has tremendous technical ability, brilliant fitness and an eye for the spectacular. He is the standout central midfielder from either side. Jack Wilshere needs to improve his consistency and attitude if he is to reach Ramsey’s level.

ATTACKING MIDFIELD- Mesut Ozil

Admittedly, the German World Cup winner has not featured for a while because of injury, and has struggled for form in an Arsenal shirt, but he is a world-class player when on top of his game.

The 26-year-old has superb creativity and touch, and the number of assists he racks up are often not fully appreciated. He divides opinion, but he is a class act. Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana and Santi Cazorla miss out.

RIGHT FORWARD- Alexis Sanchez

The former Barcelona star has been one of the outstanding players in the Premier League this season, dragging Arsenal through games with his skill, goals and fantastic work ethic. Remind you of anyone?

Liverpool tried to sign the 25-year-old in the summer but lost out to the north Londoners; what a signing he would have been.

The likes of Theo Walcott, Lazar Markovic and Lukas Podolski are all talented in their own right, but not close to the Chilean’s world-class level.

LEFT FORWARD- Raheem Sterling

 Liverpool's Raheem Sterling scores the first goal against Bournemouth during the Football League Cup 5th Round match at Dean Court. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Sterling is the most exciting young player in the country at the moment, and such has been his meteoric rise, he is now extremely key for both Liverpool and England. The 20-year-old’s form may have dipped at times this season, but that happens to every player.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is another Englishman with great potential, but he is not as much of an all-round threat as Sterling currently.

STRIKER- Daniel Sturridge

 Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge celebrates scoring the second goal against Southampton during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The 25-year-old has been a monumental loss to the Reds this season, and his return from injury can’t come soon enough. His finishing, pace and movement are outstanding, and he will only improve in the coming years.

Mario Balotelli is clearly a big talent but he is far too unpredictable, while Danny Welbeck and Olivier Giroud having some good attributes but are not top class strikers.

What would your combined Liverpool and Arsenal XI be? Let us know in the comments section.

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Fabian Delph to Liverpool link returns

Пт, 19/12/2014 - 03:40

Liverpool are again being linked with Aston Villa and England midfielder Fabian Delph.

 Liverpool's captain Steven Gerrard and Aston Villa's Fabian Delph during the Premiership match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The 25-year-old was first linked last month, with reports then suggesting that the player had told Villa he had no intention to sign a new deal at the club, with his contract expiring in the summer.

Delph, who This Is Anfield’s Jack Lusby describes as “poor man’s James Milner” in his analysis, is now linked in The Mirror – who claim Liverpool could look to sign him in January.

They write that Villa will consider allowing Delph, and defender Ron Vlaar, to leave in January in order to avoid seeing them leave for free in the summer. James Nursey writes that Delph will be the successor to Steven Gerrard:

“He is now fit again and team-mates reckon he is turning into an all-round box-to-box midfielder with surging runs reminiscent of Gerrard in his pomp.”

Mind you, Nursey also writes that Brendan Rodgers has “frequently benched” Gerrard this season. Not sure how three times in 23 games constitutes frequently.

Friday's Daily Mirror back page: "Delph's our new Gerrard" #tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers pic.twitter.com/xeJcRe0gU1

— Nick Sutton (@suttonnick) December 18, 2014

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Liverpool legends live in Australia: 4 tickets up for grabs!

Пт, 19/12/2014 - 02:41

We’ve teamed up with 5 Times to offer Liverpool fans down under the incredible chance to see Robbie Fowler, Didi Hamann and Jason McAteer live at a venue near you. Read on for more details…

aus1

Following successful evenings with Liverpool FC legends in talk in Europe, 5 Times are coming to Australia for a series of three very special nights in January 2015.

Starring Robbie Fowler with 183 goals for the Reds, hero of Istanbul, Didi Hamann and former Republic of Ireland international Jason McAteer, the tour will start at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney on Saturday, 3rd January 2015.

The not-to-be-missed legends will move on to the Arkaba Hotel in Adelaide on Monday, 5th January Grand Hyatt Hotel in Melbourne on Wednesday, 7th January, before finishing at the Hyatt Regency in Perth on Thursday 8th January.

The lads will be sharing their brilliant and hilarious stories of yesteryear, what life was really like at Anfield and let you in on a few footballer’s secrets! There’s also the chance for you to put your questions to the legends in a Q&A session. It’ll certainly be an evening to remember for all Liverpool fans!

Tickets and meet and greet tickets are available now, but they’re going fast!

We’ve got four tickets to the nights at your city of choice up for grabs. Simply answer the question below correctly to be entered into the 5 Times prize draw. Closing date is Tuesday, 23rd December. Good luck!

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Mario Balotelli accepts ban — but could face further punishment

Пт, 19/12/2014 - 01:16

Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli will not appeal against his one-match ban imposed for posting racist and anti-semitic comments on social media.

The Italy international was given the suspension, a B£25,000 fine and will have to attend an education course following the decision of an independent disciplinary panel.

The panel issued the punishment on Thursday after the 24-year-old admitted to an aggravated breach of Football Association Rule E3, relating to references of ethnic origin, colour, race, nationality or religion or belief, after his posting of an image of computer game character Super Mario on Instagram which included the words "jumps like a black man and grabs coins like a Jew".

It means he will miss Sunday's visit of Arsenal, although there were doubts over his fitness anyway as he did not travel to Bournemouth for the Reds' 3-1 Capital One Cup victory on Wednesday because he was having treatment on a groin injury.

Having submitted detailed mitigation, Balotelli apologised again after the verdict.

"Following the recent events related to my 'Super Mario' post, the FA decision has made clear that it was wrong," he wrote on Twitter.

"I am sorry that my team-mates and supporters of Liverpool FC have to be penalised for something I did and now come to regret.

"It is my intention to comply with the decision of the FA and make sure it never happens again."

He could, however, face further internal sanctions as the club said they had not ruled out action against him.

"The club acknowledges the decision reached by the independent panel and due consideration will be given to the written judgement once we receive it from the FA," said a Liverpool spokesman.

"Any further action taken by ourselves in relation to this matter is between the club and player."

The day after his posting – which he quickly deleted – Balotelli apologised, writing on Twitter: "I apologize if I've offended anyone. The post was meant to be anti-racist with humour. I now understand that out of context (it) may have the opposite effect."

In a statement the FA said: "Following an independent regulatory commission hearing today Mario Balotelli has been fined B£25,000, suspended for one match with immediate effect, subject to any appeal, and warned as to his future conduct after he admitted breaching FA rules in relation to social media.

"The charge was that an image the Liverpool player posted on social media was abusive and/or insulting and/or improper, contrary to FA rule E3(1).

"Furthermore, the posting was considered to be an "aggravated breach" as defined in FA rule E3(2) in that it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race and/or nationality and/or religion or belief.

"Mr Balotelli has also been ordered to attend an education programme."

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Mario Balotelli handed one match ban

Чт, 18/12/2014 - 22:39

Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli has been banned for one match, fined £25,000 and ordered to attend to an education course after making racist and anti-semitic comments on social media.

 Liverpool's Mario Balotelli in action against Real Madrid CF during the UEFA Champions League Group B match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Italy international last week accepted a charge of an aggravated breach of Football Association rule E3, relating to references of ethnic origin, colour, race, nationality or religion or belief, after his posting of an image of computer game character Super Mario on Instagram which included the words "jumps like a black man and grabs coins like a Jew".

Balotelli did not request a personal hearing but submitted written mitigation to an independent disciplinary panel.

The FA said in a statement: "Following an independent regulatory commission hearing today Mario Balotelli has been fined B£25,000, suspended for one-match with immediate effect, subject to any appeal, and warned as to his future conduct after he admitted breaching FA rules in relation to social media.

"The charge was that an image the Liverpool player posted on social media was abusive and/or insulting and/or improper, contrary to FA rule E3(1).

"Furthermore, the posting was considered to be an "aggravated breach" as defined in FA rule E3(2) in that it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race and/or nationality and/or religion or belief.

"Mr Balotelli has also been ordered to attend an education programme."

 Liverpool's Mario Balotelli looks dejected as his side draw 0-0 with Hull City during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool said they were awaiting the full written verdict from the panel but did not rule out further action against the player by the club.

A Liverpool spokesman said: "The club acknowledges the decision reached by the independent panel and due consideration will be given to the written judgement once we receive it from the FA.

"Any further action taken by ourselves in relation to this matter is between the club and player."

The day after his posting – which he quickly deleted – Balotelli apologised by writing on Twitter: "I apologize if I've offended anyone. The post was meant to be anti-racist with humour. I now understand that out of context (it) may have the opposite effect."

Balotelli, 24, deleted the offending post as criticism began to mount but FA guidelines state that "deleting an inappropriate posting, whilst advisable, does not necessarily prevent disciplinary action being taken".

The striker will now miss Liverpool's match at home to Arsenal on Sunday, subject to any appeal.

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Brad Jones: A Risky Transfer Window Statement by Brendan Rodgers?

Чт, 18/12/2014 - 22:27

Although Simon Mignolet warranted the drop, replacing him with Brad Jones could prove a fatal transfer window statement by Brendan Rodgers, writes Jack Lusby.

 Liverpool's goalkeeper Brad Jones slips as he controls the ball against Bournemouth during the Football League Cup 5th Round match at Dean Court. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It was a move many had been asking for consistently throughout this season, and when Brendan Rodgers chose to drop goalkeeper Simon Mignolet for “an indefinite period,” it seemed a delayed response to some terrible form.

But, as was widely noted as a caveat to this argument, Liverpool’s back-up choice, Brad Jones, is hardly up to scratch.

It is clear that, in January, Liverpool must look to target a new No. 1, with the likes of John Ruddy, Guillermo Ochoa, Sergio Romero, Mattia Perin and Petr Cech already linked.

But Rodgers still has two weeks, and three crucial games, between now and the transfer window.

With Jones so far failing to impress, and looking an easy target in goal for the Reds, will Rodgers be fatally offering his rivals a chance to put some real distance between themselves and Liverpool in the Premier League table to merely prove a point?

Brad Jones Vs. Manchester United

 Liverpool's goalkeeper Brad Jones looks dejected as his side lose 3-0 to Manchester United during the Premier League match at Old Trafford. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It was a bold move by Rodgers to drop Mignolet in what is arguably the biggest game in any Liverpool Premier League season, but also served as a significantly stern approach to the goalkeeper’s miserable form.

With Jones the man to benefit, it was a big challenge for the Socceroo.

United an attacking team hell bent on causing chaos for Liverpool's exposed and creaking back four. Brad Jones in for a busy afternoon.

— Lee Clayton (@LeeClayton_) December 14, 2014

Perhaps expectedly, Jones was overrun by the attacking prowess of United’s Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Juan Mata.

Twice Jones was thwarted by a simple feigning move at Old Trafford—Rooney shaping up to shoot left, but placing the ball right, for his goal, and Mata’s disguised pass to Van Persie for the Dutchman’s strike.

For United's third goal, did anyone in the world other than Brad Jones think Juan Mata was going to shoot?

— Ste H (@stehoare) December 16, 2014

Brad Jones picks a direction *really* early, doesn’t he?

— Iain Macintosh (@iainmacintosh) December 14, 2014

Clearly desperate to impress, Jones valiantly dived for the ball both times. Unfortunately both times this was in the wrong direction.

Overall, not the confidence boost Rodgers likely intended.

Arsenal

 Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers and Arsenal's manager Arsene Wenger during the Premiership match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)Tactical battle: Brendan Rodgers vs Arsene Wenger (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Arsenal have been blessed with a full eight days to prepare for their visit to Anfield on Sunday, as they were knocked out of the Capital One Cup by Southampton at the end of September.

During this time, and between fending off media speculation as to how long his tenure will last, manager Arsene Wenger will have been studying Liverpool’s recent performances, and highlighting strengths and weaknesses.

A glaring one in the game against United was that of Jones.

Unfortunately for Rodgers, then, Arsenal are blessed with an abundance of attacking power.

 Liverpool's Daniel Agger and Arsenal's Oliver Giroud clash during the Premiership match at the Emirates Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Their last game saw Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla both score two as Arsenal won 4-1 over Newcastle United at the Emirates Stadium.

Add to that the effervescent Alexis Sanchez, as well as Danny Welbeck, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski, and this begins to look like a truly formidable attacking force.

Wenger will have surely identified Jones’ inability to intelligently read situations and react in terms of movement.

He will have likely noticed that Jones struggles to get a strong hand behind saves when troubled from distance.

'HE'S NOT A KEEPER THIS LAD. HAVE A DIG BOYS!' – What Sunday League players would shout if Brad Jones was playing against them.

— David Martinez (@DMARTINEZ_85) December 17, 2014

He will also have observed that Jones is not the best in terms of distribution, and a high-pressing game, aided by the feisty Sanchez, will put immense pressure on his abilities to find a player from range.

Returning to form with that win over Newcastle, and the previous mid-week’s victory away to Galatasaray, Arsenal will look to continue this on Sunday and thrive on Jones’ weakness.

The Race for Top-Four

 Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers before the Football League Cup 5th Round match against AFC Bournemouth at Dean Court. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Losing to United, and sticking with Jones between the sticks against Arsenal, could prove costly in Liverpool’s already damaged challenge for the Premier League’s top four this season.

As Jones proved against United, he is a considerable target in the most vulnerable of areas.

This is only underlined further by his poor attempt at stopping Dan Gosling’s shot in Liverpool’s 3-1 Capital One Cup quarter-final victory over Bournemouth on Wednesday.

Would Mignolet have dealt with these situations more comfortably?

 Liverpool's goalkeeper Simon Mignolet in action against Real Madrid CF during the UEFA Champions League Group B match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The No. 22’s main deficiencies come in his lack of confidence and ability to communicate authoritatively with his defence; stemming from this comes a nervous disposition in possession.

But Jones has not so far proven his capabilities in these areas either, and his shot-stopping ability pales in comparison to that of Mignolet who, to his credit, made some fine saves in the likes of Liverpool’s 1-0 loss away to Real Madrid in the Champions League.

It was a bold statement by Rodgers, in dropping Mignolet for an “indefinite period”, and on his form and in the interest of maintaining managerial integrity, the manager had every right to exile his previous first choice.

It also, starkly, tells the Liverpool board: “Look, these are the options we’ve got, perhaps we need a replacement?”

However, this may have come at a hugely damaging time in the season.

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By opting for the inadequate Jones—inadequate as a competitive back-up for Mignolet, let alone as a No. 1—Rodgers risks isolating Liverpool from the race for the top four.

Perhaps this should be shelved along with many of Rodgers’ good-on-paper ideas, as a loss at Arsenal would see the Gunners go eight points clear of Liverpool.

Rodgers continued on his goalkeeper situation that: “It can sometimes happen to a keeper where you come out of the firing line and it can help you and allow you time to reflect.” Has Mignolet had enough time to reflect?

By all means sign a new goalkeeper in January, but Brendan Rodgers’ backing of the so-far poor Brad Jones could prove fatal, and a return for a hopefully fresh Simon Mignolet on Sunday may be wise.

Should Brendan Rodgers stick with Brad Jones on Sunday, or reintroduce Simon Mignolet in goal? Let us know in the comments below.

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Dejan Lovren injury update and praise for Bournemouth

Чт, 18/12/2014 - 17:04

Brendan Rodgers has given an update on the injury suffered by Dejan Lovren during Liverpool’s 3-1 victory over Bournemouth in the League Cup on Wednesday night.

 Liverpool's substitute Dejan Lovren during the Premier League match against Stoke City at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Lovren played the opening 45 minutes as part of a back three alongside fellow centre-backs Kolo Toure and Martin Skrtel, with Glen Johnson having been sidelined following his injury at Old Trafford.

The former Southampton centre-back had to be replaced by Mamadou Sakho and the Frenchman, who was making his Liverpool appearance since featuring against Middlesbrough back in September, is on stand-by to feature against Arsenal on Sunday if Lovren fails to make a swift recovery.

It would be just Sakho's third Premier League appearance of the season, having made 18 last season as Rodgers' men just fell short of the title.

"We will just see and assess that," Rodgers added. "He had a little sort of nick in his groin and we will see how that is."

 Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers before the Football League Cup 5th Round match against AFC Bournemouth at Dean Court. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Rodgers also took the opportunity Rodgers to tip Bournemouth to join Liverpool in the top flight next season.

Having survived a couple of early scares Liverpool took control and a double from Raheem Sterling either side of Lazar Markovic's first Reds goal set up a two-legged Capital One Cup semi-final with Chelsea next month.

But after Dan Gosling pulled a goal back the vocal travelling support endured some nervy moments, not least when former Everton midfielder Gosling rattled Brad Jones' right-hand post.

And Rodgers has seen enough of Eddie Howe's men, who came into that clash on the back of a 12-game unbeaten run, to suggest they will be heading to the likes of Anfield in the top flight come August.

"They are a wonderful team and have got an outstanding young manager," Rodgers explained. "They can go on and get promoted, they thoroughly deserve it, they are a wonderful club.

"So good luck to them, hopefully they can keep going. I think they can get promoted, that was 12 games unbeaten and I saw their win against Cardiff (a 5-3 victory last week) and some of their other games.

"They look a real threat and they are super organised while playing good football at a good intensity. The crowd really help and they go away to places like Wolves and win.

"They have got every chance to get through and in Eddie they have an outstanding young manager, I would be delighted for him."

PA

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