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Brendan Rodgers explains when Liverpool first used their new system – in defeat to Newcastle

2 часа 53 минуты назад

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has explained that the first time his side used the new 3-4-2-1 system was in fact in the 1-0 Premier League defeat to Newcastle on November 1st.

 Liverpool's Raheem Sterling in action against Newcastle United's captain Fabricio Coloccini during the Premier League match at St. James' Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“We played the system away at Newcastle but I couldn’t really work on the system in training because we didn’t have the players available at the time,” Rodgers explains.

“At Newcastle Raheem Sterling played as one of the wide players. So what did I get out of that game apart from a loss? I learned that Raheem probably won’t be able to play wide in what I was looking to do because he’s not in the game enough. He was on the side.”

How Liverpool lined up at Newcastle - with Sterling right side, Lovren and Johnson at centre-back.How Liverpool lined up at Newcastle – with Sterling right side, Lovren and Johnson at centre-back.

That Newcastle game saw Dejan Lovren especially struggle when dragged into wide positions, the midfield was extremely disjointed, while Mario Balotelli cut an increasingly isolated figure up front with very little support.

“After Newcastle we had Real Madrid and I wasn’t going to go into a game of that magnitude with a system that I knew needed more work on,” says Rodgers.

The boss later turned to a pragmatic 4-4-1-1 shape for games against Ludogorets and Leicester City to dig out results in late November, before returning to the 3-4-2-1 shape for the trip to Old Trafford in mid-December – with Sterling up front.

“It was just about the timing and the timing was right for the Manchester United game. By that stage I was comfortable that we had the players to make it work.”

Indeed, injuries to Steven Gerrard, Glen Johnson and later Dejan Lovren forced a change of personnel within the new system, and Liverpool flourished.

Lovren’s injury in the League Cup match at Bournemouth forced Rodgers into bringing Mamadou Sakho back into the side, which gave the back three a far more composed and comfortable outlook.

Kolo Toure initially started as the right sided centre-back but was replaced at half-time in the Boxing Day win at Burnley for Emre Can. The German gave the Reds’ similar composure on the other side and hasn’t looked back since.

In midfield, Lucas’ return to the side added shielding to the defence, until his injury recently.

How Liverpool have mostly lined up using 3421 in last 3 months.How Liverpool have mostly lined up using 3421 in last 3 months.

By pairing the three dynamic players of Sterling, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana in attack, Liverpool were able to return to their pressing game.

Jordan Henderson returned to his strongest position in the centre of midfield, rather than shunned out wide as he was for the match against Basel for instance.

That initial incarnation of the system, at Newcastle, saw, ironically, one of the worst performances of the season – showing how the need for the right players and good coaching time is crucial to getting it right at the top level.

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Категории: LFC NEWS

Rodgers admits: I should have changed the system earlier

3 часа 17 минут назад

Brendan Rodgers admits Liverpool’s defeat to Crystal Palace in November convinced him to change tactics to overcome the Reds’ indifferent start of the season.

 Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers celebrates after a 2-1 victory over Bolton Wanderers during the FA Cup 4th Round Replay match at the Reebok Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool made a stuttering to start to the 2014-15 campaign – losing three of their first five Barclays Premier League matches and seven of their 19 league fixtures before the turn of the year – but have recovered to remain in the hunt for a place in next year’s Champions League competition.

The Reds have been in fine form since Christmas, having not lost in the league in 2015, and are just two points behind fourth-placed Manchester United and only three adrift of third-placed Arsenal.

Liverpool could replace United in fourth after Wednesday night’s fixtures if they win at home against Burnley and Louis van Gaal’s team lose at Newcastle.

Such an achievement seemed unlikely after they lost 3-1 at Selhurst Park on November 23 – their third league defeat in a row – to sit 12th in the standings, a result that Rodgers admits forced him into a re-think.

“After that Palace game I felt that it doesn’t matter how much support you have, the team is not functioning and it could not go on really,” the former Watford, Reading and Swansea manager told the Guardian.

“But I certainly wasn’t going to roll over and die. I will always fight for my life. I love it here and I want to be successful here.

“I understood the situation. My experience at Reading told me that. That’s what I learned from my sacking there. I went in to Reading with the full backing of the chairman, who was great to me, and I got 20 games.”

He added: “What I learned was it does not matter how much support you have in the boardroom, from the directors, the executives, you have to get results and you have to win.

“I needed to make decisions that would allow us to get back to somewhere near what we had been and the transformation of the team, with everyone talking about the system and how dynamic it is, has been good to see. I should have done it earlier!”

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Категории: LFC NEWS

Luciano Vietto: Why Liverpool are targeting young Villarreal striker

15 часов 11 минут назад

With Villarreal striker Luciano Vietto linked with a summer move to Liverpool this week, Jack Lusby provides a scouting report on the Reds’ latest target.

Liverpool are targeting Villarreal striker Luciano Vietto, with a view to a summer move, if the 21-year-old’s agent is to be believed.

The gloriously named Jorge Cysterpiller recently told reporters of interest from Liverpool, as well as Real Madrid and several other European clubs.

“We know that a lot of big clubs are watching Vietto. There is a lot of competition for him. He could sign for Liverpool, we know that he is admired by the Reds, as well as Real Madrid and two Bundesliga clubs. I think he could leave Villarreal in the summer.”

Vietto would likely cost the Reds around £12 million.

Brendan Rodgers is likely to see an overhaul in his striking ranks this summer, as Fabio Borini, Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli could all leave Merseyside, and Vietto is clearly a target.

So who is Luciano Vietto?

Strengths

First making his name with Racing Club in the Argentine Primera Division, Vietto was briefly coached by Diego Simeone, before Cholo’s moved to manage current side Atletico Madrid.

“He is fast, makes smart moves and shoots the ball well with both feet,” Simeone outlined in 2011, shortly before calling Vietto into the Racing first team.

After 18 goals in 72 games for Racing, Vietto spurned the interests of Atletico, Real, Juventus, Arsenal, Manchester City, Everton, Inter, Napoli, Borussia Dortmund, Paris Saint-Germain and indeed Liverpool, amongst countless others, to move to Villarreal last year.

Turning 21 at the end of 2014, Vietto has hit the ground running in La Liga.

With 11 goals from 23 league games so far this season, Vietto boasts a supremely prolific goalscoring record, and he stands at ninth in the goal charts for La Liga behind the likes of Karim Benzema, Antoine Griezmann, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar.

Crucially, Vietto has started significantly less games than any of the players to have scored more than him.

La Liga best rate of minutes per goal (5+ gls): C. Ronaldo – 65.4 L. Messi – 81.7 Neymar – 95.5 A. Griezmann – 108.5 L. Vietto – 126.8 #LFC

— Jack Lusby (@jacklusby_) March 3, 2015

Vietto’s goal-rate is even better in the Europa League, with the striker hitting five goals in eight games, as well as making four assists.

Far from a Lucky Luciano, Vietto relies on his intelligent movement and crafty dribbling skills to get him into a position to score, as his goal in Villarreal’s 1-0 win over Atletico in mid-December perfectly outlines.

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Simeone would surely attest: Vietto is developing into a formidable centre-forward.

As Michael Yokhin wrote for ESPN last year: “Intelligent on the run, tactically aware, technically sublime, dedicated and a great team player, the sky is the limit for Vietto.”

These represent qualities that traditionally endear themselves to Rodgers in terms of player recruitment—but where would Vietto need to improve in his skillset if he was to move to Merseyside?

Weaknesses

From a statistical point of view, it could be suggested that Vietto would need to work on his output in terms of Rodgers’ coveted pressing style.

For example, Vietto is dribbled past more times on average (0.4 per game) than Daniel Sturridge (0), Balotelli (0.1), Borini (0.2) and Lambert (0.2), suggesting that his application in terms of pressing could be worked on.

This also shows in the number of fouls Vietto commits on average per game (1.3), which is more than any Liverpool striker—Sturridge (0.3), Lambert (0.6), Borini (0.9)—except Balotelli (1.9).

Vietto’s output in this respect could suggest that he has a Mario-style approach to on-field discipline.

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However, as highlights from December’s victory over Atletico outlines, Vietto is a committed centre-forward, and will rarely give up when closing down his opponent.

His combined average of 0.8 tackles and interceptions per game is higher than any Liverpool striker except Balotelli, which could suggest that if you tackle more, you foul more.

Perhaps with this dogged attitude in mind, Vietto has rather unimaginatively been compared to compatriot Sergio Aguero by some camps.

But Rodgers will likely have this in mind if he is to sign Vietto in the summer.

Vietto’s Role in the Liverpool Squad

 Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers before the Premier League match against Swansea City at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Aguero’s success in the Premier League owes to pairing his exceptional finishing skills with an uncompromising work rate, and Liverpool are familiar with this South American style.

As Jason Burt wrote for The Telegraph in January, there is a reason why the Premier League’s best strikers are often South American:

“Hunger. It is the word that is consistently used by managers and fellow players. Desire. That is another—as is drive. And passion. And fight.”

Hunger is definitely a word firmly rooted in the lexicon of Rodgers, and that is partly why Luis Suarez became such a focal figure of his Liverpool system—that, and his effervescent goalscoring rate and untouchable skill, of course.

 Liverpool's Luis Suarez celebrates scoring the second goal against Stoke City during the Premiership match at the Britannia Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Burt continues by quoting Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who famously courted Suarez while he was at Liverpool.

“If you look across Europe where are the strikers from? You will see that many of them—at least 80 per cent—come from South America,” Wenger claimed, before hypothesising why: “In street football when you are 10 years-old, you play with 15-year-olds so you have to be shrewd, you have to show that you are good, you have to fight, win impossible balls.”

Wenger now has this street-born hunger and drive in the form of Rodgers’ prime Suarez-replacing candidate from the summer, Alexis Sanchez.

Sanchez would have provided Sturridge with a similar hard-working foil to that of Suarez, and perhaps Rodgers conceives this of Vietto who, at only 21, could initially be moulded by the Ulsterman in a backup role.

Add Luciano Vietto to a strike force of Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi, Jerome Sinclair and perhaps Danny Ings, and Brendan Rodgers could call upon a plethora of hungry, driven and, most importantly, clinical centre-forwards to aid his challenge in the Premier League and beyond.

Should Liverpool target Luciano Vietto in the summer? Let us know in the comments below.

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Категории: LFC NEWS

Predicted Liverpool lineup vs Burnley: Sturridge and Sakho to return

Втр, 03/03/2015 - 18:49

Liverpool play the second of three matches in a week at Anfield on Wednesday night as the Reds look to continue their push for Champions League qualification. Ben Twelves discusses the team selection options ahead of the clash.

 Liverpool's Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring the first goal against Burnley during the Premier League match at Turf Moor. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring in the reverse fixture on Boxing Day (Photo: David Rawcliffe / Propaganda).

Having responded superbly to Europa League disappointment with Sunday’s fantastic win over Man City, Brendan Rodgers’ in-form Reds go in search of extending their unbeaten Premier League run once more against Sean Dyche’s side.

The confidence boosting victory over the Champions – moving Liverpool to just two points from fourth place – will have provided Rodgers’ young side with huge belief ahead of the final 10 league matches, but it is now essential that the Reds keep their focus and avoid slip-ups having worked tremendously hard to drag themselves into the race for top four.

Rodgers’ men scraped past Burnley with a narrow 1-0 win on Boxing Day but despite the Lancashire outfit’s lowly position, Dyche’s team have already taken points from Chelsea, Man City, Southampton, and Man United this campaign, meaning Liverpool will certainly have to produce another strong performance to grab maximum points.

A previously hectic fixture schedule is slowly beginning to die down with just the FA Cup and Premier League left to play for, but with Wednesday’s game being the third in a week and an important quarter-final tie to come on Sunday, Rodgers will have to juggle his team once again to ensure for a fresh performance against the Premier League newcomers.

Rodgers: "I rate Burnley as a team and their manager. Sean is very talented. They have gone away from home in big games & got good results.

— James Pearce (@JamesPearceEcho) March 2, 2015

The Team

 Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge and Jordon Ibe during a training session at Melwood Training Ground ahead of the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 2nd Leg match against Besiktas JK. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Rodgers still has a somewhat depleted squad at his disposal – with Jordon Ibe the latest to be ruled out of action after picking up a knee injury in Turkey – and though the game is set to come too early for Steven Gerrard to return, the Reds boss could welcome back both Mamadou Sakho and Glen Johnson after injury and illness respectively.

Rodgers: "Gerrard is coming along very well. He's working hard. Jordon Ibe will be out for a few weeks. He'll be back towards end of March.

— James Pearce (@JamesPearceEcho) March 2, 2015

The squad has a familiar look with the same select group unavailable for selection, meaning the Liverpool boss will have to establish who could do with a rest – the same way Philippe Coutinho was afforded one and came back firing on all cylinders on Sunday afternoon.

Emre Can is one of those who could do with a night off having now made 18 consecutive appearances, and Sakho’s availability as well as Kolo Toure’s means the German could be replaced in the back three by either of the returned duo.

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

While changes can readily be made in the defensive line, there’s little option available to rotate the midfield from Sunday’s look, and the excellent Jordan Henderson is therefore in line to lead the Reds once again at Anfield alongside Joe Allen, who is beginning to recapture his best form.

Daniel Sturridge started on the bench for the visit of the Champions and having been used sparingly last time out, the natural striker could re-enter the starting XI in place of make-shift front man Raheem Sterling, who has played every minute of the last three demanding fixtures against Southampton, Besiktas and Manuel Pelligrini’s side.

The Line Up

Little room for manoeuvre with options scarce is likely to see the Reds XI retain a familiar look from over the last few games, but Rodgers does have a small number of potential alterations available to freshen up his side.

The Liverpool manager could choose to make two small changes – in an attempt to keep key players fresh for fixtures ahead – and the first option could see Sakho reinstated to the position he made his own in the back three in place of the improving but still suspect Lovren, with Sturridge entering for Sterling up front, allowing the 20-year-old a rest.

Those switches would see the Reds line up like this come 8pm kick-off time Wednesday night:

Burnley XI 1

However, Rodgers could keep the same combination with Sakho and Sturridge coming in again, though he could opt to reintroduce them to the starting team in place of Emre Can – to afford the German a well-deserved rest – and Adam Lallana, who produced a huge effort on Sunday, allowing the Liverpool to unleash an explosive front three.

With those alterations, Liverpool’s starting XI could look like this at Anfield:

Burnley XI 2

Rodgers: "It's tight (in the race for fop 4). Arriving in there has always been our objective. We want to keep chasing right to the end."

— James Pearce (@JamesPearceEcho) March 2, 2015

Having worked tirelessly and produced a huge effort to drag themselves back into the race for Champions League qualification, it is essential the Reds stay focussed on the job in hand and produce a professional performance on Wednesday night in order to grab another vital three points.

Select your XI:

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Категории: LFC NEWS

Why Always Him? An alternative view of Mario Balotelli’s Liverpool career

Втр, 03/03/2015 - 15:51

Aaron Cutler jumps to the defence of Mario Balotelli and offers an alternative view on the Italian’s season.

 Liverpool's Mario Balotelli walks past manager Brendan Rodgers as he is substituted against Besiktas JK during the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 2nd Leg match at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

If a picture paints a thousand words the one depicting Mario Balotelli’s withdrawal in Istanbul encapsulated a Liverpool career. Ambling from the Ataturk’s hallowed turf our mercurial Italian shot an angered glance at his manager, himself po-faced but disinterested. A telling snapshot of a troubled relationship, this image captured a marriage of inconvenience seemingly destined for the divorce courts.

Indeed, if Balotelli is drinking at the last chance saloon this Mersey well is set to run dry. But is his fall from grace self-inflicted, as press, pundits and even manager would have you believe? The truth may be harder for some to see, comprehend and accept.

The decision to sign Balotelli was curious at best. Quite who made that call is a matter of fierce debate and an identity protected deep in the bowels of Anfield. That said most would absolve Rodgers of any blame, if only down to a six month campaign at clearing his own name.

Brendan assured us in July that no deal would materialise and come October was publicly questioning the merits of the transfer committee outright. The Mario effect.

But what of the player himself? Has he really stunk the place out worse than raw sewage? Look beyond the soap opera and that assumption is not wholly accurate. Call me an apologist but in my opinion Balotelli is but a victim of his own reputation. The tabloids favourite, he suffers from a bad press – only some of which is actually merited.

 Liverpool's Mario Balotelli in action against Tottenham Hotspur during the Premier League match at White Hart Lane. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The trouble with mavericks is most want them to fail. Discarded by Inter, City and Milan then branded ‘unmanageable’ by the Special One no less, the Balotelli to Liverpool narrative was pre-ordained. No bedding in period was ever likely to be afforded. Unless our Wild Child hit the ground running he would be accused of conforming to type; a loose cannon on whom the reds should never have gambled.

Sure enough, a sluggish start inspired familiar complaints. Such ire however never came with context. Predictable headlines seldom mentioned the loss of Daniel Sturridge and the damaging effect that had on his proposed strike partner, suddenly cast as a lone forward in a thankless system.

Similarly, little attention was paid to a collective malaise as Liverpool descended into a rank average side incapable of preventing or scoring goals. A blind eye was also turned to Brendan Rodgers’ regressive tactics as the opportunity to lambast Bad Boy Balo proved insatiable.

Why let truth or reason get in the way of sensationalism? Granted, our extroverted number 45 hardly set the world alight from the get-go but his struggles cannot be apportioned to a blatant lack of effort.

A lazy argument is the lazy argument itself. On arrival Balotelli put a shift in. Seriously. True, he will never channel the spirit of Dirk Kuyt but the Italian emitted greater mobility than at any stage of his City career.

Think back to the first derby clash of the season; he exited to a chorus of cheers and a standing ovation appreciative of a combative display. Sadly, good intentions were soon undermined by a frightening lack of in-game intelligence.

 Liverpool's Mario Balotelli applauds the supporters as he is substituted against Everton during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)
For Balotelli would move but do so in the vain of a faulty sat nav, meandering into harmless areas. You would often see him venturing back into midfield or cropping-up by his own corner flag only to be conspicuous by his absence whenever a cross was tossed into the opposing penalty area.

Similarly, peeling off the shoulder of last defender became an art he simply could not master. In short, he brought movement – just the wrong kind; particularly for a side deprived of its primary out ball (Sturridge).

Of Balotelli’s many faults the most bedeviling is his naivety, a trait destined to haunt the duration of his career. It is such foolhardiness that led to a ban for posting ‘racist’ literature as a means of condemning discrimination. He means well but good intentions count for nothing when you are a divisive figure, particularly one charged with replacing Luis Suarez.

A barren spell in front of goal did little to quell the furore. His paltry return was the result of bad finishing and bad luck. Then came a regrettable nadir in the shape of a Champions League encounter with Real Madrid. Faced with humiliation Rodgers attempted to deflect blame by nominating Balotelli a half-time scapegoat.

In a perfect storm television cameras also caught sight of Mario exchanging shirts with Pepe before descending into the tunnel. Significantly, both players had left the pitch and were a matter of yards away from the Main Stand stairway. But why let such small margins stand in the way of a great story? Our very own Liverpool Echo followed suit, APOLOGISE emblazoned across its back page in tacky red-top fashion.

 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)

An exile of sorts duly followed before the first of several public dressing downs from Brendan.

“Working with Mario, we’ve seen that he is someone who is better in and around the box. That level of pressing and intensity is not part of his game.

But you try to make the best out of the players you have, and the qualities that they have. That’s something we will focus on.”

Rodgers’ motives here are most intriguing. Some would argue this approach was simply a motivational tool, designed to fire-up a ‘Problem Child’. I tend to think it was face saving, again stressing he had no hand in this a failed transfer. A confident personality never shy of championing his own man-management skills this signalled resignation of sorts; an unfurling of the white flag.

Ostracising Balotelli coincided with an upturn in form. Credit where it’s due, Rodgers reinvigorated both himself and his squad with December’s change in formation. And Balotelli himself (supposedly) conceded he was not attuned to a 3-4-3 dependent on an incessant press. It is hard to imagine him harassing City’s backline in the vein of Lallana, Coutinho and Sterling.

Nevertheless, the paucity of Liverpool’s striking options made his total exclusion counter-productive. With the best will in the world neither Rickie Lambert nor Fabio Borini possess an ounce of Mario’s natural talent. They may bust a gut but both lack an X Factor capable of changing a game.

Could the New Year’s Day draw with Leicester have ended differently had our famous outcast been considered? Could an FA Cup replay with Bolton have been avoided? Could a desperately drab derby have been lit-up? It is hard to question Rodgers given an impressive run but it may be argued he can – at times – cut his nose off to spite his face.

Recent comments – and their timing – suggest initial indifference has turned personal.

A reluctant Rodgers recalled Balotelli for the visit of Spurs, his troubled pupil reacquainting himself with the Anfield bench. With Daniel Sturridge tiring he was called upon to win the game. He did just that. A goal aside his all-round contribution was a positive one. Noticeable work rate was subsidised by thoughtful possession, particularly with Liverpool protecting a slender lead.

 Liverpool's Mario Balotelli scores the third goal againstTottenham Hotspur during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

An impressive cameo was complimented by an encouraging performance away at Crystal Palace. Then came Beskitas.

Introduced with twenty minutes to play Mario was head and shoulders above peers and opponents. He was strong, direct and menacing – energising his teammates for a grandstand finish.

That infamous penalty inspired childish hysteria, all of which was entirely avoidable. Balotelli was the outstanding candidate at the time and stepped-up to win the game. Debate over – unless you’re Jamie Redknapp who stooped to embarassing depths when declaring the Italian should never play for the club again.

But it was Rodgers’ comments that really stuck in the craw.

“We need to ensure that whatever level we are playing at we have everyone working as a team and once we get the penalty he stops working.

So he needs to improve on that facet of his game, to play in his position rather than standing on the side of the football field.”

For a manager regularly accused of talking too much this was without doubt his most embarrassing soundbite and one that signalled the end of Balotelli’s Liverpool career – in February.

Rodgers has made a habit of hanging Mario out to dry, be it to save face, deflect blame or cosy-up to friends in the media – many of whom salivate at the very mention of this enigmatic forward.

These aforementioned remarks were inadvisable and for me unforgivable. They projected Rodgers as a coach unwilling rather than incapable of nurturing a flawed genius.

Before anyone researches my family tree in search of Italian/Ghanaian heritage I am happy to concede Balotelli is far from perfect.

A tendency to shoot-on-sight is infuriating, as is the ease at which he is drawn into petty shenanigans likely to draw cards of both persuasions. That aforementioned game intelligence also needs refining.

A lack of awareness hinders link-up play, attracting derision from teammates and fans alike. But buried deep beneath the complexity is a super footballer, a talent too good to cast aside, particularly when back-up comes in the form of Borini and Lambert.

Contrary to popular belief he has shown a willingness to adapt only to be assessed and deemed too much hassle.

I am well aware this piece reads like a character reference but if/when Balotelli is sold this summer it should be remembered this latest blotch on his copy book was not totally self-inflicted. Indeed it could be argued he never stood a chance.

Has Balotelli been unfairly dealt with during his time at Anfield? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Категории: LFC NEWS

Liverpool v Burnley: Early team news for Reds

Втр, 03/03/2015 - 15:42

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is back in training after a hamstring injury but is unlikely to return for Wednesday’s Barclays Premier League visit of Burnley.

 Liverpool's captain Steven Gerrard during training at Melwood ahead of their opening UEFA Champions League Group B match against PFC Ludogorets Razgrad. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Winger Jordon Ibe is expected to be sidelined until the end of the month with the knee injury suffered in the Europa League loss at Besiktas last week.

Central defender Mamadou Sakho is close to a return after a hip injury and full-back Glen Johnson should be back in contention after illness.

Provisional squad: Mignolet, Ward, Sakho, Can, Skrtel, Lovren, Toure, Johnson, Williams, Markovic, Henderson, Allen, Moreno, Sterling, Lallana, Coutinho, Sturridge, Borini, Balotelli, Lambert.

Liverpool v Burnley is 8pm GMT kick off on Wednesday.

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Категории: LFC NEWS

Video: Brendan Rodgers pre-Burnley, praises Sean Dyche

Втр, 03/03/2015 - 14:00

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers praised Burnley manager Sean Dyche ahead of their match at Anfield on Wednesday.

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Liverpool beat the Clarets 1-0 at Turf Moor on Boxing Day courtesy of Raheem Sterling‘s strike.

The Reds have struggled against lower half sides at home in the Premier League this season and will be looking to continue their impressive form on Wednesday night (8pm GMT kick off).

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5 Things That Have Changed Since Liverpool’s ‘Turning Point’ at Crystal Palace

Втр, 03/03/2015 - 08:00

Brendan Rodgers described Liverpool’s 3-1 November defeat at Crystal Palace as a “turning point.” Here Jack Lusby selects five things that have changed.

 Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers during the FA Cup 5th Round match against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool struggled under Brendan Rodgers for much of the first half of the 2014/15 season, and this culminated in a 3-1 loss away to bottom-half challengers Crystal Palace in November, the manager claims.

“The Crystal Palace defeat was a defining moment in our season,” Rodgers said, in interview with talkSPORT.

“I needed to come away from that and really look at the team. We were certainly nowhere near the level we’d been in the last 18 months. That was a turning point.”

Since that defeat, Liverpool have won 10 of their last 15 Premier League games, with just one further loss, away to Manchester United in December, and have climbed the table as a result.

But how has Rodgers changed things since that Selhurst Park hiding?

Taking the Hint With Lovren, Johnson and Enrique

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

The loss to Palace took a considerable toll on Rodgers’ credibility as Liverpool manager.

One of the main factors in this was a perceived stubbornness, particularly in terms of the personnel used.

The two biggest yardsticks in terms of Rodgers’ favour with the Anfield faithful were Dejan Lovren and Glen Johnson, with the two rightly coming under regular criticism, but with seemingly little retribution in terms of team selection.

Lovren was a league ever-present up to and including the Palace loss, while Johnson made seven appearances in these 12 games.

Since however, be it through injury or form, neither has been a regular for Rodgers — Lovren has made seven appearances in 15 games, while Johnson has made just five.

Fellow defensive misfit Jose Enrique also hasn’t started in the league since.

No Steven Gerrard in Defensive Midfield

 Liverpool's captain Steven Gerrard looks dejected as Crystal Palace score the third goal during the Premier League match at Selhurst Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

When Rodgers converted Steven Gerrard into a deep-lying regista-style midfielder last season, it seemed like a tactical revelation; Gerrard was able to dictate play from deep while Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez caused havoc in the attacking areas.

This season, however, with age an ever-creeping threat, Gerrard has struggled when deployed in that role.

In the loss at Palace, the captain was a non-entity, with the likes of Mile Jedinak and Joe Ledley charging past Gerrard at will, terrorising Liverpool’s defence — devoid of a genuine defensive midfielder, Liverpool were vulnerable, and conceded 18 goals in 12 league games.

Gerrard hasn’t started in a defensive midfield role since that loss.

Rested against Stoke City, Gerrard returned to a starting role in the win over Leicester City as a No. 10.

This switch did a kindness to Gerrard’s diminishing stamina and low defensive intelligence, and Liverpool have conceded 12 goals in 15 league games since, with Lucas Leiva and Joe Allen impressing in defensive midfield.

Emre Can and Mamadou Sakho Playing Regular Roles

 Liverpool's Emre Can, Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho hold hands against Crystal Palace during the FA Cup 5th Round match at Selhurst Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

In the 12 league games Liverpool played up to and including the Palace trip, between the pair of them Emre Can and Mamadou Sakho had made just nine appearances.

Can was considered too raw, and Sakho had been exiled through a combination of his Merseyside derby transgression and a mysterious, lengthy injury.

In the 15 league games following the Palace loss, Can and Sakho have made a combined total of 19 appearances for Liverpool, with Sakho returning from his injury for the 2-2 draw with Arsenal at Anfield in December.

This coincided nicely with the introduction of the 3-4-2-1, with Sakho adopting the left centre-back role; Can was introduced at right centre-back in the Boxing Day win at Burnley.

In nine league games with Can and Sakho in the back three, Liverpool are unbeaten, have conceded just seven goals and have kept five clean sheets.

At the beginning of the season, Can and Sakho were peripheral figures; now, it’s hard to imagine a Liverpool side without them in a regular role.

Moving Philippe Coutinho into a Central Position

 Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho Correia celebrates scoring the winning second goal in injury time against Bolton Wanderers during the FA Cup 4th Round Replay match at the Reebok Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Fresh from a PFA February Player of the Month award—another for a rapidly increasingly collection of awards—Philippe Coutinho’s current form is a far sight from that of earlier in the season.

In the loss to Palace, for example, Rodgers fielded a 4-3-3 formation, with Coutinho shifted into a wide-left role.

Coutinho failed to make any kind of impact on the game—despite a comfortable 92 passing accuracy, the midfielder failed to make a single key pass in the game, with this indicative of his hampered sense of adventure in that role.

Restored to a central role in Liverpool’s next league game, Coutinho returned to his natural position.

This is amplified in the 3-4-2-1, and in his 12 appearances in that system, Coutinho has averaged 1.75 key passes per game.

In his 10 appearances up to and including the Palace loss, Coutinho averaged just 0.5 key passes per game.

Rodgers has allowed the No. 10 creative freedom following that negative defeat, and Coutinho has thrived as a result, and is now arguably Liverpool’s most important player.

Employing Quick, Mobile Strikers Only

Football - FA Premier League - Burnley FC v Liverpool FC

The loss at Palace actually began positively, with Rickie Lambert netting in the first two minutes to put the Reds ahead with an instinctive finish, latching onto Adam Lallana’s incisive long ball.

But, despite this, Lambert’s presence affected Liverpool’s play at Selhurst Park—a slow, lumbering, traditional centre-forward, the former Southampton man fails to contribute productively in terms of Rodgers’ trademark pressing play.

Lambert started the next five games for the Reds, but swiftly after Rodgers altered his tactics.

Ahead of Sturridge’s return from injury, Rodgers opted to deploy Raheem Sterling as a striker, and Liverpool’s fortunes have improved as a result.

Lambert has started just one game since—the 2-1 FA Cup win over AFC Wimbledon—and, similarly, Mario Balotelli is yet to start in the league following the Palace loss.

Sterling, and now Sturridge, offer a more mobile, hard-working forward option, which has proved integral to Liverpool’s overloading tactic in the 3-4-2-1 formation.

What has been Brendan Rodgers’ most influential change since the loss to Crystal Palace? Let us know in the comments below.

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Категории: LFC NEWS

LFC Loan Watch: Origi Struggles Continue, Wisdom Dropped, Ojo Impresses and Moyes wants Ilori

Пнд, 02/03/2015 - 23:00

We round up how the loaned members of the Liverpool squad have performed for their temporary clubs over recent weeks – a time of mixed fortunes for the loanees.

 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)

Divock Origi

Liverpool’s £10 million man continues to endure a tough time at Lille where the Belgian still hasn’t scored a Ligue 1 goal since October.

Sad reality is, Origi will be fine once he moves to #LFC Just doesn't want to put the effort in at Lille. It's a shame. Sad way to go.

— Andrew Gibney (@Gibney_A) February 28, 2015

His form has become of increasing concern to the French side – something boss Rene Girard blamed on the Reds in a recent press conference where he claimed the Belgian’s head is already at Liverpool – and having registered just one assist during the same period, Origi has been subjected to more boos from the fans – most recently against Lyon on Saturday despite a 2-1 win.

As for Origi..definitely not his worse game. It mostly passed him by. Should have done better with two chances. Didn't look sharp #LFC

— Andrew Gibney (@Gibney_A) March 1, 2015

The boos were not based on what he did on Saturday. Didn't get booed during the game from what I heard, just when he came off #Origi

— Andrew Gibney (@Gibney_A) March 1, 2015

Having been a key figure in the side for most of the season however, Girard – who says the 19-year-old “is not giving his all” at the mid-table side – has used Origi more sparingly in recent weeks, with the loaned man being used off the bench mostly – completing 90 minutes only twice in his last six matches.

Andre Wisdom

The 21-year-old defender had been a nailed on starter for West Brom at right back since joining on loan in the summer, but recently has seen a worrying down turn in match action following Tony Pulis’ arrival.

 Liverpool's Andre Wisdom in action against Notts County during the Football League Cup 2nd Round match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Wisdom started all but one of the first 23 league games – left out only for the match at Anfield due to being ineligible to feature – but since a 3-0 home defeat to Tottenham at the end of January that saw the right-back hauled off on the hour mark, the Reds loanee hasn’t played a single minute of Premier League action.

Some big calls all round from Pulis. Berahino and Wisdom dropped, Brunt loses the captaincy and Lescott doesn't get it either. #wba

— Steve Madeley (@smadeley_star) February 8, 2015

The last four matches have seen the natural centre back remain an unused substitute for Pulis’ side – with the improved Baggies picking up two wins and two draws – and those results have significantly eased Albion’s relegation fears and are likely to result in Wisdom staying amongst the substitutes for a while longer.

Joao Carlos Teixeira

Since featuring only once in January, the Portuguese play-maker has enjoyed a much more prominent role for Championship outfit, Brighton.

The 22-year-old midfielder has bagged two goals in his last five appearances alongside picking up two Man of the Match awards for his impressive displays in a 2-0 win over Leeds and 4-3 victory against Birmingham, and after a period of sporadic action, Teixeira has now cemented his place back in the Seagulls’ starting XI.

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Tremendous performance from Joao Teixeira who bagged a brace. What a talent he is. A joy to watch on days like today. #BHAFC

— Brighton Fanbase (@BrightonFanbase) February 21, 2015

Now under the guidance of Chris Hughton, a revitalised Teixeira – who has featured mainly in the number 10 role – has also completed full matches in four of the last six Championship fixtures, and has enjoyed better form as a result of his increased match minutes – seeing in him take his tally to six goals and three assists in 21 appearances.

Sheyi Ojo

Since joining at the beginning of February, the highly-rated prospect has enjoyed an impressive opening month on loan at relegation threatened Championship side Wigan.

Disappointing result where we deserved more! Nice to win Wigan Man of the match award. #Faith pic.twitter.com/v8e0TKsxZ1

— Sheyi Ojo (@sheyi_ojo) February 20, 2015

Ojo – who has played both on the right and left side of midfield since joining Malky Mackay’s team – claimed two Man of the Match awards despite his side being on the wrong end of results, and grabbed an assist for a winning goal against Reading, all in his first three appearances at the DW Stadium – a remarkable feat for someone of only 17 years of age.

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The talented youngster has featured six times so far – four starts and two substitute appearances – and has provided a ray of light in a miserable season for the FA Cup winners of two years ago, who already sit nine points adrift of safety in second bottom and face a huge task to survive the drop.

Sheyi Ojo starts again for Wigan tonight. Midfielder has made a good start to his loan. Frightening prospect in the next two years.

— Liverpool FC U18/U21 (@LFC_reserves) February 20, 2015

Luis Alberto

The Spanish attacking midfielder has endured a frustrating season at Malaga since his move, and his mixed fortunes continue to rumble on at Estadio La Rosaleda.

After showing signs of improved form and consequently enjoying increased amounts of game time in January – Alberto has disappointingly failed to feature throughout February in La Liga, being left out of match-day involvement too for the most part by manager Javi Gracia.

The 22-year-old did make the bench for the seventh placed side last weekend in their 3-2 victory over Getafe however, but that is where he remained for the 90 minutes as he was an unused substitute for the duration.

This season the creative Spaniard has made only eight starts in all competitions, scoring two goals and grabbing a single assist.

Iago Aspas

Having finally started to translate his fine form in cup and European competition to La Liga in January for Sevilla, Aspas picked up an untimely injury.

INJURY UPDATE: @SevillaFC – Beto's absence confirmed at 8 weeks. Stéphane Mbia is out for 2-3 weeks. Iago Aspas & Coke will miss a month.

— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) February 10, 2015

The thigh problem sustained has seen the 27-year-old striker side-lined for almost a month so far, meaning the Reds loaned man has been unable to feature for Unai Emrey’s team since starting just his second league match of the season against Getafe on February 8th following scoring in back-to-back games against Espanyol and Real Madrid.

Liverpool’s £7million signing continues to be ruled out by the injury, but will be hopeful of returning to the team to add to his healthy tally of 10 goals scored in all competitions so far this campaign.

Sebastian Coates

A frustrating loan spell coming back from injury for the Uruguayan continues to see his match action limited at the Stadium of Light.

The 24-year-old hasn’t played a single minute of Premier League football since Sunderland’s 3-2 defeat against Man City on New Years’ Day and has only featured twice since the turn of the year – both times in the FA Cup in a 1-0 win against Leeds and 0-0 stalemate with Championship strugglers, Fulham.

Coates completed 90 minutes on both of those occasions, but is clearly viewed as no more than a back-up option behind John O’Shea, Wes Brown and Santiago Vergini by Black Cats’ boss Gus Poyet,

Tiago Ilori

Featuring for Bordeaux’s reserve team on occasions, Ilori failed to play a single minute in 13 league matches dating back to October before regaining his place in the team in more recent times.

The recently turned 22-year-old played three consecutive games for Willy Sagnol’s side from the beginning of February – helping them claim seven points from nine keeping two clean sheets in the process – but despite his positive contribution, he has once again disappointingly been dropped from the first team since the final of those games against Saint Etienne on 15th of last month.

FCGB 1 – 0 ASSE #statistics #AllezBordeaux pic.twitter.com/fUdLOR1OtT

— Tiago Ilori (@TiagoIlori4) February 15, 2015

The Portuguese centre back’s form over the three games in which he featured is said to have impressed former Everton and Man United boss David Moyes however, with a small number of reports since emerging that the Real Sociedad boss is keen on signing the pacey defender in a potential cut-price summer transfer.

Rafa Paez

After a spell at Serie B side Bologna for the first half of the season where Paez appeared 15 times, the Reds’ under-21 defender was set to switch clubs in January to join Spanish Primera Division side Eibar for the rest of the campaign.

Eibar launch FIFA appeal so they can loan Rafa Paez from Liverpool: http://t.co/P0lddpF7FA

— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 18, 2015

However, the proposed move to the Spanish top-flight team was blocked by FIFA following an “administrative error” as reported by ESPN, resulting in Eibar launching an appeal for the transfer to be finalised after the mistake was corrected, and the Spanish defender being unable to feature for his new side.

As a result of the blocked move, Paez – who continues to train with the club – hasn’t played a single minute of competitive action since January 24th – a 2-1 win over Virtus Entella in his final appearance for previous employers Bologna.

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Категории: LFC NEWS

Liverpool FC record annual profit for first time in seven years

Пнд, 02/03/2015 - 21:33

Liverpool FC have recorded an annual profit for the first time in seven years. Figures released for the financial year ended May 31, 2014 show the club made a pre-tax profit of £0.9million – a considerable improvement on the £49.8million loss of the previous year.

 A corner flag flutters in the wind at Anfield ahead of the Liverpool versus West Ham United Premier League match. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda) [general view]

The figures underline the progress the club have made since their takeover by Fenway Sports Group, the American investment company run by John W Henry, in 2010.

FSG inherited huge debts from previous owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett and saved the club from financial catastrophe.

The latest figures, which show a 19 per cent rise in revenue, also come just a week after the club were cleared of breaching UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations following an investigation by the European governing body.

On the negative side, the club’s net debt has increased by £12.2million to £57.3million.

No reason has yet been given for this rise but the debt situation still compares favourably to the position when FSG rescued the club following the ruinous ownership of Hicks and Gillett. At that point the club’s net debt stood at £237million.

Revenue has increased year on year under FSG, with the latest increase toB£255.6million attributed largely to a rise in income from the Premier League’s TV deal. The club list TV money in a media revenue category, which overall has risen by 46 per cent to £100.9million.

Commercial revenue has also increased by five per cent to £103.8million with the club having tied up seven new partnership deals.

The figures cover a spectacular period for the club on the pitch when they went close to winning a first league title since 1990 and qualified for the Champions League.

Chief executive Ian Ayre is pleased to see the club back in the black. Ayre said: “We continue to make good financial progress. Although these results are nearly 12 months old, they demonstrate that the transitional period we’ve been through over the past four years has stabilised the club and provided a platform for growth.

“Revenue has been consistently increasing from around £170million in 2009 to over £250million today and our commercial revenues continue to add strength to our overall results.

“During these past transitional years, it was important that we took a measured approach to bring back financial stability by ensuring the club is properly structured both on and off the pitch.”

Matchday revenue also increased by £5million as a result of a successful pre-season tour of Asia and Australia.

Further matchday increases are anticipated on the home front in future with Anfield’s Main Stand currently undergoing major redevelopment.

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Категории: LFC NEWS

Inverting the football pyramid: A weekend with AFC Liverpool and Liverpool FC

Пнд, 02/03/2015 - 19:56

Troubled by the evils of modern football, Max Munton watches AFC Liverpool and Liverpool FC in the same weekend.

afclfc

Truth be told, football and I haven’t been getting on too well recently. Anyone who has read my articles in the excellent We Are Liverpool fanzine on the imbalance of the player-fan relationship (October 2014) and lack of living wage employers amongst football clubs (March 2015) will have noticed my bitter undertone to modern football.

Having said that, I don’t wholly get on board with the “Against Mondern Football” term. Amongst the evils of the globalisation of the sport, it presents opportunities for good, such as the work Football Beyond Borders are doing to combat discrimination and inequality, Street League who use football as a tool to get young people into employment, and fan activism unions and groups, such as Spirit of Shankly and the Football Supporters Federation.

Nevertheless, spiraling player wages and corporate greed continue to decay football, resulting in a disproportion of wealth and disregard for fans. So what happens when you start to lose faith in something that has been such a big part of your life? An emptiness creeps over.

Over the weekend I took the opportunity for some contrast, watching fan-owned AFC Liverpool away at Bacup & Rossendale Borough in the North West Counties Football Premier Division (level nine on the football pyramid) on Saturday, before taking in Liverpool vs Manchester City in the Premier League on Sunday.

Bacup & Rossendale Borough 1-0 AFC Liverpool
North West Counties Football Premier Division
Saturday, 28th February 2015; 3pm
West View

FullSizeRender

It’s an away day for AFC Liverpool. I park up on a street about 20 metres away from Bacup & Rossendale Borough’s West View ground, tucked away in the rolling East Lancashire hills, about 10 minutes before kick-off. £6 handed over to the bloke on the turnstile and their homemade programme costs £2.

It’s a rustic ground, the pitch slopes and it’s surrounded by a collection of abandoned portacabins. A trail of paving slabs avoids the soggy grass to the refreshments kiosk and a cup of tea IN A MUG is £1. There’s romanticism to this.

The pitch is surrounded by a white-painted wooden fence. I lean against it, with my mug of tea, behind the home side’s goal during the first half. The AFC Liverpool fans, 30 or so of all ages, have turned up in good voice and most have made home in a shelter on the half-way line opposite the substitutes benches and the ground’s only seated area. The traveling Kop have come armed with flags, scarves and rattles.

The programme notes describe AFC Liverpool as a club “formed in 2008, by Liverpool FC fans who had become increasingly frustrated at the cost and difficulty in obtaining tickets for the Premiership. The proposed ‘39th game’ in which Premier League fixtures would be played in different parts of the world proved to be the final straw, highlighting that top flight football is now more concerned about money than its fans.”

afc1

The football was untidy, passionate, aggressive and felt real. You could hear every instruction and appeal. You could smell the action. It sent waves of nostalgia through me, although the height of my playing career was a Sunday League team in The University of Liverpool’s third division in which we lost every game, having to find a makeshift goalkeeper each week, one of whom turned up with one glove, a can of Red Stripe and was caught off-guard from distance when using the left post as a windshield to light his fag. Bacup & Rossendale Borough vs AFC Liverpool on the other hand MATTERED. It mattered to the players, it mattered to the fans.

Bacup’s Adrian Bellamy bundled the ball past Liverpool goalkeeper Paul Moore from a corner on 15 minutes and that would end up being the only goal of the game as the muddy contest played out.

A calm pint of ale in the warmth of the club house at half-time and a second-half Bovril (again £1, again IN A MUG) and a tense second-half got underway, with both sides going close to scoring and Liverpool scrambling one off the line. For the technically and tactically minded, it wasn’t there. For those with football in their hearts, it had everything.

Liverpool 2-1 Manchester City
Barclays Premier League
Sunday, 1st March 2015; 12noon
Anfield

IMG_3587

Anticipation is part of the matchday in L4 and up in the dizzy heights of the Premier League, this encounter between Liverpool and Manchester City evoked memories of last season’s meeting between the two sides.

Philippe Coutinho’s second half strike turned dreamers into believers in April 2014. Anfield filled with hope, Steven Gerrard made a heroic rallying call and we truly believed Liverpool would win the league. It wasn’t to be, but the ride was incredible and life became engulfed by this euphoria.

When I drive to the match, as I did today, I park away from the ground to avoid the extortionate car park charges—as high as £10 in some places, and you’re still nowhere near the turnstile. I meet Neil Poole as he begins to sell the latest issue of We Are Liverpool, before catching up with mates over a couple of drinks in the King Harry as kick-off approaches.

Sky’s insistence that home viewers watch three games back to back today means it’s 10:30am and I’ve already got a pint in my hand. Guinness today, it feels breakfasty. But that’s fine, at least it frees up the rest of the day and the away fans haven’t travelled far. Fans in half and half scarves are a bigger worry.

I’m lucky that my season ticket is next to three mates—a rare occurrence due to the high demand of Liverpool tickets, and an argument for safe standing. We cram (by which I mean the leg room on the Lower Centenary seats must have been designed for Victorian chimney-sweep boys) in time for You’ll Never Walk Alone. The crowd is understandably sleepy, but the atmosphere has been struggling for some time.

The football is technically brilliant, after all the two sides are amongst the best in the world. This is elite football at it’s greatest, but not enough to justify the ticket prices. My season ticket cost £850 this year, which gets you 19 games, so let’s say each game costs just shy of £45.

Liverpool supporters' union Spirit of Shankly and Manchester City group 1894 say "£nough is £nough" on spiralling ticket prices.Liverpool supporters’ union Spirit of Shankly and Manchester City group 1894 say “£nough is £nough” on spiralling ticket prices prior to Liverpool v Man City on Saturday.

Jordan Henderson makes some room for himself before firing in an unstoppable shot past Joe Hart. Anfield erupts. We’re gonna win the league! Don’t get carried away.

Man City press and quickly find their equaliser. The quality they ooze makes them look a threat with every attack, but Liverpool hold on and it’s a scramble to the toilets at half-time—no time to queue for a £3.80 bottle of Carlsberg. Good job.

Like last year, Coutinho finds the winner and Liverpool look very good for their win. There’s a buzz, an air of positivity and smiling faces everywhere. Over 40,000 people from different backgrounds and places all on their feet cheering and feeling Liverpool Football Club is part of their identity—that’s pretty special. Poetry in motion.

Conclusion

It would be unfair on both AFC Liverpool and Liverpool FC to discuss differences. The two are (literally) leagues apart and are different things for different reasons, at different prices.

It is actually the similarities that are the most fascinating. Both matches were entertaining, full of passion and meaningful to all in who came. Is football merely the excuse or vehicle for people to meet and interact?

I couldn’t help feel that should AFC Liverpool receive more support and numbers in attendance at their games, there’s an exciting and beautifully raw movement there ready to take in those increasingly disillusioned with what’s happening in the top-flight and those priced out. It already is.

Up in level one of the football pyramid, Liverpool’s wonderfully won victory over Man City and the roar of the Anfield crowd was the perfect antidote to any fears of falling out of love with football. However, by its expensive and increasingly morally corrupt nature, there is an underlying hypocrisy in all that the Premier League remedy offers.

More information on AFC Liverpool and their fixture schedule can be found on their official website AFCLiverpool.tv.

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Категории: LFC NEWS

Jordon Ibe knee injury confirmed, Steven Gerrard returns to training

Пнд, 02/03/2015 - 19:48

Brendan Rodgers, speaking at a press conference to preview Wednesday’s clash with Burnley, has revealed that youngster Jordon Ibe‘s knee injury was likely to keep him out until the end of March.

 Liverpool's Jordon Ibe in action against Southampton during the FA Premier League match at St Mary's Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The 19-year-old winger, who has been a revelation since returning from an early-season loan at Derby, was injured in last Thursday’s Europa League defeat at Besiktas and missed the visit of City.

Rodgers said: “Young Jordon Ibe will probably be out for a few weeks. He just twisted his knee laterally on the outside of his knee in Turkey, had to come off towards the end.

“He has had a scan on that. It’s not too serious but he is probably just going to be out for a few weeks. We’ll probably have him back towards the end of March.”

Captain Steven Gerrard is making good progress in his recovery from the hamstring injury that has kept him out for the last five games.

Rodgers said of the 34-year-old: “He is coming along very well. He is building up strength in his hamstring. He been outside and is working very hard. Hopefully in the near future he will be back and available.”

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Категории: LFC NEWS

Brendan Rodgers hails Philippe Coutinho’s contribution

Пнд, 02/03/2015 - 19:47

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers believes the form of Philippe Coutinho should put him in contention for player of the season prizes.

 Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho Correia in action against Manchester City during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Brazilian playmaker has been outstanding in the Reds’ recent resurgence and headlined his performances with a series of superb goals.

His latest brilliant strike secured a 2-1 victory over champions Manchester City at Anfield on Sunday, coming soon after similar crucial goals against Bolton and Southampton.

The 22-year-old would also be eligible for young player awards and Rodgers thinks he deserves to come into consideration when the season’s most influential performers are assessed.

Rodgers said: “He is certainly going to be up there, there is no doubt about that. He has played very well.

“I think that period the team suffered at the start of the season, with our lack of penetration at the top of the field – he is the player that thrives on that. He is normally the player that makes the last pass for those players running in to score the goals.

“We didn’t quite have that in the opening months. He had to stay longer on the ball and wasn’t as effective, but now the dynamics in the team are very good, with the pressing and the movement off the ball. tdat

“That allows him and his technical quality to really shine and he is starting to add goals to his game, and scoring some fantastic goals. Very importantly, he is contributing to the team and there are still improvements to make from someone so young.”

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Категории: LFC NEWS

Liverpool under Rodgers: Can I Start To Dream Again Now?

Пнд, 02/03/2015 - 17:37

Steven Harris looks at Liverpool’s transformation since December and confesses he was wrong about Brendan Rodgers‘ ability to turn things around.

 Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers before the Football League Cup Semi-Final 1st Leg match against Chelsea at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I have to admit something. I have to admit that I was wrong. In December I lost faith in the work Brendan Rodgers has been doing at Liverpool and began to feel he was a little like a modern Kevin Keegan manager, an ‘if you score five we’ll score six to win’ sort of manager.

I was fairly convinced that the loss of last season’s sensational strike force, Suarez to Barcelona and Sturridge to persistent injuries, left Rodgers’ tactical decisions exposed as nothing more than, run fast, score quick, blow away opponents before they can catch their breath. Especially when this tactic failed against Manchester City in August. Even more so as the purchase of Ballotelli implied there might be more tactical diversity to allow for the fact that Mario simply is not a run fast sort of player.

The nadir came for me in what actually proved to be the turning point of the season. Late December, with Sturridge still weeks away from a return to fitness and the squad, Rodgers went to a three centre-backs with two wing-backs system against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Liverpool lost 3-0. Shipping goals had been a problem in 2013/14 but the strikers wiped that issue out. Reverting to a Roy Evans type of formation on the pitch did not seem to suggest a revival of fortunes and the possibility of developing greater defensive strength.

However, that’s exactly what has happened. Even in defeat against Chelsea over two legs of the League Cup semi-final Liverpool’s new formation meant they were constantly in contention and frequently the better side. Even when being dumped out of the Europa League last week to Besiktas it was not the system or the players who failed. Perhaps fatigue played a part.

No team, however confident and strong defensively they have managed to become, can go on winning forever. Liverpool’s record unbeaten home run which was stacked up between the late seventies and early eighties was eventually ended by Leicester City, as lowly a top table side then as they are now. Sometimes teams just lose because they don’t win not because the manager is a failure or the players are rubbish.

Which is where I have to admit again that in December, after that United game, I was beginning to wonder if the manager was failing and if the legion of players brought in during the summer were any good.

 Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers during the Premier League match against Manchester United at Old Trafford. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Rodgers and the team have proven me wrong. The change of fortunes began before Sturridge was available for selection and now that he is nearer full-fitness Liverpool have the best recent form record of any Premier League team.

It’s not just the change of tactics. Some of the new players have settled in at last. In particular crowds are beginning to see the diversity that might mean Emre Can is a potential long-term replacement for the drive and vision of Steven Gerrard.

Lazar Markovic has improved and impressed too but perhaps needs a few lessons on anger management lest he start to become a Suarez-style bad-mojo magnet.

Alberto Moreno now looks more comfortable in the role of a wing-back than he initially seemed. Raheem Sterling is another whose versatility has seen the tricky winger picked as a lone striker even when genuine striking options such as Balotelli or Borini have been available.

Philippe Coutinho has remembered he is not just a skilful little maestro but that he’s a skilful little Brazilian maestro, one his country could build a team around after the demoralising implosion they suffered in the World Cup semi-final last year.

There has been a change in Simon Mignolet too. At the end of the year it seemed as though Rodgers had lost patience with his keeper’s inconsistencies and poor decision-making and he dropped him for the United game, putting Brad Jones in goal. It was clearly not a long-term plan to replace Mignolet with Jones but it did seem likely that another keeper would be brought in during the January transfer window. Jones picked up an injury before the window opened and somehow a reinstated Mignolet has rid himself of the jitters and looks in better command of his goalmouth.

Martin Skrtel is becoming more of a communicator in the back three. Can is excellent as a centre-back too but we all pretty much know his future is as a midfield general. For now, however, it is comforting to feel that even when the Liverpool defence is under the cosh there is every chance they will soak the pressure up and snatch something on the break.

Which is what the team did in their last away league fixture at Southampton. It wasn’t the best performance of the recent run by a long shot but the 2-0 win chalked up five away clean sheets in a row for the first time since the likes of Hansen and Lawrenson graced the defensive line.

 Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers issues instructions to captain Jordan Henderson during the FA Premier League match against Southampton at St Mary's Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Over the weeks I’ve realised I was too hasty in my dismissal of the manager’s abilities and wrong about some of the new singings. Even Ballotelli looks impressive sometimes.

If proof were needed then Sunday’s lunchtime home game against Manchester City, barely two and a half days after that tiring defeat in Istanbul showed that Liverpool have indeed regenerated the team spirit and dogged determinism of last season.

An early, incredible goal from captain on the day and captain in waiting Jordan Henderson (another whom fans are finally beginning to see the value of out there in terms of graft and communication as well as skill) was snuffed out a few minutes later by City.

Liverpool did not crumble. The legs stretched and strained by chasing Besiktas all over the pitch for most of the 120 minutes on Thursday did not give way. And, just like last season’s Anfield 3-2 epic, Coutinho scored a spectacular winner only this time with fifteen minutes to go which gave the defensive qualities of the side another chance to shine.

Second might be unlikely this year. There will be no League Cup or Europa League victory but Liverpool are now in fifth place, three points behind third and an automatic slot for Champions League football next year. Plus they have a decent draw in the FA Cup quarter final on the horizon.

In December I felt we were going backwards. I now appreciate more fully that sometimes a step backwards can be vital in order to move forwards once more. I do believe I am beginning to dream. Again.

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Категории: LFC NEWS

Disappointment of last season will help Liverpool in run-in – Allen

Пнд, 02/03/2015 - 15:33

Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen believes last season’s title near-miss will stand them in good stead in the race for the top four.

 Liverpool's Joe Allen in action against Manchester City's Fernando Luiz Roza 'Fernandinho' during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

History repeated itself on Sunday when 11 months on from beating Manchester City, who eventually went on to be crowned champions, the Reds defeated Manuel Pellegrini’s side with another winner from Philippe Coutinho.

While Liverpool could not go on to close out their first title since 1990 after that City win, this latest victory maintains their momentum for a Champions League place.

“We learned a lot from last season and hopefully that will help us between now and the end of the season,” said Allen. “The disappointment of those games against Chelsea (2-0 defeat) and Palace (3-3) during the run-in hurt us but sometimes you forget how good that run was.

“We won 12 of our last 14 games. In the last couple of seasons we’ve finished really strongly and hopefully we can do something similar again.

“Our target is the top four – there’s no secret in that.

“Nothing is impossible in football but it’s the old cliche of taking each game as it comes. That was the secret to our run last season.

“We didn’t look too far ahead and I’m sure it will be more of the same.”

Liverpool enjoyed a significant swing in form in mid-December and since the turn of the year have collected more points (20) than any of their rivals – with Arsenal (18) closest.

Unlike last season, when the Reds had Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge scoring goals for fun this time around it is more of a team effort.

“We lost a world class player (when Suarez was sold to Barcelona),” added Allen. “That is bound to have an effect and you want it to be short term. It was a bit longer than we probably hoped but in terms of everyone else as individuals we have all moved on.

“That is the beauty of having a young squad which is always developing, learning new ways of playing, playing different systems.

“We have a squad of versatile players. At this stage of the season that has really helped us.”

The Wales midfielder had arguably his best game against City since moving to the club and he has stepped up to the plate after injuries to Lucas Leiva and Steven Gerrard left the team light in central midfield.

“It’s unfortunate for individuals when you do get injuries. I’ve been on the other side of it,” said Allen. “But it has given me my opportunity in recent weeks and when the team wins it’s always fantastic to be part of it.

“It was probably one of my best performances for Liverpool. If I can maintain my fitness and make sure it doesn’t break up my season going forward then I’m confident I have the ability to put in those kind of performances consistently.”

 Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho Correia in action against Manchester City during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Coutinho’s form has also been a significant factor in Liverpool’s rising fortunes and Allen believes the 22-year-old has gone to the next level after his third goal in seven matches – all of which have been stunning strikes.

“He’s so good. The Brazilian team is obviously full of talent but he has to be really pushing for that,” he said. “I think some people forget how young he is at times. He’s a young player getting better all the time.

“He’s so unpredictable and that’s such a good skill to have. He has the ability to turn both ways, he’s skilful and a player who comes into that versatile bracket.

“He can play in different positions and teams are struggling to deal with him.

“He showed with the goals he’s scored that he has that as part of his game. He was always on this path.

“Those of us who work with him on a daily basis always knew he was going to kick on and reach this kind of level.”

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Категории: LFC NEWS

LFC Transfer Rumour Round-up: Milner, Jovetic, Illarramendi & More

Пнд, 02/03/2015 - 15:00

It may be several months until the summer transfer window opens, but that doesn’t stop the constant speculation. We take a look at which players have been linked with moves to and from Liverpool over the weekend.

Newspapers

Liverpool’s season took another giant leap forward on Sunday, following their brilliant 2-1 win over champions Manchester City.

Brendan Rodgers‘ side are getting better and better by the week, and his summer signings, ridiculed by many earlier on in the campaign, are really starting to come to the fore.

Emre Can has been a revelation, Adam Lallana, Alberto Moreno and Lazar Markovic are class acts who will only improve, and even Dejan Lovren is showing hints of improvement.

Here are the rumours that have emerged over the weekend, with potential ins and outs making the back pages:

Stevan Jovetic

 Liverpool's Sebastian Coates in action against Manchester City's Stevan Jovetic during the International Champions Cup Group B match at the Yankee Stadium on day ten of the club's USA Tour. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

According to the Mirror, the Reds are willing to offer a deal to Jovetic, ending his City nightmare in the process.

The 25-year-old has fallen completely out of favour with the champions this season, and he was even excluded from City’s Champions League squad in place of new signing Wilfried Bony.

The Montenegro star is a hugely talented footballer, and his vision and class would be the perfect fit in Rodgers’ squad.

The Reds boss has a history of signing players who have struggled at previous clubs and resurrecting their careers – Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge are perfect examples of this – and Jovetic could be the same in that respect.

James Milner

 Manchester City's James Milner in action against Arsenal during the Premiership match at the City of Manchester Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Milner has been heavily linked with a move to Anfield for several months now, and the Express reports that he needs to drop his wages in order to seal a move this summer.

The 29-year-old has struggled to feature regularly in Manuel Pellegrini’s team of late, with the likes of David Silva and Samir Nasri often preferred.

Milner is a free agent at the end of the season, and if he does agree to lower his current £120,000 wages, he would be a shrewd acquisition by Rodgers.

The England international takes plenty of stick, often very unfairly, but his combination of industry, versatility and consistency would undoubtedly strengthen Liverpool’s squad.

Alvaro Morata

The Express also claims that Liverpool are in a bidding war with Arsenal for the services of the highly-rated Morata.

The 22-year-old Spain international has done well at Juventus since joining from Real Madrid last summer, ousting Fernando Llorente in the Old Lady attack and scoring nine times.

Despite Morata’s impressive form, the Serie A giants are reportedly lining up Palermo striker Paulo Dybala in the summer, deeming the former Madrid man surplus to requirements.

The Spaniard is not necessarily suited to Rodgers’ style- tall, strong and lacking in pace a little- but he would represent something different, and is at an age where he has plenty of room for improvement.

Asier Illarramendi

The Metro is far from the most reliable source of transfer news, but this feels a little more likely than some of the rubbish they churn out.

They claim that Liverpool are interested in bringing £17.5million-rated Illarramendi to the club this summer, as they look for long-term replacement for Steven Gerrard.

The 24-year-old is struggling to become a permanent fixture in Real Madrid’s side, with world-class midfielders like Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, when fit, first-choice under Carlo Ancelotti.

The Spain international is a class act though, dictating the pace of games and using the ball excellently. He is more like Xabi Alonso than Gerrard in many ways.

With Gerrard leaving and Lucas Leiva potentially fading as time goes by, depth is needed in the middle of the park. Illarramendi would be a terrific purchase.

Mario Balotelli

 Liverpool's Mario Balotelli walks past manager Brendan Rodgers as he is substituted against Besiktas JK during the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 2nd Leg match at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The unpredictable Metro also reports that Gerrard isn’t the only Reds player on his way to America in the summer, with Balotelli reportedly set to move to the MLS too.

The 24-year-old has endured a pretty miserable first season as a Liverpool player, scoring just one Premier League goal, and Orlando City are reportedly interested in acquiring his services.

It’s hard to imagine the Reds producing the performance they did against City on Sunday with Balotelli leading the line, and it appears Rodgers knows the Italian is not a part of his future plans.

There is a huge talent hidden somewhere inside the former Inter and AC Milan star, but it looks as though nobody will ever truly get to see it. A move to the MLS would be a waste, but would rather sum up how his career has failed to take off.

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Категории: LFC NEWS

Brendan Rodgers explains the turning point in Liverpool’s 2014/15 season

Пнд, 02/03/2015 - 14:10

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has explained how the 3-1 defeat to Crystal Palace in November was a defining moment in the Reds’ season.

 Liverpool's captain Steven Gerrard looks dejected as Crystal Palace score the third goal during the Premier League match at Selhurst Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The defeat at a rain soaked Selhurst Park was the fourth in a row, having lost to Chelsea (home), Real Madrid (home) and Newcastle (away) immediately preceding the trip to Palace, then managed by Neil Warnock.

“The Crystal Palace defeat was a defining moment in our season,” Rodgers told talkSPORT. “Palace were excellent on the day.

“I needed to come away from that and really look at the team. We were certainly nowhere near the level we’d been in the last 18 months. That was a turning point.”

That Palace defeat was the last time Steven Gerrard was deployed as a holding midfielder.

In the games following, Gerrard was moved into an advanced role behind Rickie Lambert as Rodgers sought stability by initially employing a 4-4-1-1 formation for games against Ludogorets and Leicester City.

It was also the start of Gerrard being rotated out of the side, finding himself on the bench for games against Sunderland and Stoke City.

That change, bringing in Lucas Leiva to solidify midfield, saw Liverpool stop leaking goals at an alarming rate.

A month after the Palace defeat, and following the Champions League exit after failing to beat Basel in early December, saw Rodgers move to a 3-4-2-1 formation.

The first outing of that shape saw Liverpool succumb 3-0 at Old Trafford, but ironically the performance was improved and more chances created.

Since then, Liverpool are buoyant, 11 games undefeated in the Premier League.

Things that haven’t happened since the change to 3-4-2-1:

Since the turn of the year we’ve seen Rodgers utilising ball playing defenders in his back three in Emre Can and Mamaadou Sakho, while using Raheem Sterling up front to ensure more movement and pace in attack.

Less involvement for Gerrard, Glen Johnson and Enrique has given Liverpool a fresh and energised team. The average age of the side in recent wins against Southampton and Manchester City was 23 years.

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Категории: LFC NEWS

“Coutinho outrageous” – How the papers reacted to Liverpool 2-1 Man City

Пнд, 02/03/2015 - 13:31

Liverpool produced a brilliant performance to beat Manchester City 2-1 at Anfield on Sunday. We round-up the best newspaper reaction this morning.

 Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson celebrates scoring the first goal against Manchester City during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

This was surely both the Reds’ finest result and display of the 2014/15 campaign so far, as Brendan Rodgers‘ side dispatched of the champions on Merseyside.

Given the fact they had played 120 minutes against Besiktas on Thursday, and not made it to bed until 6am on Friday morning, it was a gargantuan effort by every Liverpool player on the day.

Unsurprisingly, it was two of those who didn’t feature in Turkey who shone brightest and scored the goals.

Jordan Henderson was a man on a mission all afternoon, and curled home a stunning effort, while Philippe Coutinho produced one of the best individual performances Anfield has seen in several years, and scored a magical winner.

Joe Allen was fantastic in midfield, Adam Lallana had one of his best games for the Reds and Martin Skrtel continued his huge improvement at the back.

That’s nine points from a supposedly tricky of run of Tottenham at home, Southampton away and City at home- a wonderful effort- as Liverpool continue their march towards a top-four finish.

Andy Kelly of the Liverpool Echo gushed over Coutinho’s wonderful performance:

There was only one name the Kop wanted to sing at the end of an absorbing, pulsating 90 minutes of Premier League football…Coutinho.o.o.

[…]

His ability to find space amid the fury of a top-class Premier League game puts him into a very small group of players. From first to last he pulled the strings. A provider for Adam Lallana early in the game while his outrageous backheel almost let Daniel Sturridge ease everyone’s nerves in injury time.

He’s a joy and playing at a club that adores him said his manager. What a wordsmith. What a player.

 Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho Correia in action against Manchester City's Fernando Luiz Roza 'Fernandinho' during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Daily Telegraph‘s Mark Ogden was another who heaped praise on the brilliant Brazilian, feeling he is now truly becoming Liverpool’s main man:

Philippe Coutinho has slipped under the radar at Liverpool since arriving from Inter Milan in an £8m deal two years ago, largely due to the performances of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard.

But the Brazilian midfielder has come to the fore this season, with Brendan Rodgers now instructing his team to play through their tireless number ten, and he was the difference in helping Liverpool win this game.

Ogden also spoke about how Steven Gerrard‘s return from injury could act as a problem to Rodgers, with the current midfield performing so well without him:

Steven Gerrard will return to the Liverpool team when fit following his hamstring injury, but with the Anfield captain leaving the club at the end of the season, Brendan Rodgers might just benefit from keeping him on the sidelines

The midfield trio of Joe Allen, Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana are Liverpool’s future and, against City, showed signs of being able to grow into a top class unit.

[…]

Gerrard is too good a player to leave out of the team, but Rodgers is a manager who looks at the bigger picture and the reality is that the 34-year-old does not figure in it.

Ian Ladyman of the Daily Mail lauded Liverpool’s all-round performance, citing it as one of Rodgers’ best since taking charge in the summer of 2012:

No doubt feeling Thursday night’s Europa League exit in their minds and legs, Brendan Rodgers’ team faced a fresher City side hungry to close the gap on Chelsea at the top.

Still, though, Liverpool won, still they managed to take another step towards hauling in Manchester United and Arsenal in the places above them. This really was a remarkable effort, perhaps one of the most significant of Rodgers’ reign.

The Independent‘s Tim Rich echoed that sentiment, and touched upon Henderson and Coutinho’s freshness having no faced Besiktas:

Dawn would have been starting to break over the Mersey when Brendan Rodgers and his team reached their beds on Friday morning.

[…]

They would have one day to prepare for the champions of England. There seemed no logical reason to imagine they might win. It may not have been coincidence, but neither Philippe Coutinho nor Jordan Henderson, the two principal reasons why Liverpool won this match, travelled to Turkey.

Each scored a staggeringly good goal and, far from fading, as most at Anfield would have expected, Liverpool finished the stronger. On the final whistle, Rodgers turned to the Main Stand, punched the air twice and grinned hugely. This was one of the biggest victories of his time as Liverpool manager.

Seeing as the morning papers have all seemingly avoided focussing on the superb display of Allen, read Jack Lusby‘s assessment of the Welshman for This Is Anfield here.

Next up for Liverpool is Wednesday’s Premier League clash with Burnley at Anfield, before hosting Blackburn in the FA Cup quarter-final on Sunday.

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Категории: LFC NEWS

Joe Allen: Dominant Midfield Display in Win Over Man City Boosts Liverpool Options

Пнд, 02/03/2015 - 01:16

A dominant, intelligent performance from Joe Allen in the centre of midfield spurred Liverpool’s 2-1 win over Manchester City on Sunday, writes Jack Lusby.

 Liverpool's goal scorer Philippe Coutinho Correia celebrates with team-mates captain Jordan Henderson, Joe Allen and Adam Lallana after their side's 2-1 victory over Manchester City during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

A scintillating 2-1 win over Premier League champions Manchester City solidified Liverpool’s chances of a top-four finish this season.

Brendan Rodgers can be happy with every one of his players for the way in which they responded to defeat in the Europa League at Besiktas on Thursday night, with solid performances across the board, from Simon Mignolet in goal to Raheem Sterling up front.

Goals from Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson earned the three points, and a vital win.

Coutinho rightly deserved the man-of-the-match award, but unlikely hero Joe Allen ran him a close second with a masterful midfield display.

Understanding of Space

 Liverpool's Joe Allen in action against Southampton during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Lining up against David Silva, one of the most perceptive footballers in Europe, Allen had to be on his toes throughout Sunday’s clash—thankfully, in the midfielder, Liverpool have an intelligent player, who understands the value of space.

Off the ball, this was evidenced by Silva’s increasingly peripheral role in the game.

Allen harried the Spaniard throughout, ensuring he didn’t enjoy the space that Coutinho did at the opposite end—although this wasn’t without its foibles in the first half.

Silva played a big part in Dzeko’s first-half equaliser, and Allen can be blamed for losing the midfielder at this point.

However, particularly in the second half, his attention to the City playmaker was noticeable, and Silva suffered as a result:

Joe Allen and David Silva heatmaps from today's win. Allen's dominance ensured Silva drifted wide (ineffective). #LFC pic.twitter.com/ihIensAX4z

— Jack Lusby (@jacklusby_) March 1, 2015

Furthermore, on the ball, Allen continued to show this intelligence.

With Pellegrini deploying his usual two-man midfield of Yaya Toure and Fernandinho, City looked to dominant the central areas, aided by Silva and Samir Nasri, who also operated inside.

This meant that when on the ball, Liverpool needed to remain front-footed, and Allen was the perfect example of this, with a series of deft touches, dribbles and a remarkable close ball control to get himself out of trouble.

Furthermore, when in possession—which he was often, with his 5.7 percent second only to Henderson in the Liverpool side—Allen was sharp in offloading the ball.

Joe Allen made the second most passes (57) of any Liverpool player today, with the second highest passing accuracy (87.7%). #LFC

— Jack Lusby (@jacklusby_) March 1, 2015

The midfielder kept things simple, finding his teammates in space and often contributed to swift attacking moves.

Revisiting Yaya Toure’s Toughest Game

After Liverpool’s 2-2 draw at home to City in the 2012/13 season, Toure famously described draw as the “hardest game I’ve played in since I’ve been in England,” after two years with the Citizens in the Premier League.

The main factor in this was an on-form Allen, who had just joined the Reds from Swansea City.

During that game, Allen gave Toure no space to negotiate in the midfield, employing the energetic, effective defensive game that made him such a must-sign for Rodgers.

There would be no surprises if Toure reprised this appraisal after Sunday’s Liverpool win—Allen once more ran the gauntlet, and Toure suffered.

 Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson in action against Manchester City during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

This was largely due to the effective tandem of Allen and Henderson, with the latter perhaps finally finding a kindred spirit in central midfield in terms of work rate and efficiency, after experiments—to varying degrees of success—alongside Lucas Leiva and Steven Gerrard.

Despite seeing 7.6 percent of the overall possession on the day—the highest amount of any player—Toure completed just 75.6 percent of his attempted passes.

Allen and Henderson starved him of time on the ball and, as with Silva, reduced his potency as a result—only once did Toure make a genuinely dangerous foray into the Liverpool box.

As they were effective in the latter stages of the previous league win over Southampton, Allen and Henderson supplied a considerable, hard-working defensive shield—Henderson has found a defensive-minded midfielder he can trust in Lucas’ absence.

A New Breed of Defensive Midfielder?

 Liverpool's Joe Allen in action against Southampton during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

With Lucas limited to his tough-tackling physical prowess and respectable discipline, and Gerrard far from capable of performing the role due to a waning stamina, Allen has provided an interesting new prospect in the defensive midfield role.

Rodgers astutely outlined Allen’s talents during an injury layoff earlier this season:

“Joe is a player who never gets mentioned but he’s a player who rarely turns over the ball. He loves the football and gets other people playing. The key feature for Joe on top of that is the intensity in his pressure. He presses the game very well. He’s a very intelligent footballer. Tactically, he’s outstanding.”

The key feature in this appraisal is Allen’s intelligence; while it helps in the defensive midfield role, physical strength clearly isn’t everything.

Allen’s understanding of space, his timing of the challenge and his thirst for possession make him an ideal anchor in this Liverpool system, and a growing partnership with Henderson points to a bright future in Rodgers’ 3-4-2-1.

Allen has proven that brains can trump brawn in this role, and with Lucas out injured his rise is central to Liverpool’s chances in the race for a top-four finish.

Struggling with injuries of his own this season, Joe Allen needs to build on this performance, find consistency and make the position his own.

Statistics via WhoScored.

Did Joe Allen prove he can perform as Liverpool’s defensive midfielder on Sunday? Let us know in the comments below.

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Категории: LFC NEWS

Philippe Coutinho dominates against Man City following European rest

Вс, 01/03/2015 - 20:18

Liverpool’s fantastic 2-1 victory over Manchester City on Sunday was full of superb performances, but it was a majestic, and refreshed, Philippe Coutinho who ran the show.

 Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho Correia in action against Manchester City's Fernando Luiz Roza 'Fernandinho' during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It was a phenomenal win for Brendan Rodgers‘ side, particularly given their exploits in the Europa League against Besiktas on Thursday evening, and subsequent flight issues.

The team performance was absolutely tremendous from start to finish, against the current champions, and a top-four finish is looking more and more likely by the game for the Reds. Is there a better team in the Premier League right now?

The brilliance of Coutinho

While individuals like Joe Allen, Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana produced arguably their best performances of the season, Coutinho was on another level on the day.

It’s easy to be a little biased and knee-jerk when it comes to lauding your own players, but in the Brazilian, Liverpool have a truly outstanding talent in their ranks.

The 22-year-old produced a virtuoso display against Manuel Pellegrini’s side, full of sublime creativity and admirable hard work, and his fabulous winning goal means it is the second season running that he has slayed the current Premier League champions.

Two weeks in a row for Philippe Coutinho. Splendid technique. pic.twitter.com/7dZyLQymov

— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 1, 2015

Great game at Anfield today, Lfc outstanding particularly Coutinho, Lallana, Henderson & Allen. Rodgers deserves most credit though. #3-4-3

— Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) March 1, 2015

There were times when City’s star-studded side found the youngster almost unplayable. Time and time again he found himself in dangerous areas between the midfield and defence.

He is revelling in his left inside-forward role in Rodgers’ 3-4-2-1 formation, linking up brilliantly with the likes of Raheem Sterling and Lallana in attack, and also the marauding Alberto Moreno.

Pellegrini’s decision to play two up front certainly helped the former Inter Milan starlet, as Yaya Toure and Fernandinho found themselves overrun and lacking hunger throughout.

Coutinho simply kept finding pockets of space, and if you do that against someone of his class, it’s only a matter of time before you are punished.

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 14.48.33

There is an unpredictability about the Brazil international’s game that makes him such a joy to watch. He is always willing to run with the ball, while his passing is outrageous at times. One outside-of-the-foot pass to Sterling in the first-half was vintage Coutinho.

In a lot of ways, he is a player who goes to show that statistics are not always particularly meaningful, as his mesmerising performance on Sunday lunchtime goes to show.

His passing accuracy may only have been a modest 72 per cent, and he may have won less than half of his duels, but at the end of the day, this was one of the finest individual performances by a Liverpool player this season.

Coutinho plays with typical South American flair and freedom, and his influence at Anfield appears to be growing by the game. Quite how he didn’t make Brazil’s World Cup squad last summer becomes increasingly baffling.

Revitalised

 Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho Correia celebrates scoring the winning second goal in injury time against Bolton Wanderers during the FA Cup 4th Round Replay match at the Reebok Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Having looked rather jaded in recent weeks, as Jack Lusby alluded to in mid-February, the Brazilian was rested for Thursday’s Europa League loss to Besiktas.

It proved to be a shrewd decision by Rodgers, as Liverpool found themselves with a refreshed and influential Coutinho for the visit of City.

He had started 19 consecutive games for the Reds prior to their trip to Turkey, and although his performances were far from shabby towards the end of that run, any player is going to start showing signs of fatigue after so much football.

There was so much more zip to his passing and more energy in his legs, and Pellegrini’s men couldn’t live with him at any point.

Addition of goals

 Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho Correia celebrates scoring the first goal against Southampton during the FA Premier League match at St Mary's Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The one thing that has been labelled at Coutinho has been both his erratic shooting and lack of goals for such a technically-gifted footballer.

13 in 88 Reds appearances, since joining in January 2013, is fairly mediocre in truth, but there are definite signs that he is adding goals to his game.

Although he has only found the back of the net five times so far this season, four of those have come since the end of December. They have all been an exhibition of finishing too, which bodes well.

His lethal effort against Arsenal just before the turn of the year set the ball rolling, and wonderful strikes against Bolton, Southampton and City have since followed.

His shooting accuracy in his last 10 Premier League games has been 62 per cent, compared with a meagre 47 per cent in his 14 league appearances in 2014/15 prior to that. That is very telling.

The beauty with Coutinho is that he is still a very young player learning his trade. His shooting and ruthlessness in front of goal may still be far from perfect, but there are clear signs of improvement.

The future

 Liverpool's goal scorer Philippe Coutinho Correia celebrates with team-mates captain Jordan Henderson, Joe Allen and Adam Lallana after their side's 2-1 victory over Manchester City during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Much has been made of Liverpool trying to tie Sterling down to a new deal on Merseyside, but it is Coutinho who is comfortably the Reds’ most prized asset.

At just 22, the attacking midfield maestro is only going to get better, and it is simply a matter of time before Europe’s heavyweight clubs come hunting for his signature.

Coutinho is fast becoming one of the outstanding players in the Premier League, which given his tender years, is quite something.

He would get into any side in the country- anybody who feels Oscar, Mesut Ozil and Angel Di Maria are superior at the moment have lost their marbles- and it is imperative he remains a Liverpool player for as long as possible.

City came into Sunday’s game as understandable favourites, with all their proven, world-class superstars back in the team, but it was the magical Coutinho who ran the show and inspired his side to three points, in front of a joyous Anfield.

All statistics via Squawka and WhoScored.

Let us know your thoughts on Coutinho’s wonderful performance in the comments below.

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Категории: LFC NEWS