Saturday, 20 December 2014

Liverpool Vs Arsenal - A Preview to the Crucial Festive Tie

It has been a seesaw two weeks for Liverpool Football Club with fluctuating results ranging from a poor loss to Manchester United to a promising win against Bournemouth in the League Cup. There was also a heartbreaking draw to FC Basel in the Champions League subsequently knocking the Reds out. As has been the trend in Liverpool's season, the Basel game offered the same frustration with no incision or cutting edge and players running down cul-de-sacs. Despite a typical Steven Gerrard free-kick, the Swiss team was able to hold out. Against perennial foes Manchester United, Brendan Rodgers experimented with something different by playing three defenders at the back. Even though the Reds played with more guile, the end result was not much different. The Red Devils were ruthless in finishing their few chances whereas the Reds were toothless when presented with their myriad chances. While credit will definitely go to opposing goalkeeper David De Gea, the bottomline is that Reds' players did not make him work much by shooting straight at him. Raheem Sterling, playing as a false nine, was particularly guilty of spurning glorious chances. This two week period culminated in a Capital One Cup quarterfinal tie against high flying Championship leaders Bournemouth at the Goldstands Stadium. What was touted as a potential bananaskin game for the Reds turned out to be contradictory to the reality with the Reds easing to a 3-1 victory. Raheem Sterling broke his 17 game goal drought whereas Lazar Markovic got his maiden Liverpool goal. All in all, this was a positive performance albeit against a Championship Team.

Despite the varying degrees of results, there were some underlying flaws in all three games. The first and most major problem was that of the midfield. Players like Joe Allen and Jordan Hendrson were easily outmuscled and bypassed by the opposition teams. What was telling was the appalling lack of skill exhibited by the midfielders. When put under pressure, they easily capitulated leading to a wide open middle third. This was particularly exhibited by Wayne Rooney's first goal where the lack of midfield cover was shocking. Players like Marouane Fellaini and Fabian Frei of FC Basel had a very easy run and constantly attacked the Reds' penalty box. When there is no midfield cover, the job of the defense becomes  infinitely harder and with the Reds' already error-prone and suspect defense, it is a recipe for disaster. Even in the Bournemouth game, the Cherries' players took multiple shots from outside the box because of the lack of protection. For this, the blame solely lies with Brendan Rodgers. While Lucas Leiva was shielding the back four, the Reds defense looked the most solid it had in two years. But in the past two weeks, Rodgers inexplicably tweaked this lineup by either putting Joe Allen or Steven Gerrard along with Lucas. This was a recipe for disaster as the players had no idea of their roles and were vulnerable due to their palpable lack of pace.

The problem as has been with the Liverpool season is the team selection. Brendan Rodgers has mobile and strong players on the bench like Emre Can but he always persists with Joe Allen who has no skill on the ball. Steven Gerrard is not a Defensive Midfielder but even after this was obvious, Brendan Rodgers persisted with it. Against United, the captain was just a passenger. He simply does not have the awareness or the pace to shield the defense effectively. When put under pressure, he just falters. If Rodgers does not realise this, he should not be at the club. Gerrard showed his obvious class when he was deployed in the attacking position and even scored some goals but Rodgers just reverted back to what was not working.

Another is that of the goalkeeping position. Simon Mignolet was indefinitely dropped for the game against United and the ironic part was that this was when Mignolet was starting to look better. Needless to say, this choice did not work out with Jones at some fault for the first and third goals. He was even more suspect in the Bournemouth game where he fluffed a simple shot into the net. This is simply not good enough. Goalkeepers have the ability to win you games as David De Gea has shown repeatedly this season. In the January Transfer window, the Reds have to go for a proven goalkeeper like Petr Cech or Hugo Lloris. Nothing short of the best is acceptable if Liverpool is to compete with the top teams in the world. If Jones or Mignolet do not cut the bill, there is a plethora of good goalkeepers available in various European clubs.

This leads to the game against Arsenal. As most Reds fans will pleasantly remember, the Reds thrashed the Gunners 5-1 last season in one of the most thrilling displays Anfield has ever seen. On that day, Arsenal were just second best in every department and could not cope with the energy and enthusiasm of the Reds. Needless to say, a result resembling that would be amazing. But, even the most ardent Liverpool fans will admit that is not likely. However, this is an Arsenal team that has proven vulnerable to physicality and aggression. Their only shining light has been former Liverpool target Alexis Sanchez. If the Reds can preclude Sanchez from his normal game and continue with the endless pressing from last season, they can cause Arsenal numerous problems. Arsenal are in the same boat as Liverpool as they have endured a very mediocre season. A win for either team can lift the spirits and morale. If Liverpool can win this, it can lead to a resurgence but that is another discussion. For now, Liverpool have to focus on the task at hand. Arsenal will not be as easy as their form has suggested. If memories go back, Arsenal dominated Liverpool last season even with Suarez and Sturridge at the helm in a 2-0 win at the Emirates Stadium. They have mobile and strong midfielders in Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere and physical strikers in Sanchez, Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck. It promises to be an enthralling encounter. However, the teams selection has to be right and there are no excuses for picking the wrong team. Assuming that Rodgers goes with three at the back

                                                                           Brad Jones

                                 Kolo Toure------------Martin Skrtel-----------Mamadou Sakho

Javier Manquillo -------------------------Lucas Leiva -----------------------Alberto Moreno  

                                     Emre Can-----------------------------Adam Lallana 

Raheem Sterling-------------------Lazar Markovic 

This team has the most composed defenders in Mamadou Sakho, Kolo Toure and Martin Skrel. Toure will help organize the defence better and this will lead to more stability. The two Spanish full back Moreno and Manquillo have been woefully out of favour and it is time for them to come back and prove their worth. Emre Can has also been out of favour but he is the most complete out of all the midfielders and he deserves to get a chance. Raheem Sterling and Lazar Markovic provide the required pace up top and they will provide the most incision. Adam Lallana was really accurate with his passing and decisions and he deserves to keep his place. 

Prediction - 2-1 to Liverpool - The Reds seemed to be more incisive in their play against Man Utd and Bournemouth and I think they have enough to threaten and expose the Arsenal defence. But, as usual, the Reds defense will inevitably concede a goal and will not be able to keep a clean sheet. But, I do think the Reds have enough. 

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Liverpool 0 Sunderland 0 - Dour Goalless Draw as Reds Frustrated Again

After a good, solid 3-1 win against Leicester City, it had seemed like the Reds had turned a new page. With 2 wins in as many games after no win in 7, the team morale appeared to have risen. With this, Liverpool were fully expected to go on and get the job done against Sunderland at Anfield. Despite performing admirably against leaders Chelsea, this was a Black Cats team with only one win in 5 games. Captain and leader Steven Gerrard, fresh from a goal against Leicester was left on the bench in anticipation of the crucial Champions League tie against FC Basel. Phillipe Coutinho came in his place. This was one of two changes, with the other being young Right Back Javier Manquillo replaced by his compatriot Alberto Moreno. There was a visible change in formation with Lucas Leiva and Jordan Henderson playing together behind the trio of Lallana, Coutinho and Sterling with Rickie Lambert at the top. With all the changes, the expectation was still to win.

The game itself was a bit anticlimactic to the buildup, resulting in a mundane goalless draw with few chances. There was no creativity or incision, which has been the bane of Liverpool's season with the Anfield crowd always restless in the background. This was summed up when Henderson and Lucas exchanged at least 15 passes between them before kicking the ball out. There was no belief that Brendan Rodgers' men would go on and get the vital goal. Opposing goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon was barely tested having only two saves to make. While it was a spirited defensive display from the Mackems, their workload was mitigated by Liverpool's lack of a cutting edge. These dire games are in stark contrast to last season's relentless entertainment and excitement. While last season opposite teams did not know what to expect, this season the play is predictable and pedestrian. Teams know exactly how to deal with the Reds attack and this has been shown numerous times over the last few games. The irony is that Sunderland could have even won the game with a strong case for a Connor Wickham penalty and numerous awkward situations from corners. But, while everything does seem doom and gloom, this is a relatively stable position compared to Liverpool's state before. There were also some positives despite the palpable negatives.

Raheem Sterling trying to win a penalty when challenge by Wes Brown
The obvious one is that Liverpool kept a clean sheet, which has not been a regular occurrence. While Sunderland did have chances, the defence was solid and relatively untroubled. Kolo Toure has revitalised the defence with his commanding presence and knowhow of what to do with the ball. He should continue with his place because even the error prone Martin Skrtel seems more composed. Simon Mignolet had a quiet game with only a single save to make. But, what was good to see was that the perennial dily-dallying in Mignolet's game was not visible today. Everytime the ball came to him, Mignolet did the right thing and punted it up the field. So often, back passing has caused unnecessary problems for the defence. If this continues, Mignolet's confidence will build because of less pressure on his goal. Even the much maligned Glen Johnson has experienced a resurgence with some marauding runs and an unexpected composure in possession. The defence does look to be improving and that can only be a good thing in the future. If you do not concede, you cannot lose. Another positive was the return to form of Raheem Sterling who displayed his blistering pace and trickery on a number of occassions and after a few insipid displays, he looks to be back to his best. This is vital because Sterling is pivotal to Liverpool's future endeavours. But, without doubt, the biggest shining light was that of Lucas Leiva. The almost ostracized defensive midfielder showed that he still has much to offer with a very solid performance and not the first. His constant pressing and harrying of the Sunderland players lead to many openings and he was never beaten or passed by. He has shown that he is more effective than Steven Gerrard in that position so it would be a travesty to drop him now.

Rickie Lambert trying to encourage his teammates on a frustrating afternoon

A majority of Liverpool's problems lie in the attack. While Rickie Lambert has shown himself to be a dependable asset and one to play for the team, he cannot be expected to play games at such a high frequency and intensity, given that he is already 33. His performances have waned and the fatigue is clearly showing. Even in his Southampton days, Lambert was often rotated and kept on the bench during the busy Christmas period so it would be unrealistic to think that he can handle it now. Mario Balotelli has not shown much and even then he is injured and expecting a prospective ban from the FA. Fabio Borini is nowhere in the scene at the moment. He was not even on the bench in today's game. So, if Liverpool is expected to prosper during this period, Rodgers will have to pull the archetypal 'rabbit out of the hat'. Another problem is the inexperience of the team and the lack of awareness in the final third. Quite often, the players do the hard work and get the ball into the 18 yard box but look mystified when deciding what to do. So many times we have seen the players take the wrong option like passing when a shot was appropriate and vice versa. While this has been adversely affected by the losses of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, the blame has to lie with Brendan Rodgers in his waste of funds. He had the resources to bring in quality and he did not. Even a player like Loic Remy, who is warming the bench at Chelsea could have been an effective option with Lambert and Sturridge. The upcoming January window is vital and nothing less than a quality striker is acceptable. But, the main problem for me is the reliance on Steven Gerrard. This is a player who is past his prime years and his body has started to wane. He cannot cope up with the pace of the game as he could. But, still, when he came on, everybody tended to look to him for inspiration. This is a big problem because this shows a glaring lack of belief in the team that they still have to look to Steven Gerrard for help. Liverpool are in stern requirement for leaders like Gerrard and Jamie Carragher and then only can they reach the road to glory. There is no player who can take a game by the scruff of the neck and win it single handedly. That is a big problem. Manchester City and Chelsea have many players like that and if Liverpool is to compete with them, they need these players.

Steven Gerrard trying to make an impact after coming on as a substitute

Next up for Liverpool is a crucial do or die tie against FC Basel before the big game against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Liverpool do not look to be in good shape at the moment but all is not bad. If they can find inspiration from somewhere, I think Liverpool can compete. The Anfield crowd will be loud on Tuesday night and this might charge the players up or has been the case before, an unexpected hero might rise. The games are coming thick and fast and only time will tell if Liverpool will make it through the period unscathed and in contention for a top four berth. It will not be easy and will take a lot of effort and determination but despite being a herculean task, it is not impossible. We just have to wait and see...

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Leicester City Vs Liverpool - A Preview to the Midweek Premier League TIe

Relief was the mood around Anfield when Liverpool finally ended their 7 game winless run and as is typical with the topsy-turvy nature of the club at the moment, Glen Johnson was the one to provide the winning touch. Bravely, he charged on to a loose ball after the ball had rebounded off the cross bar after a Rickie Lambert header. Johnson has received quite a lot of criticism in the past months and it has been justified. However, credit must be given to the 30 year old England international. Not many would have taken the risk he did with two Stoke defenders and the goalkeeper attacking the ball as well. The celebration was not one of jubilation but one that was calm and mundane. While the win was good and the clean sheet even better, it does nothing but paper over the very large cracks in the club's structure. The first half epitomized the current state of the team with no incision and no creativity. There was just no life in the play. There was a drastic improvement in the second half with more pressing and incision resulting in a catalogue of chances before Glen Johnson broke the deadlock. Before we get ahead of ourselves, we have to understand that this was a Stoke team content with a draw. If another team had pursued us with more vigour than things might have been different. But, in the end that is just hypothetical. Brendan Rodgers and his men have to consolidate on this and know that the vintage Liverpool from last season may never be resurrected but that results can still be achieved.

Now, Liverpool travel to struggling Leicester City who are rooted to the bottom of the table with no win since the dramatic 5-3 win over Manchester United. Nigel Pearson is under a lot of pressure from fans and board and this is a game that should not be taken lightly. While Leicester have not won a game in long, they still remain strong at their King Power Stadium. It will be a cold and tense night and Liverpool will have their work cut out for them. First and foremost, Liverpool have to deal with Leicester's main goal poacher in Leandro Ulloa who is lethal in the box. Leicester rely on fast breaks and width from players like Jeffrey Shclupp, Riyad Mahrez and Anthony Knockaert. The defence will have to be wary of the threat possessed by veteran Esteban Cambiasso as well who has shown that he can take control of a game on a good day. There will be a strong defence to handle for the Liverpool attack with captain Wes Morgan and aspiring defender Liam Moore in the heart and ex-red Paul Konchesky also present. It promises to be difficult. Liverpool have not had the best away record this year with only two wins at Tottenham and QPR. When faced with teams fighting for their lives, Liverpool tend to struggle so it imperative that they get off to a good start to calm the nerves and tension. So, on this note who should be in the team and who should not?

I think that Liverpool should make two changes to the lineup that defeated Stoke on Saturday. Emre Can and Alberto Moreno should come in for Joe Allen and Jose Enrique respectively.

  • Kolo Toure performed well on Sunday and was able to cope with the strength and trickery of the Stoke attack comfortably. He is a good leader and his passion and desire shows on the field. While he may be prone to calamitous errors, he still has shown more in his limited game time than Dejan Loren or Martin Skrtel have. Unfortunately, Mamadou Sakho is not yet fit so I would stick with Skrtel and Toure as they would have high confidence from keeping a clean sheet. 
  • While I may be one of Glen Johnson's harshest critics, he deserves to stay in the team on the back of the previous performance because of his commitment to get the goal. The rule of thumb is to never drop a player after scoring a goal and this should continue with Johnson keeping his berth. If he does not perform against Leicester, he should be dropped the next game. Jose Enrique was reliable in attack and defence but Alberto Moreno has the edge over him in speed and passing and this might be required on the counter attack in an away game. 
  • The big question is whether leader Steven Gerrard should return to the team and the answer to that is a resounding NO. Lucas Leiva showed his solidarity and reliability in the Defensive Midfield position and he should continue there. The midfield looks more compact and structured with him in the team. 
  • Rickie Lambert has done well over the past few games with 2 goals and an assist and is proving to be a valuable asset. His experience in rough conditions like the ones at Leicester may be important. 
  • Sterling and Coutinho should stay as they are because there confidence has been dented over the past weeks and on Saturday, we saw glimpses of the Sterling and Coutinho of old and both need a run of games to get back up to their previous levels. 
  • Since it is an away game, Liverpool requires a strong presence in midfield and that is provided by Emre Can who provides required steel and can bring the ball out of trouble. Joe Allen has been good in past games but he does not provide enough attacking impetus to function on the break in games like these. 

Prediction - 3-2 to Liverpool - I expect Leicester to come hard at Liverpool but leaving vulnerabilities in the process. I do not think the Liverpool defence will be able to keep Leicester out but at the same time I expect Liverpool to have too much in the tank for this struggling Leicester team. 

Saturday, 8 November 2014

A Review of Liverpool's Match against Real Madrid and a Look Forward to the Crucial Tie Against Chelsea

A few days ago, Liverpool lined up against Real Madrid at the illustrious Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in what would turn out to be a special but in the end, a fruitless night. Liverpool could only muster up 4 shots at Iker Casillas’ goal and to make things even bleaker, could only conjure up one shot on target. While this might seem abject and even catastrophic, there were lots of positives to get out of the game and the performance was infinitely better than the ones in recent memory. I make this observation on the fact that I believed once again. I believed that Liverpool could win, even against the best side in the world and there seemed to be light at the end of the long and dark tunnel that this season is turning out to be. While others most definitely might not feel this way, this game could spark resurgence and resurrect the giant of last season. But, as is constantly reminded, you are only as good as your last game and the truth is that the team could not get the points and in a results-based business, that is all that matters. Brendan Rodgers has to carry the positives from this game and utilize it to its utmost. While the eagle or in this case, the LiverBird might not be as powerful or as predatory as before, a wounded bird has the ability to be even more dangerous and that is the message Rodgers must deliver.

Rodgers surprised all of us by playing what looked like a ‘reserve’ team at the Bernabeu with regular starters Steven Gerrard, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson all missing with further catalysts from last season like Phillipe Coutinho also missing. The talk before the match for Liverpool was to expect the worst and hope for something less humiliating. But, the players surpassed all expectations and gave a fair shot when almost everyone had written them off. If was one of the players playing in that team, I would feel insulted and humiliated to be categorized as a reserve player who plays only when the first-teamers need a rest. It was indeed that with the Chelsea game looming over the weekend. But, the team surpassed expectations and did not look out of place against a side of Real Madrid’s caliber. In fact, the performance was arguably better than all of the others of this season bar the win at White Hart Lane. There was passion and there was a want to be on the football pitch doing what we all love. No sulking, no diving, no complaining and definitely no biting. Some have regarded this selection as damage limitation. If true, then where does that put 20 million man Dejan Lovren when a 33 year old who is now regarded as a comedy act is trusted to do it rather than him? Where does that put multi-million pound earner Glen Johnson when an uncapped Spanish Under-21 international is entrusted to play ahead of him. The simple fact is Rodgers, in thinking that he picked his substitute players actually picked the better players on forma and it showed on the pitch when you contrast the performance with the one at Anfield, which was mundane to say the least.

We are not football experts or ‘pundits’ but everyone watching the game could tell that Fabio Borini, a player who almost left for QPR over the summer showed more effort in one game than Mario Balotelli in 13. While that is not to degrade the more experienced Italian, it is always uplifting for the crowd and indeed for the team when you see a striker showing commitment to track back and help the team out when under pressure. Unfortunately, Balotelli has not been doing enough of that this season. While it would be unfair to rule him out, Balotelli is running out of chances and with a paltry two goals in 13 games, things are not looking good for him. Balotelli is static in his movement and his nonchalant attitude can sometimes have a negative effect on the team morale. We have seen how the willingness and desire of a single player in Luis Suarez can galvanize the team and Borini can do something similar.

So, this brings us to the match against Chelsea, which will be a dark memory in the back of every single Liverpool fan’s mind after the events of last season. Jose Mourinho’s park the bus tactics got a lot of negative press with it but there can be no arguments that it was successful in stymying the Reds and it did seem like Mourinho had Rodgers’ number. Now, Chelsea come to Anfield with a better attack, better midfield and same solid defence making this an even worse proposition for the Reds. If past games are anything to go by, it will be a feisty encounter and if Rodgers’ remains static in his team selection and refuses to budge with his style, it could end in tears for the men from Merseyside. In my opinion, Rodgers should play this team

Simon Mignolet

Javier Manquillo------Kolo Toure-----Dejan Lovren-----Alberto Moreno

Lucas Leiva

Emre Can-----------------Jordan Henderson

Phillipe Coutinho

Raheem Sterling---------------Fabio Borini

Prediction – 2-0 to Chelsea. I predict the same scoreline from last year because Rodgers just simple refuses to change his team selection and style. There will most probably be no movement and no incision and Liverpool will slowly move towards its downfall.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Newcastle 1 Liverpool 0 - Same Problems Hurt The Reds Yet Again

Yesterday, Liverpool visited St.James' Park to play perennial foes Newcastle United in what turned out to be a very disappointing loss and not the first of a very uninspiring season. A single Ayoze Perez goal was enough to settle the difference between two sides but in reality, it could have been much worse for the Reds. The deficiencies in the team were there for all to see except for the man who matters it seems in Brendan Rodgers. While the easy excuse would be to say that Liverpool are missing Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, the problems are way worse than that. What Liverpool are going through now is not a result of losing two individuals. Brendan Rodgers and the team in general seem to be hiding behind this excuse to mask their poor play. So what can these problems be?

A wise man once said that insanity is doing the same things over an over again and expecting different results and by that definition Brendan Rodgers is indeed insane. But we all know that Rodgers cannot be insane because he is the same man who brought Liverpool to the closest it has ever been to the elusive title. So what is going on? Well, first, Brendan Rodgers has to realise that Liverpool cannot revolve with only one lone man up top. Mario Balotelli is too static in his style to create chances on his own like Suarez did but for some obscure reason, Rodgers is still persisting with it. There have been no signs of positivity or improvement when Liverpool have been playing that system so why persist with it? Every time Liverpool have played with two strikers, they have looked their old selves. Be it Sturridge and Balotelli at Tottenham, Lambert and Balotelli at Hull or Borini and Balotelli at Swansea. Whoever the individuals are, the simple fact is that Liverpool play better when having two up front to lead the line.

The next problem lies with Rodgers' teams selection in general. Liverpool have only played their strongest team on form in only one of the Premier League matches( Tottenham away). In the other games, there have simply been glaring weaknesses in the team lineup. There has been no game where the fans have felt that the lineup is the one that will pickup the points in contrast to last season where fans knew that the team had the game won from the lineup itself. This poor team selection and negligence of better and more pertinent players is simply unacceptable. In crucial games, these kinds of liberties can simply not be taken . There is not way Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique get into that team. But, time and time again they get into the team and there is no justification for this. Joe Allen has his qualities but mainly they are defensive ones and he should be used in games where the team will be on the back foot and composure is needed. In games like the one against Newcastle where Liverpool is expected to lead the attack, Joe Allen should not play as he lowers the team's speed which has been at slower than a snail's at points in the season.

Then comes the much debated and in reality ridiculed defence. Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren are never on the same page and look clueless when on the ball. They just keep on passing to each other and back to Simon Mignolet and spoil any chance of counter attacks. They are so weak as well. Whenever faced with a physical presence, the defenders always seem to fold. The prime case is that of Moussa Sissoko who easily tore past the defence like it was not even there. Another thing is that they cannot even clear a ball 10 yards properly. Needless to say that it is unacceptable and has to be changed. Mamadou Sakho has his critics but him and Lovren seem to have much better communication and the quicker they are back to playing together, the better. The defending of set pieces should not even be asked. Liverpool look so vulnerable to set pieces that a single ball floated into the box is like a bomb like against QPR where it seemed like the bottom team could score at will.

In my opinion, these are the three underlying problems in the Liverpool team right now. But, I think that the main origin of these problems have something to do with backstage politics. As said before, Brendan Rodgers is not a bad manager so the fact that the team is suffering from such basic problems is all the more baffling. The simple solution would be to just fix these problems but there is no guarantee given how low the team is on confidence. But even though there is no guarantee, fixing the problems will at least mitigate the damage and could at least improve the level of performance even though the results might not come. 

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Liverpool Vs Swansea City- A Preview to the League Cup TIe

After a disappointing and frankly insipid goalless draw against Hull City, Liverpool welcome Swansea City to Anfield. Liverpool missed the chance to surge ahead in the league table and their wastefulness was punished by the likes of Arsenal who moved ahead of the Reds on goal difference. Brendan Rodgers' stunning insistence on playing one up top was his downfall once again as Liverpool failed to break down a resilient Tigers defence. While Hull City did play well and were strong at the back, Liverpool played into their hands. There was no speed in the play with Mario Balotelli often isolated up top. The full backs Alberto Moreno and Javier Manquillo were not their usual attacking selves and did not involve themselves in the game much. Raheem Sterling, who has been visibly fatigued over the past few games, produced a weary and jaded performance with nothing noteworthy. It only took the arrival of substitutes Rickie Lambert and Phillipe Coutinho to bring a bit of life to the team.

The positive to take from this game is that Lambert and Balotelli linked up well together. While the presumed consensus suggested that the two big men could not exist together, the evidence pointed to the contrary with both exchanging good bits of play with one another. Another glimmer of hope could come from the resurgence of Phillipe Coutinho. The recalled Brazilian international had a very disappointing start to the season with no incision to his play but the past few games have suggested that things are changing. Against Hull, Coutinho came on and immediately looked busy and had some nice bits of skill. He almost even won the game after jinking past two defenders to play a scintillating ball for Balotelli in the dying embers of the game but unfortunately, the latter was not able to convert. Still, despite the prevalent lifelessness and morbidity, there still is a silver lining and with the defence having a much more comfortable outing than usual, all hope is still not lost. But, now, the Reds face a stern challenge in the form of high flying Swansea City in the Capitol One Cup. The Reds will almost certainly not find it easy against the Welsh opposition who have played some exhilarating football under Garry Monk.

Suggested Line Up

Brad Jones 

------------ Ryan Mclaughlin----------Martin Skrtel----------Dejan Lovren--------Brad Smith

                                                                   Lucas Leiva
                                       Jordan Rossiter------------------Jordan Henderson

                                                                  Phillipe Coutinho
                                        Mario Balotelli----------------Rickie Lambert

  • I think that it is only fair that Brad Jones get a fair try in the Cup which as of right now is not of paramount importance to Liverpool. Simon Mignolet has not been dazzling but not clueless at the same time and it would not hurt to give Jones some game time.
  • The full baks have played a lot of games and racked up a lot of miles and it showed against Hull City. It would therefore be wise to rest them before the game against Newcastle. 
  • However, it is imperative that the centre-backs stay the same as both Lovren and Skrtel need confidence and comfort in playing next to one another and that will only come with more game time. 
  • Lucas Leiva is a solid DM and a good squad player to have. Steven Gerrard is in desperate need of a rest and Lucas is there to provide cover. On the other hand, Jordan Henderson had a rest against Hull and should play against the swans next to Jordan Rossiter who looked really promising on his debut in the previous round against Middlesborough. 
  • The front three of Coutinho, Lambert and Balotelli are in need of getting some rhythm and confidence going and after promising signs against Hull, it is important for them to continue the good work. 
Prediction - 2-2 Draw with Liverpool winning on penalties. I do not think Liverpool will be able to handle the Swansea attack who are bound to give the defence a tough time and as a result, I see them leaking goals. However, I also see Liverpool scoring with Lambert getting on the scoresheet. With the way Liverpool took their penalties against Middlesborough, I think they can beat the Swans on penalties. 

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Liverpool Vs Hull City - A Preview

After a special but devastating night where Liverpool were soundly beaten 3-0 at the hands of perennial giants Real Madrid, the club has to go again with 11th place Hull City coming to Anfield. While there is a lot to ponder for Brendan Rodgers and his men, it is not all doom and gloom as it seems. The Reds are joint fourth ahead of presumed competitors Arsenal, Manchester United and Everton. This game mounts a huge opportunity for the Reds to cement their place in the top four with West Ham(currently in fourth) facing Man City and Man Utd facing Chelsea. 

Last time these two sides met, Liverpool won courtesy of a Daniel Agger header and a Luis Suarez free kick. Of course, it would need no reminding to Liverpool fans that these two players have since moved on. Hull City come to Anfield with decent form , with a draw against Arsenal being their last result. They pose some threats with Abel Hernandez who is a predator in the air and Mohamed Diame who is a strong and resilient midfielder. This is not going to be a stroll in the park for Liverpool and the players have to be on their level best to get all three points.

Suggested Team Line Up
Simon Mignolet

Javier Manquillo ----------- Martin Skrtel----------Dejan Lovren-------Alberto Moreno

Emre Can

                               Jordan Henderson-----------------------------Adam Lallana

Phillipe Coutinho

                         Raheem Sterling ---------------------------------Rickie Lambert 

    Formation- 4-4-2 Diamond

    • The first change should be Javier Manquillo coming in for Glen Johnson. Glen Johnson has been out of form for some time now and while there have been bursts of resurgence, there has been nothing solid. Manquillo is an energetic player prepared to run and support the attack in addition to his defensive duties. He wrongfully lost his place to Glen Johnson and deserves it back.
    • The much ridiculed defence of Liverpool cannot be changed right now because of injuries. While Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren have not been in the best of form, they are better than the error prone Kolo Toure. So while Mamadou Sakho is still out from injury, these two should stick it out. 
    • Steven Gerrard is not a young man anymore and playing 3 games in the space of 6 days should be too much for him so I would expect Emre Can to come in who did a good job as a substitute in the Madrid game. He is strong and will likely be better handled to cope with the physicality of the midfield of Huddlestone, Diame and Livermore. 
    • Adam Lallana also did well coming on against Real Madrid. He is a very dynamic player and currently brings more to the table than Joe Allen who despite being a tidy passer, does not match up to Lallana's technical attributes. 
    • Brendan Rodgers hinted at Sterling playing up top in his pre match press conference and that is exactly what he should do. While coming of as a controversial decision, Mario Balotelli should be rested against Hull. There has been a lot of media storm after his shirt-swapping and car threatening incidents this week. It would be better for the team to not worry about these problems. Rickie Lambert has had a mundane start to his Liverpool career with only 129 minutes under his belt. He should get the nod as he is a hard worker and a good passer of the ball.
    • Finally, the diamond formation is Liverpool's best system and the players seem to understand it better. Hopefully, Rodgers sees this and applies it. 

    My Prediction- 2-1 to Liverpool- While Hull may pose a threat, I can see Liverpool just making it through but not without trouble and definitely not with a clean sheet the way the team has been playing.