Friday, December 28, 2007

Ram raid

That was close. How many times have I said Stevie to the rescue? Here's another one to add to the collection. Torres had opened the scoring with another amazing goal where he slalomed his way through the Derby defense to finish coolly into the bottom left hand corner. He doesn't score too many scruffy ones. But after that we made hard work of it. Sami came off injured and Riise went to centre half. He doesn't look comfortable there and the whole defense looked unstable. Derby got one back and it was the shock we needed to jolt us back into life. Stevie pulled his socks up and got stuck into them. He cracked a great effort off the bar and then with a minute to go he ran 60 yards to set up and score the winner. Nice one my son.

On the face of it the Derby result isn't very good. But when you look at it, it's another away win where we might have slipped last year. The fact that Chelsea and Arsenal slipped up at Villa and Portsmouth respectively, means that we're in a better position in the league. If we win our game in hand we'll go to third above Chelsea. We'd still be 6 points behind Utd but as I've said recently, all we can do is keep plugging away and hope that the others slip up. If we manage to discover a way to win away to the other top 4 clubs then we'll be in a good position to challenge. I'm not saying "we're going to win the league", but I don't think that our challenge is as dead and buried as some think.

The trip to Eastlands on Sunday afternoon is looking fairly daunting now. City aren't as on form as the were earlier in the season. I watched them play Blackburn last night and they really let the game slip from their grasp. Petrov was superb and will cause us problems as will Elano. The fact that Sami looks unlikely to make it is worrying. Hobbs may come in but hopefully Agger is fit enough to start. I know that Rafa doesn't want to risk him after rushing him back too early the last time. If Sami or Agger play then we should have enough but it's a big ask of Hobbs if he has to start.

Rafa has started taken advantage of the post Crimbo sales and bought us a Scottish winger. He's 16, comes from Ross county and is called Alex Cooper. He was impressed with his treatment at the club when he visited Anfield, which is good to hear.

Online rumours have us linked to a move for David Albelda on a free. It sounds like he's definitely leaving Valencia after a bust up with Koeman. I can't see how we need him unless we're getting rid of Momo. He's 30 now but is still a good player and was great for Rafa at Valencia a few years back. He can also cover in defence which is handy given our current crisis there.

I'm off to the wonderful city of Barcelona for a few days on Sunday so my City report will probably be late next week.

Fins ara.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Fernando Towers

Just what the doctor ordered. 4-1 at home to Portsmouth and we were coasting for most of the game. Yossi opened the scoring in the first half with a stunning volley hit with the outside of his right boot after a great cross from Harry on the left. Yossi is very good and drifting inside and linking up the play. He is also capable of delivering goals as he showed here, but it would be good to see a bit more of this from him. Maybe I'm being over critical as he's already scored 6 this season. Good to see Kewell getting involved by setting it up.

The second goal was a bit of a comedy of errors. Torres advanced into the box and was faced with Distin and Campbell. Campbell swiped at the ball which rebounded off Distin's leg to beat James at the far post. Portsmouth did get one back but even then, we had the match under control to a large degree.

Enter El Niño. The kid is unstoppable. He scored two today and could have had more. As we've seen, he causes panic in defenses. It paid off here as he took full advantage. He's now scored 8 in the league and 14 in all comps from 18 starts. I thought that it would take him some time to adapt but I was wrong. He's taken to the league like a duck to water despite what the doubters were sceptical beforehand. His first was a crisp strike from the edge of the area after Babel had run at the pompey defense. His second was even better. Carra hit a lovely ball which found Gerrard on the left edge of the area. His header back into the middle dropped to El Niño who hit a great volley which left James with no chance. The kid goes from strength to strength.

Babel came on and did his usual trick of causing havoc to a tired and stretched defense. He didn't manage to score this time but his L4 education is coming along nicely. Rafa is doing the right thing with him and I fancy him to be making regular starts by the end of this season or the start of the next one. There is still some debate over his best position, whether it's on the wing or up front.

The champions league last 16 draw was made on Friday and we drew Internazionale of Milan. This is a tough draw but it was never going to be easy given that we finished second in our group. Inter are a great side, full of talent. Mancini is a clever manager who's managed to get his own way with minimal interference from Moratti. Zlatan is one of the best forwards in the game and will cause us problems. This match and Arsenal's with AC Milan are the ties of the round and very hard to call. I can't wait for February.

There are rumours doing the rounds online that we're going to sell a few players and put in a bid for Villa at Valencia. I think that this is pure speculation. It does sound like he's not happy there while Koeman rocks the boat but I can't see Rafa paying the required £20m plus for him, especially as he'd be cup tied in the champions league. I think that we'll only do small business in Jan. We may sell a few and sign a defender but I can't see us splashing the cash for big deals.

The Irish Independent had an interview with James McCarthy today. He's been heavily linked with us in the past but has yet to make a decision about his club future but he's declared for Ireland which is a bonus.

Enjoy your Christmas dinner and let's hope that we're in a festive mood after the Derby game on Wednesday.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Crouch walks

Crouch runs wild on Mikel. Peter Crouch was sent off for a two footed challenge on Mikel. He said that he had no excuses. It was very unlike him but he got a bit frustrated with Mikel and the Ref. I hope that he's learned his lesson and we won't see it from him again. He made a very difficult match even harder by seeing red.

It wasn't a great display as we were beaten 2-0 but there were a few positives to be taken form the match. Babel was fairly good and caused Chelsea some problems. Itandje made a couple of great saves and it could have been worse if he hadn't of been in form. He might have doen better with the second goal though. Momo had a much improved here as he's been largely rubbish this season. I've no problem with him being sold as long as we're getting Mascherano for good. Aurelio passed well and got through 90 mins. Xabi got through an hour before he was taken off. Lucas did ok in the middle and might have scored after a good move in the first half. Overall, we didn't put out a first strength team so no big swing. As Rafa said before, "I didn't come here to win the Carling cup".

Next up is Portsmouth at Anfield at the weekend. I expect us to win this one on the back of two defeats. Gerrard should be fit again and I expect Torres will start. Portsmouth started very well but seem to have hit the skids somewhat recently. Good opportunity for us to get it back on track.

Could Tomas Ujfalusi be one of Rafa's Bosman signings in the summer? His agent says that we're interested. He's a good player and would provide much need cover and experience at the back.

Rafa says that he wants to stay and sign a new deal at the club. I'd be very happy if it happened but I don't think that it will. I still fear that Rafa will quit or will be pushed out in the summer. I hope that I'm wrong.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Rafa's goose is cooked?

I wasn't in a very festive mood on Sunday after the match. Again it was a case of us playing quite well and having most of the possession. But Utd got the first goal and their defense did really well in the second half. They did have to clear off the line and Tores and Babel put the ball narrowly wide but overall, they coped with us quite well. While it was an exciting game, it wasn't amazing football and both teams made a lot of unforced errors.

The press seem to think that our title challenge is now over. I wouldn't concede defeat this early but it's not looking good. Taking two points from our three matches at home against the other contenders isn't good enough. I don't see us getting too many points in the reverse fixtures, with the possible exception of Chelsea at the bridge. While it's possible that we could go on a fantastic run for the rest of the season, I would be surprised if both Arsenal and Utd will drop sufficient points while we don't drop any more. I can see us closing the gap but not overtaking both teams. Having Agger and Alonso soon back will be a great boost as we've missed them all season.

Our thoughts now turn to Chelsea away in the cup tomorrow. Given that both teams suffered a defeat on Sunday, they'll want to win this but it is the Carling cup which is bottom of the priorities. I expect that it will be a case of half and half between first teamers and reserves. I can't say that I'm too excited either way. I'll be happy enough if we win but it's no disaster to lose this one.

It now looks like we will be getting a new stadium, but not the one that was unveiled during the summer. I think that this is quite an embarrassing climbdown. If we still get a 70000 stadium at a cheaper price then it won't be too bad but I reckon it's going to be an identikit bowl rather than the unique design that we were shown only a few months back. On the upside, Rafa had a meeting with the board on Sunday evening and it went well by all accounts. I know expect him to get a few quid for a defender in Jan.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Kenny and the Kid

Kop idols.

Well we don't like going it the easy way, do we? 1 point after 3 matches to leave us looking at expulsion from the champions league, or a fate worse than expulsion - the UEFA cup. But we invoked The Spirit of Istanbul™, and we pulled 3 wins out of the bag with our backs to the wall. Second in the group with 10 points after Porto. It'll be a tough draw against one of the winners on Friday but it's a hell of a lot better than facing the refuse in the UEFA cup. El Nino wants Madrid. He'd be fired up for that one alright.

4-0. Only 4-0? Sack Rafa. That should have been 20-0, at least. According to the pundits, Marseille were a good team, much improved under the new manager, until we beat them. Just like our other champions league opponents. Funny, that. I know that I shouldn't rise to the bait of idiots spouting crap for a living but I can't resist sometimes. All of the rotation comments get very tiresome very quickly especially when the evidence shows that Fergie and Jose rotate as much as Rafa. The zonal marking debate is also a red herring. We have the second best defence in the league, had the second best last season and we concede less goals from set pieces than other teams do. But don't let the facts get in the way of a media lynching. Tim Sherwood, the twat on Setanta, said that Liverpool's season would be over if we lost to Marseille. Apparently we're out of the title race because we've lost one match this season to Reading. Are Arsenal out of it as they lost to Boro? Are Utd out of it as they've lost twice to City and Bolton? I don't know how fools like Sherwood get paid to talk crap on tv. Surely knowledge and intelligence are not job requirements. Rant over.

But back to the match itself. It was a great result but not the best match that we've played this season. Rafa paid a pretty attaching line up with Monster Masch the only defensive player outside of the back four. The team worked really hard and pressurised Marseille who had most of the possession. They couldn't do anything with it and we made our chances count. Gerrard got an early peno to take the pressure off after a few mins. Then Torres displayed his genius with a goal of amazing beauty. It was phenomenal. I don't think that I'm exagerating when I say that he's looking like the best striker in the premiership. I wouldn't swap him for any of the other ones. Some people said that he was over rated when he signed him but £20m is looking like the steal of the century now. The ease at which he went around the Marseille defenders was magical. The kid is a genius.

Dirk Kuyt scored with a nice finish in the second half. Harry did well to pick him out with a great ball and he escaped the offside trap with some good timing. He showed a good strikers finish to wait until the keeper commited himself. Babel came on and did his usual thing of tormenting a tired defense. Again it paid off and he helped himself to the final goal. Nice one my son. In winning we became the first English team to win in Marseille.

Cara reckons a victory over Utd will be worth more than 3 points. Technicly he's wrong. We will only get three points. But I get what he's saying, we haven't beaten them in the league in a few years and it'll be a huge result if we can do them. The last few games at Anfield have seen us dominate but lose to flukey goals by pricks like Ferdinand and O'Shea. That's a bit unfair as O'Shea isn't a prick but he does play for Utd so he's guilty by association. I will be sick if one of them scores an undeserved winner on Sunday. I predict a score draw. No doubt Tim Sherwood and Andy Grey will be saying sack Rafa if we lose. Tools.

The Times had a great article this week where they got Kenny and the kid together. Brilliant idea. Two reds, one a legend, the other well on his way, in one room. Congrats to Messrs Ballague and Marcotti.

Who's going to be pissed off on Sunday evening? I think that both teams will as a draw isn't great for either team. I hope that I'm wrong, we win and Fergie's face goes purple.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Royal rumble

Whoops. That was a bit of a slip up. I have to say that I was quite confident going into this one and was expecting it to be a handy 3 points. A 3-1 defeat wasn't in the script.

It would be easy to moan about the ref giving a peno for a foul outside the box, not giving us any for our two penalty claims and the fact that we hit the post twice. It could have been different. But I think Reading played well and a draw would have been a fair result. We've played a lot better recently but on Saturday we didn't deserve to win. Nice goal by Stevie though.

The fact that both Utd and Arsenal have lost matches in the last week make this loss slightly easier to handle. Next weekend sees Utd visit Anfield and Arsenal play Chelsea. Que rubbish from Sky telling us that whoever loses these "title deciders" will be out of the race. Showdown/Grandslam/Ragnarock Sunday will be worth looking at.

Luckily, we only have to wait until tomorrow night for a chance to get our shit together. The Marseille match was huge but is even bigger now. A draw will be enough for Marseille but we need to win unless Besiktas beat Porto away, which isn't going to happen. I expect us to go for it from the off. If we lose it the calls for Rafa's head will surface again. Gillett should be at the match which is good to hear. Keep an eye on Nasri if he plays as we've been linked with him a few times.

Talk on Wednesday.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Trotters trounced

Whisper it softly, but Liverpool are on the march. Another good victory, another four goals and another clean sheet. We had two efforts cleared off the line which could have increased the margin. No doubt we'll be told that Bolton are rubbish, but didn't they beat Utd 1-0 last week? We're picking up wins and playing well. It couldn't really get any better at the moment, unless Fulham could beat Utd tonight.

Hyypia opened the scoring after a Gerrard free kick. Sami is doing fantastically well in recent games. I really feared for him when we were going through our bad patch. But since then the international break he's looked much better and not as past it as I'd feared. It now sounds like Dagger won't be back this side of Christmas. While we'll miss him, Sami's resurgence alongside the impressive cameo from Jack Hobbs yesterday when Carra came off, makes me less worried than I was a few weeks back.

It could have been different if Anelka had of put away a chance when he had an open goal in front of him. Carra had run into Reina and taken him out of it. Anelka was clean through and only had to slot it in to level the match to 1-1 but he put it wide. I don't know how the hell he managed it but I was thankful. Maybe he's still a red at heart.

Torres goal was the pick of the bunch for me. Gerrard sent an amazing ball forward and the kid latched onto it as he drifted between two defenders. He accelerated and went one on one with big Juusi in the Bolton goal. He deftly chipped the keeper with a sublime finish. It was the type of goal that Owen used to score when he was the one latching onto Gerrard passes. I think that Torres has more to his all round game than Owen and while his finishing isn't quite as clinical yet, I think that he'll go on to be one of our greatest strikers of all time.

Gerrard had a stormer as he did against Newcastle. He set up two goals and scored a peno. He's now scored 8 in 9 games. His combination with Lucas worked well in the centre. We're often told that he doesn't play well in the centre. Not on this evidence. I've no problem with him playing on the right but he's well able to perform majestically in the centre of a 4-4-2.

Babel came on and helped himself to a goal. He showed good strikers instincts to make sure he was on hand to pounce on the rebound from Dirks effort. He is being used as an impact sub by Rafa at the moment. He comes on when his pace and power can stretch a tired opposition. It's working quite well, thank you very much.

It'll be a Royal Rumble when we visit Reading on Saturday. Copell's teams are always well organised and usually do quite well at home. But in the form we're in at the moment, I fancy us to win this one.

One of the members on RAWK posted a translation of an interview with Torres. Anybody who doubted his talent is having those doubts shoved down their throats. His fee of €26m (£18m) now looks like a bargain. The more I read about him off the pitch, the more I like the kid. He's humble and down to earth despite his incredible ability. We have a star on our hands.

Paul Tomkins has a good article on the press reaction to the results so far this season. I tend to go along with what he says even though it might sound a tad paranoid.

Daniel Carvalho, a Brazilian attacker at CSKA Moscow is being linked to us at the moment. His contract is up in 6 months and there is some speculation that he is one of the players that Rafa was trying to get in on a free. Let the trial by youtube commence.

The Rafa getting sacked story seems to have died down a bit now. The Sunday tabloids still reckon that he's a dead man walking. I think that it's blown over for now. Parry was coming under fire from some quarters last week and it doesn't sound like he helped the situation. Foster Gillett's return to Merseyside should help as will the face to face meeting next month. But I still reckon that he'll walk or be let go in the summer. I expect Rafa to have a similar row with the Americans over finance and communication come the end of the season. I hope I'm wrong but I think their relationship has been badly damaged, probably irreparably so.

Porto pasting

I've been slow writing a report on the Porto match as I haven't felt well over the last few days. I've finally gotten around to it now that I'm feeling better. By the time you read this it'll be time for the Bolton report. Sure I never get a minutes peace.

Porto looks like it was a walkover on the face of it. 4-1 sounds like a one sided hammering. In reality it was quite close until 15 mins to go. El Nino scored the opener in the first half when we were on top and he mach looked like it was going to be easy. They had a good spell for 15 mins either side of half time. After they scored, while the game was 1-1, it could have gone either way. Then Rafa brought Kewell and Crouchie on. Kewell set up Torres and Crouchie scored with a header from a corner. Gerrard scored a peno. Job done. Now it a case of getting a win in the Marseille match to make sure that we go through to the next round. I feel that we're more than capable of doing what needs to be done.

Bolton visit Anfield tomorrow. Again, Xabi and Dagger aren't ready yet. They are taking their time coming back but it's better not to rush it this time as we discovered the last time.

Rick Parry denied that Tom Hicks is interested in selling his share of Liverpool. One of the tabloids suggested that Sheik Maktoum was interested in buying out the Texan. It seems like this is pure speculation.

Trot on Trotters.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

It's all kicking off - part 2

Four items on the agenda today.

1. Very well done against Newcastle. Another 3 points in the bag away from home. Our away bag is now the fullest in the league. Long may it continue. 3-0 at St James' Park is always a good result. The press tomorrow will say that the Toon were shit, and they were. But we played very well and we could have had a lot more goals.

Gerrard answered his critics, and the Toon fans booing him, in style. He hit a superb free kick to open the scoring and had a hand in the next two goals. Stevie played in the middle with Lucas and Momo alongside him. This is an effective away from home tactic and has worked well for Chelsea in the past. Lucas had a great game bar a dip just before the end of the first half. He passed and tackled superbly. He sat a bit deeper today which let Momo move forward to hassle the opposition and Gerrard pull some strings. Lucas will be a great alternative for Xabi in times to come. A really impressive first Premier League start from the young Brazilian. Momo was poor again. He hassled and harried as he does and was as effective as ever without the ball. But his touch and passing were as bad as they have been in recent times. Great to see Harry manage to play 55 mins. We'll need him in the weeks ahead.

Torres played very well but his finishing was slightly off. He could have had four or five goals if he was on top form. He was unlucky to see one effort on half time hit the post but the keeper was out of the way so he really should have scored. Kuyt had a mixed game. He was doing his usual workhorse role supporting Torres from behind and out wide. He didn't do too much for his goal beyond being in the right place. But they all count and he has three in the league now. It was a definite improvement on some of his recent form but there is still a long way to go before he's back to his best. Babel came on in the second half and ran Newcastle ragged from the right. Rafa seems to prefer using the Dutch kid as an impact sub for now. It's working well and he gave the home defenders a nightmare. He combined superbly with Gerrard for the third score. It was a sublime goal and the pick of the bunch. I'm a big fan of Babel and hope that he keeps improving at his current rate.

The defence did what it had to do, which wasn't much at all. Martins was well managed by Carra and Sami. There wasn't a huge amount of threat from them anywhere else. Arbeloa had another good match at left back. Between him, Aurelio and Insua we will be able to cope at left back if Riise is sold in Jan.

Utd dropped 3 points against Bolton today was an unexpected bonus. I really didn't expect that to happen. It looked to me like the big four teams all winning before the matches began. We're now three points behind Utd and two behind City, with a game in hand, which is a decent situation. Unfortunately, we're still 6 points behind Arsenal without games in hand. They could do with slipping up and letting us back into the race. That's not too much to ask for, is it?

2. The board v Rafa battle rumbles on. I was hoping that we had left this behind when it all kicked off in the summer. This is a really bad situation and I'm very worried. Rafa came out in the press conference on Thursday and made it clear that he's not happy with the Hicks and Gillett in relation to transfer plans. They seem to have told him to concentrate on training and coaching the current players. I hate to our dirty laundry being washed in public. Things seem to be slightly better after the match today and Rafa said that the row wasn't serious. Hopefully this is the case and both parties can move forward. Unfortunately I fear that Rafa will walk away from the club sooner or later over the boards conduct of transfers and lack of speed. The plan in the summer was rumoured to be that Foster Gillett would be based on Merseyside to work with Parry and Rafa on transfers. It now appears that we went back to US after the Arsenal game and hasn't been back since. I think that they will be able to sort this out short term but I can see this row erupting again in 6 months and Rafa walking in the summer. It'll be a sad day for the club is he does leave as he's a superb manager and the perfect man for the job. His resignation would set us back around 3-4 years in my view.

3. The Porto match on wed night is huge. We're in much better form than we were when we played them in Portugal. But they're still a good team and will cause us problems. We have to win and will be going for it from the start. If we don't score early, I can see the sitting back and trying to hit us on the break with the likes of Quaresma. An early goal and it mightn't be too bad. But we'll have to go for it as we're out if we fail to win.

4. AOB. Javi Martinez has been linked to us recently. He's another young creative midfielder, who plays for Athletic Bilbao, so I don't really see where he fits into the plans at the moment. Rafa then came out on the official site and said that we aren't interested in signing him now. We have more than enough central midfielders at the moment though. Maybe he'll be a target if we sell Momo.

Until Wednesday. Anfield awaits.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Cottagers capitulate

I thought that it was going to be one of those days, but it turns out I was wrong, it was one of these days. We had played quite well but hadn't got the goals that our play deserved. Then Rafa decided to unleash the kid. 20 mins to go and a match that looked like it would be another disappointing home point, was converted into three. The miracle of the loaves and fishes has nothing on this in multiplication terms.

We did create a few chance and should have been in front earlier. Crouch was unlucky to see a header hit the wood work o the stroke of halftime. Voronin had a few chances, one of which Niemi did well to save. The Finnish keeper repeated his heroics to turn a curling shot from Yossi around the post. But for all of our pressure, possession and persistence, it looked as if we were headed for parity.

Enter Torres. The media had a field day with the fact that Rafa named an unchanged team. Where was the "rotation"? The unchanged team hadn't produced the good so Rafa made a change to bring on the young fella. Torres had 20 mins and immediately looked dangerous. His goal was fantastic. A long kick out from Pepe arrived on his chest and he controlled it effortlessly. He turned Hughes one way and then another. Torres has the lethal combination of pace and quick feet. This combo proved too much for Highes as Torres shot through his legs. Poor Niemi had no chance and was beaten at his near post. Nice.

We were a bit lucky. with the peno. On the replay it does look like the foul occurred outside the box. I don't think that Crouch made a meal of it, there was a tackle and he went down, fair enough. Gerrard steeped up and took the peno. I am never 100% confident with him taking them but he's scored a lot more than he's missed. 2-0, job done.

There were many quality performers including Crouch, Voronin, Benayoun, Arbeloa and the two subs Babel and Torres. Babel caused a lot of problems with his pace, strength and direct running. As I've said on here before, he isn't the finished article yet, but he has the attributes needed to make it at the top level. Some of his decision making can be suspect when he takes a shot rather than passing. But I feel that we can coach him into playing a more team game while maintaining his goal threat.

All in all it was a pretty good weekend for us. Chelsea could only manage a draw against the bitter blues today which means that we're now a point behind Chelsea and 6 points behind Utd with a game in hand and Arsenal play tomorrow. Given how poor our form has been and injuries we've suffered last month, we're not in that bad a position. Hopefully we won't suffer anymore over the international break and Xabi and Agger will be back in two weeks when we play Newcastle. Benayoun is out now too but Torres isn't going away with Spain which is great news. The Toon are in shit form at the mo. Big Sam isn't working the wonders that they might have expected. I'm sure that he will get them in order eventually but now might be a good time to play them.

It looks like Utd have beaten us to the signing of John Cofie from Burnley. This is a bit of a disappointment but there's no guarentee that he'll make it and we're looking to sign a few youngsters of our own at the moment.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Eighth wonder

Ruthless. Liverpool were like MC Ren of NWA last night. 8, that's the magic number. 8-0. Despite all that, Crouch isn't happy. He feels that we should have had more. Greedy bugger.

It's hard to pick out individuals after a performance like that. Almost everyone had a great match. We scored 8 and played some beautiful football. I don't want to be negative but Riise was notable in his inability to join in with the one touch football. But he had his part to play too and set up a fwe goals with his vicious shots which the keeper couldn't save. He did have his usual quota of wayward efforts over the bar though.

Crouch was notable in opening and closing the scoring. He got a bit lucky with the first but reacted well and finished well beyond the keeper. The final goal was a great header after a cross from the wing. I think that he made a telling contribution and put down a marker. It'll be hard for Rafa to drop him for Fulham unless Torres is fit.

Yossi grabbed a hat trick but it was his all round play which was impressive. His first goal was lovely but his second and third were tap ins. He drifted all over the front third and supported the strikers well. Arbleoa provided width and protection on the right, allowing Yossi to go where he needed.

Voronin had a superb game. He linked midfield and attack in a clever manner. His link up play for Gerrards goal was a joy to behold. He did a great job of bringing the likes of Yossi, Babel, Kewell and Gerrard into the game. He didn't grab a goal for himself but he wasn't far off.

The boy Babel done well. His first goal was the pick of the bunch for me. If Rooney or Ronaldo scored that one we would be hearing about it for a long time. He got lucky with the second but was unlucky to see a headed effort hit the bar. Granted it's easier to come on against a team who are already beaten and look good, but this was a cameo of the riches he has. I think that if we persist with him he'll go onto be a star for us.

So we still have to win our two final games in the champions league. I think that we're capable of it but it won't be easy. Porto visit Anfield in the next game. It's a pity that they beat Marseille last night but we know what we need to do. If we win the two games we should be able to go through.

Back to domestic matters this sat when Fulham come to Anfield. They aren't in great form and this is a good opportunity for us to get back on track in the league. Torres might even be fit but I would imagine it'll be a case of him sitting on the bench unless needed again. We don't want him heading off with Spain and getting injured again.

Bring on the cottagers.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A tale of three strikers

Exhibit A - Dirk Kuyt. Dirk had a terrible day at the office on Saturday. He is going through a crisis of confidence at the moment. He had a few chances but couldn't hit the target and when he did, Friedal was more than equal to it. Rafa is a big fan and seems to want to let him play through it. I don't think that he is clinical enough to play up front on his own, as he did on Sat. I like Dirk too but I don't think that he works well with Crouch or Voronin, only Torres.

Exhibit B - Peter Crouch. Crouch came on as as second half sub and almost changed the game. I don't know what he did to annoy Rafa, but he seems well out of favour at the minute. I would like to see him get more game time while Torres isn't ready because he looks like the striker who's most likely to score. I don't know if Crouch has a long term future at the club but I definitely think that he's the man for the moment.

Exhibit C - Fernando Torres. It sounds like the news might be better than had been previously hoped. He was back in training today after his muscle injury and faces a late fitness text for tomorrow. I can't imagine that he'll be risked after the last time but he might get a place on the bench for a last gasp throw of the dice if we need him. We're looking fairly blunt without him.

Harry Kewell was a welcome sight when he came on as a second half sub. If, and it's a big if, he can stay fit for a while, then he could do a huge job for us on the left and nail down that position. Despite his injuries, he's still the best winger that we have in my opinion. He did well in the 20 or so mins that he got on Saturday by stretching the play and taking his man on. I would imagine that he'll be an impact sub for the next few games while his builds up his fitness.

Babel started on the wing against Blackburn. Babel clearly has talent with his pace, power, control and shooting. But he hasn't really been able to put it all together so far. I feel that it might be after Christmas or next season before he beds in properly and makes a telling contribution. Here's what Wenger has to say on new signings.

"When I sign a player I don't judge him at all in the first six months. Never. I give him six months to adapt and don't put any pressure on him because I know what it takes. You have to settle and get the right level. You start to look at him really in January and February."

The draw for the Carling Cup quarter finals was made on Sat and we'll be heading to Stamford Bridge at the end of December. They have a superb home record so I'd be surprised if we get anything out of that one. It is only the Carling Cup though.

Oliver Kay has an article in the Times where he says that we're near an agreement for John Cofie From Burnley. United and Chelsea are after him too but it sounds like we're in the driving seat as he attended the Cardiff match last week. He's 15, plays up front and could cost anything between £250000 and £1m. Lauri Dalla Valle, a 16 year old Finn who I've mentioned before here, is also being tipped to arrive in Jan.

It's do or die against Besiktas tomorrow. It's time to stand up and spout cliches. Win and we have a chance, anything less and we're out. We should be more than capable but then again, I said the same about Porto, Marseille and the Turkish trip.

Here's hoping.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The second coming, part 2

He has come again. God walks among us once more. But lucky for us, even God couldn't prevent Cardiff from going down 2-1 at Anfield last night with his heir delivering the fatal blow.

As expected, it was a fairly young team and we got to see some of the youngsters in action. Jack Hobbs, Charles Itandje, Nabil El Zhar, Seb Leto and Lucas all started. It was also notable in so far as two of our oft injured players got game time in Aurelio who started and Kewell who came on in the second half.

Hobbs did quite alright at the back and he did have Carra beside him, giving tips and bollickings if needed. Itandje made a couple of smart saves, notably from a Fowler free kick. Leto didn't have a great game. It's hard to know what to make of him. I've seem him play very well for the reserves on LFC TV but it doesn't look like he's ready for the step up to the first team yet, if ever. Lucas played very well in the middle beside Stevie but he did seem to tire towards the end and gave the ball away a few times. Up until then he had been superb. I think this lad can do a job for us in the Xabi role while we're waiting for the master to return from injury. El Zhar opened the scoring with a cracking strike from distance. It was a superb goal but again I don't think that he's ready for the step up to the first team. He still looks a bit lightweight.

Yossi cam on and did fantastically well to set up Stevie for the winner. I would like to see Yossi get more game time now that Pennant is out. He's an intelligent player who has pace, great control, good link up play and an eye for goal. He gives us something different to what we already have. I think that he's been underused so far but I'm hoping that will change now.

Blackburn away is going to be really tough. They are in great form at the moment having won their last few games. We have good domestic away form but this will be our toughest journey so far this season. The news that Bently and Mokoena should be out is good for us. It sounds like we won't have our spine of Agger, Xabi and Torres back for this one, in fact, it could be another two weeks before we see any of them. I wouldn't be surprised to see Momo start this game if he's recovered from his illness as Rafa likes him for these kind of games. I predict an away draw. A win would be great but I think Blackburn have enough to take 2 points from us.

Fordies had an interesting post last month saying that we are going to try and bring in three players next month. He reckons these are James McCarthy from Hamilton Academicals who we've been linked to before, John Cofie a young midfielder from Burnley and Samir Nasri from Marseille. He reckon that we've built up a good relationship with them after doing business over Cisse and Zenden. Nasri would be expensive, around £11m according to Fordies. I haven't seen much of this lad but he's destined for great things by all accounts.

Let's make Ewood park threewood park tomorrow. Sorry, that was terrible.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Honours even

Well well well. What a great game of football? In terms of the result, it could have been better but it could have been a lot worse. It wasn't the beating that many pundits had predicted we'd received. We led for most of the match and created a few good chances. But despite that, Arsenal were great at times and a draw was probably a fair result overall.

On the upside, Gerrard had another decent game following his display against Besiktas. Hopefully he can continue it over the next few games, god knows we're going to need him. He took his goal well and really hit the shot with some venom. His chance at the end was close and I think that he would have scored if Toure hadn't of blocked his shot.

The defence also performed well and seems to have bucked up a bit. Carra was back to his imperious best. He was throwing his body in front of the tackles and making vital interceptions. We still need Agger back as soon as possible but Jamie regaining his form should help to bridge that gap.

On the downside Torres and Xabi had to come off. This is really bad news. We're missing the spine of our team and it now seems like they'll be out for the next few weeks again. There doesn't seem to be a definite date on their returns yet but it sounds like it'll be three weeks at a minimum before Torres is ready as he has an abductor muscle injury. While it was a good match and we played well, we were at home and if we want to challenge we need to be winning these games at home.

The Carling Cup Cardiff match on Wednesday seems like a sideshow after yesterday. It'll be great to see Robbie back at Anfield if he plays for them. But I would imagine that we might see some of the younger players get a run out. Blackburn away on Sat will me a much tougher challenge I would imagine.

Until next time.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Turkish despair

You may be wondering why updates have slowed down. Well I've been busy in work but the real reason is that I bought Football Manager 2008. Beware, this game is highly addictive and will take over your life. But I've managed to tear myself away so here's a quick update.

The Besiktas game wasn't great, was it? Hyypia didn't do well and I think that his lack of pace is making the defence sit deeper and it seems to have injected a lack of confidence throughout the defence. Even Carra and Finnan aren't playing well now. We went 2-0 down but Gerrard got one back. He had tow other good chances and we could have nicked a draw. We did create a good few chances but without Torres up front we seem to lack that cutting edge to finish off chances. We'll now need to win all of our remaining games to get out of the group. It's going to be tough but we can do it. Lawro thinks that we will which is a bad omen as he's usually wrong about everything.

The Arsenal match kicks off at 4 today. I'm worried. I don't fancy Sami against Adebayor and the pace of Walcott if he plays. But we are at home and have a good record against Arsenal in the league at Anfield. Xabi should be back which is a boost. Our midfield hasn't looked as calm and efficient since he got injured. Torres was training this week and might play. Pennant will be out for a few weeks so we might see Gerrard on the right if Xabi starts. Agger doesn't seem to be ready yet, which is a shame. We really need him ASAP. I know think that Rafa should have had a backup plan for centre back when he went for Heinze. Sami will need replacing in Jan.

So here's to a victory against the arses today. Fingers crossed.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Derby delight

It's that rotation policy again. Rafa takes Gerrard off and brings Lucas on, who is awarded the match winning penalty. When will he ever learn?

It was amazing. I'm still a bit horse. Memories of the Gary Mac derby in 2001 came flooding back. To win the Derby is sweet. To win the Derby in injury time after being 1-0 down is even sweeter. To hear David Moans and the rest of the bitter blues giving to is the icing on the cake. No doubt the conspiracy theorists will be out in force now. But while the Lescott penalty shout at the end looked fairly strong, we had an offisde goal chalked off that should have been given. Veronin also had a penalty claim early on. We were by far the better team and created loads of chances. They only had one effort on target all match. I think that if Torres was playing we would have won handy enough. Voronin had a couple of chances where he would have done better. Riise had a superb chance where he blazed over the bar. Momo had a fantastic chance with a few minutes to go. Overall I was much happier with the performance than in recent games.

At half time I predicted a draw so I was thrilled when we won. Notable performers were Kuyt, Yossi for a time and Lucas when he came on. Dirk has been getting a lot of stick from some fans, as they see him as a new Heskey in so far as he tries hard but doesn't score enough. I don't agree. I've been a big fan of his since he arrived. Put your hands up for Dirk Kuyt. He was our top scorer last season and 4 in all comps so far this year. He had a really clever and unselfish game yesterday. He showed bottle to take his two penos and could have had a hat trick of assists if his team mates had finished better. His father passed away during the summer after a long battle with cancer. I do like Voronin too but I think Dirk will go on to prove the best partner for El Nino.

Gerrard was much improved too. Some knobs in the press, like Andy Grey, will try to make a big deal out of the fact that he was subbed. I think it was more a case of him having played two England matches and we have two important matches coming up this week. Lucas changed thing when he came on and would have won the match for us if it hadn't of been for Nevilles "save". It's a pity for the lad but we got the result which is the main thing. Seeing Neville and Hibbert walk was a bonus.

It's a pity that our rivals, Arseanal, Utd and Chelsea all won. After the Besiktas match on Wednesday, we face Arsenal at Anfield. They are playing well at the moment, better than us, but we've a great home record and hammered them 3-1 at Anfield in March. I was at Anfield that day and it was very one sided. Crouch was amazing and the best player on the pitch by a mile. Even though he's not playing much and seems to be out of form, I wouldn't be that surprised to see him play for this one. Van Persie is out which good news for us.

Alan Stubs cleverly got a dig in before the match. Good motivational tactic from him.

Tony Barett of the Echo had a good article on rotation reprinted on the official site. So it seems to me that when Fergie rotates his squad it doesn't count. It remind me of the Brass Eye episdoe about good aids v bad aids. It seems that Man Utd practice good rotation while we practice bad rotation. Rotation is a stick used by the press to beat Rafa when we're losing along with zonal marking when we concede goals and Cup/Lucky manager because we haven't won the league. It seems that it's not very hard to be a journo or pundit these days. Just use the same old tired cliches and misconceptions and you'll be hailed as a genius.

There has been a good bit of talk linking us to Fernando Amorebieta of Athletic Bilbao. He's a versitile young spanish defender, the kind of player that Rafa finds hard to resist so expect him to be on his way here in January.

The echo had some good news in relation to a fall in football related arrests at Anfield despite a rise nationwide. It goes against the percieved wisdom in some sections of the media.

Will Buckly in the Observer had a good article on the inane punditry on Sky. Offside doesn't count if it's Rooney apparently. How does Jamie Redknapp have a job?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Spurs stalemate

Sometimes a draw feels like a win and sometimes a draw feels like a loss. I don't know what this feels like. We played quite well in the first half and should have been out of sight at half time. Then we let them get one either side of half time and we only salvaged a point in injury time with a goal from Torres. It was great to get a draw rather than a loss but we really should have won at home against a team in the relegation zone.

What was surprising here was the manner in which we conceded the goals. Berbatov beat Sami and then Carra to high balls from the back. Robbie Keane managed to evade the other defenders and latch onto the flick on. His finishes were good but we shouldn't have gotten the time and space to get a shot off. It was very uncharacteristic of our defence but it was only the first 2 goals that we're conceded from open play. I reckon we'll improve at the back when Dagger returns.

We were quite good going forward and could have had a couple of goals. Voronin did well to put in a rebound for the first goal. He had a good match and linked well with Fernando and the midfield. Gerrard had a few shots and was unlucky to hit the post. If we had taken one or two more of these then the game would have been over.

After another boring international break, we have the Derby at Goodison. This is usually a tough match for us but it's going to be even harder as we're in poor form. They were beaten 3-2 by the Toon at the weekend which is good news. The Echo reports today that we might have some good injury news in the form of Alonso and Agger coming back. Xabi is the more likely one to be fit for the derby. We could do with both of them, badly.

Here are two interesting articles on our current form from the UK broadsheets, the Times and the Guardian. I don't agree with all of them but they make for interesting reading nonetheless. have a great interview with Marcus Babel. He was a wonderful player at right back when we won the treble in 2001. It's such a pity that he became ill and never really recovered his previous form. It's good to hear that he's doing well as Stuttgart assistant manager now. Good luck to him. has linked Jeremy Menez of Monaco to us. I don't know too much about him but he's only 20 and is a promising attacking midfielder. A good dribbler who can play on the wings or through the middle by all accounts.

I was watching Red Dwarf yesterday and while I was looking at Holly the ships computer, I was thinking that he reminds me of somebody. Then it came to me. Separated at birth?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Marseille massacre

That was terrible. I haven't been able to bring myself to write a post on it until now. As Rafa himself said, that's as bad a performance as we've put in at home since he arrived. We were unlucky to see El Nino hit the post at the end but it would have been unfair on Marseille who were by far the better team. We were shocking.

Only Pepe, Finnan and Aurelio can come out of that with any credit. Only for them we could have lost by a few more. Momo was awful. I really like Momo but he's been shit this season. But he's not the only one. Our entire midfield was useless on Wed night. I think that the lack of Agger and Alonso has hit us hard. We haven't passed the ball well since they got injured. I'm hoping that they will be back in training once the international break is over. We'll need them badly for the Everton and Arsenal matches.

El Nino revealed that he's a bit manic to the official site. Fair enough. As long as he keeps scoring, let him continue with his rituals.

Rumour has it that Crouch may be on the way in January. I don't claim to have any inside track here, I'm just reporting what I've read on the forums. Word is that he is pissed off with his lack of games so he'll be sold with Klaas Jan Huntelaar as his replacement. I've been a big fan of this kid since I saw him fillet Ireland in Lansdowne road last year. While I"d be sorry to see RoboCrouch go, I'd be happy to see us replace him with pure Klaas. Think of all of the crappy puns I could come up with if he signed.

Spurs match tomorrow should be interesting. They're in worse form than us, which is handy. Robinson in goal could be our ace card. Rafa should tell all of the midfielders and strikers to shoot on sight. This guy is one of the worse keepers in the league and can't save long distance shots. Their defence is quite porous so I would expect Torres to be able to take them apart. A moral boosting win is needed after the debacle of Wednesday night. A win here would set us up nicely going into the international break. I'm hoping that we'll come back from it refreshed and rejuvenated. The last break really fucked us up as we were flying before it but haven't played well since. I'm hoping that this one will have the opposite effect and put us back into form. I was hoping that Spurs didn't lose last Monday as Jol might have been sacked. They drew 4-4 and he kept his job. If we win tomorrow, he might lose it. If we lose, I might lose it.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Yossi to the rescue

That was close, and it shouldn't have been. Wigan aren't very good but we made hard work of it. But maybe it's time to look at the table and saw we picked up another 3 points on the road (10 from 12) and we still have a game in hand. We're not playing great, but like Utd, we're getting the wins. If we can keep this up for the next few weeks until Xabi and Dagger return I'll be happy enough.

We did create a lot of chances but didn't put any away. Nando had a good chance in the first half after he was put through on Kirkland. Our former keep did well in coming out early and saved well. The rebound came off Torres and went narrowly wide. Gerrard had a few shots and Kirkland made a few more saves.

It was looking like the game was headed for a third successive premier league draw when Yossi stuck his oar in. His turn and dribble reminded me of Bergkamp against Newcastle a few years ago. Yossi's goal wasn't quite of that quality but was hugely impressive nonetheless. He has a fantastic ability to drift effortlessly past defenders and the ball control skills to embarrass even the toughest of opponents. He's a joy to watch and is pushing hard for a starting place after his goals here and against Reading in midweek.

Wigan pushed us hard until the final whistle and had a few chances. They will complain that they didn't get the rub of the green or any favourable decisions from the Ref. Maybe we're cashing in our Karma from the Chelsea match. Our defence wasn't what it usually is. Riise didn't have a great match. With Sami in for Agger, we are sitting deeper to compensate for his lack of pace. Added to that is the problem that our distribution out of defence is worse and Sami doesn't carry the ball out the way Dagger does. We miss the kid and the sooner he comes back the better.

Champions league returns this week and Marseilles visit Anfield on Wed night. Given the law of the Ex, expect to see Cisse have a stormer and score a few. In reality, I don't think that they're up to much and are doing shit in Ligue 1. They recently changed their manager so it might be good time to play them.

Gerardo Bruna - remember that name. He's a 16 year old Argentine player that we've signed from Real Madrid. They were expecting great things from him and were angry at losing him. He's already been dubbed "the new Messi" (is the old one old?). Not placing any pressure on him then.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The boy's done well

Three and easy for Torres. It was a great performance from the new signing and a good team performance all round. Yossi opened the scoring the first half with an amazing individual goal. Nice to see him get off the mark and show his skill at unlocking a defence. Then it was time for Fernando to take the stage. Good work for Seb Leto set up Torres for the first goal. He held off the attention of the defender and slipped it under the keeper. His second came after a nice delivery when Riise got past his man on the left. El Nino finished from just inside the area with a shot to the corner which gave the Reading keeper no chance. His final goal was the result of a fantastic through ball from Stevie G. Torres was 1 on 1 with the keeper and showed great composure to shoot beyond the goalie. Rafa will be disappointed that we conceded two but the first goal was offside. The second was poor defending and our new keeper didn't cover himself in glory. Lucas wasn't bad in the midfield but did fade somewhat as the match went on. Overall a very satisfying night.

It's a visit to the JJB tomorrow. Wigan have done better than I've expected this season. I was tipping them for relegation in August but they're looking like they will stay up if their form continues. Heskey has been doing well for them but he's not fit for tomorrow which is good news. He has his critics, and deservedly so, but when he's on form he's a nightmare for defences. I expect us to win this one. We've taken 7 from 9 points away from home so far and 10 from 12 would be a good boost to our title aspirations.

Crouch praised how Torres has settled in here. Gerrard reckons that he could be a modern day Ian Rush. High praise indeed.

LFC TV has launched officially now. I've watched a few programmes but have yet to see the John Barnes chat show. I'm looking forward to that one as I'm hearing good reports.

Some great old photo's from the BBC here. The bootroom one is special. Bring a tear to the glass eye. Have a look at these for some great photos of Liverpool in the 80's.For those who've been to the city recently it's interesting to see how different it looked 20 years ago. Some changes.

Until next time.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sometimes a point just aint enough

Maybe we aren't as good as the 6-0 win over Derby suggested. But I don't think we're as bad as some people think after the scoreless draw at home with Birmingham on Saturday. The reaction has seen some poeple question Rafa. I feel that it's way too early for that. It reminds me of the reaction to the Burnley FA cup defeat in 2005 when some people said that we were the worst Liverpool team in living memory. That wasn't true then and was proved to be a knee jerk reaction. Then, as now, patience is the key.

Let's take stock. We're upbeaten. We've yet to concede a goal in open play. We've dropped less points than Utd. We've taken 7 points from 9 away from home which is far better than any previous season under Rafa and is the best of any team in the league. On the downside, we're not playing well and don't look like scoring too many. We still struggle to break down a team without ambition away from home like Brum. There has been a lot of talk of rotation but regardless of that, the team we fielded should have been good enough to beat Birmingham at home.

They stuck all of their men behind the ball and didn't attack. They came for a point and got it, which is fair enough. They're entitled to do it and it's up to us to dismantle their massed defence. On Sat we were unable to do that. It was frustrating to watch. I hope that we don't have too many more days like it this season. It's a pity that Yossi couldn't play due to the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur. I think that he could have been good at unlocking the packed defence. Gerrard was poor again on Saturday and hasn't looked right since the England game. There has been some speculation that he's still feeling his toe injury. I hope that he regains his form soon as we need him while Xabi is out.

Tomorrow night we can look forward to visiting Reading in the Carling Cup. This fixture ended up 4-3 last season when we beat them in the Carling Cup. I would be happy enough with that score again tomorrow. I would imagine that we'll see heavy rotation with many of the kids and fringe players getting a run out, and why not? The main fit defenders are likely to be rested giving the likes of Hobbs and maybe Arbeloa a chance at centre half. Let's hope that it does end up 8-0 and there aren't any injuries.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Porto prevail

Sometimes you play well and lose. Sometimes you play badly and win. Sometimes you play well and the ref robs you, like what happened against Chelsea. Sometimes you play shit and get away with a draw. That's what happened in the Dragao on Tuesday when we drew 1-1. It was a fairly poor game and we didn't play well at all. It was one of those nights where nobody had a particularly good game. They started off like a rocket and scored with the eight minutes. We were suffering from shell shock but we did manage to get our act together somewhat as the half went on. Sami flicked on a Finnan cross and Dirk Kuyt was there to score from close range. It was an important goal at an imporant time.

In the second half Pennant got riled up, not for the first time. He was sent off for an idiotic tackle on Fucile. Porto players went down easy enough but there is no accounting for Pennants stupidity. It was a needless tackle and put extra pressure on the team. I doubt that Rafa was too impressed with that. We improved defensively after that and won a hard fought point.

But while a point away was a good result, the bad news that Xabi and Dagger are injured arrived today. While we have enough cover in central midfield, we could be a bit short at the back. Sami is short of pace but he'll do his best over the next four to six weeks. Sami isn't as accomplished a passer and tends to hoof the ball out of defence more. This has a knock on effect on our play which we'll have to try and minimise. We might even see Arbeloa play a few games there. Jack Hobbs might come into contention for the easier games. IT's going to be tough but we should be able to get through. We face Everton away on Oct 20th and then Arsenal at home a week later. I hope that we have them back at that stage but that would mean some quick healing is required.

Bring on Brum. Handy home win required.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Pepe protects point

How's your glass? I think that mine is still half full. But I can't help but feel that this was two points dropped. We knew that Portsmouth is a tough place to go and get three points. They held Utd to a 1-1 draw earlier on this season. It could have been worse. If it weren't for Pepe saving a Kanu penalty, then we could have been looking at our first defeat of the season. We did create a few chances. Crouch forced James into a good save early in the first half. Voronin hit the top of the bar and Torres should have done better after being put through on the keeper with a few minutes to go. Much talk, predictably from Andy Grey, was about Gerrard being on the bench. I think that it was an understandable decision given that his fitness was in question and he just played 2 games in four days for England. Plus we had top quality replacements to come in in the form of Xabi and Momo. Brum at home next weekend should be a much easier challenge.

El Nino revealed that he spurned our rivals to Nice one my son. Given Utd's profligacy in front of goal this season maybe they should have bought him instead of Tevez.

We're signing the central defender Ayala. But rather than the Argentine rock who played for Rafa at Valencia, this lad is 17 and plays for Sevilla. This could be promising as Sevilla have a great youth policy. If he goes on to be half the player that his namesake is, then we could have a serious prospect on our hands.

Champions league returns on Tuesday night. There is something fantastically exciting about hearing the theme music belting out over messages from the sponsors and partners. It nearly makes me go out and buy some Continental tyres, even though I don't have a car. I went through a phase of only drinking Amstel as it was my tipple of choice in the 2005 campaign. Champions league make the darkening of the evenings and the approach of cold winter evenings somewhat less off putting. The road is long and unpredictable. It could end up anywhere - Istanbul, Athens or maybe Moscow. It might end after the group stage as it did for Utd two years ago when they finished bottom of a group with Lille, Benfica and Villareal. The first stop on our continental tour is Porto on Tuesday night. They have some good players in Quaresma and Lucho González. I think that Rafa will go for a win but a draw away from home wouldn't be a bad result.

Roll on 7.45 on Tuesday.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Demolition Derby

I go away for one week and it all hell breaks loose. Rafa and Pako have decided to split after 11 years and go their separate ways. Parting is such sweet sorrow.

But while there was turmoil off the pitch, on it there was the kind of ruthless attacking display which we haven't seen at Anfield in a while. It's common for us to beat teams but rare for us to put them to the sword in such a convincing manner. Often we would take our foot off the pedal once the game was won. Not so against Derby. Derby were happy to sit back and defend but it didn't do them much good. We attacked with wave after wave of devestating penetration. By halftime it was 3-0 and 6-0 at full time. Torres and Alonso scored a brace each with Voronin getting one and Babel scoring the pick of the bunch. Rout complete and job done.

Funnily, some people are still saying that Torres a) is overrated b) is overpriced (a potential £18m which is in the same bracket as Bent or Anderson) c) is a Spanish striker and therefore will never adapt. He's now scored three goals in four matches and is looking fantastic. Have a read of this for a great Torres interview.

Liverpool travel to Fratten Park to face Portsmouth on Sat at 12.45. This has been a tough fixture for us in the past but I expect us to be able to win here. It won't be 6-0 but it could well be a 2-0 or 2-1. Let's hope that we don't get any injuries on wed and that Carra and Finnan have recovered in time for kick off.

There was one signing before transfer deadline day in Damien Plessi who's a 19 year old french midfielder. He's joined from Lyon and will be playing with the reserves this season. Given the amount of young midfielders and centre halves that we've bought recently, we'll have to play to 5-5-0 formation with the reserves.

The big news off the pitch was that assistant manager and fitness guru Pako Ayestarán has left the club. I'm a bit surprised about this but Ballague was talking about him on the Game podcast. He said that the pair haven't been getting on for a while. It seems that Pako will not be directly replaced and his duties will be shared among Alex Miller, Paco De Miguel and the other coaches, at least for the moment.

I didn't get to see the Irish match on Sat as I was sat in Firenze, enjoying the sunshine. Managed to take in the Italy v France match which was decent but lacked a goal. Tuscany kicks Ireland's ass any day of the week. Oh for more fantastic meals and wine at low prices.

Buona sera.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Fab four

When Bill Shankley said that football was more important than life and death, I suspect that his tongue was firmly in his cheek. Occasions like last night can bring that home. The murder of 11 year old Rhys Jones shook Merseyside to the core. But at Goodison on Saturday and at Anfield last night, the two halves of the city came together in grief and to pay respect to the Jones family. As anyone who's lost a family member can tell you, people showing support won't ease the pain, but it can help to get you through. Tony Barrett has a great piece on the merseyside rivalry in the Liverpool Echo today. I hope that this once friendly rivalry can shed the bitterness and vitriol that have crept into it in recent years. Maybe events like the playing of Everton's theme from Z Cars at Anfield can help to warm relations.

To the match itself, we have to be fairly happy with a 4-0 win. Crouch got scoring underway with a tap in after some fine work on the wing from Benayoun and Kuyt who delivered an amazing cross to the far post from the right. Crouch had a few other decent chances to bump up the score but it remained 1-0 until the second half. Sami showed him how it's done when he got a free header in the area. Kuyt was rewarded with two goals towards the end. He had a great match and it was no less than he deserved. He had hit the bar earlier in the match so I was happy to see him get his season's account under way.

Kuyt and Benayoun were the two major stars of the game for me. Yossi started on the right but drifted infield and outfield at will. He has the ability to glide past defenders as if they weren't there. It's a joy to watch and the Anfield faithful were suitably impressed.

Seb Leto got a run out on the left wing for the first time in a competitive match. He looked a game lad to me and did ok considering his age and lack of English experience. I would imagine that he'll be a Carling Cup and FA Cup player this year.

Derby County visit Anfield on Sat for what should be a routine win. They, along with Wigan, were my two tips for relegation. I think that Stevie and Carra should be alright to sit this one out. Rafa will feel that he can rotate his team from Sunderland a bit and still have enough to beat them handily enough.

By Saturday, the transfer window will be closed. There is some speculation that we'll go for a defender given Carra's injury and missing out on Heinze. Chiellini is still being linked and would be perfect but it's all gone quiet at the moment. I wouldn't be too surprised if we don't make any moves and go with what we have. Some websites have been linking us with a bid for Julio Baptista with is pure bollocks in my view.

I'm off to Tuscany on holidays for ten days on Friday so there may not be any updates until the Portsmouth game. Arrivederci.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

7001 and counting

Last season it took Liverpool until October to get a win away from home. This year we have six points from two away matches already. I think that we played reasonably well here, but more importantly we got the result. This is a game that we would probably have drawn last season, like at Shefield Utd on the opening day. The new additions added to a more attacking attitude will give us a better chance on the road this year.

Momo's first ever goal for the club broke the deadlock and happened to be our 7000th league goal. It's another one of those meaningless stats which them media love to go on about in the buildup to each match. In Gerrard's absence, Momo played his harrassing role to perfection. The mediocre Sunderland midfield tried as they might, but Sissoko snapped at their heals. He may not be as measured in posession as Javier but nobody can hassle the oposition quite like Momo. I really rate the lad and if he can improve his distribution somewhat then he'll b e an amaing player. His goal was awesome after some clever approach work from Voronin and Pennant.

We could have had a few more goals if it hadn't of been for Gordon who was superb in the Sunderland goal. Torres could have had a hat trick against a less inspired keeper. The failure to build on our 1-0 lead despite the chances we had, led to an unessesary dose of nerves in the second half.

Voronin added the winner with three minutes to go. Nobody had said too much about him when he was signed as it was on a free transfer. Now some people think that he should be the first choice partner for Torres. Kuyt and Torres would still be my preference but I think that all of the strikers will get a lot of games give Rafa's preference for roatation.

Overall it was a good result away from Anfield. But it did come at a heavy cost as Carra broke a rib and Sami a broken snot. Hyypia should be ok to play against Toulouse tomorrow night but Carra might be out for a few weeks with his ribs. Lucklily, there is an international break after the Derby County match on Sat which should give him time to recover. The Toulouse match itself should be handy enough. We have the away goal and they didn't look very good in the first leg. I predict a 2-1 win for us.

The official site featured a letter from Luis Garcia last week. He was a great little player for us and I hope that we don't end up missing him too much this season. He was an amazing option to come off the bench or to conjure something out of nothing in european matches. His goal against Juventus in 2005 remains one of my favourite Liverpool goals of all time. He always came across well in interviews too and seems to be a genuine, brave and warm hearted soul. I hope that things go well for him at Atletico. It'd be great if he got the opportunity to return to Anfield with them at some stage.

Monday, August 20, 2007

We wuz robbed

Where do I start? I had to leave it a few days until I had calmed down before I wrote about the Chelsea match. As you know by now, Rob Syles ruined the match by giving Chelsea a non existent penalty and failing to send off Essien despite showing him two yellows. He's since been demoted. There were numerous other decisions that he messed up on but I'm trying to build a bridge and get over it. The ref robbed us of what would have been a great win over one of our title rivals. The difference between this match and previous season's matches against the top four is that this time we didn't let them back into the match after taking the lead, the ref did.

But before all of that, Torres did this. An awesome goal which had me jumping out of my seat. I thought that he was tidy if unspectacular over the rest of the game but when given the opportunity, he did what we pay him to do. Gerrard found him with a great ball and he took it up to Ben Haim. Nando showed him the ball to draw him in but then turned on the pace to leave him in his wake. Cech advanced but El Nino placed ball inch perfectly inside the far post. Some people have been drawing comparisons with Henry. He has some way to go before he is at that level but the way in which he toyed with Ben Haim and made the finish look easy, does remind me of him to some degree. What a home debut? I don't think that Torres is 100% yet after his ankle injury. This was a great start and I'm hoping that he can build on it against Sunderland.

There were other positives to take from the game. Pennant, again, caused Cole lots of problems on the right wing. His cross to Riise should have resulted in a goal if Riise's touch had of been better. The midfield as a whole played well and Gerrard was superb. They along with the defence closed Chelsea down well and they had no shots on target, bar the peno. Arbeloa had another decent match. I still have some reservations about a right footed left back.

After the boring International friendlies, we will be traveling to the Stadium of Light to face Sunderland on Saturday morning. This is going to be a tough away match as we've seen from Sunderland's game's so far. Any team managed by Keane is going to fight for every ball. I wouldn't be surprised to see Crouch start this one.

It looks like Heinze won't be arriving at Anfield. He would have been useful as cover but I for centre half and might have competed for a starting berth at left back but I'm not that disappointed that this isn't happening. The fact that it's pissed Fergie off makes it a worthwhile exercise. I wonder if we'll now go for Chiellini or someone else for that spot? I'd be happy enough to go with who we have and to give Insua a few games at left back.

Check out the look on Slurs face in this clip from MOTD. He can't believe that Tevez missed with a header from a yard out. I really like Tevez but I don't know how the hell he missed that one. Almost as bad as this classic from Forlan. Here's hoping that Spurs can turn them over on Sunday to drop them into the relegation zone.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Toulouse lose

Yesterdays game was not a classic. As is often the case with the champions league third round, it's a case of get the job done. Given the oppressive heat in the afternoon sun, we weren't over exerting ourselves. Veronin scored just before half time with this 25 yard belter.

Great to see that the Raven is building on his pre season form. It was an efficent rather than an inspired team performance and I'm sure that we'll put them to the sword at Anfield in two weeks time. The only worrying sign was the fact that Gerrard came off injured after an hour. The latest news is that he has a hairline fracture in his toe but he'll be fit for Sunday which is a huge boost.

The Chelsea match this weekend is huge now. Sky will be trying to build it up as a title showdown, which it isn't, but it's important that we learn the lessons of previous seasons and keep pace with the leaders at the start of the season. Too often in recent years, we've started slowly and have had to play catchup. With Utd having dropped 4 points from their first two matches, it's a good oppertunity to put down a marker against one of the other titile contenders. Chelsea seem to have a few injuries at the moment but I wouldn't be surprised if they manage to recover. Expect to see both Terry, Carvalho and Essien line out on Sunday at 4.00.

Have a look at this for a great interview with Torres. You will need access to spanish or a decent translation website. Interestingly they say that the fee was €26.5m or £18m to be paid over three years which is a lot less than was reported in the UK press. It's the kid's Anfield debut on Sunday. Let's hope that he makes it a special one.

We've signed another new keeper. This time he's a seventeen year old Hungarian called Peter Gulacsi. He has been signed on a years loan apparently. With a name like that maybe he should have joined Golden balls at the L.A. Galaxy. Sorry, couldn't resist.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Cometh the hour..

This is what we've been missing. Isn't it great to have the season back? The famine is over and the feast is upon us. Here's hoping that Liverpool are sitting at the top of the table at the end of it.

For those of you that missed it, we ran out to a deserved 2-1 victory at Villa Park on Saturday. There were some great performances, notably Torres and Kuyt who looked great together. I'm very optimistic about their partnership after this. Their vision, movement and link-up play was a joy to behold. I hope that I'm not putting the mockers on them here but I predict a bountiful partnership from the lads. Rafa was delighted with El Nino's performance. Me too Rafa.

Gerrard was superb in the middle alongside Xabi. It was looking like another dissappoiting opening day draw when Stevie stood up and fired in THAT free. Astounding. There is a lot of guff written in the press about him playing in the middle but I think a more important factor here was that he's had the summer off and a full pre-season behind him. I'm sure that he'll play games on the right this season. If he plays like this, it won't matter what position he's playing in.

Riise wasn't great at left midfield but Arbeloa did ok at left back. Finnan was caught out by Young's pace a few times but he might have have had more protection with someone other than Pennant in front of him. Babel looked really good when he came on in the second half. He has that combination of pace, power and control that makes players dangerous. His directness and willingness to run at defenders is something that we haven't seen too much of around Anfield in recent times.

The team flew out to Toulouse today for the champions league qualifier tomorrow. I reckon that this should be fairly straight forward. It's going to be very hot at 3.30 in the afternoon but we should have enough to get at least an away draw if not a win. All I have to do now is figure out a way to get off work early.