Monday, February 26, 2007

Sheffield stuffed

Liverpool B team 4, Sheffield Utd 0. It doesn't get much easier than that. We never even had to get out of second gear.

Two penos from Robbie made it the perfect start. Some punters feel that Stevie went down fairly easily under the challenges. John Giles on RTE's the Premiership programme didn't agree. He reckons that Neil "Colin" Warnock has no grounds to complain as they were both legitimate penalties. In fairness, the ref did warn the defender not to hold onto Gerrard before he awarded the peno.

Sheffield Utd weren't at their most attacking anyway and they didn't improve when they conceeded early on. Crouch took a kick in the head and had to come off to be replaced by Kuyt. There was some impressive link up play but it wasn't until the 70th minute before Sami stuck one in. As the goal went in I was saying how it's surprising that we don't score more from them. I was talking about Sami in the air but all goals are welcome. Gerrards goal was the pick of them. Great pass from Fowler and gerrards first touch was sublime.

Javier Mascherano made an impressive debut and gained confidence as the game went on. He won the ball cleanly and distributed it cleverly. His positioning and strength in the tackle enbled Stevie to rampage up the field knowing that Javier was behind him as an insurance policy. Good to know that we won't have to panic anymore if Momo and Xabi are out.

Man Utd visit Anfield in the early kick off on Sat. Usually I would be very excited and nervous about this game but with the states of our league and champions league campaigns, I'm more excited about the Barcelona match. It looks like we will finish either third or fourth in the league. While I would like to finish third, as close to chelsea as possible, it probably doesn't matter that much in the greater scheme. There may be a small financial difference between both places, but both teams will have to pre qualify for the champions league. I'm not saying that it doesn't matter on Sat, far from it. But regardless of what happens I think that Utd will win the league and we'll finish third or fourth. For the sake of laying down a marker for next season it could be important to get a win as we have haven't had too many against Utd in recent years.

The free signing of Voronin was confirmed today. Not really one to set the pulses racing or an "edge of the seat" signing. But he could be usefull as the fourth choice striker and will probably mean that Robbie will be off in July. If that is the case then it's thanks for all the memories Robbie. A true red legend.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Camp Wuhoo

Satan was just on the phone. Apparently hell has frozen over. Funny that it coincided with Riise scoring with his right foot.

What a night? What a match? What a comeback? What a payback for Rafa for his faith in Bellamy and Riise? What a perfect way to put the headlines from Portugal behind us? I was impressed with the show of teamwork and unity. This team is never beaten as we've shown in Cardiff and again in Istanbul. Barca had the best of the first half and we were looking in danger at one stage. But we never let the heads dropped and kept hope in our hearts. Barca on the other hand seemed to lack spirit and lost heart when they conceeded the second goal.

It was superb to see Craig Bellamy score after the week he's had. I'm not a fan of his off the field antics but it now seems that the reports from Portugal were greatly exaggerated. After the match he said "You know what our gaffer is like and how strict he is, if it was a bigger problem I wouldn't be playing here, don't worry about that." Rafa is a disciplinarian and if the tabloid reports were accurate I don't think Bellamy would be at the club now. I shouldn't be surprised by English tabloids blowing stuff out of all proportion and neither should you. Bellamy ran and harried the Barca defence all game and unsettled them. His pace was a constant threat and a useful outlet when we were under pressure. His goal and assist were the perfect riposte to all his critics.

Momo was absolutely massive tonight, man of the match for me. He is a monster of a player and gave Barca no time to get their passing patterns going in midfield. It just goes to show how much we've missed him while he's been out. Remember that he's only 22 and if he improves his passing will be a world beater. Apology accepted Thomas, Momo was injured and not faking it. Hope that he's ok now and not out for any time now.

Riise was poor tonight. But i forgive him as he did it when it counted. And with his right foot, I can't say that I expected that. It's usually only for standing on. Maybe Bellamy was knocking it into shape with his golf club. I still think that we need to buy a left back this summer, unless Insua looks like he'll be able to make the step up next season.

I think that Rafa's tactics worked down to a tee. Gragham Hunter was on newstalk 106fm saying as much after the match. Arbeloa and Finnan by and large did good jobs on Ronaldinho and Messi. Was impressed with Arbeloa. Pretty good debut. Xabi was often the deepest of the midfielder and mopped up in front of the back four, before releasing the ball forward. Momo, Gerrard and Riise in front of him all hassled and harried the Barca team.

Our high tempo pressing style will have to be repeated in the second leg. We may be in the driving seat but there is no way that this tie is over now. Barca need to win by two clear goals but we can't get complacent as they are well capable of scoring two. But their defence didn't look rock solid so I think that we can score at Anfield. Wasn't that impressed with the ref who was very fussy and gave far too many frees.

Sheffield Utd in the league on Saturday seems boring in comparison to this. But it's another three points and we need to keep picking them up if we want to stay in third place. We often took our eye off the ball in the league in '05 after European games. Hope that isn't the case on Sat.

Good to hear that Mascherano has finally been given the green light by the premier league. I wonder if we'll see him against Sheffield Utd?

I watched the match in Keatings with Thomas, Al and a crowd of Catalans from the Catalans a Dublin website. Sergi and his mates provided a great atmosphere and it made a good match even more enjoyable.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Barca watch

I went on a LFC scouting mission last night. This involved sitting in the Lotts with my friend Shay and watching the Valencia v Barcelona match at the Mestalla. I wasn't that impressed with Barca on this display and I definitely think that we can get at them at the back. Valencia managed to hit them with two quick counter attacks. Could be a game for Gonzalez and his pace plus the fact that he's played against them before. Olegeur and Edmilson look vulnerable at the back to me. But Leo Messi was amazing when he came on for 30 mins. Barca looked far better with him on the right rather than Iniesta. I hope that he doesn't start on Wed but I fear that he will. I don't fancy our chances if Riise is left one v one with Messi. Aurelio/Gonzalez will have to get back and help him whenever possible. Click Forca Barca or The beautiful game links on the right to read Barca fans opinions on the match.

Voronin looks set to arrive on a Bosman Free transfer from Bayer Leverkusen this summer. He's 28 and a Ukrainian international with a lot of experience. I assume that this means he'll take Robbie's place when his contract finishes in the summer.

In respect of the tabloid rumours of the fracas in the Algarve, here is some info from the Liverpool Echo. It's hard to know exactly what happened and I doubt it's as bad as was reported. Nonetheless it sounds like there were a few of them involved including Dudek, Pennant, Riise and Bellamy. I know that they've all been fined but it may have placed their Liverpool futures in doubt. I don't think Rafa likes these type of headlines but he was very annoyed that it was leaked to the press and not kept in house.

Good to see another win for the kids who are now into the Youth cup semi final, which'll be a two legged affair against Newcastle. It would be an incredible achievement if we were to retain the trophy. Last season was only our second victory in the competition.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Toon triumph

Again a lack of finishing and penetration costs us the three points. Nice goal from Bellemy who had a good game overall but should have had a hatrick. He was unlucky to hit the bar later on too. Kuyt tried but wasn't as effective as he has been earlier in the season. Pepe made a mistake for their goal but I wouldn't be too critical of him as he's been superb again this season after a shaky start. Good to see Momo back in action. Was hoping that Mascherano might have made his debut given that Xabi was suspended but no such luck. The premierleague dragged their heals and we probably won't see Javier play int eh league for another two weeks when Sheffield Utd visit Anfield on the 24th.

Rafa has taken the team off to the algarve for some sun and training ahead of the Barca match next Tuesday. I expect they might even manage to fit in a game of golf or two while they're there. I wonder if Crouchy needs to get special clubs made for him? Barca had good news at the weekend in their win over Racing. Eto'o was back on the bench and Messi came on as a second half sub. You can read more about this match by clicking on the link for Forca Barca or The Beautiful Game on the right. Good news for them is bad news for us.

The most interesting, and unbelieveable, transfer rumour that I heard this week involved Barcelona. We were linked to their 17 year old wunderkind Giovani Dos Santos. I really can't see this happening. Barca have been bitten a few times over losing class talent to England when they lost Fabregas and Merida to Arsenal. I can't see them letting this happen again. This kid is supposed to be something special and was a star for Mexico in a recent youth tournament. I hear that his brother is rumoured to have even more talent.

Until next tue, keep it gangsta.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Go Liverpool Reds!

Well the takeover has finally happened. It's taken three years of false dawns and broken deals but we got there in the end. I am quite happy with the way it's turned out. I listened to the press conference given by Gillett, Hicks and Parry on Tuesday. It was very informative and I would reccommend listening to it, I think it's still available on the official site. The two men seem very passionate about sport and said all of the right things, bar "franchise" and "liverpool reds". I'm sure that some of this is spin but I am cautiously optimistic about the future. The Canadian and American fans of their teams seem quite happy with their ownership.

They said that they will respect our traditions and they've kept on Rick Parry in his current role and David Moores has been made honorary life Predident. I like both of them even though they have made mistakes over the past few years. One area that I expect to change is our commercial division. The marketing and merchandise sectors have huge room for improvement. We've been lagging behind Utd, Real and others in this regard for years.

The securing of the stadium is the most important aspect of the takeover in my view. It's essential that we move into a larger and more modern stadium. Otherwise we'll be left far behind the other big English clubs. The capacity will be around 61,000 but more imortantly it will have vast amounts of corporate boxes and facilities. Anfield has barely any of these facilities. Arsenal make as much money from corporate boxes at the emirates as they do from regular seets. Work should start on the new stadium within the next month or two. It sounds like the naming rights will be sold which is fine by me. Arsenal got a great deal for the Emirates and the Americans have experience of negotiating these kinds of deals.

I would imagine that there will be a fair ammount of money spent in the summer. The new owners kept away from saying we're going to spend £Xm this summer and rightly so. If they splash figures about a war chest over the media then we'll be ripped off left, right and centre. As to who will our targets be, I don't have a clue. If I were to make a wild guess I would say a top class left winger (Vicente, Ribery or Silva), maybe a right winger/right back like Dani Alves, a left back (Bale?) and a striker, maybe David Villa who Rafa tried to sign before he went to Valencia. Doubt that we'll get all of those but I would imagine that we'll make bids for some of them. Don't shoot me if none of these happen.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Liverpool held to draw by small club

Not a game for the purists. Everton will feel that they won the match 0-0 on Sat morning. There was lots of passion but little quality on show. Everton showed no ambition to win the game and were happy to have 10 men behind the ball in their own half. They had no interest or ability to hold onto the ball and gave up possession like it was going out of fashion. But I have to say fair play to them as they put the challenge up to us to break them down. We weren't on our best form and weren't able to pick the lock of their packed defence. A good few of our players like Riise and the normally dependable Alonso weren't at their best. We didn't vary our play enough and our lack or top quality defenders cost us. Pennant was ok and got by Lescott a few times but didn't cross to any great effect. Yobo and Stubbs did well for them in the centre. Everton will be happy that they took 4 points from us this season. Congrats to them. But unlike them we are a big team and 38 games matter to us rather than just the 2 derbies.

It's a trip to the Toon for us next Sat. They have added Gooch Onyewu from Liege during the transfer window. I think that he's a decent young defender and was once of the few American players who did well during the world cup. Newcastle were beaten by Fulham at the weekend which is good news for us. I hope that we can make up for the frustration of the derby. Xabi is suspended for this match so it's fingers crossed that Javier Mascherano's been given permission to play by then. Looking forward to seeing him turn out in the red. The premier league seem to be dragging their heels on it so I wouldn't be surprised if we see Momo or Zenden back in the midfield.

In later transfer news we found out that Ronald Huth was signed before the window closed. He's a 17 year-old defender and comes Paraguay but has an Italian passport.

On the takeover front the DIC deal has collapsed and it looks like a deal with Tom Hicks and George Gillett is nearing completion. Initially I was very annoyed that the DIC move fell through. But when I heard that Gillett said that he wasn't in favour of a groundshare, my fears were eased over Gillett. Chris Bascombe wrote a great article on it in the Liverpool Echo last week. Like Rafa I hope that there is a quick conclusion to it so that work on the new stadium begins next month.