Sunday, April 29, 2007

Am I bovered?

In short, no. I can't remember being more unconcerned about a league defeat. We played the B team and they lost. No big deal. Fratton Park isn't an easy ground to go and get a result at, even for the A team. They've taken points from us there a few times over the last couple of seasons.

I was glad to see some of the youngsters getting a run out and it seems that we played better in the second half. Insua did well at left back and looks confident in his passing abilities. One of my criticisms of Riise in the same position is that he tends to hoof it out of defence rather than try to find his man. Insua is only eighteen but it'd be good to see him challenge for a place in the match day squad next season. Paletta was as good at centre back alongside Sami. He's a big chap but he doesn't look ready for this level yet in my view. Maybe a season out on loan might do him good. El Zahr was lively when he came on as a sub and put in a good cross or two.

From this selection, we can take it that Rafa has given up on getting results in the league and will just use it to rotate players and give youngsters experience. I hope that this pays off when we play Chelsea tomorrow at Anfield in what is now the defining game of our season. We should be fresher and their confidence might have taken a dent as a result of them throwing the league away. If it goes to extra time then our superior fitness and freshness might be a factor. I hope that Carvalho is out but give Jose's record, I wouldn't be surprised if he starts. The news that he left Stamford Bridge on crutches could just be a ruse. I think that we can do it, but it'll be really tight. I think we'll scrape through. First goal is vital.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Joe goal

It was bad. Very bad in the first half but we improved after the break. Given how well Chelsea played and how many chances they created, I think that we were quite lucky to only lose 1-0. Only for Reina it could have been a lot worse. It's a shame that Finnan wasn't fit as it meant that Arbeloa had to play right back, Riise on the left and Zenden played left mid. I think that we all know that Zenden isn't really good enough for a game like this but we don't have a host of options on the left given the injuries and he did as well as could be expected of him. He managed to beat the Chelsea right back but couldn't cross to great effect. We can only hope that Finnan is fit for next weeks return leg at Anfield.

We have it all to do. Our passing was terrible in the first half and I thought that we looked a bit nervous on the ball. I think that it'll be different on our home patch with the crowd behind us. We'll need to start quickly and try to get an early goal. I hope that Agger and Carra can do a better job on Drogba who caused panic all night. Drogba is an amazing player so there's no shame in it but they've managed to keep him quiet before and I have faith that they'll be able to do it again on Tuesday. He was up to his old tricks of feigning injury and looking for frees. Agger took exception to it gave him an earful.

Before all of that we have the thrill of a visit to Fratton park. Portsmouth have given us problems in the past and I wouldn't be surprised if they do so again on Saturday. Expect Rafa to rotate and rest as many as possible. We might even see Harry Kewell come off the bench.

In the FA youth cup, Liverpool trailed 2-1 going into tonight's match at old Toilet. Utd had the best of it in the first half but we struck back in the second half and Robbie Threlfall scored to take the game into extra time. That took the game to extra time where there were no further goals. In the penalties, Roberts saved a penalty and then Sam Hewson, the Utd captain sent his penalty over the bar in front of the stretford end, to ensure that Liverpool retain the trophy. We're only the fifth team ever to achieve this feat. The future's bright, the future's red.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Double Dutch

Only one team wanted to win this match. Wigan showed up at Anfield on Saturday with very little ambition, adverture or attacking inclination. We were able to put them away with two strikes from Dirk either side of half time and could have had a couple more. All of this was achieved despite some rotation of key players and the fact that we didn't really get out of second gear.

Pennant put in another great cross from the left for Dirk to glance a header past Filan in the first half. He celbrated with the cradle rocking action as his wife has just given birth to their second child. His second goal was more impressive. Bellamy made a great run into the box and Dirk was able to find the room to turn and shoot. Kuyt now has 12 league goals this season. There are still a few matches left and he could get up to around 14-15 given that he's on good form at the moment. That would be a very respectable total for his first English season and the fact that he gets rotated and doesn't play every game. This win means that we are guarenteed at least fourth place and a champions league spot for next season. Given Arsenal failed to win against Spurs, third is looking more likely now.

It was good to see Chelsea only draw yesterday. I'm hopeing the fact that we have an extra days rest and had an easier match will stand in our favour when we meet Chelsea on Wed night in the Champions League semi final. It'll be a really tough match and I would be happy with a score draw.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

G Unit

A second half "double-pack" from Stevie G was all that was needed to put Boro to the sword. Southgate's team didn't look all that bothered and at half-time I feared another 0-0 might be on the cards. Thanksfully, Gerrard popped up with a long range effort from nowhere to give us the advantage. Then we were aawarded a penalty when Crouch was standing in the box. I didn't see what it was given for but Poll was the ref so it's hard to know. Stevie stepped up to slot it away. Mascherano was unlucky to hit the bar with a header from a cross. Pennant had another good match and gave the Boro left back a torrid time, particularly in the first half. It was good to see the team play with confidence and get back to winning ways after the dour draws with City and Villa recently.

Gerrard now got 7 league goals this season which is a lot less than last year. Overall, I don't think that he's been playing as well compared to the high standards that he's set himself and I was a bit surprised when he was voted on the PFA shortlist by his fellow professionals. I fully expect Ronaldo or maybe Drogba to win it. Either would be a worthy winner.

Anfield will host Wigan this Sat while Arsenal travel to Spurs. We should be well capable of putting Wigan to the sword and hopefully Spurs might do us a favour. We're two points ahead of Arsenal at the moment and we should be able to hold on to third. Like I've said before, it's not hugely important, but it's a bit more prize money plus it's a marker for next season that we'll be closer to the leaders.

The first round of the FA youth cup was played on Monday and our team was beaten 2-1 by Man Utd. It's a pity that they lost after going ahead in the first half. But it's only the first leg and away goals don't count so they're still in with a chance when they go to Old Toilet next week. It would be great to see them win it there, on enemy territory.

The latest rumour doing the rounds on the new stadium is that it'll be built as planned with a 61k capacity. But the difference is that it'll now be expandable to a 77k stadium. The new Kop will be single tier with 18k seats which is a large boost on the current one. These are still rumours for now as they haven't been confirmed by the club yet.

Liverpool TV was announced this week. It will broadcast 7 days a week and I would imagine that it'll be subscription based. Maybe Hicks and Gillette think that there will be individual rights in the future so they're setting up a TV station now.

More after the pie-eaters visit on Saturday.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

City stalemate

A most unremarkable match, all things considered. I feared that our league season might go out with a damp squib rather than a bang and that now appears to be the case. Given that Bolton failed to beat Arsenal yesterday it looks like the top four will remain as is and all qualify for the champions league. Whether we finish third or fourth isn't going to make a hige ammount of difference in the long run. Both spots mean that you have to pre qualify for the group stages and the champsions league TV money for each spot is 15% of the total for England.

I was surprised that Crouch didn't start given his recent good form. When he did come on, it was a bit late to make much of an impact. Kuyt did ok and put in a hard shift as usual, but didn't threaten that much. Pennant had a good first half but I feel he might have done better with Crouch to aim his crosses at. He had the beating of the left back Ball and gave him a torrid time. Roose didn't offer as much on the left and maybe Gonzalez would have been a better bet to try and stretch the game with his pace. Mascherano had another good game doign what he does best.

Anfield will entertain Boro on Wed night. Boro aren't a particularly entertaining team and I could see them being happy with a point away from home and playing a defensive 4-5-1. Given that we don't seem to be pushing ourselves in the league, with one eye on Chelsea in europe, we can expect another dour 0-0.

Tomorrow sees the first leg of the FA youth cup final between us and Utd. It would be amazing if we coudl retain the trophy, becomign the first club to do so. Doing it against the mancs would even more special. I would like to see Ryan Flynn do well as I met his dad before in Liverpool.

Lots of transfer rumours doing the rounds, as usual. We've been linked with Eto'o again and he might be up for the deal. He's been making a lot of favourable comments about us recently but it's still unlikely that he'd want to swap Barcelona for Liverpool. Plus he would cost a fortune and I don't know if Rafa would be willing to spend that much on one player. I think Barca may sell one of Ronaldinho/Eto'o, but not both. Alves continues to be linked and I do think that we'll make a serious effort to get him this summer. Ribery has been liked to us a lot and would do a good job on the left in my view. But it's probably more likely that he'll go to Arsenal.

Enjoy the sunshine and the remainder of the weekend.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Peter the great

Why don't I take my own advice? I pointed out the fact that Crouch was great value for Champions League top scorer at 33-1 but I failed to put a bet on him. I then successfully predicted the winners of the four quarter final matches but again failed to put a bet on. I'm going to bet the house on everything in future.

As regards the PSV match, there isn't a whole lot to say really. Another goal by Crouch takes his champions league tally to 7 and makes him joint top scorer with Kaka and Morientes. Given that one of these players is already out and the other could soon follow, I think that gives Crouch a great chance. He took his goal well last night and could have had another with a header in the second half. Pennant had another good game, especially in the first half. He's really come on recently and I've changed my mind on his long term prospects at the club. If he was half a yard faster, then he'd be a world beater. Rafa took the oppertunity to rotate as the game died a death and we saw Paletta get a run out. He had some poor games earlier in the season but he's still young and has great examples to learn from in Agger, Sami and Carra.

So it's Chelsea in the next round. The war of words has started already and we can expect to hear a lot of talk from Jose in the next few weeks about Garcias goal in the 2005 semi final. It's a pity that we don't have Garcia fit for this stage of the competition as his ability to pull a goal out of nowhere in europe is invaluable. He is one of the few players in our squad who can do that. Kewell may be back shortly but I don't expect him to be match fit given how long he's been out. It's going to be really tough over the two legs but having them at Anfield for the second leg is a bonus. Hopefully they might get a few injuries in the meantime. I think that we can beat them, but I don't know if we will. I'll go for us to shade it, maybe on away goals. In the other tie I think that the youth and vigour of Utd will overcome a fairly toothless Milan. Don't see where the goals are going to come from for Milan beyond Kaka.

Back to the bread and butter of the lague on Sat with Man City at Eastlands. City are safe enough in 12th place so don't really have a huge amount to play for. We shuold be able to win this but I have a slight fear that our league campeign might peter out somewhat as we concentrate on Europe. I would like us to finish as high up the table as possible and as close to Chelsea/Utd as possible but if we finish third or fourth then it doesn't really matter I suppose.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Dirk delivers

What a difference a sub, or two, makes? It really looked like we were heading for a score draw at Reading. But with five minutes to go, Pennant came in from the right wing and beat the full back on the edge of the box. He delivered a sweet cross with the outside of his right boot which hung in the air long enough for Kuyt to meet it and power his header downwards into the net. It was great play from two of Rafas subs.

It was good to see Dirk score as he's looked a bit tired and short on confidence recently. He has 10 goals in the premiership this season which puts him one behind AJ at Everton and two behind Rooney. It would be great if he could get a few more over the next few games and finish his first English season with 12-14 goals.

Pennant has improved over the last six or seven games and had a great match against Arsenal. He made a telling impact here when he came on. I would like ot see him get a start against PSV so that he could grab a goal or a few assists.

Arbeloa had another great game and capped it with a stunning goal that you would surprised to see coming from a striker. He ran from his own half before exchanging a one two with Crouch. He was then through on goal with only the keeper to beat and he curled a beautiful shot around the goalie, in a manner that Michael Owen was fond of. Arbloa has been really impressive ever since his debut against Barca, where he marked Messi out of the match.

It was great to see Utd lose to Portsmouth at the weekend. It will make for a really interesting title run in now. Chelsea can do it if the win at Stamford bridge and utd lsip up again. But I still think it's more likely that Utd will hold on to their lead and stagger over the finish line, like students after happy hour.

The race for third got a bit more exciting after Arsenal were beaten by West Ham. We're now five points clear but they still have a game in hand. Arsenal have now lost three league games in a row for the first time in years. They play Newcastle today, and I for one, will cheering on the Toon. There is a real chance now that Arsenal could miss out on the champions league next season. I have nothing against them but it might make it easier for us to attract top class signings if we're not competing with them. Have a look here for an Irish Arsenal fans opinions on the "fuckin' excellent" Arse Blog.

It's hard to get too excited about the PSV match on Wed. Given that we're 3-0 up, I can't see Rafa taking too many chances. There is likley to be a lot of rotation and some of the fringe players like Zenden and Robbie will get a start, I would imagine. It might be interesting if some of the kids get a run out.

Crouch is 16-1 with Ladbrookes for top scorer in champs league and might be worth a punt. He was 33-1 before the PSV match. Paddy Power generally have poorer odds than their competitors in my view.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

PSV pulverised

That was much easier than I expected. I never imagined that PSV were a great team but I expected Koeman to "park the bus" in front of the goal. As it happened, Gerrard scored from a finnan cross early enough meaning that PSV had to try and chase the game. This left them stretched and exposed at the back. Riise added the second after half time with a stunning left foot strike from distance. I've been critical of him in the past but when he hits them like that, it's easy to forget his failings. Crouch got the third on the hour mark with a powerful header. Again it was a Steve Finnan cross from the right hand side that set him up. It's a pity that Stan Stanton doesn't pay attention to this and plays him at left back. Finnan is the best full back in the premiership in my view. Crouch seems to have improved his heading since coming back from his broken nose. Maybe Rafa should have broken it for him earlier in the season.

The injury to Fabio Aurelio was the one major downside of the match. He'll be out for the rest of the season after his Achilles injury. I feel sorry for the lad as he was starting to establish himself in the team and had a superb game on Saturday against Arsenal.

I think that we now have an unassailable lead going into the second leg next Wed. PSV aren't very good and will have to chase the game at Anfield without Alex and Kone. I would imagine that Rafa will rotate a few squad members as the tie is over. In the other quarter finals, I still think that we'll see Man Ure, Chelsea and Milan advance to the Semis.

A trip to the Madjeski stadium to play Reading is next up on Sat. They are safe in their league position now so I don't know if they will have a huge ammount to play for. I would like to see us do them over to try and keep the pressure up on Arsenal in fourth. They still have a game in hand, for now.

It sounds like the meetings between Rafa and the American owners went well last weekend. There was some speculation during the week that Rafa would be handed a "£40m warchest" for transfers in the summer. I don't know where the journos get these figures from but I would imagine that many are plucked from thin air. If we are to spend big on a striker, I don't think it will be on Samuel Eto'o. He says that he is happy in Barca, and who could blame him?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Crouch Classic

I have seen the light. On Saturday I was privilaged to witness the power and the glory that was the Peter Crouch show at Anfield. The Sunday Times said that he "played like Marco Van Bastin" and they weren't far off. As the losing manager said:

"He was superb," said Wenger. "Everything he did was intelligent. He has the size of a basketball player but the skill of a real football player. If you had put a real basketball player in, Kolo and Gallas would have had no problem."

It was a classic hat trick in the classic sense. A right foot near post strike in the first half, a towering heading, and a superb individual effort for the winner which was the pick of the bunch. Everything he did turned to gold and he could have had a couple more. In form like this he is unstoppable. Hopefully he'll be able to keep it up for the rest of the Premiership and the Champions league.

He wasn't the only star performer though. Mascherano, Pennant and Aurelio all had very good matches. Gonzalez put in some quality crosses. I think that the 4231 formation gave Pennant and Gonzalez room and liscence to move forward and support Crouch. I'm hopeing that the two of them can push on and make up for poor starts to the season.

PSV tomorrow night won't be a walkover. Koeman is no mug and has a couple of impressive results against English teams with Benfica and now PSV. We tend not to do as well when we're billed as favourites. But the fact that Alex and Kone are out injured should help. An away goal or two would make it a lot easier at Anfield.

Ron Deco rang me on Thursday afternoon to say that he had two tickets for me which was amazing. It was great to know that they were sorted and we weren't going over not knowing if we were going to get into Anfield or not. Our tickets were for the main stand, on the left side, near the Anfield road end, where the Away fans sit. This meant that we got to hear all of the banter between the fans. It was all good natured and quite entertaining when chants were composed and exchanged. My Dad is an Arsneal fan but I think he was happy that Liverpool won, for me. The last time we went to a game Chelsea hammered us 4-1 at Anfield. Needless to say, I wasn't on great form after that. This time I was much happier after the game. Here's a picture that I took with my phone. The resolution isn't great but you can get an idea of what a privilage it is to sit at Anfield.