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.