Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Reds dump Deepdale

2-0 and through to the next round is the headline but there are some interesting sub plots.

First, after being clinical against Newcastle and Bolton, we returned to our normal form this season where we create lots of chances but refuse to take them, letting the opposition back into the game. We made countless chances in the first half and should have been out of sight. I'm afraid to say that Keane was the main culprit here and had a string of embarrassing misses. It's not the the first time this year and I won't be drawing any conclusions from it but it's about time he got his act together and started taking simple chances. But, as he himself has said, let's judge him at the end of the season in May.

Secondly, Torres returned with a goals after coming off the bench. Good man Nando. Stevie unselfishly set him up after Babel had released the pair on goal with a flicked header. Great to see El Nino back in competitive action.

Thirdly, Alonso came off injured with his leg in a cast. There is no word yet on how long he'll be out for but it didn't look good. Luckily Lucas stepped into the breach and did well, but while he's improving, he's no Xabi. Who is?

Lastly, there were contrasting performances from the wingers. Riera was superb after a slow start and was a menace down the flank. He took his goal really well and set up Keane for what should have been another. In contrast, Babel was quite ineffective. I'm starting to think that he's finished at Anfield. He hasn't progressed this year and I fear Rafa will move him on in the summer. He doesn't appear to have the desire to stake a claim to a spot in the team and I can't see Rafa picking a half hearted player ahead of a less talented but more committed player like Dirk. I hope Ryan proves me wrong. We've drawn Everton in the next round which is a bit of a kick in the teeth but we've shown we are capable of beating them easily enough over the last few seasons. To be honest, I would swap a cup exit for three points against them in the league at Anfield the week before.

It's back to the bread and butter of the league when the leaders visit the potteries to face Stoke this Saturday. They managed to frustrate us with a scoreless draw at Anfield and I'm sure Rafa and co will want revenge. This time we should have Torres back in the saddle. The fact that United face Chelsea at the weekend if a huge boost for us. A draw there or even a Chelsea win would please me greatly.
Pennant wants to go to Spain. To Atletico perhaps? I'm happy enough to see him leave for any club as he won't contribute anything for the rest of the season.

Lucas thanks Rafa for backing him. As mentioned above, the kid has improved a lot in recent games. He'll have a good chance to build on this in matches to come if Xabi is badly injured.

Icelandic midfielder Victor Palsson who plays for Aarhaus is being linked with a move to L4. It should get sorted sometime over the month.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Just when I thought everything was going so well...

Balls. It's all kicking off. That's brought things back down to earth with a bang. There doesn't seem to be too many details so far so I'll hold fire until I know more. He won't be the first premiership footballer to spend a night in a jail cell and won't be the last either. Could be trivial but could be quite serious.
Back to more pleasant thoughts like the fact that we hammered the toon 5-1. On the pitch, everything is coming together nicely. After some indifferent form, we're starting to click. That's 8 goals in our last two games. And it could have been way more here. Only for an in form Shay Given it could have been double figures. An outstanding Gerrard managed to score two. The second of which was the goal of the day. A sublime through ball from the impressive Lucas freed Gerrard beyond the full back where he casually dinked the ball over an onrushing Given after giving him the eyes. World class.

Much was made of how terrible Newcastle were. We must remember that this is the same Newcastle team that held Chelsea goalless at Stamford bridge and drew with Man Utd in Old Toilet? How is it that a Liverpool team that is often labeled as defensive and conservative managed to score five against them away from home? I like the fact that we spread the goals around. Babel scored the scuffiest goal of the year after the Newcastle defence stood still for 10 mins, giving him time to put it in at the second attempt. Sami got one from a Gerrard corner and went really close with a few more headed efforts. Xabi took the penalty that Ngog won as Stevie had been taken off. Ngog himself could have scored but his attempt was ruled out.

I'm very happy for Lucas. Rafa showed faith him him despite the Kop jeering his selection and introduction into matches. He's repaid Rafa's faith and was good against Arsenal and great against Newcastle. I'm hoping that he'll build on this form in the second half of the season. We're starting to see the box to box midfielder that was the youngest player ever to have won player of the year in Brazil.

On Saturday it's time for the third round of the FA cup so get ready for loads of cliches about magic and stuff. We drew Preston North End who we should be able to beat with the B team. If we lose, I don't care. We're all about the league this year.

This is a name that we've heard before. Doesn't mean that I can spell it properly so I won't even attempt it. He'll cost a lot of cash so I reckon there will have to be a few outgoings if we are to launch a bid for him.

Adam Hamill is on his way back to the club after a loan spell at Blackpool. He's an exciting winger who can play left or right so it would be great to see Rafa give him a go here for the second half of the season. We might see him used as an impact sub, the way El Zhar has appeared recently. He may even get a run out against Preston in the cup.

Danny Agger wants his contract sorted. Git it signed Rick.

Dion Fanning in the Irish Indo has written another great piece about Rafa and the job he's done at the club. He's one of the best Irish sports writers. Pity he writes for such a poor paper. Paul Tomkins looks into Rafa rotating his side over Christmas and decides it's not such a bad thing. Maximum points and loads of goals back up his decisions.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Premier league 80% won?

Three and easy would sum up the Bolton game. Robbie continued his form from the Arsenal match and scored two lovely goals, after Riera had opened the scoring. The boss was back in the stands after his operation, to preside over the beating. We're still top of the table at the halfway point, have the second best goal difference and all is rosy in the Anfield garden. How's that for festive cheer?

The team was set up somewhat differently to recent home matches. Javier sat on the bench and Dirk was put up beside Robbie. Riera and Yossi pushed on from the flanks, assisted by Insua, who was outstanding at left back again, and Carragher from the right. Xabi and Stevie were able to pull the strings in the middle. And it it worked like clockwork. I think this has proved that we need to commit the extra attacker against unambitious teams at home. Javier is fantastic but not really need in these games. I'm sure that he'll be back in the team against Newcastle on Sunday.
Will Rafa feel the need to mix it up with two games in 72 hours? In the past he definitely would have. One change that nobody will argue with is seeing Torres take a place on the bench. Rumour has it that he's ready and raring to go. About time, in fairness. We've missed him in all of our draws but I think the decision to leave him until he was right, was the correct decision. Newcastle lost to Wigan in their last match and they're a bit flakey but nowhere near the pushover that they were before Kinnear came in. He's put some backbone and fight into them. Let's hope that we don't see an Owen headline for the wrong reasons on Monday.

Voronin may make his move to Hertha Berlin permanent. Another player on loan has been doing well for his club Olympiakos. Watch Seb Leto score a great goals when he picks the ball up in his own half and runs the length of the pitch before scoring a belter.

Xabi had an interview in the daily mail which you can read here. Johnathon Wilson discusses our tactics and Rafa's manipulation of space, both at Valencia and now at Anfield. He's an interesting writer and his book on tactics is reputed to be a great read.

The Mirror suggest that Celtic have made a bid for Pennant who Madrid want too. I can't see him going anywhere as he can go for free if he stays until the summer. Meanwhile, the daily Mail think that AC Milan are after Dossena.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Red Robbie guns Gooners

Good man Robbie. Not bad for the €20m flop that he's been labeled. It was an astounding finish, not one from a player who has looked out of form and short on confidence at times this year. Together with van Persie's strike, there were some great goals on show for the neutral. 1-1 keeps us top but with Chelsea facing Everton, we'll need the toffees to do us a favour in order to stay there.

With Rafa back on his sick bed after his operation, Sammy Lee was the boss. He was disappointed with the draw. As was I Sammy. The win was there for the taking after the red card to Adebayor. John Giles on RTE said that the red card was fully justified for a studs up over the ball challenge which would have broken Arbeloas leg if it had made full contact. Graham Taylor on BBC 5live said it should have been a straight red. But our team seemed to respond negatively to the boon and Arsenal fought like Lions to preserve parity. Fair play to them but I think we could have caught them if we really pushed hard enough. We had them on the rack for most of the second half. We were the better team overall and created some great chances but as per usual this season, we didn't make them count. I do feel that if we had a fit Torres then there would clear daylight between us and the chasing pack rather than a point or two.

Aurelio was still injured as was Dossena so Insua took the left back berth and made it his own. He was superb and my man of the match. It was a really impressive display from the 19 year old. He raided down the left and delivered some great crosses. I would be quite happy so see him get a run of games there now.

Another who stepped up was Lucas in the midfield. Javier was struck down with flu so the Blonde Brazilian came in and put it up to the Arsenal midfield. He did have a few hairy moments in the first half but improved as the game went on. He will be happy with himself after that. It probably helped him that Fabregas went off injured at half time. You do need to have a squad of quality players in order to compete at this level and Lucas is improving as our fourth choice midfielder. I hope the crowd give him a chance.It's time to bash Bolton on Stephen's day. They are the kind of team that we should be able to put away easily but we've struggled badly against this season. I expect Javier will be back but we could have an even great boost if El Nino is fit enough for a place on the bench. It's very important that he's right when he does return so I wouldn't be in favour of rushing him back for Bolton.

Slovak hero Martin Skrtel is back in training. Be prepared for premier league defenders to develop sudden injuries before kick off at the thought of facing mighty Martin. He could feature against Bolton on Stephen's day.

Riera admits that we've been nervous at Anfield this season. This is an area in which we really need to improve if we're going to win the league. We need to make teams fear us rather than us fearing dropping points against inferior opposition.

The Mirror speculates that Pennant may be on his way to White Heart lane in a player plus cash deal for Aaron Lennon. Given that he can leave for free in the summer, Pennant isn't worth much more than about £2-3m now. Glen Johnson is due to be sold in January as Portsmouth have massive debts and has been linked with a move to L4. He would be a good signing for us and would provide cover and competition for Arbeloa. He's improved since he went to Portsmouth and seems to have left his toilet problems behind him. Plus the fact that he's English helps with the law changes for homegrown players.

The Champions League draw matches us with Real Madrid for the first time since the 1981 final. This is a classic tie against two European heavyweights. It won't be easy but Real aren't in great form now. Ramos may make a difference and they seem to be spending a lot of cash in Jan.

This is why the Keane to Spurs speculation is rubbish. It goes against Premier League rules. That seems to have slipped the minds of some of the hard working journo's who've been stirring this story recently.

Richard Williams has a really badly written piece in the guaridan on Rafa's tenure at LFC, full of half truths and speculation. Does anybody else feel that standards are dropping at the Guardian or is it just the sports dept?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Red in Dublin goes mobile

You can now get Red In Dublin news and views, plus scores, sports news and much more sent direct to you phone using a free mobile service called Natajak. All you need to do is CLICK HERE, register and install it on your mobile. Red In Dublin will be preinstalled so you will get any news updates we publish sent direct to your phone. Natajak can also be used to text, email and even share photos. Natajak make no charge for the service, it runs on most mobiles that can access the internet and works just about anywhere in the world.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Does anybody want to win the league?

2-2 at home against Hull isn't good enough. Fortunately, neither was Utd's draw with Spurs, Arsenal's draw with Boro or Chelsea's home draw with West Ham. It seems it's tough at the top for all of the big four this year. So the question remains, who wants to win the league title?

If we had put any sort of decent form together over the last half dozen games, we'd be 7 or more points clear rather than the solitary point we lead the table by now. One is the loneliest number as Amy Mann said. The lads showed considerable hunger and drive to come back from two down in an action packed first half. The captain struck again with two quality goals. But we weren't able to apply the finishing touch despite immense pressure and loads of possession. This has become a recurring theme against inferior opposition at home. Sami did hit the post and the Hull keeper pulled off some great saves but it didn't happen for us.On Sunday we'll be hoping to take a leaf out of Hull's book and win at the Emirates. Arsenal are in indifferent form, but so are we. It didn't stop them beating Utd and Chelsea this season. It would fit in with their current trend to get a poor result v Boro and then beat us. They do have quite a few injuries and their midfield is looking quite mediocre bar Fabregas, so we should have it in us to take all 3 points. But will we? All will be revealed on Sunday.

Rafa has rubbished reports in the S*n which said that our manager wrote off our title chances. Some of the red tops were trying to slate him for saying we couldn't win the league, which he didn't say, and then he was knocked for saying we've a great chance if we're still top after Christmas. The statics back him up as for the last four years, whoever is top after the Christmas period has won the title. Ramon Calderon finishes the Rafa review by saying that Madrid weren't trying to sign him.

Dossena reveals how Rafa has been helping him adapt to the league. He was at fault for McShane's goal on Sat. But he has been playing a hell of a lot better over the last few games. I hope he can regain his confidence and build a career in England. It would be a shame for him and the club if he had to return to Italy as a failure.

Kuyt never feels tired. You can understand that a statement like that is music to Rafa's ears. Terminator and Robocop have nothing on deadly Dirk. I wonder who Rafa would sign given the choice between Berbatov and Kuyt if money were no object?

Xabi is the league's pass master. He's been our player of the season and is making us tick in almost every match. The brain of the team.

Is Agger's agent trying to engineer a move away or just get extra money out of his contract talks? I would give him the money every time. The fact that he's been benched for Sami is slightly worrying. Does this suggest that the contract talks are going badly?

It seems that we're closing the gap on Utd in terms of worldwide fan base. A survey by Barcleys shows that we're level with them on 26% each. Get on.

I'll leave with a quote from the Argentine manager after Istanbul.

"Liverpool showed that miracles exist. They proved that football is the most beautiful sport of them all. After this game, my English team is going to be Liverpool. I came across some of their fans beforehand and they told me they were going to win, but that they would be made to suffer. It's just the way it happened. Liverpool are the best team in the world for what they have done in this Champions League. They deserved the Cup."

Diego Maradona

Monday, December 08, 2008

B team bonus

Abert Riera declared that he wanted us to finish the group stage in style. While he may have been disappointed with the first half, we certainly delivered in the second half, not least Riera himself who hit a stunning strike from distance. A 3-1 win away from home in the Champions League is always an achievement. When it's done without most of your first team regulars, that makes it even more impressive. The win made sure of top spot in the group on 14 points, which in theory should give us an easier draw on Friday 19th, but in reality the only bonus is the certainty that we play our second leg match at Anfield in the next round.

Robbie says he's going nowhere in Jan. I don't think that he was ever going to move, it was just paper talk. He was one of the notable performers last night in the second half and his through ball for N'Gog was sublime as was another where he set Lucas. He could have had a few goals if Babel and N'Gog had supplied him with the ball when he was in good positions. He came under some fire for his moaning over not receiving the ball but many premiership players do the same thing such as Gerrard now and Cantona in his day.

Lucas said that he wanted to repay the faith that Rafa has shown in him. The boss said that the Brazilian's performance was outstanding, as was that of N'Gog. Dossena built on his good showing against West Ham with another convincing performance at left full. Now we are starting to see some of the form that made him the Italian left back and Rafa pay £7m for him. Some of his crossing and attacking runs were fantastic.

It was great to see the Scouse kids getting a run out towards the end. I'm sure all of the academy players were looking on with pride when they saw their erstwhile team mates Darby, Kelly and Spearing, play in the worlds biggest club competition. I'm sure that Rafa will give them a chance in the FA cup if he feels it's worth the risk.Hull city represent tough test at Anfield this Saturday afternoon. We've seen too many teams park the bus and succeed in frustrating a scoreless draw out of us. We can't let this happen again. Fortunately, I don't think that Hull will pack their defence to the same degree which should leave gaps for us to exploit. Their ambition to do to us what they did to Arsenal could be their undoing. I expect the big guns who were rested v PSV, like Gerrard, Alonso and Kuyt, will come back for this league match, fitness permitting.

It sounds like Babel was so desperate for some more game minutes that he asked his agent to organise a loan back to his first club of Ajax. It was unsuccessful. One player who could be on his way to Holland could be Jordy Brower of the reserve team. Utrecht officials have mentioned him as a possible transfer target in Jan. I don't think that there would be too many tears shed if he were to return to his homeland as it would give the likes of Ince, Della Valle and others a chance to get a look in with the reserves.

Press reports suggest that contract talks between Rafa and the board have gone well and he'll sign a new 5 year deal in the next few days. This will be the most important signing of the season by far when it happens. Fingers crossed.

On the subject of new contracts, Galliani of AC Milan is denying comments attributed to him recently saying that he wanted to buy Danny Boy Agger. I really hope that Parry gets the finger out and signs him up to a new contract asap. This kid is a star and will be one of the best defenders in Europe in years to come. It will be a disgrace if we let him go on the cheap.

Ian Rush looks back on the career of Sami and declares him a red legend. It takes one to know one but I don't think that there would be any argument about Hyypia. Not bad for £2.5m almost 10 years ago.

Matt Hughes in the Times has a ridiculous piece on Rafa's transfers. There's so much wrong with this article that I don't know where to start. Journos have it easy, getting paid money to write shite like that. Hilarious.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Robbieless reds rout rovers

LFC are back to winning ways with a 3-1 win away at Blackburn. At half time I was afraid that it was going to be yet another one of those days where we struggled to break down a packed defence. Pepe had kept us in the game with a superb save from Pederson after 30 mins. But in the second half Blackburn came at us a bit more and gaps opened. We exploited them to take our first win in three league matches, a win which keeps us a point clear at the top of the league. "Everybody's chasing Liverpool" as the commentator said yesterday. If we're still top in Jan I'll let myself get excited, for now it's a case of one game at a time.

Xabi opened the scoring after the hour mark with a shot which he passes into the net. Xabi was back to his best after a few mediocre performances. Yossi added the second after beating Warnock on the edge of the area, he shot past Robinson to place the ball inside the far post. Rafa will be annoyed that Santa Cruz was allowed to pull one back with a close range header for them with a few minutes to go. Stevie G put the icing on the cake after being set up by Riera.

Insua made a start and played really well in the absence of the injured Aurelio. He looked at home in the first team and added a lot going forward. He looks a safer bet than Dossena at the this stage. Yossi did well with his goal and could have had another in the first half only for a vital challenge from Warnock. But he is surely a squad player rather than somebody you rely on every week. Babel did alright with a few runs but could have contributed more. Setanta were getting ready to lambaste Rafa for not starting Keane if we didn't win. I'm hoping that Robbie will see this as a warning that nobody is guaranteed a place despite their price tag and step up his end product. It's the final match of the champions league this week and PSV host Liverpool FC knowing that they can't make it through to the last 16. We could do with banging a few goals in to improve our goal difference, which will enable us to finish ahead of Atleti, who face a harder journey to Marseille. The goals haven't really been flowing for us recently so this is a good chance to turn that around with a prize awaiting us if we can. Agger will come back in for Sami as the Finn isn't registered for the Champions league this year. I expect that Keane will be given a start and hopefully will repay that with goals.

It sounds like Gerrard is maturing when it comes to his position on the pitch. He is no longer demanding where he wants to be played. I'm glad to hear it. In the past I thought he was too selfish in trying to dictate where he should be played. That's a decision for Rafa to make, not Gerrard, not Jamie Redknapp, not Andy Gray nor anybody else.

Ince junior helped the youth team to advance to the next round of the FA youth cup by beating Leeds 2-1. It would be great if they could make a run in the competition this year. There are some very highly rated players in their ranks.

Torres has gone to Spain in search for a cure to his hamstring problems. There are mixed reports as to how long he might be out for. One suggests he'll be back in the new year with another saying he could be back for the Christmas programme. While we needs his goals, his long term fitness is more important.

Argentine kid Zuculini won't be making his way to Anfield just yet apparently. English kid Hammill will be coming back in January according to Sky. Maybe Rafa sees him as an impact sub on the left the same way he uses El Zhar on the right at the moment.

Tony Barett in the Echo suggests that Dubai may have dropped their interest in the club as cash for big investments isn't readily available anymore. If this is accurate then we could be in big trouble. The Times has a similar story. There may be trouble ahead.

The FA won't be taking actions against Liverpool over the Michael Shields demonstration. If you want to examine the facts and evidence which is stacked in Michael's favour, I suggest checking out the BBC inside out documentary on him here. Very informative. I'm very happy that the club have taken a stand here and backed one of their own. Unusual to see a premier league club make a decision like that without a financial motive behind it. Lawrence Donegan in the Guardian has a well thought out piece on the subject.