Sunday, April 25, 2010

To the Maxi

Atletico beat us 1-0 in Madrid on Thursday night to put them firmly in the driving seat of this two legged tie. In truth, it wasn't a great game or performance from either team. Forlan did well to beat Pepe but it was a scrappy goal that we should have cleared. This was compounded when Yossi scored a legitimate goal minutes later which was disallowed for offside. Ngog struggled up front and couldn't hold the ball up on his own. Atleti will be happy that they managed to prevent us from scoring and will fancy their chances at Atfield on Thursday given they'll have Aguero back, we're missing Torres and they have a lead to protect. Not good. We can do it but Atleti are deserved favourites.

We finished the week with a 4-0 away win over Burnley. The first half was crap and we only got going with a deflected goal in the second half. Gerrard's strike wrong footed the Jansen when it took a deflection off a defender. His second was a sweet strike from distance, the kind of goal which he made his name with. Maxi scored his first goal for Liverpool, not before time. He's been a superb signing since he arrived and you can see how his technique, passing and movement help those around him. I expect him to bag a lot more goals next season.

Aquilani had a good game and reveled in the space available to him. He managed to set up three goals which is a pretty good return regardless of the opposition. I would like to see Alberto get an extended run and build on it with a full pre season behind him next season. Rafa has said he could play in the hole more regularly rather than in central midfield.
Some of the UK Press have been linking Torres with a move to City. I think this is unlikely and if he does leave us in the future, it will not be to another English club from theses quotes. I'd hate to see him leave but if he does, I could accept him playing for FC Barcelona a lot easier than City or Chelsea. He is also very complimentary about Rafa and his man management style, not something you hear very often in the press.

We've opened out summer spending with a move for Charlton midfielder Jonjo Shelvey. It a done deal now for around £1.7m rising to £3m and it's connected with an arrangement with Charlton. He's only 18 but has been talked about as a talent for a few years. The Mail suggest we're signing 15 year old Swede Kristoffer Peterson who's been on trial at the Academy.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Three and easy

Thanks Hammers. A 3-0 home win was exactly what we needed ahead of a Europa league semi final on Thursday. The Londoners turned up in body but not in mind and didn't really look up for it. Yossi opened the scoring from a Gerrard free kick on the right. It tucked it into the net with his chest, not his arm as some of the defenders were claiming. Ngog got the second with a fine finish from a Maxi cross. The French kid has had the difficult task of doing a Torres impression with our Spanish talisman out injured. He did have Dirk as backup here and it seemed to help him. The lone striker role doesn't really suit David. Rafa was impressed with young Ngog's performance against the Hammers.We added a third goal in the second half when a Kygiakos header hit the post and went in of Rob Green. The big greek is really dangerous at set pieces and could score a shed load if we get the delivery to him right. Zola and his charges offered nothing to trouble us and we were able to take our foot off the gas in the second half.

With the continuing air travel restrictions due to the volcanic ash cloud, Liverpool started a 24-hour journey to Madrid on Tuesday. It's a train, plane and coach journey to reach the Spanish capital, not ideal preparation for a European semi final. They players will probably be knackered when they get home later this week. Atletico will be tough opposition over two legs, especially now that El Nino will be absent for the rest of the season. It's a pity that Fernando is injured as he would have loved to have played against his old club. We'll be looking for the likes of Kuyt and Babel to deliver in his place. They have some dangerous forwards in Reyes, Forlan and Aguero, who is suspended for the first leg. Talented but flaky is how they're described by Sid Lowe here.

Paul Tomkins has an article detailing the importance of a good keeper and stresses the importance of Pepe Reina to the way we play. Maybe the way we played last year would be more accurate. I'm a huge Pepe fan and I'm thrilled he's signed his new contract. We won't do any better than him.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Fulham frustrate

The 0-0 draw with Fulham on Sunday was sadly predictable. As is often the case when Torres is out, we lacked the cutting edge to break down a massed defence, despite all of our possession. Watching the game, it didn't look like a goal would come. Fairplay to Fulham, they parked the bus and got a point. They'll be happy with that. Ngog didn't have a great game up top. It was good to see Pacheco get another few minutes towards the end. Hopefully Rafa will continue to play him now that fourth spot looks gone.

We play West Ham on Monday night. They are in a desperate state and are fighting for survival so I can see their desire being greater than ours. There have been too many occasions this year where the players look like they don't care and aren't giving it everything. I can accept a player not being good enough, if he is trying. When they don't try, that annoys me.
The big news this week was the statement from Hicks and Gillett that they're going to step down and appoint Martin Broughton as Chairman. This coupled with their stated desire to sell the club looks like good news. But we've had so many false dawns with them over the years that I'm remaining skeptical for now. Rafa gave a it a cautious welcome.

David Conn in the Guardian has a good piece on Hillsbourgh this week, the 21st anniversary of the disaster.

Young Hungarian Keeper Peter Gulacsi has joined Tranmere Rovers on emergency loan for a week. He should get a bit of game time while he's there. I'd happily let Cavalieri leave this summer and let the likes of Gulacsi step up as our backup keeper.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Europa joy

What would you prefer, a Europa cup or fourth spot in the league and a Champions League place? I would have said fourth spot at the start of the season but as time goes by, I'm warming to the idea of a Europa cup. The
4-1win over Benfica on Thursday night got the heart racing. It was a great performance from the lads. We went at them, like we often do at Anfield on a European night. If only we had taken this form into our away league games this year.

Dirk Kuyt opened the scoring and Lucas followed soon after. It was the Brazilians first of the season and he showed great composure to latch onto a superb ball from Gerrard and round the keeper. I think the kop would like to see more of that side of his game. Our third goal was a superb counter attacking move at pace with Dirk hitting a class cross from the right and El Nino slotting home. Torres lobbed the keeper for the last goal after a superb Lucas tackle in the middle set us on the attack. The only downer on the night was the consolation goal for Benfica when a free kick took a deflection off the wall and went in. It gave us a few nervous minutes before we got our fourth. Special mention to Javier and Fernando who avoided bookings which would have kept them out of the next round. Not so Sergio Aguero who was booked in Ateltico's match with Valencia and he'll miss the first leg, two weeks from now. Atleti will be a tough game but we should be able to beat them over two legs, despite their talented squad.It's back to the league matters tomorrow with Fulham visiting Anfield. The cottagers could be Europa cup final opponents if we manage to get that far. Their away form isn't great unlike our home form which means we really should be able to do them. I know the chances of sneaking fourth are slim but we have to keep pushing in case City do slip up.

Pepe Reina has given us a massive boost by signing a six year deal which will keep him at the club until 2016. This is brilliant news. I wouldn't swap him with any other keeper in Europe, with the exception of Casillas.

Rafa has said that we need investment in the team and we won't get back to competitiveness by wheeling and dealing as we have been doing over the last two seasons. If it's not forthcoming, I can see him leaving the club in the summer. That would suit Hicks and Gillett as they wouldn't have to pay him off and could get somebody cheaper in to do a job.

The Mirror have a transfer rumour with quotes from Dutch Wunderkind Georginio Wijnaldum, saying it would be a dream move for him to come to Liverpool. Let's hope that he lives up to his billing, unlike our last dutch Wunderkind, Babel. Feyenoord would want around £5m for him.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Benfica away and Birmingham home

We went to Portugal last week and came back with an away goal but little else. Danny Agger gave us the opener with this lovely flick. Then Luisao went through Torres from behind in a tackle that should have seen him see red. Babel decided to step in and defend El Nino, which is fair enough. But he then stuck his hand in Luisao's face which was thick and the ref sent him off. After that we were up against it. Insua got booked and conceded a peno. Later on, Carra conceded another with a handball inside the area. They took both of their kicks and we left Portugal with a 2-1 deficit. The away goal means it's not insurmountable but we're up against it. We've no left back for the second leg tomorrow as Insua is suspended. It could be three at the back or else Agger at left back? We'll find out soon.

The weekend started well with Spurs losing to Sunderland. I can see them falling away now. Unfortunately we didn't fulfill our side of the bargain and all we could manage at Birmingham was a 1-1 draw. Gerrard hit a great shot from inside the area in the second half but we let them equalise soon after. Rafa took Torres off with around 25 mins to go. I didn't really agree with it but maybe he had a knock. In fairness, Ngog changed things when he came on and we created lots of chances. He wasn't able to convert any and we left with a point. On the face of it, it's not a bad result as they've held everybody decent to a draw at home. But with games running out and City in pole position, it looks like we'll miss out on fourth. It would take a catastrophic dip in form for them to throw it away now. Looks like we're headed for the Europa league again next season.

But first there is the small matter of this years competition. We've got to overturn the 2-1 score at home tomorrow. They showed they're dangerous in the first leg and our defence will be a bit patched up as we've no left back. I think we can do it but we'll need to keep the likes of Di Maria quiet and watch out for them hitting us on the break. The ref in the first leg gave us very little so I'm hoping that evens itself out here.

Milan Jovanovic has confirmed that he'll sign for Liverpool on a free transfer this summer, work permit permitting. Sky Sports say that we're chasing 18 year old Rangers defender Danny Wilson.
It seems like Riera will be staying in L4 for the rest of the season after his move to Russia stalled. It's a pity as I doubt he'll play again and will be collecting his pay packet while sitting on his arse. Sky say we've offered a trial to 15 year old French player Moussa Kouyate who plays for Paris FC.

Here are the highlights of the reserves 2-1 win over Bolton. The goals came from David Ngog and an own goal from a Bruna free kick.