Friday, March 07, 2014

Has a new sun rose or is it a false dawn for Liverpool fans?

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The final whistle blew amongst party cries of ‘Were gonna win the League’ and ‘Poetry in Motion’ as Liverpool saw off a very spirited Southamption side at St. Marys. The party had been planned ever since Liverpool last challenged for the title, but now it’s in full swing, and the guests have well and truly arrived.

As Liverpool’s best season in five years nears its completion, questions are being asked as to whether this is the start of a new era for the club, or whether it’s just the club taking advantage of a series of managerial changes amongst their top four rivals.

Sitting comfortably in the top four, few can deny the Reds deserve their current placing in the Premier League, as excitement grows on Merseyside at the prospect of hearing the famous Champions League theme under the floodlights at Anfield.

After 4 mediocre seasons without Champions League football, Brendan Rodgers’s men have stepped up a level quite dramatically, the last two seasons they finished 7th and 8th, it would be, as Brendan Rodgers has repeated on numerous occasions, ‘unprecedented’ for the club to finish this campaign as Premier League champions.

We’re at that stage in the season where we all look back at the pivotal moments of the season, whether that’s Liverpool’s 5-0 victory over Tottenham or their more recently demolitions over Arsenal and Everton and questions that were being asked of Liverpool are finally being answered.

Are Liverpool the most exciting side to watch in the Premier League this season? Arguably, after all, they are the top scorers. Do they host the Premier League’s best strike force? Without a doubt. Can Liverpool’s class of 2014 improve further? You better believe it.

Many of Liverpool’s stars of the season are yet to reach their prime. Jordan Henderson, once maligned now revered in a red shirt, is only 23 and is one of the Premier League’s, and England’s most exciting youngsters. Raheem Sterling has the world at his feet and despite being at the raw age of 19, is already being described as England’s best winger, a claim you just can’t deny.

Then there’s the small matter of the two strikers Liverpool have. Sturridge and Suarez. Sturridge, who is now seen as England’s number one striker above £300k a week Wayne Rooney, is only 24 years of age, can he, like his partner in crime become one of the best strikers in the world? Of course he can, he’s at the right club to do so.

Luis Suarez, who is undoubtedly the form player in the world at this moment in time, has only just turned 26, still a year away from when strikers reach their ‘prime’. After a turbulent summer few could predict the season the Uruguayan has had. Would Liverpool be in this position without him? You have to say no, the Premier League’s top scorer and assist maker is invaluable, the longer he stays on L4, the better the chance Liverpool have of building a Shankly-like dynasty.

As well as the players, you have the manager. Without question, Brendan Rodgers is, and has been, the Premier League Manager of the Year. There was a lot of scepticism about the Ulsterman after a turbulent first 6 months, at such a young age, there were murmurs the ‘boy’ was out of his depth. Once the summer transfer window closed, the boy became the man, and that man has given the Kop faithful a new lease of life.

He’s a man with words, a man of integrity and comparisons are being drawn with a certain Mr Bill Shankly, who spearheaded Liverpool’s most successful period in their history. It’s too early to suggest Rodgers can enjoy a similar reign at the club to that of Shankly, his successor ‘Sir’ Bob Paisley or (whisper it quietly) Sir Alex Ferguson, but the signs are there.

Of course, due to the disappointing nature of the majority of Liverpool’s recent years, the attitude of fans remains that of hope not expectation, but if ever there was an opportunity for Liverpool to return to Europe’s big table this was it. As Tottenham and Manchester United have undergone dramatic cosmetic surgery, Liverpool have woken up from a four year slumber and they are only just getting started.

Liverpool’s famous anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone claims ‘At the end of a storm, there’s a golden sky’and after recovering from the clubs darkest days, whether they win the league or not, the Liverpool fans can bask in the glory of their season, and most importantly, bring in the new sun that's rising over Anfield.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Can Glen Johnson win back his Liverpool place?

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With Brendan Rodgers confirming Glen Johnson has returned to training this week, the big question will be whether or not he'll be able to win back his place in the Liverpool starting line-up.

Glen Johnson set for Liverpool return

Given the long period on the sidelines faced by the full-back, it may still be too soon for him to make a start in the Reds fixture with Swansea at Anfield on Sunday, but Rodgers has confirmed the defender is back in training and feeling close to full fitness.

“Glen has been back training,” Rodgers said in his pre-match press conference. “According to him, he has felt as good as he has done for a long time – which is great. He has looked very good in training and he’ll come into the squad.”

But even when fully-fit and ready to start there's still no certainty the England international will be able to immediately win back his place at right-back, with academy graduate Jon Flanagan being in excellent form in the absence of the veteran. 

Indeed, even before his injury, questions were being asked over Johnson's performances, with many suggesting that for all his good work going forward he is often lacking defensively. 

Vote below on whether you think Glen Johnson should be back in the starting line-up:


Liverpool starlet heads to Birmingham City on loan

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Liverpool youngster Jordon Ibe has agreed to join Championship outfit Birmingham City on loan for the rest of the season.

Liverpool winger Jordon Ibe

Ibe has been a regular on the bench for the Reds this season, though has only occasionally managed to make it out on to the pitch for the first-team.

The winger will join Lee Clark's struggling City side, who will be hopeful that the addition of Ibe will make a difference for the remaining games of the season.

Liverpool FC confirmed the deal through their official Twitter account.

The loan spell will undoubtedly be a temporary one, with Brendan Rodgers considering Ibe to be a major part of his plans for Liverpool's future.


Suarez: I'm not in the same class as Dalglish and Gerrard

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Liverpool striker Luis Suarez has stated he's not in the same class as club legends Kenny Dalglish and Steven Gerrard. 

Liverpool striker Luis Suarez

The Uruguayan has been in prolific form this season, scoring 23 goals in the league for the Reds, with the front man being the bookies favorite for the Premier League Golden Boot Award and Player of the Season title.

Yet the 27-year-old doesn't feel as though he can be held in the same regard as both Kenny Dalglish and Steven Gerrard, who Suarez considers the best of Liverpool's past and present.

“No, no, I’m not at that level,” Suarez told the the Liverpool Echo.

“Kenny is No 1. When he was a player he was just unbelievable. I’ve watched the videos of him.

“Stevie for me is the best player we have here. He has achieved so much.

“He’s our captain and a great leader. In the dressing room he never thinks he’s better than anyone else. For me he’s been one of the best player in the world for a lot of years.

“I think Liverpool have a long history with many great players. I hope one day to be up there with those great players. I’ll try my best to write some history here.”

Alongside hailing Dalglish and Gerrard, Suarez also heaped praise on his strike partner Danuel Sturridge, who has been instrumental in helping the number seven to his impressive goal tally. 

“I enjoy playing with Daniel and there is a good relationship between us,” he said.

“I think both players love scoring goals. It’s important when you have two or three players like that as it gives more confidence for the team.

“Daniel was scoring goals when I couldn’t play at the start of the season and then when Daniel was out injured I was able to score a lot of goals. It’s important for the team not to be relying on one player.”

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Arsenal v Liverpool Betting Preview

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With Liverpool set to face Arsenal in the FA Cup at the Emirates on Sunday, Josh Bradley looks at where's best for punters to place their money. 

Arsenal, Liverpool, Betting

Liverpool’s assault on the Premier League title takes a back seat this week, as the Reds travel to Arsenal in the F.A Cup on Sunday.

The game comes only a fortnight after Liverpool ran out comfortable 5-1 winners at Anfield, in the league, and this has led to a rather short price for Liverpool.

Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-0 earlier on in the season at the Emirates, in one of very few games where Rodgers got the tactics completely wrong and allowed us to be overrun in midfield. This won’t be the case on Sunday and the bookmakers cannot split the pair, with Liverpool a best-priced 17/10, and Arsenal trading around 7/4.

These are a bit short in-terms of a value bet, so we will leave this market and concentrate on the scorers market, which is where the value really lies.

Liverpool are likely to name a very strong side, with no mid-week fixtures to concentrate on, whilst Wenger is likely to rest a few players with the Champions League fixture against Bayern Munich only three days later. This is partially the reason Liverpool are being so well backed, and it may well pay to side with the man of the moment, Steven Gerrard.

The skipper netted an injury-time penalty to secure all three points at Craven Cottage on Wednesday evening, and comes into the game in inspired form, having adjusted extremely well to his new deeper role.

He still excels from set-pieces, and should he be given the freedom to attack from deep, his long shots will cause havoc all game. It always pays to stick with the form players, and 14/1 for Gerrard to net first looks large, with Suarez, Sterling and Sturridge all likely to cause the Arsenal defenders problems, which could lead to penalties.

So, take the 14/1 about Gerrard FGS, and take advantage of the 11/2 on offer with Coral, for Stevie to net any-time.

Elsewhere, the Man-of-the-Match market is one of great interest, with Luis Suarez looks great value at 15/2. If Liverpool are going to win, Suarez is going to play a major part, and with the Uruguayan being surprisingly quiet by his standards over the last few weeks, he will be looking to strike back with a bang on Sunday.

It would be fitting for Suarez to show Wenger exactly what he’s missed out on, and put in the type of performance that Liverpool fans have become so accustomed to seeing. His pace and trickery against the aging Per Mertersacker is sure to catch the eyes, and should he be able to convert one or two of his chances, the 15/2 (6/1 in places) will look massive.

The final bet to make Sunday that little bit sweeter, comes in the shape of a correct score. With the game expected to be a much tighter affair than previous encounters, there shouldn’t be too many goals in it at the very end.

Liverpool are likely to field a stronger side, and should be able to prevail after 90 minutes. However defensively, Liverpool always look prone to conceding at least one goal, so the 2-1 score-line does appeal at 10/1.

It is usually a case of ‘we’ll score more than you’, but with Rodgers paying homage to the importance of Martin Skrtel this week, the Reds will be out to show their defensive qualities, while you can guarantee going forward, Liverpool will always have a goal in them with the resurgence of the little magician Coutinho, feeding the trio of Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling.

The 10/1 does look a solid bet, and if all goes well, Gerrard will net first and then Suarez will play outstanding in a 2-1 Liverpool win, so we will end with a massive profit!


Steven Gerrard FGS @ 14/1
Steven Gerrard any-time @ 11/2
Luis Suarez to get MOTM @ 15/2
Arsenal 1-2 Liverpool @ 10/1

View from the Opposition: Arsenal v Liverpool

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With Liverpool set to face off against Arsenal in the FA Cup at the Emirates tomorrow, we caught up with the Executive Editor of The Sport Review and Arsenal fan Martin Caparrotta to get his thoughts on the fixture. 

Arsenal, Liverpool, FA Cup

First off, you probably don’t want to be reminded about last Saturday, but what sort of impact does it have on Arsenal going into this game?

I think that result had a big impact on Wednesday, when Arsenal were very cagey and clearly nervous against Manchester United. Defensive stability has been key to Arsenal's title bid so far this season so shipping four goals in 20 minutes was obviously a shock to the system. I expect Arsenal to be much tighter at the back on Sunday, as they were against United and in the games following their 6-3 loss at City before Christmas.

Arsenal have to handle a very crowded fixture list which has included Liverpool and Manchester United, with a clash with Bayern Munich following closely after the fixture on Sunday. Will Arsene Wenger look to use the depth in his squad n Sunday?

I'd expect so. Serge Gnabry could get a run-out. Personally, I'd also give Olivier Giroud a rest as he is clearly tired and maybe throw Lukas Podolski up front.

There’s been some questions raised about Mesut Ozil’s form as of recent. Do you think it’s simply a blip in form or something more serious?

I think it's just a blip. True, he had a brilliant start and has faded in recent months, but let's not forget it's his first campaign in England. I think we won't see the best of him until next season.

Speaking of which, who do you see as Arsenal’s key players going into the game, the ones which are going to give Liverpool the most to worry about?

I expect Podolski to play and he's offers a direct threat whenever he's deployed. Gnabry's pace can be hard to contain, too, if he gets a run-out. Ozil had a good game against United and will have a point to prove after a poor showing at Anfield, where he was caught in possession at least twice in the build-up to Liverpool goals.

And which players in the Liverpool squad are you most worried about coming up against?

Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez have been brilliant this season and the fact that they have a combined 39 league goals between them tells you all you need to know really. I've been impressed by Sturridge's finishing, and Suarez can create magic at any moment. That absurd turn and shot that hit the post against Arsenal on Saturday is a perfect example!

He may not have managed a goal against Arsenal in either of the Reds Premier League fixtures, but given Luis Suarez’s form, are you upset you missed out on him in the summer?

I think it's not unrealistic to say that with Suarez, Arsenal would be well on course to wrapping up the Premier League title this season. So from that perspective, yes. Any team would be improved by his presence and he looks to have got his head down and steered clear of controversy this season, too.

The Gunners may not have put in the best performances against Liverpool and United, but you must still be happy with the way the season is going so far? Do you think you have enough to win the title?

Absolutely. Most Arsenal fans will feel disappointed by the recent results, but when you look at the bigger picture, it's clear progress has been made from last season. As supporters, that's what you want to see. Sometimes you need to take a step back to realise you've taken a step forwards. That said, nine years without a trophy doesn't sound great.

What do you think of Liverpool’s season so far? Are they title contenders or just battling to get a top four place?

It's in their own hands. They're four points off the top of the table with 12 games to go and are competing with teams who will now also have to contend with the Champions League. They also have the advantage of welcoming City and Chelsea to Anfield, so in my opinion they're right in the mix. Whether they can show the consistency needed to actually get themselves over the line remains to be seen, but you can't say they don't have a chance.

Finally, can we have a score prediction?

3-1 to Arsenal.

You can read more from Martin on The Sport Review as well as following him on Twitter