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Updated: 8 hours 46 min ago

Liverpool 3 - 0 Southampton: Saints put to the Sword at Anfield

8 hours 44 min ago
The Details

Date: 18/11/2017

Venue: Anfield, Liverpool

Background

Premier League football returned today after the final international break of the year. Liverpool welcomed Southampton to Anfield. The Reds failed to score against the Saints in four meetings last season and would be hoping to put things right today.

Joel Matip missed out through injury but Coutinho, Henderson and Mané were all fully recovered and made the starting eleven.

Shane Long replaced Gabbiadini as the lone striker for Southampton while Lemina was still out injured.

Teams

Liverpool lineup (4-1-2-3) – Mignolet; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Klavan, Moreno; Henderson(c), Wijnaldum, Coutinho; Salah, Firmino, Mané

Subs: Karius, Gomez, Milner, Can, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sturridge, Solanke

Southampton lineup (4-2-3-1) – Forster; Soares, van Dijk, Hoedt, Bertrand; Romeu, Davis(c); Tadic, Boufal, Redmond; Long

SubsMcCarthy, Yoshida, Targett, Hojbjerg, Ward-Prowse, Gabbiadini, Austin

The Action

Liverpool settled into this game very quickly. It was a similar level of control that the Reds displayed at West Ham last time out.

Both Firmino and Salah had an opportunity to open the scoring in the 9th minute after some dodgy handling by Forster but the Saints’ goalkeeper got away with his error on this occasion.

Liverpool were controlling possession and playing the game almost entirely in the Southampton half.

Wijnaldum tested Forster with a long-range effort in the 22nd minute. A minute later and Coutinho forced Forster into a full-length save to tip the ball wide of the post from his low drive.

In the 31st minute, there was nothing Forster could do to stop Salah’s curling effort. Firmino won the ball back for Liverpool just outside the box. Klavan played it to Wijnaldum and Gini found Salah wide on the right. Salah cut in on his left foot and curled a beauty of a strike into the far corner. 1-0!

Salah made it two in the 41st minute. Coutinho found him with a fantastic straight ball to find Salah’s diagonal run and the Egyptian forward finished first time with his left foot past the outrushing Forster. 2-0!

Southampton managed to give Mignolet a scare just before the break. Ryan Bertrand’s effort from a free-kick went just wide of Mignolet’s left post.

Half-time: Liverpool 2 – 0 Southampton

The game continued in much the same vein after half-time. Liverpool did what defending they had to do very well. Lovren made one great block, in particular, denying Boufal a strike on goal in the 51st minute.

Coutinho was making plenty of space for himself to get his shots away today. Forster saved one in the 53rd minute. The Brazilian maestro put another one just wide in the 62nd minute after great work by Salah to win the ball from Southampton.

In the 68th minute, Mané found Firmino in the box with a great reverse pass. Firmino’s strike was saved but the rebound went straight to Coutinho who put it into the unguarded net with a first-time finish from twelve yards out. 3-0!

Klopp then saved Coutinho’s legs, bringing him off for Emre Can a minute later. Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced Mané in the 74th minute.

Milner came on for the fantastic Mo Salah for the final ten minutes.

Firmino was still pressing ferociously. The energy he continues to display in every game is fantastic.

In the 84th minute, Firmino created space for himself before trying a low, left-footed strike from the edge of the box, but it went just wide.

Liverpool kept pushing forward but they couldn’t get a fourth. Three would have to do, for today.

Another encouraging performance from a dominant Reds team. Next up, it’s Sevilla and Tuesday in Spain before Chelsea arrive at Anfield this day next week.

Final Score: Liverpool 3 – 0 Southampton Stats

(xG stats by fivethirtyeight.com)

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Categories: LFC NEWS

Liverpool v Southampton Preview - Key Battles

Fri, 17/11/2017 - 12:31

Let’s rejoice! There is no international football for four months. And Virgil van Dijk is coming to Anfield! Just not the kind of Anfield visit we’d have hoped for.

The Reds host Southampton on Saturday and will look to pile the pressure on former assistant manager Mauricio Pellegrino, as Jurgen Klopp looks for momentum heading into the busiest period of the season. The next two weeks are a defining part of the season, with the Premier League game against Chelsea coming up soon, and the Reds’ fate still to be decided in the UEFA Champions League.

Sadio Mane is back fit, so is Philippe Coutinho. Adam Lallana is also back in first-team training, but the visit of his former club might just be a bit too soon for him to push for a starting spot.

Mo Salah, Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Daniel Sturridge had no international duty in the break, which meant that they have had enough time to recharge their batteries ahead of this gruelling period that awaits them.

Here are the key individual battles that will define the outcome of the game.

ROBERTO FIRMINO v VIRGIL VAN DIJK

It is a Liverpool game at Anfield, but somehow the cynosure of all eyes is going to be a player from the opposition. What happened with Liverpool and van Dijk over the summer can only be described as a farce, and he will no doubt want to put in a good performance to kickstart what has been a rocky season for the Saints so far.

Firmino has had his fair share of detractors for the lack of goals he scores, but as he showed against West Ham, even when he is not scoring, he does so much positive work, on and off the ball, that it is hard to see a more important player in this system for Klopp.

If the system employed at West Ham continues, it is likely that Firmino will be employed as the slightly more withdrawn of two central attackers, and that will help his cause. If he is dropping deeper to gain possession, it means he will have the runs of Salah and Mane to keep feeding, and with Chamberlain showing at West Ham that he is blending in with the squad, there is no dearth of options.

For Firmino, it will be important that he doesn’t stay static or too passive, which he generally isn’t, in any case. With his movement, he will be able to shuttle van Dijk and Wes Hoedt about all over the pitch, and that will not be a pleasant scenario for Southampton to face. Ideally for Southampton, they would want to press the Liverpool back four in an attempt to make them go long to Firmino or Salah, in which case van Dijk can use his aerial ability to dominate, being as much bigger as he is than Firmino.

So, will van Dijk win over the fans that were, in all possibility, going to be singing his name at some point this season with another solid defensive performance? Or is he going to win them over by being as generous as he can, and send 50,000+ Scousers home happy?

MO SALAH v RYAN BERTRAND

Salah could start either on the right wing or through the middle, but it clear that the run he enjoys making is the one that starts on the right touchline and cutting in. The thing with Salah is that he times both the in-to-out and out-to-in runs really well, which means that he always leaves a defender guessing as to what his next move is going to be.

Bertrand is an experienced defender now, and has been one of the most consistent left-backs in the league for a few seasons now. So you’d think he’d know what to expect from Salah.

But the concern for Bertrand, as with so many other defenders is that it won’t too much of a blip to lose Salah and for him to be straight through on goal. The Egyptian’s pace means that a split-second’s loss of concentration will let him in.

12 goals in 17 appearances quantifies the impact that Salah has had on this Liverpool side, and in a front line ravaged by injuries and poor form, he has been the one true exception, with his output already world class, if not his overall play.

The King of Egypt needs just three more goals to be the highest scorer for Liverpool in a single season since Luis Suarez banged 31 in 2013-14. Can he do it on Saturday? Maybe not. But you really wouldn’t bet against it.

JOEL MATIP v MANOLO GABBIADINI

Gabbiadini was part of a nightmare during the international. A World Cup without Italy is like pizza without cheese, they said. Gabbiadini was part of the match that ensured no cheese was going on the pizza.

So the morale would undoubtedly be a bit low, but the truth is he was among Italy’s better performers on that wretched night in Milan, and he is exactly the type of player that Matip and the Croatian-who-must-not-be-named – who is likely to come back to the XI – could have problems with.

He is constantly in motion, very aware of his surroundings, has an excellent touch on him, and has a wand of a left foot. Perfect to spoil a comfortable Saturday afternoon then?

But Matip won’t be low on confidence going into this game. Liverpool have conceded one goal in three games since losing 4-1 to Spurs at Wembley, and the tangible switch in tactics from Jurgen Klopp has helped.

Matip will have an invigorated Joe Gomez for company and he’ll have the said Croatian too. But Gomez is still a kid and that other guy is just not good at the footie. So it is important that Matip ensures the entire defence is on the same page, because of the intelligence of Gabbiadini’s movement and the presence of players around him such as Soufiane Boufal and Dusan Tadic.

Also, this will probably be the first time Liverpool’s Player of the Month for October will start in November. Can he, for once, not make the fans who actually still back him look like fools? Who knows? Up the three-point Reds, though!

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Categories: LFC NEWS

Liverpool v Southampton - Saints won't preach at Anfield

Fri, 17/11/2017 - 12:31
The Details

Venue – Anfield, Liverpool

Referee – Mike Jones

Date & Time – Saturday, November 18th @ 15:00 BST

Current Odds – Liverpool 4/11, Draw 19/5, Southampton 7/1

Form Liverpool Form

Liverpool, thankfully, seem to be getting over their September and early-October nightmare and, Spurs result aside, have been returning to winning ways. The Reds have an 80% win record in their last five games a very impressive xG/xA record over that period, also (see table below). Much of this season has been played without Coutinho, Mané and Lallana. All three of those players are very close to returning and if Liverpool can avoid a similar lengthy injury-list for the rest of the season then things will really be looking up for Klopp and co.

Southampton Form

Southampton have been struggling lately. One win in their last six games tells its own story. Pellegrino seems to be focused on getting the defensive side of things sorted first of all. They have conceded 11 in 11, but only managed to score 9. They currently lie in 13th position but will be hoping that they can continue to cause problems for Klopp as they have since 2016.

Team News Liverpool Team News

Liverpool have not had it their way with regards to injuries so far this season. Mané returned from international duty early to have treatment on an ‘old injury’ as was reported. However, if rumours are to be believed, he is expected to make the starting eleven again on Saturday. Jordan Henderson is still a slight doubt but should return to his place in midfield after missing the win at West Ham.

Lallana is almost ready to return to the first-team squad but it will surely take him a month or six weeks to get back to full match fitness then.

There was also an update this week on Nathaniel Clyne’s back injury. He underwent surgery and is now out until February at least.

Lovren may return to the starting line-up after his mini-break following the disaster at Spurs. Gomez and Moreno have been impressive on either side while Emre Can and Wijnaldum, along with Henderson, has become the regular midfield trio for this campaign, so far. Coutinho should be available again but I expect him to take a place on the bench, ready to replace Mané after around 60 minutes.

No players are suspended for Liverpool.

Liverpool’s Top 3 Rated Players this season (WhoScored.com)

  1. M. Salah (FW)         7.43
  2. R. Firmino (FW)     7.20
  3. J. Gomez (DF)         7.11
Southampton Team News

The Saints’ only real injury worry is Mario Lemina and they will be hoping he can make a return after a two-game absence. He may well have to settle for a place on the bench, though. Virgil van Dijk will get to play at Anfield this season, unfortunately, it will be for Pellegrino’s side.

Pellegrino himself is sure to get a warm welcome after his short spell with the Reds during Rafa’s tenure.

No players are suspended for Southampton.

Southampton’s Top 3 Rated Players this season (WhoScored.com)

  1. M. Yoshida (DF)    7.11
  2. O. Romeu (MF)      7.02
  3. S. Davis (MF)         6.93
Predicted XIs

Liverpool XI (4-1-2-3) – Mignolet; Gomez, Matip, Lovren, Moreno; Henderson(c), Can, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mané

Southampton XI (4-2-3-1) – Forster; Soares, van Dijk, Hoedt, Bertrand; Davis(c), Romeu; Tadic, Boufal, Redmond; Gabbiadini

When they last met

Southampton have had a hex over Liverpool in recent times. Not since the impressive 6-1 League Cup victory on the south coast in December 2015 have Klopp’s men managed to get a win over The Saints. In fact, the teams met four times last season and Liverpool failed to register a single goal in any of those games.

The last meeting was a dour 0-0 draw at Anfield in May as Liverpool were looking to secure Champions League qualification.

Prediction

Liverpool 2 – 0 Southampton

I think Liverpool will continue on their upward curve on Saturday. The team’s impressive Anfield defensive record looks set to continue, as well, considering Southampton have only managed 9 goals in their 11 league games so far this season. It should be another three points for the Reds in their quest to close the gap on the top four.

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Categories: LFC NEWS

West Ham 1 - 4 Liverpool: Reds run riot at London Stadium, again

Sun, 05/11/2017 - 20:01
The Details

Date: 4/11/2017

Venue: London Stadium

Background

Liverpool visited West Ham for the first time since their convincing 4-0 victory at London Stadium back in May. Klopp’s Reds have been trying to kickstart their season again after a dismal run of results in September. October was an improvement but Spurs took Liverpool apart at Wembley to put a bit of a dampener on the ‘revival’. Sadio Mané also returned to the starting eleven, ahead of schedule after his recent injury.

West Ham entered today’s game after an inconsistent start to their own season. Slaven Bilic has to be worried for his job by now. Another defeat today was sure to push him even closer to the door.

Teams

West Ham lineup (3-5-2) – Hart; Reid, Kouyate, Ogbonna; Fernandes, Obiang, Lanzini, Noble, Cresswell; Ayew, Chicharito

Subs: Adrian, Sakho, Rice, Masuaka, Haksabanovic, Carroll, Arnautovic

Liverpool lineup (4-1-2-3) – Mignolet(c); Gomez, Matip, Klavan, Moreno; Can, Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Salah, Firmino, Mané

Subs: Karius, Grujic, Alexander-Arnold, Solanke, Milner, Sturridge, Lovren

The Action

Liverpool came flying out of the blocks. It only took two minutes before Joe Hart was first called into action. Firmino got on the ball at the back post and tried to finish from close range, between Hart’s legs, but the England goalkeeper managed to stop it with his trailing foot. Almost the perfect start for Liverpool.

West Ham almost opened the scoring themselves in the 9th minute. A Lanzini pass from midfield took a very fortunate deflection right into the path of Ayew on the right. Mignolet was slow to close Ayew’s shot down and he lifted his effort over the ‘keeper’s body but it hit the post.

The game entered a scrappy and quiet period then until in the 21st minute when West Ham won a corner on the right. Liverpool cleared their lines and Mané broke at speed with Salah alongside him. Mané waited until the perfect moment to play Salah through on Hart’s goal and the Egyptian speedster kept his head to finish low at the near post. 1-0!

Three minutes later, it was two for the Reds. Liverpool’s corner deflected off of Noble, Hart saved it but the rebound went straight to Matip who finished into the empty net. 2-0!

Liverpool comfortably played out the rest of the first half with no real concerns. West Ham were not creating anything themselves.

Half-time: West Ham United 0 – 2 Liverpool

West Ham came out with a better attitude after the break. Bilic must have had some choice words to say in the dressing room.

In the 55th minute, they pulled one back, too. Ayew put in a cross from the right. Joe Gomez should have done better at the back post but Lanzini was able to take it down on his chest and dink a beautiful finish over Mignolet into the far corner. Great strike from Lanzini. 1-2.

Surely, West Ham were going to make a game of it now? Nope.

57 seconds, that’s what it took from the time of Lanzini’s finish before Firmino broke at West Ham, played in Oxlade-Chamberlain, his shot was saved by Hart but Ox scored the rebound. 3-1!

Lanzini almost grabbed a second goal in the 59th minute. Andy Carroll, on as a half-time sub, created trouble for the Liverpool defence and got the ball to Lanzini. His shot beat Mignolet but went just over the bar.

The atmosphere at London Stadium had improved since half-time and the fans were starting to get behind their team as they felt a glimmer of hope of a comeback.

In the 69th minute, Firmino created space for himself brilliantly, beating Ogbonna & co but he dragged his shot wide of the post.

Six minutes later, Gomez, Can and Mané combined before Mané then played a pass to Salah who had space on the left. He took aim and finished a bullet of a left-footed shot low and into the far corner. Hart hadn’t a chance. 4-1!

Milner, Solanke and Lovren all made appearances from the bench as Mané, Firmino and Oxlade-Chamberlain were rested late on.

Salah had a shot saved, Milner pulled an effort wide, and so too did Solanke. It didn’t matter. The Hammers were well and truly finished by that stage.

A 4-1 victory for Liverpool was the result as the boos rang around London Stadium at the final whistle. Another nice three points for the Reds.

Final Score: West Ham United 1 – 4 Liverpool Stats

(xG stats by fivethirtyeight.com)

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Categories: LFC NEWS

West Ham United V Liverpool: Opposition Scouting Report

Sat, 04/11/2017 - 07:49

Liverpool’s visit on Saturday sees them encounter a team with a baffling array of form.

Many Reds will look at the Hammers’ incredible turnaround at Wembley against Spurs in the Carabao Cup and wonder just which West Ham will turn up. That night, on the same ground where Liverpool failed miserably days earlier, Andre Ayew (2) and Angelo Ogbonna overturned Spurs’ 2-0 half-time lead in an inspired comeback. Such was the Hammers’ form coming into that game that it looked for all the world that manager Slaven Bilic would barely make it back to East London without being shown the door by the club’s hierarchy, but a fine win against a local rival seems to have bought him some time.

And yet despite that victory, they have struggled in the league, winning only two games.  Only Huddersfield Town and Swansea have succumbed with both matches being played at their new home of the London Stadium. They have drawn three and lost the other five. They have the third worst away form in the league.

This is a side used to losing and Liverpool should take full advantage of their weaknesses.

Last weekend saw them squander a two-goal lead away of their own, this time at Crystal Palace and though they may think themselves unlucky to drop points to a 97th-minute equaliser, it does point to an inability to finish off an opponent.  In their 10 league games they’ve conceded seven goals in the last 15 minutes so if Jurgen Klopp’s men can keep up the press in the final stages, there will be rewards.

As for personnel, the Hammers only have a few minor injuries with only three on the treatment table, though all of them are defenders. Winston Reid looks set to miss out through a calf strain while James Collins has an ankle injury and won’t be back for a couple of weeks. At the time of writing, Jose Fonte should be able to shake off a foot injury. Pablo Zabaleta is suspended.

Slaven Bilic tends to prefer a 3-4-3-1 formation with Andre Ayew and Manuel Lanzini tucked in behind a lone striker in Javier Hernandez. Captain Mark Noble and Edimilson Fernandes operate in the centre of the pitch with the width coming from the wing backs. Former Red Andy Carroll has started just four league games this season, but given Liverpool’s defensive frailties, it’s likely that he’ll play some part in the game.

So where can Liverpool take advantage? Well, Joe Hart is an ever-present in the League this season and though he boasts 74 England caps, he is still susceptible to the odd howler and, though Liverpool have no shortage when it comes to their own dodgy goalkeeping displays, it would be worth testing him out early on.

West Ham have conceded 19 league goals this season, though only Spurs and Brighton have scored at the London Stadium.  This is certainly an upturn in form as last season they had a nightmare start at their new home, winning just seven times. Jurgen Klopp’s side won handsomely there last May when the German played the diamond formation. It will be interesting to see if they employ the same tactic this time out though last year it was mostly due to player availability.

Their top goal scorer is Javier Hernandez, who moved from Leverkusen for £16m in July. ‘Chicharito’ has three goals against the Reds from his Man Utd days, netting twice in the Premier League and once in the EFL Cup. He also appeared in Real Madrid’s 1-0 win over Liverpool during Brendan Rodgers ill-fated Champions League campaign in 2014.

Though Hernandez will likely lead the line, Andre Ayew remains a huge threat. Whereas he would often play off the right during his spell at Swansea, he plays much more centrally for the Hammers. It seems to be working too as he was the chief architect of the EFL Cup win at Tottenham and scored again last week at Selhurst Park. A boyhood Liverpool fan, Ayew is West Ham’s record signing though he has found it difficult to play consecutive games due to injury. He too has scored against Liverpool –twice, in fact- when Swansea beat the Reds 3-1 at the Liberty Stadium in May 2016.

West Ham, though capable of surprise wins, should be viewed as a three-point prospect for Liverpool. Just one point above the drop zone, they are finding life difficult and it is worth noting that when they faced Brighton – a newly promoted side at home – they collapsed to a 3-0 defeat.

As for the Reds, an early goal would surely calm nerves and if they can secure that, they should be climbing the table before the night is out.

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Categories: LFC NEWS

West Ham United v Liverpool Preview: Reds to make Bilic walk the plank?

Sat, 04/11/2017 - 07:49
The Details

Venue – London Stadium

Referee – Neil Swarbrick

Date & Time – Saturday, November 4th @ 17:30 BST

Current Odds – West Ham 4/1, Draw 3/1, Liverpool 8/13

Form

West Ham have been as inconsistent as Liverpool in the opening 2/3 months of this season. After losing their first two league games, they have just lost three of their most recent 11 games in all competitions. They’ve lost two of their last three home games (0-3 v Brighton, 2-3 v Spurs). However, they will be out for retribution after suffering a humiliating 0-4 thrashing against Liverpool at London Stadium in May.

Liverpool are, theoretically, over their tough period of opening fixtures. Now is the chance for the Reds to start moving up the table. Of course, it’s never that simple. But Liverpool have slowly been getting back to winning ways. The Spurs result aside, Liverpool have been dominating teams on a regular basis since the defeat at City. Lately, and more importantly, they have been displaying a professional patience that has been missing at times when up against teams with a low block. Huddersfield and Maribor were both eventually defeated after piercing their congested rearguards (sounds dirty, that). This is a vital trait to display as a ‘bigger’ club when inferior opposition turns up with one objective in mind.

Here’s hoping Klopp & co can keep the upturn in form moving in the right direction.

Team News

Slaven Bilic has serious defensive issues due to player unavailability. Zabaleta misses out through suspension, while Collins, Byram, Reid and Fonte are all due to miss out as well. Michail Antonio is also still out due to injury also.

Fernandes should come in to replace Zabaleta on the right with Kouyate slotting in to help out at the back.

West Ham’s Top 3 Rated Players this season (WhoScored.com)

  1. P. Zabaleta (DR)    6.96
  2. J. Fonte (DC)          6.89
  3. C. Kouyate (DC)    6.79

Liverpool are not without their own injury concerns, however. Clyne, Lallana, and Mané are still out. Coutinho and Lovren are still doubtful and may not be available again for Klopp until after the international break while Wijnaldum awaits the results of a scan on the ankle injury sustained against Maribor. I expect Klavan and Milner to keep their starting places from the midweek game and I really hope Klopp gives Sturridge a start up front with Salah and Firmino.

Predicted XIs

West Ham United XI (3-5-2) – Hart; Rice, Kouyate, Ogbonna; Fernandes, Obiang, Noble(c), Lanzini, Cresswell; Carroll, Ayew

Liverpool XI (4-1-2-3) – Mignolet; Gomez, Matip, Klavan, Moreno; Henderson(c), Can, Milner; Salah, Sturridge, Firmino

When they last met

Liverpool won 4-0 at West Ham in May, in one of the last league games of last season. Coutinho was in excellent form that day, in a new deeper role than what he had been playing. The little Brazilian bagged two goals and created one for Sturridge. Origi added a fourth in the 75th minute.

The earlier fixture at Anfield, last December, ended 2-2. Payet and Antonio responded for West Ham after an early Lallana opener. Origi equalised for the Reds early in the second half.

Prediction

West Ham United 1 – 3 Liverpool

Liverpool have been slowly taking steps forward over the last month. Yes, that period included two steps backwards in the collapse at Wembley, but generally speaking, the Reds have been improving. Also, they have been displaying patience, failing to panic when an early breakthrough hasn’t come against the likes of Huddersfield and Maribor. The Reds put in a fantastic performance at London Stadium towards the end of last season, winning 4-0. I predict another victory for the Reds on Saturday, in a high-scoring game.

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Categories: LFC NEWS

Observations from Liverpool's comfortable night against Maribor

Thu, 02/11/2017 - 19:26

Three goals, three points and an efficient performance. The Reds are back, kind of, with the Champions League last 16 well in sight.

From the top of the main stand, where I sat for the first time (pleasantly surprised at noise), what did I observe?

Daniel Sturridge

Yes, I’m starting with a substitute scoring in the last min. Sturridge is the real story of the night. After all, he’s been through, he finally gets his Champions League goal, and a lovely one at that, finishing finely. You could tell from his celebration that it meant a lot to him and, with two goals in as many games, it’s clear to see that Klopp is getting impressive use out of him at the moment. A start at West Ham, where he scored last season? Maybe. For now, though, it’s a night for Sturridge to enjoy.

Oxlade-Chamberlain

Yes. Yes. Yes. No, he wasn’t amazing, nor even ‘very good’ but he did enough on a first ‘big’ start to show evidence of why we bought him. Some lovely tackles early on to get the crowd on side, pace and power throughout, the Ox showed and showed and showed some more, always looking to get on the ball. Some of his deliveries were lovely too, you get the feeling he may profit from some game-time with Dominic Solanke.

Routine wins

Much has been made of how Liverpool aren’t a ‘normal’ top side. We make things difficult for ourselves, we win, we lose, it’s always complicated whatever the outcome. So, in a week where Chelsea have been battered, United were made to sweat and Spurs went from 0-100, it’s been nice to have two simple 3-0’s. Fans a little tentative at half-time, players full in the knowledge they’d get the job done. A feeling at full-time that it was never in doubt. Long may they continue!

Emre Can

It’s clear, to me at least, that when Liverpool are looking to break down a low-block then Emre Can must play. Bar when Coutinho is utilised in the midfield three, it’s fair to say that Liverpool lack a ballplayer to carve open a deep defence. What they don’t lack though, is a German with the determination, technique, power and intelligence to barge past a few players and suddenly turn attack vs defence into 4 vs 4. Can again did that on Wednesday, mostly in the second 45, daring to do something that Henderson and Wijnaldum so often lack in beating a fellow midfielder. Rewarded with his goal, and ooooh that knee slide and nod. 10/10 for execution.

The last 16

An observation is a slightly more impressive way to say ‘I saw something’.

Tonight, I saw the last 16. It’s coming, the Champions League knockouts.

One more win, Reds.

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Categories: LFC NEWS

Liverpool 3 - 0 Maribor: Patience the most important virtue again

Thu, 02/11/2017 - 19:26
The Details

Champions League

Date: 1/11/17

Venue: Anfield, Liverpool

Background

Liverpool came into this game as hot favourites after disposing of the same opposition 7-0 in Slovenia two weeks ago. They could all-but-guarantee qualification to the knockout stages with three points tonight and maintain pole position at the top of the group ahead of Sevilla. Klopp would have the opportunity to rest some regular starters and give some much-needed game time to fringe players. Oxlade-Chamberlain would get his chance from the start but surprisingly, and disappointingly, Sturridge would have to make do with a place on the bench.

Maribor had some changes, too. Marco Tavares, their Brazilian captain and striker, was on the bench tonight while they went for five at the back in the hopes of staying in the game as long as possible.

Teams

Liverpool lineup (4-1-2-3) – Karius; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Klavan, Moreno; Can, Milner(c), Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Oxlade-Chamberlain

Subs: Mignolet, Gomez, Sturridge, Solanke, Henderson, Robertson, Grujic

Maribor lineup (5-4-1) – Handanovic(c); Milec, Billong, Rajcevic, Suler, Viler; Kabha, Pihler; Hotic, Bohar; Mesanovic

Subs: Obradovic, Vrhovec, Ahmedi, Tavares, Vrsic, Bajde, Palcic

The Action

This game opened with a whimper and got quieter as the first-half progressed. Maribor had a clear gameplan to get everyone behind the ball, and who could blame them. They made it extremely difficult for the Reds to make any space between the lines of defence and midfield while Liverpool also didn’t possess a ‘Coutinho’ to come up with that killer through-ball or unstoppable long-range effort.

Billong was the extra centre-back for Maribor tonight and he started the game well, with a couple of vital interceptions in the box. One, in particular, denied Oxlade-Chamberlain of a strike at goal after a good ball back from Milner near the byline.

The most notable moment of the first half was when Gini Wijnaldum went down injured in the 16th minute. The Dutch international went off and was replaced by Henderson, who was given the captain’s armband by vice-captain, James Milner.

Liverpool’s only real chance of note was in the 33rd minute. Oxlade-Chamberlain put a cross onto the head of Emre Can who was unmarked and six yards out. Unfortunately, he was a little too far underneath the ball and couldn’t keep the header down. It went well over the bar and didn’t worry Handanovic in the least.

Half-time: Liverpool 0 – 0 Maribor

The second half started far brighter for Liverpool.

In the 49th minute, Salah turned home Alexander-Arnold’s cross from the right with a delightful, flick-finish. Anfield breathed a sigh of relief and the Reds were 1-0 up!

Three minutes later, it should’ve been two for Klopp’s men. Firmino displayed great skill at the byline to beat Rajcevic but the defender wouldn’t let the Brazilian get away from him and pulled him back from behind. The referee pointed to the spot. Penalty for Liverpool

Up stepped James Milner. His penalty was low and to the right but 39-year-old Handanovic did brilliantly to touch the ball onto the post and away. It remained 1-0.

Liverpool were looking more confident now. Oxlade-Chamberlain exchanged passes with Salah outside the box and put a left-footed shot over the bar.

Then Firmino had a close-range effort well saved by Handanovic.

In the 56th minute, Moreno put in a fizzing beauty of a cross, right onto the head of Salah in the centre, but his header went over the bar. He should have scored.

Maribor had a chance of their own a minute later. Bohar did well on the left to put in a low cross but Klavan was there to take it off the toe of Mesanovic.

In the 64th minute, Emre Can linked well with Oxlade-Chamberlain before then playing a one-two with Milner. Can ran onto the return ball from Milner and placed a lovely side-footed finish low into the Maribor net. 2-0!

Karius was called into action in the 69th minute. It was a fantastic strike from Milec from a very long way out. Karius did well to take the pace out of it before gathering it in.

Mo Salah came off for Daniel Sturridge in the 74th minute and Firmino was replaced by Marko Grujic ten minutes later.

Thankfully, there was time for Sturridge to add a third. In the 90th minute, Milner played a short corner to Moreno. The Spanish fullback put in a cross which the Maribor defence failed to deal with. Sturridge took the stray ball on his chest and then drilled a low finish past Handanovic. 3-0!

That was how it finished. Job done for the Reds.

Final Score: Liverpool 3 – 0 Maribor Stats

xG via fivethirtyeight.com

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Liverpool v Maribor - Damage Limitation the only aim for Slovenian Champions

Wed, 01/11/2017 - 18:17
The Details

 Champions League

Venue – Anfield, Liverpool

Referee – Ivan Kruzliak (Slovakia)

Date & Time – Wednesday, November 1st 2017 @ 19:45 BST

Current Odds – Liverpool 1/25, Draw 20/1, Maribor 50/1

Form

Since the 7-0 win in Slovenia, Liverpool have again displayed some jarring inconsistencies in their team performances. They were well beaten at Wembley by Spurs while showing a more patient, professional side to their game against Huddersfield. Lovren and Mignolet, among others, had a nightmare at Wembley, however, Klopp stuck by them for the visit of Huddersfield. Indeed, it was only due to a late injury during his pre-game warm-up routine that caused Lovren to be replaced by Klavan against The Terriers.

Liverpool have won two of their last five games and continue to dominate most of their matches, as can be seen by the xG stats, below. Daniel Sturridge popped up with a beautiful, deft finish to open the scoring on Saturday. Firmino also bagged a goal for himself. More importantly, they seemed to work well together with Firmino, in particular, creating more than one great opportunity for Sturridge. Could a Sturridge & Firmino partnership be another option for Klopp as the team battle injuries and fixture congestion?

Maribor have managed two 1-0 victories in the Slovenian Premier League since their 0-7 defeat to Liverpool. In fact, their only other two defeats this season have also come in the Champions League (3-0 at Sevilla in the Group, 2-1 at H. Beer Sheva in the Playoffs). They are undefeated domestically, this season. They currently lie in second place in the league, just behind Olimpija Ljubljana on goal difference.

They got a creditable 1-1 draw in their opening group game at home to Spartak Moscow but have not looked threatening in either of their games since. In truth, Liverpool could have won by more than 7 in Slovenia. It will surely be a damage limitation exercise for Maribor at Anfield.

Team News

Maribor are missing Sme and Zahovic. Other than that, they are pretty much at full-strength.

Jurgen Klopp has recently seen Danny Ward added to his slowly increasing injury-list. Lallana, Coutinho, Clyne and Sadio Mané are still part of that list, however, all except Clyne should be back available for selection in the coming weeks.

Karius is most likely going to keep his Champions League place while I expect TAA to get a run at right-back with Klavan maybe getting picked again after a comfortable game at the weekend. Klopp will have a little bit of wiggle-room to rest and rotate the midfield and forward lines and as a result I’d like to see Sturridge and Firmino get to play together again, but I think he may rest Firmino and give Oxlade-Chamberlain his first Liverpool start instead.

Maribor’s Top 3 Rated Players this season (WhoScored.com)

  1. M. Kabha (DM)            6.53
  2. D. Bohar (AML)           6.49
  3. J. Handanovic (GK)    6.47
Predicted XIs

Liverpool XI (4-1-2-3) – Karius; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Klavan, Moreno; Can, Milner(c), Wijnaldum; Salah, Sturridge, Oxlade-Chamberlain

Maribor XI (4-2-3-1) – Handanovic; Milec, Rajcevic, Suler, Viler; Kabha, Vrhovec; Bajde, Ahmedi, Bohar; Tavares(c)

When they last met

The only meeting between the teams was Liverpool’s record-equaling 7-0 away victory to Maribor a couple of weeks ago.

Prediction

Liverpool 5 – 0 Maribor

I can’t see anything besides another comprehensive win for the Reds on Wednesday night. After the gulf in class displayed in Slovenia in the last game, the Reds have to be expected to win by at least a five-goal margin this week.

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Observations as Liverpool toil to a victory over Huddersfield

Sun, 29/10/2017 - 15:53

Liverpool toiled hard but eventually came out with much needed 3 points. The key takeaway moments from today’s game.

The Team Sheet

The Liverpool fanbase were waiting with bated breath to see how many changes would be affected by Klopp. Ultimately it turned out to be not many, especially in the hotly debated positions. There would be a late twist in the tale though, with Lovren pulling out the last moment to be replaced by Klavan. Not the start Liverpool would have hoped for.

Lack of Tempo in first half

Huddersfield were very content to sit back and absorb the expected early pressure from the home side. Liverpool were very slow and flat, to begin with, and that only got worse as the half wore on. There was no intent from Liverpool, especially from midfield. The midfielders, especially Henderson passed the ball without any idea in mind and with zero width Liverpool struggled to carve Huddersfield open. Liverpool got a lucky break with the penalty but that was saved quite easily. The half ended with a scoreline which no Liverpool supporter wanted. 0-0.

Some stern words from the Manager?

It was interesting to observe how Liverpool started the second half as there was an immediate difference in tempo. The ball was moved quickly and the attackers made attempts to prise open spaces and Liverpool were rewarded with an early goal from an icy cool Sturridge, who was in the right position yet again and calmly dinked it over the keeper. The floodgates were opened and one led to another as Firmino headed Liverpool into a two-goal advantage.

18 Home Goals, 0 Away

Liverpool scored the third goal from the Premier League’s hometown hero. A thunderous shot cannoned into the goal off the crossbar as Gini Wijnaldum extended his unique record of scoring home goals in Premier League. 18 home goals, none away. Maybe one for Guardian’s Knowledge page?

The Week Ahead

With Liverpool recovering from the mauling at Wembley, it will be an interesting watch as to what lies ahead for the Reds this week. Liverpool play Maribor at home, which they should be winning followed by a visit to the Olympic Stadium to play a yo-yo-ing West Ham who just dropped points after controlling the game against Crystal Palace with a two-goal lead. Liverpool have a solid chance of ending the week with 3 consecutive wins. Will they? I hope so!

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Liverpool 3 - 0 Huddersfield Town: Patience shown to topple Terriers

Sun, 29/10/2017 - 15:53
The Details

Date: 28/10/2017

Venue: Anfield, Liverpool

Background

Today, Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool welcomed David Wagner’s Huddersfield Town to Anfield. Klopp, surprisingly, had decided to keep the same defensive setup that faced Spurs. However, a change was forced as Lovren ended up getting injured in the warmup. Klavan came in to replace him. Coutinho was also out with a slight muscle injury, giving Sturridge a rare league start for the Reds.

Wagner set his Huddersfield team up much as expected with their 4-2-3-1 shape. Could Huddersfield build on their victory over Manchester United last week?

Teams

Liverpool lineup (4-1-2-3) – Mignolet; Gomez, Matip, Klavan, Moreno; Henderson(c), Milner, Wijnaldum; Salah, Sturridge, Firmino

Subs: Karius, Grujic, Woodburn, Solanke, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Can, Robertson

Huddersfield lineup (4-2-3-1) – Lossl; Smith(c), Zanka, Schindler, Lowe; Williams, Hogg; van La Parra, Mooy, Ince; Depoitre

Subs: Green, Malone, Cranie, Hadergjonaj, Mounie, Kachunga, Quaner

The Action

As expected, Huddersfield slipped into a disciplined low block to frustrate Liverpool. The hope was that van La Parra’s pace could be used on the right to hit the Reds on the counter-attack.

Liverpool found it difficult to create any clear-cut opportunities in the first-half.

In the 15th minute, Milner put in a deep cross from wide on the right. Sturridge got on the end of it but his right-footed effort went into the ground and bounced up over Lossl’s crossbar.

Huddersfield were sticking to their gameplan impeccably. Each time Salah got on the ball he had at least two or three defenders surrounding him.

Firmino managed to put Salah clear in the 27th minute but the Egyptian winger could only manage a weak left-footed shot that went straight to Lossl.

In the 32nd minute, Henderson put a fantastic ball from deep to Milner wide on the left. Milner guided his right-footed shot between the defender’s legs but again it went straight at the Huddersfield goalkeeper.

Wagner had to replace van La Parra a minute later. Kachunga replaced him.

In the 41st minute, Liverpool won a penalty. Kevin Friend did well to spot Tommy Smith’s tug on Firmino’s jersey as a cross came into the box.

For some reason, it was Mo Salah who stepped up to take the spot-kick. He went for power and put it pretty much straight at Lossl who deflected it back out. Henderson’s volley from the rebound went low, against the post and wide.

Half-time: Liverpool 0 – 0 Huddersfield Town

So, after a frustrating first-half for Liverpool, the nerves were beginning to creep in around Anfield, for fans and players alike.

Luckily, Liverpool had Tommy Smith on hand to help out. No, not the legendary defender of yesteryear, but the right-back and captain of Huddersfield Town. It was Smith’s unfortunate wayward header in the 50th minute that deflected the ball directly into the path of the unmarked Daniel Sturridge. Sturridge finished it with a first-time finish over the onrushing Lossl. 1-0!

Liverpool looked to build on their lead and pegged Huddersfield back even more after Sturridge’s goal.

Firmino pulled a low ball back across the six-yard box for Sturridge in the 58th minute but Zanka made a vital clearance to prevent him from adding a second.

However, from the resulting corner, Liverpool did extend their lead. Milner’s cross was inch-perfect and Bobby Firmino found himself unmarked to finish with a low header past Lossl. 2-0!

In the 63rd minute, Salah received a low pass from Firmino. He turned nicely and got his shot away but his strike went off the outside of Lossl’s right-hand post and wide.

Oxlade-Chamberlain came on for Firmino in the 63rd minute.

Liverpool had another chance from a corner four minutes later. Again, it was Milner with the cross but this time Matip rose highest and put his header wide of the goal. He really should’ve hit the target.

Emre Can was introduced instead of Sturridge in the 73rd minute.

Liverpool made it three in the 75th minute. It was a lovely move involving Oxlade-Chamberlain, Emre Can, Salah and then Wijnaldum. When Gini was fed the ball inside the box he took his time and placed his finish high into the top corner at Lossl’s near post. 3-0!

Salah went off for Dominic Solanke in the 81st minute.

A special mention today for Oxlade-Chamberlain who was very impressive for the time he was on the pitch. He looked pacy, direct and a lot more confident.

It finished 3-0. Not a happy day for Klopp’s friend, David Wagner, but the Reds can be very pleased with their professional performance in the second-half.

Final Score: Liverpool 3 – 0 Huddersfield Town Stats

(xG stats by fivethirtyeight.com)

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Breaking Free: Is Anyone Ready to Make the Grade at Liverpool?

Sat, 28/10/2017 - 03:38

We’re a quarter of the way through another frustrating season following Liverpool FC. Some stalwarts of the first team are proving they are not of the standard needed for the team to kick on and others have spent the first three months recovering from injury.

Circumstance and last season’s form have led to the rise of Trent Alexander-Arnold. Injuries have forced Jurgen Klopp to rely on Joe Gomez much more than expected in pre-season. Marco Grujic looks to have put last season’s injuries behind him and Ben Woodburn has looked a future starter in the few minutes he’s played.

The question is, with fans calling for these players and many others – Harry Wilson’s stock seems to be growing – which players are ready to make the grade? In a team not living up to expectations, how many games can they play? And where lies the breaking point between developing in the first team exposing players to more minutes than their bodies are ready for.

Had Clyne and Lallana been fit and had Lovren and Matip’s partnership been up to even average Premier League standards we wouldn’t be so desperate for some of these young players to step up.

In a world of instant news, Football Manager and FIFA we expect players to instantly become heroes. We forget Fowler cut his teeth as a teenager in the reserves and had a top class striker in Rush to learn from. We forget Gerrard, now part of the club’s DNA, was a raw but physically powerful talent until his mid-twenties.

The two players making the biggest steps this season are Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez.

Trent Alexander-Arnold became Clyne’s understudy last season, playing 550 minutes in the first team and showcasing his potential. Due to his mature performances last season and Clyne’s injury he’s played serious minutes this season.

Mainly playing in the Champions League, and with a couple of well-taken goals to his name, he’s looking like a player for the future. His passing and vision resembles that of a centre midfielder, but with the pace and natural ability to develop as a top class full back.

But, before we throw caution to the wind overplaying him could easily happen and undermine his development. Going by career averages and expected development he should be looking at 800-900 minutes this season. The reality is he’ll play close to 20 games so we have to hope he’s ready for the huge increase in minutes.

Joe Gomez is an interesting one. Following on from a couple of horrid knee injuries we’ve been waiting some time to see how he develops.

Initially thrust into the first team as an emergency left-back under Rodgers his combination of composure, strengths and ability led to fans calling him the next Maldini! With Clyne’s injury he’s played several games at right back this season and is beginning to build on that form.

With Lovren being brutally substituted (deservedly so) after 30 mins at the weekend, and Ragnar Klavan failing to impress, Gomez could finally be called at to move into his natural position at centre back.

Though, with Gomez’s average minutes at 1075 anything over 1500 would be big risk. He’s already undergone knee surgery in his career and was even called out in pre-season for turning up with too much muscle mass – though he’s looking much leaner again.

Both defenders are going to be essential at an early age as Gerrard, Owen and Fowler all were. But we need to hope their minutes and fitness is managed and pray that Clyne returns to action sooner than later. Klopp bringing in centre-half reinforcements in January is also a must. We can’t afford to burn these bright talents out. Two young players who are excelling for the under 23s are Ben Woodburn and Marco Grujic. Both have made fleeting appearances this year, with Woodburn also making an impact on the international scene for Wales.

After Marco Grujic’s performance against Utd’s under 23s this week there have been calls for his immediate promotion to the first team. Wijnaldum and Henderson are not performing consistently this season and Can’s contract issues are leading to people wanting to know more about the young Serbian.

Tall, strong, willing to shoot and not scared to have the ball at his feet it’s easy to see why fans want to see more of him. His physical and raw skills certainly look ready-made for the Premier League. After a season blighted by injury, he looks ready for more football.

Luckily Liverpool have plenty of options in the centre of the park, whether or not the fans unanimously rate the players or not. At an average of a little over 9 games a season a natural progression for him would be to play 12 – 15 games mixing upstarts and sub appearances.

Ben Woodburn is one of the most exciting forward talents to come out of Liverpool Football Club since the ‘90s. With the potential to surpass the likes of Steve McManaman it’s easy to see why fans and coaches love the talk him up.

Again, with Liverpool strong in the wide forward positions and Woodburn not having the stature to play in Firmino’s role yet, his minutes have been well managed. He’s averaged a little under 600 minutes a season and should be looking at a similar amount in the first team this year, plus plenty of action in the under 23s.

After this week’s performance from Rhian Brewster in the under 17s World Cup, it’s hard to ignore him. Gerrard, Lijnders and Klopp have all talked about his talent. But as Fowler was given time amount senior players in the reserves, hopefully, more time among the likes of Gerrard in the under 18s and Woodburn in the under 23s is where he needs to spend the next season or so.

All in all Liverpool FC have some very talented and exciting prospects in the squad. Looking at this chart kindly supplied by Simon Brundish (along with the minutes played above), you can see that Klopp, Buvac and Lijnders are managing the younger players as well as you can hope, with two exceptions.

Hopefully, with Clyne’s return and some new faces in January will help bring Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez’s minutes back in line with where they belong at this point in their development. Klopp needs to protect the long-term development of two players who could be around for the first team for a decade.

I’m no sports scientist, but I’m a keen fan of developing young players without overburdening them. We’ve all seen the likes of Torres, Owen and Rooney’s careers tail off sooner then they should. Hopefully, LFC have the next Maldini or Ibrahimovic in their ranks and we’ll see them playing week in week out well into their 30s.

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Liverpool v Huddersfield Preview - Key Battles

Sat, 28/10/2017 - 03:38

Jurgen Klopp and David Wagner are best buddies, and they couldn’t have wished for more different circumstances than those facing them in the build-up to the first clash between the two as managers.

Liverpool were humbled at Wembley against a strong Spurs side, with shooting themselves in the foot being the most recurring theme. Huddersfield, meanwhile, pulled off one of their greatest victories beating Manchester United at home, in a result that is bound to send the Terriers’ confidence soaring.

Klopp v Wagner is one battle that is bound to have most pundits (armchair or not) talking ahead of the game, but there is no exaggeration in saying that the ones on the pitch will have a much bigger impact on the game itself.

Liverpool need a reaction – for themselves, the manager and the fans. Will Anfield help them in getting that reaction everyone wants? That is anybody’s guess. Patience is the most important virtue Liverpool will need on Saturday, as Huddersfield have already shown they are well-organised at the back, and the Reds will have to be on their A-game to break them down.

If the goal takes longer than expected to arrive, it is important that Anfield doesn’t resonate with the impatience – added pressure from the stands is the last thing the Reds need at this stage.

Here are the key battles that could decide the outcome of the game:

EMRE CAN V AARON MOOY

The Australian has, by a distance, been Huddersfield’s most influential player going forward, this season. He has got power on the ball, can pick a pass and has a mean shot on him, as he has already shown this season – the most pertinent example coming against Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle.

The indications for Liverpool have been that Klopp is set to shake things up in terms of personnel, but his compatriot is one that will be expected to start this game. Can was ragged against Spurs, and it didn’t help him that his position seemed to keep changing throughout the game. We all know what Can is capable of, but the challenge for him is to show what he is capable of, more often than he has shown in recent times.

His inconsistency is frustrating, but it could also be a cause for concern if it is seen in another way, which is completely justified. So far, he has gotten away with inconsistency citing his age, but is this a sign of things to come, and that his development has not been to the level everyone anticipated?

That is an interesting argument, but one for another day. For now, he has to put in a performance to revive what has been a ridiculous stop-start season so far, and one that has not been fun at all.

It is high time that Klopp finds one position and plays him in that position. The shuttling between no. 6 and no. 8 has not worked well for him, and it isn’t like Klopp has undroppable players in either positions. So Klopp needs to make a decision as to where he sees Can’s long-term position at, and plays him in that position.

In whatever position he starts, Can will have the legs to catch up with the opposition, but against Mooy, his positioning will be critical. The Australian loves picking up pockets of space and moving from there, so Can’s duty, whether he is the 6 or the 8, will be to block those pockets.

MO SALAH v CHRIS LÖWE

Whatever anyone says about Liverpool’s season so far, one unanimously accepted truth is that Salah has been a smashing signing. He already has nine goals this season, and has shown that his pace is the outlet for the Reds, even on the worst of days.

He will be up against Löwe, who has played for Klopp during his time at Dortmund. The German has already shown multiple times this season, that he can be susceptible to raw pace, and the ‘King of Egypt’ has got plenty of that to burn.

Salah has been criticised for his finishing, like the rest of the side, but his goal numbers so far are nothing that should concern anyone, although there is beef in the argument that it could already be much better than it is.

With nothing indicating a drastic change in Klopp’s methods, Salah will be the out-ball for Liverpool again, particularly with Sadio Mane not back for a few more weeks.

Even apart from Löwe, none of the other Huddersfield defenders are particularly blessed in terms of pace, so it could be a good afternoon for him. Liverpool have recently shown that, at times, we play a sophisticated Tony Pulis method, wherein instead of banging the ball to a big man up front, we bang it long for the electric Salah to chase and create openings from there.

It is a method that may or may not be questioned, but one that has worked, at least for Salah himself. Wagner is a sharp man, so there is absolutely no question that he would have spotted everything that Liverpool do, and he will definitely make adjustments.

Whether Elias Kachunga or Rajiv van la Parra (Gini Wijnaldum’s cousin) start on the left wing, to help Löwe double up against Salah, will be a very interesting point to ponder for the Terriers.

PHILIPPE COUTINHO v JONATHAN HOGG

So this key battle has been put in with the assumption that Liverpool will start with Coutinho in midfield and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the left wing.

As usual, the little Brazilian is the one man through whom the play will pivot. He has started from the left side in recent games, to cover for Mane being injured, but Klopp has stressed often enough that he sees Coutinho as someone whose best position is in midfield, from where he can be much more influential on the game.

If the assumption made is indeed what Klopp also thinks, Coutinho will have no dearth of options. Both Chamberlain and Salah have the pace to burn, and get in behind the Huddersfield defense, and the magician has undoubtable ability to play those passes in behind.

Hogg had a fantastic game for Huddersfield against United last week, offering Mathias Jorgensen and Christopher Schindler enough protection in front of them, and not wasting too many passes.

But with United last week, there wasn’t a starting midfielder who offered the kind of dynamism that Coutinho does. So Hogg faces a different kind of challenge. Hogg didn’t waste too many passes last weekend, but United offered him time on the ball.

Typically, Liverpool don’t offer you that time. Although there is enough statistical proof to back the claim that the press isn’t in its best health, there is one argument that could ensure the press is in play against Huddersfield.

This is literally the first midweek break that Liverpool have got all season. So this is the first time, they have had more than 4 days in between two games, minus the international breaks. So one would imagine that the players have got sufficient rest, their mental and physical batteries are recharged, and as Klopp often says, they’re ready to run.

Coutinho and Bobby Firmino will have to instigate the press from up front, because with the defense, Liverpool cannot take the chance of allowing too many balls to go through to Laurent Depoitre to bully the centre-halves.

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Liverpool v Huddersfield Town Preview - Wagner to unleash his Terriers?

Thu, 26/10/2017 - 14:23
Listen to this article via @AIAudible ! Your browser does not support the audio element. The Details

Venue – Anfield, Liverpool

Referee – Kevin Friend

Date & Time – Saturday, October 27th @ 15:00 BST

Current Odds – Liverpool 1/5, Draw 6/1, Huddersfield 10/1

Form

How do I write a “form” paragraph about this Liverpool side? How are they playing? There is nothing consistent about the season so far for me to detract any suitable, relevant information. Three draws in a row, where the Reds dominated their opposition but failed to make it count, was followed by a record-equalling 7-0 Champions League victory in Slovenia. That was it, that was the kick-start their season needed, surely?!

Five days later and Spurs were embarrassing Klopp’s team at Wembley. Lovren and Mignolet had games to forget (but if the memory did pop up, then it should be quickly captured and dipped in acid), and tactically speaking, Pochettino got it spot on.

So, yes, it’s very hard to discuss form for Liverpool at the moment. Why? There is none to speak of. Neither consistently poor nor consistently positive.

What kind of performance are we going to see on Saturday? Your guess is as good as mine.

Klopp’s friend, and the best man at his wedding, David Wagner, must be happy with how his team are transitioning to life in the top flight. After making it up via the playoffs last May, the German coach, oversaw the perfect start to life in English football’s top tier. An impressive 3-0 win at Palace on the opening day of the season was followed by a 1-0 home victory over Rafa’s Newcastle.

As things stand, Huddersfield have now got a 3/3/3 record from their nine games, so far. They are struggling to score (7 goals in 9 games) but they have conceded 6 goals less than Liverpool who currently lie just two places above them. Not only was last weekend’s defeat of United their best result so far this season, it was also their first time to find the net in over four games.

Team News

Billing, one of Huddersfield’s deep-lying midfielders, is out with an ankle injury. Elias Kachunga is also reported to have picked up a slight knock but I expect him to still make it into Wagner’s starting eleven.

Clyne, Mané and Lallana will all miss out due to injury. It’s surely been a week of decisions for Jurgen Klopp after a telling defeat at Spurs last Sunday. Dejan Lovren seems to be in a bad place at the moment, performance-wise. A lot has been said about the difficulties the Croatian international has endured in his personal life in recent times. Coupled with the revelation that he has to take painkillers to get through a game these days, I think now is the time for Lovren to be given a backseat, for his own sake and that of the team.

Mignolet also had a game to forget last weekend. I think Karius is about to be reintroduced to the starting eleven as a result of Mignolet’s errors. I’m hoping Joe Gomez is given a run at centre-back, his preferred position, in Lovren’s predicted absence.

Ironically, Alberto Moreno has recently been one of the top performers along our backline while the “experienced” central pairing of Lovren and Matip has been falling apart.

Gini Wijnaldum will most likely return to the midfield after shaking off the slight knock he had for the Spurs game.

Huddersfield’s Top 3 Rated Players this season (WhoScored.com)

  1. C. Schindler (DC)        7.49
  2. A. Mooy (MC)              7.20
  3. L. Depoitre (AC)         6.88
Predicted XIs

Liverpool XI (4-1-2-3) – Karius; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Gomez, Moreno; Henderson(c), Can, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Coutinho

Huddersfield XI (4-2-3-1) – Lossl; Smith(c), Zanka, Schindler, Lowe; Hogg, Mooy, Kachunga, Ince, van le Parra; Depoitre

When they last met

Liverpool and Huddersfield have met only once in competitive football. Liverpool won 2-0 at the home of the Terriers with goals from Titi Camara and Dominic Matteo.

The only other encounter between the teams was a 2-0 friendly victory for Klopp’s man in the summer of 2016. Grujic and Moreno were the scorers that day.

Prediction

Liverpool 2 – 0 Huddersfield Town

A strange and difficult game to predict. Liverpool come into this on the back of a poor defeat at Spurs, while Huddersfield just beat Manchester United in their last game. However, Liverpool normally manage to pin teams back without facing too much pressure on their own defence at Anfield. Also, Huddersfield have failed to score in any of their last three away games. I think the Reds will possess too much in the attacking third for Huddersfield to cope with. Liverpool to get three points… just about.

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Categories: LFC NEWS

Observations as Liverpool are whacked at Wembley

Mon, 23/10/2017 - 13:00

I’m going to level with you all, in my good honest way.

Racing back from Goodison (at least we can laugh at Everton) to watch this one, with the rain lashing down on my phone screen until I got in for the last 30 minutes on a telly, my analysis of this drubbing may not be as detailed as on another occasion.

However, when you lose 4-1 to a team that you’re meant to be ‘at least as good as’, certain observations aren’t so hard to make. Here are mine, summed up in 10 short points. (Or the 10 big points that if Liverpool had extra, we still wouldn’t be top).

Dejan Lovren: Where do you begin? Probably with those two shocking mistakes. How anyone can justify his place at the club, let alone in the team, is absurd. Dragged off after 30, we’ll probably be told it’s through injury. I suppose having no defensive brain could be classed as a head injury.

Poor Alberto Moreno: The poor lad. Worked so hard has our Albie, to finally be a left-back that cannot only attack but also defend. And all of a sudden, everyone else around him seems to drop down another level as if it were possible.

Admiring Harry Kane: I love Roberto Firmino but as the weeks go by I am increasingly moving over to the ‘proper striker’ club. There are players out there that can fit Liverpool’s style and score 30 a season, the two things aren’t mutually exclusive. Liverpool were bad but Kane capitalised in his typical ruthless way.

Twelve points: Twelve points off the leaders. Twelve. Manchester City were running away with it anyway, but twelve points off and it’s not even November yet. Come on lads. Top four and a cup is probably the best Liverpool can hope for, apologies if that’s a bit too ‘Arsenal’ for your personal desires, I feel the pain too.

Emre Can isn’t a right-back: Never has been, never will be. The ‘send him to Juve lads are extremely wrong’ but it’s hard to argue against them when Klopp sends the German to a position that, when he last played in it, we lost 6-1 to Stoke. Milner could have gone there, Gomez could have stayed there with Can at centre-back. Bizarre.

Missing players: Maybe we shouldn’t overreact. This is me trying to be calm about it. No Clyne, no Lallana, no Mane. But especially after Manchester City, defeats like these can’t be forgiven.

Joel Matip: Don’t worry, I wasn’t going to give Lovren both barrels without mentioning the other chuckle brother. On his day Matip is a lovely footballer, but he crumbles under pressure like a soft dessert. Poor against Spurs, but there’s nobody to come in for him. Unless 56-year-old Estonian’s are your kinda’ thing.

What’s the point?: What’s the point in anything if we’re not going to win the league! What’s the point in winning games and enjoying football! Okay, sarcasm over. But seriously, what is the point in this magical attack if the players behind the attack are mush? Liverpool won’t go anywhere fast until the defence is fixed, but we knew that already. The question is, does Klopp know how to fix it?

A change in formation: Is it worth it, will Klopp try it? Who knows. I’d take a diamond formation or five at the back over the 4-0-3 midfield we’re playing at the moment, midfielder’s disappearing all over the place.

221: A positive one to finish. 221 days until Naby Keita becomes a Liverpool player and we win the Premier League, Champions League, World Cup, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, A game of Monopoly and perhaps the Nobel Peace Prize.

Roll on Huddersfield.

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Categories: LFC NEWS

Spurs 4 - 1 Liverpool: Reds well beaten in London

Mon, 23/10/2017 - 13:00
The Details

Date: 22/10/2017

Venue: Wembley Stadium, London

Background

Liverpool travelled to London today to take on an in-form Spurs team with the irrepressible Harry Kane the focal point of their attack. Spurs have been going from strength-to-strength in recent years and with Mauricio Pochettino at the helm, they have one of the most impressive young coaches in the game today.

Liverpool, however, could come into the game with some level of confidence after their 7-0 win in Slovenia on Tuesday, coupled with the fact that they were also unbeaten in the last ten games against Spurs in all competitions.

Teams

Spurs lineup (3-4-2-1) – Lloris(c); Alderweireld, Sanchez, Vertonghen; Trippier, Eriksen, Winks, Aurier; Son, Alli; Kane

Subs: Vorm, Rose, Davies, Dier, Sissoko, Nkoudou, Llorente

Liverpool lineup (4-1-2-3) – Mignolet; Gomez, Matip, Lovren, Moreno; Henderson(c), Can, Milner; Salah, Firmino, Coutinho

Subs: Karius, Klavan, Alexander-Arnold, Grujic, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Solanke, Sturridge

The Action

Liverpool had an extra day of rest this week since Spurs had played in Madrid on Wednesday, a day after Liverpool’s 7-0 trouncing of Maribor. It didn’t seem to benefit the Reds in any way, however, as it only took Spurs and Harry Kane four minutes to open the scoring. A mix-up along the Liverpool defensive line had Lovren believing that Kane was in an offside position for the pass. Joe Gomez had just been a fraction behind with the step out, though. Harry Kane was viewed as onside and he reached the ball before the onrushing Mignolet. Kane took it to the left, around Mignolet and finished calmly past Matip and Lovren. Questions need to be asked about Mignolet’s decision to come out so early as well. 1-0 Spurs.

Eight minutes later and it was two. Liverpool had been on the offensive but when Lloris gathered the ball and released it early for the Spurs counter-attack we saw the horrifying sight of our centre-back, Dejan Lovren, completely misjudge the flight of the ball, miss his defensive header, and leave Harry Kane with acres of space ahead of him. Kane reacted perfectly. He kept a cool head to play an inch-perfect pass in front of the advancing Son. Son finished perfectly, first time, past the diving Mignolet. 2-0 Spurs.

Son could’ve had another just minutes later. Christian Eriksen was pulling the strings, as ever, from the midfield and his pass found Son who controlled the ball and tried a right-footed shot from a tight angle on the right. It beat Mignolet but bounced off the crossbar and went away from the goal. Brilliant effort from Son.

In the 25th minute, Liverpool gave themselves a glimmer of hope. Firmino and Coutinho combined to win the ball back from Harry Kane in midfield. Henderson then played a great ball, via a glance off of Dele Alli, into the path of Mo Salah. Salah finished past Lloris and in off the post. 2-1.

Then, Lovren was caught out again. Dele Alli found Son with a great ball. Son had ghosted behind Lovren with a diagonal run onto Dele Alli’s pass. This time Mignolet was able to save Son’s low shot.

Lovren was being targeted as a weak point by the Spurs attack and he was seriously struggling to cope out there. Klopp decided to act. Lovren was taken off on the half-hour mark. Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced Lovren. Liverpool then went with three at the back – Can, Gomez, and Matip. Milner went to right wing-back. Coutinho dropped back to midfield and Oxlade-Chamberlain took Coutinho’s place on the left of attack.

Emre Can was booked in the 47th minute for a foul on Dele Alli. From the resulting free-kick, Matip had a clumsy and weak header fall at the edge of the Liverpool box. Alli was there, unmarked, to finish past Mignolet. 3-1 to Spurs.

Half-time: Spurs 3 – 1 Liverpool

Liverpool tried to get themselves back in the game through the wide play of Salah and Oxlade-Chamberlain after the break. Lloris dealt well with some tricky crosses, however, and the Reds never really threatened too much.

Then it was as good as over after the 56th minute. Mignolet failed to claim a free-kick cross after advancing into the crowd. Vertonghen had his shot blocked on the line by Firmino but it rebounded to Kane he got his second of the day and it was 4-1 to Spurs.

Liverpool huffed and puffed for the rest of the game but could not reduce the deficit.

Coutinho had a left-footed shot from the edge of the box in the 67th minute. This was saved brilliantly by Lloris as he turned the ball up onto his crossbar.

Oxlade-Chamberlain and Salah continued to push and probe but besides some strikes from both of them, they never really had Pochettino worried.

Firmino was replaced by Sturridge in the 77th minute and Grujic came on for Emre Can in the 83rd minute.

Jurgen Klopp looked a dejected figure on the sidelines in the closing minutes. A -2 goal difference for Liverpool as they sit in 9th position in the Premier League.

Final Score: Spurs 4 – 1 Liverpool Stats

xG stats by fivethirtyeight.com

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Categories: LFC NEWS

Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool - Key Battles

Sun, 22/10/2017 - 00:52
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The last international break brought with it doom and gloom for a month. The one that has just passed has so far brought two decent performances, a poor result and a massive result. You might say “It’s only Maribor”, but putting seven past any team is bound to fill the players with confidence.

The Maribor result was bound to happen at some time. We couldn’t keep creating the number of chances that we were, and not absolute smash some team along the way. The momentum from that result will be much-needed heading to Wembley Stadium to take on Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs registered their first Premier League win at the national stadium last weekend against Bournemouth so that hoodoo is over and done with. But that result and performance was insignificant compared to what they did at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday.

With a little bit more luck, Spurs could easily have turned over the two-time defending European champions.

So, there can be no illusions about the magnitude of the task awaiting Liverpool on Sunday.

Here are the key individual battles that could decide the Reds’ fate:

THE SPURS RIGHT-BACK v PHILIPPE COUTINHO

I say the Spurs right-back and not a particular name because both Kieran Trippier and Serge Aurier have enough merit in their respective arguments to start on Sunday.

Whoever starts, the challenge does not get too much easier from Tuesday night. From dealing with Cristiano Ronaldo, they now move to dealing with Coutinho, who over the last five games has proven that the entire Barcelona saga is a thing of the past. Everything about Coutinho’s game now seems to be a notch above where it has ever been.

There is an argument that Coutinho could start in midfield, making way for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s first league start of the season, but I think Jurgen Klopp will stick with the same front three that put the Slovenian champions to the sword.

The close control is mesmerising, the passing is incisive and the shooting is lethal. So the message to Spurs is clear, don’t give him space. Actually, don’t give him the opportunity to make space for himself. If you give him an inch, he will drive a truck through it.

Both Aurier and Trippier are attacking full-backs, so they might have to shelve the first instinct when they come up against that little Brazilian. But there is also an argument that attack is the best form of defence. So, if the Spurs right-back decides to maraud up the field, pin Coutinho back and test Alberto Moreno, it will be interesting to see how Coutinho responds.

CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN v JORDAN HENDERSON

In my book, Eriksen is probably the most under-rated player in the Premier League. Most things he does are not flashy, but they are neat, technically correct and mightly effective. The level Eriksen is at is probably only bettered in the Premier League by the brilliant Kevin de Bruyne.

So, when the Liverpool captain takes his spot and the armband back on Sunday, there is no easy way back for him. Dealing with Eriksen’s strength is what is among Henderson’s biggest weaknesses. He tends to not follow runners and read the game too well, often relying on his ability to cover ground to camouflage that deficiency.

But that might not be easy to do against Eriksen. The Dane will occupy the space between the lines, and if he isn’t tracked, he is more than good enough to ensure that Henderson’s legs won’t be enough to catch up with him.

There has been and will continue to be enough said about Jose Mourinho’s approach at Anfield last weekend, but the truth remains that Henderson bossed that game. He didn’t allow Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera any freedom on the ball, which the United midfielders would have used to slow the game down to the tempo they wanted it to be played at.

Questions persist about the skipper’s passing and the bravery (lack of) in the choices made. But on Sunday, if he keeps the defensive side of his bargain, Liverpool will take that, allowing Coutinho and others further forward to be more adventurous on the ball.

HARRY KANE v JOEL MATIP

What can be said about Kane that hasn’t already been? He’s as lethal a goalscorer as anyone has been in English football recently, and all it takes for him is a sniff. And with this current Liverpool defence, unless Mauricio Pochettino channels his inner Mourinho, Kane will get a sniff.

With the advantage of having played with each other for a good period of time now, Eriksen, Kane and Dele Alli have developed the sort of understanding that makes front-lines elite. They may or may not be elite already – that is a different argument – but they are still bloody good.

Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren will come into this game on the back of two straight clean sheets. But they can rest assured that they’ll have slightly more to do in this game than they have done in the last 180 minutes of football they have played.

Matip has been culpable for some of the defensive worries for Liverpool this season and has only gotten away because of how calamitous Dejan Lovren has sometimes proved to be.

The buzzword on Sunday has got to be concentration. Concentration for 90 minutes. The cliché goes, “It only takes a split second to score a goal”, and with Kane lurking, that isn’t just a cliché, it is the reality.

One would not be forgiven to think that the man who wins this individual battle would eventually end up on the winning side on the day.

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Categories: LFC NEWS