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1/27/2015 07:04:00 pm

Confirmed line-up vs. CFC: £62m trio benched; Mourinho springs surprise by dropping Cahill

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has named a very strong side for tonight's much-anticipated League Cup semi-final with Chelsea.

FULL TEAM: Mignolet, Can, Skrtel, Sakho, Lucas, Henderson, Moreno, Markovic, Gerrard, Coutinho, Sterling

SUBS: Ward, Johnson, Lovren, Lambert, Lallana, Allen, Balotelli

CHELSEA: Courtois; Ivanovic, Zouma, Terry (c), Filipe Luis; Matic, Fabregas; Willian, Oscar, Hazard; Diego Costa.

SUBS: Cech, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ake, Ramires, Remy and Drogba.

* Skrtel and Gerrard return after being rested at the weekend.

* Emre Can starts his eighth game in a row, once again at the expense of £20m summer signing Dejan Lovren.

* It looks like Markovic will be playing on the right again, ostensibly as a wing-back. For me, he's wasted in that role; it requires far too much defending/running/tracking back, and Markovic should be spending most of his time attacking (IMO).

* Gary Cahill has (seemingly) paid the price for Chelsea's 4-2 drubbing at the weekend. The England man scored one of Chelsea's goals, but that wasn't enough to save him from the chop. It's a surprise considering the importance of the game, and Zouma's comparative inexperience.

I still can't see past Chelsea winning this game. My prediction: 3-1

Author:

1/27/2015 02:59:00 pm

60% Price Crash: LFC move closer to signing 'excellent' £30m star for £12m

On Monday, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers seemed to emphatically rule out the possibility of any transfer business this week, but new reports suggest that the Reds may be pursuing a dramatic last-ditch deal for one of the club's long-term targets.

In October, The Mirror claimed that Liverpool were planning a gigantic £30m January offer for Lavezzi and according the the Daily Mail today:

* Liverpool despatched scouts to watch Lavezzi play for PSG on Sunday night.

* PSG are willing to sell for £12m [€15m], but Lavezzi wants Champions League football.

Lavezzi got only nine poxy minutes of pitch time against St. Etienne, so the scouting trip was arguably a waste of time. Lavezzi is clearly an archetypal Brendan Rodgers player, though, and Argentina boss Alejandro Sabella underlined this in June, when he enthused:

"Players like Lavezzi are always very positive, because they keep players happy. They keep a nice atmosphere in the group. And Lavezzi is an excellent player. He never makes negative comments, and he is always supporting the team."

Creative stats for PSG:

* 25 goals/17 assists in 111 appearances,
* Goal every 4.3 games.
* Goal/assist every 2.5 games.

With Sturridge's susceptibility to injury, it's a priority to have another quality forward player who is seemingly impervious to injury, and Lavezzi - nicknamed 'The Beast' by the Argentina media - certainly fits the bill:

* 299 appearances in the last 7 years.
* Averages 40 games a season.
* Missed only 12 games through injury in the last 10 years.

For £12m, Lavezzi is arguably a good player to have in the squad, for the following reasons:

* Huge Champions League experience, which is lacking in LFC's current squad.
* The finished article, and capable of coming in and making an immediate impact.
* Superior option to both Borini, Lambert, and (possibly) Balotelli.
* Will improve the overall quality of the squad.

* Steady, consistent player who rarely gets injured.
* Strong, hard-working, and physical presence on the field. Perfect fit for the Prem.
* Unlikely to moan if he's not in the starting line-up every week.
* Young players like Coutinho, Sterling, and Markovic can learn from his experience.

That said, with only 2 goals in 21 games, Lavezzi is under-performing this season, but that may be due to his constant bit-part status, and subconscious desire to leave for a new challenge.

With Lavezzi allegedly available at a 60% discount (£30m to £12m), is he worth a punt?

survey software


Author:

1/27/2015 06:48:00 am

LFC line-up vs. CFC: £46m duo out? LFC to suffer as a result of BR's hubris?

Liverpool face Chelsea for the second time in a week tonight, and according to Brendan Rodgers and Jordan Henderson, the result is practically a foregone conclusion. Instead of just being humble allowing the football do the talking, Rodgers and his captain-elect have spent the last seven days in the grip of misplaced overconfidence, and that may come back to haunt the Reds tonight.

I've highlighted Rodgers' ill-advised hubris in a separate article, but Henderson - seemingly emboldened by his tunnel tough-guy act after the first game - is also peddling the same grating, overconfident 'we should've won' schtick, which is (IMO) a mistake.

I have a bad feeling about this game, for the following reasons:

* Rodgers' hubris after the first game, which could conceivably motivate Chelsea to push harder.

* After losing 4-2 at home, Chelsea's pride is wounded, and Mourinho will undoubtedly have them massively fired up for the game.

* Chelsea very rarely lose two home games in a row.

* After his altercation with Henderson, Costa will probably be even more fired up for the game.

On the plus side, Brendan Rodgers hinted that Daniel Sturridge may make the bench for the game, but he also conceded that he'd only make that choice if the striker is 100% fit and ready.

As much as Liverpool need Sturridge, he's only recently returned to training, and a high-intensity, hugely physical game against Chelsea is probably the wrong game to make a comeback.

I expect to see the following line-up:

------------------- Mignolet

--------- Can ------ Skrtel ------- Sakho

---- Johnson --- Hendo --- Lucas ---- Moreno

------------- Coutinho -- Gerrard

------------------- Sterling

* Rodgers may go for experience in this game, hence the inclusion of Johnson and Gerrard over Manquillo and £20m-Markovic.

* There's also a possibility that £26m Lallana may come in for Coutinho.

* There's an outside chance that Lovren may come in for Can, who may need a rest after starting seven games in a row.

* Moreno didn't make the squad for Saturday's stalemate with Bolton, which suggests that he'll come back into the side.

Sorry, but I just can't see Liverpool winning this game. I hope I'm proven wrong.

My prediction: 3-1 to Chelsea

Author:

1/26/2015 06:30:00 pm

Midfielder: I'll be 'delighted' if €20m star quits LFC & signs for us. Let him go?

Liverpool star Mario Balotelli continues to be linked with a return to Serie A, and Lazio are the latest club to be linked with a move for the beleaguered striker. Reds boss Brendan Rodgers insists that the €20m summer-signing still has a future at Anfield, but his compatriot, Lucas Biglia, has encouraged Balotelli to quit LFC and return to Italy.

When asked over the weekend about the possibility of Lazio signing Balotelli, Biglia told reporters:

"We'd be delighted to play with him [Balotelli]. If he comes he would be very welcome."

Lazio are in a dire straits right now when it comes to strikers:

* Keita Balde hasn't scored a single goal in 375 minutes of pitch time this season.

* On Sunday, Filip Djordjevic broke his ankle during Lazio's 3-1 victory over AC Milan, which means he'll be out for a few months.

* Miroslav Klose is the only senior striker left in the squad, and he's 36 years old.

It all seems perfectly set-up for Balotelli, but according to Brendan Rodgers, the striker is still very much in his plans. He told reporters today:

"I've seen some bits this morning suggesting that's him [Balotelli] done here. That's not the case. If players work hard, and show intensity and focus, they have every chance of getting back in the side and staying there."

In any event, Lazio Chief Claudio Lotito doesn't seem interested, and in a recent interview, he seemed less than enthused about the possibility of signing Balotelli:

"Balotelli? We do not sell dreams, but solid reality [and] we want to keep the chemistry in the locker room".

As usual, it seems that Balotelli's reputation (for allegedly unsettling dressing rooms) goes before him, but beggars can't be choosers, and if Lazio desperately need a striker, then they may have no choice but to consider the Liverpool striker.

Liverpool fans certainly won't be sorry to see Balotelli leave. I recently conducted a site poll asking whether Liverpool should sell if the chance arises:

* 13270 visitors participated in the poll.
* 77% of participants voted for LFC to sell Balotelli.

Clearly, fans have little confidence in Balotelli, and I can't see that changing any time soon. I supported his signing but only because of the comparative bargain of a transfer fee, and if Rodgers decides to let him go in January, then so be it.

The brutal truth is that Liverpool won't miss him; Raheem Sterling has usurped Balotelli up-front, and with another striker almost certain to come in at some point (plus Sturridge to return) the Italian's chances of regular first-team football look set to rapidly dissipate.

Author:

1/26/2015 02:30:00 pm

Exciting Deal? LFC desperate to sign 'extraordinary' £17m Barca star this week to replace Mignolet

Liverpool continue to be linked with a last-ditch January deal for Barcelona 'stopper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, and new reports suggest that Brendan Rodgers is planning to change his strategy in a bid to bring the youngster to Anfield.

Last week, Sky Sports claimed:

"Liverpool are planning an audacious January swoop for ter Stegen [who] is currently behind Claudio Bravo in the Nou Camp pecking order"

On Saturday, The Independent reported:

"Liverpool hoping to sign up-and-coming talent Mark Andre ter Stegen until the ends of the season."

ter Stegen - recently hailed as 'extraordinary' by former Bayern boss Jupp Heynkes - has made just 8 appearances for Barcelona this season, but his stats are impressive:

* 5 goals conceded in 8 games (0.6 per game)
* Concedes a goal every 144 mins (1 every 1.6 games)
* 5 clean sheets (62% of games)

Despite his excellent form, £17m-rated ter Stegen is stuck on the bench most of the time, and in an interview this week, the German revealed his frustration with the situation. He told Bild:

“The situation is difficult. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care and it isn’t easy being a spectator. I want to be the No. 1...so it’s something I will fight for."

The German publicly expressed his dissatisfaction again on Saturday, when he told reporters:

"For now, the manager counts on me for the Cup and Champions League, but I'd like to play in the league. I want La Liga, even if Bravo is doing a good job."

I have zero sympathy for ter Stegen:

* No one twisted arm to join Barcelona at such a young age. He made that decision, and now he's facing the consequences (i.e. negligible playing times)

* He could be playing every week for Borussia Moenchengladbach right now, but he chose to abandon his development to spend most of his time on the bench.

* Madrid legend Bodo Illgner advised ter Stegen against signing for such a big club early in his career: "A transfer at his age could affect a career in two ways, both positive and negative. If you make a mistake at a big club and get off to a bad start, it would leave a big mark on his career".

* I'm sure others echoed Ilgner's warning, but ter Stegen clearly chose to ignore the advice.

ter Stegen can moan till the cows come home, but it probably won't make any difference. Claudio Bravo is in excellent form for Barca:

* Only 9 goals conceded in 20 games.
* 13 clean sheets (65% of games)
* Recently went 754 minutes without conceding a goal (a Barca record)

Liverpool could certainly do with some good old German efficiency in the team, but it seems unlikely that Barcelona will let one of the world's best young goalkeepers leave after only six months at the club.

A loan deal is more of a possibility, but that doesn't help Liverpool. The Reds need a permanent solution, and Brendan Rodgers can't build an enduring defensive unit around a temporary goalkeeper.

A loan deal is only a good idea if the contract between Liverpool and Barcelona contains a solid, actionable option-to-buy clause, and there's no way (IMO) that will happen.

Author:

1/26/2015 06:50:00 am

Legend warns: £20m Liverpool star has a major 'weakness' to overcome. Big problem?

With Luis Suarez no longer at the club, Raheem Sterling is the new golden boy amongst Liverpool fans, and like Suarez, he is constantly revered and eulogised as if he's the perfect footballer. Sterling is in good form at the moment, but he is very far from the finished article, and according to Manchester United legend Paul Scholes, the youngster has a glaring weakness to his game that needs to be rectified.

In his weekend column for The Independent, Scholes observed:

"I don’t rate him [Sterling] that highly as a striker of the ball.

"I feel that the weakness in his game is his strike. His touch is good. His problem is the hit. Too often his shots are a scuff or a bobble".


Sterling's own comments on his finishing seem to support Scholes' contention here. After scoring against Chelsea in the League Cup last week, he noted:

"I got to the edge of the box and thought I would shoot. It scuffed into the back of the net so it was a lucky finish"

Watching £20m-rated Sterling play over the last two years, it's clear that his shots-per-goal ratio is not the greatest, and that may be partially due to the 'weakness' highlighted by Scholes. Some stats from this season:

* Total shots: 38
* Shots per game: 1.8
* Shots per goal: 9.5
* Shooting accuracy: 55%

As the stats show, Sterling needs 9.5 shots per goal, which suggests that many of his shots are either not on target, or - for whatever reason - not powerful enough to beat the keeper. In both instances, scuffed/bobbled shots may be a contributing reason.

Sterling definitely needs to tighten up his finishing, but he's only 20, so improvement in his area will (hopefully) come naturally as his experience level increases.

Ultimately, as long as Sterling's scuffed-shots end up in the back of the net (like the Chelsea game), then it's not really a problem.

Author:

1/25/2015 07:29:00 pm

Last-Ditch Deal: LFC to make late offer to sign 'superb' £20m striker. Replace Borini?

In January 2014, Liverpool were linked with a move for £20m-rated Southampton attacker Jay Rodriguez, and with the talented striker on the verge of returning from a long-term injury, the Reds are reportedly back in the race to sign him.

The Reds were linked with Rodriguez once again in the summer, and according to The Mirror this weekend:

* Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham are planning to submit new bids for Jay Rodriguez.

* After 9 months out with a serious knee injury, Rodriguez is hoping to get the all-clear next week to resume playing.

Ex-Red Jamie Redknapp is a big fan of 'superb' Rodriguez, and in a recent column for the Daily Mail, he enthused;

"He [Rodriguez] is a smashing lad...with a continental style. He is more polished now...and can strike a ball with swerve and movement".

Despite his absence, Southampton are exceeding all expectations without Rodriguez this season. The South Coast club are currently sitting pretty in the Premier League's top four, and it's hard to see how he'll fit in upon his return. Still, Saints boss Ronaldo Koeman insists the striker is not for sale. He told reporters on Friday:

"Jay will come back and play in football and that’s our question, not about the rumours. He’s a Southampton player, he has a contract and he’s not for sale"

That's good news because it's a huge mistake to even consider signing Rodriguez:

* A serious cruciate ligament injury is arguably the worst injury a footballer can suffer.

* In many cases, it takes a very long time to recover previous form. Just ask Lucas. Or Falcao.

* Rodriguez has now been on the sidelines for 10 months, and in January, he suffered another 'setback'. Earlier this month, Burnley star Sam Vokes revealed: "I spoke to Jay in the week and he was here for the Liverpool game. He’s struggling a bit with his knee but he’s another strong character and I’m sure he will come through it.”

In my view, Liverpool's transfer policy should explicitly preclude the signing of players with recent cruciate ligament injuries.

The likes of Falcao, Valdes, and Rodriguez are fine players, but there's no guarantee that they'll ever recover their previous form, and with large sums of money involved, the risk just isn't worth taking.

If, after a full year of playing regularly, Rodriguez is injury-free and playing well, then that is the time to consider a transfer.

Rodriquez is arguably an upgrade on Borini, Balotelli, and Lambert, but signing him now - or even in the summer - would be an act of transfer negligence (IMO).

Author:

1/25/2015 02:46:00 pm

'I prefer him': Man Utd hero claims Sakho is better than £20m star. Agree?

Since returning from injury, Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho has finally started showing some consistency in his form, and his solid performances mean that £20m summer-signing Dejan Lovren is barely getting a look-in these days. Sakho and Lovren are left-sided central defenders, which means they're both competing for the same spot in the team, but overall, who is the better player?

According to Manchester United legend Paul Scholes, there's only one answer.

On Friday, he told The Independent:

"I prefer Mamadou Sakho to Dejan Lovren in defence, not least for the fact that he always looks to play the ball forward. You need to be positive if you want to play attacking football and I see that quality in Sakho".

At this stage, I'm sure most LFC fans will Scholes. Lovren had his chance earlier this season, and he blew it, big time. Sakho has grabbed his chance with both hands, and remains in the team on merit.

I'm not the biggest fan of Sakho, but as with every player, the past is irrelevant; play well and you should stay in the team, it's that simple.

If Sakho, Skrtel, and Can maintain their current form (3 clean sheets in 4 games; only one goal conceded), then it's hard to see how Lovren is going to break back into the team.

Scholes is also spot-on about Sakho's passing:

* 89% passing accuracy for the season so far.
* Second-best accuracy in the entire squad.
* Only Skrtel (91%) has better passing accuracy than Sakho.

Sakho is positive with the ball, and always tries to pass it forward, but that's been the case ever since he arrived. Now, his defensive solidity is reaching the same level of consistency, and that's a good thing for Liverpool.

That said, if given the chance, I still think Lovren will come good. After splurging £20m in the summer, Rodgers has no choice but to try and integrate him into the team at some point, and it's possible he may - like Skrtel and Sakho - perform well in a back three.

The alternative is to sell, and given Lovren's poor form this season, his value has probably plummeted. At the very least, he needs to be in the shop window to maintain his value, but since Liverpool paid over the odds, I doubt any other club will pay £20m+ for him.

To be honest, the same probably applies to Sakho - his form may have improved, but when the time comes, will any other club pay £18m+ for him?

polls & surveys


Author:

1/24/2015 10:22:00 pm

Barca flop to Anfield? Boss confirms LFC 'interest' in 'brilliant' attacker & tells BR he's very 'happy' at Stoke

Liverpool are currently linked with a surprise move for 'brilliant' ex-Barcelona star Bojan Krkic, but is there any chance of the deal taking place?

According to the Daily Mail this week, Reds boss Brendan Rodgers is monitoring Krkic - who is a cousin of Lionel Messi - but when asked on Friday about Liverpool's interest, Stoke Boss Mark Hughes emphatically dismissed the possibility of allowing the Spaniard to leave. He told reporters:

"Don't bother [trying to sign him]. He's very happy. We have no intention of encouraging any interest in him. He's a big part of what we want to do, moving forward, so it's a non-story"

Liverpool have been linked with Krkic several times over the last year, but he neded up signing for Stoke for a ridiculously low fee.

Krkic is only 24 but he's already a bit of a journeyman:

* After failing to hold down a regular place in Barcelona's first team, Krkic moved to Roma for in a €12m deal, but made only 33 appearances in two seasons.

* After just one season, the Serie club loaned him out to AC Milan, who dumped him after one season.

* Barca then farmed Krkic out on loan to Ajax, where he chalked up just four goals in twenty-four appearances.

After signing Krkic on loan, Ajax boss Frank De Boer outlined what he perceived to be Krkic's main qualities:

"Bojan is a top player that we can really use. He is skilful, has good game insight and can score. We've added a very good player. I think he'll play right wing, but he can also be used as a left-winger or striker"

Krkic's versatility in attack will obviously appeal to Brendan Rodgers, but his career has clearly stalled after leaving Barcelona. The Spaniard is on record many times stating how much he loves the Catalan club, and it seems like he finds it hard to motivate himself to perform at the highest level for any other club.

That may be changing at Stoke City, but after Hughes' comments, the chances of Liverpool prising Krkic away seem slim. Money talks, though, and if the Reds go in with a £10m+ offer - which will represent a huge profit - Stoke may find it hard to resist.

Author:

1/24/2015 04:50:00 pm

Confirmed LFC XI vs. Bolton: 6 big changes; humiliation for £20m star

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has made significant changes for today's FA Cup tie with Bolton Wanderers, and as expected, several of the club's first team regulars are rested in anticipation of Tuesday's crunch-clash with Chelsea.

FULL TEAM: Mignolet, Johnson, Can, Sakho, Manquillo, Allen, Henderson, Enrique, Coutinho, Lallana, Sterling

SUBS: Ward, Lovren, Lambert, Lucas, Borini, Rossiter, Markovic

* Skrtel, Gerrard, and Moreno are rested, and Lucas drops to the bench for a well-earned rest.

* Allen, Johnson, Enrique, Manquillo, and Lallana return to the starting line-up.

* Lovren is ignored once again, which is a little humiliating for the Croatian. With Skrtel out, he probably expected to be included in the team, and I doubt he'll be impressed with this ongoing marginalisation.

* Balotelli is also out of the squad, and it's not immediately clear why. Are we to believe that he's still suffering from an alleged 'chest infection' for the third game running?

Based on the personnel, I expect to see the following formation:

----------------------- Mignolet

------ Manquillo -------- Can ---------- Sakho

Johnson -------- Hendo ----- Allen ----- Enrique

--------------- Coutinho -- Lallana

--------------------- Sterling

There are six (ostensibly) defensive players in the starting line-up, which strikes me as overly cautions, but despite that, this team is (on paper) more than good enough to dispatch Bolton.

Liverpool legend Mark Lawrenson isn't optimistic, though. Predicting a 1-1 draw, he told the BBC:

"Bolton are on a great run under manager Neil Lennon, and this is a tricky game for Liverpool. I think Bolton will fancy their chances of getting a positive result".

Chelsea, Spurs, Man City, and Swansea are all out of the cup today, and I'm sure Bolton's players will be emboldened by the series of shock results, which could spell bad news for LFC.

Complacency is not an option.

My prediction: 2-2

Author:

1/24/2015 03:17:00 pm

LFC to make stunning £30m offer for 'new Ronaldo' this week. Sale 'inevitable'. Late Transfer?

The Mauro Icardi rumours just refuse to die. The Inter Milan striker continues to be linked with a move to Anfield, and new reports claim that the Reds are considering a last-ditch bid for the coveted striker.

According to The Express this week:

* Chelsea and Liverpool are set to put in £30m bids for Icardi this week to stave off last minute interest from Atletico Madrid.

* Inter Director Sporting Director Marco Fassone confirmed that Inter may have to sell some of their stars to raise much-needed funds. He told reporters: "Without the Champions League, some sales may be inevitable."

This is not the first time Liverpool have been linked with Icardi:

JULY 2013: The Daily Mail claimed: "Liverpool have enquired about Sampdoria striker Mauro Icardi. The Argentine has also been watched by Tottenham and Manchester City".

AUG 2013: sources in Italy claimed that that the Reds planned to make a €30m offer for the 21-year old striker.

NOV 2013: reports in Italy claimed that Liverpool were planning a massive €35m (£28m) move for Icardi.

When asked recently about Icardi's future, his agent told reporters:

"If Icardi plays in Spain or England, where he is likely to go, he will be a star. He will become one. He has the talent to be the new Ronaldo. You'll see"

Some info about Icardi:

* Spent 3 years at Barcelona before his €400k move to Sampdoria.
* 11 goals/2 assists in 33 apps for Samdoria.
* Last season: 9 goals 2 assists in 23 apps for Inter.
* This season: 12 goals/assists in 15 games.
* 1 appearance for the senior Argentina team.
* Current contract expires in 2018.
* Missed 10 games through injury last season.
* In a recent interview, Icrdi reveals he wants to 'be like Gabriel Batistuta'

Ex-Inter Boss Walter Mazzari is convinced that 'perfect' Icardi is destined for great things, but in a recent interview, he sounded a note of caution over the striker's development, and urged him to focus on his game:

"If he [Icardi] can keep this up and get some flaws out of his game, he can be a great player. He has all the characteristics, he just has to focus. Personal things need to be put aside. Footballers are professionals and they mustn't forget that."

This deal is not as far-fetched as it sounds. Rodgers' is clearly obsessed with bringing young players into Liverpool's squad, so it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if he splurged big bucks on yet another alleged 'star of the future'.

Additionally, Inter have just signed Lucas Podolski and Xherdan Shaqiri, both of whom are capable of replacing Icardi in the team.

After spending £20m on Lazar Markovic, though, I sincerely doubt that LFC fans will bee too thrilled to see Rodgers spend €35m on a 21-year old. FSG may also be wary of Rodgers' judgment in the transfer market, and it'll be a huge surprise if the group sanctions such a big fee for another young player.

There's also the London factor to consider - if it comes down to a straight choice between Chelsea and Liverpool, there's only going to be one winner. Diego Costa and Alexis Sanchez are proof of that.

Author:

1/23/2015 08:52:00 pm

'He needs to...': Lawro tells BR how to turn £20m attacker into an LFC superstar

Prior to his most recent injury, Adam Lallana seemed to be finally finding his way at Anfield, and now that he's back in the squad, Liverpool legend Mark Lawrenson has urged Brendan Rodgers to make the £20m-rated midfielder permanent fixture in the first team.

In his column for the Liverpool Echo this week, Lawro hailed Lallana's return from injury as a 'bonus' for the Reds, and insisted that the midfielder 'is someone who needs to play regularly'. He explained:

"You can’t rotate him [Lallana].

"Lallana doesn’t have half a yard of pace to get him out of a pickle, but he has great ability and good balance and, because of that, he needs to be at the peak of his condition.

"The only way to do that is by playing virtually every game".


Wishful thinking from Lawro, here.

* Given his recent injury history, Lallana is clearly not robust enough to play 'virtually every game', and overdoing it it will inevitably lead to more injuries.

* Lallana has access to the best fitness/conditioning resources money can buy, but if - as Lawro suggests - rotation means he is unable to maintain 'peak' condition', then there's a serious problem somewhere.

* If Lallana is a permanent fixture in the first team (like, say, Jordan Henderson), it basically means Liverpool will always play with Lallana, Sterling, and - when fit - Sturridge. In that scenario, Coutinho will regularly miss out, and I'm sure that will not go down well with LFC fans.

* Like everyone else, Lallana needs to fight for his place, and if he's not doing the business on a consistent basis, he should be replaced by someone who's capable of having the required impact.

The only way to avoid rotation is for Lallana to become absolutely indispensable to the first team, and based on his form so far this season, he has a long way to go before reaching that level.

Author:

1/23/2015 04:45:00 pm

'LFC are watching': Good news as Agent confirms 'incredible' star's transfer plans

Liverpool are reportedly considering a move for Club Brugge goalkeeper Matthew Ryan, and his agent has now responded to rumours linking the 'incredible' Australian stopper with a January transfer to Anfield.

On Monday, The Telegraph claimed:

"Brendan Rodgers and the Anfield transfer committee are closely monitoring Ryan [and] a potential summer move is under discussion".

Ryan is definitely open to a move, and on Tuesday, he told reporters:

“It’s nice to be associated with a club like that [Liverpool], and if it’s meant to be then it will happen in the future. If I continue to work hard...it will sort itself out”

When asked on Wednesday about Liverpool's interest, Ryan's representative Mikkel Beck confirmed that 'Liverpool are watching' Ryan but insisted that the Reds haven't yet made a 'concrete' move. He further added:

"A move is unlikely this month [but] the Premier League is one of the best leagues in the world, and knowing how ambitious Mat is it is the kind of league he would like to play in."

Ryan's stats:

Central Coast Mariners

* 99 goals conceded in 94 apps (1 every 1.05 games)
* 36 clean sheets (38% of games)

Brugge

* 69 goals conceded in 78 apps (1 every 1.1 games)
* 32 clean sheets (41% of games)

* TOTALS: 168 goals conceded in 172 apps (1 every 1.0 games)
* 68 clean sheets (40% of games)

Ryan's basic stats are far superior to Mignolet, who (overall) concedes 1.4 goals per game.

Brugge’s former sporting director, Arnar Gretarsson, is convinced that Ryan's days in the Belgian league are numbered, and in a recent interview, he noted:

"I don’t see him staying for much longer at Club Brugge. I know he would like to go to the Premier League. He definitely has the quality to play in the big three leagues."

Ryan is currently on international duty at the Asia Cup, so a January move seems unlikely. However, if/when the Reds make a concrete move, Ryan is probably one of the cheapest goalkeeping options out there, and that will undoubtedly appear to Rodgers.

Liverpool already tried the cheap option with Mignolet, and that hasn't really worked out. With the greatest respect, you get what you pay for, and if the Reds are going to spend big-bucks on a player, it should only be on a striker...or a goalkeeper.



Author:

1/23/2015 05:46:00 am

LFC line-up vs. Bolton: £62m trio to start? Shock debut for 'unplayable' attacker?

With only one defeat in fifteen games, things are coming together for Liverpool at exactly the right time, and with Chelsea to come on Tuesday, a good victory over Bolton on Saturday is essential to maintain consistency and confidence.

A few points:

* On Tuesday, Brendan Rodgers played his strongest available team against Chelsea, and it'll be interesting to see if he does the same against Bolton.

* Given their lower-league status, it seems likely that the manager will 'rest' several players, including Gerrard, Sterling, and possibly one of the central defenders, with the likes of Lallana, Lovren, Borini, and Balotelli coming back into the fold.

* Gerrard, in particular, doesn't need to play the Bolton game; Liverpool can manage without him, and if - as expected - Rodgers starts him against Chelsea, it'll be better if he's full rested.

* Emre Can looked defensively suspect against Chelsea, so I'd like to see Lovren come into the back three. He is, after all, a dedicated central defender, and irrespective of his indifferent form so far, he is superior to Can in that position.

* After being dropped for the Chelsea game, Borini deserves a start against Bolton. He can come in for Sterling, who can rest-up on the bench, and only enter the game as a last resort. That said, if he scores against Bolton, Rodgers will inevitably drop him again, so perhaps it's better if he just stays on the bench (!)

I'd like to see the following team:

-------------------- Mignolet

---------- Lovren -- Skrtel ----- Sakho

---- Manquillo - Hendo - Can ---- Markovic

-------------- Lallana - Balotelli

-------------------- Borini

* Rested (Not in the squad): Gerrard and Lucas.
* Rested (On the bench): Sterling, Coutinho, Moreno.

That team is more than good enough to get a result against Bolton, but if it's not working, there are options on the bench to come on and make a difference.

Perhaps there's even a chance that Rodgers may spring a surprise and start either Jordan Rossiter or 'unplayable' winger Jordon Ibe?

My prediction: 4-1 to Liverpool

Author:

1/22/2015 11:57:00 pm

Epic Deal: LFC want €42m star who'll be 'better than Messi' in 2 years

Last month, Italian newspaper Tutto Mercato claimed that Liverpool are favourites to sign Palermo striker Paulo Dybala, and it appears that the Reds remain interested in the coveted Argentine goalscorer.

According to Turin-based newspaper Tutto Sport this week, Liverpool are still tracking Dybala, but PSG and Manchester United have now entered the race. The story so far:

* Nov 2013: reports in Italy claimed that Rodgers had 'singled out' 21-year-old Dybala as the man to resurrect Liverpool's failing front-line.

* Dec 2013: Tutto Mercato claimed that Liverpool are actively pursuing Dybala, and are current favourites to sign him.

* Dec 2013: In response to transfer speculation, Palermo President Mauro Zamperini placed a ridiculous price tag on Dybala's head. He told reporters: "He [Dybala] is our jewel. If you want him, it'll take $50 million (€42 million) to get him"

* Dec 2013. In a separate interview, Zamperini made the following exaggerated claim: “He [Dybala] is the best striker in Serie A. Within two years, he's going to be better than Cristiano Ronaldo, [Lionel] Messi and [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic"

This week, Zamperini continued his eulogy by claiming that Dybala is 'one of the best talents in the world', and insisted that he is 'destined to go to a great club'. He further added:

“If he [Dybala] continues to play well...then a big club from abroad will sign him. Where will he go? England, France, German, or Spain".

So, is Dybala worth €42m? A striker's primary role is to score and create goals, so let's take a look at his stats this season:

* 10 goals/7 assists in 19 apps.
* Goal every 160 mins (1 every 1.7 games)
* Goal/assist every 94 mins (1 every 1.1 games)
* Passing accuracy: 81%
* Key passes: 1.4 per game.

Stats: OPTA

With 17 goals/assists in 19 games, Dybala is clearly doing the business for Palermo, but Zamperini is out of his tree if he thinks he's worth €42m.

For strikers, consistency is the key, and although he's doing well now, it'd be madness to splurge such a huge transfer fee on a player with only 77 games-worth of top-flight experience.

Dybala is going through a purple-patch at the moment, but football is littered with players who had one great spell/season, and then fell by the wayside.

If Dybala is worth €42m (in the bizarro-world of football), then Raheem Sterling must be worth a similar amount, or more? Whatever the reality, in my view, neither player is worthy of such a ridiculous fee.

Arsenal have reportedly pulled out of the race to sign Dybala after refusing to meet Zamperini's ludicrous valuation. That makes sense, though, as Arsene Wenger is no mug when it comes to expensive transfers.

As is always the case, a player like Dybala is an enticing option, but only for the right price.

Author:

1/22/2015 08:30:00 pm

Legend raves: LFC are a 'better team' when €20m maestro 'plays well'. Agree...?

Whisper it quietly: After only one defeat in 14 games, Liverpool are currently in the midst a mini-resurgence, and according to Reds legend Ronnie Whelan, one of the main reasons for that is the form of Brazilian maestro Philippe Coutinho.

In November, Whelan blasted Coutinho for failing 'to do any of the things he was doing seven months ago', and suggested that his 'confidence' was 'lacking.

Things seem to be looking up, though, and After watching Liverpool's 1-1 draw with Chelsea on Tuesday, Whelan enthused:

"Liverpool are a better team when Coutinho plays well"

In an interview this week, Coutinho reiterated once again his ongoing battle to deal with the physicality of the Premier League, which may have contributed to his lack of form earlier this season. He noted:

"The physicality takes you by surprise. When you put your head up in England, you see two or three players ready to hit you. The intensity and the speed is what really takes time to adjust. You can never relax".

€20m-rated Coutinho is undoubtedly playing well, but in my view, his actual specific, measurable contribution to the cause needs to improve. Consider the following stats from this season:

* 2 goals/3 assists in 28 apps.
* Goal every 988 mins (1 every 10.9 games)
* Goal/assist every 395 mins (1 every 4.3 games)
* Prem Only: 1.1 key passes per game
* 21 chances created in 19 apps.
* 1 chance created every 66 minutes.

Stats: OPTA

I'm a huge fan of Coutinho, but these stats are simply not up to scratch, and the most concerning stat is chance creation:

* Last season, Coutinho created 65 chances in the Prem (1 every 35 mins)
* This season, he's experienced a 50% drop in chance-created per game.
* As a comparison: Hendo is on 42, Sterling is on 50, and Gerrard is on 41.
* Spurs' Christian Eriksen is on 52, with only 3 extra games played.

With this in mind, is it really true to say that Liverpool are a 'better team' when Coutinho plays well? He may be playing well in some ways, but in terms of specific, measurable impact, the Brazilian is not consistently contributing to the cause.

As such, Coutinho's place in the team is (IMO) very much up for grabs, and if another attacking player comes in (in the summer, for example), and outperforms him in the goals/assists/chance-creation arena, then he could find himself warming the bench a lot more next season.

In fact, when Sturridge finally returns, Coutinho may well find himself playing second-fiddle to Adam Lallana, especially if the £26m signing starts playing consistently well.

Author:

1/22/2015 04:45:00 pm

TMW Exclusive: LFC in talks to sign '£6m' goal-machine who's 'like Aguero'

Liverpool and Manchester United are reportedly considering a move for highly-rated Paraguayan starlet Sergio Diaz, who is allegedly locked in transfer talks with both clubs.

According to an exclusive today in Italian newspaper Tutto Mercato:

* Liverpool have made contact with Diaz's club, Cerro Porteño (CP), to discuss a transfer.

* 16-year old Diaz - allegedly considered one of world's 'best talents' is rated in the £6m range.

Some info about Diaz:

* Scored 30 goals in one season for CP's U15 team.
* Debut at 15 for CP in the Paraguayan Primeira division.
* 8 goals in his debut season for CP.
* Scored 5 senior goals for CP before turning 16.
* Part of the same youth team as Juan Iturbe, another LFC target.

* Currently in Uruguay for the South American Under-20 Championship.
* started Paraguay’s first game vs. Bolivia and scored in a 4-2 win.

Diaz is often compared to Sergio Aguero, and it's a comparison he seems to like. In a recent radio interview, he explained:

"I am like Kun Agüero - I have the same characteristics, including speed and goals, and I scored 30 goals for for the U15 team"

Cerro Porteño U15 coach Diego Gavilan appears to agree with that assessment. After Diaz's promotion to the first team, he enthused:

"He [Diaz] is definitely like Agüero. He's strong, technical and his main objective is to find the goal. He scored 33 goals in less than six months, something that no young player has ever done here"

This all sounds very promising, but unless Diaz has European lineage, it's surely going to be incredibly difficult for Liverpool to secure a work-permit.

£6m is not the most outlandish fee for an extremely 16-year old, but it's still grossly inflated, and there are absolutely no guarantees that Diaz - if signed - will ever make it as a first-team regular. If the likes of Suso, Pacheco, Alberto, Teixeira et al can't make it, what chance does a 16-year old with next to no experience have?

I've made this point a million times, but it's worth repeating again: in the last 25 years, only five attacking players have made it through the academy to become first-team regulars: Steven Gerrard, Steve McManaman, Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, and Raheem Sterling.

That's it.

5 players in 25 years? That's a sickeningly sad indictment of Liverpool's ability to find and develop young attacking players, and in my view, it's a mistake for any teenage striker/attacking midfielder to join LFC's academy.

If Diaz signs for Liverpool at the age of 16, then history suggests the following three-step process:

* Toil away in the Academy for 2-3 years.
* 4-5 loan spells at lower-league clubs.
* Leave LFC for a pittance and disappear into obscurity.

The better option is to go elsewhere and develop for a few years, and then join Liverpool between the ages of 20 and 24, an age range that seems to be particularly fruitful for young attacker players hoping to make the breakthrough.

Sergio Diaz: You've been warned...



Author:

1/22/2015 12:15:00 am

Goal-Machine: LFC plan new offer for £25m striker who's 'better than Bale'. Done Deal this week?

Earlier this month, Anfield legend Steve Nicol urged Liverpool to Lyon goalscorer Alexander Lacazette, and after weeks of transfer speculation, the Reds are reportedly on the verge of making a concrete offer for the coveted striker.

In June, Lacazette's Agent, David Venditelli claimed that Lacazette 'will leave for a team that players in the Champions League' or one that is 'very close to it', and according to Le10 Sport this week:

* Liverpool are now favourites ahead of PSG to sign £25m-rated Lacazette.

* The Reds are planning to make an official offer 'in the coming days'

Speaking to ESPN last week, Nicol insisted that Lacazette 'fits the mould that Liverpool are looking for', and strongly urged his old club to pursue the striker:

“Liverpool have an opportunity to sign this guy [Lacazette] and I think they should. He loves to go forward [and] score goals and he reminds me of [Luis] Suarez. I think this would be a superb signing".

Ex-Red Aly Cissokho also believes that Lacazette is a good option for Liverpool, and in a recent interview, he enthused:

"Clubs like Liverpool have a lot of competition [but] it's up to him to see if he's ready to take it on. We'll see what happens in the summer, but he easily has the quality to play in teams of that stature."

Some info about Lacazette:

* 23 years old.
* Can play on the wings, or up-front.
* Spent his entire career with Lyon.
* Three trophies with his club so far.

* 58 apps for various France youth teams.
* 2 apps for the senior national team.
* 2010: Winning for for France in the Under-19 European Championship final.

* STATS: This season: 23 goals/7 assists in 27 apps.
* Goal/assist every 79 mins.
* 2009-2014: Goal/assist every 119 minutes (League only)

Lacazette is achieving Suarez/Sturridge-style creative stats this season, and given his speed, mobility, and finishing ability, he'd clearly be a logical signing for Liverpool. What are the chances of that actually happening, though?

When asked on Tuesday about the possibility of Lacazette leaving in January, Bernard Lacombe - special advisor to Lyon President Jean Michel Aulas - told reporters:

"He [Lacazette] is a great player, and weill do everything to keep him until the summer. He must work on his left foot, and if he does, he can be better than [Karim] Benzema"

Last week, Aulas made the following bold claim:

"I think Alexandre is much better [than Gareth Bale], but Alexandre doesn't have a price, so it's pointless thinking of one"

If Liverpool surprise everyone and seal this deal, Sturridge will clearly be under intense pressure to maintain his fitness. Lacazette has the potential to scale similar heights, and if he does the business, Sturridge's regular absences will suddenly become less important, which means he becomes less important.

Unfortunately, Liverpool cannot rely on Sturridge, so it's absolutely vital that the club has at least one other striker who's capable of picking up the slack. If that means Sturridge falls slightly down the pecking order, then so be it. I'm one of his biggest fans, but the team has to come first.

Author: