9/17/2014 06:13:00 am

Yes Please: 'Incredible' £20m star is ready to quit Barca & wants LFC transfer. Sign?

Over the summer, Liverpool were constantly linked with a move for Barcelona star Pedro,and with new reports this week suggest that the Reds are still monitoring the Spaniard, who is allegedly ready to consider a move away from the Nou Camp.

In June, The Mirror reported:

"Liverpool are preparing a bid for Barcelona winger Pedro. Brendan Rodgers has made a discreet approach to Barca for and has been told he is available at the right price"

This week, new reports claim that:

* Pedro - who has not completed a full 90 minutes yet this season - is ready to leave Barcelona.

* He fears the arrival of Luis Suarez will curtail his first-team chances even further.

* The €24m-rated attacker is 'keen to listen to offers' from Liverpool and Arsenal.

When asked this week about his future, Pedro - known as 'the silent superstar' by Barca fans (on account of his humble demeanour) - told reporters:

“It’s difficult [at Barca]. All I want to do is work hard. It’s difficult to get into the starting 11 because I’m competing with the best forwards in the world but I’m fighting for my place every day"

What would Pedro - recently described as 'incredible' by Spain boss Vicente Del Bosque - bring to the Liverpool team? In a recent interview, the forward outlined what he perceives his role to be for Barcelona. He told reporters:

"My job in the team is to free up space on the pitch for my teammates, to build moves, to turn certain episodes into goalscoring chances or to get assists for teammates in better positions. These are my responsibilities during the game. Everything I do must benefit the team."

Despite the ridiculous competition at Barca for attacking places, Pedro's stats over the last few years are creditable:

2013-14: 20 goals/10 assists in 52 apps.
2012-13: 10 goals/7 assists in 48 apps.
2011-12: 13 goals/6 assists in 51 apps.
2010-11: 22 goals/8 assists in 52 apps.
2009-10: 22 goals/4 assists in 50 apps.

Liverpool fans certainly hold Pedro in high regard. Prior to the Adam Lallana signing, I asked fans who they'd rather see LFC sign this summer: Pedro or Lallana.

* 17100 visitors (approx) participated in the poll.
* A gigantic 80% of voters chose Pedro over Lallana.

That's a quite staggering vote of confidence in Pedro, but it's hardly surprising given the Spaniard's experience and pedigree. I also voted in favour of Pedro, for the following reasons:

* Pedro has consistent experience at the highest levels of the game, including copious European/international experience.

* He's played alongside some of the world's best players for years, including Messi, Xavi, and Iniesta.

* The Spaniard is a winner; he's won practically every trophy in the game, and that kind of experience could be invaluable for Liverpool. The Reds lacked experience in the final stages of last season, and that arguably contributed to losing the title.

* Pedro is the kind of player who'll come in and give the entire club a lift. He's a marquee signing with an aura about him.

In purely footballing terms, Luis Suarez's exit is a huge negative for Liverpool, but if the Uruguayan forces Pedro out of Barcelona, there could still be a silver lining...


9/16/2014 06:53:00 pm

LFC 2-1 Ludogorets: Reds struggle to beat Euro minnows. Result papering over the cracks?

As expected, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has restored Raheem Sterling to the staring line-up for tonight's Champions League clash with Ludogrets, and after the weekend defeat to Aston Villa, a second home defeat in a row is unthinkable...isn't it?

FULL TEAM: Mignolet, Manquillo, Moreno, Lovren, Sakho, Gerrard, Henderson, Coutinho, Sterling, Lallana, Balotelli

SUBS: Jones, Enrique, Toure, Lucas, Suso, Borini, Lambert

So far, Rodgers has ignored Suso for all the league match-day squads, it's good to see the Spaniard back in the squad.

Probable Formation:

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

Manquillo --- Lovren -- Sakho --- Moreno

----------------- Gerrard

---------- Hendo -------- Lallana

---------------- Coutinho

---------- Sterling - Balotelli

The diamond will arguably get the best out of the chosen players, but there's always an outside chance that Rodgers will stick with 4231. It didn't work against Villa, but it may be more effective in Europe.

If £20m-rated Coutinho plays at the tip of the diamond, he really needs to put in a good performance. His form is middling at the moment, and Lazar Markovic is waiting in the wings to usurp him.

My prediction: 3-1


9/16/2014 03:20:00 pm

LFC vs. Ludogorets: Bad news as £20m Liverpool star is suspended for the game. Loss?

After a 5-year hiatus, Liverpool return to the Champions League this evening, and after the weekend defeat to Aston Villa, a win against Ludogrets will be the perfect pick-up ahead of the West Ham game this weekend.

Injury news: Skrtel, Allen, Flanagan, Johnson, Sturridge and Can are all missing for the game.

In another blow, Lazar Markovic is suspended for the game as a result of receiving a red card in last season's Europa League.

In his press Monday press conference, Brendan Rodgers insisted that he'll treat the game as if Liverpool are 'playing Real Madrid', which is a good thing, as the underestimating any team in the Champions League - even comparative minnows - is a recipe for disaster.

With all the injuries/suspensions, the team basically picks itself. I expect to see the following line-up:

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

Manquillo --- Lovren -- Sakho -------- Moreno

----------------- Gerrard

--------- Lucas -------- Henderson

---------------- Lallana

----------- Sterling -- Balotelli

* Rodgers may spring a surprise and play Lucas, but as one of the only players in the squad with decent Champions League experience, so it makes sense to play him. Plus, with Gerrard will probably need the extra protection.

* Additionally, with LFC's defence continuing to be shaky, Lucas is an extra insurance policy.

* Coutinho is off the boil at the moment, so it won't be a surprise to see him back on the bench, though the slower-paced Champions league may be just the arena he needs to get his mojo back.

* Sakho will probably perform well on the European stage, too, as the games are less frenetic than the Champions League.

* It's also possible Rodgers might throw a curve ball and play the more experienced Jose Enrique.

It'll be interesting to what formation Rodgers chooses. The 4231 experiment didn't work at Aston Villa, but it may be more suited to in a European tie, against opposition that - according to Rodgers - will 'play attacking football'.

My predictio: 3-1 to LFC


9/16/2014 06:59:00 am

Anfield Boost: BR confirms 'excellent £12m LFC star will return this week. Great news?

Over the last year, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has spent a whopping £57m trying to solve Liverpool's defensive problems, but as the Aston Villa game illustrated once again, the Reds still have problems at the back. Thankfully, Martin Skrtel is close to being fit again, and in my view, the 'excellent' Slovakian's return will make a major difference to the club's defensive effectiveness.

In his pre-Ludogrets press conference today, Brendan Rodgers told reporters:

"Martin has worked very hard. He joined the group yesterday, so he's working well. It's too early for this game [Ludogrets[, but he should be available for the West Ham game".

It is absolutely imperative that Rodgers plays a settled back four as much as possible this season, and that means selecting a first choice centre-back pairing, and sticking with it as much as possible.

Some will disagree, but a Sakho-Lovren partnership is not an effective long-term solution, for one simple reason: it forces Lovren to play as a right-sided central defender, which is not his usual position.

For Lyon, Southampton, and Croatia, Lovren almost exclusively played as a left-sided central defender, but now he's at Liverpool, that's changed, and it clearly affects certain elements of his game.

Why spend £20m on a defender and then play him out of position? Granted, injury has forced Rodgers' hand somewhat in the last couple of games, but when £12m-rated Skrtel returns, Lovren should (IMO) be restored to his preferred position.

Going forward, Rodgers should - bar injury - play the following unit as much as possible:

* Manquillo --- Skrtel -- Lovren ---- Moreno

Aces in their places, and everyone 100% comfortable in their position. For me, that's the key to increased defensive solidity, and forcing an experienced centre-back to basically relearn his position (by playing on the right) is (arguably) not conducive to achieving that.


9/15/2014 09:59:00 pm

Coutinho-killer? BR wants to sign 'dream' £15m star who can leave for 65% discount

Liverpool continue to be linked with a move for Manchester City star James Milner, and according to reports over the weekend, the midfielder is likely to leave the Etihad during the January transfer window.

65% Price Crash: BR wants to sign 'dream' £15m midfield star. Game-changer, or benchwarmer?

In July, The Guardian reported:

"With Milner in the final 12 months of his contract...Liverpool and Arsenal have made inquiries and [are] interested in signing him".

On Sunday, Sky Sports claimed that:

* Liverpool, Everton, and Arsenal remain 'interested' in Milner.
* Man City value him at £15m, but are willing to accept £5m (a 65% discount).

When asked last month about Liverpool's alleged interest in Milner, Anfield legend Gary Gillespie enthused:

"He [Milner] is a manager's dream. He doesn't upset the apple cart, and you know what you're going to get. He doesn't really catch the eye, but he works his socks off, and doesn't get the rewards he deserves".

Milner is the archetypal British player: full of running; endless stamina; good at tackling, tracking back etc, but short on genuine guile and skill. He is a steady, reliable payer, but his pedestrian brand of huff-and-puff football is definitely not going to take Liverpool to the next level. Milner's creative stats over the last 4 years:

* 2013-14: 2 goals/15 assists in 44 apps.
* 2012-13: 4 goals/7 assists in 35 apps.
* 2011-12: 3 goals/5 assists in 37 apps.
* 2010-11: 3 goals/8 assists in 42 apps
* TOTALS: 12 goals/35 assists in 158 apps
* Goal every 13 apps | Assist every 4.5 apps.

Enough with the British players already! The likes of Milner, Allen, Lambert, and Lallana will not win the league for Liverpool. Teams composed of 80%+ Brits in the starting line-up very rarely win the top trophies, and the Reds have more than enough Brits in the squad.

Rodgers went for youth over the summer, and that policy doesn't appear to working at the moment. The new players will need time, but in January, one or two top class, experienced players are required, and although Milner meets the experience criterion, he is not (IMO) the answer, even for £5m.

If Liverpool do sign Milner, though, Coutinho's place will arguably be under most threat. The England midfielder can play left, right, or central, and he's no real threat to Sterling, Henderson, or Gerrard.

free polls


9/15/2014 07:00:00 pm

'It's a man's game': BR's surprise reaction to 'brainless' Aston Villa incident

Reds striker Mario Balotelli did well to ignore Philippe Senderos' thuggery during Liverpool's 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa, and many fans - myself included - feel that the Swiss hacker should've been disciplined for (amongst other things) kicking Balotelli during the first half of the game. Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is blase about the issue, though, and he's dismissed the incident as 'part of the game'.

When asked about the 'brainless' Senderos incident in his pre-Ludogrets press conference today, Rodgers told reporters:

"We expect the ref to protect all our players, not just Mario Balotelli...but it's a man's game; a competitive game, so there's no complaints from me. Football is for men, and it's a strong game"

I agree to an extent - football is a man's game, and certain elements of its inherent physicality need to be retained. However, in this case, deliberately kicking another player is not - and should not - be part of the game. Yes, it was off the ball, but it's still illegal, and even with shin-pads, that kind of kick hurts (it's happened to me on the field, too).

In comparison to his views on Luis Suarez's treatment on the field, Rodgers dismissal of the incident is a little surprising. With Suarez, BR never missed an opportunity to slam the rough treatment he received, but he seems to be taking a different approach with Balotelli.

The Italian can expect similar treatment in many games to come, and the indirect message here from the manager appears to be: Man Up! Rodgers also reiterated what he expects from Balotelli this season:

"He [Balotelli] is working very hard on the training field. I'm sure he's relishing the [Ludogrets] game, and he's been brought in here to do a job, which is to create goals, score goals, and work hard"

Create goals, score goals AND work hard. That just about covers it. Hopefully, Balotelli will get off the mark in tomorrow's Champions League game, which will give him and the club a big boos ahead of the must-win West Ham fixture this weekend.

It seems strange to label the game a 'must-win' at this early stage of the season, but with two games lost already, and Man United looming in the background, the margin for error is increasingly slim.


9/15/2014 09:30:00 am

It's Your Fault: BR blames Villa loss on £20m LFC star; warns him to 'do better'. Harsh?

Brendan Rodgers very rarely criticises his players in public, but in the wake of the Reds' pitiful 1-0 home defeat to Aston Villa, LFC's boss has taken the unusual step of publicly blaming £20m summer signing Dejan Lovren for the goal that cost Liverpool the game.

Speaking to reporters after the game, Rodgers insisted that Liverpool 'have to defend better', and then criticised Lovren for losing his marker 'too easily'. He mused:

“When you let the opponent get the first contact that’s what can happen.

"It was unfortunate, and Dejan Lovren is a wonderful defender, strong and aggressive, but we have to do better in that situation"

I doubt Lovren will be too impressed to see Rodgers basically blaming him for the Villa defeat. I'm sure he's aware that of the mistake, and in my view, it's not good man-management to specifically highlight the error in public.

Generally speaking, Rodgers doesn't criticise players publicly, so why start now? What exactly will this achieve? Mistake aside, Lovren put in another good defensive performance, and he's been solid all season.

I'm all for public criticism, but only in general terms and/or directed at a specific area of the team. Slam the defence as a whole; highlight the lack of real creative threat up-front, but singling out individuals can be counter-productive.

As for Lovren - he usually plays as a left-sided central defender, but he's been shunted to the right to accommodate Sakho, and it looks to me like that's thrown him off his game a little. With Skrtel out, needs must, but as soon as the Slovakian is fit again, he should come in to replace Sakho, which will allow Lovren to move back to his preferred position.

EDIT: As usual, some fans refuse to acknowledge the reality. Rodgers has clearly singled out Lovren for criticism here; it is as clear as day - he even mentions him by name, which is something he rarely does in public. This is a very fair interpretation of BR's comments, whether fans like it or not. He criticised Lovren in public; the goal led to Liverpool losing; as such, BR is indirectly blaming Lovren for the defeat.


9/14/2014 10:50:00 pm

Sell ASAP? - Euro giants to make January offer for 'outstanding' £10m LFC star

Last week, Liverpool defender Glen Johnson admitted that he could 'talk to other clubs' during the January transfer window, and by all account, he won't be short of potential suitors.

According to reports today, Roma are planning to make a January offer for £10m-rated Johnson, who shares an agent with fellow Brit Ashley Cole, who joined the club on a free transfer over the summer.

In my view, the more clubs that come in for Johnson the better, as it (theoretically) means an increased chance of moving him on.

Some of the criticism of 'outstanding' Johnson - - recently hailed as 'one of the best full-backs in the world' by Brendan Rodgers - is, admittedly, a little over the top, but there's no escaping the fact that Johnson's time at Anfield is slowly drawing to a close, and with Manquillo, Moreno, and Flanagan in the squad, it's going to be hard for him to retain an automatic starting place.

Of course, there's also another possibility: Johnson returns from injury and plays out of his skin, prompting Rodgers to keep him in the side, leading to a new 2-year contract at the club. It's not beyond the realm of possibility - after all, just look at the resurgence of Martin Skrtel.

To be honest, as much as I don't rate Johnson, if he takes a pay-cut, then I don't have a problem with him staying at LFC. Whether he's willing to do that is another matter entirely, but if he stays, he'll make a great squad player, just like Lucas, Allen, Toure et al.


9/14/2014 05:15:00 pm

Arsenal hero blasts: Ref should've sent off 'brainless' star for 'stupid' LFC foul. Agree?

Liverpool star Mario Balotelli received some rough treatment yesterday at the hands of hacker extraordinaire Philippe Senderos, and according to Arsenal legend Alan Smith, the Swiss defender should've been sent off for brazenly kicking Balotelli during the first half of LFC's 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa.

After witnessing Senderos' blatant off-the-ball foul on Balotelli, Smith - who was co-commentating - barked:

"What a stupid kick out by Senderos. That is just brainless. Your team's a goal ahead, you're in charge, and Villa should've been down to ten men"

Viewing the incident, it's hard to argue with Smith's assessment:

The incident happened right in front of the referee, who surely must've seen (even in his peripheral vision) Balotelli go down, so why didn't he investigate when play came to a natural stop?

Senderos hassled Balotelli constantly, but that's the Premier League for you. It's arguably the most exciting league in the world, but it's it's still filled with limited hackers like Senderos, and Alan Hutton - who took out Sterling with a disgraceful assault tackle - who thrive on the (illegal) physicality of the game.

Hopefully, the FA will take retrospective action against Senderos, who is so hopelessly out of touch that he actually believes kicking people is 'part of the game'. After the match, he told reporters:

"It's things that happen on the pitch. We're running towards each other, against each other, but there's no harm in going like this."

This is damaging attitude to hold in this day and age, and Senderos needs to disciplined, or he'll continue to scythe people down and get away with it.

Kudos to Balotelli, though, for keeping his cool despite the constant provocation. In my view, he passed a small test against Villa; Senderos constantly tried to incite a reaction, and the Italian refused to take the bait, which bodes well for the future.


9/14/2014 12:07:00 pm

'He's my idol': £20m LFC star admits he 'wants to be like' Man Utd legend

Raheem Sterling is developing into a very effective player for LFC, and it's clear that he has all the attributes to become a top class player, but who inspires 19-year old attacker?

Speaking yesterday to the Daily Mail, Sterling - who impressed during Liverpool's 3-0 victory over Tottenham last week - revealed his biggest football influence:

"Ronaldo has always been an idol to me, but I’m not going to say any more because every time I mention a name, people say I’m comparing myself to them! Everyone wants to be like the best in the world."

If you're going to model yourself after someone then on a football basis, Ronaldo is a good choice. Having said that, if £20m-rated Sterling really wants to learn how to be the ultimate winger, he would be better off studying footage of Liverpool legend John Barnes, who was (IMO) a better player than Ronaldo.

Liverpool legend John Aldridge agrees, and in an interview last year, he enthused:

"He [barnes] is quite simply the best player I ever played with. John was something else, a latter day Ronaldo if you like...but better. He could do everything and he provided the crosses for many of my goals in a red shirt"

Barnes was an amazing, once in a lifetime player, and I'm so thankful that I got the opportunity to see him play live. I'm convinced that anyone who actually watched Barnesy play regularly for Liverpool would agree that he is a superior player to Ronaldo.

Unlike Ronaldo, Barnes often created everything for himself, and most of the time, he created something out of nothing with his genius skill. Ronaldo often needs other players to create space for him, play him into space, and/or create goals for him.

Just watch any compilation of his goals for Real Madrid, and you'll see that the majority are created by others. The same applies on the international stage; he rarely creates something out of nothing for Portugal.

This is why Barnes - and Lionel Messi - are arguably better players than Ronaldo. Messi is very much like Barnes in that he's a one-man creative machine, and regularly creates goals/chances out of nothing. When it comes to a direct comparison, Barnes was (IMO) superior to Ronaldo in the following ways:

* Close control, dribbling, running with the ball.
* Genuine guile, skill and creativity.
* First touch.
* Crossing.
* Passing.
* Chance-creation.
* Goal Assists.
* Free kicks.

Ronaldo has the edge in the following areas:

* Overall goalscoring.
* Heading.
* Pace.
* Shooting.

It should also be remembered that Barnes played in an era where players got practically no protection from referees. Rash tackles were the norm, and defenders constantly hacked, kicked and hassled creative players without fear of being disciplined. Despite this, Barnes still managed to play beautiful football, and he made it look easy.

Ronaldo would've been kicked out of the game in late-1980s. He has it comparatively easy in terms of the physicality he faces from opposing defenders, and I doubt that he'd be half as effective then as he is now.

On the other hand, Barnes would've been even better in the modern game as he'd have much more time and space on the ball, and he wouldn't have to deal with hackers like Tony Adams constantly trying to scythe him down with 'reducer' tackles.

Sterling is good, but he's got a long way to go before he's in Barnes' class.


9/13/2014 11:37:00 pm

Confirmed: 'LFC made €20m offer' for 'extraordinary' star kicked out of Barca. Future transfer?

The Agent of Lazio starlet Keita Balde Diao - a former Barcelona youth player - has confirmed that Brendan Rodgers actively tried to sign the striker over the summer.

Speaking to reporters this week, Balde's agent, Anglo Cascella, told reporters:

"Liverpool and Juventus made a €20m million offer for Keita last summer, but Lazio always rejected their offers".

Liverpool have been linked with Balde several times over the last year:

SEP 2013: The Daily Mail reported that Liverpool's scouts watched the 18-year old in his debut in Lazio's 1-0 win over Legia Warsaw in the Europa League.

FEB 2014: Italian newspaper Tutto Mercato reported that the Reds were still monitoring the player.

MAR 2014: The Mirror claimed that Liverpool scouts continued to check on Balde, and his Agent insisted that the transfer fee 'cannot be less than €15m"

Some facts about Keita:

* Kicked out of Barca at 15 for playing a prank on a tour of Qatar.
* 2010-11: Scored 47 goals in one season for UE Cornellà's youth team.
* Rejected the chance to return to Barcelona.
* Currently contracted to Lazio until June 2017.
* Last season: 8 goals/9 assists in 27 apps for Lazio.
* 5 goals/assists in 8 Europa League games.

Lazio midfielder Gianmarco Falasca is a fan of Keita, and believes he's destined for great things. In December, he told LazioNews:

"Keita is an extraordinary talent. When he works, you can see he is quiet and he is really strong"

Lazio coach Edy Reja is also quietly confident that Keita can develop into a top class player. In a recent interview with Rai Sport, he enthused:

"I knew about Keita’s talent two years ago, he is a player who has continued to grow. If he can maintain the right level of humility and work hard, even defensively, he can do very well.”

It's unclear whether LFC made the offer before or after signing Divock Origi, but in my view, it doesn't make sense to spend €20m on Balde with similarly-aged Belgian striker already in the squad.

Plus, both are similar players, in that they're big, strong, powerful attackers, though Balde can also play on the left-wing.

If Rodgers made an offer, then he's clearly interested, so it's not beyond the realm of possibility that Liverpool may go back in for Balde in the future.


9/13/2014 09:30:00 pm

'It was shabby': LFC hero accuses £18m LFC star of Villa 'incompetence'. Harsh?

Liverpool are down to 8th place tonight after a poor 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa, and to be fair, the Reds didn't really deserve to win the game.

This kind of disjointed performance is, perhaps, inevitable when trying to integrate lots of new players, but despite a wealth of attacking talent on the field, Liverpool consistently failed to make a telling creative impact.

Once again, individual mistakes sabotaged the team, and Anfield legend Jimmy Case laid the blame for Villa's winning goal squarely at the feet of Mamadou Sakho. He barked:

"It was an unnecessary corner given away by Mamadou Sakho's incompetence. It is a shabby goal that has bounced off a few players and trickled into the corner. A few players went under it but there was uncertainty in the defence."

I'm not Sakho's biggest fan, but in this case, to accuse him of 'incompetence' is unfair, and given the disproportionate reaction to something so commonplace, it seems to me that Case's view may be underpinned by latent personal dislike. Players give away corners all the time; it doesn't make them incompetent.

Lovren must shoulder the lion's share of responsibility for Villa's goal. He let hacker-extraordinaire Philippe Senderos get in front of him, and that lapse led to the goal. Analysing the game, Ex-Red Jamie Redknapp was not impressed with LFC's £20m signing. He told Sky Sports:

"I can't believe it. It was poor defending from such an experienced player [Lovren]".

Some other points:

* For me, resting Sterling remains the right decision. Rodgers is entitled to expect that a team containing Balotelli, Coutinho, Henderson, Lallana, Markovic, and Gerrard is capable of scoring against Aston Villa at Anfield. The pressure shouldn't be on Sterling to rescue Liverpool; the team has to learn to win games without him, and I'm sure that will happen.

* In any event, after all the clamouring for Sterling to come in, he didn't make much of an impact. Ditto Borini and Lambert.

* Pretty poor performance from Balotelli. Very little movement, and barely threatened Villa's goal. He's still settling in, of course, but it's not like he's never experienced the Premier League before.

* Lallana was generally anonymous, too. Yes, he's just got back from injury and isn't fully match-fit, but he contributed next to nothing in the game, which is a disappointment.

* Excellent passing from Sakho throughout the game, but he still unsettles the defence (IMO). Lovren is more effective as a left-sided central defender, and perhaps that explains why he's looked a little shaky (at times) over the last couple of games. Still, mistake aside, Lovren defended well overall, as did Sakho.

* Some argue that Liverpool missed Joe Allen, but I totally disagree with that assertion. What exactly did the team miss? His goals? Assists? Chance-creation? Physical presence? Tackling? Domination of midfield? The only thing the might've been missed is his ability to press the ball, but since when did 'ability to press' become a midfielder's most important attribute? Allen rarely, if ever, effects the game (i.e. makes a telling impact on the scoreline), and it would've been the same against Villa.

There will inevitably be doom and gloom over the scoreline; it's a bad result, but it's not critical. This result mirrors the 1-0 home defeat to Southampton a year ago, and Liverpool's season didn't collapse as a result of that. Indeed, after the Saints result, the club lost three of its next nine games, but still went on to finish second in the league.

It's just teething problems whilst the raft of new players settle-in, and learn to play together. I'm not worried, and things can only get better.


9/13/2014 04:46:00 pm

Confirmed LFC XI vs. AV: Shock selection by BR; No one saw this one coming. Mistake?

Well, no one saw this one coming (!) Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has sprung a major surprise this afternoon by leaving Raheem Sterling on the bench for the Reds' Premier League game with Aston Villa.

FULL TEAM: Mignolet, Manquillo, Moreno, Lovren, Sakho, Gerrard, Henderson, Coutinho, Markovic, Lallana, Balotelli

SUBS: Jones, Enrique, Lucas, Toure, Sterling, Lambert, Borini

VILLA: Guzan, Hutton, Baker, Senderos, Cissokho, Westwood, Delph, Cleverley, Richardson, Agbonlahor [c], Weimann.

Many LFC fans will be unhappy with Rodgers resting Sterling, but in my view, it's a good decision. Liverpool should not have to rely on a 19-year old, and with the hype-machine currently out of control, withdrawing the youngster from the spotlight every now and again is arguably the right thing to do.

Earlier this week, I argued that the gross overpraise of Sterling is counter-productive, and as per usual, many fans refused to accept it. However, Brendan Rodgers himself argued this week that he needs to be 'protected' from the hype, so my point is valid. When asked on Thursday whether Sterling is being overhyped by the media, Rodgers said:

"I think he [Sterling] needs protection. I have seen it over the years. He is doing great for Liverpool but there are still a lot of things he needs to learn. I expect him to keep progressing but in terms of where he is at I think we need to be careful".

Probable formation:

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

Manquillo --- Lovren -- Sakho --- Moreno

----------------- Gerrard

----------- Hendo ------ Lallana

----------------- Coutinho

------------------------- Markovic

---------------- Balotelli

My prediction: 2-2, or 3-2 to LFC.

I hope Sterling spends the whole game on the bench. If Liverpool are winning, he doesn't need to play, and with three games in seven days, the more rest he gets, the better.


9/13/2014 04:18:00 pm

LFC 0-1 AV: Legend slams 'incompetent' £18m star; 'Poor' £20m man blamed for goal

With just over an hour until Liverpool face Aston Villa, the Reds are facing the prospect of starting the game without £16m summer signing Mario Balotelli.

Anfield Shock? Crucial LFC star set to miss Premier League clash with Aston Villa

According to reports this afternoon:

* Balotelli has a stomach bug, and is set to miss this evenings Premier League game.

* The striker missed training on Thursday amidst struggling with the bug.

Brendan Rodgers confirmed the issue during his Thursday press conference:

"Mario has had a bit of a bug that we wanted to make sure he didn't spread around the group. I think he has felt the warmth of the club since he's been here and I'm sure he will look forward to playing at Anfield."

Balotelli posted the following tweet an hour ago:

This sounds like someone cheering the team on from the sidelines, which suggests he is going to miss the game.

With Sturridge already out, losing Balotelli will be a big blow, but that's what the squad is for, and if Borini and/or Lambert will have a great chance to stake their claim.

I'd personally go with Borini over Lambert, but Rodgers will probably go for Lambert:

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

Manquillo ----- Lovren -- Sakho ------ Moreno

------------------- Gerrard

----------- Hendo --------- Lallana

------------ Sterling -- Markovic

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

EDIT: Disaster averted. Balotelli starts (!)


9/13/2014 10:39:00 am

Slated: Barton blasts 'stupid' £29m LFC star, & claims Man Utd flop is 'better' and more 'selfless' for England

QPR midfielder Joey Barton has delivered a withering assessment of Liverpool star Daniel Sturridge, accusing the striker of selfishness, and hinting that he's not a team player for the England national team.

Speaking to The Telegraph this week, Barton:

* Slammed Sturridge's 'stupid' robotic goal celebration, and argued that he should rush to celebrate with team-mates instead of celebrating by himself (!)

* Claimed that England "wouldn’t have won the [Switzerland] game with Sturridge" because he’s an 'individual', who prioritises scoring, doing 'tricks' and trying to shoot over passing.

* Insisted that Danny Welbeck is 'much better for the team' and is a 'much more selfless player' for England than Sturridge.

Barton is simply the latest in a long line of people to perpetuate a well-worn cliche about Sturridge here, i.e. that he's a selfish player. In fact, the only thing missing from his mean-spirited tirade is the suggestion that the Liverpool striker is 'arrogant', which is the other ridiculous cliche with which Sturridge is unfairly associated.

Barton's reasoning is tenuous at best: Sturridge spends ten seconds doing his trademark celebration, and that means he's selfish? Lots of players run off and celebrate solo after scoring; not all players immediately rush to embrace their team-mates, or the goal-creator.

Is there something inherently selfish about this? Only in a Seinfeldian bizarro world.

Additionally, £29m-rated Sturridge's job is to score goals, which is why he prioritises this at every opportunity. Many of the world's top striker are the same, and this hunger to score at every opportunity fuels Sturridge's prodigious strike-rate.

Danny Welbeck is goalscoring pauper next to Sturridge, and when he is capable of contributing 46 goals/assists in 50 games, then we'll talk.

NOTE: Any comments personally insulting Barton will be deleted.


9/12/2014 11:38:00 pm

LFC vs. Villa: Huge £25m boost after £80m mini-crisis, but attacker to be dropped?

Finally, the interminably tedious international break is over, and it's back to business as usual for Liverpool. The Reds lost Daniel Sturridge, Emre Can, and Joe Allen to injury over the last week, but with Adam Lallana fit again, and Mario Balotelli well-rested, the Reds have more than enough quality in the squad to compensate for the absentees.

Martin Skrtel, Jon Flanagan, and Glen Johnson are also out injured, which means that, overall, the Reds will have over £80m worth of first-team talent sidelined for tomorrow's games.

With three games in a week - including the club's return to the Champions League - the strength in depth of LFC's squad will really be tested. The team I'd like to see for Villa:

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

Manquillo ---- Sakho -- Lovren ------ Moreno

----------------- Gerrard

----------- Hendo ----- Lallana

----- Sterling ------------ Markovic

--------------- Balotelli

* Coutinho has been in the USA, and last played on Wednesday, so his recovery time (including long-haul flights) is not ideal. Markovic hasn't played for a week, so he should theoretically be fresher. Having said that, the Brazilian started the last game on the bench, too, and a second game on the sidelines may start to feel like being dropped.

* With Skrtel out, Sakho will almost certainly get another chance in central defence, and if the Reds keep two clean sheets in a row with him in the team, then maybe I might start drinking the Sakho Kool-Aid too. LFC have never kept two clean-sheets in a row with Sakho in the team, however, so as the French would say: 'C'est impossible!'.

* Lallana is reportedly fit, but I have a feeling that Rodgers may decide to go with Lucas, and bring the ex-Southampton star on later in the game.

* The full-backs pick themselves, although there's an outside chance that Jose Enrique might get the nod.

Predicting a 2-0 win for Liverpool, Mark Lawrenson told the BBC:

"It'll be interesting to see what manager Brendan Rodgers does to compensate. I guess they will play a diamond with new signing Mario Balotelli up front. They've coped without Luis Suarez and I expect them to be OK without Sturridge, with Raheem Sterling in fine form".

My prediction: 2-2


9/12/2014 07:08:00 pm

Dalglish raves: LFC is the 'perfect place' for 'fantastic' £16m attacker to go. Agree?

With Daniel Sturridge out injured, new signing Mario Balotelli is set to spearhead Liverpool's attack against Aston Villa on Saturday, and despite ongoing attempts by the media to unsettle him, Reds legend Kenny Dalglish is convinced that the Italian will not rise to the bait.

In his column for The Mirror this week, Dalglish insisted that Balotelli is a good signing for Liverpool, and backed Brendan Rodgers to manage him effectively. He explained:

"Liverpool is the perfect place for him [Balotelli] to go. He’s got a manager who is not confrontational but at the same time can instil discipline.

"So if he wants to settle down, I’m sure he will at Liverpool and that he’ll be a fantastic asset for the club."

Earlier this week, typically spurious reports in the media that Balotelli had to be subbed off during a friendly with Wolves after allegedly kicking an opponent in the head (!)

This, of course, was nonsense, and in his Thursday press conference, Rodgers slammed the media for manufacturing stories, and revealed the truth about what actually happened. He told reporters:

"Both of them tackled, they fell over. George [Saville} gets up, rubs his head, and the next thing I know it's reported that Mario kicked him in the head. It's incredible what people write. There was no incident at all. Mario's been as good as gold since coming in."

As noted several times over the last month, I'm a massive fan of the Balotelli transfer, and if he can ignore the inevitable media tomfoolery, then that will go a long way to eradicating some of the issues that many seemingly expect to arise.

The media want a reaction, and if Balotelli responds to the fake stories, embellishments, exaggerations, and downright lies, he'll just add fuel to the fire, and things will spiral out of control.

I have to admit, though, I'm slightly worried about how Balotelli will react to the possible goading/incitement he'll receive on the pitch. Like with Luis Suarez, it's inevitable that certain players will try and wind him up in an attempt to get a reaction and/or get him sent off, and it's crucial that he doesn't react.

Just look at the media circus over the fabricated Wolves 'story', and that's in response to a game that took place behind closed doors. If anything happens in front of the cameras, the media frenzy will be even more intense.

I fully expect Balotelli to make mistakes this season, though. He'll get some yellow cards; make rash tackles; backchat the ref/opposing players; maybe even get a red card at some point, but these things are part-and-parcel of the game, and it's important for fans not to follow the media lead and overreact.

Balotelli should not be treated any differently to the dozens of other players who make the same mistakes every week. I regularly criticised Luis Suarez for his on-field behaviour (i.e. diving/handball etc), but I never highlighted stuff like yellow cards, backchat etc, as these things are par for the course, and it will be the same with Balotelli.


9/12/2014 03:45:00 pm

'Best in the world' to LFC? BR wants to sign exciting £16m Brazil star who 'will' leave soon

With the arrival of Javier Manquillo and Alberto Moreno, Liverpool's full-back positions are no longer an urgent transfer priority, but with Glen Johnson recently hinting at a January exit, Reds boss Brendan Rodgers reportedly has his eye on a potential replacement in mind.

According to reports this week:

* Brendan Rodgers wants to sign £16m-rated Barcelona star Dani Alves on a 'short-term deal' next season.

* Manchester United also want the Brazilian, recently hailed by Barca right back Martin Montoya as the 'best full-back in the world'.

Barca confirmed Alves' exit this week, with the following statement:

"We are delighted that Dani is here, and with the performance he has provided for the club. Both sides have reached an agreement though that his contract will end in 2015"

Liverpool have been linked with Alves many times in the past, and Rafa Benitez tried to sign the Brazilian back in 2008. In a 2012 interview with Sports Illustrated, Benitez explained:

"Daniel Alves was our first option on the right side. The problem that we had was that I had to decide to bring Alves as a winger when he was an offensive full-back"

The irony here is that if Liverpool had signed Alves back in 2008, then Johnson - the player Alves may possibly replace - may never have been signed in the first place.

In May, Alves revealed his unhappiness with life at Barcelona, and admitted that there are 'many doubts' over his future at the club. He told Catalan radio RAC1:

“If people put up with me as I am, fine. Otherwise I will go somewhere else. Whether you like it or not, I am part of the history of this club, but I need energy, I need to be content and happy.”

As much as Johnson needs to go, I don't see the sense in bringing in an older defender in his place. Alves is 31 now, and his best years are behind him.

Granted, if the Reds can get him on a free, then it's probably good business, but is Alves a significant *defensive* upgrade on Johnson?

Going forward, Alves - recently described by Brazil's President as 'brave and strong' for his classy reaction to racism - is an exciting player, but at this stage, defensive solidity is the name of the game for Liverpool, and I'm not sure the Brazilian is the best option in that regard.

Still, as I always say, you can never have too many Brazilians in your squad :-)