10/22/2014 06:51:00 am

Possible XI vs. Madrid: Huge pre-game boost for LFC; BR to shock with €20m surprise?

After struggling to beat the bottom club in the Premier League at the weekend, Liverpool now face the prospect of trying to overcome Real Madrid, the reigning Champions of Europe. With the club's defence leaking goals like there's no tomorrow, it doesn't get much tougher than this.

On the injury front, Daniel Sturridge remains on the sidelines, and it remains to be seen whether Alberto Moreno will return to the squad.

The Spaniard missed Liverpool's trip to QPR, but it's unclear whether he is injured, or simply rested by Reds boss Brendan Rodgers.

On the plus side, Madrid will be without Gareth Bale, and Sergio Ramos, with is great news for LFC. Alas, with the likes of Ronaldo, and James Rodriguez in the squad, Real have more than enough quality to make up for the loss of Bale.

The big question of the day is Mario Balotelli: will LFC's €20m signing start the game, or will Rodgers spring a major surprise and drop the Italian for Rickie Lambert, or Fabio Borini?

In a post yesterday, I argued that it's a mistake to drop Balotelli for such a big, prestigious game, and I maintain that view. The Italian has plenty of big game experience, and that may come in handy against a team like Madrid. I'd like to see the following line-up:

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

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

-------------------- Allen

------------ Gerrard ---- Hendo

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

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

* Emre Can didn't make much of an impression at QPR, so I don't see him retaining his place in the starting line-up.

* Coutinho deserves to start after his excellent goal at the weekend. He's been struggling recently, and there's no point curtailing his momentum. Rodgers will probably decide to go with Adam Lallana, though.

* Due to his experience, I suspect Johnson will ultimately get the nod over Manquillo.

There's also the possibility that Rodgers will revert to 4231, and play with two holding midfielders in a bid to counteract the attacking threat of Ronaldo, Rodriguez et al:

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

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

---------------- Allen -- Gerrard

-------------------- Hendo

------ Sterling ------------- Lallana

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

Reds icon Jamie Carragher insists that Rodgers should drop Balotelli for the game, speaking to Sky Sports this week, he suggested the following 4231 line-up:

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

Johnson ---------- Skrtel ----- Lovren ---- Moreno

------------------ Gerrard --- Allen

-------- Henderson ----- Lallana ----- Coutinho

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

Carra explained:

"I wouldn’t play Balotelli - I would play Raheem Sterling [as a] centre forward or a false nine. I think it’s important Liverpool have three players [in front of Gerrard] who work and get after Real Madrid and I’d have Coutinho in a wide area".

Ronaldo is obviously going to be a massive threat, but in his Tuesday column for the Liverpool Echo, Liverpool legend John Aldridge dismissed the possibility of Rodgers deploying a man-marker. He argued:

"Brendan Rodgers will not sacrifice a player to man mark Ronaldo or Modric. That is not his style. The Reds will look to play their own game but they know they cannot allow themselves to be exposed in certain areas when they lose the ball".

Surprisingly, Real Madrid have never scored a competitive goal against Liverpool, so here's hoping the Reds can extend that amazing record tonight. It's highly unlikely, but you never know...

My prediction: 3-1 to Madrid (Sorry, but the defence is a shambles, and I can't see that changing tonight)

Author:

10/21/2014 11:15:00 pm

'He's like Busquets': BR fighting to sign record-breaking €40m Porto star. Replace Lucas?

Liverpool are reportedly going head-to-head with a number of different clubs for Porto starlet Rúben Neves, yet another untested young player.

According to The Mirror today:

"Liverpool have joined the chase for teenage midfielder Ruben Neves, [who] has been watched three times by the Reds this season"

Some info about Neves:

* 17 years old. Turns 18 in March.
* Plays as a defensive midfielder.
* 1 goal in 10 games for Porto.

* 46 apps for various Portugal youth teams.
* 3 apps for the Portugal U21 team (1 goal)
* 2014: Captained Portugal's U17s to the European Championship SF.
* Selected as one of the 10 'Talents of the tournament'.

* Youngest goalscorer in Porto's history. After scoring on his debut against Maritimo, Neves told reporters: "It was a dream debut, not only for my performance and goal but also for the win. I'm going to keep this forever and I hope it will be the beginning of a very successful career."

A profile on UEFA.com describes Neves' playing style as follows:

"Neves impresses with his passing precision, vision and astute positioning, showing great maturity for his age. Although commonly employed as a defensive midfielder, he shows no fear in getting forward, leading attacks and trying to score with his powerful right foot".

Barcelona attacker Cristian Tello is currently on-loan at Porto, and in a recent interview, he waxed lyrical about Neves' talent, and compared him to one of Barcelona's best players. He raved:

"Neves is fantastic with the ball, has great positioning on the field, and is aggressive, with a good job. With some small differences' he plays very much like Sergio Busquets"

Porto are seemingly aware of the growing interest in Neves, and the club has moved quickly to ensure that he won't leave on the cheap. This week, the Portuguese giants confirmed that Neves has signed a new deal:

"Rúben Neves [has] renewed his contracts with FC Porto this Friday. The Portuguese youngster will stay until June 2017, with a release fee of 40 million euros".

Liverpool have dozens of promising youngster at the academy, but very few quality defensive midfielders are on the verge of breaking through, so increasing the club's option in that area could be a good thing.

The Reds could also benefit from grooming a long-term successor for Lucas Leiva...



Author:

10/21/2014 07:30:00 pm

Done Deal? BR set to sign 'world class' €12m 'leader' who dreams of LFC transfer

Marseille star Andre Ayew has been linked with a move to Liverpool many times in the past, and new reports this week claim that the Reds are moving closer to sealing a deal for Ayew, who reportedly 'dreams' of a move to Anfield.

According to reports this week:

* Liverpool are 'set to sign' Ayew, who has refused to sign a new deal with Marseille.

* The move is being prompted by Rodgers' alleged frustration with Mario Balotelli,

* Rodgers is considering a 'cut-price' deal during the January transfer window.

€12m-rated Ayew has preference for Liverpool, and when interviewed last season on French TV show Telefoot, he enthused:

"It [The Premier league] is a league I always think of. I am Ghanaian and an English speaker, and I have a strong preference for England. As for Liverpool - I followed them as a child"

When asked about his future recently, Ayew told reporters:

"Everything is possible. I'm under contract and proud to wear this jersey. I could have left it two years ago, but I stayed, had finished second. We'll see"

Ayew's versatility probably makes him an appealing option for Brendan Rodgers. He can play as a winger, or a striker, but is he prolific enough, though? Stats for the last few years:

* 2010-11: 13 goals/3 assists in 51 appearances.
* 2011-12: 16 goals/4 assists in 39 apps.
* 2012-13: 13 goals/5 assists in 45 apps.
* 2013-14: 8 goals/3 assists in 29 apps.
* Goal/Assist every 2.5 games.

When your joint top-scorer is 'own goals' (3 so far, with Gerrard and Sterling also on 3 goals) then it's clear that there's a problem up-front. As such, bringing in another goalscorer is arguably a priority (!)

Former Ghana head coach Kwesi Appiah is convinced that Ayew is the real deal, and earlier this year, he outlined what makes the striker such a special player:

“Ayew is a player of world-class level and tactically he is good. He is also a leader. When the team is in trouble he pushes all his companions to fight and not give up.”

Sounds like just the type of player Liverpool need, and the polar opposite of Balotelli. There's a world of difference, though, between scoring goals in France, and doing the business in the Premier League, and Ayew's goalscoring stats are not that great to begin with.

With Rodgers' signings failing to deliver so far, he needs to get it right with the next deal. Is Ayew the answer?



Author:

10/21/2014 05:15:00 pm

Legend tells BR: Dump Balotelli & replace him with 'dazzling' £31m star. More like Suarez?

After failing to score again at the weekend, the pressure on £16m Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli is building, and with a vital Champions League game against Real Madrid to come on Wednesday, Anfield legend Jamie Carragher has called on Reds boss Brendan Rodgers to take drastic action.

In his Monday column for the Daily Mail, Carra offered several reasons why Rodgers should drop Balotelli for the Madrid game, and play £31m-rated Raheem Sterling up-front instead:

* Balotelli doesn't 'run around enough'
* LFC need Sterling's 'energy', which Balotelli doesn't offer.
* Sterling can 'run in behind' during counter-attacks.
* He can also 'press from the front', and help the midfield.

Carra is spot on about the benefits of playing Sterling up-front, and the youngster is clearly a lot more like Luis Suarez than Balotelli, but in my view, it's a terrible idea to drop the Italian for the Madrid game, for the following reasons:

* If Balotelli is going to deliver for Liverpool, then Rodgers needs to retain his faith in the striker and keep him motivated. Dropping him for one of the biggest games of the season is not the way to do that.

* Champions league football is probably one of the main reasons why Balotelli signed for Liverpool, so losing out on that - especially against Real Madrid - will probably demotivate the striker, which could have a knock-on effect on future performances.

* Sterling is a good player, but like Balotelli, he is not an out-and-out striker. In theory, moving him upfront sounds like a good idea, but there's no guarantee that he'll do any better than Balotelli.

* Whether fans like it or not, Balotelli is Liverpool's problem now, so it's in the club's interested to maximise his potential and try to get the best out of him.

* Balotelli's only goal this season came in the Champions League, so going into the game, that may give him the confidence to push on and score again.

* Unlike Sterling, Lambert, Borini et al, Balotelli has copious big game experience in the Champions League, and at International level, which arguably gives him the edge.

As Balotelli explained over the weekend, he prefers to play as a number 10, but Rodgers keeps deploying him as a lone central striker. If that's the manager's plan for Madrid, then it's (arguably) tactical suicide - the best solution is to play Sterling alongside Balotelli, which will allow the Italian to drop a little deeper without compromising Liverpool's attacking presence up front.

Ultimately, as Winston Churchill once said: "If you're going through hell, keep going", and in Balotelli's case, that's exactly what he needs to do right now: keep going until the goals start to flow.

Author:

10/20/2014 09:45:00 pm

Transfer Truth: BR confirms whether LFC are going to sign 'exceptional' £16m star. Good news?

Last week, Victor Valdes' agent dismissed reports that the £16m-rated goalkeeper had rejected a 4-day fitness trial with Liverpool, and claimed that the Reds have not yet made any official offer for the ex-Barcelona star. The Reds desperately need a commanding goalkeeper at the club, but it appears that Valdes is not not on the transfer agenda.

Speaking to Spanish newspaper Sport recently, Gines Varvajal claimed that reports of a four day trial are wide of the mark. He explained:

"Liverpool have not offered us the chance to train with them for four days.

"And we have not rejected the offer, because it is false. That offer was never made to us by Brendan Rodgers nor by Liverpool at any moment."


In an interview with Spanish newspaper AS over the weekend, Rodgers was asked specifically if he 'planned to sign another another Spanish player in the coming months', to which the Reds' boss simply responded:

'No'.

Of course, Rodgers denial cannot be taken at face-value. There are many past instance of LFC's manager feeding the press misinformation, with the most recent example being his 'categorical' contention that Mario Balotelli 'will not be at Liverpool' (!)

In terms of shot-stopping, Mignolet had a decent game against QPR, but most goalkeepers are good shot-stoppers; that's the main aspect of their job. The Belgian was (arguably) partially culpable again for both QPR goals: suspect positioning for the first, and being beaten (again) at his near-post for the second.

Liverpool's entire defensive unit is an utter shambles right now, and Mignolet is a big part of disorganisation and lack of cohesiveness. The sooner he's replaced, the better.

Author:

10/20/2014 07:13:00 pm

£12m mystery: After QPR fiasco, BR brings 'fantastic' star back to LFC. Injury nightmare, or rested?

For whatever reason, £12m summer signing Alberto Moreno was missing from LFC's squad for Sunday's 3-2 victory over QPR, and (usually), when a player suddenly drops out of sight, it's usually due to an unannounced injury. The plot has thickened today, with the Reds taking steps to provide cover on the left, which suggests that that LFC's injury problems could be about to get worse.

Last week, Spain U21 boss boss Albert Celades dropped Moreno for Spain's Euro qualifier with Serbia, but after the game, he dismissed rumours of an injury. He told Spanish newspaper AS:

"Alberto Moreno has nothing; there was no physical problem or anything preventing him from playing. It was a technical decision, because we thought that, coming into this match, Gaya was better in that position".

Well, after missing the weekend victory over QPR, Liverpool have now recalled teenage left-back Brad Smith. In an official statement on Swindon's website, boss Mark Cooper explained:

“Brad Smith has been recalled by Liverpool...and we can’t do anything about it. He’s very quick, he’s a great lad and I’m sure he will go on to have a fantastic career in the game. Hopefully in the future we’ll have the opportunity to bring him back".

There's no indication here that Smith is injured, and/or being recalled due to lack of game-time/impact, so the obvious answer is that the youngster is being brought back for cover purposes. As such, Moreno may be injured, and Rodgers will probably shed some more light on that in tomorrow's press conference.

Another injury will be a big blow for Liverpool, especially for Moreno, who is one of the Reds' better defensive performers this season (which, admittedly, isn't saying much!)

Even if Moreno is injured, I personally don't see the wisdom in bringing back Smith. Liverpool have Johnson, Manquillo, and Enrique - surely that is enough to cover the full-back positions for a few weeks? Smith will probably sit on the bench, and make the odd sub appearance, but that won't help him as much as playing regularly at Swindon.

That said, Jose Enrique had a nightmare against QPR, and Rodgers will not have been impressed with his long-ball antics. According to OPTA stats, 23% of the Spaniard's passes were long-balls (the highest in the team), and he achieved a pitiful 58% passing accuracy rate.

With that mind, Smith's recall is partially understandable.

Author:

10/20/2014 12:19:00 am

Transfer Fail: Legend blasts BR for wasting £120m on a 'crowd of mediocrity'. Harsh or fair?

Liverpool legend John Aldridge has slammed Brendan Rodgers' summer transfer activity, and singled out £20m signing Lazar Markovic for specific criticism.

In his column for Sunday World, Aldo slammed Rodgers' summer signings as a 'crowd of mediocrity', and assessing Markovic's individual contribution, he barked:

"Lazar Markovic must do a whole lot better. This kid came with a big reputation, but he has looked out of his depth at Liverpool so far this season. You can’t afford to be carrying players and Markovic is a passenger".

Well, today's performance at QPR did nothing to contradict Aldo's 'crowd of mediocrity' assessment. None of the club's new players performed with any kind of distinction against QPR (the Premier League's bottom club!), and that is a real cause for concern. Indeed, Liverpool legend Dietmar Hamann summed it up with this tweet during the game:

"QPR have been excellent, and did all bar score. Dunne superb, can't believe he's not been playing. LFC terrible all round, lucky to still be in it".

Aldo stuck the knife in a little bit more by tweeting that the QPR performance is 'as poor as I've seen for a while', and I don't think many will disagree with that. LFC basically struggled to beat the Premier League's shipping boys, and had to rely on two own goals to win the game. Pretty embarrassing, really.

As for Markovic - he has made zero impact for Liverpool so far, and with a hefty price tag of £20m, the pressure is just going to mushroom until he starts contributing on a regular basis. The Serb can't do that, though, until Rodgers plays him, and he spends most of his time on the bench at the moment, including today for the QPR game.

Some may argue that Markovic is 'one for the future', and that he shouldn't be expected to hit the ground running, but when a club spends £20m, then it's perfectly fair for fans to have a legitimate expectation that the player cocerned is capable of going straight into the team and making a difference.

The manager creates that expectation by spending a massive amount of money, and in this case, it's down to Rodgers to ensure that any £20m players coming into the club are equipped to meet the inevitable expectation.

As such, irrespective of age, 'one for the future' is not an excuse that can credibly be used for any player signed for £20m+. That may sound harsh, but if the manager is spending that amount of cash on players who may or may not come good at some point in the distant future, then there's a serious problem with the transfer policy (IMO)

That said, in this case, a little perspective is needed. Markovic basically missed LFC's entire pre-season schedule with injury, so he's already behind the rest of the squad, but he can't get up to speed unless Rodgers plays him!

I retain hope that Markovic will come good at some point, but right now, the £20m splurged on the young attacker is looking like money well and truly wasted.

Author:

10/19/2014 08:07:00 pm

Great News? £15m 'warrior' desperate for LFC move can leave for £5m. Sign £32m star instead?

Another day, another defensive shambles. Liverpool's error-prone defenders almost cost the club vital points against QPR today, and despite spending almost £60m on defenders over the last year, the Reds are still shipping goals at an alarming rate. It's a serious problem, and it seems increasingly likely that Reds boss Brendan Rodgers will have to bring in yet another central defender in a bid to steady the ship. West Ham defender Winston Reid continues to be linked with a January move to Anfield, and it appears that he may be available for a knockdown fee.

Last week, the Daily Express claimed that:

* Reid is 'confident' of joining Liverpool.

* He allegedly has his 'heart set' on a move to Anfield.
* Reid has rejected offers from Arsenal and Man United because he wants to join LFC.
* West Ham are willing to sell for £15m.

According to the Daily Mail today, West Ham are desperate for Reid to sign a new contract, but:

"The club fear Reid will reject any new deal and line up a move at the end of the season when he becomes a free agent. If that is the case the Hammers could try to offload him in January for £5m"

Liverpool were linked with Reid earlier this year, with The Mirror reporting at the time:

"West Ham centre back Winston Reid is...a summer transfer target [for Liverpool]. Arsenal are monitoring the 25-year-old's situation, but Liverpool are set to be the first to firm up their interest with a bid'"

Some info about Reid:

* Current contract expires in 2015
* Captain of the New Zealand national team.
* Won West Ham's 'Player of the Year' award in 2013.
* 100 appearances for West Ham since 2010.
* Averages 28 appearances per season.
* 6 goals 3 assists.

Ex-Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp rates Reid, and at the end of last season, he named the defender as one of his players of the season. He told the Daily Mail:

"Winston Reid...has been excellent alongside James Collins. Reid is a warrior defender who can look ungainly but rarely makes mistakes"

In my view, Reid is not the answer in any way, shape, or form; he is a solid Premier League defender, but he doesn't have the European experience required to dominate at Anfield.

If Rodgers is to spend big-bucks on another central defender, it should (IMO) go on a proven, world-class player, with international/European experience.

As always, my first choice is Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels, who is reportedly available for £32m.

Hummels is a proven, world class defender, and you get what you pay for. Granted, £32m is a huge amount of money to spend on a central defender, but to offset the fee, Liverpool could sell Sakho and Ilori, and (hopefully) make back £15-£20m.

Of course, there are no guarantees that Hummels is capable of transforming the club's defence. Many fans (myself included) hoped that Lovren would be the answer to LFC's defensive woes. That may well turn out to be the case later down the line, but right now, the reality is that Liverpool are conceding goals at a greater rate than last season.

As noted above, though, you (often) get what you pay for, and I suspect that Hummels will make more of a positive impact on LFC's defence than Reid.



Author:

10/19/2014 12:44:00 pm

Confirmed LFC XI vs. QPR: £12m star dumped from the squad; surprise in midfield?

Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique return to the Liverpool first XI for today's must-win Premier League encounter with QPR.

FULL TEAM: Mignolet, Johnson, Skrtel, Lovren, Enrique, Gerrard, Can, Henderson, Lallana, Sterling, Balotelli

SUBS: Jones, Toure, Manquillo, Coutinho, Allen, Markovic, Lambert

After his recent injury, Emre Can also comes straight back into the team, but for some reason, Javier Manquillo is dropped to the bench, and Alberto Moreno doesn't even make the first-team squad.

Perhaps Rodgers is saving them for the Real Madrid game, but given their comparative lack of experience, it would arguably make more sense to play them today, and start Johnson and Enrique in the Champions League.

Philippe Coutinho is also dropped, which comes as no real surprise given his underwhelming form this season.

They key question is how will Rodgers utilise Can and Gerrard? Hopefully, he'll play LFC's captain further forward, with Can operating in the defensive midfielder role. Possible formation:

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

Johnson --- Skrtel --- Lovren ------- Enrique

----------------- Can

--------- Gerrard --- Hendo

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

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

Earlier this week, Balotelli complained about playing as a lone striker, so perhaps Rodgers will take that on board and play Sterling up-front alongside the Italian...?

Of course, it's also possible that Rodgers may stubbornly stick to his guns, and play Gerrard at DM, and Balotelli as a lone striker:

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

Johnson --- Skrtel --- Lovren ------- Enrique

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

--------- Hendo --------- Can

----- Sterling ----------- Lallana

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

I don't like the look of this formation, but it's probably what Rodgers will go with.

My prediction: 2-1 to Liverpool.

Author:

10/18/2014 10:30:00 pm

£8m Coup? LFC want to sign 'sensational' star who smashed Bundesliga goals record

With Daniel Sturridge's ongoing injury woes becoming a major problem for Liverpool, the Reds continue to be linked with moves for various strikers during the January transfer window, and the latest name to enter the fray is FC Mainz star Shinji Okazaki.

According to the Daily Express this week:

* Arsenal, Liverpool & Tottenham are 'monitoring' the 28-year old attacker.

* Liverpool have scouted Okazaki several times this season.

* Mainz value Okazaki at €10m.

With 39 goals in 79 appearances for Japan, Okazaki is an experienced international, and his goal ratio of one every two games is excellent. His clubs stats, however, are not as impressive:

* 79 goals/12 assists in 265 games.
* Bundesliga only: 35 goals in 130 apps.
* Goal every 3.3 games.
* Goal/Assist ever 2.9 games.

Okazaki's record in the Bundesliga doesn't look that great, but after recently breaking Yasuhiko Okudera's goalscoring record, he is officially the most prolific Japanese player ever to grace Germany's top league. After breaking his compatriot's record, Okazaki told reporters:

"It’s a record I’m really proud of. It isn’t easy getting a foothold in Europe. I believe that when I do well, players watching in Japan might get the feeling they can also make the grade, which makes me very happy"

Okudera - the first Japanese player to ply his trade in German football - is impressed with Okazaki's achievement, and in a recent interview, he enthused:

"I’m amazed by his [Okazaki's] achievements. It's safe to assume that today’s generation of football fans are just as impressed by Okazaki’s exploits so far this season"

Okazaki is highly thought-of at Mainz, that's for sure. In September, the German club's boss, Kasper Hjulmand outlined why he believes the Japanese striker is such a top player. He told reporters:

"He [Okazaki] is unbelievable. You can't defend against him because he's always on the move and his finishing is outstanding. He knows exactly where to be. I was watching every match last year and thinking 'Is this guy just lucky?', but now I know he's not lucky, he's just incredibly good."

Mainz goalkeeper Loris Karius added:

"I think everybody could see how important he is for us. How he holds the ball up, how he helps the team - he's sensational. It's hard to fathom how he didn't manage to make it at Stuttgart, but that's a stroke of luck for us."

£8m is a bit of a knockdown price, so the risk is comparatively minimal, but Aspas and Alberto came in for similar fees, and failed, so there's always a chance history could repeat itself.

Worth a bid?



Author:

10/18/2014 07:26:00 pm

Possible XI vs. QPR: After major £45m boost, €20m star warns BR to stop playing him out of position

After today's Premier League results, Liverpool have slipped down to tenth place in the table, which makes Sunday's trip to QPR yet another must-win game.

I don't think it's an exaggeration to suggest that every league game is a must-win for Liverpool right now.

After all, the main goal for this season is to finish in the top four, and even at this early stage of thew season, every point counts, and the pressure is well and truly on.

Thankfully, there's good news on the injury front.

In his pre-QPR press conference on Friday, Brendan Rodgers confirmed that Allen, Johnson, Can, and Lovren (i.e. £45m worth of LFC talent) will all be available for the game, which is a massive boost for the Reds.

Daniel Sturridge is not expected to feature, though, which puts the pressure on Mario Balotelli to step up the plate and do the business.

Balotelli has struggled to score since arriving at Anfield, but earlier this week, the Italian indirectly blamed Rodgers for his paucity in front of goal. He told reporters:

"I have never been a real, out-and-out striker. I have always been someone who goes around the pitch. If it was my choice, I would always go with two strikers. It's the way I like to play, but Brendan asked me to play as the first striker".

This is a very clear message from Balotelli that he is not comfortable playing as a lone central striker, and if Liverpool are to get the best out of him, then Rodgers should heed Balotelli's words, and try and play to his strengths. With that in mind, I'd like to see the following team for QPR:

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

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

------------------- Allen

------------ Hendo ------ Gerrard

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

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

I can't see Rodgers playing Balotelli in the number 10 role, especially with the likes of Coutinho, and Lallana in the squad, so he'll probably have to make do with playing as part of a front two.

The problem there, though, is that Sterling is not a central striker, either. He likes to drop deep, link the play, and run at players from a deeper position on the pitch, so Liverpool will lose something if that part of his game is jettisoned just to accommodate Balotelli.

In any event, given the hassle over Sterling's 'tiredness' this week, it's possible that Rodgers will rest him for the QPR game, which may give Markovic and/or Lambert an opportunity to start. QPR is exactly the type of game in which Lambert should excel, so if Rodgers goes that way, the following line-up is a possibility:

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

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

------------------- Allen

------------ Hendo ------ Gerrard

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

------------ Lambert - Balotelli

I really hope the Gerrard at DM experiment is over, but I suspect Rodgers will persist with it, even though it's obvious that the best thing for the team is to have the captain playing further forward.

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

"I do not see Harry Redknapp's side causing Liverpool many problems. At the moment they look short in every area, particularly at the back where they have a soft centre and up front, where there seems to be too much onus on Charlie Austin"

My prediction: 2-1 to Liverpool.

Author:

10/18/2014 05:04:00 pm

£29m Double-Deal? LFC plan Jan offer for £15m star to partner 'irreplaceable' maestro

Liverpool are reportedly planning a January transfer move for Hoffenheim striker Kevin Volland, whose team-mate, Roberto Firmino is regularly linked with a move to Anfield.

According to reports this week, the Reds are considering a double-swoop for Firmino and £15m-rated Volland, who is currently on the fringes of the German national team.

Some info about Volland:

* Plays predominantly as a striker.

* Germany U21 captain.

* International debut earlier this year vs. Poland.
* Made the preliminary Germany squad for Brazil 2014.
* Three minor injuries (All muscles strains) in the last year.

When asked in May about his future, Volland told reporters:

"This is definitely the right club for me. It is great fun here, and I can develop the best possible way. The way we play football fits me perfectly".

Volland has a great understanding with Firmino, which probably explains why Liverpool are (allegedly) interested in signing both player. Indeed, in a recent interview, the striker enthused:

"I always exchange positions with Roberto Firmino. We can move closer together, but are also wide. We can go wide or deep. The most important thing is to intuitively make the right decision".

Volland models himself after World Cup record goalscorer Miroslav Klose, and when asked about the German legend recently, he raved:

"He [Klose] is a huge role model for me. I can learn a lot from him. In training we've talked a few times. He tells me what I can and must do better. He helps me hugely. Miro is just a super guy.”

For a 22 year-old, Volland's stats are creditable over the last three years:

* 2013-14: 12 goals/9 assists in 37 apps.
* 2012-13: 6 goals/12 assists in 37 apps.
* 2011-12: 14 goals/12 assists in 35 Apps.
* TOTALS: 32 goals/33 assists in 109 apps
* Goal/assist every 1.9 games.

A goal ratio of 1 every 3.4 games is not the greatest for a striker, but overall, Volland more than makes up for it with his ability to create goals.

That said, if Liverpool are going to sign another striker, it should (IMO) be someone who is an experienced, prolific striker, with a record of consistently scoring goals.

After Balotelli, Lambert, and Borini, Liverpool can't afford any further gambles up-front; Rodgers needs to get it right, as the club's top four chances depend on it.



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10/17/2014 10:24:00 pm

Confirmed: LFC tried to sign 'special' Man Utd legend ahead of £11m Reds duo. Loss?

In 2001, ex-Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier pulled off an £11m double-swoop for Goalkeepers Chris Kirkland, and Jerzy Dudek. Kirkland fell by the wayside pretty quickly, but Dudek went on to play an integral role in the Reds' glorious 2005 Champions League victory over AC Milan. Things could've been very different, though, as it appears that Houllier only turned to Dudek and Kirkland after missing out on one of the Premier League's best ever goalkeepers.

In an interview with Sportkeeda this week, Man United legend Edwin Van Der Sar confirmed that he rejected a move to Anfield.

When asked why he left Juventus for Fulham in 2001, Van Der - hailed by Alex Ferguson as a 'special' goalkeeper - confirmed that there were other 'offers from top clubs', and explained why he rejected Liverpool's advances. He noted:

"There were enquiries from German and other English clubs - including Liverpool. But I wanted to make a decision early, while other top clubs chose to wait until the deadline day"

If Houllier had snagged Van Der Sar, Liverpool's goalkeeping situation would've (possibly) been covered for the next ten years (until 2011), with the added bonus that the Dutchman would never have signed for Manchester United.

Ah, hindsight is a wonderful thing!

That said, who's to say that Liverpool would've won the Champions League without Dudek? He made a couple of stupendous saves in the final, and there's no guarantee that Van Der Sar would've made the same vital contribution.

Plus, with Van Der Sar at Anfield, Pepe Reina may never have signed for the club, and for a few years, the Spaniard was a firm fan-favourite.

Despite all this, if I could go back in time and change things, I'd probably take Van Der Sar in 2001. Goalkeeping consistency is vital to the success of any team, and Liverpool definitely could've benefited from that between 2001 and 2011.

Plus, without Van Der Sar, Man United might've struggled a little, and perhaps lost out on one or two Premier League titles :-)

polls


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10/17/2014 06:09:00 pm

Yes Please: BR wants 'irreplaceable' €14m Brazilian with amazing Suarez-like stats

Prior to signing Lazar Markovic, Liverpool were linked with a summer move for Hoffenheim attacker Roberto Firmino, and with Brendan Rodgers' summer signings struggling to make a consistent attacking impact, it appears that the Reds plan to make a new move for the Brazilian maestro during the January transfer window.

Over the summer, Liverpool allegedly considered making a €14m bid for Firmino, and according to new reports today:

* Rodgers is planning to make a new offer for Firmino in January.

* LFC's boss is concerned that £20m-duo Balotelli and Lambert will not deliver the goods.

When asked this week about whether Hoffenheim will be forced to sell Firmino, the club's sporting director Alexander Rose told German TV channel Sport1:

"I'm relatively confident of [his] stay here. The possibility of a farewell is not something that concerns us in the short term. Sometimes a sale is inevitable, but this is not the case."

Last season, Firmino really came to the fore at Hoffenheim:

* 22 goals/16 assists in 37 games.
* Overall: 38 goals/assist in 37 games.
* Goal every 1.6 games.
* Goal/Assist every 0.9 games
* League Only: Goal/Assist every 96 mins.

38 goals/assists? That's a stunning achievement in one of Europe's best leagues, so it's no surprise that Rodgers remains interested.

When asked in July about the interest of 'top clubs', Hoffenheim manager Markus Gisdol told SportBild:

"Roberto is currently in excellent form. He fits the way we like to play football, but he has a contract here, so I'm not worried"

When pressed about how Hoffenheim would cope if Firmino left, Gisdol added:

"He is irreplaceable, and no club in the world can directly replace their best players when they leave"

Firmino's creative output last season is phenomenal, but there's a possibility that he played of his skin in a bid to make the Brazil World Cup squad. Indeed, prior to the tournament, the 23-year old waxed lyrical about his World Cup 'dream'. He told German newspaper Bild:

"Playing for the national team is one of the biggest dreams of my life. If and when that will happen, others decide. I just have to work hard with my club"

Alas, Brazil boss Phil Scolari ignored Firmino (and LFC's Coutinho) and selected hacks like Fred and Jo instead, which contributed to the team's humiliation during the tournament.

Being ignored will have been a massive disappointment for Firmino, and it remains to be seen whether he can maintain last season's form without the incentive of a place in the national team. This season, he has 4 goals/assists in 7 games for Hoffenheim, so it's looking so far.

If LFC are going to spend €14m+ on an yet another attacking player, then it should definitely go on a player with incredible creative stats, but there's a strong possibility that Firmino could end up being a one-season wonder. After all, in the two two seasons prior to this one, the Brazilian managed only 12 goals and 5 assists in 67 appearances.

I personally would've preferred Firmino over Markovic, mainly because he's older, more experienced, and his creative output is significantly better. That said, nothing is guaranteed, and it's still entirely possible that - like Markovic - he would've struggled with the transition to the Premier League.

Worth a bid, or will Lallana, Markovic et al come good?



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10/17/2014 05:24:00 am

Transfer Shock: BR in surprise talks to bring in 'monster' €12m striker. LFC to pay big fee to ensure loan deal cancelled

Last week, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers claimed than 'monster' €12m summer signing Divock Origi 'will be world class' at some stage in the future, and despite spending almost £120m on new players over the summer, it seems that Rodgers has decided that the Reds can't do without the inexperienced 19-year old this season.

According to reports this week:

* Liverpool are planning to recall Origi from his loan spell at Lille.

* Negotiations are set to begin this week.

* Rodgers wants Origi available from January 1st, and is willing to pay a big fee to make it happen.

In my view, if Rodgers recalls Origi early, it will just underline his abject failure (yet again) in the transfer market. LFC spent almost £60m on attacking players over the summer, yet Rodgers feels the need to bring in a 19-year old to basically save Liverpool's season (!)

The question FSG should be asking is this: After spending all that money, why can't Liverpool survive without Origi?

Liverpool should not have to rely on a 19-year old to weigh in with season-saving goals, but with Balotelli, Lambert, and another transfer flop, Fabio Borini, misfiring, it seems that Rodgers' solution is to put all his hopes on a comparatively untested teenager with zero experience of the Premier League.

Ultimately, the reality is this: despite spending over £200m in two season, Liverpool are heavily reliant on 19-year old Raheem Sterling (which puts major pressure on his shoulders), and if LFC succeed in recalling him, Origi will have the same level of pressure/expectation thrust upon him.

What happens if Origi returns, and then fails to chip-in with the required number of goals and/or ends up spending all his time on the bench because Sturridge and Balotelli form a a great goal-scoring partnership? Such a situation will hardly be good for his confidence. Either way, the young striker will lose out on much-needed development time.

For me, it's an utter shambles. After such a massive investment in transfers, it's perfectly fair to expect Rodgers' squad to be strong enough to handle the absence of one key player (i.e. Sturridge), and several quad players (Allen, Sakho, Can etc)

It isn't, which is the ultimate indictment of the manager's effectiveness in the transfer market.

I apologise if this seems harsh on Rodgers; I'm still 100% behind the manager, but the ongoing inability to sign the right players (and the consequent waste of LFC's transfer funds) is a major concern.

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10/16/2014 09:07:00 pm

'I like him': Boss confirms discussions with LFC over 'perfect' €18m striker. Transfer Fail?

Last month, Fabio Borini's agent claimed that Liverpool blocked all attempts to take the Italian on loan during the summer, and now, it transpires that the Reds spurned the chance to the 'perfect professional' off the wage-bill by refusing to compromise on the sale price.

Speaking to FCInterNews in September, Marco De Marchi - Borini's agent - claimed that:

* Some 'very important clubs' in Europe wanted €18m-rated Borini on loan, but Liverpool rejected all loan offers.

* QPR tried to lowball the Reds with a low bid, but it was dismissed out of hand.

On Wednesday, Inter Sporting Director Piero Ausilio confirmed Inter Milan's prior interest in Borini, and claimed that Liverpool's inflexibility on the sale price sabotaged a possible transfer. He told TuttoSport:

"I like Borini, but Liverpool were asking much. We have made an attempt in the summer, then we took Osvaldo"

Responding to Ausilio's comments today, Borini's agent told reporters:

"That admiration makes us happy and proud. Of course I was aware of it and the interest in the player, but it’s pleasing that Ausilio is stating that publicly, I knew that Inter and other clubs were interested this summer."

For a club that's seemingly desperate to get rid of Borini, Liverpool seem to be doing everything possible to block the striker's exit. Why not just let him go out on loan? Brendan Rodgers has farmed out a few other players this summer (including Iago Aspas, another striker), so why block a loan deal for Borini, who clearly doesn't figure in the managers's plans?

Rejecting the loan also goes against Rodgers' insistence that Borini needs to 'move on' to get more 'regular' football. As recent events show, Borini will dig his heels in and refuse a move when it involves smaller teams (and to be fair, who can blame him?), but it's likely he would've jumped at the chance of a year at Inter Milan.

As for holding out for a massive transfer fee; forget it. Rodgers/FSG should just accept that Liverpool are going to make a loss on Borini, and cut their losses ASAP. After all, he contributes nothing to LFC, and his stats this season categorically prove that:

* Passing accuracy: 64% (Worst in the squad)
* 0 goals/assists
* 0 tackles, clearances, or blocks.
* 1 key pass in 3 games.
* Overall: 2 goals in 23 games for LFC.

Borini's stubborn intent to make it at Anfield is admirable, but as the stats show, his actual creative contribution simply isn't good enough to be a reliable starter, or even an impact sub.

In my view, Liverpool should just stop messing about and offload Borini ASAP, and if that means making a financial loss, then so be it.

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10/16/2014 06:00:00 pm

Bad news for Teixeira? LFC scout 'excellent' €3m star who wants Prem transfer

After signing Tiago Ilori last summer, Liverpool are reportedly considering another pointless raid on the Portuguese Primeira Liga for yet another untested young player.

According to reports this week:

* Liverpool are monitoring Belenenses midfielder Fabio Sturgeon.

* The Reds have scouted 20-year old Sturgeon several times this season.

* He's available for a comparatively knockdown fee of €3m.

* Benfica are also interested, but Sturgeon 'prefers' a move to the Premier League.

Fabio...who? Yes, that's what I thought, too. Some info about Sturgeon:

* Attacking midfielder (right/left wing) or a second-striker
* 1 goal in 5 games this season.
* Career Total: 1 goal/0 assists in 24 games.
* 5 apps for the Portuguese U20 team.
* Eligible to play for the England national team.

Football website 'Das Wunderkind' described Sturgeon's style of play as follows:

"An excellent dribbler, with a powerful shot in either foot. He is confident in possession and capable of beating an opponent inside or out. He has great pace and is tall with good upper body strength – he is not easily forced off the ball"

€3m is a comparatively minor fee, but 1 goal/no assists in 24 appearances is a pretty poor return for an attacking midfielder. Still, creative contribution aside, €3m for Sturgeon is far better value (at this stage) than £20m for Lazar Markovic.

Surely, though, Liverpool have bigger transfer priorities right now than bringing yet another untested youngster to Anfield? Plus, with Sterling, Markovic, Lallana, and Coutinho in the squad, it's doubtful that Sturgeon will get much playing time.

Additionally, the club already has Suso, Ibe, and fellow Portuguese Joao Teixeira waiting in the wings, so bringing in another similarly-aged attacking midfielder is (arguably) tantamount to a vote of no-confidence in these players.

I just don't get it: why not just show some faith in Suso and Teixiera and see how they pan out?

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10/16/2014 12:00:00 pm

'He's done nothing': Hamann blasts greedy £31m LFC star & 'irresponsible' LFC. Fair?

Elite footballers are grossly overpaid; that is a given, but increasingly, young players - often teenagers - are being obscenely rewarded before they've achieved anything in the game. One of the recurring arguments made on this site is that grossly overpaying young players leads to dulled competitive edge, and it seems like more and more people are finally acknowledging this reality. Brendan Rodgers recently warned of the negative impact of throwing money at youngsters, and LFC legend Dietmar Hamann has now take an indirect swipe at Raheem Sterling, who - via his agent - is currently holding Liverpool to ransom.

In an interview with the Daily Express today, Hamann barked:

"How can somebody who is 18 or 19 and has done nothing in the game sign a long-term contract that guarantees him £12.5m?. That is the same if he plays, gets injured, or doesn't perform. It's irresponsible. It can't be right and the reason why some players lose their edge"

In my view, Hamann is clearly making a subtle reference to £31m-rated Sterling, whose current contract is reportedly worth £50k a week over five years. He makes specific reference to his age (18-19), and no other player of that age range has the specific deal to which Hamann refers.

Equally, the German's overall point applies to the likes of Luke Shaw, and Ross Barkley, who - like Sterling - have achieved next to nothing in the game, yet have been rewarded with outrageously huge salaries.

I've made my point on this issue many times, so I won't go over the same ground, but for me, it's a huge mistake to hand Sterling a £100K a week contract. Rodgers claims the youngster is 'remarkably happy' at Liverpool, so from a business point of view, why is it suddenly necessary to hand him such an obscene pay-rise?

Sterling is 19! He should be happy on £50k a week, and if he's not - and will actually considering leaving Anfield unless the pay-rise is forthcoming - then Liverpool should sell to the highest bidder as a matter of urgency. Who the hell cares if Sterling is a talented player? He is not worth £100k a week, and if Liverpool cave on this issue, it will simply affirm that he is bigger than the club.

It's ridiculous, and embarrassing to see LFC being held to ransom by a 19-year old; Rodgers, Ayre et al seriously need to man-up and reassert the club's authority, because right now, they're looking pretty spineless.

I don't want to hear Rodgers mewling about how amazing Sterling is, and how the club is desperate to keep him at Anfield; I want him to stop kowtowing and finally show some balls. Indeed, when asked about the situation, Rodgers should call Sterling's bluff; tell reporters that he's paid ridiculously well, and make it clear that if he's not happy with his huge contract, then he's free to leave.

If Sterling is genuinely 'remarkably happy' at Liverpool, then he'll put his head down and get on with it. If not, he'll cause a problem and force a transfer. Well, so be it! To be honest, I couldn't care less if Liverpool sell Sterling. The obsessional deification of individual players is a huge problem in football, and, as always, football fans are the great enablers.

There's something perverse about blue-collar fans (many of whom are struggling to make ends meet) lionising offensively overpaid footballers. Guess what: Sterling doesn't give a damn about you; he doesn't even know or care whether you're alive. Like most footballers, he pays lip-service to the idea of appreciating the 'fans', but when it comes to the crunch, he's in it for himself, and money talks.

Yes, I know this is the reality of modern football, but it doesn't mean it has to be accepted. Fans are being ripped-off left, right and centre (for tickets/merchandise etc), and player greed is one of the principal reasons why. And yet, ironically, fans continue their rampant, destructive hero-worship.

A backlash against this shameless, egotistical greed is needed; for me, it's actually a moral imperative, but it'll never happen, because sycophantic fans are so wrapped up in the damaging idolisation of players that they can't see the wood for the trees. They'd rather pay through the nose and be taken advantage of than actually acknowledge that they're being continually fleeced.

Such is life, I guess. The backlash is coming, though. The sickening greed in football is not sustainable, and I can't wait till it all comes crashing down.

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