Thursday, 30 December 2010

So Long Roy, Bring on Change

Fans and Critics alike are ready for Roy Hodgson to exit the Liverpool Drivers Seat

by Rhydon Atzenhoffer
December 30, 2010

Roy Hodgson is the odds on favorite to be the new manager sacked in the English Premier League. After six months of up and down under the former Fulham boss it is becoming apparent that he is more than likely not the man for the job. Yesterday's shock loss to Wolverhampton as Anfield has dashed any chance I believe the former Inter tactician has of holding onto his job.

The results are simply not there, and after already having been called out for having poor results by new owner John W. Henry in the early part of the month I truly cannot see Roy lasting the rest of the reason. A team with Liverpool's talent should not be performing at such a low level, if this level is considered performing at all.

At his latest press conference Hodgson criticized the Anfield fans for failing to back their team, and to support him, but honestly what has he delivered to merit such a complaint. He has delivered mediocre signings, and mediocre results from a team that despite the losses of Javier Mascherano, and Xabi Alonso over the last two seasons, has a boat load of talent. Injuries cannot even be too much to blame as Rafa always had injuries his last season and still finished seventh. Sitting a dismal 12th and calling the fans to the blame is shameful.

I foresee a move in the next few weeks to replace Hodgson, and with that I end my frustrated rant before I cause any more mental hurt to my own self, for I am still recovering from such a pitiful display yesterday.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Liverpool Frozen Out. A Blessing or a Curse

Liverpool FC Forced to miss Second Match in Two Weeks due to Weather

By Rhydon Atzenhoffer
December 28, 2010

Another freezing weekend across the British Isles has caught the match day calender of the Liverpool Reds in a bind again. A second straight week of poor weather has caused the Reds to postpone two games on the bounce and the Merseysiders will be looking at this as either a blessing or a curse. The blessing is that their Captian Steven Gerrard will have had an extra week of training to ensure his full return to fitness. The curse however will be a fortnight off that may have affected any momentum that they might have been building had they secured a victory in either game following their humbling 3-1 loss to Newcastle United at St. James Park.

Last weekend the match against Fulham was called off due to weather, which included reports of up to two feet of snow around Merseyside and at Anfield, and now this weekend's saw the trip to Blackpool and the Seasiders fail to go off due to no underground heating for the pitch at Bloomfield Road. The match has been rescheduled for January 12, 2011, and the Fulham Match for the 26th of January, 2011. This now creates another blessing or curse for the Reds. Having been given a break of the holiday fixture cluster muck, the team has had time to lick their wounds and regain their captain. The curse now is that instead of enduring the daunting fixture cluster with the rest of the group they will now face it in January. Many other matches did get rescheduled in the same instance but some teams will have been happy to get it over with.

The time off continues to allow for more and more speculation in the press about transfers, and about the security of Roy Hodgson's position in the drivers seat. The manager has recently been noted in the press for sounding out the praises and belief that Fernando Torres is about to explode for the Reds. If El Nino does indeed explode in his goal scoring exploits it could not come at a better time for the Merseyside club whom are in the midst of their worst start in over half a century and for a club historically renowned for their goal scoring, a table position with a negative goal differential is unacceptable to everyone. Wednesday will see the Reds clash heads with the Wolverhampton Wanderers with hopes of getting back on the right foot before the start of the year.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Christmas on Merseyside

As the Year 2010 comes nearer to a close, we take a look at the Christmas Wish List for the Liverpool Reds

by Rhydon Atzenhoffer
December 23, 2010

Ho ho ho, and Merry Christmas to all of Fowler's Dockers, and all of those that have passed through the Shankly Gate. The Yule tide season is upon us, the Boxing Day match against Blackpool is close at hand and the January transfer window is just around the corner. With that in mind I wanted to make one last post before I take a few days off for Christmas and discuss what it seems the Reds will be looking to get from their Christmas list.

1. Stability
This has been an up and down season if I have ever seen one in recent years for the Reds. We play one great game then turn around and play like crap. Any chance at European Club Football in the UEFA Champions League or the UEFA Europa League will certainly require a more fluid turn of results.

2. End of Injury Woes
Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Jaime Carragher, Jay Spearing, Daniel Agger, Glen Johnson...need I continue. Aside from stability in form, the Reds have had disastrous results as far as player injuries hacking up the line-ups and further increasing the learning curve to new management and tactics under Roy Hodgson.

3. Support in all areas
The Transfer window is going to be crucial this January for the Reds. The need of a full time strike partner to be able to partner and cover for Fernando Torres continues to be a black mark on the Merseysider’s misfortunes. The likes of many have been thrown about lately in this area and are listed in the transfer posts below.

The midfield also is in need of support on the wings and an additional man to carry the burden of defensive midfield duties because Christian Poulsen just hasn’t cut the mustard for the Reds in his new found position, hence why he has been spending most of his time on the pine. Joe Cole also has had a miserable start and has the club looking to bring in another winger to bolster the options for Hodgson.

Defense also has had its more than fair share of problems with injury more than lack of form. Jaime Carragher, Daniel Agger, Fabio Aurelio, and Glen Johnson have all had long absences due to injury and the interest that has been shown in the possible move for Inter Starlet David Santon is a prime example of this need. It is also quite possible Hull City will not get the renewal for Daniel Ayala to return to their ranks where he has had 12 starts on loan, because the first team really might have to use him.

With all that said at least it appears the teams new owners will be doing their level best to fill all the gaps over the next month that they can, and will be investing to ensure a more bright future for the club that has been seeing such dreary days the last two campaigns. With that food for thought I bit you all a due for the weekend and hope you have a very Merry Christmas. See you after boxing day. Reds 3 - Blackpool 1.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Liverpool Transfer Rumors Continue

Lining Up Bids. Ronaldinho, Elia, Hazard, N'Zogbia, Bentley, Jarvis, New Faces in New Places?

by Rhydon Atzenhoffer
December, 22 2010

The rumor mill of transfer news continues to swirl around Anfield like the winter weather of the past weekend in Britain. The Liverpool giants are in the news almost as much as Manchester City as far as transfer news goes lately. The change over in ownership to John W. Henry and New England Sports Ventures in October has given the club a much needed opportunity for cash injection and investment. However, it will be key to see just how and where the money will be spent. With NESV already showing they are in it for the long haul with teams, having proved themselves and their model with the Boston Red Sox, it will be an interesting project to watch develop.

The biggest name commercially that is still being tossed around is Ronaldinho. The Brazilian play maker has been out of favor with AC Milan over the last few months, and critisism from the club owner over his resurfaced poor training habits leaves his future in Italy in doubt. That being said, commercially he certainly is a big name that catches the eye, and his class is masterful when he is in form, however, it remains to be seen if he will recapture the form that made his name for his time at Barcelona. The poor training, and wild party life cost him his spot there, and is now looking to have cost him another. Do the Reds really need a big name bad influence in the changing room? I think not. I see a very slim chance this is anything more than a rumor.

Given the pronounced goal for long term investment I am more likely to believe that the new owners will splash cash on possibly one or two established stars, and then more on younger players that are nearly ready for first team action. With this in mind I also see them spending money on those that have already broken into the first teams but are still developing their potential to be big stars.

This idea leads the debate over the possibilities of a new winger or two for the club. Youth is on the side of nearly all of the names mentioned to come into to bolster the attacking flanks. Recently Eden Hazard (Lille), Eljero Elia (HSV), Charles N'Zogbia (Wigan) , Matt Jarvis (Wolves), and David Bentley (Spurs) have all been reportedly on the wish list of Roy Hodgson. The most likely I could see the Reds moving for are Elia, Jarvis, of Bentley. Those three would be at most likely a better price tag then Eden Hazard or N'Zogbia.

Splashing the cash will also require the movement of several players out of the squad. Milan Jovanovic is believed to be under the watch of German sides Cologne and Hamburg. The later being the home of Elia could offer a cash plus switch option on either side to make it a more cash friendly option. This leads me to continue to believe this is a more than likely move to be made.

Christian Poulsen is also reportedly on the way out in January as another six month in and out as he has failed to produce anything to believe he can handle the pressures of the Premiership.The exit of the Dane would allow for the arrival of another transfer target and free up more access cash. The need for midfield bolstering is apparent after the loss of Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano in back to back seasons. Lucas Leiva has come into his own, but he and Steven Gerrard cannot carry the load alone, and young Jay Spearing still is not ready for constant involvement just yet. He still needs another year or two of careful development to ensure he is mentally and physically prepared.

The window is growing ever so near and it will be a wild flurry of movement I believe for Liverpool and new football strategy director Damien Comolli. The former Spurs man brought in some great talent during his time in London and is hoped to do the same for the Reds. With only nine days till the transfer period, it looks to be a busy holiday season.

Monday, 20 December 2010

England Gridlocked by Winter Storms, Liverpool vs. Fulham Frozen Out

No Liverpool vs. Fulham Grudge match, but Transfer Rumors Galore for the Reds.

By Rhydon Atzenhoffer
December 20, 2010

With all of the British Isles in the grips of a devastatingly powerful winter storm, only a few games were able to be played in the English Premiership on the weekend. With most of the big matches cancelled due to the weather it is giving some teams possibly a much needed rest. The Reds have been in rather sporadic form this season. Big victory here, pathetic loses here, and clear wins becoming draws there. It has been quite a rough season for new gaffer Roy Hodgson.

The old Fulham boss took to the North to ply his trade on the River Mersey while Manchester City ousted manager Mark Hughes went south to take the reins after Hodgson’s departure. The former Manchester United player has had a difficult time in London with only United States winger Clint Dempsey truly putting in the class performances for the Cottagers. With that said it is no wonder that Roy Hodgson and Liverpool have been possible planning a raid for the talented Texan.

Clint Dempsey is in fine form for Fulham

Aside from Dempsey and the other possible new faces that have been circulating in the column this past week there are now several more names popping up on the list. With the manager proclaiming his desire for a Transfer Kitty in January it is certain that there will be some moving and shaking in some capacity.
The most prolific of the names listed as of late has to be Bayern Munich’s Mario Gomez whom has fallen out of favor with the Bavarian Giants. The big German would be another target man up from to match with Fernando Torres allowing Hodgson to have two powerful finesse strikers to pair with his traditional 4-4-2 playing style.

 Out of Favor Mario Gomez of Bayern Munich

Another name that has been linked in the last few days in Chelsea’s young attacker Daniel Sturridge whom is believed to be a temporary loan signing to be a stop gap for the Reds until the Summer transfer window when they can possible afford to muster the funds for acquisitions that have been suggested earlier in the year such as Diego Forlan from Atletico Madrid.

 Sturridge would add more youthful options and speed

With so many names circulating as possibly additions it has also been made apparent that the Reds will be looking to offload summer signing Milan Jovanovic only six months after he was brought into the fold. He at this point appears to be surplus to the needs and wants of Hodgson, and he will be used in most cases to help raise additional funds for January incomers. The proof that youngsters David Ngog and Ryan Babel are progressing under the new tutelage of Hodgson gives hope that they can fill the gap left by the 29 year old Serbian.

With so much talk as of late it is heating up to be an exciting transfer period to say the least. With the halfway point here it is imperative that Liverpool continue to make some progress up the table or we could be seeing Roy on the way out.

Friday, 17 December 2010

UEFA Champions League Draw

Bayern vs. Inter, Spurs vs. Milan, Barca vs. Arsenal, What an Interesting Round this shall be.

by Rhydon Atzenhoffer
December 17, 2010
The Knock Out Stage of the 2010-2011 UEFA Champions League Draw is over and the results are in. The most startling match up to come out of the draw hands down goes to defending Champions Inter Milan, under new boss Rafael Benitez, whom will face Bayern Munich in a rematch of last year’s final. The Italians will look to fend off Bastian Schweinsteiger and company as the Germany giants surely will be out for blood after last year’s scintillating final.

Another match up that will have all eyes watching is Pep Guardiola's Balugrana of Barcelona vs. Arsene Wenger's Arsenal. What looks to be a tie of epic proportions should the two side truly have a go at one another, which I cannot see Not happening, will most likely produce some of the fanciest footwork and passing artistry of the round. Cesc Fabregas, possibly the most coveted player by Barcelona, and his midfield partner Samir Nasri will be plying their trade against arguable the world’s best midfield duo in Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta. The back-line of Arsenal is what I most likely foresee as the undoing of the London club and I expect Barca to send the Gunners packing.

The Special One's, Jose Mourinho's, Los Blancos of Real Madrid will take on Olympique Lyonnais of France. Although not league champions in several years the French Giants will be looking to upset the European Legends. Karem Benzema has finally started to stake a claim to his spot on the Real front line, and he will no doubt relish the reunion with his old club. The Spanish Giants look to continue their strong run of form and advance on to the next round.

Tottenham Hotspur were a revelation in the group stage with Gareth Bale helping to propel the Lily Whites forward. The London club may be new to the Champions League as of late but they made a statement early on with their dominance over Inter Milan and a Group A winning start to their UCL campaign. Harry Redknapp will be looking to continue the progress of his club and a victory over the Rossoneri in a two-legged tie would do even more to stamp Tottenham's ticket for success. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and company will be searching for a renewed vigor after a mediocre group showing that only produced at the height a draw against Real Madrid thanks to a now injured Filippo Inzaghi. It will be an interesting tie to say the least.

Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United take on French side Olympique Marseilles. Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola feared the French club for their ability to be physically dominant. However, I have never seen Sir Alex Ferguson to fear anyone or anything, and I fully expect the wiring ole Scot to take the fight to the boys from the Mediterranean coast. It will be a hard fought battle but I look to see the Red Devils in the next draw.

Chelsea take on FC Kobenhaven from Denmark. The Danish side is through to the Round of 16 in their clubs second time in the Champions League. Their first foray into Europe was the UCL in the 2006-2007 season where they did not get past the group stages. With what was deservedly a winning performance, resulting in only a draw, against Barcelona at home in the group stages, the Danes hope to garner some confidence, and the poor run of domestic form of the Blues lately may just give the Lions the little they need to pull off an upset.

The Final two match-ups seem to be the least popular but could turn out to be two of the more highly competitive ties. AS Roma will try to continue their march by taking a bite out of Ukrainian Champions FC Shakhtar Donetsk. If the Wolves can get an edge on the away leg they should be able to hold of the Ukrainians at the Olimpico. Ranieri will have to buckle down and pull his squad together because they are in desperate need of some more results as a struggling league campaign is turning around as they find themselves only four points away from second place in a tightly packed group at the top of the Serie A table.

Germany's FC Shalke 04 has been falling to shambles in the league but have been dominant in the Champions League topping Group B with only one loss. Making the trip to the Veltins Arena will be Spain’s Valencia. Despite the loss of both David Villa and David Silva Los Che have their stride at the perfect time as they are dancing around the UCL spots of La Liga in fifth place, and are in the last 16 of the Champions League with the other Spanish giants. The Shalke strike duo of former Real Madrid front men Raul Gonzalez and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar will look to use their knowledge of Valencia from the past in order to strengthen their clubs chances of advancement.

With the stage set for the next round it looks to be as exciting a knockout stage as ever. Their will be chants of glory, chants of rage, and tears of agony as the UEFA Champions League is now ready to return to action February 15, 2011.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Liverpool Update as of December 16 2010

Liverpool FC have dismal week despite Europa Qualification

by Rhydon Atzenhoffer
December 16, 2010

It has been a frustrating week for the Reds fan base to say the least. After an unexpected thrashing of 3-1 away at St. James Park despite having 21 shots on goal the Merseysiders have to once again scratch their heads in the Premiership. Pandew's reign got of on the right foot as his side seemed to handle the Reds with ease on paper. Magpie skipper Kevin Nolan's return from injury certainly boosted the club and a driving performance by Joey Barton helped to typify the Reds inability to perform away from Home.

Roy Hodgson will once again feel the pressure after comments from Liverpool Chairman Tom Werner called the clubs performances, "unacceptable," at a press conference this weekend. Though I feel Hodgson is safe under NESV and new owner John W. Henry it is not going to be a quick turnaround. As former Reds left and right including Robbie Fowler have recently stated the teams need to invest in new talent in the January transfer window in order to push the club during the run in.

Many names have been thrown around as of late including the likes of Ronaldinho, Ajax's Luis Suarez, former Fulham charge and USA international Clint Dempsey, Ryad Boudebouz of French side Sochaux, and most recently a 5 Million Pound offering to Tottenham for out of favor winger David Bentley. Bayern Munich's Mario Gomez is reportedly on the radar for LFC, as well as FC Nuremburg midfielder Mike Frantz. It is truly unclear what the plans will be in January but it can be assured there will be at least one or two new faces coming to the club.

Another glaring bore of a game by the Reds was played out on Wednesday night against FC Utrecht, former club of Dirk Kuyt. The bottom club in the Red's UEFA Europa League Group K looked for some confidence boosting while the Merseysiders already have their ticket punched to the next round. With that said in mind the Liverpool stars did little to impress, nor little to do anything as the crowd was disappointed in a lackluster 0-0 draw. Joe Cole continued his poor class of the season and is looking to have been possibly a mistake. Time will tell for the England international but he is continuing to look more and more overrated. The most enthusiasm of the night was from the Utrecht fans when Kuyt came on as a substitute in the later part of the second half.

As we look ahead to the last few weeks of the year it is paramount that the Reds snatch some points before the January window. The club is in mid table and is now nine points away from fourth placed Chelsea. It is going to take a huge turn around for the club to snatch a Europa Spot for next year and right now the best chance of Champions League qualification looks to be winning the UEFA Europa League outright.

The second half of the reason is going to be a bumpy ride, and it starts when the Reds face Fulham on the weekend. Hodgson's form club now under Man City reject Mark Hughes will be looking for revenge and the Cottagers could do even more damage to the already fragile hopes of Liverpool fans on the remaining half of the season. It looks to be another weekend of grief, pain, or pure quick joy and then the realization that there is so much more to go.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Premeir League Preview - Liverpool vs. Newcastle

The Reds and the Magpies Square off at St. James Park.

by Rhydon Atzenhoffer
December 10, 2010

Liverpool and Newcastle are sharpening their teeth for what is sure to be an interesting display tomorrow afternoon on the Toon. The Magpies are still shell shocked from the totally unexpected sacking of manager Chris Houghton. The unpredicted sacking came as a surprise to most all of the footballing world, and it surly was even more of a surprise to Houghton. If bringing your club back up to the top flight with a dominating championship campaign, having them mid table at nearly the half-way point when everyone expected them to drop, and having destroyed Aston Villa 6-0 and beaten Arsenal at the Emirates 1-0 is considered grounds for the sack, what is the world coming too?

Former West Ham manager Alan Pardew will face a tough test in Liverpool for an opening game for his new club. The Newcastle players are more than likely not at all ready for the transition considering the circumstances. It will be interesting to see just how they react under the new boss whom I dont see as someone so experienced as to have gotten rid of someone that was doing well beyond predicted.

The Reds of Liverpool will look to continue their fine form from Monday night when they walked through Aston Villa with a comfortable 3-0 victory without the likes of any of their main guns. Fernando Torres is back in the starting XI after the birth of his son, Leo, held him to fatherly duties during the previous match. Torres will most likely partner with Ryan Babel of David Ngog up top if Hodgson elects to continue with the 4-4-2 that was so successful against the Villans.

The Magpies will be without defenders Fabrio Coloccini and Mike Williamson due to suspension so I expect a mix up in the back most likely to result in Sol Campbell coming off the bench alongside of Toon favorite Steven Taylor. It looks like a depleted set of premiership sides, but I see Liverpool having the edge with their overall depth being of more quality.

I look to see the Reds come out sticking to their guns, and looking sharp on their way to a 2-0 victory on the Toon. The Reds will have plenty of chance but their finishing is still off as to why I predict only the two goal margin. The Magpies will be also without Kevin Nolan as he is still injured and the crow to back their boys as they know this has been a rough week for the Gordie faithful and the players alike.

Starting XI predictions for Newcastle:

Krul, Simpson, S. Taylor, Campbell, Enrique, Routledge, Barton, Tiote, Gutierrez, Carroll, Ameobi.

Starting XI predictions for Liverpool:

Reina, Johnson, Krygiakos, Skrtel, Konchesky, Kuyt, Lucas, Meireles, Maxi, Ngog, Torres

UEFA Champions League Knockout Stage is Set

The Top 16 Teams from across Europe look to Square of and await the Knockout Stage Draw on December 17, 2010

By Rhydon Atzenhoffer
December 9, 2010

The last 16 of the UEFA Champions League have been decided. Some squeaked by, others dominated, and some surprised even the most hopeful in their campaign towards Europe's most elite club championship. With all the teams from Europe's three biggest leagues, English Premier League, Spain's La Liga, Italian Serie A, advancing the remaining qualifiers will be tested once again by Europe's finest clubs.

Tottenham Hotspur and Internazional Milan battled it out in Group A with the Lilly Whites taking the top spot in the group. Many did not predict this, nor did many predict the mercurial form of Gareth Bale to step into the spotlight in such a fashion. With the help of Spurs newcomer Rafael Van Der Vart, and midfield maestro Luka Modric, the London club look to continue their demolition of competition in the next round. Former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez led his new charges at Inter to the second place spot and will look to continue marching on despite his squads injury problems at the back.

Despite their horrid domestic form, German Bundesliga's Shalke 04 took top honors of Group B. The club will look to continue their European success in the light of a struggling league campaign despite the ranks of Klaas Jan-Huntelaar, legendary Raul, and captain fantastic goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. French side and prominent Champions League club Lyon continue onto the knockout stages through their second place finish.

Sir Alex Ferguson's Red Devils of Manchester United cruised through to the second round atop of Group C. The Rooney saga of the early season seemed to have little affect on the wildly successful Scot's charges. Spainish side Valencia also had a relative dominant group stage and advanced by a margin of five points ahead of third place Rangers whom will have to ply their trade in the Europa League.

Barcelona and FC Copenhagen were the advances from Group D as both moved on with comfortable margins. The Danish club were nearly able to shock the dominant Spanish side but only managed a draw that was not deserved by the Catalonian Giants in any form, and Copenhagen will have to put up that same kind of challenge against whomever they face over their two legged tie.

Group E produced some fine matches and out of the frenzy. German Champions Bayern Munich advances in first place while Italian slumpers AS Roma side the coattails of success into the knockout stages. Chelsea crushed nearly all in their path on the way to winning Group F while Marseilles and Spartak Moscow fought till the final day to see whom would move on with the French side taking the honors and Moscow dropping to the second tier Europa League.

Spanish Giants Real Madrid under Jose Mourinho obliterated Group G with a draw against AC Milan thanks to Mourinho's only fear, Fillipo Inzaghi. The Serie A table toppers took the second prize with an 8 point gap behind the Madrid wrecking crew, barely staving off Ajax Amsterdam. They will hope for better performances in the Knockout Stage or else they will be set for a quick return home to the peninsula.

Group H saw Shakhtar Donetsk advance from the top stop while Arsenal had to punch their ticket to the next round on the very last day. Arsene Wenger's men are in fine form at the moment and with the timely return to health of Robin Van Persie, whom captained their 3-1 win over Partizan Belgrade to see them through, the London club may be hitting health and form at the right time.

The draw for the knockout round is set for December 17th and we will await the match-ups with great anticipation. It will be very interesting to see what happens with the draw and this could prove to be one of the best knockout stages of the last few years.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Liverpool Turning it Around

No Fernando Torres, No Steven Gerrard, No Jaime Carragher? Yes, and the Reds Produced

by Rhydon Atzenhoffer
December 8, 2010

It was a frigged Monday night at Anfield Road in Liverpood. The Reds without there three most prized and loved players. Steven Gerrard out with a hastring injury left over from International Duty with England. Jaime Carragher out for three months facing surgery on a dislocated shoulder. Fernando Torres not injured but about to welcome a new Red into the world as his wife Olalla Torres was in labor and he missed the game to be by her side as she delivered their second child, a son named Leo. With all this afoot, could the remaining charges dismiss Aston Villa and Gerrard Houllier on his return to his once home in front of the Kop?

The simple answer is, YES. Aston Villa, though depleted by injury as well, were clinically put to the sword. Liverpool cruised to an easy victory on the Back of early first half goals by David Ngog, and unlikely hero Ryan Babel. Maxi Rodriguez would finish off the night with a second half counter attack goal that was brilliantly executed and sublimely finished. All in all it was a great night for the Reds as a result was desperately needed to keep hopes alive for a Champions League Place for next season.

Former Liverpool boss Gerrard Houllier recieved a warm welcome by the fans, but his players were deceimated on the pitch. The Villian team, a far cry from that of Martin O'Neil's side which defeated the Reds last year at Anfield, was simply not up to the task. Houllier was forced to deputize, same as Roy Hodgson, with players from the youth system and the reserve bench with the likes of Stiliyan Petrov and Nigel Reo-Coker being lost to injury. However, the youth and fringe charges of the Liverpool Reds did there job looking anything like youth or inexperienced.

This result proves vital to the Reds English Premier League campaign as they have now risen to 8th place in the table. The victory also proves that despite not having their star players the Reds can win. New signing Raul Miereles is proving his ability to distribute in the absence of Gerrard, and Maxi is coming into his own as he appears to have fully adjusted to life in the Primeirship following his arrival from La Liga's Athletico Madrid. Following this display of form Roy Hodgson perhaps can feel some respite from the crushing pressure and criticism he has felt for the majority of the season.

However, the Reds are not out of the woods yet. With a trip to Newcastle on the weekend, the Magpies will look to stifle the Reds resurgent form. But with the Toon reeling from the surprising and albeit ridiculous sacking of Manager Chris Houghton it will be a different Newcastle team that the Reds will see on the Weekend. In respect to Houghton, if winning promotion with a League Championship, and having a team picked for relegation in the middle of the table at nearly Christmas is a bad job, I am at a loss for words. I guess Mike Ashley just needed to get back in the news.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Liverpool Stiffled Again

As I said before, this column is gonna cover all that interests me. So today we talk about Liverpool FC. It was Match Day 5 for Group K of the UEFA Europa League in the round of 32 group stages for the Reds today as they faced off against Steaua Bucharest. With so many injuries including those to Captain Steven Gerrard, Vice-Captain Jaime Carragher, Daniel Agger, as well as recovering Joe Cole and Fabio Aurelio it is continuing to test the depth of our squad. Manager Roy Hodgson is learning more and more about his players through the injuries and the inconsistency of regular starters is continuing to have an affect on the team's form.

The tactics of the Englishman are also taking time to be fully instilled in the squad and as a result it is a continued case of trial and error. The loss to Tottenham in the dying minutes of stoppage time on Saturday left the fans and the players with an awful taste in their mouth and the hopes of a victory on a European night gave hope. However, another lackluster display against an opponent whom on paper is still below par against the second team saw us limp to only a draw, granted the draw sees the Reds through to the Knockout stage of the competition, but against this level of opponent a victory is expected of a club of Liverpool's stature.

The goal by Jovanovic hopefully will continue to build his confidence as it has been lacking as of late, and the much needed rest given to the majority of the first team will aid in the crucial match against Aston Villa on the weekend. With the Reds sitting adrift at 10th in the English Premier League it is not the way I wanted to see this season start to shape up. If we do not start to pick up soon we will be lucky to qualify for even the Europa League next year which would be a tragedy for the Reds and most likely cost us many of our top echelon of the squad.

In an early look at Saturday's match against Aston Villa I am expecting a return to the pitch of the majority of the players employed at White Heart Lane this past weekend. Anfield Road and the Kop are sure to be in full voice as our boys fight desperately to keep the hopes of a strong second half alive. We need to strengthen in January and find Torres a strike partner that is up to his class.

Aston Villa have been in a up and down start to their campaign much like the Reds. Having changed Managers, and dealing with many injuries in many of the same respects the Villans are as desperate for a victory as the Reds. New Villa Manager Gerard Houllier, whom was successful as the Reds manager in domestic and foreign cups(Not the EPL Title so desperately craved) during his time at Anfield, is also dealing with inconsistency and the time needed to implement his own tactical system just as Hodgson. Much of the match this weekend will depend on whom gets through to their team the most. The Draw for the Reds should lift spirits now that progression is assured in the Europa League. Villa's crash out of the Carling Cup to Birmingham will have an affect on the fitness and mental state of the club come match time.

I am predicting a hard fought battle between the two clubs with both teams playing hard out of frustration and desperation to push for a better record before the holiday. Liverpool 2 - Aston Villa 1 in a physical game in front of the Kop.

Predicted Liverpool Starting XI for the Weekend:
Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Kyrgiakos, Aurelio, Lucas, Poulsen, Kuyt, Maxi, Meireles, Torres

Predicted Aston Villa Starting XI for the Weekend:
Friedel, Dunne, Collins, Warnock, L. Young, Bannon, Clark, Pires, A. Young, Downing, Carew

All I can say is Walk on you Reds with Hope in your Heart, and You Will Never Walk Alone.