Thursday, August 22, 2013

Match Preview: Aston Villa vs. Liverpool FC 24/8/2013

This weekend we head to Villa Park. Last year we had success here, winning the match 2-1 after falling behind due to the 31st minute strike by Christian Benteke. On the day Henderson scored, and Gerrard converted a penalty.  This game was played three and a half months after the humiliating defeat we suffered at Anfield. The 3-1 loss was due to Villas shocking speed and commitment to playing on the counter attack. Reina was beaten by Benteke twice and Weimann scoring between the two. Gerrard scored a late consolation goal, but the loss broke our two game winning streak.
The Reds are looking to continue their good form after their 1-0 win over stoke last weekend. We are currently sitting in 7th on the table due to goal differential and alphabetical order. With a win for us we could be propelled into the top 4, granted there will have only been two games played for most teams. The key things to look out for in this game for Liverpool fans are as follows.
~Our movement both on and off the ball: With Coutinho hopefully playing in the center behind Sturridge, he will be able to do what he does best, which is to wriggle free from challenges and find Danny in behind the defense.
~ Possession: After watching Villa play both Arsenal last weekend and Chelsea on Wednesday I noticed a trend of Villa “Parking the Bus”. That means we should be able to command the lion’s share of the ball on Saturday. In the two matches last season, in the loss we had the ball for 72% of the game, and in the win we had only 53% of possession. This shows that after the loss (attributed to not being able to finish or defend, even though Villa had the ball for roughly 25 minutes of the match) we learned that against Villa playing a lot more direct pays dividends.
~ Our midfield: We will hopefully be fielding a strong midfield this weekend. I would like to see a midfield 5 of Enrique, Lucas, Gerrard, Coutinho, and either Johnson. We would have our “normal” core of players, and Enrique and Johnson would play as wing backs on the flanks.
There are two things that we need to be weary of this Saturday however, Benteke, and the long ball. In both games that Villa have played this season they seemed to just lump the ball forward towards Benteke, who in turn just heads it on to someone else or brings it down and holds it up.  There are things we can do to prevent this eventuality though:
~ Have someone always marking Benteke: this would solve the problem, however that would very easily tire out one (or more) of our defenders.
~ Press very high up the pitch: This is another reason I would have a midfield 5 instead of running a 4-3-3. With Enrique and Johnson added into the midfield we should be able to pressure the Villa defenders to the point where their long balls become ineffective.

Formation: 3-5-2
I would run a 3-5-2 in the first half, to contain Benteke and Weimann and attempt to keep them from getting any service.
            I would go with Kelly in this formation just so we have our fastest defender in the middle of the pitch, so that should a long ball make it to Benteke he cannot head it on to Weimann.
Predicted Outcome: Aston Villa 1-3 Liverpool 

            I am predicting a rather sizeable victory for us due to Villa playing 10 starters in their game against Chelsea on Wednesday. Once we reach the final third of the game I am guessing that most of their starters will be tired out. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

LFC vs. Stoke City 17/8/2013 Pre-Match Preview.

Last year was full of ups and downs that much is for sure. However for some reason in the second half of our last campaign, it was mostly ups.....but holy shit did it have a rocky start. Our first game of the second half of the season saw us travel to the Britannia, where we got lucky enough to get a pen in the second minute (I believe our first of the domestic campaign), only to then go on and lose 3-1. Now keep in mind that we didn't have the team we would have for the rest of the second half that day. Without our midfield maestro Coutinho who transferred in on the 26th of January, and our (arguably) star striker of the second half Sturridge who came in on the second day of the January window, we struggled to do much other than keep possession of the ball. Now that the recap of our pre-January woes is complete, let’s look to the upcoming campaign which will see us focus more on the league than anything else. 

Chances are we will be playing mostly younger players when we take on the likes of Notts County, etc. in both the league cup (COC) and the FA Cup. That being said, we should be able to reap the benefits of having everyone healthier and more energetic for our league games. Last year we played a lot of starters in the EL on Thursdays, causing some (probably not a lot) fatigue for our league games on the following Sundays. We have the opportunity to take care of getting our first win very early this season with our first matches being Stoke, Villa, and Man U. I can see us getting two wins and a draw out of those matches, however strange things tend to happen when Liverpool is concerned. Last year we started out flat only winning our first match when we beat Norwich 5-2 in our sixth match of the year. But there have been large changes from that team, with transfers and having longer to settle into the playing style of the then new manager.

This off season saw us play seven friendlies, winning six and losing one. Not a bad record some would say, however the more impressive stat is that we only conceded two goals in those seven matches. Most of our opponents were pushovers, but some weren't. We played Celtic, a true CL team, and only lost 1-0 because we had a very inexperienced (at CB anyway) Wisdom at CB. We played our game, dominated possession, and looked good going forward; we just couldn't make the breakthrough. We also played CL hopefuls Olympiacos, who we beat 2-0. We played a VĂ¥lerenga side and won 4-1, a team that just last year held the to be English champions to a goalless draw. In the seven friendlies we scored seventeen goals, so we really shouldn't be hurting too much for goals this season. All these stats show that we have grown as a team since the last time we played Stoke in the league. We have gained three great options going forward since then and a stalwart defender in Kolo Toure, who also looks to be pretty promising on corners, both attacking and defending. In Aspas, the newest player to come in we got 4 goals and 3 assists in preseason; Sturridge, who scored 10 for us in the second half of the season last year; and Coutinho, who had more assists in the 13 games he played than any other player in the league in that many games. Where we have improved, Stoke has floundered.

Starting this season as largely the same squad as last year (minus a new LB and CB that came in and a few transfers out) under a new manager, Stoke looks rather easily beatable by us this weekend. They always give us a good run out though, so it will be tough. Last year, we drew the home fixture 0-0. I expect much better from us this year, especially if Sturridge is fit for the start. He has the ability and speed to stretch the defense and make it in behind them, and something that helps even more with that is that Asmir Begovic is coming off of a game with his national team where he let in four, so hopefully his confidence is low. Our opponents were known for their rough and tumble approach when Tony Pulis was the manager, but how will they play under Mark Hughes?  ESPN writer Michael Cox thinks he'll play something between Pulis' aggressive defending style and tiki-taka( I think that this change will take time just like it took time for us to settle into the new style last year. 

All signs point to us having a great game against Stoke this Saturday, as we kick off the EPL for the season.
Subs: Jones, Skrtel, Assaidi, Sterling, Ibe, Borini, Kelly

SCORE PREDICTION: Liverpool 4-0 Stoke

Preseason Compilation (Credit to Liverpool FC Highlights):

Friday, April 26, 2013

Liverpool vs. Newcastle United 27/04/2013

This weekend we face Newcastle, a team whose last five games have seen them win 1, draw 1, and lose 3. The last time we met we drew 1-1 at Anfield, with a sublime goal from our leading scorer and now banned Luis Suarez. We had 65% possession throughout the game, allowing only 3 shots on goal, with Jones letting one in in the 43rd minute. Enough of the refresher facts though, lets get back to this weekend.

My lineup for our match would be

Subs: Jones, Suso, Assaidi, Coates, Skrtel, Shelvey and Borini.

File:Daniel Sturridge v Swansea.jpgI would put Coutinho in the middle because, lets face it without Suarez on the pitch we will undoubtedly need some added creativity going through the middle. Henderson on the left should be helpful against the pacey right flank of Newcastle, and with any luck Cisse will still be out with a rib injury. I am really hoping that we are less stagnant in front of goal than we have been in our past few matches, and while we had some good play in the box against chelsea, for the most part we were poor in attack. If we can keep 60+% of the ball and we can really put some pressure on the goal I can easily see us walking out of St. James's Park with a 4 or 5-0 win. Sturridge is going to need to bring his best shooting boots if we are to walk away with a huge win though, as well as the rest of the team chipping in. Hopefully Collocini being out will be a big help to us because in our last meeting he was by far Newcastles best defender and kept Suarez from getting more than one.

As for tactics I would focus on high pressing, short passing and getting plenty of shots on goal. Elliot will be the likely starter for this match due to a Krul shoulder injury. This could be either good for us or bad, Elliot has only has 6 games this season, so he could be a little rusty, but I haven't seen any of his games so I cannot comment on whether he is any good or not. If we get good shots on frame though we will score, there is no doubt about that. If we keep to the passing style that BR has been implementing we will be fine, because the Newcastle defense is an easy nut to crack when a well passing team is their opponent (see losses to Wigan, Tottenham, Swansea and Arsenal).

Substitution wise I would like to see some improvement on the wash that was last weekend (Sturridge=good/Shelvey=BAD). I personally would like to see Assaidi come on for Coutinho around the 65th minute, and Suso on for Henderson at about the same time. With those two subs, we could change into an all out attack formation and really take it to Newcastle. I would also bring on Skrtel at some point because he is a good defender and I think he needs some playing time, even if it is just to get a better price for him in the summer.

In other important Liverpool news:
As I am sure everyone knows (unless you live under a rock) Luis Suarez was given a 10 match ban by the FA. While I think that the punishment does not match the crime (no blood was drawn and there were no injuries) I think that him taking the punishment like a man was the best option. Without an appeal the FA cannot justify making the ban larger which I think would have happened had an appeal been lodged.
Coutinho got a haircut! I'm not sure why this is exciting to those on reddit, but hey, it's something to talk about other than Suarez.
Transfer season is coming up soon and I'm looking forward to seeing who we can bring in, with us being linked to a host of talent from all across Europe I'm hoping for a good summer.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

21/04/2013 Liverpool FC vs. Chelsea FC

This is a crazy week to start up an LFC blog but here goes......
Big talking points this week
    • Draw with Chelsea
    • Suarez' conduct during the Chelsea match
    • BR's use of subs
Today April 21,2013 saw us draw with CFC for the second time this term, with Suarez being on the scoresheet in both matches. Back in November it was a 1-1 draw with Suarez scoring in the 73rd minute to draw us level after a 20th minute goal by John Terry off of a corner kick which to anyone who watched todays game will sound familiar. Today it was Oscar who was left unmarked on a corner that headed home CFC's first advantage of the game in the 26th minute. The rest of the half was rather lackluster from both teams with only a few decent chances popping up for Suarez to draw Liverpool back level. The second half started out with the substitution of Sturridge coming on for Coutinho. Sturridge made an instant impact and we were playing like the high caliber squad we all know we can be. Seven minutes into the half Suarez struck a beautiful arching cross onto the left boot of Sturridge who with his first touch rocketed the ball into the lower corner of Petr Cech's goal. Not three minutes later Chelsea wins themselves another corner, which is struck long and to the far post, Suarez has his hand in the air and the ball hits it. To me it looked intentional and apparently it appeared the same way to Kevin Friend the ref for the game and he subsequently cautions Suarez and awards a spot kick for Chelsea. Eden Hazard steps up and slots it home easily, rather surprising because Pepe has a knack for guessing the direction of a spot kick correctly. It is obvious the impact that going down to Chelsea has had on the squad who seems rather deflated for about 20 minutes, but eventually starts to regain its composure and becomes a threat again. In the 79th minute BR sends on Shelvey for Downing, who consequently wastes two chances to score. Fast forward 10 minutes and we find out that Liverpool has an added 6 minutes to clinch a point. After a couple attacks lacking any real promise, Gerrard late in the 95th minute passes a ball to Johnson and completely mishits it. At this point i'm thinking we just lost to Chelsea, assuming that as soon as the ball enters play the ref will blow the final whistle. However the ball is put back into play and we win the ball back and Sturridge puts in a beauty of a cross and who is there? Suarez, who promptly heads it home past/ off of Cech. As soon as play resumes after the game Kevin Friend blows the final whistle.

In the 55th minute Suarez earns a yellow card for (IMO) deliberately handling the ball. While this is not a particularly grievous infraction, it did lead to a spot kick that gave Chelsea the lead again. This may have had some bearing on his later infraction in the 74th minute where he (after further review and better views of the incident) bites Branislav Ivanovic on the upper arm near the elbow. Suarez gets off scott free for this despite Ivanovic and other Chelsea players lodging complaints with the ref, with Ivanovic showing Mr. Friend where Suarez bit him. Personally I viewed it as another way that Suarez was trying to get the better of Ivanovic (in this case by drawing him into reacting and us getting awarded a penalty). While it was unprovoked and completely and utterly mental for him to do this seeing as there are other ways to get spot kicks awarded (like oh, I don't know actually being fouled in the box?). I'm thinking even if somehow Suarez evades any ban by the FA, he should be suspended for the rest of the season by the club. I know a lot of you out there that will read this are calling for his head on a platter but I don't think that is the answer. While no man, player or manager, is bigger than the club; Suarez should not be sacked. He should take his punishment like a man, deal with his suspension and take some personal time with a psychologist. He will be playing for Uruguay over the summer and I for one hope he comes back for preseason at Melwood (he is supposedly out of the squad for the preseason tour of Asia and the Australia). Shipping him away is not the answer here people just remember YNWA, as fans it is our job to support him no matter the infraction.

Brendan Rodgers showed both sides of the substitution equation today, he changed the squad in a positive manner with the inclusion of Sturridge at the half and impacted us negatively with the Shelvey/Downing swap. Sometimes the substitutions that he makes have a large and instant impact on the game (a perfect example being the Sturridge substitution today) and sometimes they are just flops. Subbing Shelvey on for Downing to me sounded mental, but i'm not the guy being paid to make these decisions. With Assaidi on the bench, I am quite baffled by the decision to put on Shelvey. Firstly because by the time he came on WE HAD THE MIDFIELD! Chelsea had not had a decent foray forward for nearly 10 minutes when Shelvey stepped onto the pitch. I get the he is a better shooter (by power only from what we saw today) than Assaidi but when we took off Coutinho, we lost some of the flair of our attack. Why not bring on some flair late in the game to ambush the tired legs of Azpilicueta or Bertrand? We have all seen what Assaidi is capable of against teams late in the game, so why not use him to unlock the defense?

This match against Chelsea has been a harrowing one and one hell of an emotional roller coaster, but all in all I am happy to be a fan of the greatest team in the world. YNWA