Torres returns for Reds

Liverpool play West Ham at Upton Park tonight in an early-evening kick-off, knowing they need all three points to keep the pressure on Manchester United. A win would actually put the Reds top on goal difference overnight, having played two games more.

Their chances of getting those three points are boosted by the presence of both Fernando Torres – back from a hamstring injury – and Steven Gerrard.

One important name missing from the teamsheet is Xabi Alonso. The Spaniard was injured by the reckless tackle that saw Joey Barton sent off in front of the Kop for Newcastle last weekend and so in comes Lucas. Javier Mascherano was also injured in that game but has recovered in time to start tonight.

Yossi Benayoun and Dirk Kuyt have been bagging goals of late for Liverpool and both start, with Yossi likely to play on the left.

Martin Skrtel partners Jamie Carragher at centre-back, with the long-serving and ever-reliable Sami Hyypia on the bench if required, in one of his last three chances to play for Reds before leaving at the end of the season.

West Ham’s hopes of finishing sixth were all-but dashed earlier in the afternoon when Everton got a point against Tottenham, but it is still mathematically possible. Seventh place would still give West Ham the chance of playing in the renamed UEFA Cup next season, and although the Tottenham draw helps them out in that respect, Fulham won earlier and so West Ham start the game in ninth. The East London side will be fighting for a win.

Today’s referee is Alan Wiley, as it was last season in this fixture when a late penalty gave the Hammers the points.

West Ham: 1 Green, 2 Neill, 30 Tomkins, 15 Upson, 3 Ilunga, 13 Boa Morte, 16 Noble, 14 Kovac, 46 Stanislas, 32 Di Michele, 25 Tristan
Subs: 24 Lastuvka, 5 Lopez, 10 Nsereko, 18 Spector, 31 Collison, 33 Sears, 35 Payne

Liverpool: 25 Reina, 17 Arbeloa, 37 Skrtel, 23 Carragher, 12 Aurelio, 20 Mascherano, 21 Lucas, 18 Kuyt, 8 Gerrard, 15 Benayoun, 9 Torres
Subs: 1 Cavalieri, 2 Dossena, 4 Hyypia, 19 Babel, 22 Insua, 24 Ngog, 27 Degen

Referee: Alan Wiley

Teams: Fulham v Reds

After seeing him score two goals in his last two appearances, both as sub, Rafa Benitez has handed Andrea Dossena a start in an advanced role.

Liverpool need to beat Fulham today to keep the pressure on Manchester United – a win today would also put Liverpool top for 24 hours. Also in attacking roles for the Reds are Dirk Kuyt and Steven Gerrard, both of whom agreed new contracts yesterday, and Fernando Torres.

With Javier Mascherano back late from his duties as Argentina captain he drops to the bench and Lucas starts in his place, alongside midweek penalty-score for Spain Xabi Alonso. Scorer of Spain’s winner in midweek, Albert Riera, is on the bench.

Emiliano Insua gets a start at left-back, with Alvaro Arbeloa at right-back, Carragher and Skrtel taking the two centre-back positions.

Yossi Benayoun returned from internation duty with a calf injury but is on the bench today.

Ex-Red Danny Murphy starts for Fulham.

Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel, Insua, Lucas, Alonso, Kuyt, Dossena, Gerrard, Torres
Subs: Cavalieri, Agger, Ngog, Riera, Benayoun, Babel, Mascherano.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Dempsey, Murphy, Etuhu, Davies, Zamora, Johnson
Subs: Zuberbuhler, Nevland, Gera, Kamara, Dacourt, Kallio, Baird.

Kick-off: 17:30 BST.

Reds v Man City – Torres starts

Liverpool play host to Manchester City at Anfield this afternoon, needing a win to keep their title challenge going. Leaders Manchester United are eight points in front, but have played one game more.

Manchester City boss Mark Hughes may be feeling some pressure as boss of the so-called richest club, but his history as a player for both Everton and Manchester United suggest he’ll be putting even more effort into planning this one. 

Rafa Benitez has picked Fernando Torres to start up front. With Steven Gerrard injured and Xabi Alonso suspended, he had limited choice in midfield – Javier Mascherano and Lucas start. Dirk Kuyt, Albert Riera and Yossi Benayoun will be looking to get amongst the goals

Fabio Aurelio is on the bench, with Benitez perhaps considering introducing him as a midfielder as the match goes on. His normal left-back role is filled by Andrea Dossena. Captain for the day Carragher will partner Skrtel in defence.

City keeper Shay Given will be hoping for a better day than the last time he faced Liverpool. He was in goal for Newcastle when they were on the wrong end of a 5-1 demolition by the Reds in December. Last time City met Liverpool was in October, with two goals from Torres and a third from Kuyt giving Liverpool three points after being 2-0 down.

Liverpool: 25 Reina, 17 Arbeloa, 23 Carragher, 37 Skrtel, 2 Dossena, 15 Benayoun, 20 Mascherano, 21 Lucas, 11 Riera, 9 Torres, 18 Kuyt
Subs: 1 Cavalieri, 4 Hyypia, 12 Aurelio, 19 Babel, 24 Ngog, 26 Spearing, 31 El Zhar

Manchester City: 37 Given, 2 Richards, 22 Dunne, 4 Onuoha, 25 Bridge, 5 Zabaleta, 34 De Jong, 33 Kompany, 7 Ireland, 39 Bellamy, 10 Robinho
Subs: 1 Hart, 15 Garrido, 12 Vassell, 24 Evans, 11 Elano, 40 Weiss, 20 Caicedo

Referee: Phil Dowd

Kick-off: 3pm

Chelsea 0 Liverpool 1

Barclays Premier League – Sunday October 26- Result

Chelsea 0 Liverpool 1

The only goal of the game at Stamford Bridge saw a midfielder getting the winner courtesy of a deflection. For once it wasn’t Frank Lampard getting the luck of the ricochet, and for once it wasn’t Chelsea winning the game.

Xabi Alonso got the winner, Liverpool got top spot in the league, and Chelsea lost their unbeaten run – a run that stretched back four-and-a-half years, to the days of Gerard Houllier and Bruno Cheyrou – the last Liverpool player to score here in the league.

It’s far too early to celebrate anything of course, but Liverpool do seem to have found some extra strength from somewhere this season. Hull are joint second with Chelsea now, and without wishing to downplay their achievements in getting there, it does perhaps tell us just how early in the season we still are. Chelsea won’t lose many more this season, and their goal difference is almost double Liverpool’s. Manchester United and Arsenal, in 5th and 6th places behind Aston Villa, are still breathing down the necks of those above them; a game in hand for both makes the gap seem wider than it perhaps really is.

Success is now all in Liverpool’s own hands – but they’ve got another 29 games to hold onto it. Football really gets going now the clocks have moved forward.

Xabi Alonso wouldn’t be a Liverpool player now had Rafa’s summer deals gone through to plan, but to the delight of the fans Xabi stayed. And in return for that support Xabi has improved massively on last season, when injuries and the general  gloom at the club played their part in him looking a shadow of the player who won a Champions League winners’ medal in his debut Anfield season. Continue reading Chelsea 0 Liverpool 1

Teams: Chelsea v Liverpool

Barclays Premier League – Sunday October 26th 2008

Chelsea v Liverpool

Rafa Benitez has picked what looks like being a 4-2-3-1 formation for today’s visit to Stamford Bridge. No surprise ahead of the game to see articles from the London press stirring up trouble for Liverpool, but it’s getting to be like water off a duck’s back now.

That doesn’t mean this is going to be an easy game. Liverpool are in much better form than they were in last season’s league fixture here, but so are Chelsea. The winners of today’s game would make top spot their own, a draw would see Chelsea stay top on goal difference.

Arbeloa and Aurelio are the full-backs today, with Agger getting back into the swing of things with his third start in a row, alongside Jamie Carragher. Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano in midfield means captain Steven Gerrard should get the more advanced role he enjoyed for the tail end of last season, with Riera and Kuyt likely to be taking the other two spots either side of Gerrard. With no Fernando Torres the striker is Robbie Keane, looking to add a league goal to the two goals he’s scored in successive Champions League games.

Former Red Nicolas Anelka is in Chelsea’s starting line-up, as is Florent Malouda, who nearly became a Liverpool player prior to last season. The fact he didn’t played a big part in the non-financial troubles at Anfield that are still far from fully resolved. John Terry is said to have been close to becoming a Red when Chelsea had financial problems, just before Roman Abramovich came in to their rescue, and he captains the side today. 

Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Carvalho, Terry, A Cole, Mikel, Lampard, Deco, Kalou, Malouda, Anelka
Subs: Cudicini, Ivanovic, Di Santo, Sinclair, Ferreira, Alex, Belletti

Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Aurelio, Mascherano, Alonso, Kuyt, Gerrard, Reira, Keane
Subs: Cavalieri, Dossena, Hyypia, Benayoun, Pennant, Babel, Lucas

Referee: Howard Webb

Kick-off: 1.30pm GMT

Fresh from SOS meeting, Rafa picks strong side to face Stoke

Barclays Premier League, September 20th 2008.

Liverpool v Stoke

Anfield, 3pm.

Liverpool are at home for the second league game in succession, and a win would take them top of the league, but nobody at Anfield is taking three points for granted.

Stoke City might be new boys in this division, but Rafa Benitez doesn’t expect a repeat of the one-sided game that took place the last time the two sides met. That was an 8-0 League Cup win, eight years ago at Stoke’s Britannia Stadium, which included a Robbie Fowler hat-trick.

It won’t be an easy game – the regular mentions of Stoke’s threat from throw-ins suggests that it will be another one of those games where supposedly inferior opposition fight like it’s their cup final. But Liverpool know that the better they get, the more they’ll find opponents arrive at Anfield feeling that way. One of Rafa’s challenges is to find a way to deal with that approach. Another is to ensure complacency doesn’t set in, like it did after Liverpool’s promising start to last season.

He’s not weakened his team in any great way. Carra and Skrtel retain the centre-back spots with Agger sitting on the sidelines again, waiting for his chance to reclaim his place. All three are top quality centre-backs that any decent manager would love to have at his disposal; much like the days when Liverpool had to choose two out of Hansen, Lawrenson and Gillespie. Continue reading Fresh from SOS meeting, Rafa picks strong side to face Stoke

Result: Liverpool 2 Man U 1

Barclays Premier League – Result – Saturday September 13th

Liverpool 2 Manchester United 1

Reaction to follow…


Liverpool: 25 Reina, 17 Arbeloa, 37 Skrtel, 23 Carragher, 12 Aurelio, 15 Benayoun (8 Gerrard, 68), 14 Alonso, 20 Mascherano (4 Hyypia, 87), 11 Riera (19 Babel, 71), 18 Kuyt, 7 Keane
Unused subs: 1 Cavalieri, 2 Dossena, 9 Torres, 24 Ngog
Goals: Brown 27 (og), Babel 77

Man Utd: 1 Van der Sar, 6 Brown, 5 Ferdinand, 15 Vidic, 3 Evra, 10 Rooney, 18 Scholes (4 Hargreaves, 66), 16 Carrick (11 Giggs, 46), 8 Anderson (17 Nani, 78), 32 Tevez, 9 Berbatov
Subs: 29 Kuszczak, 23 Evans, 22 O’Shea, 24 Fletcher
Booked: Tevez 21, Nani 81, Vidic 78
Sent off: Vidic 90
Goal: Tevez 3 

Referee: Howard Webb

Attendance: 44,192

Stats (BBC): Liverpool – Manchester United
Possession: 62% – 38%
Shots on target: 10 – 3
Shots off target: 4 – 4
Corners: 5 – 4
Fouls: 10 – 18

League table at end of game:

    P GD Pts
1 Liverpool 4 3 10
2 Chelsea 3 5 7
3 Man City 3 4 6
4 Arsenal 3 3 6
5 West Ham 3 1 6
6 Middlesbrough 3 1 6
7 Aston Villa 3 1 4
8 Bolton 3 1 4
9 Man Utd 3 0 4
10 Blackburn 3 -2 4
11 Newcastle 3 -2 4
12 Hull 3 -4 4
13 Wigan 3 3 3
14 Fulham 2 0 3
15 Stoke 3 -2 3
16 Portsmouth 3 -2 3
17 Everton 3 -3 3
18 Sunderland 3 -3 3
19 Tottenham 3 -2 1
20 West Brom 3 -2 1

Teams: Liverpool v Man Utd – Torres and Gerrard on bench

As a large contingent of Liverpool fans marched on Anfield in protest at how the club is being run, the next thing on their minds was the game against major rivals Manchester United.

Rafa Benítez had arguably his two most important players looking doubtful for the fixture, with Steven Gerrard just starting his recovery from a groin operation, and Fernando Torres having been out due to a hamstring injury. Although the club said both players would be available for today’s game, the manager didn’t feel confident that they were fit enough to start. Both are on the bench; Rafa will be hoping they can stay there all game, rather than having to risk bringing them back too early.

Robbie Keane gets the chance to open his Anfield account against a team he will want to beat as much as any other Liverpool fan. If Rafa decides to play 4-4-2 then Kuyt will be Keane’s partner. Babel is also on the bench, with new signing Riera making his debut today.

Manchester United also have a new-signing making a debut, Keane’s former team-mate Dimitar Berbatov following on from his controversial transfer from White Hart Lane.

One of Liverpool’s co-owners, George Gillett Junior, is expected at the game after flying into the country. He’s believed to have changed hotel from the Malmaison to another city hotel on police advice.  At least one member of the Tom Hicks family is expected to attend the game too.

Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Skrtel, Carragher, Aurelio, Benayoun, Alonso, Mascherano, Riera, Kuyt, Keane
Subs: Cavalieri, Hyypia, Dossena, Gerrard, Babel, Ngog, Torres

Manchester United: Van der Sar, Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Anderson, Carrick, Scholes, Tevez, Berbatov, Rooney
Subs: Kuszczak, Evans, O’Shea, Hargreaves, Fletcher, Giggs, Nani

Referee: Howard Webb

Kick-off: 12.45pm BST

Reaction: Liverpool 2 Middlesborough 1

Barclays Premier League, Result

Anfield, Saturday August 23rd 2008

Liverpool 2 (Carragher, Gerrard) – Middlesborough 1 (Mido)

Liverpool’s boss Rafael Benitez: “We did it the hard way. I was very pleased with the first 10 or 15 minutes because we were creating chances, but after that it was a little bit ugly; we did not play well and they were controlling our attacks. In the second half, they scored a good goal and were on top of us and we had to throw people forward. I thought it would be difficult but we changed – we played with three defenders and that was the key.

“Last season we drew far too many games at Anfield. But this time we have sent out a message that in such situations we can win the game. We have winners here.

“The team showed an intensity and mentality we want to see. Last year we were losing or drawing these types of games and we have to win them. Our fans were quiet before we scored and they were thinking about last season, but in the end we showed a winning mentality and so maybe this will send a positive message to the fans. This is the kind of determination we want to see for the rest of the season.” Continue reading Reaction: Liverpool 2 Middlesborough 1