Gerrard and Suarez back for Reds v Hammers

Liverpool take on West Ham United at Upton Park (or the Boleyn Ground if you prefer) this afternoon and Kenny Dalglish has been able to pick a strong starting line-up.

Luis Suarez was missing in the midweek win over Sparta Prague because he was cup tied – he’s back today to much excitement from Reds supporters who’ve quickly taken to the new signing. And also back today is the captain, Steven Gerrard, a player whose importance to the Reds should never be taken for granted.

Dirk Kuyt got the winning goal on Thursday, he starts today and is likely to do so as the strike partner to Suarez in what looks set to be a 5-3-2 formation, with Gerrard likely to be one of a midfield trio that also includes Lucas Leiva and Raul Mereiles.

At the back the side is expected to line up with three centre-backs, Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel likely to be partnered by either Martin Kelly or Danny Wilson. Although Kelly and Wilson have both played as full backs for the first team this season, they are seen as centre-backs in the long term. Glen Johnson will play as a wing-back – on the left if Kelly is the right wing-back or on the right if – as is most likely – Wilson starts outside the back three.

In the goal for the Reds is the inspirational Pepe Reina, enjoying life at Anfield again under Kenny and his recent clean sheets record showing just how important he is to the Reds.

West Ham are right at the bottom of the table but that doesn’t mean this game is a foregone conclusion. Liverpool have to concentrate against a side that will be battling for a win that would give them a massive morale boost and would also move them up a place.

A win for the Reds would open up some daylight between their current 6th place and Bolton in 7th; it would also put them five points off the Champions League places, albeit with 4th-placed Spurs having a game in hand after this fixture.
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Kenny ready for first home Euro tie as Reds boss

The electronic road signs around Liverpool warn motorists that there may be a bit of congestion in and around the city tonight. Sparta Prague are in town for the second leg of their Europa Cup tie with the Reds and an early kick-off means matchday traffic will clash with ‘rush hour’ traffic.

The early kick-off is down to UEFA trying to make as many games as possible available to TV in what is their secondary competition for clubs. The Champions League fixtures get spread over two nights but in the Europa League it’s all got to be done in one night and so the game at Anfield gets underway at 6pm.

There’s no doubt that this competition struggles even with the Anfield faithful to raise the same kind of enthusiasm as the Champions League. But where the club’s new owners offered free tickets for kids in that last game here in the competition – the last fixture in the already decided group stages – this game was a sell-out.

It’s Kenny Dalglish’s first home European tie as a manager of the Reds.
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Europa League: Wilson starts for Reds in Prague

Kenny Dalglish has named his side for his first European game as a Liverpool manager, tonight’s first-leg Europa League clash with Sparta Prague.

Scottish youngster Danny Wilson gets a start, with another youngster, Martin Kelly, left out of the starting line-up for the first time since Kenny got his old job back. Martin Skrtel also drops to the bench in place of Soto Kyrgiakos.

Raul Meireles has got over the illness that saw him bow out early from the draw with Wigan. David Ngog comes into the side in place of the cup-tied Luis Suarez.

Another youngster, Conor Coady, is amongst the subs, as is Daniel Pacheco.

Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Kyrgiakos, Wilson, Aurelio, Lucas, Maxi, Meireles, Kuyt, Ngog
Subs: Gulacsi, Skrtel, Kelly, Cole, Jovanovic, Pacheco, Coady.

LFC v Wigan – Suarez starts but no Gerrard or Agger

Luis Suarez gets his first start for Liverpool against Wigan today since his big-money move from Ajax, the new number seven will be hoping to carry on from where he left off in his scoring debut ten days ago. His future strike partner Andy Carroll was back in training yesterday and although it’s still early days in his recovery it hopefully won’t be much longer before the duo are both starting games together. Dirk Kuyt starts today.

Reds captain Steven Gerrard is missing for the Anfield clash – the groin injury that kept him out of England’s midweek meaningless friendly clearly not the fake that some were trying to suggest it might be.

That means Jamie Carragher will wear the armband in what is his second appearance for “new” manager Kenny Dalglish – the vice-captain was of course injured when the King got his old job back. Carragher won’t be lining up alongside Daniel Agger though – the Dane is another victim of that same midweek meaningless friendly.

It looks like Kenny has gone back to a four-man defence after using that approach of three centre-backs and two wing-backs in the last two outings. Alongside Carragher is Skrtel, with Martin Kelly and Glen Johnson expected to both start at full-back.

Raul Mereiles has been Liverpool’s main man for goals in recent games and also starts today’s match.
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Reds know their own club better than anyone

Back in the middle of December it’s fair to say that Liverpool was not a happy football club.

The fans didn’t like the manager. The manager didn’t seem to like the fans. And the new owners were getting fingers pointed at them asking why he was still here.

Those questions were asked directly when the owners appeared on the club’s official TV channel to ask some questions. They weren’t likely to answer in the kind of way fans would have liked. But they were also wary of answering in the way the manager would have liked.

John Henry said: “The play that has gone on this season, and I guess from the last half of last season, is unacceptable for Liverpool to accomplish what it wants to accomplish – for us to accomplish what we want to accomplish.”

The following day that manager, Roy Hodgson, was very guarded, correcting a reporter who’d said the owners had called recent results unacceptable: “No, they didn’t say that, ‘recent results’, no.”

Hodgson was clearly expecting the question, and wanted to point out that owners didn’t actually refer only to his results: “There’s a bit of a difference between ‘recent results’ because I think the only team with better results than us over the last five or six games is The Arsenal, maybe Manchester United, so I hope you take the last five or six games, we’re right up there in terms of our results.”

Except that wasn’t actually the case. The Premier League’s website includes a recent form table based on results from the previous six games and Liverpool were certainly not second or third in it.

They were eleventh.
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Teams: Chelsea v Reds – Suarez on bench, Carra back

In recent years this fixture has always got a lot of attention, today’s clash has a bit more spice due to the transfer of one player.

That player, Fernando Torres, starts for his new club Chelsea for the first time since leaving Anfield in a £50m transfer. He’s lining up alongside both Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka.

Luis Suarez is on Liverpool’s bench for today’s game, after making a scoring debut for the Reds during the week. Andy Carroll is not out for the rest of the season, but is still a few weeks away from making his debut for Kenny Dalglish’s side. It means Liverpool will be looking for goals especially from Dirk Kuyt, Steven Gerrard, Maxi Rodriguez and Raul Mereiles.

With Chelsea putting out such a dangerous side Liverpool fans will be glad to see Jamie Carragher return from his dislocated shoulder. This is his debut under Kenny and he is one of three centre backs alongside Skrtel and Agger -Kyrgiakos drops to the bench. Martin Kelly and Glen Johnson are the full backs.

Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, A Cole, Essien, Mikel, Lampard, Anelka, Torres, Drogba
Subs: Turnbull, Luiz, Malouda, Ferreira, Kalou, McEachran, Sala

Liverpool: Reina, Kelly, Carragher, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson, Meireles, Lucas, Gerrard, Maxi, Kuyt
Subs: Gulacsi, Aurelio, Kyrgiakos, Poulsen, Jovanovich, Suarez, Ngog

Liverpool v Stoke – Suarez set for debut from bench

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish brought the smiles back to Anfield when he came back as manager last month – but a bombshell dropped by a striker seen as a hero nearly wiped that smile back off again.

That striker no longer plays for Liverpool, his image removed from the back of the Kop earlier today as the Reds continue their journey into a new era. Lots of records were broken on the last day of the transfer window, the two that matter are the two that brought Liverpool a new number 7 and a new number 9.

That new number 9 is Andy Carroll, the £35m acquisition from Newcastle. He’s not ready to play yet, due to an injury he brought with him, but he’s going to be paraded on the pitch ahead of kick off. It’s not every home game you’ve got a club record signing, the most expensive British player in history, to show off to your supporters.

The new number 7 was also a record signing for the club, but only until the Carroll signing was complete. Luis Suarez is wearing the shirt Kenny gave him, Kenny’s old number, and will be welcomed onto the field for his debut. He needed a work permit and international clearance, all of which came through in time for Kenny to get him into his squad. He’s on the bench tonight.

Another player back in the squad is Jamie Carragher, returning from a dislocated shoulder and set to make his first appearance since the departure of Roy Hodgson. He’s also amongst the subs tonight.

Carragher and Suarez both lack match fitness – Suarez was serving a 7-game suspension in Holland before signing from Ajax – but Suarez is almost certain to feature at some point, with Carra likely to get some time on the pitch if the manager feels it’s appropriate.

What remains to be seen is exactly how the team lines up. Any number of formations are possible with the players named as the first eleven; it’s not even clear how many will be starting at the back.

Martin Kelly and Glen Johnson have played right back and left back respectively in recent games, but there’s a possibility that Johnson will be starting in a more advanced role tonight.

It’s also possible that Kenny has decided to go with three centre-backs – Soto, Skrtel and Agger all start – with Kelly and Johnson playing as wing-backs and Aurelio playing in a central midfield role.

In the absence of either of the two new strikers from the start, the manager has started with Kuyt, with Gerrard likely to start just behind.

Liverpool: Reina, Kelly, Kyrgiakos, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson, Lucas, Meireles, Aurelio, Gerrard, Kuyt
Subs: Gulacsi, Carragher, Poulsen, Shelvey, Suarez, Maxi, Ngog

Kick-off: 8pm