Controversial ‘My Take’

A one word description – embarrassment

I know many will say ‘but hey we were playing a class team’ but watching that was hard. We never looked a shadow of last seasons team. We never showed any class whatsoever. Picture this – If Suarez was playing instead of Balotelli do you think the score would have been different? I think not. With our pathetic defence every team on the planet has a chance against us.

Brendan Rodgers has proved that he has not got the skill to mould a team from his own acquisitions. the £100m or so he spent on 2nd tier players could have been used to buy 3 world class players. A like for like to replace Suarez included. We have to watch the likes of Manu and Arsenal do just that.

Now for the controversial bit – I would drop Jordan Henderson and here’s why ….. This guy is 24 years old going on to 25. He is at his peak and I am still of the same opinion that I was in his early days at Anfield. I saw nothing but a kid that ran. He was extremely fortunate in having Kenny’s confidence week after week when he was simply awful. Rodgers is supposed to have changed him after nearly giving him the boot. I would like someone to point out what he actually does? His passing is safe, his shooting is pathetic, his midfield craft is non existent so what is it that we all see in him?

I honestly think Liverpool would benefit from a class attacking midfielder such a Reus to replace Henderson in January. We should pay what is required. Henderson will not improve and in my opinion, keeping him will keep us a 2nd tier team.

Others that don’t show their worth are Joe Allen, Glen Johnson, Mario Balotelli and of course Lovren, Skrtel & Mignolet.

My other worry is Markovic, a player that has also not shown even a glimmer of the skills we were told he had. Tonight bringing him on for the only player that looked lively, Coutinho absolutely mystified me?

We all know Stevie is on the back end of his career and the stupid talk about Henderson being his successor leaves me howling with laughter.

I don’t know what is happening to our club but I watch us going backwards whilst the profits go upwards. And once again we are going to be taunted by the Scum lot who will relish all this.

Brendan Rodgers took all the plaudits last season but now when he is really tested he is failing miserably. He’s brought his own players in and even without Suarez, we are far worse than last season. He seems to be making serious error’s with his transfer policy. Suso for instance, why? – Why does the very ordinary Henderson play every minute of the PL games?

A start would be to clear and replace (even with the loanees and Academy players) Skrtel, Lovren, Mignolet, Johnson, Allen, Borini and Henderson.

Lets build the team around Sterling, Sturridge, Can, Manquillo, Flanno, Moreno, Suso, Lallana and use Gerrard when or if.

You guys will find this harsh but that must be because you are prepared to accept the drivel we are being served up week in week out.

Ask yourself this … How many of our players would replace like for like in Man, City, Chavs, Arsenal

Who would you get rid of?

Could this be the team?

Screen-Shot-2014-10-22-at-17.26.25

MatchTalk – Real Madrid

liverpool-real-madrid-match-preview

3 reasons why Real Madrid need to be careful

 Taken from a Real Madrid Fanzine

3 reasons why Real Madrid need to be careful with Liverpool’s offense

Sterling, Coutinho and Liverpool’s quickness will threat Real Madrid’s defensive line.

Out of the whole Liverpool squad, only Raheem Sterling would be able to have a prominent role in this Real Madrid roster. However, they are a dynamic team that could harm Real’s defense on any given night, so Ancelotti’s men — especially Varane and Pepe — will need to be very careful with the reds.

3 reasons

  1. Raheem Sterling is great - Real Madrid should be ready for Raheem Sterling. The coaching staff has surely analyzed his game and given good advice to Real’s defenders, but he’s unpredictable. He can play anywhere — behind the striker, on either wing and even in a midfield trio — so Sterling will be able to change his position during the game in order to find the best matchup for him. He’s arguably Liverpool’s best player — no question about it with Daniel Sturridge out — and Real Madrid will need to stop him if they want to walk away of Anfield with the three points.
  2. Set pieces – These situations can always hurt Real Madrid, right? Well, Liverpool’s attacking set pieces are ridiculously good, and while their defensive line is not great when it comes to defend, Martin Skrtel, Mamadou Sakho and Henderson are very capable of scoring goals off corner-kicks and set pieces. Iker Casillas and the whole Real Madrid squad will need to step their game up and be ready for the challenge.
  3. Mario Balotelli’s own Russian roulette - When you decide to start Mario Balotelli, you’re sort of playing Russian roulette in football. He can be the world’s best striker in 1 game out of 30 — Eurocup Semifinals against Germany two years ago — and then spend three months without playing at a decent level. If Balotelli decides to show up this Wednesday, Varane and Pepe will need to be very careful. If he doesn’t, Liverpool will almost play without a striker.

Real Madrid sweep the board

CL Top Trumps: Real Madrid sweep the board with Liverpool

The Reds’ defensive woes should be ruthlessly exposed by the defending champions

CL Top Trumps: Real Madrid sweep the board with Liverpool

Before a massive Champions League game there are numerous ways to assess the chances of each side and how to bet accordingly, and the Top Trumps format is as good a measurement as any.

All categories are scored out of 10:

LIverpoolTeam

Form: Liverpool 5 / Real Madrid 9

The fact that Liverpool have scrambled to back-to-back Premier League victories either side of the international break, courtesy of a Steven Caulker own goal last time out papers over chasm-like cracks.

The Reds have already lost four times in all competitions this season, while Real arrive in the throngs of a seven-game winning streak, which includes thrashing Liverpool’s last Champions League conquerors Basel 5-1.

Defence: Liverpool 4 / Real Madrid 7

Only one clean sheet from 11 games tells us that far from solving Liverpool’s troubles at the back last season, Brendan Rodgers is yet to find the right defensive formula and his team look vulnerable against any opposition.

Meanwhile, Los Blancos have kept three of their last four opponents at bay in all comps before heading to Anfield as Pepe and Sergio Ramos continue to hold court in the centre of defence.

The fact that the latter won’t be available through injury is one piece of good news for the English club.

Star man: Liverpool 7 / Real Madrid 10

Had this been last season then the scales would have been almost even such was the force of nature that was Luis Suarez during 2014/15.

However, against the very best in the world in Ronaldo – who travels to Anfield having notched a mind-boggling tally of 18 goals for club and country in his last 10 appearances – Raheem Sterling is left trailing in his wake.

The Ballon d’Or holder cannot be matched by Liverpool’s teenage sensation in any department just yet.

RealMadridTeam

Attack: Liverpool 7 / Real Madrid 10

Again, had this been the ‘SAS’-inspired Liverpool of last season then this category would be a far closer call.

However, the swashbuckling, 100+ league goals-Liverpool of last season has vanished in favour of a disjointed attacking force which has yet to click bereft of Suarez or the injured Daniel Sturridge, relying instead on a misfiring Mario Balotelli leading the line.

Flip the coin and Ronaldo-inspired Real have hit at least five goals in five of their last seven games. The only drawback for the holders is the absence through injury of Wales star Gareth Bale for the trip.

Coaches: Liverpool 5 / Real Madrid 9

There really is no contest in the dug-out department either. In the blue corner Carlo Ancelotti has got the badge, the t-shirt and most importantly three Champions League winners’ medals to his name, including the last one UEFA had pressed.

In the red corner, Rodgers has impressed in many respects, not least by guiding Liverpool so close to the title last season, but the Northern Irishman still has many stripes to earn, especially at the highest level.

Totals: Liverpool 23/50 / Real Madrid 45/50

Why Rodgers will not be courageous

I am convinced that Brendan Rodgers is going to set up his team to defend.

His original ethos this season has been a million miles from the attacking style that we all loved. There are many that will cite the loss of Suarez but they forget we lost him for many games and still thrilled.

In his defence we have had to deal with the loss of Sturridge but hey this team is terrible and is not a Liverpool team at all.

For the Madrid match he is throwing little sound bites out such as ‘Top-four finish is Liverpool’s priority’ – I ask is that what we want to hear the day before this momentus match? I think he is covering his options. We need to hear fighting talk not wussy stuff about the PL next term. He is also telling us how good Lucas is, who reading between the lines, will play to lock things up.

Yep all a sounds a bit negative from me but I feel certain after the match most fans will be saying ‘Why didn’t we go at them” – I want to see us go out in a blaze not a fizzle. We still have good offensive players who this term have not been used to their potential. Watch Madrid when they attack home or away, you will see 4 players in the opposition box. Watch Liverpool and you will be lucky to see Balotelli in the box. We have too many defensive players and no brains. Henderson should be getting goals so should Coutinho and for that matter so should Allen.

That is where I see our problem, midfielders galore but no attacking intelligence. Watch how many balls get played sideways from our defence and midfield. Last season that was not happening.

So come on Reds will the real Liverpool stand up 

I Love Liverpool – Lucas Leiva

Rafael Benitez Has Always Rated Me But I Love Liverpool – Lucas Leiva

Lucas Leiva admits that Rafael Benitez has always had confidence in his talents, but stressed he is aiming to earn regular playing time at Liverpool.

Benitez signed the Brazilian for Liverpool during his time in charge at Anfield and kept faith with him throughout a difficult initial period, where fans were calling for his dropping.

Lucas was strongly linked with reuniting with Benitez at Napoli over the summer, but stayed put at Anfield.

He faces tough competition for a starting spot however and Benitez is thought to have not given up on seeing the midfielder in Italy, with a fresh bid from the Azzurri possible.

“I want to play, but it takes a little patience”, Lucas told Radio Marca.

“I have been here in Liverpool for seven years and I love this club.

“Last summer there was also talk of Napoli, but nothing that fitted with the interests of all parties.

“What is for sure is that Benitez has always shown great confidence in me”, Lucas added.

Keane: ‘Only one way to stop him’

There’s only one way Liverpool can possibly hope to stop Cristiano Ronaldo – and it’s not kicking him

“Just get stuck in, that’s all you need to do, kick him early.”

Speaking last night at an event in Manchester to promote his new book, Roy Keane revealed the kind of advice he invariably got from his mates ahead of challenging football encounters.

“You’re playing Zidane? Let him know you’re there, kick him,” was about the sum total of the analysis pinging its way from Cork on to his mobile.  “If only it was that easy,” said Keane. “Believe me, I would have done it.”

No doubt Steven Gerrard’s mates will have been texting him all week with similar insights ahead of tonight’s encounter with Cristiano Ronaldo. Except probably expressed in more robust terminology. And the Liverpool captain will be wishing it were that easy.

It is, however, the central tactical issue facing Gerrard and Liverpool as they face Real Madrid: how on earth do you stop Ronaldo? The defenders in La Liga have been failing hopelessly in that task this season. He has scored 15 goals in eight league matches so far. Which is less a statistic than a modern conjuring trick. It is simply ridiculous.

According to Carlo Ancelotti, his manager at Real, it would be “impossible to do better” than the manner in which Ronaldo is playing at the moment. Except this is a player who seems constantly able to improve. Even when apparently unimprovable – already averaging a goal a game for Madrid and scoring more hat-tricks than Mario Balotelli has had stupid haircuts – every season, he goes up to the next previously assumed to be unattainable level. Has there ever been a player who has continued to get better in such a way even when already almost perfect?

But it presents a formidable problem for Brendan Rodgers and his Liverpool players: what on earth do they do to stop him? One thing is for sure: applying the approach of Roy Keane’s Cork chums is unlikely to yield much success. Kick Ronaldo and he tends to get up. If not straight away, then at least after ensuring by the nature of his tumble that his assailant is yellow carded. He is what they call in rugby a big unit. Those who attempt physically to intimidate him tend to bounce off. Short of employing a tank-busting bazooka, which might incur the attention of the referee, there is little in the way of physical violence that can help.

There is really only one way you can stop Ronaldo. And this is not exactly news to anyone who has watched Madrid in action. It is to do what Atletico managed to do so effectively in the Champions League final last year and that is to fur up his supply route. That is done by harassing his midfield colleagues to the point of distraction. Diego Simone’s press and press and press again approach has been the only one that has borne any kind of fruit lately. And even then, ultimately, it came up short when Madrid found an equaliser in the last seconds of the game, before running riot in extra-time.

Because this is the issue Rodgers has: even in the unlikely event he can contain Ronaldo, even if the ever-improving Gareth Bale is injured, he still has to deal with the likes of Toni Kroos, James Rodriguez and Isco. Not to mention Luka Modric. The Croatian seems to have a thing about playing Liverpool. When he was at Spurs, in eight games against them he conjured up five wins and a draw, losing just twice. And watching him control the centre of Madrid’s midfield latterly he seems to have developed a sixth sense about where he might find Ronaldo with a pass. If he gets the ball, a pass to the Portuguese tends – almost invariably – to follow.

The fact is, Madrid are not European champions for nothing. They have the most gilded squad in the world game, a superb manager and, in Ronaldo, a modern magician. The chances of Liverpool repeating the score Not that Liverpool need entirely to despair. While maybe not on the same elevated level as their opponents, in Gerrard, Raheem Sterling and Mario Balotelli they have individuals who can make a difference. Indeed Balotelli is so flaky that this is precisely the sort of game in which he might emerge from his current walking coma and deliver a stunning contribution. Although might is the operative word.

And Madrid might also have a collective off day. They have had them in the past. It happens. Rodgers will have ensured in his preparations that if it does happen, if Madrid collectively fail to show up, his team are prepared to exploit their unlikely opportunity.

There is, though, one certainty. If Liverpool are to pull off a most unlikely result, if they are to beat the 10-times champions at the very peak of their collective form, then they will have to do it by adopting an approach a touch more sophisticated than simply hitting Ronaldo early. As Keano pointed out last night in Manchester, it’s football, not boxing.

Those were the days!

Great pic from the days Renaldo played for Scum and Mash and Arb played for us. Now one plays for Barca and two play for Madrid! We keep churning goodens out! Oh and then there was another one wasn’t there!

Liverpool v Manchester United

Cristiano Ronaldo’s ready to destroy Liverpool?

Cristiano Ronaldo’s incredible stats prove he is ready to destroy Liverpool

Ronaldo. (©GettyImages)

 

If Liverpool needed any reminder of just how much they need to worry about Cristiano Ronaldo, he served it up sublimely at the weekend.

Real Madrid cruised to a crushing 5-1 defeat of Levante in a game wherein Ronaldo bagged himself two goals, taking his seasonal tally to 19 goals in 12 matches across all competitions. To put that into proper perspective, the entire Liverpool squad have managed to score just 17.

Yet it’s his overall record which not only offers credence to the claim that he is the one of the greatest footballers of all time, but also lends an immeasurably strong argument to the strength of his consistency. In a stunning info-graphic pieced together by the Daily Telegraph the extent of his powers is illustrated for all to see.

Ronaldo’s phenomenal record

For starters the Portuguese forward’s career goal-tally currently stands at 394 in 581 games, at an average of 0.68 goals per game. When it’s considered that the early days of his career saw him regularly take to the field as a winger that stat is made all the more impressive, and his form since growing into a central forward at Madrid has been nothing short of incredible.

Cristiano Ronaldo ‘is fantastic’ says Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti

A breakdown of his goals highlights that 269 of his goals have come courtesy of his right foot, with just 69 on his left and 55 from his head. On top of that there’s the figure which details that 291 have come during open play, with 37 strikes finding their way into the net from free-kicks and a mere 66 coming from the penalty spot.

His form at Madrid

What will be of chief concern to Rodgers however is that Ronaldo is sitting in the form of his life, with the 30-year-old having amassed more goals than he’s played games since moving to the Santiago Bernabeu in 2009.

271 goals in 258 appearances for Los Blancos proves that there hasn’t been a period during his Los Blancos tenure where he’s been off the boil, and Liverpool’s troubled defence will have to be at their absolute best to keep him out.

Did You Know!

Real Madrid have failed to score in only 1 of their last 20 away European games and Liverpool have failed to score in only 2 of their last 20 home European games

Should we consider the other two forwards?

Balotelli? Lambert? Why not consider Borini for the visit of Real Madrid?

There has been a lot of talk about whether Mario Balotelli should start for Liverpool against Real Madrid, but one person that hasn’t been considered is another Italian.

It’s fair to say that Fabio Borini isn’t well-fancied by Brendan Rodgers to deliver the goods for Liverpool this season, it would explain why he has only made the one start and a total of three appearances since returning from his season-long loan spell at Sunderland.

There has also been plenty said and written about the situation Liverpool have up front since their 3-2 win over Queens Park Rangers, when Mario Balotelli put in a poor performance and missed a glaring opportunity to open his Premier League account as a result – as Liverpool look to cope through a busy fixture period without main striker Daniel Sturridge.

For those who saw Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football, you will have seen that former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher said the Reds can’t afford any passengers in the game against the European Champions, and he’s right.

As part of his team selection, he didn’t have a recognised forward involved in his starting XI, and had a front three of Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling leading the attack in order to ‘get after’ Real.

His reasons sounded plausible, and though Adam Lallana has impressed since showing signs of him reaching full fitness, I would omit him from the starting line-up and introduce him into the action later on in the game, especially if it’s a tight game. If neither of Balotelli or Rickie Lambert appeal to start up front, then what about Fabio Borini?

Ok, Liverpool’s other Italian forward doesn’t have the best goalscoring record but what he does do is work, his attitude is terrific, and is happy to move across the front line.

Fans of Borini have always advocated his movement and how he can create opportunities for his teammates off the ball, whilst the chances he generally gets for himself are either creating space through movement, or persistence and hard work up against the opposition defence.

Add in the fact that he has the personality to spur on a crowd – which has been earmarked as potentially having an influence on the game in their own way.

What is going to be needed from Liverpool against Real is plenty of intensity and urgency, and it’s something Borini brings to the game – and he will allow his teammates to flourish as well. Balotelli and Lambert both have their qualities they can bring to the Liverpool side, but this game just has the feel of a game when someone like Borini can thrive, and possibly make the difference.

Who would you start up front for Liverpool against Real Madrid?

17 year old trains with squad

Young midfielder Jordan Rossiter was pictured training with the Liverpool first-team as they prepare for their clash with Real Madrid.

Rossiter, 17, made his Liverpool debut last month against Middlesbrough in the Capital One Cup. The Liverpool born midfielder had a dream debut scoring at Anfield and therefore becoming the Reds’ second youngest ever scorer behind Michael Owen.

The 17-year-old is highly-rated at Anfield and Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler has even compared the midfielder to Reds skipper Steven Gerrard.

Rossiter is rated due to his all-action midfield style, while the midfielder has an eye for a pass too.

Rossiter has been included in Liverpool’s Champions League squad and the fact he was training with the Reds’ first-team squad last night suggests he could possibly make Liverpool’s matchday squad tonight.

The 17-year-old is expected to get a few more minutes this season, as he continues to progress through the Anfield ranks.

Photo confirmation of Jordan Rossiter training with the Liverpool squad ahead of Real Madrid

Jordan Rossiter (left)

Defending Mario Balotelli

 Apparently the time it takes for a player to be completely written off is getting

smaller.Balotelli has made just eight appearances for Liverpool since his summer time switch from AC Milan and already the lively Italian is a flop, a failure, garbage to be jettisoned as quickly as possible. We’ve been here before haven’t we? Peter Crouch, Lucas Leiva, Jordan Henderson, Joe Allen, and now it’s Balotelli’s turn. All those players were written off after slow starts to their Anfield careers and each has gone on to claw back much of the respect they lost during the early stages of their stays at L4. You’d honestly think we’d learn by now but we never will – especially not with social media existing as it does today. Just picture Peter Crouch’s early Liverpool appearances and imagine the Twitter meltdowns, scary as hell.It took Crouch 1,229 minutes to score his first Liverpool goal and it was one of the worst goals I’ve ever seen – that scuffed shot that happened to take the dirtiest deflection of all time before looping over the hapless Wigan Athletic ‘keeper – yet Balotelli has already been ousted from many Liverpool supporters’ future plans. Of course, it’s right to analyse and criticise when it’s necessary but abuse and non-support is far more detrimental to a player’s fortunes than a little goal drought. Which is why we must keep supporting him.

Post-QPR game and pre-Madrid I’m still in the camp that will stick up for Balotelli – even if he nibbles Steve Bruce at the weekend. It took me until the day Andy Carroll left the club for me to stop supporting him and the same will be done for our new Italian. Going back to the QPR game (not that we want to) I’ve found myself convinced that the chance he spurned with Alex McCarthy’s goal gaping was harder than it appeared on television. Of course, the net is free, there are no defenders in sight and the ‘keeper is dead in the water, but there’s still a very important factor – the football. The ball itself is coming towards Balotelli at speed, in the air and at an awkward height – this chance is not a tap-in, as so many believe. This scribbler has played amateur football for about 15 years and I can tell you (although many of you will already know – sorry to you guys and girls) that this kind of situation gives you a horrible rush of adrenaline at the worst possible time. Normally, a professional player should score – this I admit – but a pro player low on confidence and misfiring with the media and support on his back can find this a really difficult chance to finish. It’s with this reasoning that I kept hold of my sanity in the aftermath of the miss because if that was me I’d have expected myself to score, however, if I’d been playing poorly for a number of games or somebody was on my back the pressure might have got to me and I believe that’s what happened to Balotelli – so, in my own way, I understand how the chance could have been missed. That’s my logic anyway.

I also think it’s a problem saying he doesn’t work hard enough. Balotelli works hard enough off the ball – he’s tracked back and won the ball on a number of occasions, he’s headed clear a few times, he’s pressed individually and as a pack with his teammates and he’s tried to help out at set pieces. It’s clear to many that Balotelli is willing to work hard for the cause. The problem is his work when Liverpool have the ball – and it isn’t the problem you might think. Balotelli isn’t lazy when Liverpool have the ball, he just isn’t of the right profile to fit into Liverpool’s attacking patterns – which makes him appear lazy. Hear me out. Balotelli is a player who needs a partner beside him and Daniel Sturridge’s enforced absence has crippled his playing style. With this being said, Liverpool did not sign any other strikers deemed worthy to start football matches during the summer and that means Balotelli has to be moulded and augmented to ensure he is useful in this kind of scenario – a scenario where he is the lone front man in a formation that requires solid movement when your teammates have the ball. This kind of augmentation with a player who has already moulded himself throughout his career will take time but Brendan Rodgers and the Melwood coaching staff can improve him in this regard, we just need to be patient and support him because support and understanding are far more useful tools than anger and ridicule when it comes to motivating players.

There’s also another crumb of comfort for the Reds’ faithful. However, I think a lot of people are ridiculing this kind of theory but, again, hear me out. Luis Suarez was easily as wasteful as Balotelli when he first joined.

*BOOOOOO*

*HISSSSS*

I know, I know. Balotelli will never be the player Suarez is but they both had the same problem when they hooked up with Liverpool. They both made/make the same wrong decisions with shots flying wide from silly angles and distances when teammates were in better suited positions and both needed/need time to get to know their fellow Reds – their movements, skill sets and the level of trust in each other will grow. Balotelli will never be as good as Suarez but if he can stamp out the same problems as Suarez using the same teammates, coaches and manager then he’ll be a success at Anfield.

We could go into further detail with regards to Sturridge’s injury but we all already know that Balotelli needs to adapt – with time – and that when Sturridge returns we’ll be better. The key is that next time Sturridge gets injured, and he will get injured, Balotelli will be far more comfortable with his surroundings, his teammates and his manager’s needs. So for now, back him and sing his song as loud as you can.

Defensive Shambles – Who is to Blame?

Liverpool’s Defensive Shambles – Who is to Blame?

Fabio Aurelio, Sami Hyypia, Jamie Carragher and Alvaro Arbeloa. Now that was a solid back four. You felt confident going into games under Benitez with those four at the back. Well organised by Carragher, and Hyypia read the game magnificently. Time to stop drooling folks and wipe that smile of your face as that was back in 2009 and a distant memory from now!

In Brendan Rodgers’ first season in charge at Liverpool we conceded 43 goals in the Premier League. Rodgers’ favoured back four was Jose Enrique, Daniel Agger, Jamie Carragher and Glen Johnson.

The following season saw Rodgers bring in Mamadou Sakho, Tiago Ilori, Aly Cissokho and Kolo Toure in defence and Simon Mignolet in goal. Meanwhile, legendary defender Jamie Carragher retired from football. Whether it was our attacking style or our defensive set up simply getting worse, Liverpool conceded 50 goals in the league.

In July 2014, Rodgers stated:

“(Defence) is a place where we want to be better, there’s no doubt about that. It wasn’t good enough to concede that many goals, considering the amount of possession we had and amount of goals we scored.”

Rodgers sold Daniel Agger in the summer and brought in Alberto Moreno, Dejan Lovren and Javier Manquillo. Meanwhile, Andrew Wisdom, Sebastien Coates and Tiago Ilori were all allowed to leave on loan.

Despite Rodgers bringing in the players he wanted and with a key focus to improve defensively, we have already conceded 12 goals in 8 league games. If we continue on that basis, we will concede a whopping 57 goals this year.

So what is going wrong?

In the past we have all pointed the finger at certain individuals. Simon Mignolet, Jose Enrique, Kolo Toure, Martin Skrtel – and more recently Dejan Lovren – have all been heavily criticised particularly on social media sites for their poor displays.

Surprisingly, one individual has escaped a lot of the criticism and that is a certain Brendan Rodgers. Now, this article is not intended to start a ‘Rodgers Out’ campaign. He is definitely the right man for the job and I have faith in him to get things right.

However, I cannot ignore that defensively we are getting worse year on year, despite Rodgers now starting his third season at the club and bringing in players that he and the transfer committee have agreed upon – if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be here!

What has Rodgers failed to do?

Lovren signing

The strangest decision in Rodgers’ tenure has been the signing of Dejan Lovren. Whilst Martin Skrtel scored a few goals last season and performed well in certain games, he was at fault for many of the goals conceded last year. Bearing in mind he has been at the club for a number of years, he had no excuses for his poor defensives displays.

On that basis, the sensible strategy would have been to sign a brilliant right sided centre-back.

Instead, Rodgers kept Skrtel as his first choice centre half and brought in a left sided centre-back in Dejan Lovren, relegating Mamadou Sakho to the bench. Whilst Sakho hasn’t convinced at all times in a red shirt, it was his first season at the club and at 24 years of age is only going to get better. He is strong, has pace and has leadership skills – evidenced by his dislays for both PSG and France.

Lovren in my mind is a decent defender but has several flaws and is in no way an upgrade on what we already had. You only need to look at Bobby Zamora dominating him on Sunday. He has been directly responsible for the majority of the goals we have conceded this season and Rodgers hasn’t taken action once. Meanwhile, both Sakho and Balotelli have both paid the price for mixed displays and been dropped

Whilst Lovren can be criticised, surely the buck stops at Rodgers for retaining Skrtel and replacing Sakho with Lovren.

Lack of defensive midfielder

Another key failure has been to recruit a top class defensive midfielder. The reason Lovren excelled last summer was due to the pairing of Victor Wanyama and Morgan Schneiderlein ahead of him, who provided an excellent screen. Whilst Steven Gerrard is an important player, he has already shown this season that he can often struggle in that role when pressed. You only need to cast your mind of Downing running rings around him in our defeat to West Ham!

Again, whilst blaming Gerrard is easy, Rodgers has had three seasons to bring in a defensive midfielder in the class of Javier Mascherano who did such a brilliant job for the defence under Benitez. Instead, he has chosen to play Gerrard in a key position despite his ageing legs and sometimes poor positional play.

Keeper situation

Simon Mignolet’s performances declined last season and he has been unconvincing this season too. Failure to bring in a top class rival for this shirt is another reason for our poor defensive displays. The confusion between Mignolet and the centre-backs is all there to see due to Mignolet’s indecisiveness.

Whilst Brad Jones seems to be a great guy, we needed someone to put some real pressure on Mignolet. Ideally a young promising keeper would have been ideal. Again, Rodgers and the club have failed to act.

Back to basics

Rodgers has signed several defenders in his short time at the club – some hugely overpriced – and yet still we haven’t improved defensively.

The key question I ask is what does Rodgers do on the training ground on the defensive side? We hear a lot about the passing drills and our attacking style, but what is done defensively?

I don’t believe for a second that we don’t work on our defensive set up as a team that has defended so poorly surely must be working hard on this. However – whatever we are currently doing is evidently not working and as the stats show, we are actually regressing.

Has the time come for Rodgers to bring in a defensive coach and change the goalkeeping coach? Will Rodgers swallow his pride and give up some of his control so that others can work on the defensive side? Do we need to change our scouts? Whether we improve defensively will be based on the answer to these questions.

I pray Rodgers can fix our defensive issues, however, the bedding in time is well and truly over for Rodgers and he now needs to take decisive action in order for this team to improve at the back.

What changes would you make to our defensive set up? Who is to blame?

Gerrard: ‘We could be embarrassed by RM

Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard wary of being embarrassed by in-form Real Madrid in Champions League

The ESPN FC panel discuss whether or not Real Madrid may have one eye on Saturday’s El Clasico

Steven Gerrard has told his team-mates Liverpool “could get beat convincingly” if they are not on top of their game against Real Madrid.

The two teams, who have 15 Champions League titles between them, meet at Anfield on Wednesday and at the Bernabeu in two weeks’ time. Defeat in either game will leave Liverpool struggling to qualify for the knockout stage in their first season in the competition since 2009.

And Gerrard has warned it could become “embarrassing” if Liverpool show the current European champions too much respect.

“Everyone who is picked to play – from the 11 in the starting line up to the subs – everyone has to be on their game,” he said. “We are playing against the best side in Europe and if we have two or three passengers we could get beat convincingly.

“It can become embarrassing against sides like this who are deadly away from home on the counter attack. We need to be right on it and that applies to me personally as well.”

Carlo Ancelotti’s side arrive on Merseyside on a run of seven straight victories – a period in which they have notched 32 goals. Liverpool, meanwhile, have struggled in recent weeks, with their defensive frailties exposed during their 3-2 win over bottom-of-the-table QPR on Sunday.

But Gerrard is putting form to one side, saying: “Most places Real Madrid go with the current players and the form they are in, they are expected to win.

“I understand those opinions. But football is football, shocks are there, upsets happen.

“Yes, we understand we are the underdogs but with the atmosphere we have [at Anfield] and the players raising their game for a game like this I think it is possible to cause an upset.

“When big questions get asked of this team, especially last year when big hitters come to town, we raised our games. The fans raised theirs, we raised ours and I think we put in some really good performances. I think a performance is due now.

“The performance at QPR wasn’t good enough, everyone knows that, but I think everyone will respect that when Real Madrid come into town it is a different game to get yourself up for.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

Should the boy be up front?

How Liverpool should line up against Real Madrid in the Champions League

AM: Raheem Sterling

Liverpool’s face Real Madrid on Wednesday night in the Champions League at Anfield, and it is certainly the glamour tie of the round as two of the most famous European sides battle it out for three points in Group B.

The stage is set for Brendan Rodgers and his players to experience the sights and sounds of a European night at Anfield, and what better way to kick start what have been an insistent season than welcoming the ten time European champions on to the hallowed turf.

Jamie Carragher: Liverpool should drop Mario Balotelli

It has been five years of waiting for Reds fans to experience a night such as this one, and with the like of Cristiano Ronaldo, James Rodriguez, Toni Kroos and Karim Benzema turning out for Los Blanco’s, the atmosphere is set to be an electric one as Liverpool attempt to thwart the might of Madrid.

Despite being the underdogs, it is a tag Liverpool have thrived off in Europe over the years, and here’s the XI that could secure another famous victory for Liverpool on Wednesday night.

Sterling should be deployed instead of Balotelli as the false nine.

Goalkeeper: Simon Mignolet

The Belgium shot-stopper has been much maligned this season, with question marks about his authoritative presence around Liverpool’s box putting his future at Liverpool into the spotlight. Yet Mignolet continues to display outstanding professionalism on the field, his commanding performance against QPR going someway to sway the doubters away from criticising him.

Despite his mistake for the cross which Leroy Fer headed onto the bar on Sunday, Mignolet made some terrific saves and arguably kept Liverpool in the game when they were under the most pressure. The 26-year old has made 22 claims this season and has a 92% success rate, failing just twice to collect the ball. His services will no doubt be required on Wednesday with the attacking verve of Real Madrid visit Anfield.

Right-back: Glen Johnson

The right-back has recently returned from injury and slotted back in the team ahead of Javier Manquillo against QPR on Saturday. 19-year-old Manquillo has done well since he was drafted into the side because of injuries, but his lack of experience made him prone to a few errors at times. In Johnson Liverpool have a player with that bit more experience, however his performances at the tail end of last season and into the new one are yet to find much praise. He can often be prone to stepping out of position, and because of his eagerness to get forward this can have an effect on Liverpool’s shape when caught on the counter attack.

Below you can see how he uses the right wing to get forward against Manchester City earlier on in the season, yet he didn’t register one cross during the 3-1 loss. Johnson must do more when he makes his runs forward to convince Rodgers he still deserves a place in the side. What he will also have to do is contend with Cristiano Ronaldo, the Ballon d’Or winner often utilising the left hand side to cut  in and take a shot. Johnson will need to be on top of his game against the Portugese star, as well as calculating when and when not to make the bursting runs forward.

Glen Johnson heat map vs Manchester City this season

Centre-back: Martin Skrtel

Skrtel has been part of Liverpool’s defence for a good few years now but this season he has been part of back four criticised more than ever during his time on Merseyside. The Slovakian himself has come in for much criticism, his lack of leadership is evident at times and his handling of players in the box during set pieces leaves fans gasping for air at times.That being said Skrtel has made 89 defensive actions this year, 74 of which have been clearances, sitting 15th in the league table on the Squawka Player Rankings.

He has been a man for the big occasions in the past, more recently last season when he came back into the team against Manchester United at Anfield and has since kept his place. He loves to score goals in the big games, and you can bet he will anything he can to get his head on a Gerrard corner or free kick.

Centre-back: Dejan Lovren

Liverpool’s £20 million defender has also stood next to Skrtel in the firing range this season, with criticism of the Croatian centre back perhaps a little harsh. He has yet to make the desired impact this season however, and against QPR at the weekend it was all a little Sunday league last gasp clearance defending than it was composed and mobile. Lovren does possess leadership qualities that have perhaps lacked since Jamie Carragher’s retirement, and despite the criticism he does have some impressive stats.

The Croatia international has made 16 interception this season as well as 87 clearances and averages an 86% pass completion rate. He averages 21m per pass which gives an indication on his passing range and success of that passing range. His leadership qualities will be vital in organising a Liverpool defence that will more than likely face a fair amount of pressure on Wednesday night. This is Lovren’s first test at the highest level of club football, and whether or not he can live up to the expectation his price tag brought remains to be seen.

Left-back: Alberto Moreno

The young left-back has been impressive during his short Liverpool career, and he has vital European experience to boot, winning the Europa League last season with Sevilla. His lack of presence in Liverpool’s squad on Sunday however is a mystery, and having been left out of the Spain under-21 game during the international break, it remains to be seen whether he will be in the starting line up on Wednesday. His performance score this season stands at 72 for the six games he has played in so far.

After a mistake on his debut against Manchester City, he scored a wonderful goal at Tottenham to give Liverpool a 3-0 lead, and has since put in a string of performances which have impressed the masses. His speed helps him to get forward and back quickly and he is strong and committed in a tackle. Having played at Sevilla he will relish coming up against the might of Real Madrid, as well as being tasked with dealing with Columbian James Rodriguez.

Defensive midfield: Steven Gerrard

Brendan Rodger slightly tinkered with Steven Gerrard’s position on Sunday, a plan that didn’t come to fruition, the Liverpool captain dropping deeper in the second half where he had more influence and control over the game. Despite not being the marauding, all action midfielder that brough Madrid to their knees last time they were on Merseyside, Gerrard will have an important role to play in helping his defence break down the Spanish sides waves of attack. It will be his passing abilities which could swing this tie Liverpool’s way however.

The influential midfielder sits 4th alongside Cesc Fabregas and David Silva with 18 key passes and averages an 87% pass completion rate. With a midfield in front of him to win the ball back and create space, he remains as vital as ever in Europe for Liverpool.

Gerrard had a 94% pass completion rate against West Brom

Central midfield: Joe Allen

Joe Allen was welcomed back from injury with open arms on Sunday against QPR, the Welshman has been missed greatly as Liverpool have shown inconsistency this season, particularly in the midfield. With Gerrard the creator and Jordan Henderson the engine, Joe Allen is a bit like a drifter in an often packed midfield. He is always wanting the ball and looking for the short passes which either speed up play or calm the tempo down. Allen isn’t the glamorous player who grabs the headlines, nor does he score too many goals (his only strike last season away to Crystal Palace), but his presence is important to find that balance.

The 24-year-old also relishes the big games, and against the like of Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal last season, he was the quiet catalyst that has the ability to see games out. His return is important, and alongside Jordan Henderson, the two can be the door that slams Madrid’s attack shut but the key that opens up Liverpool’s attack.

Centre midfield: Jordan Henderson

The recently appointed vice-captain has left an indelible mark on the fans of Liverpool over the last year or two. His rate of improvement has been staggering, and his stats speak for himself, sharing the same page as the likes of Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri, Santi Cozorla and his own Captain Steven Gerrard in the passing statistics last season. Henderson sat 8th in the whole league for passing in 2013/14, completing 1753 at a success rate of 87%, making 55 key passes and two assists.

He has played every single minute of Liverpool’s eight matches in the Premier League this season, and offers an exceptional work-rate which will be vital in the midfield battle against Real Madrid. His rise to prominence is testament to the determination showed when he was written off early on by many, and his contribution going into to this tie is more important than ever

Jordan Henderson

Left attacking-midfield: Adam Lallana

Liverpool’s £25 million man is beginning to settle into life on Merseyside more and more as the weeks go by. He capped off an impressive performance against West Brom with a neat finish before the international break, and against Basel in the Champions League he was one of the stand-out performers in what was a disappointing night for Liverpool. In five appearance in the league the has created five chances and attempted five shots, four of which have been on target.

He has quick feet and an ability to take on player despite having a lack of natural pace, during the West Brom match he completed four out of five take ons in what was his best performance so far. Real Madrid will be his biggest test yet, not just in Liverpool colours but as a footballer, and big occasions aren’t something that seem to faze the 26-year-old.

Right attacking-midfield: Philippe Coutinho

The nimble footed Brazilian received many plaudits after coming on against QPR and changing the game for Liverpool on Sunday. It is this type of form that Liverpool will hope the 22-year-old can recreate on Wednesday, having gone through spells of inconsistency whilst at Liverpool.

With Coutinho and Lallana either side of Sterling, the two can play more of a free role than they have been used to of late. If Brendan Rodgers opts to go with this formation, he can expect the more creative players to be on the ball more, and see a Liverpool which resembled last season, quick to close down and even quicker when in possession. Against West Brom at the beginning of October, Coutinho had a 94% pass completion rate, and if he can distribute the ball to the level he did during that game, he can be the difference between winning and losing the Real Madrid clash.

Centre Forward: Raheem Sterling

Raheem Sterling has been Liverpool’s stand out player this season. The 19-year-old currently sits 5th on the overall Performance Score with 309. Along with Coutinho, Sterling made the difference against QPR that gave Liverpool all three points, and talk continues that he can become one of the world’s best attacking players. Real Madrid at Anfield has set the platform for the England international to really put his name on the map, and if Rodgers were to drop the so far disappointing Mario Balotelli, I think he should put Sterling front and centre playing in the middle of Lallana and Coutinho.

Last season Liverpool created a sort of chaos that confused teams so much they didn’t know whether they were coming or going. In Balotelli you have someone whose work rate is half-hearted. If Liverpool were to deploy Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson in front of Steven Gerrard, the Philippe Coutinho and Lallana on the left and right of Sterling, what may return is that little bit of chaos that brought Liverpool so close to the league title. A high pressing, high temp and fast passing game, which, combined with the Anfield atmosphere, could produce a famous night for the Reds.

This isn’t Raheem Sterling up front on his own, it is Liverpool utilising their abilities to attack as one, spearheaded by Sterling. A risk it may be, but a risk most definitely work taking.

What would you like to see?

What would you like to see from Liverpool against the mighty Real Madrid?

Me – I would like to see us get at them and make them uncomfortable in the same manner that Atletico do. They are at their heels from the whistle and always make a match of it, they simply show no respect!

I just hope that Rodgers does not bottle it and set up the team to ‘ultra defend’ using Sterling for breakaways. I hope both Manquillo and Moreno are in from the start and Coutinho too. Any other forward would do better than Mario did so he needs resting and Borini or Lambert to take his place. Lovren and Skrtel need lobotomies with hopefully brains that know what defending is!

Oh and please Simon no uncertainty in goal!

Not such a big ask heh?

 

‘Boo Boys’ always motivate Christiano – Ancelotti

Boo boys will motivate Ronaldo! Real Madrid boss Ancelotti fires warning at Liverpool fans

Fire power: Ronaldo has scored 15 goals in seven La Liga appearances this season

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti has warned Liverpool fans Cristiano Ronaldo will defy the boo boys at Anfield on Tuesday.

The 29-year-old spent six years with Liverpool’s bitter rivals Manchester United and the home fans are expected to create a hostile atmosphere for the Ballon d’Or winner.

And Ancelotti has warned that Ronaldo – who has never scored at Anfield and returns on Tuesday for the first time since 2007 – will thrive in a cauldron of noise.

Asked if the old rivalry will fire the former United man on, the Real Madrid boss said: “No, ha, ha, he won’t be more motivated because it’s Liverpool.

“Cristiano is always super-motivated. But if the atmosphere is hostile it motivates him more.”

During his playing days, Ancelotti captained Roma to a European Cup final against Liverpool and admits he has since developed an affection for the Reds.

The Italian addrd: “I followed Liverpool from 1984 when I faced them with Roma in the European Cup final and we lost on penalties.

“It’s always been a club that make me emotional.

“‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ is incredible. No one sings it the way Liverpool fans do.”

Good old fashioned aerial bombardment?

No matter how ‘Liverpool-ised’ Madrid have become since 2009 they don’t like a good old fashioned English football aerial bombardment

Our La Liga expert previews what promises to be one of the great European nights at Anfield and warns that Real Madrid will have their eye on Raheem Sterling for more than one reason…

The last time Madrid left Anfield they’d been run over so badly that every last man jack had Looney-tunes tyre-tracks up the front of their body and all over their faces.

As opposed to the previous time these two behemoths of European football had met, in a European final which was one of the dullest, achingly-slow elite matches you could wish to suffer, that 2009 Champions League tie was jam-packed full of daring, energy, power and unfettered attacking.

The 1984 European Cup final was one of the ultimate lessons in the means justifying the end.

Mixing the velvet glove with the iron fist

When I was writing my book about the ‘Inside Story of La Roja’s Historic Treble’ I phoned Graeme Souness to talk about the role and skills of Madrid’s talented, creative central midfielder that day in Paris: one Vicente del Bosque.

He told me: “I looked back at that final a couple of months ago because Jamie Redknapp rang me to tell me it was on television. I realised, watching it after such a long time, that for players like del Bosque in Madrid’s midfield Liverpool must have been a nightmare to play against because we were already putting into practice many of the things which are in vogue now: pressing all over the pitch, full-backs pushed high up their touchline so that I stayed sitting in front of the two centre-backs protecting them. I see much of that as central to the success of Barcelona and Spain nowadays.”

At the time Graeme didn’t mention the modern Madrid, but he could have done.

In 1984 the club didn’t learn from Liverpool’s brand of football, didn’t understand that mixing the velvet glove with the iron fist was something which would still function as well in 2014 as it did in the George Orwell year.

In 2009 they did learn.

If you recall the Anfield ambush, Madrid were not only hammered 4-0, they couldn’t compete.

They couldn’t keep up mentally or physically: with each passing quarter of an hour the self-belief and stamina diminished to the point that the Reds, inspired and led by one of the great Stevie Gerard performances, were shooting fish in a barrel.

If you are able to go back and luxuriate in the images, or if, as a Koppite, they are still seared on the brain, then just call up the bewildered looks on the faces of Raul, Heinze and Gago as they thought only about ‘what just happened?’, ‘how soon can this be over?’

Stevie wonder

I’ve spoken to Liverpool players from that night and their verdict is unanimous. They knew, in advance, that they’d be able to out-sprint, out-last, out-jump and out-muscle Madrid – the out-playing would follow as a natural consequence.

They already knew that Raul was no longer a real threat when the contest was hi-energy, that he epitomized the ‘faded greatness’ of the Madrid era.

The great difference in the ‘lessons’ which were nearly three decades apart is that Madrid assimilated and applied the latter one.
A strategy was adopted.

They wanted Jose Mourinho even then – Florentino Perez wanted to Liverpool-ise, or better still, to Chelsea-ise Madrid.

They wanted to modernize. To blend technique with intensity, power with pace, creativity with coruscating energy.

The coach that night was Juande Ramos who’d achieved just those things with Sevilla, who’d regularly put Madrid through the wringer using players like Luis Fabiano, Freddie Kanouté, Seydou Keita, Ivica Dragutinovic, Julio Baptista, and the late Antonio Puerta. Their 3-5 win at the Bernabéu in the Supercopa was the template. Power, height but oodles of technique.

Juande Ramos didn’t work out at Madrid but Sevilla, Chelsea and now Liverpool had shown the men in grey suits that they were gonna have to use some grey matter. To catch up.

Heinze and Cannavaro out. Raúl directly after.

Sequentially: Alonso, Arbeloa (both alumni of the Anfield ambush), Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema, Garay, Angel di Maria in.

Strength in numbers

You see the pattern? You see the influence? Height, power, grit, Premier League experince, intensity – all of them tick some or all of those boxes.

Then, one year later, Mourinho. Now Bale.

Height, power, stamina, aggression but, in due course, more weights in training, more gym work, faster paced, more direct football. The Spanish title, three straight Champions League semi finals and then, in Lisbon, La Decima.

There’s a line of cultural change which can be traced from Anfield in 2009 until now.

Painful and humiliating though the experience was.

A brand of thinking at the Bernabeu, particularly around their Valdebebas training centre, that the powerful mix of Spanish craft, technique and strategy when blended with the power, height, pace, commitment, stamina and directness of the Premier League was not only the way forward generally but a means of waging football ‘war’ on the prettier, possession based football at Barcelona.

‘Madrid have it all’

Without pre-judging the result, the master-pupil roles have been reversed from 2009 until now.

Liverpool are patently in the process of trying to reestablish some of the Spanish football credo which they had in their very best years – brilliant, quick passing above all.

But Brendan Rodgers unsurprisingly told Guillem Balaque for AS newspaper this week: “Right now Madrid is a team which can perform at a high level the like of which I’ve not seen in years. They have it all. Great players, speed, technique, fantastic team spirit, experience and a marvellous coach. They play well in tight spaces and if you leave them big spaces on the pitch there’s no team in the world better at exploiting them. My view is that when you mix the technique of the Spanish and or Dutch with the British spirit then it’s very very hard to beat.”

But, to business. To play the first of the two games at Anfield is an advantage. To play Madrid when Bale is out, Ramos is out, Benzema and Varane are both just back from illness and Casillas is searching for confidence and match sharpness – all of this is helpful.

So is the fact that the Clásico is on the horizon.

Form, talent and impetus still suggests that between Ronaldo, James Rodríguez, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos the European Champions can score and return home without losing, quite likely win.

Sterling: the jewel in Liverpool’s crown

However, Martin Skrtel recently organised Slovakia to shock and humiliate Spain, his and Balotelli’s aerial ability directly correlate with the weakest point in Madrid’s armoury.

And then there’s Raheem Sterling.

The jewel in Liverpool’s crown.

I will put a wager of a nice bottle of wine that within a season or two Real Madrid will, literally, not be able to resist his particular charms.

He has everything that the Spanish club adore… and more. And, for the moment, the best thing he can do is torment Marcelo and get that ball into the middle.

No matter how anglified, no matter how Liverpool-ised Madrid have become since 2009 they don’t like a good old fashioned English football aerial bombardment. Tin hats on, everyone.

Did You Know!

Madrid head to Anfield on a run of seven consecutive wins, having scored 32 goals in that time, an average of around 4.5 goals a game!

‘Risky’, warns boss Rodgers

Focusing on Ronaldo is too risky, warns Liverpool boss Rodgers

Not a one-man team: Cristiano Ronaldo isn’t the only star name on Brendan Rodgers’ mind

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists his side cannot become too focused on stopping Cristiano Ronaldo in the Champions League tomorrow night as Real Madrid have enough quality to hurt them elsewhere.

Real’s other flying forward Gareth Bale has been ruled out with the same injury which kept him out of the weekend’s 5-0 win over Levante but Ronaldo will undoubtedly take centre stage in the Group B clash at Anfield.

The Portugal international arrives on the back of breaking a 71-year La Liga record by scoring 15 goals in the first eight matches of the season and while his talent cannot be under-estimated, Rodgers stressed it would be foolish to focus solely on him.

“He’s a player off the charts. His evolution in recent years, the way how he has become a goalscorer has been amazing,” Rodgers said.

“We need to know how to stop him but there is danger in other parts of the field. You have (Luka) Modric, (Toni) Kroos – wonderful technicians who can play short and long.

“I’m also a big admirer of Sergio Ramos (another injury doubt as he has not featured since October 5) since his young days at Sevilla where he came through the system before making a move and then making over 100 appearances for Spain.

“It is a magnificent achievement and he is fast, strong and has personality. I love it.

“They have amazing talents all over the field and they have the technique to play in small spaces and when the space opens up there is no one better on the counter-attack in Ronaldo and Bale because they are two players who could be in the Olympic 100 metres final.

“They are as strong a team now as they have been for many years. They have everything, big experience, big players, speed, technique and a great manager in (Carlo) Ancelotti.

“And they are the reigning champions as well and they will want to defend their title.”

Liverpool go into the game on the back of a poor performance at QPR which, even though ended in victory, did little for confidence.

Captain Steven Gerrard admitted afterwards if they reproduced a similar display against Real they would have “no chance” of winning, but Rodgers believes the status of the fixture will bring out the best in his players.

Lovren: ‘We will improve’

Dejan Lovren promises Liverpool FC will improve for the visit of Real Madrid

Croatian defender admits Sunday’s 3-2 win at QPR left him “unhappy” but vows the side will improve for massive Champions League clash

Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren vows performances will improve against Real Madrid.

Dejan Lovren has promised Liverpool fans a much-improved performance when the Reds take on Real Madrid tomorrow.

And the Croatian admitted Sunday’s game at Queens Park Rangers had left him “unhappy”, even though his side eventually won the match.

Brendan Rodgers’ side were far from convincing in pinching all three points at Loftus Road, needing a stoppage-time own goal to secure a nervy 3-2 victory, having twice surrendered the lead in the game.

Defensively, their performance was symptomatic of the Reds’ season so far. They have kept just one clean sheet in 11 games in all competitions, and with Real heading for Anfield having scored 32 goals in their last seven outings, Lovren knows they will need to raise their game significantly tomorrow night.

He said: “We need to improve and play more like a team. We need to show more. At QPR, we should have comfortably seen the game out, but we didn’t and that is frustrating.

“We will not play like that against Real Madrid, you can be sure of that.

“We will be better. We cannot play like this because we know what we can expect from Real Madrid.

“Their players, we know who they are, and we will prepare a little bit different.”

He added: “I was glad when the QPR game was over because I think one minute more and it would have been 3-3. It’s the first time in my career that I was unhappy after the game even though we won, because we didn’t play good.

“We knew it would be a difficult game, but I thought we would show a little bit more and that we would be a bit stronger, but we weren’t.

“The first half was as bad we’ve played this season.”

The Reds head into tomorrow’s game knowing a defeat would put them on the back foot in terms of qualification for the knockout stages, with Basle having stolen a march by beating them in their last group game.

Lovren, though, insists they will not go into the game with fear, and says he is looking forward to testing himself against Real’s stars.

“It’s not daunting,” he said. “It’s a pleasure to play against these players.

“I am not afraid. No-one in our team is afraid. We respect their players but we will show something completely different on Wednesday.

“We need to be more compact, to run more, we need to be like one player on the pitch, all together, to breathe the same. We have amazing individual players, but we need to show it as a team.”

Lovren added: “It’s difficult to say what has been wrong this season. A lot of things are not right at the moment, but it will come.”

Lovren knows he and his fellow defenders will have their work cut out facing world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo at Anfield.

He said: “Obviously, he is an amazing player. I think he has seven games, 15 goals or something like that this season (19 goals in 12 games all competitions.

“But it’s not just Ronaldo, you can’t just concentrate on him because you have other players who are scoring goals.

“We need to be like a team.”

Two Tweets that tell the story

screenshot-6

screenshot-5

Carra: Drop Mario and put Raheem up top

Start Sterling up front, not Mario – Carra

Mario Balotelli: Should be dropped, says Carra

Jamie Carragher admits Liverpool “can’t have any passengers” against Real Madrid; so would drop Mario Balotelli in the Champions League clash.

The former Reds defender has urged Brendan Rodgers to drop the striker, who has scored only once in nine appearances since his £16million summer move from AC Milan, and play Raheem Sterling further forward.

Liverpool are third in Group B after losing to Basel three weeks ago and Carragher believes they need a result in front of a sold-out Anfield on Wednesday night if they are to get through to the last 16.

And he says that could mean giving the ineffectual Balotelli the chop.

“He doesn’t run around enough,” Carragher explained on Monday Night Football.

“Against Real Madrid you’ve got to get that crowd going. You need to get back to Liverpool of last year and that pressing. There’s got to be an energy about Liverpool that we haven’t seen; we’ve seen it once this season at Spurs.

“It’s going on too long now and we can’t keep waiting. It’s a huge game and Liverpool have to get something from it.

“I would put Raheem Sterling in there because he can run in behind and Liverpool may have to counter-attack a lot of the game. Madrid may have a lot of the ball.

Raheem Sterling should be most prominent forward, says Jamie Carragher

“Sterling can also press from the front. He doesn’t have to play right up front and he can come back and help the midfield.

“They can’t have any passengers against Real Madrid.”

Carragher wants to see Philippe Coutinho brought in to the team to offer width on the right wing with Adam Lallana supporting Sterling from the left.

And he says it’s important to have an energetic front line to build on the electric atmosphere that the home fans are likely to generate.

“The decision I would make would be to bring Coutinho in for Balotelli. I wouldn’t play Balotelli in this game.

“I would play Raheem Sterling, whether you’d call it 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 then Sterling, if he’s off the front, can run in behind people. I’d have Coutinho in a wide area.

“I think they can [get something from the game], but it’s how Brendan Rodgers sets up.

“You’ve got to get Anfield bouncing. There’s got to be an energy and intensity about Liverpool and enthusiasm.”

Did You Know!

Cristiano Ronaldo has never scored at Anfield, despite playing there five times during his time at Manchester United.

Real Madrid also failed to score during their 4-0 defeat there during the 2008/09 Champions League campaign. In fact, they failed to score in their other two games against the Reds: the 1981 European Cup final (1-0) and the first leg of the 2008/09 tie (1-0).

Imaginary Bet

Ok guys just for fun (not real!) I am setting up an imaginary bet to see how much you would win or lose.

Your bet is £100 – lets see who makes the most….

Liverpool to win = 3-1

Liverpool win 1-0 = 4-1

Liverpool win 2-0 = 5-1

Liverpool win 3=0 = 10-1

Liverpool win 4-0 = 25-1

Draw = 1-2

Real Madrid to win = evens

Real Madrid win 0-1 = 2-1

Real Madrid win 0-2 = 3-1

Real Madrid win 0-3 = 5-1

Real Madrid win 0-4 = 10-1

Other

Liverpool win 3-2 = 10-1

Liverpool win 4-2 = 20-1

Real Madrid win 2-3 = 8-1

Real Madrid win 2-4 = 15-1

Just for fun guys my ods lets see.

One bet just copy and paste the one you fancy. Don’t give me gip over the odds, just my opinion!

 

 

No More Excuses

No More Excuses – We Need To Improve

The 3-2 win over QPR papered over the cracks of what was another poor performance. Yes we have our reasons for not being quite at our best, but team cohesion and injuries are something you have to plan for well in advance, and we knew these would be issues we’d have to deal with.

We made some big changes in the summer, but not big enough that it should be taking this long to adapt, and having this much of an effect on our performance in the meantime. We haven’t significantly changed the way we play, and we brought in players who were supposed to slot right into our way of working. In the first few games, you could accept the odd moment of misunderstanding or miscommunication. But by now, it shouldn’t be a problem. Look at the way Southampton had similar, if not even more, changes to their team, yet have knuckled down and become even better. We can’t keep claiming that we’re in transition or still gelling, as it’s becoming a bit of a cop out.

We’ve also been unlucky with injuries. But we had an entire summer and a very substantial transfer budget to address the issue of our squad depth. Daniel Sturridge is an injury-prone player, so we knew we’d have to account for his absence at some point in the season. We signed Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert, neither of whom have scored a league goal for us this season. We seem very hesitant to give Lambert a run of games, which confuses me. I can’t say I was all for signing the England international in the summer, but Brendan Rodgers clearly was. But now the opportunity is coming up to use him, and we’ve decided he isn’t even good enough to displace a very out of form Balotelli. He just appears to be a signing to make up the numbers, when perhaps we would have been better off spending more on an established player, who we would trust 100% to use if needed. Considering the gamble that signing Balotelli was, one that is not paying off at the moment, we really needed to reinforce our strike force a bit more than we did.

We also started the season with Steven Gerrard seemingly set as our defensive midfielder/deep-lying playmaker, but now we’re back to trying him further forward because he hasn’t been offering enough protection to our defence. That leaves us short a defensive midfielder though, with either Lucas Leiva, who hasn’t been his best for well over a year, or the inexperienced Emre Can the only real candidates. Again, this is an issue we should have foreseen in the summer and dealt with when we had the chance.

Defensively we have simply been a shambles this season. Every ball into the box seems to cause chaos, and opponents are probably just as confident of scoring against us from a corner as from a penalty. The ‘lack of leadership’ line has become a bit of a cliché, and it’s more the lack of quality that worries me at the moment. The defenders shouldn’t need someone shouting at them telling them to go and clear a standard high ball. Or stick to their man on a set piece instead of ball watching.

What’s really worrying is that mentally we are beginning to doubt ourselves, and you can see this nervousness and lack of belief in our play. Making mistakes is one thing, but they happen to everyone. What I don’t like to see is players buckling under pressure, and showing a negative attitude when things don’t go their way.

For all our failings, nothing is yet a disaster. Considering our performance levels, things could be a lot worse for us. But we can’t keep using the same excuses, and should just accept the fact that we need to get better, and quick. We have Real Madrid up next, and at the rate we are making mistakes, you could forgive the neutrals for thinking we’re going to get battered. So we need to look at it as an opportunity to put on a proper performance, and get back to the level we were at last season. When we were convincingly beating Arsenal, Everton, Man U, Tottenham, Man City etc at Anfield last year, we were desperate for these big Champions League games to come along to test ourselves against Europe’s best. Now the moment has come, and we can’t throw it away and cave in just because we’ve got a couple of injuries and the squad haven’t gelled yet.

Come on Liverpool, time to man up.

Did You Know!

Cristiano Ronaldo has been the spear-head of an ultra-impressive attack, alone grabbing 15 goals in 7 La Liga games whilst The whole Liverpool team has only managed 13 goals in 8 games!

Winning the league? avin a laugh!

Liverpool FC can forget about winning the league

WE won’t win the Premier League, that is an absolute certainty.

We’re looking far worse at the back than we did last year and our stats are terrible even compared to last season at the same stage. You can only win the league if you have solid foundations and a solid defence, we aint got either.

You also need people who will score goals. Without Daniel Sturridge for another four weeks, we have nothing up front.

In my opinion, we are fighting for fourth to sixth place already.

Everton will now go on a march, United will be there or there abouts and there will be Arsenal and Tottenham in there as well. It remains to be seen if Southampton can sustain their current form but even they are putting us in the shadows.

The race for the league title is certainly between two teams – Manchester City and Chelsea and at the moment we have to ask ourselves – Are we playing better football than Manu, Arsenal, Tottenham – If I am honest I think not.

The problem is how long will it take us to get into gear and will the rest be out of sight before we do?