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Crystal Palace v Liverpool Match Preview

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We travel to Selhurst Park on Sunday afternoon as Premier League football returns following the international break. A week which was supposed to see a fully fit Daniel Sturridge return to action but it appears that the Liverpool forward has picked up another thigh injury to rule him out of the match.

It is very sorry times for Brendan Rodgers. It has been very evident that we’ve missed Sturridge in his absence since September and was the last position we needed any injuries after the departure of Luis Suarez to Barcelona in the summer. It has also been rumoured that Mario Balotelli is struggling to be fit in time for the trip against Neil Warnock’s men which will leave us desperately short upfront. Fabio Borini and Rickie Lambert will be our only recognised strikers which puts further pressures on the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling to deliver.

Sterling is our top goal scorer on 3 Premier League goals whilst the next highest contribution is own goals. Selhurst Park didn’t prove a happy ground for us last year as we spurned a 3-0 lead to somehow draw 3-3 with a late Dwight Gale hat trick that confirmed the Premier League trophy wouldn’t be heading to Anfield effectively.

This time around it is about getting our season back on track after a dismal 2 wins from our last 8. Defeat will mean three on the bounce after consecutive defeats to Newcastle United and Chelsea a fortnight ago. Another poor statistic whilst I’m being extremely negative is the fact we haven’t won at Palace in our last 5 attempts, losing three and drawing twice including that performance at the end of last season. Palace also have the highest percentage of goals from set pieces this season which doesn’t bode well for our defence which has got significantly worse than last season despite the money spent on Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno and Javier Manquillo.

It makes the decision to allow Daniel Agger to leave a more questionable one and it has also put into debate whether Kolo Toure should be recalled after a very impressive display against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu. We’ve conceded a hefty 18 goals in the Premier League so far and that includes just 1 clean sheet. That combined with our strikers not quite firing on all cylinders makes our efforts to emulate last season’s success a particularly tricky one.

Let’s move onto the positive news. We’re facing a side just out of the drop zone on goal difference and Palace have also only won 1 out of their last 6 matches. They’ve won just once all season at home against Leicester City back in September. It is rather apparent that Crystal Palace aren’t quite as solid as they were under Tony Pulis which will be a welcome relief for Rodgers who must be preying his side can do the business on Sunday. Thankfully there are only a couple of teams who can overtake us on the Saturday as West Brom and Sunderland both face tricky away fixtures.

3 points could take us back up to 7th ahead of Manchester United but we would rely on those above us dropping points. Although Daniel Sturridge is rumoured to have suffered a similar thigh problem to the first occurrence, the duration of the injury is still awaiting further scans for definite confirmation. Rodgers will no doubt be losing patience with his star centre forward who has now been injured for the past 10 weeks. We certainly need either Fabio Borini or Rickie Lambert to step up to the plate and deliver a sterling performance to bring the 3 points back to Anfield.

Dejan Lovren

Liverpool 1-2 Chelsea Match Review

Dejan Lovren

We started ever so brightly against the pacesetters of the English Premier League but all in all, we didn’t deserve to win the game and Chelsea done just about enough to merit taking the 3 points back to Stamford Bridge. The game was in huge contrast of significance to the same fixture last year at the end of the season where a win for us would’ve more than likely put one hand on the Premier League trophy but the unfortunate slip for Steven Gerrard saw us lose 2-0 to Jose Mourinho’s men back in April.

Credit where it’s due, Jose does seem to win the big games and he now has another one to add to his prestigious collection. Having worked under Jose Mourinho’s first spell at Chelsea, Brendan Rodgers could prepare his team for what they can expect but the former Swansea City manager couldn’t prevent us from slipping down the Premier League table even further. Not only are we falling down the table, but confidence is drastically draining away with the Champions League now relying on two wins from two and now another Premier League defeat to add to the previous 4 we’ve suffered so far and we’re only as far as November.

Much was debated about the starting line-up and whether Brendan Rodgers would reselect the players that were ‘rested’ against Real Madrid during the week. The players who did feature against Madrid at the Bernabeu gave a very credible display and many Liverpool fans were calling for Rodgers to allow them to keep their places but he rung the changes and brought in the likes of Steven Gerrard, Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho and Mario Balotelli. Dejan Lovren was also recalled which was a big surprise given how impressive Kolo Toure was at keeping the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema quiet for prolonged spells in Madrid.

Emre Can gave us a first half lead when his strike from range was deflected off Gary Cahill which left Thibaut Courtois wrong footed and the Anfield crowd went into a frenzy. Rodgers would’ve been happy with the start and his side now needed to protect the lead until half time at the very least and consolidate on where to go from there. As it happened, we failed to hold on to the lead for a mere 5 minutes as Chelsea levelled the scores. A Cesc Fabregas corner was flicked on at the near post by Diego Costa which was headed towards goal by John Terry whose effort was saved brilliantly by Simon Mignolet. However, the rebound fell invitingly for Gary Cahill to bundle the ball towards goal and goalline technology proved that Mignolet didn’t prevent the ball from crossing the line.

It was to be quite an eventful game for Gary Cahill who was involved in two very suspicious looking hand ball incidents which were both given in favour of the opposition. The first potential hand ball you could give him the benefit of the doubt as he leant into the shot with his shoulder more than his arm but the second incident in the second half looked a certain penalty. Steven Gerrard’s shot was heading towards goal and Cahill’s left arm diverted the ball off target but Anthony Taylor denied Liverpool a penalty.

We aren’t quiet getting that luck at the moment and the goals are drying up. Hopefully the imminent return of Daniel Sturridge will provide a massive boost for not only the players but the club as a whole. The international break gives Sturridge another couple of weeks to get fully fit and no doubt Rodgers will arrange a behind the doors game for Sturridge to get some match action or potentially allow him some match time with the development squad.

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Real Madrid v Liverpool Match Preview

 

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If we can take anything from tonights and our previous encounter it is that we’ve played in two of the most iconic stadiums of European football. St James Park and the Santiago Bernabeu are two prestigious venues which unfortunately for us, look to bring us a total of 0 points. I’m still devastated at the loss at the hands of Newcastle United who we’ve hit at the wrong time in the season.

As for the task in the Champions League, a trip to Real Madrid is the last thing the confidence levels need but a surprise result against Carlo Ancelotti’s side could provide the kick start our season so desperately needs. The tie has the potential to be a clash where Brendan Rodgers can tell his troops that the pressure is off and will be one of few times this season where we’re going into the game as the underdog. Such is Madrid’s dominance this year they’ve won 11 games on the spin and scored a ridiculous amount of goals in the process. This includes the 3-0 defeat against Madrid in our last Champions League fixture at Anfield.

There has been talk of Steven Gerrard being dropped for the clash which is absolutely ridiculous. He is our most influential player and I have no doubt in my mind that Gerrard will be at the heart of the midfield attempting to grab an unlikely result against the current European champions. Much of the debate has been linked to his contract which is up at the end of this season and the media have speculated that the club are only willing to offer Gerrard a short term contract with a massive pay cut also involved. However, we face Chelsea on Saturday which could be seen as more important but you try telling any Liverpool fan or Steven Gerrard this.

If the board needed any more incentive to offer Gerrard ANYTHING he wants then they need to take a look down the road at Manchester City who took advantage of Chelsea’s failings to keep hold of Frank Lampard. Despite reaching the latter stages of his career, Lampard has thoroughly impressed at City and there is talk of him being kept on loan for longer than his intended period. So let’s not go down this path and allow one of the best midfielders of his generation to ply his trade elsewhere when he is clearly dedicated to the club.

I genuinely hope Rodgers names his strongest 11 for Real Madrid and we give Madrid a real go. My worries are that we try and settle for a narrow defeat and leave it up to our remaining games against Basel and Ludogorets to qualify from Group B. Dejan Lovren and Raheem Sterling are two other players that Rodgers could think about leaving out to give them a week off to prepare for Chelsea which would see Kolo Toure and Lazar Markovic drafted in. Hopefully playing on Spanish soil will provide some home comfort for Alberto Moreno who has looked uncomfortable since transferring from Sevilla in the summer.

Real Madrid on the other hand certainly won’t be resting any players. A victory for them will see them qualify for the knockout stages with two games to spare. It is also extremely likely to confirm their place at the top of the group. Gareth Bale is rumoured to be in the squad but is extremely doubtful to start ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and James Rodriguez in the attacking trio. Sergio Ramos will likely be the only change from the side that we faced at Anfield as he comes in for Raphael Varane.

It will be the biggest games for some of these player’s careers to date. The likes of Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana and Simon Mignolet won’t have played in such an iconic venue before in a prestigious competition so let’s hope they invite the challenge and thrive on it.

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Liverpool 2-1 Swansea City Match Review

 

 

imageWe left it incredibly late to edge past Swansea City in the 4th round of the Carling Cup against Brendan Rodgers former side. Goals from Mario Balotelli and Dejan Lovren confirmed our names in the draw for the quarter finals. Once again it wasn’t a particularly pleasing performance following our stalemate with Hull City at the weekend.

It will be a massive relief for Balotelli to shrug off some of his doubters following the blaring misses against QPR which thankfully we still managed to win but the miss against Hull City with the last incident of the game has disgruntled many Liverpool supporters and whether the Italian forward will ever come good. However, his equalizer against Swansea City will brush some of the doubters off his back but he has yet to open his Premier League account since his return to England.

We trailed to a Marvin Emnes goal midway through the second half and it looked as though we were heading out of the Carling Cup. However, Balotelli’s introduction after 79 minutes brought a goal just moments later and Lovren sealed the dramatic comeback with a header at the far post. It might do both players confidence a world of good with both summer acquisitions being questioned thus far.

Brendan Rodgers named a very strong side against his former employers despite making 9 changes. Simon Mignolet, Steven Gerrard, Raheem Sterling, Alberto Moreno and Martin Skrtel were the notable players rested. Brad Jones, Kolo Toure, Javier Manquillo, Lazar Markovic and Lucas were drafted in whilst Fabio Borini was preferred to Mario Balotelli upfront. Jordan Henderson was captain for the night in Gerrard’s absence.

Gary Monk has consistently improved Swansea since taking over from Michael Laudrup last year and they still play neat passing football but he elected to rest Gylfi Sigurdsson which was a blessing with his passing abilities. He has guided Swansea City one place above us in the English Premier League and Swansea were looking to knock us out of the Carling Cup for the 2nd time in 3 seasons.

It was the same old for the Anfield faithful as we dominated possession without carving any threatening goal scoring positions. It wasn’t until the introduction of Mario Balotelli for the ineffective Rickie Lambert that the crowd sensed something could still turn in our favour. Javier Manquillo whipped in a cross from the right which was extremely inviting and Balotelli stuck his boot out which connected well enough to steer the ball home.

Federico Fernandez was then sent off just as injury time approached after he clattered into Philippe Coutinho and the Swansea backline were at 6’s and 7’s and soon after fell behind as they struggled to find any organisation in defence. Coutinho delivered a free kick to the back post which was gleefully met by the head of Lovren in front of the Kop to send the stadium into euphoria.

Brendan Rodgers must be hoping that this dramatic late comeback might finally fire some life into Liverpool and ignite our season which really hasn’t started yet. A goal for Mario Balotelli may also be the start of something but with the Italian you never know what you’re going to get. All you can say is that the two goals he has scored have come in crucial periods (Ludogorets winner & Swansea leveller).

We travel to Newcastle United this weekend for the early kick off on Saturday. The hosts go into the game on the back of two consecutive Premier League victories and it seems we’ve hit the side at the wrong time. Victories over Leicester City and Tottenham have propelled Newcastle out of the relegation zone and bought Alan Pardew more time to turn things around at the club.

Steven Gerrard

QPR 2-3 Liverpool Match Review

Steven Gerrard

Thankfully we came up against a team who proved as efficient at defending as we are. The game came to life with a dramatic four goals in as many minutes and all in second half injury time to make for one of the of most obscene Premier League games we’ve ever encountered.

Some things haven’t changed during the international break, we still can’t defend and Mario Balotelli continues to squander glorious opportunities to open his Premier League account for Liverpool. Even when a parried Adam Lallana shot fell to him on the edge of the six yard box he managed to blaze wildly over with an open goal at his mercy. So it was somewhat of a relief that both attempts of a pass from Glen Johnson and Raheem Sterling were taken out of the Italians hands and diverted goal wards by the luckless Richard Dunne and Steven Caulker.

The Real Madrid scout must be left purring at what Cristiano Ronaldo and Co can expect midweek as we welcome Madrid to Anfield as our defence struggled to cope with the ageing Bobby Zamora who was consistently winning his aerial duels against Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren. So add to that aerial ability in Ronaldo with frightening pace and a killer finish and we have reason to be concerned ahead of our next Champions League fixture.

One player Madrid will be concerned about themselves however is Raheem Sterling who put all the negative media debate around him aside and also had the Loftus Road crowd booing his every touch having left the London club to join Liverpool a few years ago. Sterling played a part in all of Liverpool’s 3 goals and was hailed by boss Brendan Rodgers after the game for his performance.

QPR looked the more likely to open the scoring in the first half as Leroy Fer hit the bar twice and must have been cursing his luck. Whilst Charlie Austin could not find a way past Simon Mignolet. Balotelli’s long range effort just about summed up his time at the club which went high and wide and must still be heading out of the country at this point.

The second half introduction of Joe Allen and Philippe Coutinho livened us up and shortly after this inspired double substitution we went ahead. Quick thinking from Sterling caught the QPR defence napping who were still arguing about the decision to give a free kick and Glen Johnson drilled the ball across the face of goal which was toed in by Richard Dunne. It was Dunne’s 21st Premier League goal, but unfortunately for him 10 of these have sensationally been own goals.

But Harry Redknapp had a master stroke of his own as the arrival of Chilean forward, Eduardo Vargas changed the game for the home side. His attempted cross was headed onto the far post for the grateful Austin who headed back across goal for Vargas to steam in and volley home.

A few minutes later and Liverpool regained their lead. Sterling did the hard work with a mazy run before picking out Steven Gerrard who in turn found Coutinho out wide. The Brazilian darted inside and unleashed a low drive which deflected off Caulkers boot and found the side netting to restore Liverpool’s advantage.

There was to be more drama as QPR again levelled through more Sunday league defending. A corner from Fer was flicked on at the near post by Vargas and somehow managed to squeeze past Joe Allen on the front post and Simon Mignolet.

QPR chairmen, Tony Fernandes, was seen jumping for joy as even he thought his side must be able to see out a draw against last years runners up but from a free kick of their own, Liverpool counter attacked at pace and scored the eventual winner. Coutinho slid the ball around Dunne and Sterling found himself one on one with Alex McCarthy in goal but elected to pick out Balotelli but Caulker had other ideas and devastatingly turned the ball into his own net.

A 3-2 win sees us move up to 5th position ahead of Manchester United who play tonight. We face Real Madrid on Wednesday night at Anfield where a defeat is unthinkable and could leave us trailing Basel in the group.

Dejan Lovren

Liverpool On Tour

Dejan Lovren

It is always a worrying time for managers and fans as we watch our beloved players leave the Anfield stadium and depart to their respective countries to fulfil their international duties. Steven Gerrard is one player we no longer have to worry about due to his retirement and Daniel Sturridge’s injury on international duty previously meant he was also unavailable for England.

Philippe Coutinho: He has often been overlooked by Brazil who are spoilt for choice with attacking options but the former Inter Milan winger was given a chance by newly appointed, Dunga. Coutinho didn’t feature in their 2-0 victory over Argentina but played the entire second half in Brazil’s 4-0 demolition of Japan. He helped set up Neymar’s second goal and will be hoping to feature more predominantly in the future.

Martin Skrtel: One of Slovakia’s outstanding talents and how vital he has proved in their Euro 2016 qualification campaign. 2 victories over Spain and Belarus now sees them top their group with 9 points out of 9. The Slovakian captain was sensational in their 2-1 over Spain which is the biggest shock so far in qualifying.

Raheem Sterling: Our prodigy drew a lot of criticism due to the fact he claimed he was to tired to start against Estonia. He completed 45 minutes against San Marino and felt he wasn’t fit enough to start against Estonia on Sunday evening. This sparked a big debate over whether you can ever be too tired to represent your country but this is a 19 year old player who has come on leaps and bounds physically as well as mentally. Nevertheless England won both games and Sterling will be welcomed back with open arms by Brendan Rodgers.

Lazar Markovic: The Serbian winger hasn’t reached the heights he set in the Portuguese league for Benfica and his bad run seems set to continue after he was brought off against Armenia with a suspected muscle tear. However, he later revealed on social media that he would be fit for his return to Anfield and no doubt Rodgers will get Markovic straight into the physio room to be assessed ahead of Sunday’s game against Queens Park Rangers.

Alberto Moreno & Javier Manquillo: Both these players are regulars for the Spanish U21 side but they unfortunately crashed out of Euro 2015 after losing to Serbia over two legs. Moreno was left out of the squad altogether which was rumoured to be down to an injury but the manager, Albert Calades has informed Liverpool that this was purely a tactical decision.

Dejan Lovren: Lovren is the major headache for Rodgers as he reported back from the Croatian squad injured and will be assessed over the next couple of days to see whether he will be fit enough to feature against QPR. An abdominal tear was the injury sustained within a couple of days of joining up with the rest of the national squad. The ex-Southampton defender has struggled since he moved up north but the Croat now has an injury concern to get over.

Sunday’s game against QPR is very important to start putting together a meaningful run in the Premier League but no doubt Rodgers will also have his mind casting some thought on next Wednesday when we play Real Madrid in the Champions League. Lovren’s injury could bring Kolo Toure out of the wilderness due to Mamadou Sakho’s behaviour when absent from the stating XI a few weeks back which will certainly not be forgotten by Rodgers. Lotus Road up first and then that mouth watering tie against Real Madrid…

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Liverpool 2-1 West Bromwich Albion Match Review

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It was crucial we headed into the international break with a victory in any fashion and it was a scrappy 2-1 win over a resilient West Brom side who came into the game full of confidence after boasting three straight wins.

Brendan Rodgers made a shock omission as Mario Balotelli was dropped to the substitutes bench and summer signing, Rickie Lambert made his first start for the club in the Premier League. Other than that, Rodgers kept with a familiar looking line up and elected to keep Manquillo ahead of Glen Johnson who has returned from injury.

For West Brom they’ve quietly gone about their business whilst making some astute signings in the summer but it is a youth product that has really sparked for them this season. Saido Berahino is the top English goal scorer in the Premier League and scored a brace in their 4-0 win over Burnley last week.

Berahino was the man WBA were aiming for to finish off their chances but he was guilty of missing two chances in the first half to break the deadlock. One header from a cross was particularly fortunate for the Liverpool defence who continue to give me the shivers every time I watch us defend.

However, on the stroke of half time Adam Lallana made Rodgers half time team talk a little easier when he linked up well with Jordan Henderson to score his first goal for the club with a clinical left footed effort across Ben Foster. It was good footwork by the former Saints midfielder initially and his ball into Henderson was quickly laid back into Lallana’s forward surge and he wasted no time smashing the ball in.

Michael Oliver did us no favours at the start of the second half. The referee awarded West Brom a penalty which was the main talking point as the foul took place outside of the box. Saido Berahino confidently scored the penalty and WBA were now firmly in the game. It was Dejan Lovren who brought down Berahino and the Croatian defender isn’t quite justifying his substantial £20million fee as of yet.

There was a sudden change in the stadium as the Anfield crowd started to get anxious that it could be more dropped points on the horizon. But within five minutes the goal was scored that proved to be the decisive winner for Liverpool. Raheem Sterling went down in the box appealing for a penalty but his persistence was rewarded when he maintained possession and laid the ball back for Henderson who stroked the ball into the bottom left hand corner.

It’s a vital three points and boosts us up to 6th in the table. Rodgers will no doubt be pleased with the three points but he must have a cause for concern where last years form has suddenly gone. After last seasons performances we were scoring past teams at will but it hasn’t quite clicked for us this season.

Daniel Sturridge is likely to be back in the side for Liverpool’s next game after the international break against QPR which will be a massive welcome to Liverpool fans.

An interesting statistic from the game was that Adam Lallana’s first goal for Liverpool against West Brom was also the same opposition he scored his first career goal against. He is now just one goal shy of scoring 50 career league goals.

Mario Balotelli

Basel 1-0 Liverpool Match Report

Mario Balotelli

Our recent woes continued last night as we travelled to Switzerland for our first away game in the Champions League for five years. Returning from Basel with 0 points was the nightmare scenario going into a double header with Real Madrid for our next Champions League fixtures and leaves us in a very precarious position.

The defeat leaves us joint second with Basel and our superior goal difference could become significant come the end of the group stages. Basel now face Bulgarian minnows, Ludogorets, who’ve proved a tough nut to crack with gutsy 2-1 defeats to us and Real Madrid.

Despite having two goals chipped off through offside calls, Basel looked the more threatening driven on by midfielder, Serey Die, who dominated proceedings in midfield and often sounded out Liverpool’s attempts at counter attacks. It was veteran forward, Marco Streller who scored the decisive goal, reacting fastest to Simon Mignolet’s parry to fire into the roof of the net and put a massive dent in Liverpool’s qualification hopes.

We had far more open chances in the second half with two glorious chances for Raherm Sterling who twice failed to control with the goal at his mercy. Liverpool’s other notable effort on goal was a long range free kick from Mario Balotelli which swerved viciously into the chest of the Basel goalkeeper and the rebound was poorly struck by Lazar Markovic which was blocked for a corner. Steven Gerrard couldn’t repeat his heroics in the Merseyside derby as his free kick was easily gathered by Tomas Vaclik.

So Brendan Rodgers has more food for thought this week after our latest failings in front of goal. The £16million fee paid for Mario Balotelli is beginning to look increasingly accurate as the games go by for the Italian. Not just singling out the attack, our defence still looks incredibly weak despite three major signings in this department which will be a particular concern for Rodgers.

Despite following on from Basel manager, Paulo Sousa, at Swansea City, Sousa got one over on Rodgers here with a crucial victory that could prove pivotal at the end of the group stage. You’d fully expect Basel to defeat Ludogorets at home which means we must take something from these two fixtures with Real Madrid otherwise we could end up 6 points behind Basel with two group games to go.

One piece of good news for Rodgers was that Daniel Sturridge was sensibly ruled out of the England side to face San Marino and Estonia in a fortnights time which will give Rodgers some peace of mind. We’ve struggled in his injury absence and hopefully sooner rather than later can we expect him to feature in the Premier League.

Now is the time where will hopefully see the true strengths of character of not only the players but also the manager to stick to their beliefs. It was all very successful last year and we never experienced the rut that we’re currently in, largely due to the fact we could rely on Luis Suarez to bail us out but we can’t rest our laurels with him now.

We now face West Bromwich Albion on Saturday at Anfield and another side who will be full of confidence after their 4-0 hammering of Burnley last Sunday. This continued their 2 game win streak after victories over Hull City and Tottenham impressively.

Rickie Lambert is set to lead the Liverpool attack against Middlesbrough

Liverpool v Middlesbrough Match Preview

Rickie Lambert is set to lead the Liverpool attack against Middlesbrough
Rickie Lambert is set to lead the Liverpool attack against Middlesbrough

After Saturdays poor showing against West Ham United which saw us comfortably defeated 3-1 at Upton Park we have a chance to make ‘some’ amends with a home tie in the Capital One Cup 3rd round. Middlesbrough are the side we welcome to Anfield but it is fully expected that Brendan Rodgers rotates the majority of his side to deal with their Premier League and Champions League commitments.

Middlesbrough will be full of confidence coming to Merseyside as they have just come off the back of a 4-0 demolition job of Brentford that has took them to 5th in the Championship. Their manager, Aitor Karanka was highly recommended by Jose Mourinho last year and the former Real Madrid coach has breathed new life into a Middlesbrough side who have the foundations of a Premier League club. Middlesbrough will also be backed by a strong 3,000 fan base who will be hoping to take advantage of a Liverpool side who have yet to start firing on any cylinders so far.

A 3-0 victory over White Hart Lane I thought was the start for us but the poor performance against Aston Villa was shortly followed up by a narrow win over Ludogorets and then another Premier League defeat on Saturday to West Ham. Brendan Rodgers will be desperate to win some silverware at Liverpool after getting them back into the Champions League, a domestic cup will be next on his priority list. A home draw now gives him every chance to make the 4th round and it will be interesting to see what sort of side he fields.

Main man, Daniel Sturridge, is back in full training but whether he’ll be risked is a question only Brendan Rodgers knows and a place amongst the substitutions bench seems likely. Rickie Lambert has yet to make his first senior start for Liverpool after coming off the bench four times so far this campaign and is set to start. The former Southampton forward will be desperate to prove his worth to Liverpool having signed for a £4million fee which for a 32 year old is quite substantial.

Jordan Henderson has a slight hip injury which may not be aided with another match under his belt so he is likely to be rested for the Middlesbrough fixture. Philippe Coutinho is also nursing a groin injury so it is very unlikely the Brazilian playmaker will be playing any part in the 3rd round of the Capital One Cup. Brendan Rodgers is also missing Glen Johnson, Emre Can, Joe Allen and Jon Flanagan through injuries which makes selection a little easier perhaps with these players out of contention. Rodgers may even dip into the U21 side to give some of the younger members of the squad experience with the first team.

Rodgers will no doubt have one eye on Saturday’s game as well which is just the small matter of a Merseyside Derby which is now a crucial game for us after our sluggish start to the season. With just 6 points after 5 games we now need to maintain a run of form that see’s us climb back amongst the top 4 after Chelsea’s solid start to the season.

Middlesbrough will be without Dean Whitehead who was sent off in their 4-0 win over Brentford. Returning from a suspension though is Daniel Ayala who is now available for selection. Aitor Karanka is likely to start his strongest side available which include Chelsea loanee, Patrick Bamford upfront.

The statistics don’t read very well for our opposition, they haven’t won at Anfield in 25 attempts, dating back to 1976. This includes 19 defeats and 6 draws and it will be very surprising if that winless streak doesn’t continue. However, the last time we met Middlesbrough in 2009 we lost at the Riverside Stadium 2-0 in the Premier League but we’ve come an awfully long way since then including returning to the Champions League.

It’s hard to predict anything but a home victory and a place in the 4th round of the Capital One Cup but if any of the players get complacent then a confident Middlesbrough could well force the tie into extra time and penalties where it’s a lottery.

Balotelli scored his first goal for Liverpool against Ludogorets

Liverpool 2-1 Ludogorets Match Review

Balotelli scored his first goal for Liverpool against Ludogorets
Balotelli scored his first goal for Liverpool against Ludogorets

Liverpool struck a very fine line against Bulgarian minnows, Ludogorets with a injury time penalty from Steven Gerrard to mark their return to the Champions League with a 2-1 victory at Anfield.

I have lost count the amount of times that our influential skipper has bailed us out of so many important gamesand our opening group game against Ludogorets was another game to add to his growing collection. The Bulgarian side were always going to be up for their first ever appearance in the competition no doubt but we still should’ve had quality in abundance to make the game far more comfortable than it turned out to be.

Our return to Europe’s most prestigious competition should’ve provided enough motivation for Brendan Rodgers side but despite a five year absence, Liverpool struggled in large periods. A lacklustre first half was nearly matched by an equally poor second but Mario Balotelli’s first goal for the club in the 82nd minute gave Liverpool the lead.

However, despite the 3/4 of Liverpool’s defence being brought in over the summer, defensive frailties of last year seem to still be apparent as Ludogorets carved open the back four with one through ball which was latched onto by Dani Abalo who rounded Simon Mignolet and tapped into the empty net. The Ludogorets fans were going crazy but before they had time to plonk their back sides back on the Anfield seats, the away goalkeeper had a moment of madness and brought down Fabio Borini to award Liverpool a dramatic injury time penalty.

Under immense pressure, Gerrard stepped up and sent the debutant goalkeeper the wrong way in front of the Kop to seal a unconvincing three points for Liverpool. How ironic for the Bulgarians that their goalkeeper would cost them their first ever Champions League tie after they dominated the headlines for their qualification a couple of weeks ago. Cosmin Moti the defender going in goal after their goalkeeper was sent off against Steau Bucharest in the 4th qualifying round, second leg and saving two penalties in the process. Did the Romanian defender contemplate going in goal for Gerrard’s penalty we wonder?

Brendan Rodgers will defend his team and no doubt praise the fact they remained incredibly persistent to break down a resistant Ludogorets defence. However, it remains evident that Mario Balotelli has yet to establish any link up in the system and style of play and Liverpool are relying a lot on Daniel Sturridge to provide the ammunition this season.

Meanwhile in Group B, Real Madrid were seeing off Basel in emphatic fashion with a 5-1 demolition job. A goal each for Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and James Rodriguez is a particularly worrying concern for our defence which has over a month to prepare for their arrival to Anfield.

Liverpool travel to Switzerland in a fortnights time where they’ll hope to make it a maximum 6 points from 6. After watching the way Madrid dismantled them with ease at the Bernabeu you have to be quietly optimistic that we can go there and obtain the victory.

More positive news for Kopites is the return to light training for Daniel Sturridge. The thigh injury he picked up on international duty for England has progressively improved and the Basel game could be a realistic date for him. The Premier League fixture against West Ham United this weekend is far too soon and remains doubtful whether Rodgers will risk him midweek against Middlesbrough in the Carling Cup. Sturridge looked very comfortable in training back at Melwood as he trained alone whilst the rest of his team mates were given the day off following their win against Ludogorets the previous night.