Premier League Gameweek 26 Match Preview: Aston Villa vs Liverpool

BEFORE THE GAME

A stuttering Liverpool side – we have only won one out of our last six Premier League fixtures – go to Villa Park on Sunday to take on a resurgent Aston Villa. Villa have lost only one of their last five Premier League games, having kept a clean sheet in three of those matches, they are on a four game unbeaten run at home.

 This match is an important one for: CHRISTIAN BENTEKE

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Liverpool have beaten Aston Villa in five of our last six Premier League meetings at Villa Park. As an Aston Villa player, our current number 9, Christian Benteke scored 5 goals in six games against Liverpool in all competitions. With the option of a – dare I say it? – fit Daniel Sturridge, an in-form Roberto Firmino, as well as Divock Origi in the strike force department, Benteke; who has not scored in his last five appearances, could find himself on the bench. Benteke has something to prove against his former club though, given the key opportunities he missed to score, during our fourth round replay match loss to West Ham and subsequent exit from the FA Cup tournament on Tuesday night.

INJURY WOES

Jordan Ayew is currently serving his three match suspension for the red card he received in ridiculous fashion against West Ham two weeks ago. Aston Villa’s team selection is further marred by the injuries to Libor Kazak’s ankle, Adama Traore’s foot and Jordan Amavi’s knee.

Joe Allen is out with a shoulder injury on the Liverpool injured list, while Skrtel and Lovren are still not match fit.

FANTASY LEAGUE CHOICES

On the Fantasy Premier League front, defender, Joleon Lescott scored 15 points at Carrow Road last weekend, and Villa’s recent form, has been thanks to their goalkeeper Mark Bunn.

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Roberto Firmino is currently the only Liverpool player that can realistically be considered for Fantasy Premier League selection, scoring 13 points last weekend against Sunderland and 18 points two weeks before that against Norwich City.

MANAGERIAL COMMENTARY

Remi Garde on his team’s recent performance;

If we are playing the same game against Liverpool (as against Norwich), we will have no chance to have points. My job is to say ‘well done lads for the victory and three points but the football we played won’t be enough to take points from the Liverpool game.

Jurgen Klopp on Benteke;

I saw really good signs against West Ham. Having this number of opportunities is a good sign. But it’s not too easy. I talked to him, a few times, gave him some advice as a human being, as a coach. He’s really trying to come back in an easy moment.

NATZ’S PREDICTION*

Our lack of attacking options in our starting eleven on the whole has caused me great anxiety recently, but with Sturridge and Coutinho returning to the fold, I am hopeful for a much needed win. I do not expect an easy Sunday afternoon out though as Aston Villa have gained much needed – although somewhat delayed – momentum, which cannot and definitely should not, be underestimated. My prediction however, is absolutely filled with the standard Scouser hope in my heart

*Aston Villa 1 – 2 Liverpool

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Gameweek 25 – Manchester City vs Leceister City 6 February 2016

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I have been a huge fan of Leceister City’s Riyad Mahrez since last season (2014/2015). Since then, he and Jamie Vardy have had a place in my Fantasy Premier League team, Pitch Invaders. Mahrez has earned the most points in the Fantasy Premier League this season to date. I’m confident in Leicester City’s journey to being crowned Premier League champions and will be selecting Mahrez as my Fantasy captain for their Away fixture at the Emirates on Valentines Day❤😆♥⚽

When Jamie Vardy was on goal number 5 I said that Leicester City were going to be crowned the Premier League Champions of the 2015-16 season…and I’ve been one of very few who fervently believe this. My prediction for today’s kick-off match was:

Manchester City 1 – 3 Leceister City

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Despite the match being at the Etihad Stadium, I felt confident that Rainieri’s blues would come out on top. I did predict that Aguero would score for City, which he did.

Leceister are now 5 points clear at the top with 53 points. Arsenal will play their GW 25 fixture on Sunday, 7 February 2016 when they travel to Bournemouth.

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Capital One Cup semi-final second leg – Tuesday, 26 January 2016

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Liverpool (56% possession FT) 0 – 1 Stoke City (44% possession FT)

Stadium: Anfield
Attendance: 43,091
Referee: J Moss
Opposition manager: Mark Hughes
Starting Line-up: 22 Mignolet, 4 Touré, 17 Sakho, 18 Moreno, 38 Flanagan, 7 Milner, 14 Henderson (captain), 20 Lallana, 21 Lucas, 23 Can, 11 Firmino
Substitutes used: Benteke on for Henderson at 58’, Allen on for Touré at 85’, Ibe on for Flannagan at 105’

Match report: Penalty shoot-out

I. Our 5 goals at Norwich felt like it had all been a dream whilst watching this game as we appeared almost hesitant in attack, with none of the players seeming willing to take a chance. Our attempts at goal were sparse, with only Can and Henderson attempting long range shots (the attempts I love to hate) which did nothing to test Jack Butland during the first half. Arnautovic’s goal (his 10th goal this season) at 45’+1 was blatantly offside but put Stoke level in the tie (Aggregate 1-1). The start of the second half saw Firmino hit the posts, however, aside from a short-lived surge of energy, the opposition appeared the more determined team. After an additional 30 minutes the match ended with a win on paper for Stoke (LIV 0 – 1 STK) – their first victory at Anfield since 1959. Before Tuesday, Liverpool had never lost a League Cup semi-final leg at Anfield and Stoke had played Liverpool 7 times in the League Cup, losing 6 and drawing 1.

II. Joe Allen seems to be on his way to becoming our super sub, after clinching the equaliser against Arsenal at 90’ a few weeks ago when he came on for Can then in the 82nd minute. This time around he stepped up to take what would be the decisive penalty after Marco Muniesa’s attempt was saved by Mignolet. I reckon Joe Allen had better not entertain any plans to shave off that beard as we may very well see him live up to the ‘Welsh Pirlo’ moniker under the tutelage of Klopp. The return of Flanagan reminded us what we had been missing with his strong tackling, positioning and almost scoring the winner in the last 15 minutes of normal time.

III. Liverpool had their first penalty shootout 42 years ago – a 6-5 win against Leeds in the 1974 Charity shield and have now been involved in 17 of these nail biting, nerve-wracking match deciders. They continued their incredible penalty shootout record, with their 6-5 penalty shootout win (their 14th!) against Stoke. Mignolet saved the penalties of Crouch and Muniesa which allowed Joe Allen to take the decisive penalty and win it for Liverpool.

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Opposition Goal: Marko Arnautovic 45’+1
PENALTIES TAKEN:
STK Jon Walters 0 – 1
LIV Adam Lallana 1 – 1
STK Peter Crouch (saved) 1 – 1, LIV Emre Can (missed) 1 – 1
STK Glen Whelan 1 – 2
LIV Christian Benteke 2 – 2
STK Ibrahim Afellay 2 – 3
LIV Roberto Firmino 3 – 3
STK Xherdan Shaqiri 3 – 4
LIV James Milner 4 – 4
STK Marco van Ginkel 4 – 5
LIV Lucas Leiva 5 – 5, STK Marc Maniesa (saved) 5 – 5
Joe Allen 6 – 5 to win shootout

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Man of the Match: Mamadou Sakho

 

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Gameweek 23 – A round-up (EPL Match: Away to Norwich)

images (42) Canaries take on the Reds at Carrow Road

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Norwich City (47% possession FT) 4 – 5 Liverpool FC (53% possession FT)

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Stadium: Carrow Road
Attendance: 27,108
Referee: LS Mason
Opposition manager: Alex Neil

Starting Line-up: 22 Mignolet, 2 Clyne, 4 Touré, 17 Sakho, 18 Moreno, 7 Milner, 14 Henderson (captain), 21 Lucas, 23 Can, 33 Ibe, 11 Firmino   

Substitutes used: Lallana on for Ibe at 58’, Benteke on for Henderson at 75’, Caulker on for Moreno at 89’

Match report: The Best “Worst” Game

I. BT Sport’s pundit, Chris Sutton summed this match up perfectly with this on point comment: “One of the best, worst games I’ve ever seen!”.
II. Liverpool have now conceded from their first shot on target in all four of their Premier League games in 2016.
III. This was only the third time in Premier League history where Liverpool had recovered from being 2 goals behind and gone on to win.

Opposition Goals: Dieumerci Mbokani 29’, Steven Naismith 41’, Wesley Hoolahan 54’ (penalty), Sébastien Bassong 90+2

Liverpool Goals: Roberto Firmino 18’ & 63’, Jordan Henderson 55’, James Milner 75’ and Adam Lallana 90+5

Man of the Match: Roberto Firmino

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Hold Nothing Back ~ In my opinion

Times, they are a changin’…

Maybe it’s time our rose-tinted outlook did too. When everything is different, can we as Liverpool Football Club (LFC) supporters really stay the same? Should we? If change is as good as a holiday, LFC supporters are in need of a sabbatical.

Being a bad loser by nature, a Liverpool loss (or those draws when we should have won outright), usually ruins my entire day. Thusly our recent Premier League loss to Manchester United, otherwise known as the jammiest club in the Premier League, left me feeling completely hollowed out. This time around though, it wasn’t so much our loss that got to me, but rather the fact that our Liverpool side was unable to beat a Manchester United who were as wooden as Louis van Gaal’s resting facial expression.

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The Merseyside Reds appeared almost unaware of United’s ample weaknesses as this would surely have resulted in an achievable win. Instead, Liverpool’s game made it seem as though they had been living in a protective bubble for the current season’s duration and played as though they were unaware that Manchester United’s lack of form led to subsequent Premier League losses during December, namely to Bournemouth, Norwich and Stoke. Despite van Gaal’s unimaginative United side continuing their form of offering very little in all aspects of the game other than lulling their opposition and the entire crowd to sleep they remained largely unexposed. Their existing flaws along with their shaky defence was barely tested by Liverpool, who found their ongoing vulnerability to crosses resulting in Wayne Rooney’s smash and grab goal being the match winner as well as United’s only shot on target.

Our ‘style’ of play was as ineffectual as ever, littered with the usual ‘close but no cigar’ moments that have become synonymous with this season’s Liverpool team along with those shots at goal which realistically are too far away from the posts to be successful and yet Henderson, Milner and even Lucas seem unable to stop themselves from trying anyway. Adam Lallana remained true to form with his standard style of play, with the will he, won’t he roundabout dribble being featured and two this could turn things in our favour if he can see it through moments which, as always, did not amount to anything. Jamie Carragher made this on point comment during the match; “The chance Lallana had probably summed up his Liverpool career, he hasn’t scored since May, he’s a £25m signing, an attacking midfielder.”

After the match, many LFC supporters commented that one or two players gave a good performance and as is the norm, many have lamented our missed opportunities. We may have been better than United on match day, but that statement no longer holds water. The current first team players who make up the Manchester United team and the Liverpool FC team are nowhere near the quality or calibre of the men who played for either side a few seasons ago. I have reached a point of no return in my rating of our current first team and have found that as individuals, the majority fit the stock standard footballer mould, which given that this is the Premier League should be a non-negotiable. A Premier League player cannot be anything less than good and so we should not have to lower our standard of expectation, especially not when we have lived through watching Robbie Fowler, Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso, Fernando Torres (before his decline), Luis Suarez; the list goes on.. It is more than okay to state that the current LFC first team squad is simply not good enough.

Brendan Rodgers’ choices have ultimately set us back at least two to three years and the lack of youth players coming through the ranks of the Academy has become a growing concern over the past three to four years.
As his ghost still roams freely through our current squad options, we as loyal supporters who form an integral part of the Liverpool Family should be accepting of what is, patient for what is to come and grateful that it is not too late for our Premier League Trophy dreams. Jurgen Klopp is absolutely the right man to get us where we know we ought to have been already. All he requires is the time to build his vision, our passionate and unwavering support and of course a transfer budget that allows it all. As a reminder of Klopp’s magic, read my Fresh Liverpool article http://tiny.cc/b0cc8x on the skills he brings to the club as our manager.

Remember that honesty does not have to equal negativity and that as supporters, we do not need to accept mediocrity.

We are Liverpool.

@Bloodsugarnatz

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Europa League Round-up: FC Sion vs Liverpool

 

A round-up of Liverpool’s prosaic goalless draw against Swiss opposition FC Sion in our UEFA Europa League group stage match 6 of 6.

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FC Sion (44% possession FT) 0 – 0 Liverpool (56% possession FT)
Stadium: Stade de Tourbillon
Attendance: 10,000
Referee: M Koukoulakis
Opposition manager: Didier Tholot
Starting Line-up: 22 Mignolet, 2 Clyne, 4 Touré, 6 Lovren, 44 Smith, 7 Milner (c), 14 Henderson, 20 Lallana, 23 Can, 11 Firmino, 27 Origi
Subs used: Coutinho on for Milner 60′, Rossiter on for Henderson 76′, Brannagan on for Firmino 89’

Match report: 3 Things

I. To quote Paul Doyle from the Guardian: “Researchers believe this may well have been the longest 90 minutes in history.” With only three shots on target, this match was painful to watch with both teams assuming an almost relaxed approach to the game on a very bad pitch.

II. The positives from the match are that Hendo and Coutinho are back to match fitness, Brad Smith had an impressive full debut and Liverpool finished top of the group. On the non-football related positive side, Sion fans had an epic banner stating “You Never Drink Alone”.

III. Liverpool kept their first clean sheet against Swiss opposition since April 1977. The Reds are also one of only six unbeaten teams in the Europa League group stages this season.

Man of the Match: Brad Smith

Kloppo’s Quote Post-Match
Jurgen Klopp seems to be a consistent ray of sunshine, even after a match outing as drab as last night’s one!

We wanted to be first after this game and that is what we did. A few weeks ago it was far away from us that we could reach this place but we did it and it is really good. Everyone will have to change their mind about this tournament now as everyone will see it is something like a small Champions League.

The Europa League returns 18 February for the first leg of the last-32 ties and the return leg seven days later. The draw for the Last-32 takes place on Monday, 14 December 2015 at 12PM BST.

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