Saturday, January 24, 2009

Match Preview - Liverpool vs Everton (Part 2)

By: Gareth Freeman

Well Monday night was a bit disappointing wasn’t it? I’m not buying into all of the talk about Rafa and Alex Ferguson’s war of words and Liverpool’s title bid being derailed just yet but it is a bit of a worry. Tim Cahill popping up to head in unmarked with three minutes to go was not good too see. A lack of concentration from a set piece really cost Liverpool that day, but winning the league is still very much a possibility.

Next up the Reds get a chance to get a bit of revenge over Everton in the FA Cup. I don’t think Benitez will play his best XI to be honest, he’ll want too concentrate on the league and quite rightly. It could be a chance for Lucas and Ryan Babel to start and show what they can do and Yossi Benayoun may also be included in the starting line-up. Dirk Kuyt has spoken of the players desire to win this one and there have been some positive signs coming out of Anfield but it all depends on how strong a side Rafa fields on the day. A win in the second Mersey derby would boost confidence but I bet Rafa would sacrifice the cup for the league any time.

Everton on the other hand probably will start with their best XI. They’re in a position in the league where they won’t be worried about relegation but at the same time European qualification is all they can really achieve, I doubt they’ll make the top-four and the FA Cup represents their only real chance for silverware this season. The major bonus for Liverpool in this one is the fact Marouane Fellaini is still suspended. I’ve been really impressed by Fellaini and even more impressed by his hair, he has been one of Everton’s best players this season and Liverpool should be buoyed by his absence.

Offering football betting tips on this particular Mersey derby is a big call and I’m going to leave it well alone. I wouldn’t really bother having a flutter myself until I’ve seen the starting line ups and I know who’ll be playing. I’m going to reserve my football betting advice for the other FA Cup games. I think Wolverhampton Wanderers could beat Middlesbrough and cause a minor upset, Coventry will be too strong for non-league Torquay and if you fancy a real cup upset I wouldn’t bet against Hartlepool knocking out West Ham and claiming their third Premier League scalp of the season.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Reds Blew It

Liverpool 1 (Gerrard 68)
Everton 1 (Cahill 88)

Liverpool were given a chance to reclaim top spot from Man Utd. on Monday night but missed out after a late Tim Cahill goal gifted Everton a deserved draw at Anfield against their bitter city rivals.

Just about a week ago Liverpool were sitting at the top of the table but were made to pay for their average performances this season. So far, other than the 5-1 thrashing of Newcastle, the Reds have failed to put up any sort of convincing performance.

In an attempt to draw attention away from his players during such crucial period of time, Rafa Benitez now will have to face more pressure as his ‘calculated’ attack on Sir Alex not only failed to pay off but suddenly looked as if it will backfire spectacularly

With his contract issue yet to be resolved, it proved to be another harmful distraction and probably tells us the mistrust between the American owners and the Spanish manager.

Leading his men into what he called, ‘the biggest derby I’m involved in’, he knew that Everton would do whatever it takes to stop them from reclaiming top spot. And the Toffeemen did just that.

The blue half of Merseyside were surely thrilled by the manner of how Everton got off the block so quickly and gave Pepe Reina a handful of saves to make. Victor Anichibe and then later, Tim Cahill, stung the palms of the Spanish goalkeeper and the away side was able to apply pressure despite not having a recognized striker.

But Liverpool felt that they should’ve taken the lead after Sami Hyypia’s long pass found the Fernando Torres, who was installed in the team after missing out for the past 3 months. But his rustiness in front of goal was apparent as he clipped the ball wide off the target despite only having Tim Howard to beat.

He later had a legitimate penalty appeal turned down after being bundled in the box by Phil Jagielka. But it was just not his day. Neither was it Robbie Keane’s, who was a virtual spectator throughout and contributed nothing. Benitez’s plan to dovetail the pair failed miserably this time.

Only after withdrawing Keane then did we see Steven Gerrard at his rampaging best. In derby such as this, it often just takes a moment of brilliance to break the duck and Gerrard did just that.

From 30 yards out, he lashed a driving shot which left Tim Howard hapless.

Many thought that it will be the winner and the game decider. So did Rafa Benitez, who then took off Torres and put on Lucas, changing the shape of the team. It sent out the message that Liverpool is ready to play out for the 1-0.

But we know Everton had other ideas.

With just 5 minutes left to go, Everton won a freekick near the byline through a foul by Yossi Benayoun. And we know how dangerous Everton are with set pieces, with Tim Cahill and Leon Osman constantly on the prowl.

A simple training ground routine freekick managed to unlock Liverpool and expose their faulty zonal marking system. Arteta’s freekick was met with aplomb by Tim Cahill’s head, without a Liverpool shadow anywhere near the Australian.

It must have tasted sweet for the Everton supporters, who have a short trip back home. It might not be the most ideal result for them but to thwart their rival’s title bid, they should say it’s a job well done.

Despite only losing one league game so far this season, the number of draws and goal scored must be a little worrying for Rafa Benitez. Especially for this season, the home record is not as good as it should be and there is a cause for concern here.

The Reds are definitely still in for a shot at the title but Benitez needs to commit his future quick and find a solution to the Torres and Keane formula, which is still a big mystery.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Match Preview: Liverpool vs Everton

Gareth Freeman

This match is a massive one now. On Saturday five minutes of football changed everything, with United grabbing a last-gasp winner and Chelsea producing a frankly ridiculous turn-around the pressure is all back on Liverpool.

Benitez and his side need to put all their off-field problems too one side if they are going to win this tie. Everton have one of the most impressive away records in the league, losing two and winning seven of their ten away fixtures to date and there is no doubting they would love to put a spanner in the works of their neighbour’s title bid.

The Goodison Park side are still without a proven recognised striker, Victor Anichebe is back from injury but he is still a player learning his trade. Tim Cahill has stepped up too take on the striker’s role and he is justifying his place in the starting eleven. Carragher and co will need to be on top form to keep Everton out. Mikel Arteta is another player well equipped to change a game and there is no doubt how talented this Everton side is – even if they do travel to Anfield as the underdogs. Liverpool’s home form may have been criticised through the course of this season but they still have still yet to lose and it would take a brave man to back Everton to be the first side to do that.

My football betting tip would be for Fernando Torres to grab a goal in this encounter. He is still yet to hit the kind of form he had before his injury but he is a player who likes the big stage and this derby match would be a perfect time for him to step up to the plate and score. I doubt whether many will be backing Everton too take all three points with their football betting, but they are a decent side and should not be ignored as a threat.

The first of the two Liverpool derby’s in quick succession and I think everyone in the red half of the city would rather win this one than the FA Cup fixture. Liverpool looked good value for the title a few weeks ago but now things seem to be slipping away a bit, but a win over their local rivals would go a long way to proving they are capable of bringing home the title.