Saturday, November 21, 2009

Preview: Liverpool vs Man City

We’ve been saying nearly every week that whoever the Reds are playing it is a ‘must win’ game and the visit of City to Anfield is as big as any game Liverpool have faced this season. Mark Hughes’ side are one point and one place above Liverpool and a win over the blue half of Manchester would go along way to restoring some faith in Rafael Benitez and his Liverpool squad.
The massive bonus for Benitez is the fact that Steven Gerrard has ruled himself fit for the fixture with City. This is what the Liverpool captain has had to say: "I've had a problem in my groin that has taken a while to get over but I'm just relieved the second injection seems to have done the trick.

"It's a case of so far so good and the aim now is to make sure I get a good week's training under my belt so I'm ready for the game with City."

Great news about Gerrard, but striker Fernando Torres will play no part as he struggles with an abdominal strain. Yossi Benayoun and Albert Riera are also ruled out while Glen Johnson, Daniel Agger and Fabio Aurelio are all doubtful ahead of City’s visit. It remains to be seen whether we’ll get to see Alberto Aquilani or not but with Gerrard back in the fold this is certainly a winnable game for Liverpool.

City will be without winger Martin Petrov, while Robinho and Gareth Barry are also listed as doubtful but they have plenty of players to cover and expect a strong line-up. At a guess I would say City will probably line up with Emmanuel Adebayor, Carlos Teve and Craig Bellamy in attack – a formidable line up to say the least. However, Tevez has never been the most prolific striker in front of goal, Adebayor has suffered a dip in form since his antics against Arsenal and Bellamy can be a bit hit and miss.

The game has all the makings of a classic. Liverpool need to win to keep up with the chasing pack at the top of the table, while City have something to prove against the bigger clubs after all their summer spending. I’m not going to hazard a guess at the result as on paper it is a bit close to call, I do think we’re in for a great game though and with home advantage Liverpool should be the favourites.

Written by Gareth Freeman, a sports writer promoting horse racing Ireland and the Aintree Grand National 2010 for Betfair.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Is Mascherano Barca Bound?

There seems to be almost constant speculation in regards to defensive midfielder Javier Mascherano’s Liverpool future. On what feels like a daily basis a story emerges about a possible transfer to Barcelona with some sections of the media going as far as to state he is certainly heading to Camp Nou in January in a £36million deal.

However, Spanish sports publication Sport has today reported that there is no ‘concrete foundation’ to the rumours. The player himself has apparently voiced his dislike of the English lifestyle and climate, but for a player earning so much money and being a regular in the starting eleven at a club like Liverpool surely this is a small price to pay (although, granted the weather is terrible).

Unless Mascherano hands in a transfer request then I just can’t see Rafael Benitez selling him. Another point to consider is the World Cup in South Africa next summer. Masch is a regular in the Argentina national side and he will retain his place in Diego Maradona’s midfield as long as he is playing regular first-team football. At Anfield he is pretty much guaranteed a starting place, but a move to Barcelona may see him sat on the sidelines until he has settled into the side and I doubt the 25-year-old would want to put his World Cup spot in jeopardy.

Sport have claimed to have been in contact with both Barca and Liverpool, with both denying they have been in contact with regards to the player. If this is true it would seem as if there is no truth in the speculation linking Masch with a move to Camp Nou.

There are a couple of other transfer rumours doing the rounds, here is a quick run through them.

Carlton Cole: It has been reported that both Liverpool and Manchester United are battling it out to sign West Ham’s Carlton Cole, who is valued at £20million. There could be some truth in this as Liverpool could certainly do with another striker, whether the Hammers would be willing to let him go or not remains to be seen.

Ryan Shawcross: Again, United have also been linked with Shawcross but the defender has just agreed a contract extension at Stoke and it seems unlikely he will head to Anfield or Old Trafford anytime soon.

Simon Kjaer: This 20-year-old defender has been getting rave reviews for is performances at Serie A side Palmero. However, the club don’t want to sell the Danish stopper and if a move does materialise, it will be next summer.

Eljero Elia: Hamburg’s Dutch winger only made the switch to the Bundesliga in the summer but is already attracting interest. Reports suggest the Reds will make a £15million move in January – with Ryan Babel possibly heading the other way.

Eduardo: Arsenal striker Eduardo has been linked with a £10million switch to Anfield in January – for me this is just pure speculation and I can’t see this one happening at all to be totally honest.

Written by Gareth Freeman, a sports writer promoting Irish racing and racing tips for today for Betfair.