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Liverpool Preview

Filed: Thursday, 7th May 2009
By: Preview Percy

Liverpool at home next for a 5.30 kick-off to be covered by the ailing Setanta channel whose match range in future seasons has been cut right back. This is a worrying state of affairs for those of us who actually subscribe to the channel as it’s hard enough to cancel a subscription when the company actually exists. You just know that if they actually go under they’ll still somehow manage to collect £13 a month from beyond the grave.

Liverpool have been doing their best to try to make things interesting at the top of the league and currently lie in second place behind Fergie’s mob. However the Salford lot have advantages in both points and in games left and, if a first title for donkey’s years is to find its way to Anfield, the scousers will probably have to hope for a 100% record to the end of the season and pray for some sort of slip-up at the Theatre of Plastic. Current form is decent – unbeaten in 8 and they’ve scored 21 in their last 6. However their progress in recent weeks (actually decades) has been assisted by a number of refereeing decisions best described as “generous” and it is notable that, for example, on the same day that Howard Webb was getting so much stick for giving the home side a match-changing penalty at Old Trafford, Liverpool were getting just as much – if not more - assistance from the officials up the other end of the M62 at Hull. However, ever since their heyday of the 70’s and 80’s when home penalties in front of the Kop appeared to be a contractual obligation on the part of referees, the media seem to have signed up to some strange code of omerta that prevents them from mentioning the club – and for that matter the city’s - shortcomings, for fear of prompting widespread protests from surely the touchiest population in the land.

This code of silence appears at its most rigid when dealing with the papers’ darling Steve Gerrard. Gerrard’s “auto”biography attributes a number of quotes to him on the evils of players diving and even suggests that he would “have a word” if he ever saw a team-mate indulging in such outrageous cheating. One can only presume that he hasn’t got round to it yet as they have players all over the pitch capable of hitting the floor at the merest breath of a wind. Of course Gerrard is no slouch in the scuba stakes himself and he actually picked up a yellow for simulation in the 2-0 home win against Chelsea. This is no mean feat in a league where it appears to be standard refereeing practice to punish dives by, er, waving play on, though it should be noted that the caution, when it came, marked what had probably been his fourth cautionable offence of the match. You could have been forgiven for not noticing it much on the box as it warranted barely a murmur from the commentary team.

Gerrard nearly went to Chelsea a few years ago before turning up at a press conference, pale-faced and clearly terrified of something when announcing that he would be staying at Anfield after all. All of which might explain his legendary lack of stability. After all if one or two of the people who allegedly “advised” his family that he should remain on Merseyside shouted “bang!” within my earshot I’d probably be inclined to hit the deck as well.

Gerrard has recovered from injury just in time for Saturday’s match having played a part in the 3-0 win against the struggling Geordies. Xavi Alonso is a possible absentee for Saturday following Joey “you can take the boy out of Liverpool” Barton’s shocking tackle at the weekend. Alonso was stretchered off but the injury is not as bad as was originally feared and he may be fit to play some part in the proceedings though his official condition is described as “doubtful”.

Fernando Torres was left out of the Newcastle match. He has had hamstring problems for much of this season and Benitez took the pragmatic view that the Spaniard would have to start or not feature at all last weekend. Hamstrings are notoriously tricky chappies and, if you are not going to start a player with a dodgy one, bringing him on as a sub is always going to be a risky proposition. A sub isn’t usually going to get as comprehensive a warm-up that those in the starting line-up might get, and a hamstring is more likely to “go” when cold. The noises emanating from Anfield suggest that Torres will “play some part” at the weekend and, given the state of his hamstring, I’d expect him either to start or not appear at all.

There are a couple of ex-Hammers in the squad. Javier Mascherano is the latest to succumb to Jacques Cousteau syndrome and his disgraceful tumble up at Hull led to Liverpool’s first at the KC stadium. Mascherano is currently carrying an ankle knock but isn’t showing up on any of the usual injury lists at present so one presumes he’ll be available for selection. Yossi Benayoun is of course the other ex-Hammer who became the umpteenth player to be signed by Liverpool following an illegal approach made whilst under contract to another club. While a blind eye continues to be turned by the FA to this sort of thing it will sadly continue. Benayoun is in decent form at the moment and scoring goals – though his opener against the Geordies owed much to the usual repeal of the offside law that applies to the home side at Anfield. The manner of his departure will probably see him receive a mixed reception on Saturday evening – his going back on his verbal agreement to sign an improved deal netting him a lot more than the thirty pieces of silver that is traditional in his part of the world.

One player missing from the side that drew 0-0 with us back in December of course will be Robbie Keane. The Scousers’ biggest illegal deal of the season last summer ultimately caused much laughter in the football world when it ended up costing them an initial £3m in transfer losses as he returned to obscurity. This was added to an unspecified amount in hush money disguised as a donation to Spurs’ charity in return for Spurs not pursuing a complaint they had lodged with the FA. Of course an FA with a bit of backbone might have completed the investigation anyway but then an FA with backbone might have done something about the other 900 times they’ve done it.

As for us, the 1-0 win up at Stoke was a fine performance against a side few have got much from at home. This weekend will be a different kettle of fish of course as, though they are not quite the side that the media would have us think they are, Liverpool do have a little more to their repertoire than slinging long throws into the box. We do have some light at the end of the injury tunnel though. James Collins is one who is listed as possibly being available but, if that is the case I’d expect Ginge to be on the racing car seats at the start of this one – Tomkins’ form has been outstanding in Ginge’s absence and when a similar situation occurred earlier in the season Zola had no worries about leaving Ginge out. Whilst it was a pleasant surprise last time it occurred, nobody would bat an eyelid if Tomkins were to keep his place this time round.

Up front Carlton Cole is said to be close to a return. Tristan’s form has improved in recent weeks as the realisation that his deal is coming to an end hits home and he has started to held the ball up well. However, he does appear to possess all the pace of a freshly kneecapped tortoise and the sort of game that came in so useful at Stoke isn’t likely to be required this weekend. So if Carlton is ready I’d start him – especially since he tends to bring what passes for the best out of DDM. Other players likely to be in the frame for at least a spot in Formula One corner include Dyer and Savio, neither of whom had any involvement last weekend, and Jack Collison who returned from injury last week following a wince-inducing injury to his kneecap.

Between the sticks England’s no.1 will be making his 100th appearance for the club. There has been some ludicrous talk that Almunia of Arsenal might be called up for England once he qualifies as a UK citizen. That would be the final insult for Green who would be forgiven for wondering whether a change of nationality to Brazilian might be worth a shout. Green’s performance at the Britannia was bravery itself against the aerial onslaught and the DVD of that match ought to be required viewing before the name Almunia is mentioned again in connection with anything other than Scotland.

We haven’t actually beaten any of the so-called “big” 4 this season. My own feeling is that we’re probably just a player or two short at the moment in the injury stakes and I’d be more optimistic were Behrami or Parker available for selection. However spirit within the camp appears to be good and, if (unlike the rest of us) everyone can settle down after laughing at Chelsea I can see us battling out a point so I’ll plump for a 1-1 this time out as long as ref Wiley keeps an eye on the theatrics.

Enjoy the game!

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

Your Comments

by Tell it how it is Charley
07:52AM 8th May 2009
''"theatrics" It's what the game is all about now. Surely the point of the 4th official should be watching a monitor and instructing him through his headset. Just start booking more for dives and it will soon lessen.

Chelsea - talk about being bad losers! Drogba's comment about the ref at the end, perhaps he should look at some of his own antics through previous games, no wonder officials are reluctant to give him penalties. Ronaldo is just as bad.''

by Timothy
10:30PM 7th May 2009
''You tried to be funny right? if so this was bloody outrageous. LMAO!''

by Eriand (LFC)
09:32PM 7th May 2009
''Mascherano diving in the match against Hull? are you kiddin me? Maybe it was a questionable free kick but the game is not as black and white as you think, it doesn't always has to be a free kick or a dive. Players are a capable of falling to the ground even though a blatant fault hasn't been committed. It seems to me that yoy are bitter, bitter that your club didn't manage to use the talent of one at the greatest defensive midfielders in the world. ''

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