Prediction: Liverpool vs Bolton

31st December 2010

Liverpool are looking to make amends for the shock defeat to Wolves, although they would rather be facing some other team than Bolton. The Trotters proved their quality at Stamford Bridge, albeit suffering an unlucky defeat to Chelsea and Owen Coyle’s side hope they will have more luck this time around.

Liverpool endured some tough times under Rafa Benitez during his five-year reign at Anfield, but it seems things really started taking the wrong turn when Roy Hodgson was appointed to replace the Spaniard. The season is by no means over for the Reds as they will have exactly 20 games to improve their league position but looking at how the team are playing at the moment, European qualification looks like a mission impossible for the Reds. Back to back defeats to Newcastle and Wolves are the perfect proof that Liverpool are playing way below the expectations this season, especially as both defeats were more than deserved. The Reds showed absolutely no improvement even when Steven Gerrard returned to the side and I really can’t quite comprehend why they are considered favourites against a very good Bolton side. Considering the current situation, it is almost clear that Steven Gerrard will start this game despite being exhausted after playing full 90 minutes against Wolves, while Joe Cole is doubtful with an ankle injury. Jamie Carragher and Jay Spearing remain on the sidelines.

Owen Coyle may be traveling to Liverpool with just 15 senior players but he can still feel optimistic about his side’s chances in this clash. The talented manager has completely revived the Trotters this season, and after quite a while, Bolton are much closer to the European places than the bottom three. The Trotters deserved every single point they have won this season and that should be their biggest satisfaction. Even a side like Chelsea needed a smile from the Lady Luck as well as the help from the man in black in order to beat Bolton at home, and that just goes to show how well Owen Coyle’s side are playing at the moment. The boss faces major selection problems with Robinson, Lee, Cohen, Davis, O’Brien, Gardner and Samuel all unavailable, and Holden and Steinsson doubtful, but he should still be able to field a very strong side, capable of getting something from this match.

Conclusion

Liverpool are all over the place at the moment and their recent performances give them no reason to hope for a good result against Bolton. The Trotters, on the other hand, once again showed they can match every side in the league and I believe they can get at least one point from this match.

Verdict: Draw (X)

Best Odds:
13/5

Bookmaker: Bet365

Fri 31 December, 2010
RSS Feed

Moyes searches for end to goal drought

Everton manager David Moyes refuses to confirm he will make a January signing as he desperately searches for a goal scorer.

Leading scorer Tim Cahill will be missing for a month after Saturday’s trip to Stoke when he flies out to represent Australia in the Asian Cup.

Moyes said the whole team was responsible for filling the void left by Cahill.

“I need somebody to score me goals. If I don’t get the goals then I’m going to have to keep looking to find a solution,” Moyes said.

“I’ve asked ‘Have they been creating enough opportunities? Have they been creating enough chances?'”

“I mean, sometimes centre-forwards say they didn’t get a chance and got bad service and I think that’s been the case in several games.”

“But if you look at the majority of them we have had opportunities to score. I think it’s not always falling to centre forwards – Sylvain Distain had two opportunities in midweek and didn’t score so it’s not always been the centre-forwards.”

Everton sit in mid-table at present, but Moyes knows that things could change very quickly, starting with a win at the Brittania Stadium.

“I don’t know if it’s nervous football but I think because the league is very tight you know that a couple of defeats and a bit of poor form could find you at the wrong end of the table,” Moyes said.

“In the same breath, run into good form and you could find yourself very easily moving away from the pack.”

“In football management you’re always trying to look long-term, but in the main, you’re always looking short-term to try and get a couple of results, then you can start to look a bit further afield.”

“I wouldn’t say we’re looking forward to it but because we know it is going to be tough but we look forward to going there and competing.”

Defenders Phil Jagielka (thigh) and John Heitinga (knee) both have an outside chance of making the game.

Fri 31 December, 2010
RSS Feed

Injuries hit hard at Blackburn

Blackburn have eight senior players unavailable for Saturday’s clash at Sunderland while defender Chris Samba is also in doubt.

But new manager Steve Kean, who enjoyed his first win at West Brom on Tuesday, still believes he can field a team capable of forcing another positive result.

“We are stretched, no doubt about that,” said Kean. “However, the long list of unavailable players means chances elsewhere, especially for the young players.”

“We have a game plan and I think we can give Sunderland a really good game.”

“If we can pick up a point, or maybe even all three, then it would really set things up for the second half of the season.”

Striker Nikola Kalinic and defender Michel Salgado are both suspended while goalkeeper Paul Robinson, striker Jason Roberts and midfielders Steven Nzonzi, Phil Jones, Vince Grella and Keith Andrews are all injured.

Kean added: “It is difficult and we are hoping that big Chris (Samba) comes through. He has had a lot of intensive treatment and we are quite optimistic. He will have a late test, as late as possible to give him the best chance of making it.”

“Sunderland are a strong side who like to start with a high tempo and try to force you back as they go for the first goal.”

“We have got to match that and then try to get our game going in their final third as well. We defended well at West Brom, but we also attacked with real purpose.”

Rovers won 3-1 at The Hawthorns on Tuesday – the first time the team has scored three times away from home in a league game since Paul Ince’s first game in charge, a 3-2 win at Everton in August 2008.

Fri 31 December, 2010
RSS Feed

Wenger: Title is ours for the taking

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger insists the title is there for the taking, but warned his side they must be mentally strong in this season’s race.

The Gunners missed the chance to draw level on points with league leaders Manchester United on Wednesday after they conceded a late equaliser against Wigan.

And Manchester City assistant manager Brian Kidd this week claimed the title is now “Manchester United’s to lose”.

But Wenger remains confident his side can return the title to north London for the first time since 2004.

“Everyone has an opinion on it but I think it’s Arsenal’s title to win,” Wenger said.

“The only thing we have learned from the first six months is that this could be the league of the mentally strong.”

“It’s a league of many ups and downs and the teams who can deal best with that will certainly be the team who wins it.”

“I feel we are on a good track. We are in a strong position but we want to improve our home record. Our away form has been fantastic.”

Arsenal’s trip to Birmingham on Saturday is their penultimate fixture of a frantic festive schedule which has seen them play four games in just 10 days.

Despite starting the spell with a superb 3-1 victory over Chelsea, Arsenal were brought back down to earth by their midweek draw at Wigan.

“I see the Christmas period as a whole. We had a little disadvantage with the way the fixtures were organised compared to some other clubs,” Wenger said.

“At the end of the day we know that Christmas will be very important because we play Chelsea and Manchester City and then have two away games against Wigan and Birmingham.”

“For us it will have a certain impact on the rest of the season so it’s important we have a good game against Birmingham.”

Wenger is set to recall striker Robin van Persie and midfielder Alex Song after they were rested for the trip to Wigan.

Captain Cesc Fabregas is also available again after serving his one-match ban, but fellow midfielder Abou Diaby is unavailable.

“We lose Diaby for a calf strain, (he will miss) three weeks approximately,” Wenger said.

“The squad will be approximately the squad that has gone to Wigan but we get back Song, Fabregas – who was suspended – and Van Persie.”

Fri 31 December, 2010
RSS Feed

Cattermole, Welbeck close to Sunderland return

Sunderland could receive a double boost with Danny Welbeck and Lee Cattermole likely starters against Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.

Both players are expected to be in the starting line-up at the Stadium of Light on Saturday afternoon with Cattermole shaking off a back problem and Welbeck a neck strain.

But Sunderland will definitely be without defender Nedum Onuoha, while record signing Asamoah Gyan is also not expected to feature.

Bruce blames the casualties on a punishing round of festive fixtures which he publicly criticised on Boxing Day.

The biggest culprit, says Bruce, has been the scheduling of two games within 48 hours – the away trip to Manchester United on Boxing Day and the game against Blackpool on December 28.

“It’s not something any of us should have to deal with, to be fair,” Bruce said. “It’s a nonsense.”

“Welbeck has got a neck problem but we think he will be fine. Cattermole has suffered the same kind of hamstring and back problem that he had last season.”

“I’m not ruling Catts out at this stage though, because hopefully he will be fit, as will Danny.”

“As for Nedum, he is definitely out, hopefully for not much more than a week.”

“And Asamoah is struggling with a series of knocks at the moment, and the hamstring is just the latest.”

“I think he struggled to play two games in the space of 48 hours, because it’s not something he has ever had to deal with in his career before.”

“You just can’t ask players to play two games in that short a space of time – not at the kind of intensity required in the Premier League, anyway.”

“Players are going to pick up injuries, and that’s exactly what has happened.”

After having 33 attempts on goal against Blackpool in midweek, Bruce is expecting a complete contrast against Blackburn.

Bruce said: “You couldn’t have had a much more open team than Blackpool.”

“They give it a go but they also leave themselves exposed at the back when they do that.”

“We exploited that fact fantastically – we just couldn’t do the final part and put the ball in the back of the net.”

“I don’t expect it to be a particularly exciting and open game. It’s likely to be hard-fought and difficult but we’re determined to finish the year on a high.”

Fri 31 December, 2010
RSS Feed

Udinese forward hints at Premier League move

Udinese forward Alexis Sanchez has revealed that he would be interested in a move to the Premier League.

The 22-year-old Chile international has been linked with a host of clubs around Europe, including Manchester United.

Sanchez told Goal.com Italy: “I’d like to play for a big club but I still lack a final piece for the big leap. I must still improve as a person and as a player.

“I like the English football best because they go at thousand miles per hour speed and never stop – a little like me.”

[Source: Goal.com Italy]

Fri 31 December, 2010
RSS Feed

Cigarini rules out Sevilla exit

Sevilla midfielder Luca Cigarini has ruled out leaving the Primera Division side in the January transfer window.

Cigarini has been strongly linked with a return to Italy in January.

“I haven’t had any contact with Brescia,” said Cigarini. “I just want to do well for Sevilla until next June.

“I’m staying here until the end of the season then, seeing as I am only here on loan, I will go back to Napoli before assessing what to do next.”

“Napoli? They are a great team and I got on well with my teammates, the club and the city itself,” he continued.

“I had to leave, but I don’t regret my experience with Napoli and it would be a pleasure to rejoin them.”

[Source: Marca]

Fri 31 December, 2010
RSS Feed

Ivanovic out, Drogba okay for Chelsea

Chelsea will have to face Aston Villa on Sunday without centre-back Branislav Ivanovic because of suspension.

Ivanovic picked up his fifth booking of the season against Bolton and will serve a one-match ban, meaning either youngster Jeffrey Bruma or veteran Paulo Ferreira will receive a call-up for the match at Stamford Bridge.

In better new for manager Carlo Ancelotti, Ivorian striker Didier Drogba is expected to be passed fit despite picking up a back injury during the midweek victory over Bolton.

“Drogba is ok, he had a knock on his back but he will be fine. We will miss Ivanovic but we have to find another solution,” Ancelotti said.

Chelsea, who beat Aston Villa 7-1 in the corresponding fixture last season, are desperate to take three points again to make it back-to-back wins after beating Bolton 1-0 at home on Wednesday.

“That victory was important to change the atmosphere, to change the trend and to come back to winning ways,” Ancelotti said.

“But now we need to follow it up with another win. It was important to end the bad moment but we are not yet at our best, we can still improve and we want to do that.”

“We have to put in another performance against Aston Villa. That’s the next step. We have to maintain the same performance against Villa – it will not easy but that is our aim.”

“The Premier League is open again and we have to stay in focus. The next game is at home and it’s a period when if we do our best we can come back quickly at the top of the table.”

“Villa are in trouble now so we have to pay attention because they will consider this game a good opportunity for them to come back.”

Chelsea captain John Terry is hoping to make 2011 every bit as good for the Blues as 2010.

Last season Chelsea won the Premier League and FA Cup double and Terry wants more success in the New Year.

“Winning our first double is something that everyone who was involved will always remember,” Terry said.

“But now we want to go on and have many more days like those we spent celebrating in May. We want 2011 to be as good as 2010 and now is a good time to win games.”

“With so many teams close together at the top of the league at the moment this is an important spell in the league season.”

Fri 31 December, 2010
RSS Feed

Hodgson apologises for fan criticism

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson has apologised after copping criticism for a perceived dig at the club’s supporters on Wednesday.

The former Fulham boss vented his anger after his side’s shock 1-0 loss to then-bottom Wolves at home, suggesting energy spent by fans criticising him would be better placed supporting the team.

Hodgson went onto say he has not felt that ‘special’ Anfield atmosphere since he arrived, but apologised and backed away from his comments on Friday.

“I didn’t set out to attack the fans; I had to answer a question about being the butt of their jeers and of course whilst empathising with them, of course, I also tried to defend my position a bit,” Hodgson said.

“I certainly regret it if I have offended anyone in any way, it was in no way meant to be an offensive comment.”

“The support of the Liverpool fans is the best in the country, but to get that support you have to play well and give them something to really look forward to supporting.”

Hodgson has not spoken to the club’s owners since the Wolves defeat despite speculation he might be relieved of his duties, and he just wants the team to turn a corner against sixth-placed Bolton, who are the visitors to Anfield on New Year’s Day.

“I can only hope that I can help make the team better, help get the results that everybody wants and I know that then they will get behind the team again and get behind me,” Hodgson said.

“When we don’t win I’m afraid I have to accept some of the stick is going to come my way. It’s a great opportunity for players who, like myself, have found themselves in the firing line for criticism, to prove people wrong.”

Joe Cole aggravated an ankle injury in training and is a doubt whilst fellow midfielder Steven Gerrard is also a doubt after being ‘extremely tired’ by his 90 minute comeback game in midweek.

Fri 31 December, 2010
RSS Feed

Lopez in line for Wigan debut

Wigan manager Roberto Martinez could throw new signing Adrian Lopez in for a dramatic debut against Newcastle.

The 23-year-old Spaniard has finally joined the Latics from Deportivo La Coruna after a protracted saga that required the intervention of FIFA, and looks set to be rushed into an injury-hit Wigan squad.

With James McCarthy, Victor Moses, Emmerson Boyce and Franco di Santo on the sidelines, Wigan could have done without Charles N’Zogbia being sent off against Arsenal in midweek and the three-match ban that goes with it.

But Martinez is delighted at being able to bring a player of Lopez’s undoubted quality into the squad.

“Adrian has been training with us for a while now waiting for the paperwork to clear,” Martinez said.

“He’s an under-21 international with Spain, which has given him a great education in the game and as a defender he’s technically very gifted and desperate to play for Wigan Athletic.”

“It’s great to have him on board and we’ll see how soon he can adapt to the English game.”

“As a defender, getting used to the directness of the English game is the biggest obstacle as well as the physical element of the Premier League.”

“We’ll make sure he’s given the right preparation, the players have welcomed him to the club really well and we’re all excited at the knowledge he can bring to the club.”

Jordi Gomez is standing by to replace N’Zogbia on the right-hand side of the midfield, which should be the only change from the 2-2 draw with the Gunners that extended Wigan’s unbeaten home record to six matches.

“Charles is out for three games now and so we’re going to try and use this time to refresh his body and make he’s ready for the period after,” Martinez added.

“Now is the time to find solutions to that, hand great opportunities to other players and concentrate on the game ahead of us.”

Fri 31 December, 2010
RSS Feed