Liverpool at Portsmouth
12:45pm (7:45am EST) Saturday, September 15
The Lowdown: After a two-week layoff, Liverpool is back in business. But even though Liverpool are sitting top of the table, Harry Redknapp and his merry band of men won’t be too impressed as they’ve won the last two meetings with the Reds. Pompey currently sit 13th with a goal difference of -1, but that is mostly due to their unimpressive away form. They’ve only played two home games so far, with one win and one draw (four goals for, two against).
Over the past few seasons, Liverpool have had their share of problems following international dates. But, it would appear that the squad is in pretty good health for Saturday’s visit to Fratton Park. Steven Gerrard seems to have made it through both of England’s matches without aggravating his toe, so we will likely see him in the squad. Apparently, he’s suffering no pain, so the captain may not even undergo another scan.
What Rafa had to say about Stevie:
We have confidence over Steven because our doctor was talking with them (the FA) all the time. Everything was under control and I was happy for him to play. Now he is a hero for England, which is positive for him and us. I don’t want to say too much because I have a lot of respect for the England manager.
The only thing is sometimes with a broken toe, you need to give it time. Now we need to get him checked by the doctor to see what the real situation is. If there is no pain, maybe it will not be necessary for him to have another scan.
Since we’re not worried about evil HMO’s and who’s going to foot the bill, why don’t we give his little piggy one more look for safety’s sake?
The good news continues as Jamie Carragher looks likely to return to action. The Gaffa on Carra’s bill of health:
Carragher has been training normally with the rest of the players who’ve been here all week. He is okay and I think he will be available this weekend, which is good news for us.
Daniel Agger should be fit, despite worries stemming from his substitution before the half-hour mark in Denmark’s ‘match’ against Liechtenstein (fun fact: the biggest building in Liechtenstein is the post office.) As it turns out, it was apparently as a precaution against picking up a yellow card ban as the Danes next face El Nino’s Spain.
Steve Finnan, who did not meet up with the Ireland squad for either game due to a knee strain, will train with the squad, but I wouldn’t put money on seeing him at Pompey.
By the way, Fabio Auriello and Harry Kewell are back among the active again. Fabio got 45 minutes of reserve ball under his belt while Harry is simply running again. But, progress is progress. I’ll save my thoughts on the Aussie until he returns to the pitch or breaks down again, whichever comes first.
Rafa is confident about the upcoming game and the reinclusion of his lynchpins, but also sounds understandably cautious:
It’s clear that if you want to stay at the top of the table you must win nearly all of your games. We will try to do that even though we know it will be difficult. The type of games like we have this weekend are really important for the confidence of the team.
If we can win here we will still be at the top of the table, everybody will be happy and we will be ready going into the next game. We have made a good start. Confidence is great – all the players are feeling like that, so we can play and win. But we must take one game at a time and not think too much about the future.
Portsmouth are a good team with an experienced manager. Their players know what to do. They can control games. We know they are very tough to play against from when we faced them in Hong Kong. They have some new signings who are playing really well. John Utaka is doing a good job right now and Kanu and Benjani are dangerous also.
But, Rafa is also pissed (again) about the fixture dates and times following the international break:
I am really disappointed with the fixtures that we have because it is more difficult here in England. You play early kick-offs on the Saturday (after the internationals) and it is impossible to prepare the team properly.
The players arrive back on Thursday evening and the only thing you can do with some of them is just to run a little bit and send them home. Friday morning you will have a light training session and you will travel to Portsmouth in this case and you cannot prepare the team.
Normally the players that are going away are internationals because they are good players and you need these players for winning every game. For me it’s impossible to prepare the team properly, you can prepare small details but to prepare the team physically and mentally for the game will be difficult.
We will be talking to the Premier League about this because it is not fair. I don’t know if it is possible to change these fixtures in the new year but I hope so because in the last few years, we have played more games on a Saturday than anyone and more away games (after internationals and CL matches) than anyone. There are too many early kick-offs and I am not pleased about the situation at all.
He’s mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore!
As for Pompey, Sol Campbell has been out with groin and hamstring problems, but will likely join Slyvain Distin back in the center of defense. Linvoy Primus has also been making strides, having played in recent reserve matches, but may not be ready to make his season debut. Lauren is out with a virus (non-flesh eating type), so Glen Johnson will likely slot in at right back
Speaking of full backs, Djimi Traore has some thoughts on Saturday’s game:
We beat Liverpool least season and I think we can do it again. You have to approach a game against a team like Liverpool with confidence. You know they’ve got top players, but you don’t need to respect them too much.
In Hong Kong, when we beat them in the Asia Trophy final, we showed them we were a good team. So I think they’ll come here a little scared. Liverpool don’t travel well, especially to the south. I know that from experience. I think the long journey makes players tired.
Personally, I’m not overly worried about the international hangovers anymore. It appeared that Rafa had worked through that by the second half of last season. It’s still early in the season, legs still have some freshness left in them and with the squad’s increased depth, Liverpool should hit the ground running.
That is not to say this will be an easy game. Despite their lackluster start to the season, Portsmouth have plenty of self-belief and rightfully so. This is a team that can play with anybody, even if Bambi is their starting left back.
I have supreme confidence in Liverpool’s ability to break down a stingy Pompey backline, maybe even a few times. But, just in case, you may want to mentally prepare yourself for the possibility of a scoreless draw.
And, this has nothing to do with Saturday’s game, but former Red, Jamie Redknapp (son of Pompey manager, Harry), just wrote an article in which he made this mind-boggling claim about another former Red, Emile Heskey:
Steve McClaren got it spectacularly right when he selected Wigan’s centre forward to lead the line for England.
The subsequent challenge made in this column to Emile Heskey was to prove what his friends and team-mates have always believed. He can be the English equivalent of Didier Drogba.
Now he can return to his club a proud man and they can be thrilled that they have provided England’s No 9 with the platform to salvage his international career.
Now, I’ve given Heskey a lot of shit because he’s an easy target and quite frankly, it’s fun. But, athough he misses a lot of chances, he toils hard for his team and nobody can accuse him of not giving his all during his time at Anfield. But to compare him to Drogba, who I hate and respect, is lunacy. Despite their shared appearances of sturdy builds, Drogba physicallly bullies his opponents, Heskey can’t keep his feet under a stiff challenge. With the ball at his feet, one is always a threat to score, the other doesn’t worry me one bit.
Jamie, it’s commendable that you’re willing to voice high praise for an old teammate, but your career as a pundit has just begun. Try not to piss away all your credibility so quickly.
5 Questions TBA:
- Can Liverpool continue scoring and keep up the away successes?
- Will Carra suffer any lingering effects from his rib and lung injuries?
- Can David James continue to repress his Calamity alter-ego?
- Will Rafa continue to stick with the 4-4-2 away from Anfield?
- Does anybody other than Bambi actually believe a preseason match halfway across the globe has any real bearing on Saturday’s result?