Saturday, April 30, 2016

Liverpool Klopp Episode 47 - A Hard Day's Night

LFC has been on a tailspin lately dropping a 2-0 lead and barely escaping with one point against Newcastle and then surrendering a late goal to Villarreal.

Is a trip to lower mid-table Swansea the cure for what ails them?

Klopp has little room for maneuver as Liverpool has only two narrow paths to European football: win the Europa League or claw their way to sixth in the EPL. Both paths are strewn with obstacles - maybe I should have saved the Empire Strikes Back asteroid clip for this post!

Adding to the degree of difficulty is the injury to key players straining the existing squad and the reality that there are some players who are prone to injury if they get pushed too hard. What is a manager to do?!

And top it off this weekend's EPL match comes with a quick turn-around from the Europa League match.
Excerpt:
Jurgen Klopp has spoken of his frustration around match scheduling after learning Liverpool's Sunday fixture against Swansea starts at midday. The team returned home from Spain at 4 a.m. on Friday after the 1-0 Europa League semifinal defeat to Villarreal with their Premier League game in south Wales scheduled to kick off just 56 hours later. Klopp made jokes about the English liking their Sunday lunch but he is less than impressed with the amount of time he has to prepare and any such repetition is likely to see him step in during negotiations over when games are moved to.
 

The Liverpool Echo writers think Klopp will go with the B-team thus going "all-in" on the Europa league yet figuring they will still be strong enough to get the win against Swansea.

There has been a lot of second guessing of Klopp in the last match for not using Sturridge. We simply don't know what they are saying in the backroom. One possibility is that Klopp is playing "Jedi mind-tricks" to motivate Sturridge. Another possibility is that the sport science team is monitoring Sturridge and felt maybe he needs more rest. The other day I heard the MLS Extra-Time radio podcast interview with Dave Tenney, the head of the performance and sports science staff at the Seattle Sounders. In the discussion, he explained there are many tools available for the staff to quantify and assess player fatigue and strength to make estimates of when they need to push harder and when they need to back off to prevent injury.

In any case, will be interesting to see how many "A-team" members play against Swansea and how many minutes Sturridge will get.

Aftermath
Am not big enough a fan to get up at 4AM to watch from PDT and in this case probably for the best as the "B-team" was taken to the woodshed in a 3-1 loss. 

All eyes turn to leg 2 against Villarreal on Thursday.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Liverpool Klopp Episode 46 - The Empire Strikes Back



"How are we going to get out of this one?"

LFC is going into this Europa League semi-final leg one match a bit short handed (Can, Henderson, and Origi out with injury and Sakho out due to the PED use investigation). Will our Liverpool crew be able to dodge the power and talent of Villarreal? Villarreal are currently number 4 in La Liga that would yield qualification to the Champions League Playoff Round. We shall see if Klopp and the team can come up with something. They have had some rather spectacular matches and some dreadful collapses this season.

Allen and Millner will probably pair to patrol the middle.
Sturridge, Firmino, Coutinho, and Lallana will be on the attack.
The usual defense with the only open question: who will pair with Lovren at center back? Lucas or Torre?
With the injury depletion, who will Klopp have on the bench?
Win, lose or draw, LFC is always interesting.

In the meantime, as we await kickoff, enjoy some Star Wars parody.



The Echo writers are recommending Toure at central defense and having Allen, Lucas, and/or Milner patrolling the midfield.

The Echo writers have it:



Game recap

Largely sleepy uninteresting game that came to life in the final 5 minutes. Mignolet had a huge save late. It looked like LFC dodged all the asteroids but then it happened. In a breakaway, in stoppage time, Villarreal scored the goal to take the game 1-0.

On another note, should have posted a Beatles video of Yellow Submarine as that is the song the Villarreal fans sing. Below is the video that explains the story of why the club sings that song and why this match is so huge for them. With the 1-0 lead, they maybe on their way to making more history for this small town (~ 51,000) club.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Liverpool Klopp Episode 45 - The Hunt for Red October



Liverpool is scrambling up the table in the hopes of getting an automatic Europa League invite so that should call for a strong "A-team" in the selection. But they are also having to get ready for the Europa League semi-final and have just come off derby with Everton mid-week; thus, that would suggest a few "B-team" members. Newcastle is scrambling to get out of the relegation zone. Adding to the scriptwriter's toolbox for this episode is the fact that the Newcastle manager, Benitez, has ties to Liverpool as he managed LFC from 2004 to 2010. Newcastle easily beat LFC earlier in the season 2-0 at their home pitch and will be highly motivated to keep themselves from relegation and take LFC down a peg at Anfield, Benitez's old home ground.

Will the match involve some unconventional tactics from the respective sides? Will post-game comments tell us that all the pre-game comments were all wrong? All will be revealed on Saturday!

Build up:
Clearly Origi is not available. One can hope he will be able to make an appearance before the season is out. Thus, what of the starting XI against Newcastle?

My guesses:
Up top will be Sturridge. Am figuring Firmino will sub in for him in the second half around 60 minutes.
Offensive midfield: Coutinho, Lallana, Ibe (Ojo as a sub around 60 to 75 minutes).
Defensive Midfield: Milner, Lucas (look for Allen to come in around 75 minutes).
Wide defense: Smith, Flanagan.
Central defense: Sakho, Lovren.
Goalkeeper: Mignolet.

Aftermath:
Yup, we got it "all wrong" or maybe it was all wrong in terms of what we hoped for. Should have been a victory over a probable relegation club. Had the 2-0 lead. But the final was 2-2. The other thing that went sideways was the news of Sakho's positive drug test; thus, he is not going to be available for selection until the matter is adjudicated. The Sakho situation plus the recent injuries to Henderson, Can, and Origi have placed LFC's potential resurgence in question.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Liverpool Klopp Episode 44 - Diamonds are Forever



Love looking for these old 007 movie clips of "vehicle" chases of all sorts! In light of modern movie making techniques, these action scenes seem rather quaint.

Given the relative lack of success in recent years (decades) for both Liverpool and Everton, the rivalry between them has had less at stake in the bigger picture competition in the EPL. However, it is a strong intra-city grudge match as the two clubs play in stadiums about 1 mile apart. The Liverpool versus Everton competition is a long-running derby (since 1894) and no matter at what level they are in the table, it will be full of drama for the players and the fans. This season, Everton is playing for pride as a mid-table club after a hopeful start fizzled out. Liverpool, higher mid-table, is playing for an outside chance of finishing high enough (sixth place) to get a Europa League invitation.

Historically, Liverpool has won more often than Everton in the derby. In recent memory, there have been a lot more draws. The current draw streak is at 3 matches.

With the fixture congestion ahead and the big match against Villarreal on April 28, will Klopp field the "A-team?" For instance, even though Origi was pronounced fit from back problems, will he play? I'm guessing he might not. But otherwise, back to the usual suspects? Probably, a few more "B-team" players for the weekend match against Newcastle.

Probable line-up for the Merseyside Derby:
Mignolet back in goal - Ward had a good outing but time to put back in LFC's number one keeper.
Back line: Moreno, Lovren, Sakho, Clyne
Midfield: Allen, Lucas, Milner (too bad about the injuries to Henderson and Can - I do worry that LFC could get over-run in midfield)
Upfront: Coutinho, Sturridge, Lallana
Subs likely to be utilized: Firmino, Ibe, Ojo

Build up:
Sniffer dogs to be an Anfield to detect fans who try to smuggle flares and smoke bombs into the stadium. Don't do it! Statement from LFC:
Ahead of tonight's Merseyside derby against Everton, Liverpool FC would like to remind supporters that flares, smoke bombs and pyrotechnics are illegal and prohibited. Any individual who is found taking these items to Anfield will face prosecution and a stadium ban. Merseyside Police will be using trained sniffer dogs in and around the stadium tonight. The use of such devices breaches ground regulations and poses serious risk of injury, health and safety to fellow fans. Pyrotechnic devices could also set fire alarms off at Anfield, causing a stadium evacuation and potentially abandonment of the match. The club has recently been charged for Liverpool supporters using pyrotechnics during recent matches and this may result in sanctions being imposed on the club and supporters at future games. We would like to remind supporters of the serious consequences they will face surrounding the possession or use of pyrotechnics and any other illegal items at Anfield. Thank you for your continued support in keeping Anfield a safe and welcoming environment for all fans.

Some history and humor over at the UK Telegraph. As a very recent fan and based in the USA, most of it is lost on me!

Over at ESPNFC, it is a tale of two managers and the pressures and opportunities they face.

Over at the Echo, the writers pick the starting XI. My thinking matches Ian Doyle.

Klopp has opted for Origi up top instead of Sturridge. Will see if Lucas and Milner will be enough to manage the midfield. Will periodically check in at the game live blog over at UK Guardian.

Game on:
2-0 at the half! Goals by Origi (43') and Sakho (45' + 2) and thank you Milner for the assist on both goals!

Now, to stay focused and close the game out. Wasn't so many games ago LFC had a 2-0 lead only to lose to Southampton 3-2. Beware the 2-0 scoreline!

50' UGH! Reckless challenge by Mores is red carded and Origi is stretchered off the field. Will be awaiting the medical report after the match. Doesn't look good.

61' Sturridge makes it 3-0.

76' Coutinho makes it 4-0.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Washington Post Podcast - "Presidential" with Lillian Cunningham



The above video is a modern rendition of the William Henry Harrison (elected 1840) campaign song "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" by the group They Might Be Giants. I heard the song while listening to the WaPo's Presidential podcast series hosted by Lillian Cunningham.

In the episode, the focus was on his life prior to the presidency since his time in office was a mere 32 days! We also hear that the explanation for this death being due to his long inaugural address causing him to catch pneumonia is probably incorrect. Further research into the circumstances surrounding his death suggest that it is more likely he caught an illness from contaminated water in the White House. Combine that ailment with the harmful medical treatments of that time of poor medical understanding of disease hastened his death.

Am still catching up with all the podcasts that have already been released. Am enjoying them very much. Each episode profiles one president at a time though references are made to other presidents. The podcasts are anywhere from 25 to 50 minutes so they are not meant to be exhaustive explorations. However, major highlights of their term in office are discussed. But, additionally, and most interestingly, with a blend of irreverence and historical scholarship, their respective leadership styles and personalities are explored. Follow on Twitter and Instagram at @presidential_wp and the weekly podcasts drop each Sunday.

If you are interested in the lyrics of the song "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" in the above audio clip:

Oh who has heard the great commotion, motion motion
All the country through?
It is the ball a-rolling on
For Tippecanoe and Tyler too
And with him we'll beat Little Van, Van
Van is a used up man
And with him we'll beat Little Van

Sure, let 'em talk about hard cider (cider cider)
And log cabins too
't'will only help to speed the ball
For Tippecanoe and Tyler too
And with him we'll beat Little Van, Van
Van is a used up man
And with him we'll beat Little Van

Like the rush of mighty waters (waters waters)
Onward it will go
And of course we'll bring you through
For Tippecanoe and Tyler too
And with him we'll beat Little Van, Van
Van is a used up man
And with him we'll beat Little Van

Liverpool Episode 43 - Come Together



Come Together | The Beatles from Maíra Cardoso on Vimeo.

Fascinating story, at least if wikipedia is correct, about the origin of the song, Come Together. Excerpt:

The thing was created in the studio. It's gobbledygook; Come Together was an expression that Leary had come up with for his attempt at being president or whatever he wanted to be, and he asked me to write a campaign song. I tried and tried, but I couldn't come up with one. But I came up with this, Come Together, which would've been no good to him - you couldn't have a campaign song like that, right? 

In any case, the sentiment for LFC fans is the knowledge that after the dramatic victory over Dortmund on Thursday, the line-up was expected to be quite different. Will a mix of the "B" team with the "A" team be able to come together to compete with the one of the feel good stories of the EPL this year in the staying up of Bournemouth?


Update: 0-2 with goals by Firmino and Sturridge late in the first half.

In LFC team injury news, Can will be out the rest of the EPL season with injury.

On Friday, Anfield was the site of the 27th anniversary of the Hillsborough 96. Very recent Liverpool supporters may not know of the terrible tragedy of Hillsborough and the ongoing investigation to  The UK Guardian article explained: The 96 people who died, all Liverpool supporters, aged 10 to 67, were killed following a lethal crush on Hillsborough’s Leppings Lane terrace at the FA Cup semi final against Nottingham Forest, in which 400 more people were taken to hospital with crush-related injuries. The new inquests, ordered after the first was finally quashed in December 2012 following the families’ long campaign against the 1991 verdict, has lasted more than two years since it started on 1 April 2014, becoming by far the longest legal case heard by a jury in British history.
[......]
Aspinall [ed. note, his 18 year old son James died at Hillsborough] announced in February that this service would be the last to be held at Anfield, because the new inquests will be concluded this year. After the speeches and prayers by local clergy, family members released white doves from the Anfield pitch, in memory of the 96 people who died. Finally, the 22,000 people in attendance hoisted scarves aloft, and sang the Liverpool football club anthem, You’ll Never Walk Alone, in memory and tribute to the 96 people who went to watch their team 27 years ago, and never came home.

Here is an ESPNFC item about the Hillsborough remembrance.

Back to Bournemouth ...

73' Not much happening. Bouremouth has had more possession and threats as LFC tried to run out the clock. Toure has left the game with what appears to be a hamstring injury. Sakho has entered in his place.

75' Origi in for Firmino.

78' Lallana in for Ibe.

81' What a save by Ward!

92' Corner nearly scores for Bournemouth.

93' Bouremouth scores! 1-2.

94' Almost an equalizer for Bournemouth just over the net.

Final score 1-2. A vital road win for LFC's hope to move of up the table. In looking at the highlights, the two goals were terrific. Firmino got a goal off a rebound off a Sturridge back heel that he put on goal. Sturridge got a goal off a header. Sturridge hit the post on two great chances and could have had a hat trick. Team got a little shaky late as Bournemouth were pressing for goals and LFC just wanted to run the clock out.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Liverpool Klopp Episode 42 - Ghostbusters



"We came, we saw, we kicked its #$%!"

Big match up for LFC this Thursday in leg 2 against Dortmund in the Europa League!

Each side is hoping to be able to say those lines from Bill Murray after the match.

What line up will Klopp field?

The easy part: Mignolet, Clyne, Lovren, Sakho, Moreno
Defensive midfield: Can, Allen

The hard part is who is Klopp going to call for the final four spots! Will Klopp go "all in" with Origi and Sturridge up at the top and Coutinho and Lallana out wide?

Or will he hold Sturridge for later in the match and have Origi at the top flanked by Coutinho and Lallana and have Milner/Allen/Can patrol the midfield in a 4-3-3 formation?

I think Klopp will go for the latter.

Keeping an eye on the buildup over at the Echo. Here is the preview at This Is Anfield. Empire of the Kop reports on Klopp's remarks. The writer calls for the fans to show up in full voice:
"It’s a cliche, but it’s true: there really is nothing like Anfield on a European night. Klopp’s comments indicate that he wants the emotion of the crowd to help drag Liverpool to victory, and you can be sure Anfield, led by the Kop, will be willing. Dortmund’s atmosphere was something special, but despite having 25,000 less fans crammed inside, we can better it tomorrow – although as Klopp suggests – this’ll be much easier if we start at full pelt. Our opponents haven’t lost a match in 2016, but we outplayed them at Signal Iduna Park and will have the advantage of 43,000 Scousers screaming us on."



The Post-Game:
From the Echo, "Anfield folklore has a new, glorious tale and it's one that promises to be told through the ages. Liverpool marched triumphantly into the semi-finals of the Europa League after the most thrilling of triumphs over Borussia Dortmund. Even for a club famed for its dramatic European comebacks against the odds, this was something truly miraculous......"
From the UK Guardian, "Jürgen Klopp skipped from player to player like a giddy uncle at a wedding, Jordan Henderson bounded on to the pitch on crutches while Mamadou Sakho and Dejan Lovren, the central-defensive saviours, continued to punch the air as they exited 10 minutes after the final whistle. One of the great European comebacks, one of the great European ties and when it was all over Anfield was a scene of delirium, disbelief and, in the Borussia Dortmund corner, utter despair. Klopp’s Liverpool have their Istanbul moment. Where to begin ......"
From ESPNFC.com, "It cannot quite be called the blueprint for an era. The night was too ragged, the ride too wild and the nerves too frayed for that. But there are times when none of that matters at all, times when common sense bears little relevance. This was a visceral, emotional evening of raw energy. It was one that showed Anfield that heavy metal football can power through by sheer force of will. It was one that became a modern classic and ended with Jurgen Klopp -- a fist-pumping, thunderous presence on the touchline when Liverpool looked down and out -- walking from the pitch mopping his brow and mimicking a throbbing heart......"
From the BBC, "Liverpool staged one of the most dramatic comebacks Anfield has seen to overcome Borussia Dortmund in a classic and reach the Europa League semi-finals. Jurgen Klopp's side were twice left needing three goals to go through in the face of Dortmund's rapier attacks - but climbed the mountain twice with Dejan Lovren's injury-time header from James Milner's cross concluding a night packed with drama and emotion....."

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

It should have been a red card

Sundays match up between LA Galaxy and Portland Timbers ended as a 1-1 draw.

But the controversy is over the yellow card issued to De Jong for a dangerous tackle on Nagbe. Most commentators agree it should have been a red and De Jong should be severely sanctioned for the hit.

As an LA Galaxy fan, I can't defend what De Jong did. It was a red card.

Can only hope that Nagbe will be able to recover in time and regain form. He is one of the bright rising homegrown USA players and it would be a terrible shame if the long term prospects for his career are diminished by this injury.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Liverpool Klopp Episode 41: You Only Live Twice



Stoke is coming to Anfield. It is sure to be a struggle and likely low scoring. Kind of like a dogfight of helicopters? Okay, a big reach to the scene in the above 007 movie! Nonetheless, I'm enjoying this gimmick of tying the Liverpool story line to movies and Beatles songs.

Klopp and company will need to decide how much to prioritize the Europa Cup versus a final dash to climb up the EPL table. Henderson is out so Allen is in. Can is out due to yellow card accumulation suspension. So Lucas is likely in. But I see that Lucas is still listed on the injury chart. So maybe Milner might be pressed into defensive midfield duties. But Klopp indicated that Lucas and Stewart might get the call.

So possible line up:
Mignolet, goalkeeper
(4) Defense: Clyne, Lovren, Sakho, Moreno
(2) DM: Milner, Allen
(3) AM: Firmino, Ibe, Lallana
(1) Forward: Sturridge

I wonder if Flanagan and/or Smith might get to play in this match to give Clyne and Moreno a break. Other possibilities in the midfield are Ojo and Teixeira if Firmino and Lallana are to be rested for Dortmund.

Post-game:

Hah! And I thought it would be a low scoring struggle. But once every few games the LFC offense perks up and they get clinical and actually cash in the opportunities they have! A resounding 4-1 win over Stoke!

Goal #1 (8') was a wonder strike by Moreno from distance.

At 22' LFC surrendered .... you guessed it a goal from a free kick set piece.

Liverpool however was not to be denied, Goal #2 (32') Ojo put his defender in the popcorn machine and lofted a cross that Sturridge headed in for the goal.

Goal #3 at 50' Milner sends in the cross and Origi heads the ball into the goal!

Origi capped off the scoring with a wonder strike at 65' to claim goal #4.

Europa League leg 2 against Dortmund this week. Will we see Origi and Sturridge together at the top? Could this be the new dynamic duo to recall memories of that magic carpet ride in 2013-2014 when Sturridge and Suarez sliced up defenses?

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Liverpool Klopp Episode 40 - The Revenge of the Sith



Okay, Okay, the dialog was wooden but the fight scenes were fantastic!

Am not trying to make any claims that Liverpool is Obi-Wan and Dortmund is Anakin. It isn't such a good hat vs. bad hat kind of match in leg one of this Europa Cup match. Nonetheless, there is some real emotion to this contest as Klopp is "going home" to the club he previously coached. His time at Borussia Dortmund resulted in some huge successes (two Bundesliga titles and a runner-up finish in Champions League) for them before retiring from the club.

Poking around the web in the buildup to the match....
Injury report can be found here - looks like Benteke, Firmino, and Leiva remain unavailable for duty.
Five players (Coutinho, Firmino, Lovren, Moreno, and Clyne) are sitting on yellows and would be suspended a game if they pick up another.
Dortmund are on a roll in 2016 with no defeats and are probably favored to defeat LFC and win the Europa League Cup and perhaps even take the Bundesliga Title.

Build-up to the match:
Interesting little tidbit from LiverpoolFC.com is the feature piece that tells the story of how Dortmund has also adopted You Never Walk Alone as an anthem.
Excerpt:
"We are Dortmund boys and big Borussia fans, so I gave the recording of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' to our stadium speaker and he took this and said 'very nice, we'll try this'." From that moment on, the song went on to become a popular chant on the steps of the Yellow Wall - a stand which houses 25,000 BVB fanatics. "They [the supporters] knew it from Liverpool," Kartner continued.

In starting XI news, Origi gets the call along with the usual cast:
Starting XI:
Mignolet, Clyne, Lovren, Sakho, Moreno, Can, Henderson, Milner, Lallana, Coutinho, Origi.
Subs:
Ward, Toure, Firmino, Sturridge, Allen, Ibe, Smith.

Post-match:
Well done by Liverpool! They stole the lead late in the first half. Unfortunately, they surrendered the lead early in the second half on ..... wait for it ..... a set piece. Final score 1-1.
The bad news is that the injury that Henderson picked up will be a season ender for him. From the medical team, they think surgery won't be required but he will miss the rest of the EPL season while the LCL heals. He is also considered doubtful for Euro 2016.
Kloop's decision to use Origi is being hailed as a genius move.