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from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Liverpool’s midfield not as much to shout about

 

SOCCER-EUROPA/In the heady days of Istanbul and Athens when Liverpool fans considered anything less than a trip to the Champions League final a disappointing campaign, the Kop would regularly belt out: "We have the best midfield in the world."

It was the formidable midfield combination of Xabi Alonso, Steven Gerrard and later Javier Mascherano that spurred the Anfield faithful into song.

The ditty, sung to the tune of “The Entertainer” for those who were wondering, was unsurprisingly absent at St Andrew’s on Sunday when Liverpool clung on for a goalless draw against Birmingham.

The midfield quartet of Lucas Leiva, Christian Poulsen, Milan Jovanovic and Maxi Rodriguez could not by any stretch of the imagination be described as the best in the world and as the Reds toiled in the Midlands sunshine it soon became clear it wasn’t even the best one on the pitch.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Houllier should be perfect match for Villa

SOCCER-FRANCE/A tricky start to the season in which manager Martin O’Neill left before a ball was kicked, midfielder James Milner joined Manchester City and the club limped out of the Europa League, Aston Villa were in need of steady hands. Gerard Houllier should be just the man.

The 63-year-old Frenchman, who won five trophies with Liverpool and three French league titles, has swapped his job as technical director of the French Football Federation (FFF) for the Villa hot seat and brings a wealth of experience with him.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Toothless Liverpool losing touch already

Liverpool's current plight was laid bare on Monday when they were humbled 3-0 by Manchester City -- a result which left Roy Hodgson's side fourth bottom of the Premier League.

After just two games it would be churlish to suggest Liverpool will spend too long down in the bottom half of the table, but the feeling that the 18-times English champions are in danger of losing touch with the top four was inescapable.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Deja vu all over again? Soccer romantics will hope so

SOCCER-ENGLAND/FULHAM-HUGHES‘Plus ca change’ was the defining refrain of the Premier League’s opening weekend, but football fans tired of the established order will hope déjà vu is lurking round the corner for Manchester United and Chelsea.

Neither the champions nor the runners-up broke sweat as they strolled to opening victories that pointed ominously to another two-horse race for the Premier League title.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

What if “ludicrous” Premier League ends with same top four?

SOCCER-ENGLAND/We've had some knockabout fun in the Premier League this season, no question, but for all those eager for a change to the established order the table is taking on an all too familiar look.

Best Premier league season ever? It looked like we were heading that way, thanks to Liverpool's flabbergastingly bad form, United's post-Portuguese predicament, Chelsea's baffling inconsistency and Arsenal's eerie ability to conjure defeats and draws from matches they should have walked. William Hill even announced that the series of upsets involving the Big Four had helped them restore their profit margins at the expense of punters.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Liverpool have been here before, and a sacking may not be the answer

SOCCER-ENGLAND/CUP

"For 25 years Liverpool were Britain's most successful and consistent football club. For four of those years we were also the most successful club in Europe. No one has an automatic right to success but you can be sure we will all be doing everything in our power to achieve those levels again. We owe that both to our own supporters and our own history."

The above quotation* is from the statement released by then Liverpool chairman David Moores following the resignation of Graeme Souness in January, 1994 after an embarrassing defeat to a second division club in a third round FA Cup replay.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Score predictions come out of the freezer

BRITAIN/Last week's snow-show in all but three of the games means there's been very little movement on the scores front, at least here at Reuters Soccer Blog Towers.

Premier League grounds may be as sludgy as Dutch pea soup  but at least they're fit for purpose once more and as long as the thaw continues we should get a full programme again this weekend. About time too. Here are the weekend's games:

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

UPDATE: A New Year, a new chance to show your prediction skills

SOCCER-ENGLAND/CUPThe good news is, if you missed the midweek fixtures you've hardly been scathed, with one of the two games called off and the other a 3-2 thriller that no one predicted.

So let's start 2010 as we mean to go on with your predictions for the Premier League matches this weekend. Read on after the break for the rules if you're a newbie, and if not ... well, you know what to do.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

January sale shopping looks tricky for Premier League big four

I have my shopping list for the January sales but my need for a new desk-lamp is not as important as the requirements of the Premier League’s big four.

I’d say I could get my lamp quite cheap if I employ the Arsene Wenger technique of shopping around, making sure I get good value for money.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

UPDATE: Predicting the scores — round 12

TUESDAY UPDATE: Whatever you think about the penalty which gave Liverpool a 2-2 draw with Birmingham, it certainly made a difference to our prediction league.

Miles Evans got a full five points for correctly predicting that score while he was even more pleased that John Terry ignored some newspaper headlines and secured a 1-0 win for Chelsea over Manchester United.

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