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LIVER BIRD – MATCH PREVIEW: Liverpool V Blackburn

Image: telegraph.co.ukThe Reds welcome Blackburn to Anfield on Sunday evening as Brendan Rodgers aims to steer his side through to the semi-finals of the FA Cup. After being knocked out of the Europa League by Besiktas, this competition remains Liverpool’s only hope of silverware this season.The Reds will be unable to call upon Jordan Ibe for this fixture and the game may come just too soon for the likes of Steven Gerrard and Mamadou Sakho. For Blackburn they are unable to call upon Josh King who has a hamstring problem.The last time the two sides met was in April 2012.  The game was filled with goals as the Reds eventually won the tie 3-2.  Maxi Rodriguez and Andy Carroll were on the score sheet that day for Liverpool.Blackburn’s last trip to Anfield ended in a 1-1 draw with Charlie Adam gifting the visiting team an equaliser on that occasion.The last time Blackburn won at Anfield was actually in the FA Cup in 2000. Perhaps an omen for the weekend’s game. Nathan Blake scored the only goal that day with just five minutes left on the clock.This is actually the 10th occasion that Liverpool and Blackburn have been drawn as a pairing in the FA Cup. Here’s hoping for an exciting fixture! I’m not sure who Rodgers will end up starting but it would be nice to see Coutinho allowed to continue a great run of form and I would prefer to start with a striker but I suppose we’ll have to wait and see!Now, for today’s match preview I’m actually doing something quite different. Instead of the usual stat sandwich and general dribble from myself we have a brilliant Q&A with @annalouiseadams from www.90minutesmore.co.uk who is a massive Blackburn fan._______________________________________________________________________________Anna won best female blog at the 2013 football blogging awards and I would encourage you to go and check out her work! Blackburn are at the time of writing 11th in the table but where do you expect to see your side finish this season?Realistically, I think Rovers will finish 9th in the table this season, although I’m clinging on to the play-off dream, and hoping that we make it to sixth. I believe that on paper, we have a top six squad, but there’s no denying that we’ve been struggling recently.For fans reading who haven’t seen much of Blackburn this season, what is your current set up like? Gestede and Rhodes are both in double figures but how are you defensively?This is difficult to answer, as I believe that we’ve been playing differently in the FA Cup and the League. The FA Cup seems to bring out a more fearless style of attacking, perhaps aided by the likes of Chris Taylor and Josh King being given a chance which has led to them both getting on the scoresheets. Defensively we are struggling massively. I really rate Shane Duffy, but he’s recently undergone an operation for a knee injury he sustained in training, which leaves the club looking for cover. It’s the 20th anniversary of Blackburn’s famous Premier League title win under Kenny Dalglish at Anfield this year, do you ever see a time when Rovers can become supreme competitors again in the PL?To be a football fan of any club, I think you have to cling on to some sort of hope that your clubs history could be revived at some point, otherwise it would be difficult to keep supporting them through all the tough times. I think it will take a long, long time, and a lot of work, but I don’t see why Rovers can’t return to the Premier League and create an impact at some stage.What are your thoughts on manager Gary Bowyer? I recently wrote a blog for the Offside Rule Pod about my thoughts on Bowyer, but in a nutshell I believe he’s done a fantastic job at Rovers. When you look at the squad he inherited, combined with the state of the finances at the club, and the difficulties being a championship club poses – you can’t deny that he’s helped stabilise the club. Having said that, unfortunately I can’t see Bowyer being the man to take the club back to the Premier League. I wish that he could be – but I really feel that the club is crying out for an experienced championship manager, someone like Mick McCarthy perhaps.Blackburn have reached this stage of the FA Cup after wins over Charlton, Swansea and Stoke. Having already pushed aside Premier League opposition are you feeling confident going into this quarter final tie?We’ve had a wonderful cup run, and after the heartbreak of being knocked out in the quarter finals by Millwall two seasons ago, it would be superb to see us progress to Wembley. I would feel more confident if it had been a home draw. Liverpool are a very strong team, and can easily bang multiple goals in. It’s difficult to feel too confident ahead of such a massive game, especially when the pressure has increased given that it’s the quarter finals. On the other hand, it’s important to have faith in the time, and the away tickets sold out on the day they were issued which shows that the fans are behind the team.And what were your thoughts on the previous three FA Cup wins, were you happy with your performances or is there room for improvement?I was more than happy, certainly with the last two performances. Admittedly I didn’t see any coverage of the Charlton match, but against Swansea we were excellent, and the Stoke game, from what I’ve seen, was a thriller. We’ve played brilliant attacking football in all three fixtures, and had opposition red cards in each game. It’s been great to see players like Duffy, King and Taylor (players who don’t get as much playing time in the League) excelling in the FA Cup. We’ve played better in the Cup than we have in the Championship so I’d say any improvements that need to be made are within the League!In terms of Sunday’s fixture who should we be aware of, who would be your player to watch? If Josh King starts he poses a huge threat, he has unbelievable pace, and until the Stoke game I had questioned his end product – but he certainly proved me wrong. Tom Cairney is a marvellous midfielder too and should be watched carefully. Liverpool will also likely be aware of Rhodes and Gestede, given that both are such proven goal scorers.From Liverpool’s potential line up, who are you most concerned about?That’s a stinker of a question as I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about the majority of Liverpool’s potential line up. Having asked my 14 year old brother who he would pick, he has chosen Coutinho, aside from his ability to score screamers, I’m also told that he’s in the team of the week on FIFA and is going for £400k.The last meeting between our two sides was in April 2012, Andy Carroll scored a 90thminute winner for the Reds, do you expect to see any late drama on Sunday?I cried for about 30 minutes after that match, as it pretty much sealed our relegation fate in my opinion. It was a hugely dramatic game throughout, but the last minute winner by Carroll was a heartbreaking moment for us. I don’t doubt that there will be late drama, as we have a knack for conceding late on!In terms of recent clashes between the two sides, what would be your favourite of the bunch?I would say the Boxing Day game at Anfield of 2011. It ended 1-1 and was one of the extremely few highlights under Steve Kean’s tenure at the club. A Charlie Adam own goal was equalised by Maxi Rodriguez, but the highlight of the match was a super save by Mark Bunn to deny Andy Carroll a late winner.Mario Balotelli has been a bit of a headline maker at Liverpool and not necessarily for all the right reasons (it’s no secret here on The Liver Bird that I’m a bit obsessed with him). From a neutral point of view, would you have him in your team? When he’s being sensible he can be a great player, but Blackburn Rovers have experienced a turbulent few years, and we need players who are going to be responsible, reliable and not quite as risky as Balo. My heart would be in my mouth every time he played if he was at my club! And finally, what is your score prediction for the game?I am absolutely terrible at score predictions, but I’m going to go with either a 1-0 win to either team or a 0-0 draw for a replay at Ewood. Although I wouldn’t be surprised to see a five or six goal thriller. ________________________________________________________________________________I think it’s going to be an interesting game tomorrow. I don’t think we’re going to keep a clean sheet here but I believe we will be able to progress through to the semi finals. I don’t know about you lot but I’m well excited for this game!If I get chance to pop some bets on before the game I’ll almost certainly have a quid on Skrtel first goalscorer and probably some sort of Balotelli last goalscorer scorecast… (I can dream! haha). Follow me on Twitter to see where my money goes – @LFCKirstyLFCEnjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching!Like “The Liver Bird” on Facebook – www.facebook.com/TheLiverBirdsBlog

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Hodgson: England’s record is dismal, but we can prove the French wrong

England have come out fighting after a French journalist questioned the Three Lions’ status as a major football nation ahead of today’s Euro 2012 Group D opener with Les Bleus in Donetsk. Roy Hodgson will lead England into Euro 2012 (Picture: PA) England’s miserable record since winning the 1966 World Cup led one reporter to question whether they can still be considered a serious international power, drawing a stinging response from boss Roy Hodgson and his captain Steven Gerrard. Speaking of England’s World Cup win, Hodgson said: ‘You didn’t actually need to remind me. That has crossed my mind on one or two occasions. It’s a fact of life. ‘But I think before the very good French period [winning the World Cup in 1998 and Euro 2000] we could have levelled a similar accusation against them. As a top nation, we haven’t won as many tournaments as we should, or done as well as we should. ‘Of course we feel the weight of history. We all feel that weight and there’s nothing we can do to take it off our shoulders except make certain we  embrace the tournament, that we are not afraid of it and that we believe in ourselves.’ Skipper Gerrard was even more forthright in his rejection of the pointed enquiry. ‘Questions like that are more of a motivation,’ said the midfielder. ‘I don’t see them as something to react to or an accusation. ‘It comes more from not performing in tournaments. But three times we have been a penalty kick away from getting to the last four. ‘If we had done, people’s perceptions would have been a lot different. ‘I have belief in my team-mates. I see it in training, I see it week in, week out in the Premier League.’

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