Club Focus – Liverpool – Napoli trip ends in tragedy and relative triumph

Liverpool were held to a 0-0 draw against Napoli in the Europa League last night, but that was branded as a respectable result, particularly if you take into consideration the young team Roy Hodgson took to Italy. The Reds boss left out the likes of Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Raul Meireles in order to keep them fit for the upcoming Premier League clash against Blackburn Rovers. Instead, some fringe players had the chance to showcase their talents, with Martin Kelly, Jay Spearing and Jonjo Shelvey all performing reasonably well against their Italian opponents.

Unfortunately, the main talking point was not the football. Some Liverpool fans were tragically stabbed by gangs of Italian supporters in Naples ahead of the game. But other fans still managed to make it to the game, much to the delight of Roy Hodgson who praised their spirit.

Liverpool were defensively sound during the game and managed to keep an important clean sheet. Napoli may not be the biggest name in European football, however they do possess some excellent players such as Uruguayan forward Edinson Cavani and also the young, talented midfielder Marek Hamsik. Napoli had their chances, most notably one which saw Paul Konchesky clear a shot off the line. The Reds’ best moment came late on, when Milan Jovanovic went on a good run and picked out Ryan Babel, but the Dutchman was unable to convert.

Although a win would have lifted a tiny bit of pressure from Hodgson’s shoulders, a point away from home in Europe is a brilliant result for a struggling side. But, Liverpool have not tasted victory for a long time now and it appears that the new owners are lining up a replacement for Hodgson. Rumours are circulating that former Real Madrid boss Manuel Pellegrini has been approached by the Reds. Meanwhile, Frank Rijkaard has left his post as manager of Galatasaray and there is much speculation that Anfield will be his next destination. With his job seemingly slipping away – particularly after one of his backers in the boardroom, Christian Purslow, stepped down from his position as managing director – Hodgson will be desperate to win his next game and cling on for the time being.

The Reds face Blackburn at Anfield on Sunday in what really has to be a must win game for the Merseysiders. Liverpool have been appalling so far under the stewardship of Hodgson, but if the Englishman has any small hope of remaining in his job, he must surely lead the team to victory. Blackburn are no pushovers, but a Reds win is definitely possible, if the players pull their socks up and Hodgson’s tactics are correct.

The biggest talking point at Anfield has been regarding Fernando Torres. The Spaniard seems to be lacking confidence and desire at the minute and there has been talk of a possible move to Manchester United. Roy Hodgson did not fully dismiss any suggestions of a move but that particular switch does seem highly unlikely as the Manchester side are in a financial mess. However, the rumours will not go away and unless Liverpool start to climb up the table, Torres may well be off to another side in January, with both Manchester City and Chelsea increasingly interested in acquiring his services.

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