Liverpool Season Guide
Nickname: The Reds or The Pool
Ground: Anfield, Anfield Road, Liverpool, L4 0TH
Ticket Office: 0870 220 2151 (credit cards); 0870 220 0034 (Champs. Lge); 0870 220 0056 (League Cup)
Home - All red with white trim
Away - Yellow shirts, black shorts and yellow socks
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Fan site - Kop Talk
Fan site - Red and White Kop
Fan site - LFC Online
|Last Season - Minimum requirement||Position: 4th|
The 3-0 derby win over Everton at Goodison Park and Gerrard Houllier's post match comments were probably the most memorable things about Liverpool's season. The Frenchman produced increasingly fantastic explanations as to why his team's form continued to falter and seemed to have a strange habit of always pointing out how many shots Liverpool had in any given match. The Red's title hopes were dead and buried by Christmas but out of the gloom stepped skipper Steven Gerrard, who dragged his club up the table to clinch the 'minimum requirement' of Champions League qualification. It wasn't enough to save Gerard Houllier's job and he was axed in the summer. Houllier had 'turned the corner' so many times many were suffering from dizzy spells, and the end was always in sight when he stormed out of a press conference at the end of the campaign.
|Transfers - In and Out|
Djibril Cisse (Auxerre) - £14million
Luis Garcia (Atletico) - £6million
Josemi (Malaga) - £2million
Xabi Alonso (Real Sociedad) - Undisc.
Antonio Nunez (Real Madrid) - Deal*
Michael Owen (Real Madrid) - £8m+*
Emile Heskey (Birmingham) - £6.25m
Danny Murphy (Charlton) - £2.5million
Markus Babbel (Stuttgart) - Free
Stephen Gillespie (Bristol C) - Free
Stephen Vaughan (Chester) - Free
Bruno Cheyrou (Marseille) - Loan
El Hadji Diouf (Bolton) - Loan
Anthony Le Tallec (St Etienne) - Loan
Gregory Vignal (Rangers) - Loan
|First Choice XI|
GK Jerzy Dudek, RB Jamie Carragher, CB Josemi, CB Sami Hyypia, LB John Arne Riise, RM Danny Murphy, CM Dietmar Hamann, CM Steven Gerrard, LM Harry Kewell; ST Milan Baros, ST Djibril Cisse.
|The Gaffer - Rafael Benitez|
'Rafa' started his coaching career with Real Madrid, working his way up from the juniors to become assistant to first team coach Vicente del Bosque. His first two solo outings as manager ended with him being quickly sacked. Benitez guided Extremadura to the Primera Liga before taking a year's sabbatical to study English and Italian football. He returned to coaching a new man and after guiding Tenerife to promotion he took over from Hector Cuper at Valencia, winning their first Primera Liga title in 31 years in his debut campaign in charge. In his final season Benitez lead Valencia to their first ever double, lifting both the Primera Liga and the UEFA Cup. He is now charged with the task of returning the league title to Anfield... what are the odds of him doing that in his first season?
|Player to Watch - Djibril Cisse|
Although Cisse cost approximately £10million less than the extravagant £24m that Chelsea paid for Didier Drogba, it was actually the former Auxerre man who proved himself the top scorer in Ligue 1 last season, with 26 goals. And although it was ousted Reds boss Gerard Houllier who signed Cisse, the 23-year-old striker has already impressed new manager Rafael Benitez with his goalscoring exploits during Liverpool's pre-season tour. So much so that Benitez has insisted he will no longer focus his team to suit Michael Owen, throwing down the gauntlet to Liverpool's other strikers. The dynamics at Liverpool have changed in Cisse's favour and the France international is perfectly poised to become a Kop favourite, if he can continues his two-time golden boot-winning Ligue 1 form in the Premiership. The former Under-21 star certainly has the pace to slot easily into the English game and his ability to finish from both inside and outside the box should keep defenders on their toes.
|Young Gun - Florent Sinama-Pongolle|
At 19-years-old, Sinama-Pongolle can still be considered to be one of the best prospects for France. The current Under-21 international set goalscoring records on his way through the French youth system and last year the striker made his tentative break through into the Liverpool first team. The pacy forward returned from a loan deal at Le Havre in 2002 to make 22 appearances for the Reds in 2003/04, scoring twice in the absence of Milan Baros and Michael Owen. New Anfield boss Rafael Benitez took the youngster on Liverpool's tour of the United States and after playing a full part in pre-season he looks set to continue his progress in the Premiership this term.
|From the Terraces|
Like a record stuck in the same groove for the last 14 years, the mantra from Liverpool fans will be "we expect a challenge for the title". Can our new manager Rafa Benitez deliver this? Hopes are cautiously high of a major improvement on last year's sterile style of play and mediocre results.
Benitez's Valencia were regarded as one the most impressive teams to have visited Anfield in the last 15 years. They played accurate possession football, worked hard and closed down with a voracious appetite, and then attacked with speed and precision. If Benitez can instill some of these qualities into the current squad then the vast chasm represented by last season's 30 point gap to Arsenal can be substantially bridged.
The arrival of the exciting Cisse, the blossoming of Baros in Portugal, coupled with Owen's experience and Pongolle's youthful exuberance leave us with a strike force that's the envy of many. However two areas of the team cause concern. A lack of pace in central defence has been exploited by opposition teams time and again; and attacking midfield options look threadbare. If Rafa can address these two areas before the transfer window closes, whilst bringing his ideas and style of football to bear on the squad, we should be capable of a far stronger performance in the Premier League and a run in the Champions League that could surprise many neutrals.
Stephen Warnock - the 22 year old Scouser could feature strongly after returning from a year long loan at Coventry City, where he was voted Player of the Season. Equally adept at left fullback or left midfield, he's a combative player who's also comfortable on the ball. His early career was marred by twice breaking his leg, but Warnock showed his character to recover and put in a series of impressive displays for the reserves before being sent on loan first to Bradford then Coventry. His ability to play in both positions on the left should ensure a number of appearances over the coming season.
Stephen Davies, Editor, Red and White Kop
|Best - 4th||Worst - 5th|
With a new manager at the helm Liverpool fans can look forward to the season with renewed optimism and intrigue, but a repeat of their fourth placed finish is all they can realistically expect. However, Anfield will look for the Reds to close the points differential between themselves and the top three - distancing the Reds from recent equals Newcastle United. Liverpool could cause a surprise in Europe given Rafael Benitez's pedigree in the UEFA Cup and Champions League and a good run in the latter competition could really give the club a boost.