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Rickety Reds face precarious Pompey

Underperforming Liverpool travel to the south coast Saturday to take on a Portsmouth team that are struggling for survival in every sense of the word


YOU can’t win any trophies at Christmas time in the Premier League, but you can definitely fall out of contention for silverware. Liverpool are already out of the hunt for the title, and look in danger of missing out on their usual lucrative Champions League spot. They travel to Portsmouth in the early kickoff Saturday, who are themselves in serious danger of falling out of the league, with questions over whether they can actually pay their players wages.

Portsmouth’s Avram Grant has given stability to the squad, but the club still faces a fininacial crisis. AFP

Benitez is a man under severe pressure. With Villa, Spurs and Man City finally offering a stern challenge for fourth, can he keep his club out of murky waters and revitalise their season?

At the end of last season, Liverpool were scoring freely and playing adventurous football with confidence. Alonso’s departure is certainly not the sole reason for the Reds failings. Many of the players in the Anfield dressing room need to start deserving their high salaries.

Portsmouth have seemed to be playing pass-the-parcel with managers and chairmen over the last few years. Avram Grant appears to be steadying the club on the pitch slowly, but off it they could be another major casualty regarding foreign investment.

Steven Gerrard and Torres alone can’t rescue Liverpool. Captain Marvel has gone AWOL of late, epitomising Liverpool’s lack of confidence. Fratton Park is an ageing, compact ground, and if the Pompey faithful can stir up a storm, Benitez might experience yet another bad day at the office.

Dindane is the key for me. He’s certainly hit and miss, but he could just be the spark that gets Pompey another vital point.

Fulham’s Roy Hodgson is a wily old fox, and he likes nothing more than testing himself against the Sir Alex Fergusons of this world. You know the Cottagers will line up 4-4-2 and be compact and hard to break down.

United may have beaten a Wolves B team midweek, but after their home defeat to Villa last Saturday, Fergie will be expecting an improvement. Against Villa, he played Rooney up front on his own and paid the penalty. United fans are used to seeing attacking play, but Ferguson doesn’t seem to have enough confidence in Berbatov or Owen.

Rooney will likely be once again alone up top, and Sir Alex will look to win the battle with an extra man in midfield. The game should be tight, but I just fancy one of United’s star players to make the difference, and take all three points back up north to Manchester.

On Sunday, Chelsea travel across London to face a beleaguered West Ham, with the two clubs miles apart financially. West Ham have lost their prized asset Dean Ashton, who retired due to injury, and what decent players they have left seem available in the January sales. You can only feel sorry for the likeable Zola.

Chelsea have a fantastic record in this fixture of late, and I can only see it continuing. Drogba, for me, is the best striker in Europe right now. With the supply line coming from midfield, the Ivory Coast star looks likely terrorise a brittle Hammers defence. While West Ham fans may deserve an early Christmas present, they will probably have to wait another week as Ancelotti keeps his side at the top of the table.

Arsene Wenger is generally reluctant to get out the Arsenal checkbook, but it’s obvious they are short of a main striker since Van Persie has yet again found himself in the treatment room. Despite the Dutchman’s absence, the Gunners should have too much for a less than average Hull side.

Arsenal seem to want to walk the ball into the net at times, but against a shaky Tigers outfit, they may well be able to. Phil Brown’s side will be chasing shadows, and with Fabregas, Arshavin and Nasri orchestrating the play, this game could be over very quickly.

Sunderland previously seemed to be on the up, and capable of punching above their weight. A month down the line and mid-table seems their realistic target. They travel to Man City, who must win all their home games if they want to join the high flyers playing European football.

City are unbeaten at home, and they have too much in the tank going forward not to make the net bulge at Eastlands this weekend. Teves is looking sharper, and along with Adebayor, Robinho and the workman like Barry, this should be another three points to ease the pressure on Mark Hughes, for a little while longer.



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