Saturday, February 27, 2016

SACHIN NAKRANI ON CITY - LIVERPOOL

David White cracks his shot past Gary Ablett in 1991-92 at Maine Road
The Guardian's Sachin Nakrani, not afraid to nail his Liverpool colours to the mast in a job where there are plenty of people lining up to accuse journalists of perceived bias, answers some questions pre-League Cup Final. 

DTKS- What are your earliest memories of Liverpool v City? I bet it's of a stonking win. 

SN - I have a vague memory of a league game early on in the 1991/92 season. It stands out because, I think, it was the match in which Dean Saunders and Mark Wright made their debuts for Liverpool having arrived that summer from Derby County. Saunders was our record signing at £2.9m - yes kids, £2.9m - so him playing in a red shirt was an event. It was a midweek game and wasn't live on the telly. And I can't recollect the score. In my defence, I was 10 at the time. 

DTKS - Well, Sachin, we need few excuses to help you with the scoreline, as victories over Liverpool are as rare as hen's teeth. 2-1 to City on that occasion. Moving swiftly on, do Liverpool fans view the relationship the same as City's supporters do - ie that Liverpool have a strong, seemingly unbreakable 40 year hoodoo over the Blues (with the exception of the game you helpfully reminded us of and a paltry handful of others)?

SN - In my 27 years supporting Liverpool we have beaten City a fair bit. Largely that's because however poor we've been, City have been worse, no more so than in October 1995 when the Reds gave Alan Ball's Blues a 6-0 pasting at Anfield. What's slightly strange is that post-Mansour takeover, Liverpool have still managed to do rather well against City, especially at Anfield. So yes, there does seem to be some sort of hoodoo there, but given City's strength in depth and the impending arrival of Pep Guardiola, I'm sure they'll win in L4 sooner rather than later.

DTKS - Congrats on the highly deserved Guardian award the other night (Guardian Sport picked up the SJA website of the year, whilst Daniel Taylor was awarded the journalist of the year gong). The football and indeed sports writing of the whole team is always top notch and - almost always - without obvious bias, as it should be. At the same time, you nail your Liverpool colours quite happily to the mast, whilst some of your Guardian colleagues do not openly support a team. What's the balance in the office? We know of obvious Forest and Everton men, and a high suspicion that Jamie Jackson is a little fond of United, but what about the rest?

SN - On the editing/commissioning desk, where I mainly work, there's a real spread; couple of Liverpool supporters, an Evertonian, a Man United fan, as well as followers of Celtic, Plymouth, Barnet, Leicester, Tranmere, Hereford FC and West Ham. So the idea that we're all sitting around looking to be horrible to one club simply isn't true, as I'm sure is the case at other national newspapers. Yes, the mainstream media do focus heavily on the big clubs, but that's because they're the ones most readers are interested in. 

And yes, I am very open about who I support, but that's because I passionately feel just because somebody works as a football journalist that doesn't mean they should hide who they support, particularly if it doesn't impinge on their work, which I feel is the case with myself. And in regards to Jamie - he's not a United fan, honest!

DTKS - That'll take some time for certain people to digest. Klopmania: still in full swing or slightly stalled?

When Liverpool had a classy keeper. 1981 LC s/f
SN - Oh it's in full swing alright, with lots and lots of Reds still madly in love with the mad German. I've keen on him too but have never gone all giddy, partly because I actually want him to prove himself before I hail him as the Messiah. So far Klopp has done well - a 7/10 - and of course the pedigree is there to suggest he will be a success at Anfield. But it's a big old job and I think that's something the manager himself has realised in the four months since he arrived at the club. 

DTKS - What does he need to do to the squad in the summer when he gets his first chance to tinker?

SN - Buy a goalkeeper who can actually save shots and kick the ball properly. That's an absolute priority. A commanding centre half and a decent striker to replace Christian Benteke, who clearly has no future at Liverpool, would also be nice. 

DTKS - Where can the two sides hurt each other at the weekend?

SN - Red or Blue, shoot on target - this will undoubtedly lead to goals as both teams have terrible goalkeepers (on the basis Manuel Pellegrini sticks to his word and plays Willy Caballero). That aside, it's important Liverpool start quickly and confidently, press City back and take their chances - in other words, how they performed in the 4-1 win at the Etihad in November. It's obvious City don't like it when teams put pressure on them and this is something Liverpool have become increasingly good at under Jurgen Klopp. From City's point of view, attacking Alberto Moreno is a good idea as he has the ability to be utterly brainless at left-back. Oh and stick loads of crosses into the area, we hate that.

DTKS - Are you on duty or will you be raging in the stands with the rest of us?

SN - I'll be in the stands for what will be only my second time watching Liverpool at Wembley as a punter, with the previous occasion being last year's shocking FA Cup semi-final loss to Aston Villa. I'm rather excited, partly because I was raised near Wembley (in Kingsbury) so seeing my team play there alway feels like a really special occasion. I'll probably pop into my parents' afterwards for a brew.

DTKS - Liverpool are the record League Cup winners. What would it mean to win it again, as it is the "other trophies" that have constantly escaped the club and not this one so much? 

SN - It would mean a huge amount to win on Sunday - the club's first trophy in four years and Jurgen Klopp's first as manager. It would signal the start of a new era and give the players a real belief/confidence that they can achieve great things with the club. Losing wouldn't be a disaster given the quality of the opposition but, for the same reason, winning would be huge.

DTKS - Your prediction for the game's flow and outcome?


SN - I think Liverpool will start brightly and score first. City will definitely score themselves and then, hopefully, the Reds will go on to get a winner. It feels written that Daniel Sturridge will play a key role on Sunday, providing he's fit of course. I just hope there is no extra time as due to Sky Sports' typical meddling with the kick-off time, the match is starting much later than it normally would and there are lots of supporters from both sides who need to get back to the north. 

DTKS - Thanks for your time, Sachin. All the best ... against United in the Europa League.

You can follow Sachin on Twitter here and see regular input from him on the Guardian's excellent football pages here

Random fate-tempting City/Liverpool final image

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