Ibrahim’s Review of 2016

I’m back! My first blog post of 2016! Let’s do the Sturridge…

Liverpool FC striker Daniel Sturridge is in the groove

Wait… what? Oh yes… I haven’t blogged all year. Oops. Sorry everyone. My ONLY blog post of 2016.

Technically that isn’t true though, I did write one blog post this year. It just wasn’t published on my website. More on that later…

I’ve got to say, 2016 has not been easy for me. It’s been a difficult year but on reflection there have been some great highlights to share, and I am determined to make my eighth review a positive one. It was a bright start to the year with the news that I had been shortlisted under the Services to Media category for the British Muslim Awards 2016. The awards ceremony took place on a cold evening in Birmingham where I lost out to BBC Asian Network presenter Noreen Khan, but I was up against many tough opponents in my category. Excuse the footballing analogy but it was like being a newly-promoted team in the Premier League for the first time, and you’re just happy to be there knowing you’re probably going to get relegated anyway… or somehow you’ll find a way to stay up! Analogies aside, that night in January was a memorable occasion and it was an honour to even have been shortlisted under this fiercely contested category. Well done Noreen for claiming the award, you fully deserved it!

Ibrahim with BBC Asian Network presenter and award-winner Noreen Khan

A month later, I left my presenting role at Cambridge 105 to join LB24tv, an online British Bangladeshi TV network based in East London. From February to September, I presented Youth Corner – a web series chat show for the youth. The aims of the programme were to showcase the achievements of emerging talent, providing a platform for guests to share their experiences and inspiring stories, and discuss topics that are important to them. It was great to gain TV presenting experience but I particularly enjoyed meeting guests and getting to know them. It felt rewarding to introduce fresh new faces and offer them a platform, considering how the majority of Bangladeshi media outlets I’ve come across, seem to frequently promote the same people and do not provide other hard-working and talented individuals a chance. Many thanks to Abu Ali, Cháyya Syal, Mizan RahmanShuhel Ahmed, Amira HaqueSafwaan ChoudhuryHalima Khanom, Uzma Chaudhry, Carl Francis, Mohima Ahmed, Sharmin Yousuf, and Sayful Alam for all being part of the show! Special thanks to the LB24tv production team for giving me the opportunity to present the show too!

Ibrahim presents the chat show web series “Youth Corner” for LB24tv
The guests (top-left to bottom-right): Abu Ali, Cháyya Syal, Mizan Rahman, Shuhel Ahmed; Amira Haque, Safwaan Choudhury, Halima Khanom, Uzma Chaudhry; Carl Francis, Mohima Ahmed, Sharmin Yousuf, Sayful Alam

My experiences with presenting Youth Corner inspired me to publish my first-ever article as a blogger for the Huffington Post in October, focusing on my utilisation of digital media to engage and empower the youth within the British Bangladeshi community. Massive thanks to Abu Ali, Amira Haque and Shuhel Ahmed for your valuable contributions!

I left LB24tv in September to undertake a TV production course every Saturday at the Cambridge TV School for nine weeks. It was fantastic! What impressed me the most about the course was how much of the work was practical. It was very much hands-on. From the very beginning we were testing out the TV cameras, filming at various locations in Cambridge, presenting and interviewing contributors in the Cambridge TV studio, and editing our captured video footage. I did a fair amount of presenting over those two months as well – the autocue was great fun to mess around with! It was a real pleasure to work with so many awesome people throughout the course, and I would like to thank everyone involved (staff and students) at the school for their amazing support and enthusiasm. I hope we get opportunities to collaborate again soon and I wish you all the best with your future endeavours!

Ibrahim presents “Behind the Brush” for Cambridge TV, a show that explores the work of Cambridge artists

I also managed to sandwich a TV appearance on The Daily Show with Joseph & Salma, a magazine lifestyle series chat show hosted by Joseph and Salma Hayat, on British Muslim TV (Sky 845). In November, I joined the couple in their fancy-looking studio by the London Docklands to talk about how I was engaging and empowering the youth through my work using digital media, drawing some parallels to what I wrote in my blog for the Huffington Post. Thank you Joseph and Salma for having me on your show! That round table changes colour by the way. Thought it was pretty cool…

Ibrahim appears on British Muslim TV’s “The Daily Show with Joseph and Salma”

And finally, I found out almost a couple of weeks ago that I had been shortlisted as a finalist in the Services to Creativity and Technology category at the British Muslim Awards 2017! The awards ceremony will take place next month at the Athena in Leicester. Yes, Leicester – the home of the 2015/16 Premier League Champions. Unbelievable, but what an achievement. Anyway, next year looks like it’s already off to a good start…

Oh yes, what’s happening with Ramadan Roundup? I’ve had a lot to do recently and as you can see, there hasn’t been a new episode in the series since 2014. The timing just hasn’t been right for me yet, but let’s see what happens next year. As it stands, I do believe there is at least one more episode to produce. It’s just a matter of making time. As my filmmaking friend Shuhel Ahmed will tell you, even work on his upcoming superhero comedy web series Classified Freaks has stalled in recent months, but I’m sure it will be worth the wait. I’m really looking forward to watching it!

And that’s pretty much it for this year. I leave you with an inspirational quote from Mufti Ismail Menk…

“The road of life doesn’t allow you to travel backwards. Keep going. There’s a reason for everything. You may not see it now; just trust!”

As always, thank you all so much for your support and kindness, and for following my adventures in 2016. I hope things look up for us in 2017. Best wishes to you all.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Ibrahim’s Review of 2014

It’s that time of year again. The time when I turn around 180 degrees clockwise or anti-clockwise and immerse myself with flashbacks. Whoa, that was bright! Oh, that was just me being dazzled by a car’s headlights. How can I be looking at a car’s headlights when I am supposed to be looking at my computer and focusing on this annual review? We’ll never know. Or maybe you will. It could just be one of life’s mysteries. Anyway, I digress.

Welcome to my sixth annual review. As always, another eventful year has found itself arrive and depart through the revolving doors of time. Is it me or am I starting to become poetic? No, I’m serious. Tweet me about it. Use an appropriate hashtag if you like. Be nice though. Let’s rewind the last twelve months…

Ibrahim visits Anfield for the first time
Ibrahim visits Anfield for the first time

I have travelled to quite a few places this year, and January witnessed my first trip to Anfield. After winning free tickets in a competition, I went to visit the home of my favourite football team – Liverpool FC. The result was a disappointing 2-2 draw with Aston Villa but watching from the stands was a memorable experience! I visited Anfield again three months later to watch the “Celebration of the 96” charity match. Another 2-2 draw!

Ibrahim visits the Emirates Stadium
Ibrahim visits the Emirates Stadium

In February, lightning struck twice. My brother Imran ALSO won free tickets to watch Arsenal play Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored twice as the Gunners sealed a comfortable 2-0 victory over their London rivals. It was a different kind of experience to the one I had at Anfield, but enjoyable nonetheless. The inside of the stadium was visually impressive and we had a nice view from the stands. Overall, it was an enjoyable visit and the match was decent. Let’s hope Imran wins tickets again!

Ibrahim speaks on-stage at the Maa Amar Maa Awards
Ibrahim speaks on-stage at this year’s Maa Amar Maa Awards

In March, I attended the Maa Amar Maa Awards in London – an awards ceremony hosted by Pillar Productions to honour British Bangladeshi mothers in the UK. My mother won the Mother of the Year award! I was also invited on stage to say a few words which was quite nerve-wracking, but good practice for my public speaking skills. I met old and new faces but at the end of the day, it was a wonderful and joyous occasion. Definitely one of the highlights of the year!

Ibrahim in the BBC Asian Network studio with Shahida Rahman and Dilara Khan
Ibrahim in the BBC Asian Network studio with Shahida Rahman and Dilara Khan

Some days after the event, we were both invited for a live interview on BBC Asian Network. In an exciting and lively exchange of words with presenter Nadia Ali, I was asked about why I nominated my mother for an award. We also participated in a fun “Mother v Son” quiz! We were interviewed alongside Dilara Khan, the CEO of Pillar Productions and producer of Maa Amar Maa. Once again, another memorable day!

The Second Yellow
The Second Yellow

Welcome to May. I teamed up with Abu Ali to form The Second Yellow, a joint venture with the aim of delivering and discussing some of the biggest stories in football through writing articles and producing a podcast series. We have produced two episodes so far but are hoping for greater things in the new year. Watch this space!

Ramadan Roundup 4
Ramadan Roundup 4

I spent the next couple of months preparing for Ramadan Roundup 4. Raza Amode and Ubaid Sajid returned for this year’s instalment, after previously appearing in Ramadan Roundup 2. We also welcomed many new faces including Nadia Ali from BBC Asian Network! Cambridge locals Moghees Darr, Amira Haque and Ayat Rasool also made their first on-screen appearances in the series, and Uzma Chaudhry silenced the doubters by providing her voice all the way from Manchester for the opening scene. I should visit Manchester one day, it sounds like a nice place! It was a big cast this year and I am really grateful to everyone for being part of it! THANK YOU!

Ibrahim at Inspire FM
Ibrahim talked about the Ramadan Roundup series at Inspire FM

Throughout July, Ramadan Roundup gained a fair amount of media exposure through Inspire FM, a community radio station in Luton. I talked about the series as a live guest and “co-host” on the Urban Kube Show, presented by Shemiza Rashid. The series also got a mention in Weekly Desh, a bilingual British Bangladeshi weekly newspaper distributed around the UK. A North American-based online magazine called The Aerogram also published their series review. Thank you to all for your coverage!

In August, I reported for BBC Radio Cambridgeshire to cover the Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations in Cambridge. My Ramadan reports from last year were also repeated again on the Sunday Breakfast show.

September came along and I joined local community radio station Cambridge 105 as a reporter. My first report appeared on 105 Drive with Julian Clover, after attending the “Question Cambridge” event and I interviewed Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge, about his thoughts on the city’s transportation infrastructure and encouraging more people to get into entrepreneurship. Listen to the report here.

Ibrahim and Nadia Ali on BBC Asian Network
Ibrahim and Nadia Ali on BBC Asian Network

I also worked for a month as a trainee assistant producer at BBC Asian Network on Nadia Ali‘s show. I had an amazing time! I recorded, edited and uploaded short video clips onto the BBC Asian Network Facebook page and had some fun posting and reading tweets! I also had the privilege of meeting Nurun Ahmed, a contestant from the tenth series of The Apprentice.

Ibrahim with Nurun Ahmed, contestant on the tenth series of "The Apprentice"
Ibrahim with Nurun Ahmed, contestant on the tenth series of “The Apprentice”

I recorded an awesome Apprentice-style video with Nadia performing as Sir Alan Sugar, who was analysing a comical pitch from Nurun. The video reached out to over 25,000 people within 7 days! I really enjoyed the experience and definitely would love to return again!

And then it was November. I attended the British Bangladeshi Who’s Who 2014 publication launch and awards ceremony at Alexandra Palace, London. I was listed in this year’s publication, recognising my work as a reporter, filmmaker, web designer and developer. I was also told that I am the youngest ever entrant to be listed in the book!

Finally, we reach December. I returned to Cambridge 105 to report from this year’s Mill Road Winter Fair. As the Fair returned for its tenth year, the Cambridge Mosque on Mawson Road also held its annual open day. I went to find out what was happening and then I went off to interview local stallholders. My two reports also featured in their podcast. All in all, another enjoyable day!

2014 has been an amazing year for me. There have been some challenging and difficult moments at times, but the tremendous support I have received from so many of you really helped me to keep going. Here is a quote I found a couple of days ago from Mufti Ismail Menk:

“Don’t forget those who have helped you along the way. Meet them; give them a call. We can never show too much appreciation to those who matter.”

I cannot thank you all enough, I am so grateful for all your support and generosity. May you all be immensely rewarded for your efforts. I had the pleasure of meeting so many wonderful people this year and I hope 2015 will be a great year for everyone. I hope you have enjoyed following my adventures this year – let’s create some new ones together.

I wish you all the best for the year ahead. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

P.S. There’s a new web series on the horizon…

Rahman Red Reflection: Liverpool Triumph in Marathon Penalty Shootout

Liverpool won a dramatic penalty shootout 14-13 against Championship outfit Middlesbrough to reach the fourth round of the League Cup.

The Reds took the lead after ten minutes through 17-year-old debutant Jordan Rossiter, but the away side equalised when Adam Reach headed in just after the hour mark. In extra time, Suso came off the bench for Liverpool to slam home with 11 minutes remaining but Middlesbrough’s Patrick Bamford stunned Anfield with a last-gasp spot-kick to force a penalty shootout.

Simon Mignolet pushed out the away side’s first penalty from Bamford but Raheem Sterling failed to score Liverpool’s fifth, confirming sudden death in the shootout. Twenty penalties were all scored in a row as each player from both clubs, including the goalkeepers, demonstrated fantastic courage and showed nerves of steel. The match finally reached its conclusion when Boro winger Albert Adomah missed the target – Anfield roared with relief and celebrated a memorable victory.

Middlesbrough certainly deserve massive credit for pushing Liverpool all the way in this cup tie. There is still plenty for Rodgers to worry about and he must have been relieved to see his side progress to the fourth round of the League Cup.

Overall, performances this season have generally been poor (except for the display at Tottenham Hotspur) but worryingly and most importantly, the league results have been unsatisfactory. The Merseyside derby is fast approaching and both Liverpool and Everton have struggled in the league so far, but Brendan Rodgers and Roberto Martinez will view this game as a great platform to reignite themselves as they aim to climb the table.

Rahman Red Reflection: Impressive Irons Hammer Lacklustre Liverpool

Liverpool were well beaten by a powerful West Ham United, inflicting a third defeat in five league games on Brendan Rodgers’ side.

The Reds failed to cope with their opponents’ fast start, scoring twice through Winston Reid and Diafra Sakho in the opening seven minutes. Liverpool halved the deficit through Raheem Sterling who lashed in the rebound for his third goal of the season, after Mario Balotelli’s attempt had initially been blocked. The Reds pressed hard in search of an equaliser, only to be continually thwarted by Hammers keeper Adrian but this left them vulnerable to the counter attack and their misery was soon complete. Morgan Amalfitano jumped off the bench to apply a late clinical finish and secure West Ham’s first home win this season.

It was a dreadful display from Liverpool. They never looked settled and West Ham exploited their weaknesses. Looking at the defence, there is a serious lack of organisation and leadership. Dejan Lovren has had a shaky start to life at Anfield and Mamadou Sakho has also struggled in recent games. Alberto Moreno and Javier Manquillo have been hit and miss so far. These defensive frailties, however, are not new and you only need to look at last season to see the number of goals they conceded. Too many.

Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge were so important in the previous campaign but there is little point saying Liverpool are missing the Uruguayan. First of all, it’s obvious that any team would miss someone with his qualities. Secondly, he is still banned so he wouldn’t have played anyway. The bottom line is he no longer plays for Liverpool. Focus on the players who are actually in the squad. Move on.

Sturridge’s absence is clearly hurting Liverpool at the moment and he should be returning very soon. I hope he can hit the ground running straight away as Mario Balotelli, Fabio Borini and Rickie Lambert have yet to score in the league.

They are also really missing Joe Allen, a player who is accomplished with the ball at his feet but works very hard to reclaim possession for his team. Liverpool are missing his tenacity, energy and excellent workrate.

The Reds are lacking that spark at the moment and hopefully Sturridge’s comeback will reignite their attack. It’s still early days but three losses in their first five league games is worrying. Liverpool face Middlesbrough in the 3rd round of the Capital One Cup at Anfield and it seems inevitable that Rodgers will make plenty of changes, but I hope he fields a strong starting eleven as they need to return to winning ways quickly.

The Merseyside derby is not far away…

Rahman Red Reflection: Ludogorets Lacerated by Last-gasp Liverpool

Last night, Liverpool returned to Europe’s greatest club competition and kicked off their Champions League adventure with a late, hard-fought victory over Bulgarian champions Ludogorets Razgrad.

The Reds finally made the breakthrough in the 82nd minute through Mario Balotelli – his first goal for the club. Holding off two defenders, he brilliantly steered the ball into the net with the outside of his right foot. Dani Abalo looked to have snatched a point in the last minute for Ludogorets after rounding Simon Mignolet. However in the second minute of stoppage time, the visiting goalkeeper Milan Borjan failed to control the ball in his 18-yard box and conceded a penalty for fouling Liverpool right-back Javier Manquillo. Steven Gerrard assumed his spot-kick duties and calmly placed his penalty into the bottom-right corner to give the Reds a winning start to their European campaign.

I was particularly impressed with the full-backs – Alberto Moreno and Javier Manquillo were excellent. Moreno’s brilliant left-wing cross enabled Balotelli to open his Liverpool goalscoring account. Manquillo was in an advanced position very late into the game and ultimately won the crucial penalty that secured all three points for the Reds.

Obviously, Mario Balotelli deserves credit for his goal. It looked like it was going to be another frustrating game for the Italian but when given the chance, he took the opportunity with aplomb. Balotelli is off the mark and that goal will give him confidence. I thought he wasn’t in the box more frequently enough as he was usually found hovering outside the area to collect and hold up the ball, but playing as the lone striker probably didn’t help his cause either as he was often left isolated. When Fabio Borini was brought off the bench, this helped to improve Liverpool’s shape and eventually led to them winning the game (although I do feel the Reds were very fortunate and have the Ludogorets keeper to thank for that) and must improve if they are to progress this season.

Brendan Rodgers should continue to deploy the 4-4-2 diamond formation and I believe that this would allow Mario Balotelli to flourish – he would receive support from a fellow striker and from the midfield, particularly if Raheem Sterling is positioned at the tip of the diamond.

In summary, it wasn’t the best Liverpool performance by any means. However, they showed character and resilience to win a game that they could easily have drawn or even lost. That in itself is a positive, considering the poor performance last weekend against Aston Villa. The most important aspect of this game was the result but Rodgers and his players know that greater tests lie ahead in their Champions League quest.

Next up. Basel.

Rahman Red Reflection: Vivacious Villa Emerge Victorious

Gabriel Agbonlahor’s ninth-minute strike for Aston Villa was enough to punish a lifeless Liverpool and secure three well-deserved points for the visitors.

Brendan Rodgers was forced to reshuffle his pack as Daniel Sturridge, Joe Allen and Emre Can were confined to the sidelines after picking up injuries during international duty, handing Anfield debuts to Adam Lallana, Mario Balotelli, Lazar Markovic and Alberto Moreno. The Reds fell behind after failing to deal with a corner, allowing Villa striker Agbonlahor to prod the ball in from close range. Liverpool continued to show nervousness from set pieces and could easily have conceded more goals. As the match wore on, Liverpool dominated possession but the away side were rarely troubled. Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan was hardly tested as Rodgers’ side mustered eighteen shots in total – with only one shot on target.

Daniel Sturridge’s absence was clearly felt in this game. He is a peripheral figure for Liverpool and they need him to return to fitness as soon as possible. I was also surprised that Raheem Sterling was on the bench – Rodgers was clearly looking towards Tuesday’s Champions League group match against Ludogorets Razgrad. I wouldn’t want to place so much pressure on his young shoulders as he is only 19 but I would have started him for this match, especially as our recent record at home against Aston Villa has been poor. Did he not get enough time to rest after returning from international duty? When I saw Rodgers’ team selection, I initially thought that Sterling could come on later in the game and make a positive impact but sadly for Liverpool, this did not happen on this occasion.

Adam Lallana made his first appearance of the season and I thought he played relatively well. He was replaced on the hour mark and was lacking match sharpness, but he showed glimpses of his qualities and a sign of things to come. The former Southampton skipper needs a good run of games and hopefully it will not be long until Liverpool see the types of displays that led to his acquisition from the south coast.

Mario Balotelli struggled to make an impact and was on the receiving end of some rough treatment from the opposing defenders. It was a difficult game for the Italian but he was good at holding the ball up and spreading the play to the wide players. Balotelli created a good chance for Lallana – his low drive from distance flashing just wide of Guzan’s near post.

Overall, it was a poor Liverpool performance but Aston Villa deserve great credit for their victory. Paul Lambert’s side were organised, stubborn, disciplined and had frustrated the Reds on a disappointing evening at Anfield.

Bring on the Champions League!

Rahman Red Reflection: Moreno of the Same Please?

Last Sunday, Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool returned to winning ways with an impressive 3-0 away win over Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur. Mario Balotelli produced a lively display on his Reds debut, presented with excellent chances but unable to convert them into goals. However, his inaccuracies were insignificant as Liverpool delivered another brilliant attacking display at White Hart Lane.

The Reds gained an early lead when Raheem Sterling slotted in at the far post – Daniel Sturridge identified Jordan Henderson’s clever forward burst, who unselfishly squared across the face of the goal for the 19-year-old to steer past Hugo Lloris. Spurs right-back Eric Dier conceded a spot-kick for tugging back Joe Allen, with Steven Gerrard confidently burying his penalty after 49 minutes. The home side’s demise was confirmed at the hour mark as Liverpool’s Alberto Moreno dispossessed Andros Townsend, before charging forward into space at blistering speed and then firing a low shot into the far corner to secure the points.

It was a brilliant performance from the Reds, reminiscent of the types of displays that Liverpool frequently showed throughout last season. Balotelli had a good debut despite failing to open his goalscoring account but as his fitness and understanding of the team’s playing style improves with time, one can only think he will make progress. £16m to secure his services was an excellent piece of business – time will tell if he is a success at Anfield and Balotelli knows that he needs to make the most of this opportunity.

I was particularly pleased with Alberto Moreno. He received a lot of criticism for his inability to prevent Manchester City’s opener at the Etihad, but he responded in superb fashion against Spurs. Defensively he was solid but the highlight has to be his stunning solo goal. Signed for £12m from Sevilla and only 22 years of age, he can only get better. Still a long way to go of course, but Moreno looks like he will be a vital player if he continues to burst down the wings and provides another dimension to Liverpool’s attacking play. Most importantly, he is a full-back so he must carry out his defensive duties too as this is an area that Liverpool must improve on, after their back-line frailties were exposed in the last campaign.

Last but not least, we have Raheem Sterling, who was just exceptional. Liverpool have such a talented young player in their hands and he is so good to watch. I remember my first visit to Anfield when I watched Liverpool draw 2-2 with Aston Villa. A game that most Liverpool supporters would probably want to forget but when I watched Sterling on the ball, he looked a player who could really make things happen. He would get you out of your seat. He was unpredictable – you didn’t know if he would cut inside or go round the outside. He was a serious threat against Spurs, playing in a more central role and constantly striking fear into the opposition with his pace and direct running. Many will have loved the moment when he was dancing into the penalty area, beating players as if they weren’t even there… until you get to the part where he weakly prodded the ball straight into the grasp of Hugo Lloris. What a moment that could have been…

It has been a decent start in the league for Liverpool so far. 2 wins out of 3 is respectable, especially when the defeat at Manchester City is also taken into account. As mentioned before, there is a still a long way to go and Rodgers’ side will be closely examined as the sesason progresses. It certainly is a massive season for him and the club.

Rahman Red Reflection: Clinical City Rifle the Reds

Liverpool suffered their first defeat of the season as Stevan Jovetic and Sergio Aguero inspired Manchester City to a comfortable 3-1 victory at the Etihad Stadium.

For much of the first half, Liverpool looked comfortable in possession and were rarely troubled. For 40 minutes, Manchester City were yet to register a shot on target, until a defensive lapse in the 18-yard box allowed Jovetic to pounce and blast his powerful strike through the legs of the despairing Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. Ten minutes into the second half, Jovetic doubled his tally with a wonderful team goal that was initiated and dispatched by the Montenegro striker. Sergio Aguero was introduced midway through the second half and within seconds, he dashed onto an excellent pass from Jesus Navas, finishing from a tight angle to all but end the contest. Liverpool secured a consolation after Rickie Lambert attacked a Daniel Sturridge cross and pressured Pablo Zabaleta to turn the ball into his own net.

Before Jovetic scored, I thought Liverpool played well in the first half. They had plenty of the ball and it looked like they would be going in level at half-time. Alberto Moreno made his debut and it was a difficult place to make an immediate impression. Unfortunately for him, he will be scrutinised for his error that led to Manchester City’s first goal. Moreno is 22 and can only get better. The home side were clinical in taking their chances and ultimately deserved the three points.

However, I am still concerned about the defence. Rodgers must address this as first priority. Liverpool conceded far too many goals last season and many have argued that this was the main reason why they failed to win the Premier League title. It will take time for Liverpool’s new signings to settle in and adapt to Brendan Rodgers’ philosophy. Mario Balotelli should be available for Sunday’s visit to White Hart Lane and hopefully Liverpool can return to winning ways as soon as possible.

At such an early stage of this season, I would not be too alarmed at this result as there is still a very long way to go. Rodgers must know that the defence needs to improve and hopefully they will work on this on the training ground. The new signings will understandably need time to gel and adjust to the high intensity of English football. Manchester City had the best home record in the league last season and I would not be surprised if Manuel Pellegrini’s side achieved this feat again. They have a fantastic squad – for a manager to be able to bring on a player like Aguero demonstrates their superior strength in depth and can only reaffirm the fact that they are one of the favourites to claim the title this season.

It’s still very early days and we shall see what happens…

Rahman Red Reflection: Southampton, Suarez and the (New) SAS

Liverpool started the 2014/15 season with an unconvincing 2-1 victory over Southampton at Anfield. It was a nervous encounter for the home side, as new Saints manager Ronald Koeman set out his team to frustrate the opposition and in doing so, they played very well and created some excellent goalscoring opportunities. The sheer delight on the face of Brendan Rodgers was clear for all to see when Daniel Sturridge swept in the winning goal, taking advantage of a knock-on from man-of-the-match Raheem Sterling, who also got his name on the scoresheet today with a neat finish in front of the Kop.

Sterling and Sturridge. The new SAS? Sounds exciting. Martin Skrtel chipped in a few times last season. We had a case of SASAS against Arsenal. If only El Pistolero was still here…

I was very disappointed that Luis Suarez left for Barcelona, especially the manner in how he made his departure, but I do believe the club was right to sell him. He is a really special talent and he will definitely be missed at Anfield, but the club has to move on and they will.

Is it impossible to replace Suarez? It is very difficult to name another player in the world who possesses similar qualities. The likes of Messi, Ronaldo and Bale spring to mind, but that is another debate entirely and it would be a dream if one of them became a Liverpool player! Tottenham Hotspur sold Gareth Bale for £85.3 million but failed to achieve their aim of securing a top-four finish, with Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood heading in and out through the revolving doors of White Hart Lane last season. The majority of the players they signed had struggled to make an impact and it will be interesting to see if their new manager Mauricio Pochettino can get the best out of his squad.

Liverpool sold Suarez for around £75 million and Rodgers has recruited the services of Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Emre Can, Lazar Markovic, Dejan Lovren, Divock Origi and Alberto Moreno. Javier Manquillo has also joined the club for two seasons on loan. I think they are all good acquisitions and time will tell if Rodgers has signed the right players for Liverpool to challenge for honours, but a quality striker is a requirement to support Sturridge.

To conclude, Liverpool should be encouraged by the fact they were able to kick off their Premier League campaign with a win despite a below-par performance. There is still a very long way to go and hopefully the displays will get better as the new signings adjust to life at Anfield, but the Reds visit Manchester City next week. A big game for both sides, but far from season-defining…

Suarez and Sturridge: The Red Connection

Red hot: Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez celebrate in the 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace
Red hot: Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez celebrate in the 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace

“I am not sure there are two better in the league. Those two are right up there with the best in the country…”

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was full of praise for his strike duo last Sunday, as they played a vital role in beating managerless Sunderland 3-1 at the Stadium of Light. Few would be surprised to hear his words being echoed again, as Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge inspired the Reds to a 3-1 win over Crystal Palace. Before studying the duo’s performances on Saturday in their first match together at Anfield this season, one should analyse the recent revival of a promising partnership that could fashion a statement regarding their ambitions for this campaign.

Luis Suarez, the Uruguayan forward punished with a ten-match ban for sinking his teeth into the arm of Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic, returned from his footballing exile last weekend to face Sunderland. His first league appearance of the season saw him swiftly reinstated to the starting line-up, combining with Daniel Sturridge to deliver the goods that handsomely illustrated the potency of Liverpool’s latest strike partnership. Sturridge was on hand (if you will pardon the pun) to score once again before creating two goals for Suarez, as the Reds secured the points.

It was evident that Liverpool’s most important player last season was Suarez. The Uruguayan made 33 appearances in the league and scored 23 goals, finishing second to Manchester United’s Robin van Persie in the race for the Golden Boot. Club captain Steven Gerrard feared the striker would leave in the summer, after Suarez expressed a desire to play for a club in the Champions League. Arsenal had two bids rejected for the player and was also linked with Real Madrid, but Liverpool stood firm and were determined to keep him at Anfield.

“Nobody tried harder than me to make him stay and he knows exactly what I think of him,” said Gerrard. “He is a special type of footballer and he gives us something different. When the club got the message to him that they were not going to sell him, he got his head down and has worked hard. I think it is a credit to Luis for the way he has come back. He realised that the club wanted to keep him and he has respected their decision. He is here now and he wants to stay. He wants to achieve something this season and he looks as hungry as he has ever done.”

Sturridge, on the other hand, had flourished in the absence of his strike partner. He has enjoyed the responsibility of being the main source for goals by netting the winners against Stoke City, Aston Villa and Manchester United. Sturridge’s goalscoring exploits after the first three games of this season guided Liverpool to the top of the table, resulting in the England forward and Brendan Rodgers to be awarded with the Barclays Player and Manager of the Month accolades for August respectively. This marked the Reds’ best start to a season since 1994/95. A thigh injury ruled out any involvement in England’s World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine, but he continued his goalscoring run by finding the net in a 2-2 draw with Swansea City.

Back-to-back defeats soon followed for Liverpool as they lost their first league game to Southampton and crashed out of the League Cup to Manchester United. Rodgers welcomed the arrival of Suarez with open arms as the Uruguayan produced an encouraging display at Old Trafford, but was unable to mark his return with victory. Liverpool had failed to win in their last three games in all competitions before their clash with Sunderland.

The reunion of Liverpool’s front pair for the first time at Anfield was never in doubt. Suarez required only 13 minutes to open the scoring against Crystal Palace, steering a superb low shot past Julian Speroni from 12 yards despite plummeting over. Sturridge wasted no time to print his name on the scoresheet three minutes later, twisting and turning before smashing an excellent strike into the far bottom corner beyond the reach of the goalkeeper. Steven Gerrard scored his first of the season from the penalty spot to put Liverpool in a commanding position before half-time, before Dwight Gayle snatched a consolation deep into the second half.

Questions were being asked of whether Rodgers would be successful in restoring Suarez, so that his integration did not cause an imbalance to a system which had seen Liverpool make a positive start to the campaign. Before he was suspended last season, Suarez showed that he was more than able to forge an effective partnership with Sturridge. One of the challenges Rodgers has been poised with is to reignite the firepower within his strike force. Based on recent wins over Sunderland and Crystal Palace, there is strong evidence that this striker combination could inject fear into the hearts of defences. Suarez has found the net 19 times in his last 22 games for the Reds, while Sturridge has 19 in 25 games since his arrival in January. Some will argue that this partnership requires further examination and testing, having disposed of two clubs who are currently struggling for form and find themselves rooted to the bottom of the table.

There will be many obstacles and trials for Brendan Rodgers and his Liverpool side to overcome. The Premier League campaign is still in its infancy but with the Reds starting positively, optimism will begin to develop around Anfield. One thing is certain, the 2013/14 season promises to be a thrilling rollercoaster ride.

Note: This article was originally posted on Insight Sport.