Saturday, September 15, 2007

Ferguson Backs Rafa In Schedule Row

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has backed Liverpool counterpart Rafael Benitez's complaints over the Premier League fixture scheduling and claimed clubs like his own are being punished for their success.

Benitez is fuming at the number of Saturday lunchtime away games Liverpool find themselves involved in immediately after international breaks and Champions League weeks.

Manchester United often find themselves in the same situation and head to Everton on Saturday for a noon start at Goodison Park.

Although on this occasion the kick-off time has been determined by Merseyside Police rather than the TV companies, Ferguson does believe there is an issue to be addressed.

And the Red Devils chief is laying the blame squarely at the Premier League's door.

"Rafa is quite right to complain," said Ferguson.

"If there is an unfairness against teams, it should be addressed but I don't know if the authorities would listen.

"Over the last five years, we have had more lunchtime kick-offs than anyone and you would think that deserves some kind of attention.

"The Premier League are to blame. I accept, given when the fixture lists come out, it is just unfortunate if you find yourself away from home after a European tie but Rafa is talking about the lunchtime kick-offs."

Ferguson does accept pleasing every interested party is an impossible job for anyone.

And, in accepting an enormous £1.7billion cheque from Sky and Setanta for the domestic TV rights, the United manager also acknowledges the Premier League has given up any realistic control over kick-off times.

But he feels there are elements of unfairness about the way the Premier League handle certain situations, citing the differing examples of his own club and major title rivals Chelsea last year.

"Chelsea had a Sunday game against Tottenham and the Premier League changed it at their behest because they had a European tie the following Tuesday," he said.

"That decision gave Chelsea three days to prepare, which is fine, except Tottenham had played their own European game on the previous Thursday, which left them with one-and-a-half days to prepare.

"There was no fairness there whatsoever.

"Then, when we asked for a Saturday lunchtime fixture at Manchester City to be changed because we had a Champions League semi-final the previous Wednesday, the Premier League said no, even though City had not played at all. That was wonderful."

Ferguson continued: "I do think the successful teams are punished.

"The top teams are always going to be televised at a time that suits the public demand. Sky and Setanta are always going to pick the successful teams for the prime-time games, you can't blame them for that given the amount of money they have put it.

"Money is important to every club now, so they do a deal. But once you shake hands with the devil, you have to accept they are in control."

Match Preview: Portsmouth vs LiverpooL

With the international fixtures out of sight and out of mind, its business as usual in the Premiership, and in case you have forgotten, Liverpool are going great guns.

The Reds have looked good value for their ten points, meanwhile Portsmouth have been a bit indifferent for their high standards, but having played Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United in their opening five matches, they’d be happy with an even return.

It’s a tale of two clubs coming into this fixture, and they’re at polar opposites. Liverpool are looking to achieve their third consecutive victory for the first time in 17 outings, whereas Pompey will be hoping to avoid a third consecutive league defeat, something that has not happened for 53 games.

The contradictions keep on coming, Liverpool are they only club to have scored first in all of their Premiership games this season, Portsmouth are the only club to have conceded first in all of their games, so if you’ve got to have a bet this weekend, I think you’ll know where to put your money.

Normally this early in the season when Pompey draw Liverpool at home, you’d be tempted to say ‘this is their toughest test so far’. Well not this season, as Harry’s men have already faced Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea.

Not the most fortuitous of starts then, but once the Liverpool game is out of the way, Harry can truly believe that things couldn’t get any worse until Christmas at least. Considering the start they’ve had, Pompey have done well, holding United to a draw at Fratton Park and deserving at least a draw against Chelsea after lording it over The Blues for most of the game at Stamford Bridge.

Their last result brought into focus that Portsmouth still have a long way to go to be considered a top six club, a 3-1 defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates proof that the south coast side can’t fight toe-to-toe with the big boys all the time.

But Pompey should be encouraged by the stat that against Liverpool at Fratton Park in the league, they have won 15 times in 27 meetings, only losing to them on 8 occasions. Indeed last season Pompey emerged victorious 2-1.

Portsmouth are undefeated at home in six matches since losing 2-0 to Chelsea in March, their only loss in nine games at Fratton Park. But Liverpool are storming at the minute and will really be ‘their toughest test so far’.

The Reds have started extremely well this season, topping the table after four games and with a match in hand over Chelsea, but more importantly they sit two points and a game ahead of bitter rivals and reigning champions Manchester United.

The 2007-08 campaign has already brought the best start from a Liverpool team since the 1998-99 season. A win against Portsmouth would ensure that it would be the best ever start to a Premiership season for the Merseysiders.

Perhaps the key to Liverpool’s success so far is their attacking prowess, proof that Rafa Benitez’s transfer decisions were made in good thought. Fernando Torres, Ryan Babel and Andriy Voronin have already played their part to make sure that after four games the side has a goal difference of +12, the best in the league.

But the defence are also contributing, despite the absence of several back-liners over recent week. Liverpool are yet to concede in open play, both goals let in this season have come from the penalty spot.

Combining attacking prowess and defence solidity is the key to success and so far Liverpool have done a great job, a run that Portsmouth will be hoping to end to end tomorrow lunch time.



2 September v Arsenal (A) LOST 3-1
28 August v Leeds United (League Cup) (H) WON 3-0
25 August v Chelsea (A) LOST 1-0
18 August v Bolton Wanderers (H) WON 3-1
15 August v Manchester United (H) DREW 1-1


1 September v Derby County (H) WON 6-0
28 August v Toulouse (CLQR3) (H) WON 4-0
25 August v Sunderland (A) WON 2-0
19 August v Chelsea (H) DREW 1-1
15 August v Toulouse (CLQR3) (A) WON 1-0



Portsmouth can take encouragement from the fact that they have pretty much a fully-fit squad.

Sol Campbell, after suffering a double whammy of hamstring and groin trouble, is back in the reckoning, although the veteran defender may still lack a bit of match fitness.

Also coming back is Benjani, having recovered from a neck injury and Papa Bouba Diop comes into the squad hoping to make his first appearance after his arrival from Fulham on deadline day.

Squad: James, Johnson, Campbell, Distin, Hreidarsson, Utaka, Muntari, Davis, Taylor, Kanu, Benjani, Lauren, Kranjcar, Mendes, Diop, Nugent, Pamarot, Traore, Hughes, Ashdown.


Things are also looking good for Liverpool, who continue to go from strength to strength.

After breaking a rib against Sunderland just three weeks ago, Jamie Carragher is back in the side but he, like Campbell, could be lacking a bit of an edge. Steve Finnan is still a doubt with a knee injury.

Steven Gerrard looks well and truly over his toe injury after playing excellently for England over the past week. Harry Kewell and Fabio Aurelio are well on the road to recovery but are a few weeks off yet.

Squad: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Hyypia, Riise, Pennant, Benayoun, Gerrard, Alonso, Mascherano, Sissoko, Babel, Kuyt, Crouch, Torres, Voronin, Finnan, Itandje.


Portsmouth: – Nwankwo Kanu - After a summer of indecision from the big Nigerian, he must be glad to have stuck around Fratton Park, scoring two in four and looking quality. Harry Redknapp showed faith in the former Arsenal man and he is repaying it with his usual, inconspicuous work ethic that more often than not reaps the rewards. To say he was lucky to score the goal against Arsenal was an understatement, but they all count.

Liverpool: – Fernando Torres – All the superlatives have been used up when describing this man’s game. Managers the world over have been aware of his talents for years, but in his first season away from Atletico Madrid the hype has been well and truly justified. In Spain he was a bit of a ‘go and fetch it’ forward, working hard to get into scoring positions, therefore his tallies at the end of each season have been misleading. At Liverpool he has the support from midfield to be a bona fide striker, and an effective one at that, netting three in four.


Portsmouth 1–2 Liverpool

Although the statistics suggest that Pompey are slight favourites for this match, form this season shows that it will take an almighty effort from the home side to get a result. With further depth to their team, Liverpool can chop and change and still have a side capable of overturning Portsmouth. But Redknapp has also brought in some talented individuals, notably John Utaka and Sulley Muntari, so, with the chimes in full swing, Portsmouth will be spirited in what will be a close affair, But The Reds should just edge it.