Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sissoko Desperate For Move To Juventus

Liverpool midfielder Momo Sissoko has expressed his regret at not moving to Juventus in the summer and is hoping they will reignite their interest in him during the January transfer window.

The Mali international rejected a move to the Bianconeri in the summer and instead opted to sign a new four-year contract at Anfield.

However Sissoko has struggled for form this season and Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano are all ahead of him in the central-midfield pecking order.

“I should have accepted a move to Juventus,” said a regretful Sissoko. “Not moving to Juve was a massive error on my part.”

The chances of a move to Turin may not be over though for the 22-year-old. Coach Claudio Ranieri’s big midfield acquisition in the summer, Tiago Mendes, has been a huge flop and has started just one Serie A game this season.

Ranieri knows Sissoko well during his time as Valencia boss and may be prepared to sell Tiago in January and replace him with the energetic Liverpool man.

Sissoko joined the Reds in 2005 and has since gone on to make more than 75 appearances for the club.

Liverpool Faces Tough Trip To Besiktas

Liverpool returns to the city where it won the 2005 Champions League title on Wednesday needing a victory in Istanbul to avoid an early exit from this season's competition.

The five-time European champions, who have just one point from their opening two matches, could be in danger of failing to reach the group stage if they falter against Besiktas.

"We need to go there and try to win because we need three points," Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez said Tuesday.

Liverpool's chances won't be helped by the absence of star striker Fernando Torres, who hasn't recovered from a thigh injury.

After losing in last May's final to AC Milan, the team it beat for the title in 2005, Liverpool is off to a woeful start to this season's campaign and is third in Group A.

A 1-1 draw at FC Porto in September was followed earlier this month by a dire 2-0 defeat to Marseille at Anfield.

"It is difficult," Benitez said. "We will see what happens in the other game (between Porto and Marseille), just wait and keep working, thinking about winning every game."

Besiktas, though, has lost both its matches and is winless in the Champions League in almost four years.

Besiktas coach Ertugrul Saglam will watch from the stands as he serves a one-match ban. Saglam was punished by UEFA for being sent from the dugout in Besiktas' 1-0 loss to FC Porto.

Benitez said the hostile atmosphere which usually greets visiting English teams in Istanbul can't be used as an excuse.

"We have enough experience in Europe," the Spaniard said before Liverpool flew to Turkey. "I don't think it will be a big problem."

With four matches remaining, the Reds need to start drawing inspiration from their unbeaten start in the domestic league, capped by Saturday's 2-1 victory at crosstown rival Everton.

Liverpool is fourth in the Premier League, six points adrift of leader Arsenal.

But the derby victory was clouded by Steven Gerrard's anger at being substituted in the 70th minute - before Dirk Kuyt's winner.

"I was hurt and disappointed at being taken off because," the captain said. "I'm a local lad and the derby means everything to me."

Benitez insists there is no lingering rift.

"As a manager you need to make decisions in a moment," Benitez said. "You can understand the reaction because it is a derby and special. But for me, Steve is our key player so I think everything will be the same in terms of if I need to use him."

And Benitez won't be afraid to drag the England midfielder off the pitch again.

"After talking with him, he knows my idea," Benitez said. "If I need to replace him he knows that I am thinking about what is best for the team."

Midfielder Xabi Alonso is in contention for Wednesday's match after recovering from a foot injury.

Torres Out Of Istanbul Trip

Liverpool striker Fernando Torres will not be fit to play in his side's Champions League match against Besiktas in Istanbul.

The Spanish forward, the Reds' record signing over the summer, suffered a thigh strain on international duty last week and failed to recover in time to play in the Merseyside derby against Everton on Saturday.

Manager Rafael Benitez bought Torres from Atletico Madrid for a fee believed to be in the region of £24 million and he has made a good start to his Anfield career, scoring seven goals in his first 12 games.

However he has yet to net for Liverpool in European competition and Benitez is keen to kick-start their winless Champions League group stage campaign in Turkey.

"It's clear we need to go to Istanbul and try to win," Benitez told the club's official website.

"If we don't do that we know it will be difficult for us but all we are thinking about is the three points. The players know how important it is for us to win this game."

Liverpool recorded an impressive 1-1 draw in their opening match in Porto but slumped to a disappointing 1-0 defeat at home to French side Marseilles in week two.

And Benitez continued: "Porto are a good team and we know our first half performance wasn't good against them, but to get a draw when we went down to ten men wasn't bad.

"We made a mistake in our next game against Marseille which was a bad night for us. We need to repair that mistake against Besiktas."

Rafa Defends Substituting Gerrard

Steven Gerrard’s disappointment at being substituted during the Merseyside derby was clear for all to see, but Rafael Benitez stands by his decision.

Liverpool ran out 2-1 winners of the Merseyside derby at the weekend, after converting a dramatic last minute penalty. Dirk Kuyt converted confidently, following Phil Neville’s dismissal for handling on the line.

Gerrard’s replacement Lucas Levia had the shot on goal, that forced Neville to handle and Benitez feels he justified his inclusion, because of his vital contribution to Liverpool’s win.

"Normally you can understand the reaction because it's a derby and it was special," said Benitez in a press conference broadcast on Sky Sports News.

"Stevie is a key player and I think everything will be the same, in terms of if I need to use him I will use him for sure, and if I need to replace him he knows that it's thinking about the best for the team.

"After talking to him he knows my idea. As a manager you need to make decisions in the moment.

"In this case Lucas Levia was a big part of the victory, so I think that everything was okay."

Liverpool face Besitkas of Turkey on Wednesday night in the Champions League and desperately need a win, after only picking-up one point so far, in this season’s campaign.