Sunday, November 18, 2007

Double Boost For Benitez

Liverpool defender Daniel Agger could make his comeback at Newcastle in the club's first match after the international break.

The 22-year-old centre-back has been out since early September and has missed 13 matches with a broken metatarsal.

Agger was ruled out of the Denmark squad this week and said: "I'm not going off with my country but I would hope to be ready to play for Liverpool after the international break."

Manager Rafael Benitez is confident the defender is ready for a return at St James's Park in the lunch-time kick-off on November 24.

"Agger is improving a lot, and he has started running now," said the Spaniard.

Yossi Benayoun, who has been ruled out of Israel's clash with Russia on Saturday with a groin problem, also has a chance of facing Newcastle.

"Yossi is working with the physios now. We will have to see if he is fit for Newcastle, it's still too early to say," added the manager.

"He and Agger are maybes but perhaps it will be easier for Agger than for Benayoun."

However, Xabi Alonso, also out with a metatarsal problem, has already been ruled out of the visit to Newcastle.

Benitez added: "Xabi should start running in the next week but he is a 'no' for Newcastle, for sure."

Bayern Target Benitez Reaffirms Commitment To Liverpool

Manager Rafa Benitez has reaffirmed his commitment to Liverpool amid reports he has been sounded out by Bayern Munich about replacing under-pressure Ottmar Hitzfeld as manager.

The Spaniard has been made the No1 target for the German giants after it became clear that, despite topping the Bundesliga, Hitzfeld was unlikely to be offered a new contract, following growing tension behind the scenes.

But Benitez told CNN International's 'World Sport' he was committed to working with the club's American owners, George Gillett and Tom Hicks, and revealed his future plans.

"When we started talking about the future, we were very clear, we needed to have a plan," he said.

"We have this plan and we are progressing. The situation is positive in terms of things we wanted to do and what we are doing.

"When I signed the team wasn't winning much. They said to me try to win trophies in the future.

"To play seven finals and win four trophies I think is not bad in three years. So we need to see what happens this year, but we have confidence we can do it.

"We know that we are a top side, we play against a lot of teams that have power, money, and experience.

"Our vision is to be successful, have a new stadium, and trying to improve a little bit the structure of the club. We are going in the right direction."

Juventus To Bid For Peter Crouch?

Juventus are set to make a £10m bid for Liverpool striker Peter Crouch, according to the Daily Mail.

The giant marksman, who scored England’s winner in the 1-0 friendly win against Austria last night, has featured sparingly for Liverpool this season.

Reds boss Rafa Benitez is ready to let Crouch go during the January transfer window, providing interested parties meet the 26-year-old’s £10m price tag.

Juventus Coach Claudio Ranieri is a huge admirer of Crouch from his time spent managing Premiership club Chelsea.

The Bianconeri already have a good blend of strikers in their first-team squad in the form of David Trezeguet, Alessandro Del Piero, Vincenzo Iaquinta and Raffaele Palladino. However Ranieri believes that Crouch’s huge frame will offer them more of an aerial threat.

In other transfer news, Argentine midfielder Sergio Almiron could make a January move to AEK Athens.

Almiron has been hugely disappointing since signing from Empoli in the summer and currently finds himself behind Cristiano Zanetti, Antonio Nocerino and even Tiago Mendes in the centre-midfield pecking order.

AEK are prepared to spend €8m to bring the 27-year-old to Greece.

Bayern Interested In Benitez?

Bayern Munich have reportedly 'sounded Rafa Benitez out' about becoming their manager at the end of the season.

Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld is unlikely to remain in the job beyond the summer, despite some heavy spending on the likes of Luca Toni, Miroslav Klose and Franck Ribery, players that have taken Munich to the top of the Bundesliga.

The Daily Mail claims that tensions behind the scenes in Bavaria will mean Hitzfeld - in his second spell in charge of Bayern - will not have his contract renewed beyond the end of this season.

Indeed, Hitzfeld has reportedly told friends he will take over as coach of the Switzerland national side after Euro 2008.

The Mail reports that Bayern have already approached Benitez about taking over in Germany, but that the Liverpool manager is likely to rebuff the approach.

English Appeal For Reds Target

Liverpool target Javi Martinez admitted to that he is attracted to the prospect of playing in England.

The 19-year-old Athletic Bilbao ace is one of the most highly-rated midfielders in Spain and he is being closely monitored by Rafa Benitez.

Martinez has risen to prominence over the last 18 months following his move from Osasuna's second string last year.

Now he is attracting interest from some of Europe's big hitters and, as revealed earlier this week, Liverpool are one of those hot on Martinez's trail.

"I see Premier League matches on the television and the atmosphere is wonderful," he told

"But I don't really know anything [about the interest] as I haven't spoken with anyone.

"My sole mission at the moment is to work hard for Athletic and help the team.

"If an offer does arrive I would look at what is best for two parts, myself and Athletic."

Bilbao have admitted that they are aware of the interest in their prized asset - although they would appear to have few intentions of selling.

"We have not received any formal offers yet," a spokesman told

"We are calm about the situation."