Friday, January 04, 2008

Liverpool Show Interest In Wayne Bridge

Chelsea left-back Wayne Bridge has emerged as one of the players on Liverpool's transfer window shortlist.

Liverpool have yet to make formal contact with Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon over a possible transfer, but it is thought that the 27-year-old is one of a number of left-backs being closely monitored by the club.

Although Chelsea are unlikely to want to sell the former Southampton full-back to a top-four rival, Bridge could angle for a move away from Stamford Bridge as he sees himself as second choice behind Ashley Cole.

Despite playing the last two matches against Fulham and Newcastle, Bridge has spent more time on the sidelines since the arrival of Cole 18 months ago.

His prospects at Chelsea have further been given a setback with Serbia international Branislav Ivanovic of Lokomotiv Moscow closing in on a £10 million move to west London.

Ivanovic can operate anywhere along the back line and, while he has spent more time on the right, has indicated that he prefers to play on the left.

Bridge has already spent time away from Stamford Bridge following a four-month loan spell at Fulham at the end of last season.

He has also attracted the attention of Tottenham in the past but Bridge could see Liverpool as the club to reignite his career and a chance to return to regular first-team action.

A move could also aid his chances of adding to his 27 international caps with Fabio Capello to officially take over the England reins on Monday.

Barcelona Looking For Chance To Sign Mascherano

Barcelona are said to be one of a number of clubs in Spain eager to sign Javier Mascherano if Liverpool fail to convert his loan a permanent transfer.

The status of Javier Mascherano at Liverpool has been a vexed question for several weeks, with Reds' manager Rafael Benitez publicly urging the club's American co-owners to act quickly to sign the Argentine on a permanent basis - or risk losing the key defensive midfielder.

Benitez and owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks, have appeared to fall out over this and related transfer issues, the Spaniard urging haste and suggesting that the Americans do not understand how the European transfer market works.

But the future at Anfield of Mascherano - and, some believe, of Benitez himself - remains uncertain.

Liverpool dropped more home points last night to struggling Wigan and were overtaken in the table again by Manchester City. Should Liverpool remain outside the top four, Hicks and Gillett will see their already-strained financial plans for the club further compromised, in turn putting Benitez under greater pressure.

It is looking likely that he will not be allowed to spend much money in the January transfer window, and with Mascherano's loan ending in the summer, they risk losing the Argentine star.

Hicks and Gillett are not willing to spend £17million to secure him now, which could prompt the player's agents to tout him around Europe to the highest bidders.

And Barcelona are, says the Daily Mail, poised to pounce.

Mascherano himself is quoted as saying: "With the time that has passed, it will now be more difficult for me to stay here because I need to do something about my future.

"I have done everything to stay but now the owners have to decide if they want to buy me or not."

Finnan Disappointed With Liverpool's Inability To Translate Good Performances Into Wins

Liverpool defender Steve Finnan admitted that the Reds failure in collecting full points from the games they have performed impressively at Anfield, is marring their Premiership title hopes.

Star striker Fernando Torres’ strike against Wigan Athletic gave Liverpool the hope of notching a victory but Latics defender Titus Bramble’s equalizer put their hopes to rest to see the Reds once again failing to grasp the two valuable points.

"No disrespect to Wigan but if you want to challenge for the title then you need to be winning games like this," he said.

"We had taken the lead as well and we thought we were going to go on and win the game.

"The goal we scored was a good one and it is obviously frustrating and really disappointing that we didn't win.

"The first goal is always important, especially when a team sits back a lot because it can be hard to break them down.

"So when you get that first goal you think you will go on from there but we didn't do that and they came back into the game.

"After Titus (Bramble) scored we had one or two chances but we didn't really look like we were going to score and overall it is disappointing.

"We have players who are capable of scoring goals but sometimes they just don't go in and it was the same against Man City but we definitely have the players there.

"We've slipped up at home and it is going to be really difficult but we've got to look to the 18 games we’ve got left and try to do our best."

Rafa Benitez Remains Bullish Over Title Chances

Rafael Benitez denies his Liverpool side are out of the Premier league title race despite a dismal home draw with Wigan Athletic on Wednesday which saw them slip out of the top four.

Liverpool led 1-0 through Fernando Torres' 16th goal of the season until 11 minutes from time when Titus Bramble grabbed a shock equaliser for Wigan.

"I do not think there is a lack of confidence, we need more luck and to score the chances we are creating," Benitez said. "We are creating chances but not taking them. One more would have killed the game. We deserved more than we got. Their keeper [Chris Kirkland] made some very good saves, but we still made enough chances to have won the game.

"The league table is looking difficult, we need to reduce that gap but we must not start to look at the table too much, just keep going and keep creating chances.

"We can reduce the gap, but it is best not to talk about it, just go out and score the goals we are missing."

Two league wins in their last six matches and a shocking home record [they have dropped 13 points in 10 matches at Anfield] has seen Liverpool fall 12 points behind leaders Arsenal, still with a game in hand, but facing tough away games at the Emirates, Manchester United and Chelsea.

"It is difficult to explain why our home form is not good," Benitez said. "We are controlling all the games, we are passing the ball well, controlling almost everything. But we paid for one mistake.

"There is no need to analyse the four holiday games, we deserved to beat Manchester City, we deserved to win against Wigan, while we beat Portsmouth and Derby, but we have lost four points in these games and it has meant the gap is bigger.

"There is no point being too critical of performances. We know we were much better than City and Wigan but we know we need to win, that is simple."

LiverpooL 1 - 1 Wigan

Liverpool's slim title hopes were all-but extinguished after they were held to a 1-1 draw by struggling Wigan at Anfield.

The draw, coupled with Manchester City's win at Newcastle, dropped Rafael Benitez's side to fifth in the Barclays Premier League and left them trailing leaders Arsenal by 12 points with a match in hand.

Striker Fernando Torres had put the home side ahead in the 49th minute but they could not find the important second goal and Titus Bramble smashed in an 80th-minute equaliser.

Wigan boss Steve Bruce has long had the Indian sign over Benitez and now he has managed to frustrate the Liverpool boss twice in the same season at Anfield with different clubs.

Bruce never lost a league match to Benitez while he was at former club Birmingham and earlier this season he engineered a draw for Blues at Anfield and he achieved a similar result on his return.

Winger Jermaine Pennant made his Liverpool comeback after being out since October with a fractured right leg, while Yossi Benayoun and Dirk Kuyt were rested to the bench, with Xabi Alonso also returning.

Wigan made one change from the side that lost at home to Aston Villa last time out, former Liverpool striker Emile Heskey returned from injury with Antoine Sibierski dropping to the bench.

The visitors' game plan was pretty obvious, putting every one behind the ball in their own half when Liverpool had possession, which was almost continuously in the opening period.

Heskey and Marcus Bent were quick to break and after spinning the ball around between themselves for long spells it was the loss of possession by the hosts, and a ball up to the big England striker, that forced Jose Reina into a swift run to the edge of the box to punch hurriedly away.

Liverpool were painfully slow in their build-up and the nearest they got in the opening stages was when Torres was judged fractionally offside when he got away to beat Chris Kirkland after 13 minutes.

Wigan were quick to make use of set-pieces and when a corner was not cleared Michael Brown lashed as 20-yard shot just wide of a post.

Kirkland saved well after 21 minutes when Javier Mascherano exchanged passes with Torres before rolling in a low shot.

From then on until the break it was Liverpool who were frustrated as they searched for openings, with Torres lifting a pass into the box only for Gerrard's snap-shot to be held by Kirkland.

Crosses from Pennant, Steve Finnan and Steven Gerrard all caused problems but without any end product.

Torres then saw a flicked header just clear the crossbar after a 25-yard Alonso free-kick, before the Spain striker set up Gerrard for a right-foot shot which he pulled wide of the far post.

The breakthrough for Liverpool came soon after the break when Finnan committed himself to attack to disrupt Wigan's back-line.

After 49 minutes he found Gerrard on the right and kept running for the return, which arrived perfectly for him to cross first-time to allow Torres to tuck the ball inside Kirkland's left-hand post.

Paul Scharner was booked after 58 minutes for a foul on Mascherano and when Gerrard fired in a fierce free-kick Kirkland spilled it and the Argentinian almost got on the end of the slip.

Scharner's late intervention stopped Torres adding another after a clever flick, before Kirkland saved well to his left from a Gerrard drive.

Liverpool needed the cushion of a second goal and Torres' cross-field ball presented Harry Kewell with a chance but he blasted inches over from 30 yards.

It was the Australian's last involvement as he was replaced by Benayoun after 73 minutes.

Mascherano was booked for a foul on Bent as Wigan broke quickly from defence and before the free-kick Wigan sent on Jason Koumas for Ryan Taylor.

But when the set-piece was lifted into the box Gerrard failed to get the ball away properly and when it fell to defender Bramble he lashed a shot past Reina for his second goal in as many matches.

Gerrard tried to make amends, firing a low shot at Kirkland that was pushed out with the Liverpool captain just failing to reach the rebound.

Liverpool sent on Peter Crouch and Dirk Kuyt for Mascherano and Pennant but they could not force a winner.