Friday, January 18, 2008

Agger Suffers Fresh Foot Injury

Liverpool centre back Daniel Agger has suffered a recurrence of the metatarsal injury which has kept him out of action since September.

The Dane, who was days away from making a first team return, is now not expected to feature for the rest of January and could be out for longer.

"It's not easy to say when he will be back," said Reds manager Rafa Benitez.

"He is going to see different surgeons and then we'll be able to analyse the situation," Benitez added.

The news is a significant setback for Liverpool, as the 23-year-old has been their prefered partner for Jamie Carragher in central defence since he signed from Brondby in January 2006 for £5m.

Agger's absence means Benitez is likely to accelerate the introduction of new defensive signing Martin Skrtel into the team.

The Slovakian international replaced Agger as the most expensive defender in the club's history following his £6m from Zenit St Petersburg on Friday.

Specialists have yet to confirm how long Danish international Agger will be out of action.

He featured as an unused substitute at Middlesbrough on Saturday and has made 36 first team appearances for the club, scoring two goals.

Liverpool Are Not For Sale, Insists Hicks

Liverpool co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks insist they remain 'fully committed to the club' despite Dubai International Capital reportedly preparing another bid to acquire a share of the Anfield team.

A year ago this month DIC were stunned by the last-minute failure of their bid to take control of the club but it is believed they are now set to try to buy the American's 50% stake in Anfield.

DIC yesterday made no attempt to play down speculation when a spokesman said: 'We do not comment on such things, we have nothing to say on this.'

However, a spokesman for Hicks was less equivocal.

He said: 'Mr. Hicks and Mr. Gillett remain fully committed to the club.

'Any suggestion that Messrs Hicks and Gillett are contemplating a sale of the club or any portion thereof to DIC or anyone else is categorically untrue.'

Liverpool will step out on Monday for their Barclays Premier League home game with Aston Villa with their minds focused just as much on beating non-league Havant and Waterlooville five days later.

By the time the troubled Reds walk out at Anfield, they expect to be even further adrift of the top three.

Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea all play tomorrow away to teams in the bottom half of the table - Reading, Fulham and Birmingham respectively.

So no-one would be surprised if the gap between Liverpool and the top spot is a massive 15 points by then, with the Gunners and Chelsea also pulling further away from the Anfield men.

And that would even further reduce the chances of the Merseysiders making even a dramatic last-ditch bid to stay in the hunt.

But less than a week later, Liverpool are at home to the little Hampshire club in the FA Cup fourth round, a game they surely will win to keep themselves at least with the hope of one domestic honour this term.

The future ownership of the club will still hang like a dark cloud over Anfield, and boss Rafael Benitez knows that he must keep his side in with a chance of winning something.

But even the ever-optimistic Jamie Carragher, who made his 500th appearance for the club in the midweek cup win over Luton, knows time is up on the title bid.

He said: 'We are not stupid. You never throw the towel in, but for us to get back into contention for the title we would have to have an unbelievable second half to the season.

'And the rest would have to have an unbelievably bad second half to the campaign. We realize our best chance of silverware is the cup competitions. That is why they are so important.'

Liverpool need to beat Villa to maintain their hopes of a fourth-place finish and a Champions League spot, now clearly the minimum requirement for Benitez.

And Carragher insists that the players must not allow themselves to be affected by what is happening off the field at Liverpool. He said: 'You have to be strong mentally to play for Liverpool. Things happen off the pitch but you do not let it affect you.'

Miller: Liverpool's Subs Must Prove Themselves

Liverpool training coach Alex Miller has warned Liverpool's forgotten men that they'll need to improve on the practice pitch if they're to fight their way back into the team.

Speaking to, first-team coach Alex Miller told Anfield's fringe players to do their utmost to get back into the side.

In the aftermath of the fine win over Luton Town, he said, "Confidence had definitely dipped in recent weeks because personal performance had dipped – when one goes the other goes. It takes a player of extremely strong mentality to retain their confidence when they are not playing well.

"The players who played in the 5-0 will now have a lot of their confidence back and the players within the pool have to realise that the team won 5-0 and they weren't in it. They have to now perform to the best of their abilities on the training ground."

Additionally, he spoke of the need for a coherent style of play.

"The important thing at this club has always been the football and hopefully that's the way it will remain," added Miller.

"I think the players responded very well to the manager on Tuesday with a 5-0 victory and it's nice to get a few goals for the fans after recent results.

"Is the FA Cup our best chance of silverware? No, I don't think that because it depends on who you draw and where you draw them.

"The important thing here is that we don't believe we are out of the championship race yet. If we win our game in hand it will help, and we've got all the other top teams to play and it is up to us how we do in these games."

Two players whose first team places are all but assured are Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, who are battling it out for the top scorer accolade this season. Who will prevail?

"I think you'd have to bet on Fernando because he's a forward and will get more scoring opportunities," mused Miller.

"Stevie is coming from deeper positions and not getting so many chances. But he can score from any angle or distance, as everybody knows.

"He's fantastic at coming on to the ball and is within the top players in the world at that."

Liverpool, Chelsea, Madrid, After Caceres

Liverpool and Chelsea have joined Real Madrid in the chase to sign Uruguayan centre back Martin Caceres, who has been in outstanding form for Recreativo Huelva this season.

Caceres, who is 20 years of age, joined Villarreal last season and was immediately loaned out to Recreativo Huelva. At the Decano, his impressive performances have attracted interest from a number of top European clubs.

Earlier in the week The Sun revealed that Premier League giants Liverpool and Chelsea are fighting for the signature of the talented youngster, while La Liga league leaders Real Madrid are hoping to lure him to the Spanish capital.

The highly-rated charrua is aware of the interest, and has explained that, while he is comfortable at Recreativo at the moment, he would be interested in a move elsewhere if it will be an improvement for his career.

Although the English clubs have shown huge interest in Caceres, Real Madrid seem to be the front-runners to secure his services.

Sources indicate that the asking price for the former Defensor Sporting centre back is around 13 million euros.

Liverpool FC Deal Soon, Amount May Change

The keenly awaited refinancing of British soccer club Liverpool FC is set to be closed before the end of February, a source familiar with the deal said on Thursday.

The 300 million pound ($589 million) debt refinancing, expected to be completed by the end of November, has been delayed amid turmoil in the credit markets.

Banks, facing multi-billion pound losses linked to the U.S. sub-prime crisis, have tightened up lending, or are charging more to assume risk.

The deal will go ahead, although it may not include an additional amount, of about 40 million pounds, earmarked for the start of building a new stadium, the source said.

Liverpool's debt facility with Royal Bank of Scotland, taken out by U.S. billionaires Tom Hicks and George Gillett to acquire the club, expires in February.

Wachovia Corp, the fourth-largest U.S. bank, is arranging the refinancing.