Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Torres Could Be Back By This Weekend

Fernando Torres' recovery from injury is going according to schedule meaning that there is a good chance that he will be ready in time to face Barnsley in the FA Cup fifth round on Saturday.

The Spanish super striker strained his hamstring while on international duty last Wednesday and was a big miss during Liverpool's scoreless stalemate away to Chelsea yesterday.

Although the prognosis from the Anfield medical department predicted that he would only be out of action for between 7-10 days, the confirmation that he is mending well will come as a big relief to Reds' fans around the world, in light of the massively important Champions League second-round encounter with Italian champions Inter coming up on February 19.

"Maybe he can be available for the weekend against Barnsley. We have time," said Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez.

"The physios are working with him. He could be okay."

Torres, 23, has quickly established himself as Liverpool's most important striker since his high-profile move from Atletico Madrid this summer, having already bagged 18 goals just over halfway through his debut season.

Reds Told To Lose Draw Habit

Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard has warned his team-mates they will miss out on next season's Champions League if they do not quickly shake off a costly habit of drawing matches they should win.

A goalless stalemate at Chelsea on Sunday was the Reds' 11th draw of the season.

And while Gerrard took encouragement from aspects of his side's performance, the reality was that Manchester City, Aston Villa and Everton all won at the weekend, thereby gaining ground in the battle for fourth spot.

"Our form has been very inconsistent of late, but the performance against Chelsea was very pleasing and something that we can now build on," Gerrard told the club's website,

"A lack of consistency has been our problem this season, along with drawing games that we should have won. Coming to Stamford Bridge and getting a point is acceptable, but to draw certain games like we have at home this season, like against Aston Villa and Wigan, they are the most frustrating things."

Liverpool have not won away at Chelsea, Manchester United or Arsenal since Rafael Benitez took over as manager at Anfield in 2004, and that record added to the disappointment with Sunday's result.

"When you control games like that away from home, it's disappointing not to take maximum points," Gerrard added. "It would be a waste if we don't kick on from this and keep on drawing games that we should be winning.

"But not many teams go to Chelsea and get a point, so it's a positive result to build on."

Gerrard Ready To Sscrap For Another Crack At Europe's Big Guns

Steven Gerrard admits Liverpool are in the midst of a dogfight to claim a Champions League spot despite an excellent display to gain a draw at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

The Reds are now three points behind fourth-placed Everton, albeit with a game in hand, following the Toffees' victory over Reading. With Aston Villa and Man City also claiming three points at the weekend, there appears to be four genuine contenders vying for entry into European football's top competition.

Gerrard knows he and his team-mates must now perform like they did against Chelsea week in, week out in order to thwart one of the new pretenders breaking up the so-called big four.

"We've now got to focus on fighting for this fourth place and we realise it's going to be difficult." said the skipper.

"There are a lot of teams around us in good form and playing well, so it's important we don't let our standards drop – otherwise we won't get fourth."

While recognising the challenge ahead, Gerrard believes Liverpool supporters can take great heart from the commitment present throughout the team on Sunday.

He explained: "I think this is the benchmark for us now in terms of the character we showed.

"Certain players who've had a bit of criticism of late played very well and it was a good team performance against a side that have been playing very well lately. There are a lot of positives.

"All round you can't fault any player. I said in an interview a couple of days ago that you need every player to perform when you come to places like Stamford Bridge, and I think we got that.

"I've been here before and we've been dominated for large periods of the game, but I think we controlled the majority of the match and it felt out there like we could have maybe snatched it.

"It's definitely an improvement on how we've been playing of late. Defensively we looked more solid and we were the better side over the 90 minutes. If anyone was going to win it, I thought it was going to be us."

Liverpool's trip to Stamford Bridge will be followed later in the season by visits to Old Trafford and the Emirates, grounds where, of late, few points have been obtained.

Gerrard added: "When we do go to those places we've got to perform like we did here, and maybe an extra five or 10 per cent can see us snatch a win.

"I just thought we lacked a tiny bit of cutting edge in the final third, but I can't fault many other things. I thought it was a good team performance."

Reina Looks Forward To Next 50 Clean Sheets With Reds

Pepe Reina has set his sights on another 50 shut-outs in goal for Liverpool after breaking Ray Clemence's record.

The Spanish goalkeeper recently achieved 50 clean sheets in the shortest time in the club's history — and believes the record is a team effort.

"It's nice to reach these kind of numbers – I am very proud," said Reina. "But, as I've said many times, it's not just down to me.

"The whole of the team defends and the back four have been in good form in the three years I've been here.

"Now I look forward to another 50."

Reina kept the 51st clean sheet of his Liverpool career against Chelsea on Sunday.

He said: "We played really well and created some chances, and a draw is always a good result at Stamford Bridge. It's always difficult to beat them down there – I think it's been four years since anyone did that.

"It's a difficult stadium against a really top side, so we have to be really happy about the score and some of the things we did during the game.

"We have to keep playing like this, with a solid defence and creating chances in attack."

Lucas: I Rejected Inter For Liverpool

Lucas Leiva has revealed ahead of next week’s Champions League clash with Inter Milan that he rejected a move to the Italian champions in order to sign for Liverpool.

The 21-year-old joined The Reds from Gremio last summer for €12m but Inter were also in the running to sign him.

"I was in a fortunate position at Gremio because I had achieved some success and I was made a lot of very interesting offers - offers which would have made a lot of money,” Lucas told Liverpool’s official magazine.

"Some of them were in Spain and it's true I had an enquiry from Inter Milan too.

"I could have gone to Spain or Italy and it would have been more like I am used to. But I want to make the most of my career and I want to challenge myself.

"They were all famous clubs but the Liverpool option stood out from the first moment I heard of their interest. Inter and Liverpool meet at Anfield a week today in the first leg of their last 16 Champions League tie.

Lucas has stressed thought that he made the right decision in rejecting the Nerazzurri, and believes Liverpool can beat them.

"I have friends from the international team at Inter; Cesar and Maicon are great players and I will enjoy playing against them,” he continued.

"But I would much rather play for Liverpool than Inter. That was my decision then and it would be the same if I had to make it again.

"I think we have the tools to beat Inter, but it will be an exciting game and my first time - hopefully - playing at the San Siro."

Figo Likely To Miss Liverpool Match

Inter boss Roberto Mancini believes that is unlikely that Luis Figo will be ready to play against Liverpool next week.

The Nerazzurri travel to Anfield a week today in one of three mouth-watering Champions League ties involving Italian teams.

Inter have injury problems going into the game as Dejan Stankovic, Maicon, Hernan Crespo and Santiago Solari are all struggling, while Luis Figo is only just returning to fitness after suffering a broken leg in November.

"I left out three or four important players [against Catania on Sunday],” said Mancini.

"I hope to recover those players that are injured although I'm not sure Luis Figo will be able to play against Liverpool."

Mancini is under no illusions that his team is in for a very difficult game against the 2005 Champions League winners.

"Liverpool is a very tough team to play against," he said. "They are difficult opponents, that don't give you many spaces.

"Liverpool have proved to be in good form."

These two European giants have only met once competitively in the past and that was in the semi-final of the European Cup back in 1964/1965.

In a classic tie, Liverpool won the first leg 3-1 at Anfield, only to lose 3-0 in the return leg at San Siro and exit the competition 4-3 on aggregate.

The match in Italy was a controversial affair as Liverpool players believe that Joaquin Peiró’s goal for Inter should have been disallowed after he stole a bounced ball from Liverpool goalkeeper Tommy Lawrence.