Monday, February 25, 2008

Sami Hyypia Insists Only Fourth Place With Do For Liverpool

Sami Hyypia admits fourth place is the “minimum requirement” for Liverpool in the Premier League this season.

Rafael Benitez’s side were indebted to a hat-trick from Fernando Torres to secure an unconvincing 3-2 win over Middlesbrough on Saturday and move them back into the top four with only their second league win since Boxing Day.

Hyypia said: “Everyone can smile now we’ve got the three points, but the game didn’t go as we planned but in the end the result was right.

“For their first goal, at first I thought it was a clear offside, but I guess somebody played Tuncay on because he got to the ball early and scored.

“It was a bit unnecessary to give that goal away and their second could have been avoided as well so from that point of view we can’t be that happy, but Fernando scored a good hat-trick and we got three points so that’s the most important thing.”

Liverpool’s next game is at Bolton Wanderers on Sunday, and Hyypia added: “Bolton’s not an easy place to go to, but if we get three points there we’ll be on target for fourth place which is the minimum requirement.

“All the Bolton games have been bruising games in my experience – after them you’re bruised all over – but so long as we get the three points it doesn’t matter.”

With Jamie Carragher serving a one-match suspension and Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger considered not fit enough to start, Hyypia was partnered by makeshift centre-back Alvaro Arbeloa at the heart of Liverpool’s defence.

And the Finland international said: “It’s not been a settled back four all season, but with all the injuries we’ve had it’s not always been easy to have a regular back four.

“But if the defence was the same all season there would probably be four very unhappy players who wouldn’t play at all.”

Liverpool appeared jaded by their European exploits against Inter Milan in midweek, and manager Benitez conceded the win was hugely important.

“After a Champions League game, the players sometimes are a little bit tired and it’s difficult to keep everyone ready for a Premier League game,” he said.

“It was really important for us to win, and now we have a week to prepare for Bolton then we have four games in 10 days. It was important for us to get back up into the top four.”

Middlesbrough, who had Jeremie Aliadiere sent off on 85 minutes, picked up five bookings and are now facing a £50,000 fine for the indiscipline.

And Boro manager Gareth Southgate said: “We are upset because we felt we did enough right to get something from it.

“We then suffered a red card when we had turned the tide. It’s harsh but Jeremie will have to learn from that.”

Kuyt: Torres Is Unbelievable

Liverpool striker Dirk Kuyt has heaped praise on strike partner Fernando Torres following the Spaniard’s hat-trick against Middlesbrough on Saturday.

The Dutch forward, who kept his place in front on Peter Crouch after his midweek scoring appearance against Inter Milan is in awe of the former Atletico Madrid striker’s form.

El Nino has hit 21 goals this season already and Kuyt is enjoying playing alongside the youngster.

"It's great to have a player like Fernando up front - he is unbelievable" Kuyt said.

"I think he played really well against Inter in the week but he was even better against 'Boro.

"It's his second hat-trick this season so it's really good for him and us."

Schalke Star Pleased Over Liverpool Link

Highly-rated Schalke side-back Rafinha has reacted favourably to reports that Liverpool are interested in his services.

Rafinha's contract runs until 2011 and Schalke have no intention of selling him, but the Brazilian international has indirectly encouraged Rafa Benitez to pursue his interest.

"Liverpool is a top destination," said the 22-year-old in response to the reports.

"If a move would suit Schalke as well as myself, we can discuss it."

Schalke chief Andreas Mueller confirmed his side's stance on the matter by saying: "It is good that our players are being linked with such prestigious clubs, but we don't want to let anyone go."

Jose Reina Denies Anfield Rift Rumours

Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina insists that manager Rafael Benitez still has the full support of the Anfield dressing room.

Reports had suggested that the Reds' squad had become split between those who were in favour of the Spanish coach remaining at Anfield and those who felt that it was time for a new man to come in.

Spanish keeper Reina has refuted those claims and believes that the players are as determined as ever to help their boss overcome the debate raging over his future.

"I can tell you that there is no split in the dressing room. Anybody who reports that is lying," Reina said.

"The dressing room has been absolutely together and we have all been very strong in the bad moments.

"That is how it should be and how it is.

"One of the good things to be seen from this period is how strong the players are together. It has been one of our secrets since I joined Liverpool."

Reina did admit that the continuous speculation suggesting that Benitez is on borrowed time on Merseyside has begun to take its toll on the players.

"Everything that happens at a club can influence what happens in games," he said.

"But as players we have to do our best to concentrate and play football.

"Everything else, the comments, the rumours, have to be set apart from the football but that can be difficult.

"We have shown that we can perform under pressure though. We have the spirit to do that and in the next few weeks we must continue to show it.

"The manager has maintained the calm despite all the bad reports because in the end his philosophy is all about hard work.

"He tells us the harder we work on the training ground the better we will be able to compete in games.

"Rafa supports the players totally. He has been successful at Liverpool and, for me, there can be no doubts about him."

Liverpool’s Torres Eager To Win Titles

Liverpool striker, Fernando Torres has set his sights on winning titles, saying: “I would prefer to be remembered for the titles rather than my goals.”

The Spain international, who joined the Reds in the summer in a club record deal from Atletico Madrid, has already got to 21 goals in the season, after his fine hat-trick at Anfield against Middlesbrough on Saturday.

The 23-year-old thus became the first Liverpool forward to achieve more than 20 goals for the season since Michael Owen in 2003.

"I know the fans enjoyed the hat-trick and so did I. It was fantastic to score in front of the Kop. I am very comfortable playing here and I am very, very happy with my first hat-trick at this ground,” said Torres, whose first Reds hat-trick had come at Reading in the Carling Cup in September.

"It is important though, that we win titles. I would prefer to be remembered for the titles rather than my goals.”

He added: "I have not won anything yet, just for the under-18s and under-19s in Madrid. It is a long time ago and I have come to Liverpool to win things.

"My target is titles, not just goals. I don't know when, this season or the next but I will want that.

"I hope I stay here for a long time. I have a six-year contract so I have every intention of being here a long time, and if everything continues okay maybe I will want to sign for more."