Thursday, May 08, 2008

Kuyt Targets Euro 2008 Place

Liverpool striker Dirk Kuyt is aiming to continue his recent good run of form to cement a place in Holland coach Marco van Basten's Euro 2008 squad.

The 27-year-old was on Tuesday included in Van Basten's provisional 30-man group, which will be trimmed down to 26 players on May 16 and then cut to 23 by May 28.

And he is keen to still be involved when the finals get under way next month.

"I first hoped to be part of the first 30 players. Now I of course want to go to Euro 2008 too," Kuyt told Radio 538 show Evers Staat Op on Wednesday.

"I hope Marco van Basten will keep on thinking about me now. I must show it on the field and I think I did that in the last games.

"But it is of course not easy for the coach. We have many good strikers, but I think I am a fine addition to the squad."

Kuyt admits, however, that he has not had contact with Van Basten for some time and discovered he was part of the provisional Oranje party on Teletext.

"That has happened for years," he said. "Through Teletext you hear if you are in or out.

"It seems that he (Van Basten) was at the Champions League semi-final between Chelsea and Liverpool. He did speak with Ryan Babel afterwards, I missed out on him."

Kuyt was overlooked by Van Basten when he struggled for goals at Anfield earlier in the campaign but, if selected, would relish the opportunity to shine in Austria and Switzerland this summer.

"It happens only once every four years. It was no fun to me to not be selected for some games after three years. But I still hope to be there," he said.

While the former Feyenoord frontman may have a European Championships to plan for, he admits he is disappointed he does not also have a Champions League final to look forward to following Liverpool's semi-final exit at the hands of Chelsea.

"It is of course a shame that we could not make it again into the final of the Champions League," he said. "I myself feel I am in good form. I had a lesser period, because of personal things. But I have put that behind me and it's going fine again now."

Gerrard: Two Signings Can Win Us The Title

Steven Gerrard believes Liverpool are only two signings away from creating a title-winning team.

‘We’ll do it next season’ has been an all too common catch-cry for Liverpool supporters over the last 17 years or so.

The most decorated club in England have failed to win the league title since 1990, when Kenny Dalgish steered them to their 18th league championship.

A return to the glory days appeared imminent when current boss Rafael Benetiz lead the Reds to a remarkable Champions League triumph in 2005, and yet the Merseyside giants have failed to finish higher than third during Rafa’s reign so far.

They will finish fourth this season, comfortable ahead of fifth-placed Everton but some ways behind third-placed Arsenal, in a season where many expected them to finally challenge for a maiden Premier League crown.

But Reds skipper Gerrard believes the team showed glimpses of what they are capable of this season, insisting that progress has been made and all that is needed is two more top-notch signings.

“We have proved this season that we are not as far behind the leaders as the table suggests,” the 27-year-old said. “We’re disappointed we didn’t maintain a challenge for longer.

“But hopefully we will invest in a couple of quality additions. We’re getting closer.

“I’ve been lucky and won more things than most but I’m greedy and want more with Liverpool.”

Liverpool Linked With Udinese Duo - Report

Liverpool have been linked with Gokhan Inler and Andrea Dossena of Udinese as they look to strengthen their squad this summer.

Reds boss Rafael Benitez has insisted on numerous occasions he needs at least three or four new players this summer as he looks to put an end to his side's trophyless run.

Though the financial war with co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett is ongoing, and plans for a new £300 million stadium in Stanley Park have just been approved, it is thought the former Valencia coach will be given adequate funds to acquire new players over the summer, although some of his spending will have to be financed by the sale of current squad members.

John Arne Riise, Jermaine Pennant and Peter Crouch are three expected to see the exit doors at Anfield this summer, who between them, may raise between £15-20 million.

Benitez has been linked with several names, with a move for Borussia Dortmund full-back Philipp Degen said to be confirmed with the player having signed a pre-contract.

Aston Villa captain Gareth Barry is reportedly high on Rafa's wishlist, though it may take an offer of £15 million or more to coax the England international away from Villa Park.

Among many other names - Eric Abidal, David Bentley and Rafinha, to name a few - are Udinese's Gokhan Inler and Andrea Dossena.

The two have played key roles for the Zebrette in a season which is seeing them outside contenders for UEFA Cup qualification. Reports in Italy suggest that the two may be prised away from Udine this summer, with Liverpool said to have made contact with the club.

Inler was signed just this season from FC Zurich. The 23-year-old midfielder is viewed as one of the best signings in Serie A this season.

Dossena, 26, has been at the club for three years, though he spent a season on loan at Treviso. The defender impressed early on in the season and won his first cap for Italy in a friendly against South Africa on November 17.

Rafa On Crouch: We'll Do What's Best For Both Of Us

Rafael Benitez has said that he will try to do what's best for both Liverpool Football Club and Peter Crouch this summer, but that the player will ultimately decide where his future lies.

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has hinted that Peter Crouch could leave Anfield before next season, if the England striker decides it is time for a move elsewhere.

Crouch revealed on Wednesday that he has not yet been offered a new contract by Liverpool, for whom he has started just nine League games since Fernando Torres arrived last summer.

Crouch has nevertheless racked up an impressive 13 goals in all competitions this season, said he would seek talks with Benitez after Sunday’s final game of the season at Tottenham.

Meanwhile Benitez has revealed that both parties have had 'positive' talks, but with the two of the player's former clubs - Portsmouth and Aston Villa - showing an interest interest, Crouch could go.

“I was talking with him the other day and the conversation was positive,” Rafa told The Liverpool Post.

“But we need to do what is best for him and best for us.

“He has one year on his contract. We know some clubs are asking about him but we need to wait and then do the best for him and for us.”

Taylor Ignores Reds Rumours

Birmingham goalkeeper Maik Taylor is ignoring rumours linking him with a surprise move to Liverpool.

Reports have suggested Liverpool are considering a move for the Northern Ireland international in the summer.

Taylor is a free agent in the close-season and is an attractive proposition for a number of clubs.

Reds boss Rafa Benitez is thought to be in the market for a new goalkeeper as back-up to Jose Reina as he has not been impressed by Charles Itandje.

Birmingham have put off all contract talks with Taylor until the end of the season and it remains to be seen if he will be offered an extension.

The 36-year-old says he is in the dark regarding interest from Liverpool and says he is only focusing on this weekend's crucial clash with Blackburn, as Birmingham look to secure their Premier League survival.

"I don't know anything about it [Liverpool] but obviously I'm out of contract and would like my future sorted," Taylor told the Birmingham Mail.

"But we have a big game on Sunday and that is the only thing on my mind right now."

Dalglish: Rafa Will Find Formula

In an interview with, Kop king Kenny Dalglish has backed Rafa Benitez to eventually find the formula which will win Liverpool their 19th league title.

The legendary Scot also explained why he doesn't think it is wise to compare the partnership between Stevie G and El Nino with the one he enjoyed with Ian Rush.

Did you think that once Liverpool had scored at Stamford Bridge to equalise at 1-1 and 2-2 on aggregate, they would go on to beat Chelsea?

They did show a lot of resilience because in the first half Chelsea were the better side. Liverpool picked it up and looked a better side in the second half. Fernando Torres's goal was deserved and it was a great finish after great work by Yossi Benayoun. Unfortunately, they couldn't finish it. Once the third goal went in, it was always going to be a big ask. But credit to them, they hit back and made it 3-2. They just couldn't get the third goal which could have taken us through.

How hard is it for a player to get over a defeat like that?

It is not hard to lose a game against a quality side. Chelsea are top of the league along with Manchester United. They were playing a very, very good side. Of course you should be disappointed when you lose a Champions League semi-final, but you should be disappointed when you lose any game. You have to recover, but they are quite right to feel disappointed. The sad thing was that they scored two away from home but it still wasn't enough.

What positives can Liverpool and Benitez take from this season?

Torres is a huge positive. In his first year, he hit over 30 goals – a magnificent return. He is finding the position that Steven Gerrard likes to play in. So that's two pluses. I think that every day that goes by, every game that goes by and every season that goes by, you learn something, and I'm sure Rafa learnt a lot from this year. Next year they'll be looking to improve on it.

What do you think Liverpool need to change in order to compete in the Premier League as well as in the UEFA Champions League?

They can compete in the Premier League but they are just not competing at the level they'd like to. I think they had a bad November when they drew too many games and I feel they threw away too many points against the top teams and fell too far behind.

How does the relationship between Gerrard and Torres compare with the one you had with Ian Rush?

I don't think a comparison should be made because it would give them the wrong identity. There is no point comparing Gerrard and Torres with Ian Rush and myself. Everybody's different, they are all individuals and they form a very good partnership. The contribution both of them have made this year has been massive for Liverpool. But I don't think it's fair to compare them to myself and Rushy.

Who do you think will win the UEFA Champions League?

I think it's difficult to shout who is going to win it. It depends on who is going to be fit come the final. It depends on whether the Rooneys and Ronaldos will be fit. There's little to separate the two sides in the league and I think it's going to be a great final. I also think it's a great credit to the Premier League to have three teams in the last four.

Reserves Crowned National Champions

Liverpool Reserves have been crowned National Champions after powering to a resounding victory over Aston Villa in an entertaining play-off final at Anfield.

Gary Ablett's men produced the type of performance typical of their all-conquering campaign, combining attractive, flowing football with some gutsy, determined defending to clinch a 3-0 win courtesy of goals from Krisztian Nemeth, Jordy Brouwer and Lucas Leiva.

It caps a remarkable season for the Reds' second string, who can now add the national title to both the Dallas Cup and the Northern Division championship, to complete what is a superb cup treble.

On a rare sun-drenched evening at Anfield, it was Villa who settled the quicker of the two sides, but for all their good approach play Liverpool manufactured the game's first real moment of note when Krisztian Nemeth's cute back heel was deflected away by the last-ditch boot of Isaiah Osbourne, to deny Lucas a clear run at goal.

The Brazilian was in the side in place of the injured Jay Spearing and provided some South American rhythm at the centre of the park against Kevin McDonald's experienced Villa outfit that included first-teamers such as Stuart Taylor, Wayne Routledge, Shaun Maloney and Marlon Harewood.

In truth, the visitors enjoyed the majority of the possession throughout an entertaining first-half and went close through Chris Herd's 20-yard snap shot before the hosts took the lead courtesy of a familiar marksmen.

The lively Nabil El Zhar ran at the heart of the Villa defence and fed a neat ball through to Jordy Brouwer who in turn laid an instant flick to Nemeth on the right, with the Hungarian showing great composure to flash a shot from just inside the penalty area into the far corner to give Liverpool the perfect start.

It was a magnificent team goal and all the more fitting that the yellow-booted forward was the man on target, having been irrepressible in front of goal throughout a superb season with the reserves.

It gave the Reds the lift they needed and El Zhar drilled a long range strike over the cross bar before Jordy Brouwer wasted a great chance to double the home side's advantage on 24 minutes.

Ryan Flynn showed great determination to outpace his marker and fire in a dangerous cross from the left and although no one was on hand to finish off his superb wing play, El Zhar took up the baton on the far right and surged beyond Nathan Baker before cutting the ball back to Brouwer who side-footed a weak effort straight at Taylor from eight yards out.

However, it was as good as it got for the Reds in the first period and Villa began to dominate the proceedings as they pushed forward in search of the equaliser.

The first opportunity for the visitors to level fell to Marlon Harwood, who had already scored at Anfield during a 2-2 draw against Rafael Benitez's senior side earlier in the season, and he will feel he should have repeated that feat on 26 minutes, after lashing a fierce 25-yard strike just over Peter Gulacsi's crossbar.

The pace of Routledge was a cause for concern for Gary Ablett's men throughout the match and just seconds later Villa had carved Liverpool open down the right once again, but this time Herd somehow contrived to hit the post from 10 yards out after Harwood and Moloney combined to put him clear.

The Reds continued to look a threat on the counter-attack but it was the away side who again went closest to scoring prior to the interval when Mikel San Jose reacted brilliantly to clear Maloney's stabbed effort off the line after Gulacsi had dropped Routledge's right-wing cross.

It was a similar story after the break too, but Villa's fortune in front of goal continued to desert them as proved on 57 minutes when Moustapha Salifou saw his long range volley crash back off the crossbar with Gulacsi well beaten.

El Zhar and Nemeth offered some brief respite for the Reds rearguard with the former seeing his run and shot well blocked before the latter stung the fingertips of Taylor with a rasping 25-yard drive.

With both sides creating a series of good openings, something had to give, and after Maloney wasted a glorious chance to pull the Villains level, Liverpool struck the killer blow on 66 minutes.

Emiliano Insua won the ball deep in Villa territory allowing Nemeth to seize on the loose ball and play in Brouwer, who raced into the penalty area before hammering the ball, low into the bottom left-hand corner to send the Kop into raptures.

It was a strike that seemed to deflate the away side and on 76 minutes the Reds wrapped up victory when substitute Daniel Pacheco's delightfully disguised pass sent Lucas clear and the Brazilian made no mistake to ensure the 7,580 supporters packed into Anfield went home happy.

Liverpool Reserves: Gulacsi, Darby, Insua, San Jose, Huth, Plessis, El Zhar (Simon 86), Lucas, Brouwer (Pacheco 73), Nemeth (Lindfield 80), Flynn. Unused subs: Bouzanis, Kelly, Simon.

Aston Villa Reserves: Taylor, Lund (Bannan 74), Baker (Delfouneso 46), Osbourne, Clark, Lowry, Salifou, Routledge, Harewood, Herd, Maloney (Albrighton 77). Unused subs: Bevan, Collins.