Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Spain Fret As Torres Misses Training

Spanish international Fernando Torres was forced to miss training on Monday, after suffering a minor ankle injury in the 2-1 victory over Peru on Saturday.

Torres' absence was the biggest news in the Spanish camp on Monday. The Liverpool striker was unable to train with his team-mates after suffering a minor injury to his right ankle in the win over Peru.

The former Atletico Madrid hitman was restricted to the gymnasium, but the lethal striker should be available for Spain's final warm-up clash with the United States on Wednesday. Tests revealed the 24-year-old only has a minor ankle injury, and he should be back in action in no time.

Despite Torres' injury, the Spanish national team still completed an intense training session at the Ciudad del Futbol de La Rozas complex behind closed-doors. Luis Aragones divided the squad into two groups, defense and attack, as they underwent different kinds of exercises.

Aragones didn't provide the press with any details of who will turn out in their starting eleven against the United States on Wednesday. Still, a recovered Torres is expected to be in the team against America.

Spurs To Hijack Reds' Bentley Bid

Tottenham are set to hijack Liverpool's plans to sign David Bentley by offering Blackburn a cash plus players offer for the England star.

Tottenham boss Juande Ramos is set to make wholesale changes to his White Hart Lane playing squad this summer as he attempts to steer Spurs into the top four of the Premier League next season.

And according to The People, Ramos sees Bentley as a vital component if he is to achieve that goal for the North London side. Reports suggest that the Spaniard is ready to offer Rovers a deal that would see midfielder Hossam Ghaly, winger Aaron Lennon and £7 million head to Ewood Park.

Rovers boss Mark Hughes, whose future at Ewood is uncertain due to his reported presence on the shortlist for the Chelsea managers job, may be tempted by the offer as Lennon would act as a direct replacement for Bentley on the right wing, and Ghaly would provide back-up for veteran Turkish central midfielder Tugay.

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has had Bentley and his England colleague Gareth Barry high on his summer shopping list ever since the Premier League season came to a close - but is more likely to offer straight cash for the former Arsenal man, who has expressed his disappointment at Blackburn’s failure to qualify for Europe.

Spurs, meanwhile, are reportedly set to turn to Diego Milito if they fail to hang on to their much sought after star Dimitar Berbatov, who may be lured by the chance to play in the Champions League next season.

Newcastle To Swoop For Anfeld Pair?

Newcastle United are being linked with a possible move for Liverpool pair Peter Crouch and John Arne Riise.

As Kevin Keegan looks to strengthen his Newcastle squad, there is speculation that he copuld mount a double bid for his old club's striker Peter Crouch and full-back John Arne Riise.

This summer will be Keegan's first opportunity to enter the transfer market on behalf of Newcastle since he ended his first spell as Magpies' manager nine years ago.

He is keen to mould his squad for next season and is therefore expected to make some significant signings this summer.

He has Nigerian striker Obafemi Martins recovering from an ankle injury sustained on international duty and set to join Australian Mark Viduka on the sidelines for pre-season. So a striker with the track record of Crouch is thought to be an attractibve proposition for Keegan.

At the same time Norwegian left-back Riise has been linked with Newcastle for some time. Keegan has only Jose Enrique as a specialist in that position, and Riise can also provide cover in midfield.

Currently Michael Owen - who missed England's two recent friendlies with an infectious virus - is the only 'fit' first-team striker at St James' Park, and he has suffered a catalogue of injury set-backs in recent seasons.

Crouch on the other hand just wants the chance to play regular first-team football.

Babel Targeting July Return

Dutch national team boss Marco van Basten is confident that Liverpool winger Ryan Babel will be fully fit again in time for the start of the Premiership season.

Babel, 21, is still reeling from having been ruled out Euro 2008 after tearing ankle ligaments during training on Saturday, but by the sounds of it thing could have been considerably worse.

"He needs five to seven weeks to recover," said Van Basten.

"He was on the other end of the field when he turned around. He told me that he heard something snap, and others heard it too.

"He went to a hospital and there it became clear he had torn a muscle."

Dutch olympic coach Foppe de Haan is also optimistic of the former Ajax star's recovery, and has even opened the door to the possibility of Babel representing his country in China in July.

“If Ryan recovers, he’s a sure candidate for a place in the team. With his qualities, he could be a very important player for us,” de Haan had declared yesterday.

“We must wait and see how long his convalescence will last.

"I find it a shame that Ryan has to miss the European Championship final stage. His absence is also a large blow to the national side. He could have been our secret weapon."

Fernando Torres Can Shine In Euro 2008 Says Xabi Alonso

Xabi Alonso is tipping club and country team-mate Fernando Torres to be one of the stars of Euro 2008 when it kicks off on Saturday.

After an incredible debut season at Anfield, in which the Spanish striker netted 33 goals in all competitions, Alonso insists that Torres is ready to terrorise international defences in Austria and Switzerland.

Alonso, whose own Liverpool future has been the subject of speculation since the end of the season, said: “The way we play with Spain is different to the way we play with Liverpool, but I think he is quite confident in himself.

"Whenever he gets the ball we think that something might happen. He has scored so many goals and hopefully he will continue this run in the Euros.

"Even the more optimistic could be surprised at how easily he settled at Liverpool because of the way he has performed. He has been so confident on the pitch and in front of goal and that is great news for Liverpool and Spain.

"And, obviously, it is hard but once he learns a few more things he will be even better."

Despite a record of underachievement in major tournaments, Alonso believes Spain are finally well equipped to challenge for glory at the championships.

Luis Aragones' side arrive in Austria and Switzerland heavily backed and expected to challenge for a trophy that has eluded them since the Sixties.

The history books provide less cause for optimism than the bookies though, with Spain having repeatedly faltered on the biggest stage.

"There is no clear reason, but it's clear we have underachieved," Alonso confirmed.

"Each tournament is a great chance for us to try and prove that we can perform and be positive in a final tournament.

"Because of that we have faith in ourselves and we will strive to reach the level we expect and want to reach."

Spain have an embarrassment of riches in Alonso's position, with the likes of Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas vying to partner Xavi in central midfield.

While being more than generous in appraisal of his rival Fabregas, Alonso makes clear that Spain's game plan revolves around getting the ball to Barcelona star Xavi's feet at every opportunity.

Alonso added: "It's great, with the qualities that they (Cesc and Iniesta) have. But the style of the national team is quite clear - get the ball to Xavi.

"We play possession football and with those players it's normal that it's quite an attractive prospect.

"Cesc has been great. Arsenal have presented a great style of football, with Fabregas at the hub of it.

"A couple of times this season they have been amazing. The player that has been the link between the defence and the attack, the team playmaker, has been Fabregas."

Alonso's own season, much like Liverpool's in fact, has been one of frustration.

A broken ankle saw him miss three months of the season but he is quick to spin a negative on its head; of the opinion that a prolonged spell on the sidelines makes him even fresher heading into the Euros.

"I feel that I have quite a good moment of form - I have quite fresh legs.

"Of course I had an injury before Christmas - for three months I was out - but now I am feeling fresher than if I would have played all of the games.

"It's been a disappointing season because of the injury but right now I am in a good moment and hopefully that will continue."

The greatest debate with regards Aragones' squad selection surrounded his omission of Real Madrid talisman Raul.

Having helped Real to the title by rolling back the years with a series of vintage displays, it was expected Raul would win a recall to Aragones' 23-man squad.

However, the veteran tactician elected to give youth its chance and Alonso is quick to play the diplomat when quizzed on Raul's snub.

"I have to respect the manager's decision. Of course it's the main debate in Spain - it's all over there - with Real Madrid having won the league and he having been one of the main reasons why.

"But the matter is in the hands of the manager."

Gareth Barry Drops Hint On Move To Anfield

Gareth Barry has dropped the biggest hint yet that he is considering a switch to Liverpool this summer.

Aston Villa are determined to hold on to their captain and manager Martin O’Neill wants to hold talks with the player.

A player-plus-cash offer worth £10m has already been rejected by Villa but with Rafael Benitez keen to add the England midfielder to his squad, decision time is looming for Barry.

And he admitted last night that the lure of instant Champions League football could be too tempting to resist.

“Champions League football helps any player,” he said. “You only have to look at the England squad to see the amount of players who get in the squad and start the games – the majority play in the Champions League.

“That's all about the decision that will have to be made by myself. Liverpool are in the Champions League and Villa are trying to push for that. That's all part of my decision if a bid gets accepted.

“There's so much to lose at Aston Villa. I've been there for 10 years, got a good rapport with the fans, I'm captain there, great relationship with the manager.

“But I would like things cleared up.”

Alonso-Juve: Crunch Talks Today

Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso is reportedly on the verge of agreeing terms with Juventus, with contract talks scheduled today.

Alonso’s future has been in serious doubt for months following an injury-riddled campaign at Anfield, and the club’s interest in Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry has only fuelled the flames regarding his possible exit.

The Basque playmaker has stated his desire to remain on Merseyside with the rest of Rafael Benitez’s Spanish contingent, as well as close friend and Everton midfielder Mikel Arteta.

The 26-year-old would no doubt consider a return to his homeland, and Real Madrid and Barcelona have expressed interest in the former Real Sociedad man.

But with no solid offer forthcoming from Spain, Juve are the clear favourites to secure Alonso’s signature, his agent Inaki Ibanez declaring recently that the player is tempted by the Old Lady’s advances.

According to the Daily Mail, the Bianconeri are prepared to shell out ₤13.5 million for the Spanish international, who they will offer a five-year deal.

But the Reds are demanding in excess of ₤16 million for their midfield creator, whose potential absence could prove costly early next season while Javier Mascherano and Lucas Leiva are at the Beijing Olympics.