Sunday, July 20, 2008

Crocked Gerrard Sent Home

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard's pre-season has been interrupted by a groin injury that has seen the midfielder sent home from the club's Swiss training camp.

According to the club’s official website the injury is not too serious although it will keep him out of action for the next week. Confirming the news Ian Cotton, the club spokesman, said: “Steven has a slight groin strain which will keep him out for between seven and ten days.”

Liverpool are currently in Switzerland ahead of the new season and are due to play Wisla Krakow this evening before facing German side Hertha Berlin next week. Gerrard’s injury will rule him out of both of these games and as such he has been sent home.

Cotton confirmed that the club captain had returned to England for treatment on the injury. Speaking about the midfielder he said: “He has left the training camp to return to Melwood where he will receive treatment on the injury.”

Liverpool began their preparations for the new season with a friendly against Tranmere last weekend. Although Gerrard didn’t start the game he replaced Damien Plessis after 65 minutes in a match which the Reds won 1-0, courtesy of a Yossi Benayoun strike.
The Anfield side then travelled to their training camp in Switzerland where they played FC Lucerne on Wednesday and managed a 2-1 victory, despite Gerrard not featuring in the game which saw Jamie Carragher captain the side in his absence.

Although the news will come as a blow to manager Rafael Benitez he will be hoping Gerrard can recover swiftly. Liverpool continue their pre-season preparations with friendlies against Villareal, Rangers, VĂ¥lerenga and Lazio before they open their Premier League campaign on 16 August against Sunderland.

Babel Hopes Against Rafa Olympic Fury

Ryan Babel hopes that heading off to the Olympics with the Netherlands won't negatively impact his Liverpool future.

Dutch winger Ryan Babel has confirmed that he's heading for Beijing and claims he doesn't have a choice in the matter.

Rafa Benitez is delighted to have Babel back after injury but is reportedly livid with Dutch Olympics coach Foppe de Haan for putting the 21-year-old at risk and keeping him out of Liverpool action.

Babel's commitments include an U-23 friendly against Belgium, the ING Cup in Hong Kong and the Olympics tournament itself, where the Dutch are tipped to be contenders.

Babel, who missed Euro 2008 due to ankle ligament problems, understands his duty to The Netherlands, even if Benitez doesn't. He told the club's official website: "I'm going to the Olympics. I know the manager would want me to stay but I don't think he will hold it against me.

"It's a normal reaction from the manager to want me to stay. Every manager wants to keep his players to play at the club.

"But it's not my choice and it isn't the manager's. I’m under-age; the federation needs me; I've been called up so I have to go. It wasn't a choice for me.

"I don't think it's going to affect my career at Liverpool. The boss here knows I didn't have any choice."

Thus, the fleet-footed wide-man is set to miss the first two games of the Premiership season and two legs of Champions League qualifying.

Babel made a long-awaited comeback against Lucerne in midweek - helping the team to a 2-1 win - and admits he's keen to get back on track.

"I feel okay. My game's not perfect yet, but the boss wanted to test me. I thought I did okay and felt confident enough. It's good to be back," he added.

"I've got over the disappointment of missing out on the European Championships. Every player wants to play in it, and when you miss out only two days before you're due to travel to the finals, it's extra disappointing.

"But I'm even more motivated than before, and all I want to do now is look forward."

Inter To Turn Attention To Liverpool's Alonso If Lampard Bid Fails

Inter Milan are to switch their attention to Spanish International Xabi Alonso of Liverpool, if they fail to sign number one transfer target Frank Lampard at Chelsea, according to reports in Italy.

The Nerazzurri have already had one offer of £7.95million (€10m) turned down by the Blues, but have reportedly made an improved bid believed to be £11million (€13.85m) in a final attempt to lure the England International to the San Siro to be reunited with former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho - the new boss at Inter.

Mourinho has been quoted recently as saying he wants to sign a midfielder, with a link up with Lampard being the preferred choice for the ‘Special One’. However, should Inter’s advances for the goal-scoring midfielder be rejected again Mourinho will turn to Alonso.

Alonso had been linked with a move to Juventus all summer, but La Vecchia Signora would not meet Liverpool’s valuation of the 26-year-old, with Juve ending their interest in the EURO 2008 Winner by opting to sign Christian Poulsen from La Liga side Sevilla.

Inter boss Mourinho recently failed in an attempt to prise Marek Hamsik from Napoli and will reportedly try to sign Alonso, who the Reds value in the region of £15million (€18.9m), should Chelsea decide to stand firm and not allow Lampard to leave Stamford Bridge.

Reds manager Rafa Benitez is already on record as saying he needs to sell players before he can add to his Anfield squad, with it believed that the sale of Alonso will enable him to sign Gareth Barry from Aston Villa finally and bring Robbie Keane to Liverpool from Tottenham Hotspur.

Kuyt Hails Pacheco Impact

Dirk Kuyt admits he is not surprised youngster Daniel Pacheco has been hitting the headlines during the club's pre-season trip to Switzerland but insists he is just one of a group of young guns who are knocking on the first-team door.

The Dutch forward has been impressed by the way the Spaniard has handled the step up from reserve team level to the senior squad and thinks his performances have given boss Rafael Benitez food for thought ahead of the 2008-09 season.

"I think Pacheco has done really well for us," Kuyt told

"He's shown everyone what he is capable of here in Switzerland and has worked hard.

"But it's not just him, I also think some of the other youngsters have done really well - and that's not just what you are seeing in the games, they are also impressing during training too."

Kuyt appeared as a second-half substitute in Saturday's 1-1 draw with Wisla Krakow - a result that ended the Reds' 100 per cent pre-season record.

He admits it was the toughest test they have faced yet but feels the hard work they have put in during matches, and at the pre-season training camp in Interlaken will pay dividends ahead of what promises to be a long and hard campaign.

"Yeah I think it was the toughest test yet," he said.

"I only played for 20 minutes but it was tough and Krakow looked very sharp. Okay we had a few chances to win the game but sometimes in pre-season we work hard in training and we get tired.

"It's been really good in Interlaken this week. The weather's been okay, we've had a few showers but we've got a good big pitch to train on and we have been working really hard.

"We've got a good group and some young new players who are doing well."

Kuyt also had encouraging words for the likes of debutant Andrea Dossena and the club's other new boys, Philipp Degen and Diego Cavalieri.

"They are all good lads," he continued.” I haven't spoken too much to them because I've only been with them a few days but they are nice lads and have done well in training too. Hopefully they can enjoy a good first season with the club."

Mascherano Targets Special Season

Javier Mascherano believes Liverpool have the winning mentality to end a two-year spell without a trophy and has identified Fernando Torres as the man to fire them to what he feels could be a 'special' season for the club.

The Argentina international - who was speaking after the Reds' 1-1 draw with Wisla Krakow in Switzerland - wants Rafael Benitez's side to improve on their fourth-placed finish last time out and feels the hard work they have put in at the club's pre-season camp in Interlaken will go some way to helping them succeed in the future.

"We are working hard in pre-season which is an important time," Mascherano told

"We all want success at this club and we all feel we can do better than last season. We have some great players and we all have a winning mentality.

"If you look at Fernando (Torres) you can see he is a special player. He is a key player for us like Steven Gerrard and if you want to win things it's important for us to have players like them. We hope this year will be good for us and them.

"For me, I always try to give my best for the team and hopefully this can be a special season for us."

The tough-tackling midfielder came on as a second-half substitute against the Polish champions, in a match that also saw his compatriot Emiliano Insua feature for the Reds.

The attack-minded full-back enjoyed a superb season with the Reserves last year and although the arrival of Italian full-back Andrea Dossena has increased competition for the left-back berth, Mascherano is confident the youngster has a bright future with the club.

"He is a very good young player and he is doing well," he said. "He is working hard and wants to do show people what he can do.

"When he has played for the first team he has always done well."

Reds Held By Krakow As Dossena Debuts

Andrea Dossena yesterday made his long-awaited debut for Liverpool, who settled for a 1-1 draw in their friendly against Wisla Krakow.

Dossena arrived from Udinese earlier this month but had not yet featured due to some minor clearance problems. But the Italian defender finally took his bow in Krakow last night, lasting 60 minutes before being replaced by Argentine youngster Emiliano Insua.

Andriy Voronin, who struck the winner in the Reds’ last outing against Swiss side Lucerne, was on target again the Polish side, mopping up his own rebound to eventually slot home after some excellent interplay between Lucas Leiva, Ryan Babel and Yossi Benayoun.

It took only six minutes for the Merseyside giants to take the lead, and it took only six more before the hosts were level once again. Reds goalkeeper Diego Cavalieri, recently signed from Palmeiras, let in his second goal in as many games as Tomas Jirsak found the net with a low shot.

Each side had chances to take the lead – Voronin in particular should have doubled his tally – but neither could break the deadlock and the game finished 1-1.

Liverpool will travel to Germany to face Hertha Berlin in their next pre-season friendly on July 22.

Liverpool: Cavalieri, Dossena, Carragher, Agger, Darby, Leto, Plessis, Leiva, Benayoun, Voronin, Babel. Subs: Hyypia, Pennant, Aurelio, Pacheco, Insua, Kuyt, Mascherano, Skrtel, Spearing, Hobbs, Martin.

Pre-Season Pleases Benitez

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has revealed he is happy with the club's pre-season preparations so far.

The club kicked off their pre-season with wins against Tranmere and FC Lucerne, matches which saw a number of fringe players given the chance to impress the boss.

Speaking to, Benitez admitted he had been pleased with what he had seen so far and singled out a number of players for praise. He said: “Voronin played really well the other day and Lucas did well. It is also very positive to see Daniel Agger playing again. It's very positive for us to see the likes of Pacheco, Lucas and Voronin playing really well.”

With two wins under their belt already and with friendly games against Hertha Berlin, Villareal, Rangers, VĂ¥lerenga and Lazio to come, Benitez admitted the players were working hard. The manager revealed: “All of the players are training very well and really hard. They are enjoying the training we are doing and that is the balance that you are looking for - to work hard and also to enjoy it.”

The Reds open their Premier League campaign against Sunderland on August 16th and the Liverpool manager admitted he hoped the hard work the players were putting in now would mean they were ready in time.

“They are working really hard and you need to push them. We have been doing some tactical and technical work and we have also had the players in the gym as well,” he said before adding, “The physical level of the players is getting better and better after every training session.”

After their excursions at Euro 2008 a number of the Liverpool squad have been given extended breaks including Dirk Kuyt, Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso, Alvaro Arbeloa and Pepe Reina.

However, Benitez admitted he was looking forward to getting all of his players back together. Benitez said: “We still have the four Spanish players on holiday and Dirk Kuyt arrived with us on Wednesday. When we bring all of the players back together it will be good for us because the understanding between them will be much better.”

The Liverpool manager also went on to speak about a couple of his new signings. Phillipp Degen and Andrea Dossena arrived at Anfield this summer and Benitez admitted hat his new defensive duo were settling in well.

“It is totally different for them because it is a new language,” he admitted before adding, “I was talking today with Philipp and Andrea and we were speaking in English and trying to encourage them. I think they are trying to settle down quickly.”

They are unlikely to be the last signings at Liverpool this season. The club have been strongly linked with moves from Gareth Barry and Robbie Keane and Benitez admitted new developments may still occur.

“My mobile is always on and it must be like this at this time,” he said before concluding, “If we can find the targets then that will be good.”