Monday, July 21, 2008

Pennant’s Convinced He’ll Stay At Liverpool

Jermaine Pennant is convinced he will begin the season as a Liverpool player.

The winger’s future has been the subject of much speculation during the transfer window as Rafael Benitez attempts to reshape his squad.

It is thought the Anfield manager would be willing to listen to offers for Pennant to raise funds for squad strengthening.

Blackburn Rovers are one of several clubs to have been linked with the 25-year-old who cost £6.7m from Birmingham City two years ago.

But Pennant says he has not been told he is up for sale, while revealing his determination to secure silverware with Liverpool.

“The boss hasn’t come to me and said any other club is interested,” he said. “There’s always going to be speculation about someone who isn’t playing as much, but I’m not going anywhere.

“I still have a contract, I’m not asking to leave, I haven’t told the boss that I want to leave and he hasn’t told me that he wants to get rid of me.

“Liverpool isn’t a club you leave easily, if you stay here you are more than likely to win things.”

After playing a key role in the team that reached the European Cup final in his first campaign, Pennant missed almost two months of last season after suffering a stress fracture and made only seven starts after his return to fitness in January.

And the winger accepts that the coming campaign could prove pivotal to his Liverpool career.

“With Rafa using the rotation, then no player is guaranteed a place in the team,” said Pennant, who played the second half of Liverpool’s 1-1 friendly draw against Wisla Krakow in Fribourg, Switzerland on Saturday.

“Every position is up for grabs and you have to take your chance when you get it.

“The second half of last season was a disappointment for me. My injury played a massive part, having three months out on the sidelines. By the time I came back, the team were playing well and it was difficult to get back in.

“I think this could be the most important season of my career. Every season is important to me, although I don’t know about this being a make-or-break one for me.”

Pennant will be hopeful of providing the ammunition for Robbie Keane, who is expected to complete his transfer from Tottenham Hotspur this week.

And the winger has warned Premiership sides to beware a potentially devastating strike partnership between the Republic of Ireland international and Fernando Torres.

“Robbie is a great player, he’s sharp around the box and is a great finisher,” added Pennant.

“If he does sign and is up front with Fernando Torres, it could be as good as anything in the Premiership.

“Robbie has done well in the past four or five years with Tottenham, and Torres was remarkable last season. If they both carry on in that form, it would be a great partnership.”

Meanwhile, Liverpool are closing in on the signature of 19-year-old Paris Saint Germain striker David N'Gog.

N'Gog was told last week he could leave PSG after refusing to sign a new contract with his current deal due to expire in less than 12 months.

Ablett: Pacheco Can Shine Under Rafa

Gary Ablett believes rising star Daniel Pacheco will continue to shine under the guidance of Rafael Benitez.

The 17-year-old Spanish striker arrived from Barcelona last season and enjoyed a superb debut year as he helped the reserves to a unique treble under the command of Ablett.

The reserve team boss, who watched on television as Pacheco set up a goal for Lucas against Lucerne last week, admitted he has been impressed with the way he has handled the step up to first-team level during pre-season.

Ablett believes he is a player with a bright future.

"Dani is a young lad with a lot of potential," Ablett told

"Last season was his first here with us and he more than played his part in what was an exceptional campaign.

"I have always said our main goal is to get players through to Rafa's first-team squad and it is pleasing to see Daniel doing well in the games he has played in pre-season.

"People have to remember, though, that he is only 17 and not to expect too much too soon, but there is no better man than Rafa to help him to achieve what he wants in the game."

Rafael Benitez Confident Of Robbie Keane Deal

Rafael Benitez remains confident of reaching a successful conclusion in his attempt to complete the £20 million signing of Robbie Keane, the Tottenham Hotspur forward, despite last week's angry attack on the Liverpool manager by Spurs chairman Daniel Levy.

Benitez and Liverpool believe Levy's decision to report the club to the Premier League will come to nothing and that a deal will be struck that will permit Keane to join Benitez's squad within the next week.

The manager is also hopeful of completing the £18 million transfer of Gareth Barry from a reluctant Aston Villa and with Fernando Torres and Xabi Alonso due to report back on Friday for the first time since helping Spain to Euro 2008 success, Benitez's pre-season preparations will begin to gather momentum.

The latest stage of those - Saturday's 1-1 with Polish side Wisla Krakow in Switzerland - was overshadowed by the return of captain Steven Gerrard to England for treatment on a groin problem that will keep the midfielder sidelined for around 10 days.

Gerrard’s Injury Not A Concern For Benitez

Rafael Benitez has played down any fears over Steven Gerrard’s fitness for the start of the season.

The Liverpool skipper returned home early from the club’s training camp in Switzerland after suffering a groin problem.

Gerrard sat out the 2-1 win over FC Lucerne in Grenchen on Wednesday and was back on Merseyside for the 1-1 draw against Polish champions Wisla Krakow in Fribourg on Saturday.

The midfielder has already been ruled out of tomorrow’s friendly in Germany against Hertha Berlin but is likely to return for the trip to Villarreal the following week.

“Steven has a groin problem, it’s not serious but he cannot train and he wouldn’t be available for this game so we decided to send him back to Melwood for training,” said Benitez.

“He should be okay in about a week. It’s not serious but there’s no sense to keep him here being unable to train or play.”

Philipp Degen also missed Saturday’s game due to a groin problem, but is expected to be available tomorrow night.

Liverpool’s other new full-back signing, Italian international Andrea Dossena, was cleared to make his first appearance for the club at the weekend.

The £6m arrival from Udinese played 62 minutes against Wisla, and Benitez said: “Dossena did okay but it was a difficult game for the full-backs.

“Wisla were good in wide areas with overlaps, but it was only his first game so I thought he was fine.

“It was important for him to play his first game. He is a good player and a good professional.

“He needs to understand our system and the way we play and he will get better with the more games he plays.”

Benitez added: “I think we did really well in the first half. We had really good possession, the understanding between the players was good and we showed an attacking mentality.

“We were playing against a team that was well organised and it was a step up in fitness for us.

“We had some chances but they did too so a draw was probably a fair result.

”Of goalscorer Voronin, Benitez added: “He was good, and played well the other day, so we know his quality.”

Reds Keen On PSG Ace

Reports in France claim Liverpool have made a bid to lure Paris Saint Germain young striker David Ngog, cousin of Jean-Alain Boumsong.

Ngog, 19, was told last week by head coach Paul Le Guen he can move on subject to a suitable offer be made and it has been claimed that Rafa Benitez has made an offer to sign the Frenchman.

The Reds’ French scout Laurent Viaud, a former Monaco player, is believed to have suggested the club sign the youngster.

The athletic attacker appeared 19 times in the top flight last season, scoring once at Parc des Princes.

Ngog refused to sign a new deal with the capital club and is under contract until 2009. He was not called up to play the friendly with Clermont last Saturday.