Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Skrtel To Win Fitness Race For CL Qualifiers

Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel will have recovered from his groin strain in time for Liverpool's Champions League qualifying tie starting next week.

The Reds face Standard Liege in the first of two legs on Wednesday, August 13 in Belgium, as they look to continue their love affair with the Europe's premier club competition.

Skrtel injured his groin in the 4-0 win at Ibrox over Scottish Premier League and UEFA Cup runners up, Rangers.

The Slovakian stopper has become a favourite with Kopites since joining the club from Zenit St Petersburg in January for £6.5 million, a club record fee for a defender.

Having been left at home as the Reds travel to Norway for this evening's friendly against Valerenga, there were fears he may miss the start of Liverpool's competitive season,

However, though he will also miss Friday's home friendly against Lazio, it is widely expected he will be fit to face Liege a week tomorrow.

Torres Keane On Robbie Goals

European Championship-winning forward, Fernando Torres, has publicly hailed the work of his future striker partner Robbie Keane, and believes they will be a formidable duo this campaign.

Liverpool's former Atletico hitman Torres, 24, has not been shy of accolades and plaudits during his debut season. As a result of his 24 league goals, he was a contender for PFA Player of the Year, FWA Footballer of the Year, and was on the shortlist for the PFA Player's Player of the Year.

As if that wasn't enough, by May, 'El Nino' saw his goal tally exceed that of former Merseyside icon Michael Owen's personal record for netting in one season. He also set a new record for the amount of goals scored by a foreigner in the Premier League, one that had previously been set by Ruud Van Nistelrooy.

It wouldn't be daft to presume that the Kop king will repeat his successes of last season, this. By himself he can tally up a mass of 30 goals, let alone with a strike partner.

Robbie Keane on the other hand is fresh from a semi-successful campaign with Tottenham. Despite a league campaign that promised much but delivered little, the White Hart Lane favourite never stopped working. His final season in the lily white shirt of Spurs was rewarded with a League Cup winners medal.

Like Torres, the Dublin-born international has set many records at club level. By notching 15 goals in his final Premier League campaign he became the first Hotspur to reach double figures in half a dozen Premier League campaigns. Not only did he feature in 250 league appearances for Spurs, he also scored over 100 competitive goals.

On paper, a Torres/ Keane partnership has every chance of blossoming into something quite terrifying for opposition defenders, and this is something Torres has already stressed on www.fifa.com.

"He's a fantastic player. I hope he can score a lot of goals for Liverpool and that I can play alongside him many times. We've only been training together for a few days, but the important thing for me is that he is always talking during games."

On their midfield link with Kop captain, Gerrard, Torres mentioned: "The understanding between us and Steven Gerrard is important as well. He is the midfielder who is passing the ball to myself and Robbie and so the more training we do together the more good things we can do for Liverpool."

Torres will be hoping that his partnership with the effervescent Irishman propels Liverpool to their first Premier League trophy, and/or the Champions League. After experiencing success with his national side, he is eager for this to translate to club level: "It was a fantastic summer for Spain but now my thoughts are with Liverpool. Hopefully we will win a trophy - I want to win the Premier League or the Champions League."

Liverpool begin their league campaign away from home, having to travel to the Stadium of Light to take on Sunderland.

Liverpool Back In For Riera?

Liverpool have reportedly revived their interest in Espanyol winger Albert Riera.

Having had to loan Argentine midfielder Sebastian Leto to Olympiakos for two years after being he was denied a work permit, Liverpool are said to have reactivated their interest in a player with whom they were linked earlier this summer.

The Reds are now being linked with a new offer for Espanyol’s left-winger Albert Riera.

Benitez’s plans to play Leto more this season have foundered among the Home Office’s bureaucratic red tape, forcing the Spanish tactician to revise his thinking.

And with Leto unavailable to him he is ready to make an enhanced offer the Spain international Riera, according to Sport.

Liverpool had an earlier bid for the 26-year-old one-time Manchester City loanee rejected by Espanyol.

But a deal could be possible now, with Riera himself reportedly keen on an Anfield switch.

He is reported in the Spanish press as saying: "I listen to the news.

"To play in Liverpool is very attractive but also now I am very motivated in Espanyol."

Leto Completes Two-Year Olympiacos Loan

Liverpool midfielder Sebastien Leto has spoken positively about being loaned to Greek giants Olympiacos.

Argentine midfielder Sebastien Leto has been loaned to Olympiacos by Liverpool after the English Premier League side were unsuccessful in seeking a work permit for him.

Leto played last season under an Italian passport, but that was revoked following an investigation by the Italian authorities into passport irregularities.

And although Liverpool sent a delegation to the UK Home Office to try and obtain a work permit for the player, their efforts failed - much to the annoyance of Reds’ manager Rafael Benitez, who complained that the system is in need of a thorough overhaul.

However, Benitez has agreed a two-year loan deal with Olympiacos for Leto while he qualifies for EU citizenship.

And 21-year-old, who moved to Anfield from Lanus in 2007, arrived in Athens on Monday night to complete a medical and sign the contract with the Greek champions.

Benitez has promised him a future with Liverpool, but the Argentine last night told his new club‘s official website: “Olympiakos is a challenge for me. I know I will be here for two years.

"I've had two weeks of pre-season training with Liverpool and I believe I will be ready to do whatever I have to.

"Olympiakos are a great team who challenge for every honour in Greece and in the Champions League.

"The team has some good players, a well known coach and fanatical supporters which always inspire them."

A statement on the official Olympiacos website confirmed that Leto arrived in Athens late on Monday evening: “Sebastian Leto was in Athens on Monday night at 11:20 pm. The 22 year-old Argentine right-midfielder in his first statement, said that his move to Olympiakos presented a challenge and that his personal aim and the aim of the team was to successfully defend their league and cup double and resume their European campaign, where Olympiakos will try to achieve greater success.”

Leto made 52 appearances for Lanus, scoring eight goals but is yet to represent his native Argentina.

Benayoun Planning To Stay With Reds

Liverpool midfielder Yossi Benayoun has vowed to stay and fight for his place at Anfield, despite attracting interest from Roma.

Roma sounded out a move for the Israeli international as they look to bring in a new attacking midfielder, with the player's agent refusing to rule out a move to the Eternal City.

Benayoun's future at Liverpool has been questioned as Reds boss Rafa Benitez is looking to ship out several players to raise funds for his own transfer plans.

However, the 28-year-old former West Ham man is determined to fight for his future at Anfield, saying he is happy with life on Merseyside.

"It is not true that I am about to leave Anfield," Benayoun told the Daily Star. "I see my future at Anfield.

"I want to stay and that is what will happen."

Rafael Benitez Wants Gareth Barry To Feature For Liverpool Against Lazio

Liverpool have not ruled out the possibility of Gareth Barry making his Anfield debut later this week as one of the most prolonged transfers in Premier League history inches towards a conclusion.

Rafael Benitez had hoped to have secured the Aston Villa player’s signature in time to feature in the friendly against Valerenga in Norway. But the Liverpool manager is now planning to show off his latest signing against Lazio at Anfield on Friday, the club’s final friendly before facing Sunderland on Aug 16.

Much depends on whether Tom Hicks and George Gillett, Liverpool’s co-owners, can meet Villa’s asking price, but the indications emerging from Anfield suggested that the saga will be concluded very soon.

Villa value Barry at around £18 million, more than Liverpool were originally prepared to pay, but Hicks and Gillett are now understood to have agreed to underwrite the fee in what amounts to a short-term loan.

Steve Finnan, who has spent the last five years at Anfield, could move to the West Midlands as part of the transfer.

Another player set to depart is Sebastian Leto, the Argentine winger, after the 21-year-old was denied a work permit.

Leto played several games last season with an Italian passport, but Italian authorities have investigated the validity of the original decision, and his eligibility has been revoked.

Foxes Strike Martin Deal

Leicester have signed Liverpool goalkeeper David Martin on a six-month loan deal.

The 22-year-old agreed a new contract with the Reds this summer to keep him at Anfield until 2010, but he has been allowed to leave temporarily to get some regular football.

He becomes the second Liverpool player to join up with Nigel Pearson's side following Jack Hobbs' arrival last month.

"At my age, gaining first-team experience is of paramount importance and that is why I have come to Leicester," said Martin.

"I certainly want to make the most of my time here and hopefully Leicester will benefit from my arrival as well."

Martin has yet to make a senior appearance for Liverpool but he was on the substitutes' bench in the 8-0 victory over Besiktas in the UEFA Champions League last season.

He has also spent time at Milton Keynes Dons and Accrington Stanley earlier in his career.