Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Liverpool’s Finnan Linked With Blackburn

Liverpool full-back Steve Finnan is being linked with a move to Blackburn Rovers as Paul Ince is thought to be looking for a specialist right-back.

The former Ireland international, who was linked with Aston Villa in the deal that would bring Gareth Barry to Anfield earlier in the summer only for the move to fall through as both clubs failed to agree on Barry fee, had recently admitted that his Reds career is ‘in limbo.’

But with Rovers, who had centre half Andre Ooijer playing in right-back role so far under Ince, and Finnan unused by Reds boss Rafa Benitez so far this season, an Irish website eleven-a-side.com has reported that the 32-year-old could be set for a move to Ewood Park.

Keane Happy With Liverpool's Form

Liverpool striker Robbie Keane says he is confident his team's performances will improve as the season progresses.

Rafa Benitez's side have taken six points from their opening two Premier League games but have struggled to hit top-form so far.

"We haven't been playing unbelievably in the last two games," Keane told BBC Radio Merseyside.

"But as long as you're winning games that's the most important thing, the flowing football will follow."

The Republic of Ireland international made his competitive debut at Anfield against Middlesbrough on Saturday.

And the 28-year-old feels his fledgling partnership with fellow striker Fernando Torres is beginning to show signs of development.

"A few times we linked up [against Middlesbrough] and we played each other in so there's definitely signs there.

"It would have been nice if we had of scored but, I think it doesn't matter with strikers, as long as the team is winning that is the most important thing," he added.

Merseysiders Must Pay Up For Riera

Espanyol president Daniel Sanchez Llibre says Albert Riera could soon move to the Premier League - but insists the winger will not come cheap.

Sanchez Llibre admitted he had received offers from two English clubs, reported by the Spanish press to be Liverpool and Everton.

The Spanish side have fought throughout pre-season to keep hold of their best players, with repeated bids from Benfica for forward Luis Garcia rejected because the Portuguese club would not meet Espanyol's asking price.

And Sanchez Llibre insists he is ready to do the same with the Merseyside duo if they are not prepared to pay what the club is asking.

"We have received two interesting offers, both of which are from English clubs," he told Spanish newspaper El Mundo Deportivo.

"What we always do is defend our interests. We won't sell any player if the bid is not the amount we have asked for.

"If they want Albert Riera, they'll have to pay what Espanyol is asking."

However, he went on to add: "While Luis Garcia's possible transfer to Benfica has stalled, this one could be in its final hours.

"If someone does leave, within the next 24 hours they will be replaced."

Sporting director Paco Herrera was more specific about the situation, explaining a deal for Riera had yet to be completed because the 26-year-old was more interested in joining the club which had tabled the lowest bid, believed to be Liverpool.

"There is a team which is offering what we have asked and another one which isn't, but the player is interested in the one which is offering the least," he revealed. "We will not lower our asking price."

Liverpool FC Takes Positives From Boro Win

Rafael Benitez chose to concentrate on the positives after Liverpool secured an unlikely win over Middlesbrough.

A deflected Jamie Carragher strike and a trademark screamer from Steven Gerrard inside the final four minutes cancelled out Mido’s 70th-minute opener to leave the Teessiders heartbroken.

Despite the three points, it was another below-par performance as Liverpool continue to find their form in the opening weeks of the season.

And Benitez said: “I am very happy with the result, but I am not happy with the performance of the team. The last three games, we have not played well. But we were playing really well during pre-season.

“If we can bring in new faces then the competition will be better for me and we can improve. The main thing for me is the mentality of the players. We were trying until the end, we were going forward, working really hard with determination and that is important.

“I will try and find a positive message from these kind of games and it is that we won without playing well. Last season we played well in a lot of games but never scored the goals from the chances we had.

“Now we have six points out of six points and when everyone is ready we will play much better and it will be difficult to stop us.”

Of the game, Benitez added: “We had a lot of offensive players on the pitch, but if you had said to me we would draw then maybe I would have said yes because we had conceded late.

“It is always difficult to score two goals in that length of time.

“I want to play well, but if you don't play well and win then the confidence of the team will stay high. It is impossible to play well all the time, so you need to keep going.

“You have to give credit to Middlesbrough. They were pretty good and well organised.

“They had good players in front and could play good football.

“They had players in the wide areas who were good. They worked really hard in defence.”

Robbie Keane, along with Andrea Dossena, made his competitive home debut for his new club on Saturday.

And Benitez said: “I thought he was pretty good. The understanding with Torres was much better. He worked hard with good movements. The key is the rest of the team giving them good passes.”

Benitez singled out the contribution of Nabil El Zhar, who came on as an 82nd-minute substitute and helped turn the game in Liverpool’s favour with a direct performance down the right wing.

“That is the reason why Nabil was a key player for us,” said the Anfield manager.

“I was saying to him ‘stay wide, stay wide’ and he offered the wide areas.

“Dossena was going forward in the first half and Arbeloa in the second half but really our wingers are not players who play on the lines.

“We have to try through our full-backs and keep the other team back.”

Liverpool’s problems out wide highlighted their need to bring in a wide player before the transfer window closes, and Benitez added: “I think it is important to keep the balance. We will try and do our best.”

Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate could barely contain his disappointment at his team’s late capitulation.

“Liverpool were starting to get frustrated and there were long balls that were running out of play,” he said. “I couldn't ask more from the lads and again when they look back they will realise how close they came to getting a result.

“Liverpool have the ability to keep going, resilience, and they have players who can pop up and score important goals as Gerrard and Torres have done in the last two weeks.

“They are what they are. We didn't have any fear but we couldn't get the win we wanted.”

Liverpool FC Close In On Albert Riera

Liverpool are edging closer to signing Espanyol winger Albert Riera despite Everton’s attempts to hijack the deal.

The Anfield outfit are ready to lodge an improved bid to sign the 26-year-old Spain international.

While Everton are thought to have met Espanyol’s asking price, Riera has set his heart on a move to their Merseyside neighbours.

However, that will only happen if Liverpool increase their bid of around £9m for a player Espanyol value nearer the £12m mark.

Benitez has tracked Riera all summer and has now turned to the former Mallorca and Bordeaux man in an effort to solve Liverpool’s problem left midfield area.

Aston Villa’s £18m valuation ultimately scuppered a move for Gareth Barry while Middlesbrough have slapped a similarly prohibitive price tag on Stewart Downing.

Riera spent six months on loan at Manchester City in 2006 but the Premier League club failed to agree a fee with Espanyol over a permanent transfer.

Espanyol president Daniel Sanchez Llibre yesterday admitted Riera is on the brink of a move to England, but reiterated his club’s determination to receive top dollar.

“We have received two interesting offers, both of which are from English clubs,” said Llibre. “What we always do is defend our interests. We won’t sell any player if the bid is not the amount we have asked for.

“If they want Albert Riera, they'll have to pay what Espanyol is asking.”

And Espanyol sporting director Paco Herrara, a former member of Benitez’s backroom staff at Liverpool, was even more specific.

He said: “There is a team which is offering what we have asked and another one which isn’t, but the player is interested in the one which is offering the least.

“We will not lower our asking price.”

Meanwhile, Robbie Keane is confident Liverpool can soon click into gear following a spluttering start to the campaign.

Despite winning their first two Premier League games, Benitez’s side have been worryingly below par after earlier being fortunate to escape with a goalless draw from their Champions League game at Standard Liege.

Liverpool entertain the Belgians in tomorrow’s second leg and Keane reckons results are what count at the moment.

“We know we haven't been playing unbelievably well in our first two games but as long as you're winning games that's what really matters and I'm sure the flowing football will follow,” said the Ireland star.

“It's important that you get off to a good start in the Premiership because it is such a competitive league and we've managed to do that.

“You have to remember we've only played the first two games of the season and what you have to do at this stage is get points on the board. I'm sure the good football will follow.”

Rafa Benitez: Liverpool FC Will Be Better

Rafael Benitez has promised Liverpool’s Champions League form will be “much, much better” when they bid to reach the group stages for the fifth successive time tomorrow night.

The Liverpool boss is acutely aware that his side’s qualifying round first leg display at Standard Liege was unacceptable and they were fortunate to cling onto a 0-0 draw.

That display in Belgium has put at risk the crucial flow of Uefa prize money Liverpool need, more than ever, to maintain their position amongst English football’s top four.

Now Benitez’ side must produce their best display of the season so far to make sure that they reach the group stages.

Benitez said: “Our display this time will be much, much better. Of that I am confident.”

Anything less could create the biggest financial crisis in the club’s recent history.

The American owners are facing huge costs to build a new stadium, and also to re-finance loans. They have already transferred some of their debt to the club, which means that £30m a year has to be found to meet interest repayments.

In four years, Liverpool have claimed over £100m in prize money from Uefa, averaging more than £20m a season having reached two finals, a semi-final and the last 16 in that time.

Failure to even reach the group stages would cost an immediate £12m and put in question Benitez’s plans.

Liege have never reached the Champions League group stage and Benitez knows Liverpool must win tomorrow’s second leg.

He said: “Our performance in Liege was poor, but the result was good. We did not concede an away goal and we hope that playing the second leg at Anfield will make a massive difference.

“The entire team did not play well. They (Liege) were organised, pressed well and were very aggressive.”

Fernando Torres will make his 50th appearance for the Reds tomorrow, having scored 34 goals. Only George Allan, 111 years ago with 41, scored more in his first 50 games for the club.

Anfield Our Only Target, Says DIC

Dubai International Capital are “only interested” in buying Liverpool FC, it was confirmed by a source last night, after it was reported the company was bidding for a stake in Manchester City.

It was reported yesterday that troubled Manchester City owner Thaksin Shinawatra was in talks with DIC about buying a 10% to 15% share in the club.

The Daily Post under- stands that, while there is Middle Eastern interest in buying into Manchester City, it is not coming from Dubai.

A source close to DIC said: “DIC are not interested in getting involved in Man City, their interest is only in Liverpool Football Club.”

If DIC were to acquire a share in another Premier League club, it would then not be able to buy into Liverpool if American co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks decided to sell.

Companies are not allowed to own more than one football club.