Thursday, October 09, 2008

Torres Reveals United Dream

Liverpool striker Fernando Torres hopes to fulfil one of his career ambitions in May by scoring against Manchester United in the Champions League final.

But the Spanish superstar is not especially fussy as to when he breaks his duck against the 10-time Premier League champions.

Torres has faced United twice, but he is yet to open his account against Sir Alex Ferguson's despite tallying some 38 goals in 57 appearances since joining Liverpool last year.

The former Atletico Madrid captain did feature against the Red Devils last month - a fact which, combined with Steven Gerrard only appearing as a late substitute, made the Merseysiders' 2-1 victory all the more impressive.

And after witnessing that display from the sidelines at Anfield, Torres is eager to get in on the action himself - whether that be in front of the Kop, the Stretford End or Stadio Olimpico's Curva Nord.

The 24-year-old told the press: “We all want to score against our big rivals. I’ll have another chance at Old Trafford this season ... or maybe in the Champions League final.”

Torres has netted four times in his last two league games, claiming match-winning braces against Everton and Manchester City. He will hope to carry that form onto the international stage when Spain meet Estonia in World Cup qualifying on Saturday.

Sammy Lee - 'Pool Must Mount Title Challenge

Liverpool No.2 Sammy Lee has hailed the character of Rafa Benitez's resurgent Reds, opining that if the Anfield men don't challenge for the title this season, there would be "something wrong".

Sammy Lee appears to be enjoying life as Rafael Benitez's assistant following his surprise appointment. The former Reds midfielder, who had an unsuccessful stint as Bolton boss, succeeded the departed Alex Miller in May.

Liverpool go into the international break as joint Premier League leaders, alongside Chelsea, and Lee insists that all the credit must go to the players for the team's sparkling start to the season.

He told the club's official website: "People should know the strength of Liverpool – they know what we're about. We're not worrying what people think about us.

"We always have faith in our ability here. That's not arrogance - we just know what we're about."

On the current squad, he enthused: "Everyone at this football club is working very hard to make sure this improvement is obvious to everybody. The character in the group is great - there are a lot of good characters in the dressing room, and that hopefully manifests itself on the pitch.

Singling out Dirk Kuyt and, somewhat surprisingly, Robbie Keane for praise, he continued: "You've got players like Robbie Keane putting a lot of work in and you could say he deserves another goal.

"Everyone works very hard to get the best for this football club. Dirk is another example of what we're about at this football club: hard work and a good level of quality.

"The players should get the credit, because this game is all about the players. We all stand or fall by what they do."

Liverpool have enjoyed great continental success under Benitez, but many think this could be the season that the Reds finally usurp Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal, thus bagging the Premier League title.

Lee, though, refuses to get carried away by the waves of external and internal optimism. He said: "At the end of the day, I don't know anything that's ever been won in October. At the moment we have nothing.

"I'm always confident we'll be challenging in May because if we're not, then there's something wrong. We have aspirations and expectations and we have to make sure we try to fulfil them.

"Everyone knows what's expected of them. Hopefully we'll take the plaudits at the end of the season, because only then will it matter."

Teenage Defender Extends Trial At Liverpool

LIVERPOOL will continue to run the rule over Congolese defender Medi Abalimba after Southend United allowed him to remain on trial until the end of the week.

The 16-year-old will play in a training game tomorrow following his appearance in the 1-0 reserve defeat to Manchester City on Tuesday.

“Even if nothing comes of all this it has been a good experience,” Abalimba said.

“To now know the actual standard I am aiming for will be a big help if I want to play at the top level.

“I played on the right wing against Manchester City and I did okay even though it isn’t my preferred position.

“Most of the players playing were 23 or 24 so it was a lot more physical than I am used to. That was my first game at that level but the reserve team manager said he was proud of how I played.”

Liverpool FC's Jamie Carragher Back In The Classroom

LIVERPOOL FC’s Jamie Carragher paid a visit to a primary school to promote positive family relationships.

The Bootle-born defender joined children from Hope Valley Primary, in Walton Breck Road, for a classroom session yesterday.

He is backing the Liverpool Football Club initiative, Tactics 4 Families, which aims to support families in Anfield and Breckfield.

It is hoped the five-week programme, which encourages a positive and practical approach to amily relationships, will be rolled out to schools across Merseyside.

Dad-of-two Jamie said: “I really enjoyed it, we had a good laugh. Families are a major part of life and everyone has their own private life away from school.

“I think Tactics 4 Families is a very good idea. I have two children of my own so I know how important this is.”

Mark Chester, LFC family officer, said: “Since February LFC has delivered a school programme working with Year 5 and 6 pupils to deliver the key seven messages from Tactics 4 Families.

“The sessions look at football teams and family teams to teach the children that families are made up of very different people who all play their own part in contributing to family life.”

Fernando Torres: No More Goal Droughts At Liverpool FC

FERNANDO TORRES is determined his recent barren spell in front of goal will be his last in a Liverpool shirt.

The Spaniard has suddenly shot to the top of the Premier League goal charts with two in each of the his last two league games, having not previously scored since the opening day winner at Sunderland.

That run of six games without a goal was double the length of his previous longest drought since he left Atletico Madrid for Anfield in the summer of 2007.

But after his double strikes inspired victories against Everton and Manchester City to keep Liverpool joint top of the league with Chelsea, the striker is confident he is close to being back to his best.

And he reckons that a gruelling Euro 2008 campaign, which ended with his winning goal for Spain in the final against Germany, and an early-season hamstring strain, are now well out of his system.

“I hope that was my worst run without scoring for Liverpool,” said Torres. “I don’t want to go that long again.

“I don’t know exactly what my longest run is without a goal, but it’s definitely longer than six games. At Madrid it was sometimes difficult for me. During my first year we finished mid-table and it was tough to score so I went a long time without doing so.

“Here it is different because this is a really big club. We are challenging at the top of the table and competing for trophies, so six games is too many.

“Me and the other players from the Euros started back in pre-season later than everyone else and as a result we weren’t in the best physical shape.”

Torres’s injury, which he sustained in the 0-0 draw at Aston Villa, kept him out of the 2-1 victory over Manchester United at Anfield last month.

“The most important thing from that game was the fact we could win without me or Stevie (Gerrard),” added Torres.” That proves how strong the squad is now.

“It’s not just about two, three or four players. It’s a real team and we proved that by beating United. We know we can do it against any opponent.”

Indeed, Torres is not focused on personal targets such as bettering the 33-goal haul of his debut season in England.

He would be happy with 20 if it meant Liverpool could win a major trophy, something they have failed to do in the past two seasons.

“It was a great experience and the first big honour I’ve won,” Torres said of Spain’s Euro 2008 triumph. “Now I know how it feels to win something like that, it makes me even hungrier to win trophies with Liverpool.

“I came here for that and hope this season will be better than last year. I believe we can win the Premier League or the Champions League and if we did that, it’d be fantastic.”

Meanwhile, Liverpool winger Albert Riera has earned a Spain recall for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Estonia and Belgium.

Riera’s last appearance came during the March 26 friendly win over Italy but Vicente Del Bosque has selected him in place of injured Diego Capel.

Phil Thompson - Liverpool FC Are Title Chasers

PHIL THOMPSON believes Liverpool are finally exorcising the ghosts that have stopped them launching a serious title challenge in previous years.

The former Anfield captain tipped Manchester United for a third successive championship at the start of the season – but also had a feeling this would be the year Liverpool finally ended their long wait to add to their record haul of 18 titles.

And manager Rafael Benitez’s first win over United in September, coupled with the thrilling fightback against the other team from Manchester on Sunday, has convinced Thompson that his former club is finally ready to shake off the limitations that have hindered their ambitions in the past.

The 3-2 victory at City, secured after a fightback from 2-0 down, kept Liverpool level on points at the top of the league with Chelsea going into the international break and still unbeaten after seven games.

Thompson, in his role as one of Sky’s live match summarisers, couldn’t hide his delight when Kuyt hit the injury-time winner at Eastlands – even though he was covering the Tottenham v Hull game at the time.

Thompson said: “In my job I have to give who I tipped to win the title and I tipped United – but I did say I had a sneaking feeling this could be our year.

“I didn’t know why that was really, but now I think it’s because we are cracking some of the myths.

“Rafa’s had his win over United, that was one hoodoo buried, and although we’ve beaten Everton before, it was how we beat Everton this time.

“Away at Goodison Park, comfortably at 2-0 – that sets down a massive marker and the reaction was as if we had won a knife-edge game.

“Another telling sign of what champions are made of is coming back from a deficit. It’s always possible with the crowd at Anfield, but this was away from home (at City) against a team who are making people sit up and take notice.

“And what impressed me was how we did it. We didn’t just lump balls in and panic, it was a constructive performance of precision passing to cut Manchester City up.

“It was 2-1 when their man was sent off but it was already in motion then, the momentum was there and we’d have won the game anyway.

“So those three things are the signs that things are sprouting and it will give the players the belief that they will do it.”

Thompson, however, believes that maintaining this start and turning it into a genuine tilt for honours rests on Benitez being able to keep his best players fresh for the league – even at the expense of chasing European glory.

And the former assistant manager hopes lessons will have been learned from the way last season’s promising start disintegrated during the winter.

“It was December before we lost our unbeaten record at Reading last year,” said Thompson.

“Steven Gerrard was taken off when we were 2-1 down to preserve him for a Champions League game, but you have to say that game should never have been given up – we scored three in three minutes in Istanbul.

“That was throwing the towel in to prepare for the Champions League. This time the management has to say that they will play the best team, or at least the core, in the league.

“Because I honestly believe Rafa can bring us the Holy Grail – as long as his best players stay fit and play every week.

“And I would sacrifice the Champions League. The glory of 2005 is still quite close but the league? It’s been 19 years if we don’t do it this year and that’s too long.”

Another reason Thompson hopes his initial prediction won’t come true is because Manchester United will then share with Liverpool the record of 18 English titles if they complete a hat-trick of Premier League wins.

“I don’t even want to talk about that aspect of it,” says Thompson. “I start to feel queasy about it. Their haul since we last won it has been quite astonishing.”

Carra Supports Wage Cap

Jamie Carragher believes a salary cap would be good for football if it helped ease financial worries.

Football Association chairman Lord Triesman warned on Wednesday that desperate measures may need to be taken in order to prevent spiralling costs in English football.

The proposal has received mixed reactions, with some believing less money in the Premier League would only succeed is pushing talent elsewhere.

Salary caps in football were abolished after a player revolt in the 1960s, leading to the astronomical wages paid out in the modern game.

As one of the Premier League's top performers Jamie Carragher falls into the bracket of players at the top end of the salary spectrum.

However, the Liverpool defender admits that ensuring the long-term future of the game is more important than money.

"I hope he (Triesman) brings it in when I've just finished!" Carragher joked while speaking on Sky Sports News.

"If bringing a wage cap in is going to stop teams going bust, then I'm sure it's got to happen.

"The most important thing is the football club."

Riera Tips Torres For Solo Trophies

With the injury to Sevilla's wingman Diego Capel Spain's head coach Vincente Del Bosque called up Liverpool's summer signing Albert Riera.

Riera revelled in his role in the 3-2 comeback over Manchester City at the weekend and will be keen to translate that form to the international scene should he be picked against Estonia, or Belgium.

Riera though believes club and country team-mate Fernando Torres is deserving of all the plaudits, and believes he is a candidate for the Ballon d'Or.

Regarding his call up to the Spain camp, Riera told journalists at a press conference: "They called me yesterday (Tuesday) and I arrived as quickly as possible because a call-up fills you with joy and makes you believe."

"Even though I was upset not to be part of the European Championships squad, I was convinced I would have played my part," he said. "But regretting and thinking of the past is useless, you have to be focused on what’s to come."

"I am doing good things alongside Fernando Torres, who is a partner and a good friend. To me he should win the Ballon d'Or."

He added: "La Liga and The Premier League are different because the rhythm of the games is quicker in England, you are more focused on the ball."

Liverpool’s Benitez: We Must Keep Going Until The End To Win Title

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has urged his side not to get carried away with the recent success and keep focus on maintaining their consistency.

The Anfield side are on a 12-match unbeaten streak in all competitions this season, with vital wins against Manchester United, Manchester City and their Merseyside rivals Everton seeing The Reds placed joint top of the table with Chelsea.

Liverpool are behind Chelsea only on goal difference in the Premiership, but Benitez is not reading too much into the title talk as of now as he is keen to see that there are no distractions.

"It's important to send the right messages," the Spaniard told the club's official website.

"We have a long, long way to go. We have to do things properly both now, in one month's time and in three months' time.

"We can have a lot of confidence in ourselves but we must keep our feet on the ground.

"We (the squad) were talking about this before, although we can enjoy being at the top of the table.

"But the players know we must keep going until the end. You can't win a title now - you can only win it at the end of the season."