Friday, October 17, 2008

Cerezo Sends VIP Invitation To Torres

Atlético Madrid president Enrique Cerezo has extended a special invitation to former local hero Fernando Torres, whom he wants to join him in the VIP box when the Spanish outfit take on Liverpool in the Champions League next week.

With UEFA’s decision to postpone Atlético Madrid’s home ground penalty, Fernando Torres would have been able to fulfil his highly anticipated homecoming.

However, the player was dealt a massive blow on Wednesday when he suffered a hamstring tear in his right leg whilst on World Cup qualifying duty with Spain. Thus, he's out of Liverpool’s visit to the Vicente Calderón and won't take on his boyhood team.

However, Atleti president Enrique Cerezo, who holds the 24 year old in high regard, has revealed that he still wants El Niño present in the stadium when the two teams collide on Wednesday.

“Torres is a player who was born and bred at Atlético Madrid and everyone here still admires him and we still follow his career,” the president said.

“The injury is very unfortunate and I would have liked to see him play.

“But we will invite him to the VIP box seat to watch the game because Atlético is his home,” Cerezo explained, before going on to add that he wishes to see both teams advance to the next round.

The president was then asked to give his views regarding UEFA’s decision to uphold the stadium ban, which will come into effect after the Liverpool game.

“We will do what we have to do to defend our honour and make sure this incident goes away.

“The logical thing for UEFA to do would have been to close down Marseille’s stadium, because it was their fans who started the trouble,” he explained.

He concluded by advising the Atlético fans not to travel to the Stade Vélodrome for the return fixture.

Liverpool Defender Nearing Return From Injury

Liverpool defender Phillipp Degen has revealed that he is nearing a return to the Liverpool first team after recovering from broken ribs and a punctured lung, which he sustained in September.

The 25 year-old signed on a Bosman from Borussia Dortmund over the summer and was expected to challenge Alvaro Arbeloa for a spot in the Liverpool defence.

However, injury has limited the Switzerland international to a single appearance for the club. During his one competitive start for the Reds, Degen suffered broken ribs and a lung puncture in the Carling Cup tie against Crewe Alexandria.

He has been out of contention since then as Liverpool have surged up the Premier League table and impressed in the Champions League.

Degen is now only weeks away from competing with Arbeloa for the right-back berth, and he is confident of pushing for a starting place.

He insists that the pain has cleared away and he is ready to put his recent injury woes behind him.

He told Liverpool's official website: "I hope I can soon be 100 per cent. I want to get on the pitch as quickly as possible - maybe it will be in the next one or two weeks.

"Last week it was not so good. I was in a lot of pain but at the moment I'm training very well. I had two fractured ribs and a punctured lung.

"It's been very tough. I just want to play for this club and in front of these fans.

"This is new to me. I had an injury for six months before I came to Liverpool, but up until that point I'd never been injured. I was the type of player who played every game.

"I hope the injuries are over now."

He went on: "I have to work hard every day and show the boss (Rafa Benitez) what I can do. We have a lot of games so I can play my part.

"I am different to Alvaro. I am maybe more offensive and so it's not a direct comparison. But first I have to get fit and do well in training - then we will see."

Rafa To Fork Out £8m For 'Kuba'?

Liverpool gaffer Rafael Benitez is said to be after Dortmund star Jakub Błaszczykowski, but the wily Germans are keen to quadruple what they paid for him less than two years ago.

Reportedly, Liverpool have already sounded out Bundesliga outfit Borussia Dortmund about their Polish winger Jakub Błaszczykowski.

Boss Rafael Benitez thought he would be able to pick up the 22-year-old, who can play anywhere on the right flank, for a maximum of £5m and made his intentions clear to the German club.

However, having mulled it over, The Schwarzgelben feel that the player they signed from Wisła Kraków in early 2007 for around £2m is now a £8m player and will hold the Reds to ransom.

Błaszczykowski, who wears 'Kuba' on his Dortmund shirt, has remained a fairly well-kept secret out side of Germany and Poland, due to the fact that he had to withdraw from his country's Euro 2008 squad through injury.

Still, Benitez is said to rate the player very highly and will hope his club's negotiators can come to an agreement in January.

Degen: I Don't Understand Scousers

Liverpool's Swiss full-back Philipp Degen admits that, whilst he settling into life on Merseyside, he can't make head nor tail of the Scouse dialect.

Things are looking up for Philipp Degen for the first time since he joined Liverpool on a Bosman from German side Borussia Dortmund over the summer.

The 25-year-old has almost recovered from the broken ribs and punctured lung he sustained during the Carling Cup tie against Crewe Alexandria in the early days of the season.

Now, as he eyes an imminent return to the squad, he admits that he's finally feeling positive about his recent move.

"I have seen a little bit of Liverpool and it's a great city," he told the club's official website.

"When I'm out I like to be open and try new things and sometimes the fans come over.

"There's a great respect, but sometimes it's difficult to understand Scousers.

"I have been taking lessons at Melwood. There's only one language here and that's English, so I am trying every day."

Seemingly the Reds' star-studded cast are all speaking Scouse at training, presumably with an international flair.

Steven Gerrard Proved Critics Wrong, Says David Beckham

David Beckham says Steven Gerrard proved a point to his detractors in Minsk last night, insisting the Liverpool midfielder remains one of the world's best players, both for club and country.

Beckham, who won his 107th cap in the 3-1 victory against Belarus, was baffled by the criticism of Gerrard and claimed the midfielder had played a pivotal role for England.

"It's amazing that Steven Gerrard gets criticised," Beckham said. "In a Liverpool shirt he's incredible and in an England shirt he's incredible. He proved that to a lot of people last night and for me he's one of the best midfielders in the world.

"So to see him perform like that and to see Frank Lampard play well was great. But it was a team performance. Wayne Rooney and Emile Heskey, they clicked really well last night and it's great to be in an England team that's so confident and enjoying it. Hopefully that's going to restore some confidence in the fans because we're thankful for all the support they give us."

Beckham was asked if he agreed with Rio Ferdinand's claim that the England camp during the World Cup in 2006 had resembled a circus.

"It has looked like that in the past," he said, "but I don't think that's down to the players or management. That was something that was going on at the time.

"The players have always gone into big competitions not worrying about anything other than success. We've not been worried about the circus that's going on around us, we've always gone into World Cups concentrating on the football.

"Rio is right in what he said but [Fabio Capello] has brought a more disciplined culture into the team. I know what this manager wants because he's a winner and all he believes in is winning games and players and teams working hard. When that happens there's success and there's a good togetherness with this team which is a pleasure to be around."

Beckham's appearance from the substitutes' bench in Minsk took him to within one cap of Bobby Moore's 108 for England. If he were to feature in the remaining World Cup qualifiers he will be just nine shy of Peter Shilton's 125-cap record, although this is not something the former captain has set in his sights.

"I am not looking that far ahead," he said. "I'm enjoying being part of this England team. We had a few players out but others came in and you saw the strength of our squad."

Gerrard Haunted By 'That' Miss

Steven Gerrard admits he is already getting stick for his incredible miss against Belarus - and fears it will come back to haunt him for years to come. Gerrard rounded the goalkeeper in Minsk with the score at 3-1 and incredibly hit the post from only two yards out.

In the end it didn't matter as England won comfortably to make it four World Cup victories in a row. But Gerrard, who scored England's opener from 30 yards, says his awful cock-up should act as a warning to young players.

The Liverpool man said: "I'm sure I will get a lot of stick for missing the chance of scoring a second. The texts were flooding in when I checked my phone after the match.

"It is a lesson to any kids watching that you have to keep working on your weaker foot. I should have used my left but tried my right instead."

Even so, Gerrard insists the embarrassment of his miss won't take anything away from a fantastic team performance in Minsk.

He said: "We played really well because we knew it would be difficult. Belarus are a good team with some fantastic results. It is very good result away from home. We knew beforehand that it was a very difficult tie. They are a good team and it is credit to us that we got a massive three points.

"It was important we respected them and after the first-half we needed to improve - and we did that. The main thing is we are sitting top of the group and we have made history."

Gerrard also felt he played well in the game, despite his late blunder, and is happy that England, who don't' play another competitive game until April 2009, have started their campaign so well.

He added: "We're top of the league going into the New Year, and that's great. You want to play all the time when you're winning, but the friendly against Germany on November 19 gives the manager the chance to try new things and different personnel, so I'm sure when qualifying comes round again we will be even better again.

"As for me, I think when you're playing for England you always have a point to prove. You're fighting for your shirt every game. It's nice to get a goal and a win. People always speak about me and Lampard and where we should play, but as long as I'm in the team I'm happy.

"I felt I played well. Every game is important for my country and I try to play as well as I can. I haven't always hit the heights id like to but I will always give my all for my country."

One player who did hit the heights, however, was Gerrard's great friend Wayne Rooney who scored twice to continue his remarkable form under Fabio Capello.

Gerrard said: "To have scored five goals in three games is superb. When we get Wayne in that kind of form he certainly improves our team.

"We are still building and we need to keep working hard.

"When Wayne is on form he's up there with the best in the world. He's such a special talent, his understanding and awareness are absolutely fantastic and it's great to play with him."

Alonso And Arbeloa Rue Torres Injury Blow

Xabi Alonso and Alvaro Arbeloa have admitted it will be a big blow for Liverpool if star striker Fernando Torres is ruled out long term.

Torres was forced to hobble out of Spain's World Cup qualifier against Belgium after just 16 minutes with a muscle strain.

And he is now a major doubt for the Champions League tie at Atletico Madrid next week, as well as the crunch clash with Chelsea in the Premier League the following weekend.

The 24-year-old has scored four goals in his last three games after a slow start to the season.

And Alonso said: "It is bad news for Liverpool because from now until Christmas we do not have a break and we have some key games coming up against Atletico Madrid and Chelsea.

"I know he is disappointed because it is not the first time he has picked up an injury on international duty and he was also in a great run of form recently."

Meanwhile, Arbeloa added: "We hope that it's not too serious and that he will be able to play again soon because he would be a big loss for Liverpool.

"He looked upset because he was very excited about playing against his former team Atletico Madrid next week."

Rafa Benitez Furious As Fernando Torres Returns Injured From Spain Duty Yet Again

Rafa Benitez was left fuming last night after star striker Fernando Torres had his dream of a return to Madrid shattered.

The Liverpool manager hit the roof when his inspirational forward limped off just 16 minutes into Spain's World Cup qualifer in Belgium on Wednesday night and will be ruled out for up to 15 days.

Tests yesterday confirmed the hamstring problem will keep Torres out for at least three matches, causing him to miss the Premier Leagu games against Wigan and Chelsea, as well as the trip to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.

Torres was desperate to return to his former club Atletico, and he is sure to do everything he can to be fit for the tie in the Vicente Calderon stadium next week.

But Benitez could not hide his fury at what he says is an overcrowded international fixture list that has added to Torres' injury situation.

The striker has been injured THREE times playing for his country in the last year.

And Benitez blasted: "I am very disappointed about this because it now looks like we will lose Fernando for three very important games. There are too many international matches and the demands on the players are too much.

"Someone needs to analyse this because it is putting the players at risk of injury."

His mood was not improved when Ryan Babel picked up an ankle injury with Holland, and Israel skipper Yossi Benayoun aggravated a toe injury in the 1-1 Latvia draw.

The Anfield chief is a longstanding critic of the crowded international calendar, claiming that many games are meaningless due to the poor standard of some nations.

Rafa added: "There are too many games in the qualifiers which are not competitive.

"These fixtures are unnecessary - and maybe it would be better if the weaker countries played one another and the best of them went to play the stronger nations in the qualifiers."

Torres was devastated on Wednesday night, and his tears when he limped off with yet another hamstring injury showed just how disappointed he feels.

Liverpool Striker Torres Out For 15 Days

Liverpool have confirmed Fernando Torres will be out for 'between 10 and 15 days' after a scan on his right hamstring yesterday.

Torres was already expected to miss Saturday's Barclays Premier League match against Wigan, next week's trip to face Atletico Madrid in the Champions League and the following Sunday's crunch fixture at Chelsea.

And a scan today has confirmed he will be out for at least 10 days after doctors detected a tear in his right hamstring suffered in Spain's World Cup qualifier in Belgium on Wednesday night.

Liverpool also revealed Dutch attacker Ryan Babel is 'a major doubt' for the Wigan match after spraining his left ankle on international duty.

Reds spokesman Ian Cotton said: 'A scan on Fernando Torres has shown a tear in his right hamstring which will sideline the player for between 10 and 15 days.

'Ryan Babel has sprained his left ankle and is a major doubt for Wigan on Saturday.'

Earlier Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez said: 'I am very disappointed about this, because it now looks like we will lose Fernando for three very important games.

'We have Wigan at home and Chelsea away in the league and Atletico Madrid away in the Champions League, so to lose any players is a big blow.

'The initial reports say Fernando is likely to be out for around 10 days, and that would mean he would miss these games.'

Liverpool lost Torres for a spell last season after an injury on international duty, and Benitez is a firm supporter of a system that would see players involved in fewer games for their country.

He said: 'There are too many international games, and the demands on the players are too much. Someone needs to analyse this situation, because it is putting the players at risk of injury.

'Maybe the answer is for there to be a two-tier qualifying system, because there are too many games in the qualifiers for the World Cup and the European Championships which are not competitive but which still place great demands on the players.

'These fixtures are unnecessary, and maybe it would be better if the weaker countries played one another and the best of them went to play the stronger countries in the qualifiers.'

Benitez's mood was further darkened by Babel's injury in Holland's qualifier against Norway. With two key players out, Benitez wants his squad to show the strength witnessed against Manchester United - when victory was secured without the injured Torres and Steven Gerrard.

He said: 'It is important that we show our strength at times like this.

'We cannot do anything about the injuries, so it is up to the players to come in and do a good job if they are needed.'

Rafael Benitez Lines Up Emile Heskey Transfer To Liverpool

LIVERPOOL are considering a surprise move to bring Emile Heskey back to Anfield.

Rafael Benitez has been impressed with the renaissance of the 30-year-old at Wigan Athletic during the past 18 months.

Heskey’s form earned him a recall to the England squad last autumn and he has since cemented himself as first-choice under present national team coach Fabio Capello, playing a major role in the 3-1 win in Belarus on Wednesday.

Despite shelling out around £20million to bring Robbie Keane from Tottenham Hotspur in the summer, Benitez is contemplating further strengthening his forward options.

And with Heskey out of contract at the end of the season, he would most likely only cost a nominal fee should he leave the JJB Stadium during the January transfer window.

The England international would offer an alternative style to the strikers currently on Liverpool’s books, particularly in the Premier League with the Anfield outfit having made a strong start to the campaign.

And the lack of proven Premier League forwards Benitez has at his disposal is set to be cruelly exposed in forthcoming games after Fernando Torres was predicted to be out for “10 to 15 days” with a hamstring injury.

Following England’s game in Minsk, Heskey was quizzed on whether he fancied another crack at Champions League football – which would only be truly realistic with a move to a top four side.

“Everyone wants to be playing on these stages and for their club in the Champions League,” he said.

“It’s a nice situation that I’m in, but I’m still a Wigan player and I want to do my best for them.”

Heskey spent more than four years at Anfield after being signed by Gerard Houllier from Leicester City for a then club record fee of £11million in March 2000.

He scored 60 goals in 223 appearances and helped Liverpool win the FA Cup, the UEFA Cup and two League Cups before joining Birmingham City shortly before Benitez’s arrival in the summer of 2004.

Heskey, of course, will be in opposition to Liverpool tomorrow when his Wigan side visit Anfield.

Their manager Steve Bruce earlier this month conceded that holding on to a player of Heskey’s stature was all but out of his hands.

He said: “Life as the manager of Wigan means accepting that we’re always in danger of losing our players. We’ve created the nucleus of a really decent team but my biggest fear is can we keep it together? Because the vultures are already hovering.

“My chairman will back me to the hilt but how can I deny these lads the opportunity if one of the big boys comes knocking on our door? That’s the problem we are going to have to address this term.”