Saturday, November 29, 2008

UEFA Charge Marseille, Roma Over Liverpool, Chelsea Incidents

Europe's governing body UEFA have charged Marseille and Roma over the misbehavior of their fans during Champions League matches.

The misdeeds of French Ligue 1 side Marseille's fans have not gone unnoticed by UEFA.

Projectile throwing from the l'OM faithful occurred during both the home and away clashes with Liverpool.

Les Phocéens have been fined €15,000 for the antics which took place during the September visit of the Reds to the Stade Vélodrome.

Now, on December 11, they'll answer to even more serious charges after 'Pool captain Steven Gerrard was struck by an object - believed to be a cigarette lighter - at Anfield on Wednesday. Referee Olegario Benquerenca has detailed the incident in a report requested by the UEFA disciplinary panel.

Italian giants Roma are also in hot water after fireworks were set off at the Stadio Olimpico when The Giallorossi hosted another English Premier League side, Chelsea.

UEFA have slammed the Serie A club for "insufficient organisation" and will hear what they have to say on the matter on the same day Marseille explain why Gerrard was targeted.

Roma don't have much hope as far as their case is concerned, as their fans were also reportedly fighting before the game, drawing attention to themselves even before the fireworks fiasco.

Benitez: Liverpool Have Done Everything To Protect Fernando Torres

Rafa Benitez insists that Liverpool did everything they could to protect star striker Fernando Torres, who is crocked once more.

Fernando Torres seemed to be getting up to match speed having recovered from the hamstring injury which recently kept him out for six games.

However, El Niño is straight back into the Melwood treatment room after again tweaking his right hamstring whilst playing in the Champions League against Marseille - a match edged 1-0 by the Reds.

The 24-year-old is officially out for two or three weeks, but boss Rafael Benitez could hold him back even longer. He insists that the club did everything by the book since he was crocked on international duty for Spain, so extra precautions will be taken this time.

Thus, the hitman may not be back for what could be a crunch festive clash with Arsenal on Sunday, December 21.

The boss explained to the press: "We were taking care of him and the timing was under control.

"The doctors were working really hard, but it's happened again. It's not exactly the same injury, but it's the same muscle."

Looking forward, he added: "We are working with the medical staff again, trying to analyse the reason why and trying to prevent it happening again.

"He was sharp, so it was a surprise. We have to check the balance of the player to prevent it from happening. Anyway, we won't rush him back now.

"Meanwhile, we have [Robbie] Keane, Dirk Kuyt, David Ngog and Ryan Babel. Hopefully they can score enough goals and we can talk about Fernando again in three weeks' time."

Babel Frustrated With Bench Life - Lawyer

The Ajax academy graduate is doing all he can to impress Rafa Benitez, but still cannot get a game at Anfield.

The lawyer of Dutch international Ryan Babel has revealed the forward's frustration at being on the fringes of the Liverpool squad.

The 21-year-old has scarcely featured for the Reds throughout this campaign, his second full term at the club since moving from Amsterdam.

After being eased into life at Anfield last year with sporadic appearances, the former Ajax star was expected to push for a starting berth this time around.

However, with the signings of Albert Riera and Robbie Keane, combined with the form of compatriot Dirk Kuyt, Babel has been unable to claim a spot in the starting XI, either up front alongside Fernando Torres or on the wings.

The £11.5 million signing has made as many Carling Cup appearances as Premier League appearances this season and has taken to venting his frustration in the press.

His unhappiness at being constantly benched was emphasised today by lawyer Winnie Haatrecht, who fails to understand where the forward is going wrong.

The lawyer is quoted as saying by the press: "He has had fewer minutes than a year ago. While we saw last year as a development year, this season was to be his 'breakthrough year'.

"Of course, you look at yourself as a player first. But Ryan believes the things he's doing is everything that manager Benitez is demanding of him."

Rafa Benitez Confident Fernando Torres Will Be Back In Action For Liverpool FC

RAFAEL BENITEZ is determined to get to the bottom of Fernando Torres’ hamstring crisis and welcome the striker back to action in a matter of weeks.

The Liverpool manager is confident that his record signing can shake off the persistent problems that have severely disrupted his second season in English football.

Torres has already missed seven Liverpool games this season following the hamstring tear he initially sustained playing for Spain in a World Cup qualifier with Belgium in September.

And he will be out for a further three weeks after he aggravated the same muscle in Wednesday’s Champions League win over Marseille.

Benitez is sure there will be no long-term effects for the player but he has admitted he and his staff are back to square one in trying to identify exactly what is causing his agony.

Former Liverpool forward Michael Owen’s career was blighted by constant hamstring problems when he was at Anfield, but Benitez isn’t anticipating similar problems for Torres.

“In a few weeks Torres will be okay,” said the manager. “Each player is different so now I have a lot of confidence that we can find a solution sooner rather than later. When you get two or three injuries in the same muscle it’s something you have to consider.

“Sometimes it is a problem with your back or how you walk so you need to analyse everything because small things can change everything.

“It’s not a question of what the players do every day, but there may be one or two things that are important.

“We need to check all the things that they were doing before and change things if necessary.”

Benitez insists Torres was not rushed back into action too early after his second setback last month, which he also sustained on international duty.

He was eased back into action as a sub against West Brom and Bolton, starting the League Cup defeat to Spurs in between before once again coming on as a sub for Spain against Chile in a friendly last week.

The striker then played 90 minutes of the 0-0 draw with Fulham last Saturday and also completed the 1-0 victory over Marseille on Wednesday – with Benitez insisting Torres was in good condition to play ahead of all those games.

“We have been doing some prevention work but now we need to look at maybe changing the way we do things and analyse more things,” said Benitez. “We were doing everything right and the player was sharp. You could see that he was ready but he has the same problem now and we have to analyse and change things if necessary.

“All the players do specific work, and normally with injuries you know the weakness of the player and work with the physios and fitness coach and you do different exercises to prevent certain things.

“We played him at Tottenham in the Carling Cup for 55 minutes so we had an idea, a timing and everything was under control. So he was training really well and you could see he was sharp – that’s why he played the other day because he had lot of confidence.

“And I can guarantee you that the other day we were training and we were really pleased with him and Steven Gerrard, because both were working very hard and you could see the sharpness of both.”

Torres will miss Monday’s home game with West Ham, along with Fabio Aurelio who is out for two weeks with a calf problem.

Liverpool Set On Discovering The Cause Of Torres' Injury

Liverpool are planning a total overhaul of Fernando Torres's medical care to try to discover the reason for his fifth hamstring injury in 16 months. The Spanish striker broke down again during Wednesday's Champions League victory over Marseilles and scans have revealed a repetition of the injury that could rule him out for three weeks, with the trip to Arsenal on 21 December being the tentative target for his comeback.

Torres has had three similar injuries on international duty, and two now with Liverpool, since his arrival from Atletico Madrid. His manager, Rafael Benitez, revealed that Torres has no history of such an injury in Spain, which further deepens the concerns over his fitness.

"Fernando had no such muscle or hamstring problems while with Atletico Madrid," Benitez said. Torres is also concerned by the problem. "I am a little disappointed, but all I can do is move forward," the 24-year-old striker said. "It is worrying because it has happened a few times. After this latest injury the important thing is to recover without rushing a comeback date and trying to make sure it does not happen again."

Torres will miss Monday's game at home to West Ham United, and could also be out for the matches against Blackburn Rovers, PSV Eindhoven and Hull City.

"We are very disappointed with the situation," Benitez said. "We have to analyse why it has happened. We have been working with prevention exercises in the past, and still we have the same problem.

"We were taking time with him, he wasn't being rushed back. The time and training was all under control, as was all the exercises. The doctor and the physio were both working very hard with Fernando and they are both first class, but now it is the same situation. We will now not be taking any risks with his comeback. If he is fit then he will play, if he is not fit then he won't, it is simple."

Torres had short spells against West Bromwich Albion, Tottenham Hotspur and Bolton Wanderers, plus a substitute appearance for Spain against Chile. Then he played two full games and broke down again.

"Everything was under control," Benitez said. "But maybe against Marseilles he was tired towards the end of the match and that is when it happened again. He went on a sprint and pulled something.

"Now we will have to start all over again to try to solve this problem. I have talked to Fernando looking for a solution, and also with the doctor and physio staff. We must solve this, it is not a serious injury, more one that is difficult to cure."

Liverpool FC's Steven Gerrard Shows No Signs Of Letting Up

A DECADE into his Anfield career, skipper Steven Gerrard is showing no signs of letting up on just exactly what he does best.

By directing a header past Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda on Wednesday, the Liverpool skipper added yet another important goal to his bulging collection by easing Rafael Benitez’s into the knockout stages of the Champions League.

For one member of the backroom staff watching from the Anfield dugout in midweek, the midfielder was merely giving more affirmation of a talent apparent at an early age.

Sammy Lee was the reserve team coach when a certain teenager from Huyton began making his mark in the youth ranks at Liverpool.

Tomorrow marks the 10th anniversary of Gerrard making his debut as a late substitute in the home Premier League win against Blackburn.

And Lee, having returned to Anfield this summer as assistant to Benitez, says: “I saw him come through as a kid at the club, and the first memory I have of him is not of any one game where he suddenly stood out, but just of the talent he always had.

“From the start, you saw him around the place, and he had a great effect on people, because he was a young lad who had the right attitude.

“At every club, when you have young talent developing and coming through, it always has a positive effect on people, it’s what you’re there for, what the club is there for, and to see it happen always gives everyone a buzz.”

As a homegrown talent that forced his own way into the trophy-winning side of the late 1970s, Lee appreciates more than most what is required for a local boy to make good at Liverpool.

“Liverpool is a great environment for young players to develop, to learn what it takes to become a professional, and every time some one like Steven comes through and achieves that, it makes every one here feel great,” he says.

“I’m sure you’ll get an awful lot of people trying to claim that they were responsible for his development in some way, but I won’t be one of those. The truth is, the lad should take all the acclaim himself.

“It is the hard work he put in from the very start, and attitude he showed, the desire he had to succeed that got him where he is, and he should take all of the credit.

“Of course he’s got incredible ability. But it’s not just about the ability, it’s about the attitude too, and believe me, his has always been absolutely right.”

It’s an attitude that Lee believes has taken Gerrard to such heights. And, while loth to compare the player with those of a different era, it’s an attitude that the assistant also recognised in some of Liverpool’s finest-ever servants.

“I played 10 years at Liverpool with some of the great players, people like Graeme Souness and Kenny Dalglish, and I’ve coached some of them too, and for me, all the world class players have one thing in common, and that is their attitude,” he says.

“Personally, I don’t think it serves any purpose to compare players over different eras, because, for me, it’s impossible. So it’s not for me to say Gerrard is better or worse than Souness. But like Graeme and Kenny, he shares the same approach to the game.

“All the world class players I’ve seen, they go into training every day, not complacent about their talent, not thinking they’ve made it and they’re the best. Every day they go in there determined to be the best – and importantly, to be even better.

“Steven had that mentality, that steely determination to do his best and become better, and he still has that now. I can’t say he’ll get even better, but I can say he’ll still be thinking that now, even after 10 years, that he can still improve on what he has already achieved.

“That’s what marks him out as up there with the great players.”

Gerrard has made 458 appearances for Liverpool and, since being made captain by former manager Gerard Houllier, has lifted the European Cup and the FA Cup as well as being named PFA Player of the Year in 2006.

And saluting Gerrard’s longevity and loyalty, Lee says: “For him to be at a club like Liverpool for 10 years is an incredible achievement, especially these days in football. You see it in all the top sportsmen across all different sports. They sacrifice so much these days, and they are determined to improve on a daily basis no matter what stage they are in their career.

“These days, 10 years is such a long time to stay at the top with one club. Steven must have found it even harder, because he’s always had other clubs making offers, trying to take him away from Liverpool – there have always been temptations for him. And yet he has stayed, which shows his character.

“I look back on the 10 years since he made his debut, and the club has moved on, the game has moved on... and so has he. You need an incredible amount of commitment, desire. You need to be a special person.

“He’s a great professional, and – believe me – a great ambassador, not just for Liverpool Football Club, but for football. What he has done over those 10 years is a fine example for any young kid, and that’s why I say he’s the only one who deserves credit for what he has achieved.”

Skrtel Set For December Return

Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel hopes to return from his knee ligament injury in December.

The centre-back sustained the serious problem in the Premier League victory at Manchester City in October after becoming a permanent fixture in the Reds first-team.

However, the Slovakia international now expects to be fully recovered in time to help Liverpool through the hectic festive period fixture list.

"I hope I will be back in action next month, hopefully in the middle of next month," Skrtel told the club's official website. "But I will have to be guided by the medical team at Liverpool.

"I have been lucky because I could have been facing eight or nine months out of the game.

"It's the worst injury of my career, but if I play for the next 10 years, I am sure I might have one worse."

The no-nonsense 23-year-old is also confident that he will return to his best form as Liverpool chase the league title.

"I will be the same player when I am fully fit again," he added.

"I will make tackles like I always have and will stand up physically to the challenges that I face.

"It will take me a few games to get back to the level that I was at before the injury, which is only natural.

"But I won't be a different player when I come back - I won't allow that to happen."

Gerrard: Liverpool Need To Move Away From Anfield To Compete With Our Rivals

Steven Gerrard has admitted Liverpool need to move to a new ground in order to compete with Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea for the top honours.

The Liverpool midfielder has however said that leaving the club's legendary home Anfield will be an emotional moment for players and supporters alike.

Gerrard said: 'As a player I want to be up there competing for every single trophy we can win.

'When you look at Chelsea, Arsenal and United they are all pulling more punters into the ground than we are and it makes a difference to our revenue over the season. We’re playing catch up every year.

'I can see the pros and cons in the move but for financial reasons, and to win things, the time’s probably come to go for it.

'It will also be a proud moment for me if I get the chance to lead Liverpool into the new era as captain in a new stadium'

Liverpool are desperate for the league title, with their last success nearly two decades ago, while their great rivals Manchester United have won ten titles in the meantime.

But after three months of the season, they are joint leaders of the Premier League with Chelsea, leading many supporters to dream that this could finally be their year.

And Gerrard has insisted Rafa Benitez is still the man to lead Liverpool to title glory.

'That’s all we want as players, to be successful long-term.

'That’s what the manager wants and we’ve got the right man for the job in Rafa. The supporters are used to success and they want more.

'We’ll be working hard to bring as much of that to Anfield between now and whatever date we move on.'

Liverpool have played at Anfield since 1892, and Gerrard is well aware of its history and tradition.

Writing in 'My Captains Book', Gerrard said: 'The big stadium move has been a topic on everyone’s lips ever since the club announced their plans.

'In an ideal world, I wouldn’t want to move away from Anfield because it’s where I used to come to watch Liverpool and it’s a ground that has so many happy memories for me as a player too. I’ve seen and been part of some magical nights there.

'It’ll be a sad moment for me when the gates close on the old place.

'The Liverpool supporter in me says I want to stay at Anfield because it’s the spiritual home. It’s where I came to watch my heroes as a kid and it’s where I always dreamed of playing when I was young and kicking a ball about in Huyton.

'It’s got this sense of history and tradition about it, and I still feel the same walking down and then up the steps on to the pitch as captain today as I did when I made my first start for the team.

'I don't care who you are. This stadium, when it's rocking, affects visiting players – every team to play here in Europe said the same.'

'So with that head on, I’d love us to stay at Anfield, but you’ve got to look at the bigger picture.'