Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tottenham To Swoop For Liverpool's Ryan Babel? - Report

According to a report in the British tabloid the Daily Mirror, Tottenham Hotpsur manager Harry Redknapp could be set to bid for Liverpool forward Ryan Babel in the January transfer window.

It appears that Babel is unhappy at not being considered a regular starter at Anfield after revealing that he asked manager Rafa Benitez for a loan move.

Although the 21-year-old explained that the Spaniard turned down his request, it is thought that Spurs will test the Reds' resolve by offering between £7-8 million for the former Ajax star.

Babel has featured in 19 games for Liverpool this season, but only six of those appearances have been from the start, much to the frustration of the Netherlands international.

It is unclear as to whether Benitez will want to part with the versatile attacker, but with rumours that the club's American owners may be struggling financially, they could decide to cash in on a player who, for the time being at least, is not considered indispensable.

Arbeloa: Liverpool Should've Beaten Hull City

Liverpool went two goals down against Hull City on Saturday, before Steven Gerrard leaped to the rescue in typical fashion to give his side a share of the points.

Nonetheless, Alvaro Arbeloa reckons the Merseysiders were unfortunate not to claim victory after lifting their game in the second half.

"I thought we played well and we were much better than the last two games at home, but we should have taken all three points," the Spain defender told Liverpoolfc.tv.

"We conceded two bad goals but we then showed character and got it back to 2-2 thanks to Stevie.

"We then had some clear chances towards the end of the first half but we couldn't get the third goal.

"I think we tried everything to win the game. We had three or four clear chances in the second half and Sami hit the post but couldn't score.

"We played really well in the wide areas and I think overall we were unlucky."

Liverpool head to the capital this weekend to take on struggling Arsenal, who have been edged out of the top four by in-form Aston Villa.

Both clubs boast a perfect record against their title rivals this season, and Arbeloa is hoping to complete what would be a prestigious hat-trick.

"We have a difficult game against Arsenal but we believe in ourselves and we can get a good result there," he added.

"We have beaten Manchester United, we have beaten Chelsea and now we want to beat Arsenal.

"We have a really good team and I don't think they are playing their best football at the moment, so we have a good opportunity to show what we can do."

Hyypia Urges Liverpool To Look Forward

Liverpool had the chance to widen their lead in the Premier League last Saturday, but they could only manage a 2-2 draw against Hull City at Anfield.

It was the third time in as many league games that the Merseysiders failed to win on their own patch, and pundits across the country are now questioning whether the five-time European champions possess the firepower to maintain their title tilt.

But Sami Hyypia is refusing to get downhearted, instead choosing to focus on the positive aspects of Liverpool's campaign to date.

"We're only in December but it's very close," the Finnish defender told the club's official website. "There's a long way to go.

"Of course things could be better – we could have more points than we do, but we just have to live with it. We have to live with what we have now. We have to concentrate on the next game and try to win that."

Rafael Benitez's men will travel to London on Sunday to face an Arsenal side desperate for some joy after slipping out of the top four.

Hyypia added: "It will be a tough game against Arsenal but we'll go to win and hopefully come out with three points."

Adebayor Gunning For Reds

Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor wants revenge over Liverpool this weekend after Rafael Benitez's men dumped them out of the Champions League last season.

The Gunners lost at Anfield at the quarter-final stage of Europe's elite competition in April - and Arsene Wenger's men need a result at the Emirates Stadium to maintain their Barclays Premier League title hopes.

"For sure, they broke our dreams last season," said Adebayor.

"But what they have done they have done. That happened last season. The most important thing is what we want to achieve now.

"All the people will be talking about it and that will make it a big game for everybody.

"As a player you dream of playing in these big games. When I was young I had a chance to watch Arsenal against teams like Liverpool and Manchester United. Now I have a chance to be in those games."

Arsenal have struggled against so-called lesser teams this season but have raised their game against the traditional top four heavyweights.

"We have to forget about what we have done against Chelsea and Manchester United," Adebayor added on Arsenal TV Online.

"We have done that so the most important thing is just to keep focused against Liverpool.

"If we think because we have beaten Man United at home, Chelsea away so we are going to win easily against Liverpool then we have got everything wrong.

"Every weekend comes a massive game, massive game, massive game for us. [Each is] the game of the season. We all know how important this is for the club so we will just try to keep our dreams alive.

"For us the most important thing is to keep positive. We have a good chance because we play at the Emirates Stadium in front of our own fans. We always play quite well there."

Benitez Taken To Hospital For Surgery

Liverpool have confirmed that manager Rafael Benitez has undergone surgery in hospital after a kidney stones problem.

The 48-year-old was taken to hospital in the early hours of Monday morning and subsequently had an operation.

"Rafa was admitted to hospital last night after suffering problems with a kidney stone," a club spokesman said.

"He will undergo a minor operation this afternoon and is expected to return to work within two or three days.

"He remains in good spirits and everyone at Liverpool wishes him a very speedy recovery."

The news comes just 24 hours after Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari spent a night in hospital with a similar problem.

With a vital Premier League clash away at Arsenal on Sunday, Liverpool will be hoping that Benitez makes a swift recovery and will be able to take his place in the dugout at the Emirates.

Benayoun: Liverpool Did Not 'Play With Their Heads'

Liverpool's Israeli attacker would like the Reds to start thinking a little more in order to avoid dropping more points.

Yossi Benayoun is not happy that Liverpool yet again let two vital points slip thorugh their grasp at Anfield on Saturday. The Reds conceded a two-goal lead to Hull City, before digging themselves out of an almighty hole and clawing it back to 2-2, largely thanks to Steven Gerrard.

And the Israeli winger feels that his team-mates must show more composure and thoughtfulness in their play if they are to end the long years of waiting for the league title to return to Anfield.

"Even after we went two goals down we never thought it was game over, especially after our experiences this season," Benayoun told The Liverpool Echo.

"But we were all really disappointed to find ourselves two goals down because I thought we started the game very well and we were the better side for the first ten to 15 minutes. Then we conceded a goal and lost a bit of control but after that we showed a lot of character to come back.

"After that, though, we should have come back to win the game because we had quite a few chances. But in the second half we did not play with our heads enough. We were desperate to score and didn’t use the wide areas enough. It’s a shame."

Benayoun was also quick to praise his skipper Steven Gerrard, whose two close-range efforts cancelled out Paul McShane's opener for the visitors and Jamie Carragher's second own goal of the campaign.

"We know how important the captain is to the team in every game, not just in this one," added Benayoun.

"He showed a lot of character again and when he pushes forward he takes the rest of the team with him. This is why he is one of the best midfielders in the world and we were all grateful for the goals he scored against Hull because they got us back into the game."

Liverpool, despite the draw, remain league leaders, a point ahead of Chelsea, who also drew at home at the weekend to West Ham United.

Steven Gerrard And Jamie Carragher Miss Sports Personality Of The Year

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard and team-mate Jamie Carragher disappointed organisers of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year celebration in their native city by withdrawing at short notice from commitments to present awards.

Sunday night's event was the first time it has been staged in Liverpool and the BBC and city officials were keen to make it a truly Liverpudlian event that reflected the city's sporting heritage.

To that end both Liverpool and Everton received open invitations for players and management to attend, and the two club captains, Phil Neville and Gerrard, were asked to present the Team of the Year award. Carragher was also approached to present an award, while Fernando Torres and manager Rafael Benitez were also approached about attending.

While Neville fulfilled his commitment, Carragher and Gerrard withdrew, citing personal reasons. Gerrard withdrew midway through last week, while Carragher left his withdrawal until Saturday.

The Liverpool show was the third time it has been staged outside London with members of the public present – the first two were in Birmingham. Next year the show is likely to move to Glasgow or Cardiff.

Liverpool FC Boss Rafa Benitez Singing From His Own Songsheet

FOR several years Johnny Cash has been the crooner of choice of the Anfield crowd.

But perhaps it’s now time they switched to Ol’ Blue Eyes.

Because, like it or loathe it, Rafa Benitez is going to do it HIS way.

Frustrated fans, a complaining Press corps or a £20m striker giving him hurt looks down the touchline, is not going to change the self-confident Spaniard’s way of thinking.

Benitez was at his most bloody-minded on Saturday.

Few queried the 4-2-3-1 formation which saw Robbie Keane left forlornly looking on; after all it was the same system which had yielded a 3-1 away win seven days previously.

But as the Reds struggled against a refreshingly inventive Hull side, his search for “solutions” defied popular thinking.

Benitez’s explanations afterwards – especially in introducing midfielder Lucas ahead of striker Keane – were eloquent and intriguing.

Regardless of the level of tactical planning which went into the switches, however, they didn’t work.

But we’ve been here before with Benitez.

The Spaniard’s Liverpool successes – already considerable – have all come in the face of adversity.

The Miracle of Istanbul, an FA Cup final which looked all but lost until Steven Gerrard’s amazing intervention – a Champions League campaign which started disastrously and ended on the brink of a third final in four years.

All have featured Benitez’s maverick thinking.

This current campaign isn’t anything like as fraught as those famous fightbacks.

But the frustration comes in that it could be so much better.

There is a real worry now that big wins over Manchester United and Chelsea are being undermined by home draws against Stoke, Fulham, West Ham and now Hull.

Title winning teams don’t draw three successive home games, moaned the after-match phone-in ‘experts’.

Perhaps. But, title winning teams do possess the character which allows them to recover from losing positions, as Liverpool have now done a remarkable eight times in all competitions this season, six of them victories.

Liverpool’s position could be better. But it could be so much worse.

In truth the Reds got lucky on Saturday. Yes, really.

While another frustrated full-house bemoaned the loss of two more points, a more reflective analysis might have realised it could have been much, much grimmer.

Bernard Mendy was enjoying the kind of afternoon which threatened to give full-back Andrea Dossena twisted blood.

Then Paul McShane suffered concussion and the winger was pressed into full-back duties, instantly reducing his effectiveness and allowing the Italian to breath a huge sigh of relief.

Liverpool pulled back a 2-0 deficit with the help of a couple of judicious shoves on Michael Turner in front of The Kop. Each time referee Alan Wiley was admiring the quality of the Liverpool moves rather than the fouls.

Then the awful official ignored a Javier Mascherano handball inside the penalty area.

But Liverpool rode their luck, finally settled and for an hour were usually the team most likely to make the breakthrough.

The biggest talking point afterwards was Benitez’s decision to chase that winning goal without Keane.

The Irishman looked crushed and demoralised at being ignored.

But the biggest concern for the striker is that by far Benitez’s preferred formation is 4-2-3-1.

If Fernando Torres is fit, he will always be the one; Albert Riera, Ryan Babel, Dirk Kuyt and Yossi Benayoun will jostle for the wide roles. . . but the identity of the man in the middle of that attacking triangle is the first name on Liverpool’s teamsheet every week.

If Robbie Keane is going to challenge for Steven Gerrard’s place in the team, he will lose every time.

The only respite for Keane would be a switch to a more unfamiliar 4-4-2.

As ever, Benitez will have solutions – possibly solutions we haven’t even thought of yet.

And difficult thought it may be, Reds fans must keep faith with him.

Despite Saturday’s disappointment, Liverpool are still very much in the title race . . . with Fernando Torres and Marin Skrtel still to return.

“If you want to win titles you have to keep calm,” said Benitez.

All we can do is sit back, and let him do it his way.