Thursday, December 18, 2008

Reina Targets Gunners Scalp

Jose Reina is confident that Liverpool can claim their first win at Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

The Reds have yet to beat Arsenal at their new ground but have the opportunity to change that statistic as they travel to London this weekend.

Reina feels that Liverpool are playing well enough to topple the Gunners, although he is wary of the threat posed by Arsene Wenger's men.

The Spanish goalkeeper believes Liverpool have the psychological edge as they are currently top of the Premier League table and eight points clear of Arsenal.

"We don't have that many great memories from our other visits to the Emirates," Reina told his club's official website.

"They played very well and we weren't in our best moment.

"This time I think it is different because we are top of the table and I think it is easier to play when you are up there. We've never won there before, so maybe it's the right time to do it.

"It is possible for us to win on any ground. But we have to respect them a lot and play to win, like we always do.

"We have already won at Stamford Bridge, which we'd not done, so we're confident we can now go to the Emirates and win there too."

Arsenal have lost to the likes of Hull City, Stoke City and Fulham this term but they have beaten title rivals Manchester United and Chelsea.

Reina added: "Arsenal have great players and a good squad. They are able to do great things. They beat Manchester United at home and also won at Stamford Bridge, so we know it will be a really tough game.

"They probably do save their best for the big teams. The way they play their football probably makes it easier for them to take on the top sides, because they allow them to play their brand of football.

"Against more physical teams they have struggled a little bit because of that."

Reina does not think Arsenal should be written off in the battle for top spot even if Liverpool emerge as winners on Sunday.

He said: "I think the title race is nine months long so I don't think we can talk about whether they are in or out of the race until the last five games of the season."

Skrtel Closes On Return

Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel still hopes to return to action before the end of 2008.

The 24-year-old has been sidelined since picking up a knee injury in the victory over Manchester City in October.

He has resumed training but admits that he is still short of fitness and not quite ready to come back into first-team contention.

Skrtel is reluctant to put a precise date on his return but believes he should be available again before the turn of the year.

"The knee is alright but I still have a problem with breathing as I don't have the fitness I had before I got injured," Skrtel told SITA.

"My strength has been good but speed and acceleration has been worse after almost three months of rehabilitation. That will return with time.

"So far I have been through only two training sessions. We will see how I am doing after one or two weeks of training, then we can speak about my return.

"There is no date set for my comeback. I would be very glad to make it in this year.

"A three-month break is rather long and I must try hard now to get back to action as soon as possible."

The Slovakia international has been with Liverpool since January and he believes he has progressed as a player over the past 12 months.

"This year has been definitely the most successful one in my career," he said.

"At the end of the previous year we won the league with Zenit (St Petersburg) and a month later I moved to Liverpool, where I have been playing regularly and people have been satisfied with my performances.

"I think that I made the right decision to go to Liverpool."

Liverpool FC Players Visit Alder Hey

Liverpool FC stars spread a little festive cheer around the wards of Alder Hey children’s hospital yesterday.

Liverpool’s first-team squad took time out from their training schedule for Sunday’s match with Arsenal to play Santa.

Carrying sacks, they handed out gifts to children excited at coming face to face with their heroes.

The players were split into two groups and spent a few hours making their way around the wards, where they chatted to their young fans.

They posed for pictures and signed autographs for the youngsters – many of whom will be spending Christmas in hospital.

Rafa’s stars, including Reds skipper Steven Gerrard, Bootle-born defender Jamie Carragher, and Irish striker Robbie Keane, said they wanted to make Christmas dreams come true.

Livderpool FC's Javier Mascherano Wants An Aresenal Hat-trick

LIVERPOOL’S midfield enforcer Javier Mascherano believes that the Reds can complete an impressive hat-trick of victories over their title rivals this weekend when they travel to the Emirates Stadium.

So far this season, Liverpool have already recorded a first ever victory over English and European champions Manchester United under manager Rafael Benitez, a 2-1 at Anfield in September.

And they defeated Chelsea 1-0 at Stamford Bridge in October to end the London club’s record-breaking 86-game unbeaten home record.

Such success contrasts sharply to Liverpool’s poor record in previous campaigns against fellow members of ‘The Big Four’ since Benitez’s arrival from Valencia.

Between the 2004/05-2007/08 seasons, Liverpool lost 15 of their 20 Premier League encounters against the rest of the big four, collecting just 17 points from a possible 60.

However, as they bid to secure their first Premier League crown and end a 19-year-wait for the title to return to Anfield, Liverpool have looked impressive this term against their title rivals.

Curiously though, Liverpool – like Sunday’s opponents Arsenal – have struggled against some of the division’s lesser lights with home draws against Stoke, Fulham, West Ham and Hull.

But unlike the Gunners, who have lost five games, Benitez’s side who are currently a point clear of Chelsea at the summit, remain very much in the title hunt.

With second-placed Chelsea not playing until Monday night at Goodison Park and third-placed Manchester United away in Japan for the Fifa Club World Cup, Liverpool have the chance to stretch their lead at the top of the table with victory over Arsene Wenger’s men.

And having already defeated Chelsea and United this season, Mascherano sees no reason why they can’t complete an impressive treble on Sunday afternoon.

The Argentina international said: “We know it is going to be a very difficult game, but we are going there confident we can show our quality and win.

“We have beaten Chelsea and Manchester United this season, but we have to remember Arsenal have done the same.

“I think they play much better against the top teams and so we know it will be a hard match. But if we play our football and use our heads then we can win the game.

“Arsenal have some great players and a great squad so if they have injuries then other players can come in and do the job.

“I think Cesc Fabregas is one of the best in his position in the game and we are going to have to take care with him.

“If we want to beat them then we will need to be 100% concentrated all the way through.”

Argentina international midfielder Mascherano added: “I don’t think we should be thinking about the league table – the most important thing is just to win our games and then maybe look at the other contenders and hope they drop points.

“It’s not very good if we drop points as well – we need to think about ourselves and then see what the other teams are doing.”

Far from being downhearted following Liverpool’s 2-2 draw with Hull last weekend, Mascherano was buoyed by the display of his side as they came from behind for the eighth time this season to take something from the match.

But he admits they can’t keep dropping points at Anfield and relying on their good away form to keep them on top of the pile.

He said: “We had chances to score more goals against Hull but just couldn’t do it.

“When you play well and have chances to win then you have to be disappointed with a draw.

“We started the game well and then were 2-0 down, but the team again showed great character to come back.

“It’s important for us to know that even if we go behind in games then we have the quality to come back.”

Meanwhile, Liverpool have been handed a major fitness boost with defender Martin Skrtel returning to full training at Melwood.

The Slovakian international centre-back picked up a cruciate ligament injury in the 3-2 victory at Manchester City in October and has been pencilled in for a return to the first team squad when Bolton come to Anfield on Boxing Day.

Albert Riera Wants Liverpool Victory Over Arsenal To Send A Title Message

Liverpool have been urged to send out an emphatic title message by beating Arsenal on Sunday.

The rallying cry came from their Spanish winger Albert Riera, who believes that if his side can beat the Gunners, then not only will it knock the London club out of the race for the Premiership, it will also cement Liverpool’s challenge.

Speaking yesterday, Riera insisted that the Anfield club can release the pressure that has been growing on them in recent weeks, by turning up the heat on Arsenal.

"We've beaten United and Chelsea already this season so if we could now beat Arsenal maybe it would send a message out," he said.

"It would be a good response to go and win against Arsenal after disappointing draws at home. If we do that some might say we're doing it the hard way - beating the top teams and not those we might be expected to win against - but people forget this is a very competitive championship.

"We're still in a good position. Obviously it's a regret dropping points at home. If we hadn't drawn three successive games here maybe we'd be four or five points clear at the top, but we have to be positive."

Redknapp Wants Keane Back At Spurs

Robbie Keane could return to Tottenham in January - after manager Harry Redknapp admitted he is desperate to sign a striker and is a big fan of the Irishman.

Pundit Mark Lawrenson claimed on Tuesday he had a conversation with Steven Gerrard in which it was suggested Keane, who has struggled at Anfield since his move from Tottenham in the summer, is 'going to be moved on' in January.

Liverpool insist reports of Lawrenson's chat with the Reds skipper did 'not tally with Gerrard's recollection of the conversation itself' but Redknapp has done nothing to dispel rumours linking the striker with his old club.

'I like Robbie. 'He's a fantastic footballer, there's no doubt about that,' said the Tottenham manager.

'[But] he's a Liverpool player until the day they say he's for sale.'

Redknapp has been left with just on-loan Fraizer Campbell in attack for Spurs' Uefa Cup group finale with Spartak Moscow at White Hart Lane, tonight with Roman Pavlyuchenko cup-tied and Darren Bent ill.

Benitez To Offer Spurs £7m Plus Pennant To Take Lennon To Liverpool

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is set to tempt Spurs with a cash-plus-player deal for Aaron Lennon.

Benitez will offer Jermaine Pennant plus £7million for Lennon, who has apparently attracted interest from Real Madrid in recent weeks following his startling form under new boss Harry Redknapp.

Redknapp is a long-term admirer of former Arsenal winger Pennant, and tried to snare the 25-year-old in the summer while manager of Portsmouth.

And he has continued to keep tabs on the player and would be interested in a cut-price deal in January.

Signed in 2006 from Birmingham for £6.7m, Pennant has found himself out of favour after missing a training session and has only played three times in the Premier League this season.

Benitez is keen to cash in on Pennant, who has six months left on his contract at Anfield and could leave the club for free in the summer.

After declining a £4m move to Blackburn, Newcastle and Stoke, it is understood that Benitez is open to offers around £3m for Pennant.

But Redknapp may accept the swap deal, given the extra cash on offer - and that Pennant is a ready made replacement for England international Lennon, report the Daily Mirror.

Robbie Keane: Liverpool FC Fear No-one In Europe

ROBBIE KEANE believes Liverpool should fear no- one when the draw for the last 16 of the Champions League takes place in Nyon tomorrow.

Liverpool will be paired with one of Real Madrid, Sporting Lisbon, Lyon, Villarreal and Inter Milan in the draw, having come through Group D as winners.

Their status as group winners means that whoever the Reds meet they will have the advantage of playing the second leg at Anfield.

Though four of the teams Liverpool can be drawn against are national champions – only Villarreal are not the current title holders in their league – Keane insists the Anfield outfit’s recent record in the Champions League should make potential opponents worry about them.

“There’s certainly no fear as far as we are concerned,” said Keane.

“You know when you get to the knockout stages of a competition, like the Champions League, that you are going to come up against a quality side. That’s just the way it is.

“But we won’t be worrying about who we get. We have come through as group winners so maybe that means the other teams in the draw would prefer to avoid us.

“The record of this club in this competition is fantastic, so hopefully other teams will be looking at us and thinking they’d rather be drawn against another team, especially with the second leg being at Anfield.

“We’ll just see who we get and move on from there, but we don’t fear anyone.”

Liverpool Tops Manchester United In Fans Support

Supporters of clubs in the English Premier League support Liverpool the most, according to a recent survey. A sports website,, conducted a survey in the nation involving 2,708 football fans and found that Liverpool is the most popular, with 14.3 percent of fans supporting the club.

The runner up was Manchester United, which received 11.8 percent of the club votes. Third place was Tottenham Hotspur, with 9.7 percent of those surveyed reporting their support for the club. Everton Football Club had the lowest fan base out of the pool, with only 3.1 percent of the supporters.

Over a third of the fans based their support on the track record of success that the clubs have had. Just over a fifth of supporters said that they support their local team. Almost 20% of participants have been supporting their club since childhood.

Smaller groups supported teams due to who their friends support or because of their personal attraction to certain players.

Top ten supported clubs:

1. Liverpool – 14.3%
2. Manchester United – 11.8%
3. Tottenham Hotspur – 9.7%
4. Arsenal – 9.6%
5. Newcastle United – 5.8%
6. Manchester City – 5.3%
7. West Ham United – 4.9%
8. Aston Villa – 4.4%
9. Chelsea FC – 3.6%
10. Everton FC – 3.1%

Torres Happy At Anfield

Fernando Torres' agent has admitted a number of top clubs have enquired about the Liverpool striker, but insists he is happy at Anfield.

Cash-rich Manchester City have been linked with a mega-bid for the Spain international as they look to establish themselves as one of the biggest clubs in the world.

Torres enjoyed a sensational debut season with Liverpool last term following his switch from Atletico Madrid and he is in the running for the Fifa World Player of the Year award.

Reports suggest Liverpool are preparing to offer the Spanish international, who is currently sidelined with a hamstring injury, a lucrative new deal in a bid to ward off potential suitors.

Torres' agent, Jose Antonio Martin, admits the striker has no shortage of admirers, but that he has no intention of quitting Liverpool.

"Big European clubs are always asking about Torres, but he loves it at Liverpool and is keen to get fit to fight for the title and Champions League," Martin is quoted as saying in the Daily Star.