Saturday, October 31, 2009

Match Preview: Fulham vs. LiverpooL

They may have fallen to Arsenal in the League Cup on Wednesday, but Liverpool will nonetheless be in determined mood as they return to the capital this weekend to take on Fulham.

Last Sunday's 2-0 victory over Manchester United ended a four-game losing streak, bringing a wave of relief over the red half of Merseyside and boosting the Anfield giants to within six points of leaders Chelsea.

It was a second-string lineup that lost at the Emirates in midweek, so Rafael Benitez's regulars will be relatively well rested for the visit to Craven Cottage.

Fulham had no cup action during the week, having been ousted by Manchester City in the previous round; yet they had a decidedly better time of things when they revisited Eastlands last weekend.

The Cottagers looked set for a long day at the office after Joleon Lescott and Martin Petrov gave the hosts a two-goal lead early in the second half, but they responded almost instantly through Damien Duff and Clint Dempsey to snatch a morale-boosting point.

That result extended the London club's unbeaten run to five games in all competitions. They currently sit 13th in the league standings, seven points adrift of fifth-placed Liverpool.



Oct 25 Manchester City 2-2 Fulham
Oct 22 Fulham 1-1 Roma (Europa League)
Oct 19 Fulham 2-0 Hull City
Oct 4 West Ham United 2-2 Fulham
Oct 1 Fulham 1-0 Basel (Europa League)


Oct 28 Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool (League Cup)
Oct 25 Liverpool 2-0 Manchester United
Oct 20 Liverpool 1-2 Olympique Lyonnais (Champions League)
Oct 17 Sunderland 1-0 Liverpool
Oct 4 Chelsea 2-0 Liverpool



Manager Roy Hodgson is hoping Andy Johnson will be available, as the former Everton striker is nearing fitness after a lengthy battle with shoulder and groin problems.

Simon Davies is also close to a return, having undergone advanced treatment on his foot. The Welsh winger is a chance to make the bench.

Midfield duo Danny Murphy and Dickson Etuhu are both out with knee injuries.

Possible starting XI: Schwarzer, Paintsil, Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky, Duff, Greening, Baird, Dempsey, Kamara, Zamora.


Javier Mascherano returns to the fray after missing the midweek League Cup loss through suspension. He could be joined by Steven Gerrard, although the captain is recovering slowly from his latest groin niggle.

Fernando Torres also skipped the trip to Arsenal, having been short on fitness despite his goal-getting exploits against the Red Devils last weekend. The Spanish superstar is expected to start, but the ever-improving David Ngog is on standby.

Albert Riera (hamstring) remains sidelined, but Alberto Aquilani - who made his long-awaited debut with a 15-minute cameo at the Emirates - should be part of the matchday squad.

Possible starting XI: Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Aurelio, Mascherano, Lucas, Benayoun, Kuyt, Babel, Torres.


Fulham - Damien Duff

The Irishman has looked rejuvenated since his summer switch from Newcastle United, and the Reds will have to pay close attention in order to stifle his creativity and goal threat from the flank. Same goes for American wide-man Clint Dempsey.

Liverpool - Lucas Leiva

The Brazilian hit back at his doubters last weekend with a top-drawer display against Man United. Will he follow up with another classy, energetic performance, or will this game pass him by like so many others?

Liverpool Without Steven Gerrard & Glen Johnson For Fulham Trip

Liverpool will be forced to maintain the feel-good factor built-up after the Manchester United win last weekend by travelling to Fulham without key pair Glen Johnson and Steven Gerrard, as confirmed by manager Rafael Benitez.

The Spanish boss stated today, Friday, that influential attacker Gerrard is still suffering from a persistent groin problem, and that roaming right-back Johnson is sidelined due to a calf injury.

"Gerrard still has a problem with his groin so he won’t be available this weekend," Benitez explained to the BBC.

"At this moment he’s working with the physios. He has to keep working and we’ll decide next week how he progresses."

Regarding Johnson, he added: "Johnson has a small tear in his calf, so we will lose him for maybe one week."

Albert Riera will also be absent from the Reds' line-up this weekend, however, Benitez will welcome Javier Mascherano back into the side after the Argentine served his one-game suspension for picking up two yellow cards against Manchester United.

Rafa Benitez Fears Skipper May Go Under The Knife To Solve Groin Problem

Liverpool fear Steven Gerrard may require an operation to solve his troublesome groin injury.

Gerrard will be absent for Liverpool again on Saturday as he struggles to recover from the problem he suffered in England’s World Cup qualifying defeat by Ukraine almost three weeks ago.

The 29-year-old has managed only 25 minutes of action since then — in last week’s Champions League loss to Lyon at Anfield, when he aggravated the injury and limped off.

Liverpool are perplexed by Gerrard’s slow recovery. They are reluctant to opt for surgery but it may be an option if the injury fails to respond to treatment.

Manager Rafa Benitez had hoped his captain would be back for Saturday’s Premier League trip to Fulham, but has accepted defeat.

Top scorer Fernando Torres, who has been affected by a similar injury, is expected to start at Craven Cottage, though, and Benitez said: ‘Both have to keep going. Gerrard is still working with the physio so we will see. Hopefully, Torres will be OK, but for Gerrard maybe it is more difficult.’

Mascherano Forgets Barca Link

Liverpool star Javier Mascherano has denied suggestions his form has been affected by transfer rumours linking him with Barcelona.

Mascherano was linked with a move to Barcelona in the summer with Pep Guardiola a big admirer of the defensive midfielder.

The Argentine international concedes he has not been at the top of his game so far this season, but he is adamant it has nothing to do with rumours over his future.

"Everyone knows Barcelona were interested in me but that's in the past now," said Mascherano.

"Liverpool said no and that's the end of it. Some might say I haven't been playing well because Barcelona tried to buy me.

"I agree I haven't been at my best but it's not because of that. I just haven't started the season well."

Alberto Aquilani Set To Be Liverpool FC's Ace In Pack

He may not yet know the intricacies of their card school, but Alberto Aquilani has already shown he can potentially be Liverpool’s ace in the pack on the pitch.

The long wait was ended on Wednesday night when the £20m signing from Roma made a first competitive appearance for his new club at the Emirates.

Aquilani only emerged as a 77th-minute substitute, but there was enough promise during his brief cameo to generate genuine excitement among the travelling hordes.

The Italian produced some fine touches, showed great vision with one pass to Philipp Degen and was only denied an injury-time penalty by myopic referee Alan Wiley when his spectacular overhead kick was clearly handled by Philippe Senderos.

And Dirk Kuyt reveals that while the 25-year-old remains an unknown quantity to many supporters, he has already ingratiated himself with his new team-mates.

“We are pleased to see Alberto play,” says the Dutchman. “We’ve known him for a while around the club but this was his first game, and hopefully we can see a lot more of him.

“He’s a nice lad on and off the pitch. He told us he couldn’t wait to start, so it’s good for him and for us that he can finally play.

“He has tried to be involved not only in training but also off the field. He tried to play cards with us on the way down to London and pick up the language.

“And to be honest, he’s learning pretty quickly for an Italian!”

With Aquilani’s arrival coinciding with the departure of Xabi Alonso in August, the temptation has been to regard the Italian as a direct replacement, particularly given the great expectations that have built during the prolonged build-up to his Liverpool bow.

But Kuyt’s advice is simply for Aquilani to remember why Anfield manager Rafael Benitez ventured where Arsene Wenger wouldn’t by making the Italian the second-most expensive signing in Liverpool’s history.

“Alberto has to show his talent for himself,” says the Dutchman. “Everyone knows he is a quality player, Arsene Wenger said in his programme notes he is a talented player, but it’s up to Alberto to do it in the Premier League.

“The only thing I can say is that he is desperate to play and wants to show English football how good he is. We try to give him as much support as we can. Hopefully we will see a lot of him now this season.

“Every player who comes to Liverpool is his own personality. He’s not the new Xabi Alonso. He has to show his quality himself, and we will support him and help him.”

Carling Cup exits in recent seasons have prompted savage post-mortems on the strength in depth of Benitez’s squad and his youth policy.

With Liverpool’s largely second-string line-up impressive in Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat at Arsenal, such introspection was unnecessary.

And Kuyt adds: “We are really disappointed because we had a few chances to at least go to extra time. We worked really hard in the game, and Alberto should have had a penalty late on.

“We put a lot of effort into the game and tried to win. We had the belief we could win. Both teams scored good goals in the first half, and although we conceded again just after half-time, we never gave up.

“We created enough chances to at least equalise, but we couldn’t and that was the problem.

“It was a really good game between two sides that wanted to play football. We had nine changes from Sunday, and it was good to see the lads who maybe don’t play that often put a lot of effort into the game and give everything they have got. We can’t complain with the way we played.”

Emiliano Insua broke his goalscoring duck for Liverpool in spectacular fashion on Wednesday, striking a dipping volley beyond Arsenal goalkeeper Lukas Fabianski from 25 yards.

It was the latest landmark in an encouraging season for the left-back, who has held down a regular place in Benitez’s starting line-up while earning a first international cap for Argentina.

“It was a really nice moment for me,” says Insua. “I chested the ball down and just decided to hit it. I couldn’t believe it went in but it was nice and hopefully I can score more goals for the team in the future.

“It has been a really good season for me, for my club and country, but I have to keep it going. I know I can keep on improving and I have a lot of confidence.”

Insua concurs with Kuyt that Liverpool perhaps deserved to at least take the game to extra time.

“I’m really happy to have scored my first goal for the club but disappointed to have lost the game because I thought we played well,” says the 20-year-old.

“We knew before they are a good team, especially at home, but we had some good moments in the game.

“We pressed them all of the time and tried to keep the ball. Unfortunately we conceded two goals and we missed some chances and couldn’t score again.

“I never want to lose as a player and it’s the same for all of us. We are not in the Carling Cup any more but we still have three competitions left to play for so we have to keep improving.”

Emiliano Insua Calls For More Clean Sheets

Emiliano Insua today predicted Liverpool’s defenders are ready to rediscover their miserly ways – as Steven Gerrard geared up for a return to action.

Having been restricted to just 25 minutes of action in the past three weeks due to a groin problem, Gerrard is poised to slot back into the Reds’ midfield at Fulham on Saturday.

This game has been the captain’s target ever since he limped off during the Champions League defeat against Lyon 10 days ago and, should he pass a late fitness test, will give Liverpool a major boost.

Rafa Benitez’s side got their campaign back on track with an impressive win against Manchester United last weekend and Gerrard’s presence in the starting line-up at Craven Cottage will increase their chances of building on it.

But while Insua is delighted the skipper is up and running again, he knows the men behind can take some of the pressure off by improving their clean sheet tally.

The shutout against United was only Liverpool’s third in the Premier League so far and the Argentine full-back is aware that statistic needs rectifying.

“We must keep more clean sheets,” said Insua, who impressed during Wednesday night’s Carling Cup defeat at Arsenal. “If we do that, we will draw and win many more games.

“This is one important thing that we must improve on. The manager has told us how we need to change that (record) and we have to start now.

“We have to try and win at Fulham and then in the Champions League. We had a big win against United and we know we can do good things as a team.”

Insua’s spectacular first goal for the club was the high point of an encouraging display at the Emirates Stadium that suggested Liverpool are starting to turn the tide.

The catalyst, undoubtedly, was the vibrant display against United but like so many of his colleagues, Insua knows it will stand for little if they don’t follow up at Craven Cottage.

While performances in the past seven days have been encouraging, their predicament is still delicately poised, particularly with fixtures against Fulham and Lyon to come.

But Insua says toppling United has done wonders for confidence – now it is a question of making sure standards do not drop.

“The game against United was key for us because we had lost four games in a row and we were desperate to win,” said Insua.

“We managed to do that and now we have to make sure we keep going this way, both in the Premier League and the Champions League.

“We will see what happens in later on in the season but we must make sure we build on last week’s win. We never doubted ourselves and always believed we could do it.

“This is more or less the same team that played so well last season but we can’t relax because if we do that, we might lose more games.”

Javier Mascherano Admits Playing For Argentina Is Too Tiring And Risks Diego Maradona's Wrath By Putting Club Over Country

Liverpool's Argentina captain Javier Mascherano has admitted that his international commitments are taking a toll on him.

The combative midfielder thinks that his workload has been too heavy - and the constant globetrotting has left him tired.

Mascherano has made a bad start on his return to England since featuring for Argentina in their final World Cup qualification matches. Last Sunday, he was sent off in the 2-0 win over Manchester United at Anfield, causing him to be suspended for this weekend's match at Fulham.

The former West Ham star revealed that he has felt below par since returning to Merseyside but reassured Liverpool fans that his Argentina commitments are not his priority.

He added that he will forget about the World Cup until the domestic season is over. Argentina suffered a stressful World Cup qualifying campaign before eventually booking their place in the 2010 finals.

Mascherano, who has 50 caps for his country, played in the vital final qualifiers earlier this month. Diego Maradona's side eventually sealed their World Cup spot on October 15 with a 1-0 win in Uruguay.

Mascherano played in a holding role alongside ex-Manchester United man Juan Sebastian Veron and Newcastle's Jonas Gutierrez. Surprisingly, Manchester City's Carlos Tevez was left out but Argentina got the result that caused celebration - but left 25-year-old Mascherano feeling drained in the aftermath.

'I spent 20 hours on a plane coming back from South America,' complained the Liverpool midfielder.

'When I got here, all of us who had been away with our countries wanted to play and we all wanted to win. But, in that situation, it's tough. That's not an excuse. It's the reality.

'After a flight like that, you are never 100 per cent. You cannot be. It takes time to recover so all you can do is give your best.

'With so many games for club and country, I've been too busy. When our season here is finished then I will think about the World Cup. It was important to qualify. But Liverpool is just as important for me. This is my club and I live here. This is my priority.'

In the last World Cup in 2006, Mascherano earned rave reviews, playing every minute for Argentina before they were knocked out by Germany in the quarter-finals.

Maradona, shortly after being appointed, made Mascherano the national captain a year ago.

The Liverpool star also dismissed speculation that his poor form was down to not being granted a summer switch to European champions Barcelona.

He said: 'Everyone knows Barcelona were interested in me but that's in the past now.

Liverpool said no and that's the end of it. Some might say I haven't been playing well because Barcelona tried to buy me.

'I agree I haven't been at my best but it's not because of that. I just haven't started the season well.'

Friday, October 30, 2009

Liverpool Boss Benitez Disappointed With Defeat But Impressed With Aquilani

Liverpool were eliminated from the League Cup due to a 2-1 loss sustained at Arsenal's Ashburton Grove home, but Rafael Benitez has insisted that the defeat will not dilute the feel-good factor that engulfed Anfield following the Manchester United win at the weekend.

Pass-master Fran Merida opened the scoring in the first-half with a long-range effort, but the visitors levelled the game with an equally impressive shot from Emiliano Insua. Nicklas Bendtner, though, struck the winner five minutes into the second half.

Benitez's side could have perhaps had a penalty toward the game's conclusion, as substitute Alberto Aquilani - who made his first appearance in Liverpool colours after his recovery from injury - was perceived to have won a penalty when his bicycle kick struck Bendtner's hands.

"I haven't seen the replay but I've been told it was a penalty, you cannot change things now though," Benitez said post-game. "We saw some quality, though.

"We lost, but played well. Both teams were attacking and creating chances, so it was good for the fans, but bad for us because we lost."

He continued: "We don't lose the feel-good factor. We changed players - they showed energy and passion."

Regarding the debut of Aquilani, a £20 million summer signing from Serie A side Roma, Benitez said: "I think he showed quality.

"Match fitness is only something he can improve by playing. We can see the signs today, two or three good passes. Every day will be a little bit better."

Alberto Aquilani Says Reds Were Robbed At Arsenal

Alberto Aquilani last night claimed Liverpool were robbed of a dramatic stoppage time penalty after Arsenal's kids stormed into the Carling Cup quarter finals for the seventh year running.

Liverpool's £20m signing says his spectacular overhead kick was handled by Arsenal defender Philippe Senderos and insisted referee Alan Wiley denied him a clear spot kick on his debut as a 77th minute substitute.

Kop boss Rafa Benitez said: "Aquilani said it was a penalty and they did on TV. But you can't change the situation so we have to carry on.

"The worst thing was the defeat and the result but here were positives - passion, character, quality and Aquilani was one of these players.

"He needs to improve the fitness but he can pass in the final third and make a difference to us."

Benitez also revealed that captain Steven Gerrard has suffered a setback in his battle to be fit after a groin injury and may now miss Saturday's trip to Fulham.

Aquilani Wants To Be Anfield Ace

Liverpool midfielder Alberto Aquilani has plans to become a Premier League ace after easing himself into English football by playing cards with his new team-mates.

After recovering from his long-term knee injury, Italy international Aquilani made his Liverpool debut this week in the Carling Cup defeat at Arsenal following a trip south that included his introduction to the tradition of the card school.

"He's tried to be involved, not only in the training sessions but off the pitch too," said forward Dirk Kuyt.

"He played cards with us before the Arsenal match and tried to pick up the language. He's learning very quickly for an Italian!"

Aquilani, the 25-year-old Italy international, showed glimpses of his potential during a 14-minute cameo and had a shout for a penalty turned down when his scissor-kick was blocked by Philippe Senderos' arm.

Kuyt, who was stand-in skipper for the evening, believes Aquilani will establish his own style at Anfield, rather than attempt to follow in the footsteps of Xabi Alonso following the Spain midfielder's departure in the summer to Real Madrid.

"Every player who comes to Liverpool is his own personality," Kuyt added.

"He has to do it by himself with the rest of us giving him all the support. We will help him on his way.

"We've known Alberto already for a while. This was his first game and I'm very happy for him that he made his debut for Liverpool and hopefully there is a lot more to see from him.

"He is a nice lad, on and off the pitch, and told us he couldn't wait to start. I'm glad for him and us that he can finally play.

"He's desperate to play and wants to show England how good he is."

Aquilani could make another appearance in the trip to Fulham on Saturday when Rafael Benitez's men look to build on last weekend's win over Manchester United.

"We still go with a lot of confidence to Fulham because everyone knows this is a big week for the club and a few big games are coming up," Kuyt said.

"If we can win this game hopefully we will be back in it.

"We didn't win against Arsenal but that won't stop us being ready for the weekend and the games coming up. We believe if we win the next couple of games and go on a good run, you never know what will happen."

Liverpool's goalscorer at the Emirates Stadium, Emiliano Insua, echoed Kuyt's sentiments.

"Now we have to try and win at Fulham and then in the Champions League," he said.

"We had a big win against Manchester United and we have always had belief in ourselves. We have a very good team and we need to keep going."

Emiliano Insua Looking To Continue Hot Form With Liverpool

Liverpool full-back, Emiliano Insua, 20, is looking to add to his midweek goal - a sensational long-range volley struck against Arsenal in the fourth round of the League Cup at Ashburton Grove.

The burgeoning Argentinean, who has one international cap, was delighted to ripple the net in the first half, despite his side going on to lose 2-1 due to a second half Nicklas Bendtner effort.

He told the club's official website: "It was a really nice moment for me. I chested the ball down and just decided to hit it. I couldn't believe it went in but it was nice and hopefully I can score more goals for the team in the future."

Despite the defeat, Liverpool are still on a high in the league after they rectified their poor run of form with a weekend win over Manchester United.

"We have to try and win at Fulham and then in the Champions League.

"We had a big win against United and we have always had belief in ourselves. We know we can do good things as a team. We have a very good team and we need to keep going."

He continued: "It has been a really good season for me, for my club and country, but I have to keep it going.

"I know I can keep on improving and I have a lot of confidence."

Liverpool Plan £16.5m Swoop For Valencia Winger Juan Mata

Liverpool have been linked with a £16.5 million move for Valencia winger Juan Mata in January, as ongoing concerns over the finances of the Spanish club may result in them being forced to sell the player.

Although the club's two main stars – the two Davids, Silva and Villa – have remained at Valencia, despite serious interest from many of Europe's biggest clubs, their sporting director Fernando Gomez hinted that lesser players may be sold to ease the financial burden.

Reds' manager Rafael Benitez is reportedly keen to raid his former club and is willing to splash as much as £16.5m to acquire the services of the 21-year-old Spain international.

Mata has a contract at the Mestalla until 2012 but is reported to be on £10,000-a-week wages – relatively low for a player of his stature.

The player's father, also his agent, told The Sun: "We want Valencia to recognise the kid's true quality, and it's not only a matter of money."

The youngster decided to play down the link with the Anfield outfit, explaining that football is the only thing on his mind at the moment.

"This matter is all down to the club and my agent," he said.

"Benitez is a big coach but I just want to concentrate on my game without any distractions."

Liverpool Hope To Tie José Reina With Lucrative Long-Term Deal

Liverpool intend to reflect José Reina's status as one of the finest goalkeepers in the game with a lucrative new contract that will secure his long-term future at Anfield.

The 27-year-old still has three years remaining on a five-year contract extension he was awarded in 2007. However, in keeping with club policy not to allow key players to enter the final two years of their contracts, and having tied such players as Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun to new long-term deals over the summer, Reina is next in line for a contract offer.

Talks between Liverpool and Reina's representatives are expected to begin in the coming weeks with an agreement anticipated early next year. The Spain international has proven an outstanding purchase since he arrived from Villarreal for £6m in 2005, comfortably eclipsing both Ray Clemence and Bruce Grobbelaar's record of clean sheets for Liverpool (79 in his first 150 league games compared to 69 for both predecessors), and was linked with a return to his former club Barcelona this summer.

Rafael Benítez is keen to end any uncertainty over his compatriot's future and the Liverpool manager may also consider a contract offer for Fábio Aurélio, the Brazil defender who was this week included in his national squad for the forthcoming friendly with England and who is out of contract at the end of this season.

Reina, meanwhile, believes Sunday's 2-0 win over Manchester United could mark a watershed for Liverpool this season, with their prospects also helped by the most open title race he has encountered in five seasons in England.

"Against United we were the better team and we deserved that win so hopefully it can be a turning point for us and give us the confidence that we need to do better," the Liverpool keeper said. "We are a team with character. Sometimes we do not play well but the character is always there, mainly because of our fantastic supporters who are with us during every single second. We have been in a difficult situation and this meant that we had to show our character, which we did on Sunday.

"We are six points behind the leaders and it will be a long, long race. It will be tough for everybody. There aren't just four teams involved in the title race, there are at least six or seven in it, which is good for the competition."

Liverpool Boss Rafa Benitez In Frame To Replace Manuel Pellegrini At Real Madrid

Real Madrid are lining up Rafa Benitez as their next manager after giving Manuel Pellegrini two games to save his job.

The Spanish giants have won just one of their last five games and suffered the humiliation of a 4-0 defeat by third division Alcorcon in the Cup on Tuesday night.

Madrid considered sacking Pellegrini straight after the latest debacle, but will give him a chance to turn things around against Getafe on Saturday and at AC Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday.

The decision gives Madrid time to probe possible successors and Liverpool boss Benitez is said to be on the short list.

A host of out-of-work coaches are also being considered, but Madrid want to know if Benitez's commitment to Liverpool has been shaken by the ongoing boardroom dispute between the club's American owners.

Benitez, who held several coaching roles at Madrid in the Eighties and Nineties, was considered by Madrid in the summer, but he was way down the list of president Florentino Perez's favourites.

Carlo Ancelotti turned down the job in favour of going to Chelsea, while Arsene Wenger preferred to stay at Arsenal, but Benitez may now be the strongest available candidate.

Former Bernabeu star Michael Laudrup and Holland legend Marco van Basten are options, while 71-year-old former Spain manager Luis Aragones would be an experienced option.

Perez had a plan for sporting director Jorge Valdano, the former Argentina striker, to take over in the event of Pellegrini's sacking.

However, 54-year-old Valdano has made it clear he does not want to coach the side and has instead been charge with finding the potential replacement.

It will cost Madrid about £10million in compensation if they part with former Villarreal boss Pellegrini.

Perez says his team needs time to gel after a £225m summer spending spree, but it is understood he will not remain patient if Madrid are embarrassed by city rivals Getafe at the Bernabeu.

'I would like to send a message to calm the fans,' he said. 'We have to remember that a lot of new players arrived before the start of the season and this requires a period of adaptation.
'The season is only two months old and we are still trying to create a team.'

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Match Report: Arsenal 2 - 1 LiverpooL

Teenager Fran Merida netted his first Arsenal goal as Arsene Wenger's young Gunners beat Liverpool 2-1 to reach the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup.

Just back from the Under-20 World Cup with Spain, the 19-year-old former Barcelona trainee drilled in a fine first-half strike as Wenger's faith in youth was once again justified.

Nicklas Bendtner, himself only 21 but now a regular in the side, produced a powerful finish after 50 minutes to put Arsenal into the last eight after Emiliano Insua had equalised.

As expected, Wenger had shaken things up in the team selection for his 750th game at the helm, naming an entirely different starting XI from the one which let a 2-0 lead slip during the closing stages at West Ham in the Barclays Premier League on Sunday.

There was, though, a more experienced look to this Gunners team, with veteran Mickael Silvestre captaining the side at the ripe old age of 32, while French midfielder Samir Nasri made his first appearance of the season after recovering from a fractured leg, while Croatia striker Eduardo was also in the team.

Only Dirk Kuyt, the Reds captain tonight, remained from the Liverpool side which had defeated Manchester United - although there was a welcome place on the bench for Alberto Aquilani, who had yet to play following his big-money summer move from Roma.

The hosts started well, and Merida - who almost went out on loan to Levante, only for Wenger to pull the plug on the deal at the last minute - fired a low effort just off target.

Liverpool created a decent opening when a clever backheel from David Ngog, on target at Anfield to help sink United, released Philipp Degen on the edge of the penalty area, but the Swiss defender dragged his shot across the face of goal.

On 10 minutes, Nasri was upended by Martin Skrtel just outside the Liverpool box, but chipped his free-kick over the wall and wide.

Bendtner then overcomplicated a one-two with Nasri, trying to stab the ball square to Aaron Ramsey, rather than just shoot when clear through.

Merida showed him just how it should be done with a fine strike on 19 minutes.

Craig Eastmond, 18, stole possession on the right, and the ball broke for Merida, who promptly smashed a first-time, left-foot shot in off the post past Diego Cavalieri.

Arsenal, though, had their lead only until the 26th minute when Insua netted a fine equaliser.

A long ball up field was knocked down by Ryan Babel, and it dropped perfectly for Insua, who drilled a looping shot up over Lukasz Fabianski from 25 yards for the Argentinian defender's first goal in English football.

Arsenal were soon back on the offensive, with Eduardo and Ramsey combining to set Merida clear on the left side of the penalty area, and the youngster did well to stay on his feet as Cavalieri charged out of goal.

There was another let-off for Liverpool when Cavalieri dropped the ball in a crowded six-yard box, but enough black shirts were around to clear.

Arsenal kept up their momentum following the restart, and went ahead again five minutes into the second period.

A sweeping move saw Merida feed the ball through to Bendtner on the penalty spot.

The Denmark international held off Skrtel before smashing his shot into the roof of the net.

To their credit, Liverpool came back strongly.

Fabianski had to get down to save a low, 25-yard free-kick from Babel which would have crept inside the keeper's right-hand post.

With 17 minutes left, Wenger made a change when 20-year-old Mark Randall and Hackney-born striker Sanchez Watt, 18, replaced

Eastmond and Bendtner, while Liverpool sent on Yossi Benayoun for Ngog.

Aquilani, the £20million man coming back from knee surgery, also got a long-awaited run-out, Damien Plessis making way.

Liverpool almost snatched an equaliser when Kuyt swept the ball across the six-yard box, but Babel, sliding in, just could not make contact.

Eduardo drilled his shot wide of the far post, but Arsenal had done enough to secure a place in the last eight.

Rafael Benítez's Liverpool Youth Policy Very Much Still A Work In Progress

The Carling Cup, according to Rafael Benítez, is “a special competition”. But it is a competition that has often demonstrated the paucity of Liverpool’s resources beneath first-team level in recent years, whether that means home-grown youngsters, imported teenagers or disenchanted senior professionals who are stagnating and in desperate need of a run-out.

As well as the debut of Alberto Aquilani, almost certainly as a substitute, Liverpool’s squad that faces Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium this evening will include Jay Spearing and Nathan Eccleston, two bona fide home-grown players, and David Ngog.

But there will also be Philipp Degen, Andrea Dossena and Andriy Voronin, whose services Benítez has retained only to keep up the numbers in a squad that is alarmingly short of strength in depth, and Ryan Babel, the former Ajax protégé, whose career has stalled.

Diego Cavalieri, the Brazilian goalkeeper, and Sotirios Kyrgiakos, the 30-year-old Greece defender, will also be on duty in the knowledge that they will not be troubling Pepe Reina and Jamie Carragher any time soon.

For all the uninformed criticisms of Benítez in recent weeks, his approach to the Carling Cup is curious, particularly when set against the dozens of young players he has signed.

He has spoken of his desire to replicate Arsenal’s successful model when it comes to developing youngsters. But, whereas Arsène Wenger views this as the arena in which to test his youngsters, the Liverpool starting line-up away to Leeds United in the previous round had an average age of 27.

Benítez, of course, seems to be damned whichever course of action he takes; in January 2005, four months before winning the Champions League in his first season at Anfield, he was widely criticised for fielding a reserve team that lost to Burnley in the FA Cup.

One of the players likely to be rested this evening is Emiliano Insúa, the 20-year-old left back, who was signed from Boca Juniors for a pittance and recently made his debut for Argentina.

Insúa apart, though, there are not many young players challenging for first-team places and it will be interesting to see how many on duty tonight are still at Anfield next season. A run in the competition may be their best hope of persuading Benítez that they are worth persevering with.

Liverpool Keen On Sampdoria's Hungarian Youngster Vladimir Koman

Liverpool are keen on securing the services of Sampdoria midfielder Vladimir Koman, The Daily Mirror claims.

The Hungarian starlet is currently on loan at Bari and is valued at £4 million.

Koman, who is building a reputation as a free-scoring midfielder, is under contract in Genoa until 2012.

The 20-year-old caught the eye during the recent Under-20 World Cup, scoring five goals in six appearances as he helped his country to third place in the tournament.

It is understood that Reds boss Rafael Benitez is a fan of Koman and wants him to join the burgeoning Hungarian contingent at Anfield, which includes fellow internationals Peter Gulacsi and Krisztian Nemeth - the latter currently on loan AEK Athens.

Arsene Wenger: Arsenal Wanted Alberto Aquilani

Alberto Aquilani is expected to make his debut for Liverpool against Arsenal on Wednesday night but Arsene Wenger has revealed that the Italian could have been donning the red shirt of the home side.

Aquilani joined Liverpool from Roma for a fee of £20 million over the summer but has been prevented from making his debut due to injury. With his fitness problems now behind him, the Italy international should make an appearance in the Carling Cup tie.

But Aquilani was also a player who interested Arsenal following some eye-catching performances in Serie A and Wenger only halted his pursuit when the player suffered from fitness problems last season.

"Yes I know him well," Wenger told the club's official website. "He played against us in the Champions League last year and came off the bench in Rome. He is a talented player but has been troubled a lot by injuries.

"We followed him for one or two years but he did not play a lot last year so he got a little bit out of sight for us and we lost our interest in him."

Arsenal are expected to stick with tradition and field a weakened team in Wednesday's game but Samir Nasri could make his return from a broken leg and Eduardo and Nicklas Bendtner have also been named in an 18-man squad.

Liverpool FC's Andrea Dossena Wants Return To Italy

Andrea Dossena would like to return to Italy, according to his agent.

The Liverpool left-back has recovered from a groin injury and could feature in the Carling Cup tie at Arsenal.

The 28-year-old was strongly linked with a move to Napoli this summer after just one season in the Premier League with Liverpool following his move from Udinese.

“It’s clear that the player would like to return to Italy,” Dossena’s agent Federico Pastorello said.

“He is playing very little at Liverpool and he doesn’t want to miss the train for the World Cup.

“I hope that, having recovered from the injury, he will play in the Carling Cup.

“Andrea, in any case, must do the maximum to return to have a regular spot at Liverpool.”

Liverpool: The Ref Was Right

Contrary to what Sir Red Nose said, the ref was right in not sending off Carragher when he brought down Owen outside the box. In an article in Tuesday's Guardian a senior, un-named, ref agreed with Marriner's handling of the matter.

He said: "Ferguson clearly doesn't understand the law about the denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity.

"The fouled player has to have full control of the ball and has to be moving towards the goal but Michael Owen did not fulfill either condition.

"Andre Marriner was absolutely right to award a yellow card and a direct free-kick.

He added: "It would have been totally wrong for him to have sent Jamie Carragher off. And Sir Alex should never have said that Andre Marriner was not an experienced referee when he is on the Fifa list and got all the important decisions right on Sunday."

The fact that Ferguson doesn't understand the law would come as a great surprise to you all I'm sure, he's been only managing football clubs for 30 odd years, not nearly long enough to learn the law apparently.

Rafa Benitez Wants Wembley Trophy Glory

Rafa Benitez has banished thoughts of revenge as he bids to take a step closer to fulfilling one of his ambitions as Liverpool manager.

The Reds face Arsenal in the Carling Cup fourth round and Benitez has no wish to experience a scoreline similar to when the sides last met in this competition.

That was back in January 2007 when Benitez was left stunned as Arsenal won a bizarre match 6-3, three days after knocking Liverpool out of the FA Cup.

However, the Anfield boss is not thinking about the events of that night and is simply concerned with building on Sunday’s impressive Premier League victory over Manchester United.

So even though important fixtures with Fulham and Lyon are looming, Benitez is not treating the trip to the Emirates Stadium lightly as he is anxious to lead the Reds out at Wembley.

“We try to approach things always one game at a time,” said Benitez. “It’s the Carling Cup and it’s Arsenal, so it is a little bit different to normal.

“But the mentality and the confidence will always be the same; we know we have got to go down there and win and the players will be ready.

“Every year is different and you cannot think too much about what happened in the past because circumstances change all the time. To beat Arsenal – or any of the top sides – is a challenge and that is always our target. It doesn’t matter what the competition is, always you want to win.”

No club in the country can better Liverpool’s tally of seven League Cup wins and Benitez would love nothing more than to be the man who guides them to an eighth success next February.

He, after all, was at the helm for the Reds’ last appearance in the final – against Chelsea in 2005 – and success in the Carling Cup is high on his list of priorities.

“If you can progress in a competition, that is what you have got to do,” he said. “You have got to select the right players for each game and it depends on the programme you have.

“But we are always thinking about progressing and winning and the Carling Cup gives us that first opportunity. I would love to win a trophy with Liverpool at Wembley.”

Benitez – who expects skipper Steven Gerrard to return at Fulham on Saturday but will be without Albert Riera and Martin Kelly for another fortnight – will undoubtedly make changes to the side that beat United three days ago.

He will mix youth and experience but there is a frustration that the Spanish FA’s insistence on calling up exciting young striker Dani Pacheco for a under-19 tournament next week has cost him the chance of making his debut.

Critics Have Made Me Stronger, Says Liverpool Fall Guy Lucas

Kop fall-guy Lucas claims the flak he has taken has made him stronger.

Lucas has borne the brunt of supporters' frustrations during Liverpool's rollercoaster start to the season.

The Brazilian has been given the unenviable task of trying to replace fans' favourite Xabi Alonso at the heart of midfield and has been singled out for criticism by supporters.

Lucas answered his doubters in the stands with one of his best performances in a Liverpool shirt in Sunday's massive 2-0 win over Manchester United.

He says that energetic display has given him a huge boost and he thanked Rafa Benitez for sticking by him.

"I'm still young. The criticism just makes me stronger and more determined to keep working and keep focused, because those are the only things that can help me improve," he said.

"I've heard a lot of things said about me, but I don't really read the newspapers. Maybe I should when people start writing good things about me! But I'm just trying to be focused on my game.

"I feel I'm growing in confidence this season. I'm a totally different player to the one who arrived at Liverpool.

"I have confidence from Rafa. He is really important for me at the moment and he's given me my chance.

"On Sunday, it wasn't just about me showing quality, it was about the whole team showing it. I still have to improve a lot, but hopefully I can keep progressing."

Lucas' performance against United could not have been better timed with Alberto Aquilani finally ready to make his first-team bow.

The £20million Italian international could be on the bench for tonight's Carling Cup tie at the Emirates and is expected to take Lucas' place when he is fully fit.

Lucas, 22, is refusing to worry about Aquilani's return and is focused on beating Arsene Wenger's young Guns to keep alive Liverpool's hopes of Carling Cup glory.

"We want to be in the final of all the competitions," said the Brazil international. "We don't know what Rafa will do with his team selection. Maybe he will make changes as we have a lot of important games at the moment. But we want to progress as far as we can in the Carling Cup.

"We know it will be a difficult game as Arsenal are playing some really good football. They can pass the ball really well, they are creating a lot of chances and scoring a lot of goals.

"We want to get through and we know we have to produce another good performance like we did against United. With the confidence we have now, we can show more quality than maybe we were doing when we were losing games."

Liverpool have never won at the Emirates and were mauled 6-3 by Wenger's kids when they last met in the competition in the quarter-finals in 2007.

But Lucas claims beating United has given them the belief that they can defeat Arsenal.

"Sunday was a perfect day for us after four defeats in a row," he said. "We played really good football in beating a really good team. We still have to improve a lot, but this victory can give us confidence to go on to Arsenal and win through in the Carling Cup.

"We have just to keep on going now. We've shown character and quality against United and if we can play like that in all the games, then it will be really difficult to beat us."

David Ngog, who scored Liverpool's second against United, has been tipped by Ian Rush to become a star at Anfield.

Rushie feels the French Under-21 star, who has netted three times in six appearances this season, has the potential to be a prolific goalscorer and will lead the Reds' attack against Arsenal.

Legendary marksman Rush said: "David's still rough around the edges, but the Anfield coaching staff are clearly working hard on him and he has undoubted potential.

"The experience of scoring a winning goal against United will only help his development."

Liverpool Boss Rafa Benitez Is A Survivor, Says Arsenal's Arsene Wenger

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is confident Rafa Benitez will get over the problems that are continuing to overshadow Liverpool's victory over Manchester United.

The Reds' 2-0 Anfield win over their fierce rivals brought an end to a four-match losing streak and kept Benitez's side in the title race.

But as the turmoil behind the scenes goes on involving a potential buyout of American co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks, speculation over Benitez's future continues.

Ahead of the Carling Cup tie between Liverpool and Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, Wenger said: 'You would say for them with the environment they were in it was a vital win over United.

'I must say on the day they deserved to win because they dominated this game.

'I believe Rafa is handling the pressure very well. It's not always easy but I believe in this job you need to resist the stress and the pressure because you cannot dream to go for a career in this job without coming into these kind of situations, so that's an absolute necessity to go through this kind of period and survive.'

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

League Cup Preview: Arsenal vs Liverpool

Last weekend provided an object lesson in how football fortunes can fluctuate. Liverpool went into their home clash with Manchester United on a knife-edge. Four successive defeats - their worst run since 1987 - had the air thick with talk of a crisis. Manager Rafa Benitez's transfer strategy, team selection, tactics and substitutions were all being questioned by pundits and fans alike, some even suggesting that his job could, or should, be in jeopardy.

Meanwhile Arsenal, with only an injury-time equaliser by AZ Alkmaar in the Champions League having denied them a seventh straight victory in all competitions, were widely expected to heap further misery on struggling West Ham United at the Boleyn Ground. Arsene Wenger, who turned 60 during the week, was being feted again for the style of his free-scoring young team.

Then, in the space of four engrossing hours on Sunday afternoon, the fickle footballing fates took a hand. First, a totally committed and passionately backed Liverpool side roared back into contention by out-thinking, out-muscling and out-playing their fierce rivals United, winning 2-0 and earning Benitez plaudits for pulling another rabbit out of the hat.

Then Arsenal, having established a comfortable two-goal margin against the Hammers, allowed their good work to be undone in the final 15 minutes and were forced to settle for one point in a 2-2 draw, when three had been theirs for the taking. Talk of the Gunners' soft underbelly, glass jaw and lack of a killer instinct resurfaced with a vengeance.

Wenger and Benitez have presumably long heeded the wisdom of Kipling's words, and learned to treat those two imposters - triumph and disaster - just the same; their task is to keep their heads while all around them are losing theirs and blaming it on them.

But while Sunday's results appear to have shifted the balance at the top end of English football yet again, however temporarily, it would be dangerous to draw further conclusions from the outcome of Wednesday's League Cup contest at the Emirates. Liverpool's trip to Fulham and Arsenal's staging of the north London derby on Saturday are likely to be more reliable indicators.

The reason, of course, is that Wenger's well-established policy is to use the League Cup as a stage on which his promising youngsters and fringe players can test themselves, while Benitez too is inclined to rest his first-choice players in this competition, though usually in a more pragmatic fashion than his French counterpart.

It is therefore likely that the teams on show at the Emirates will bear little resemblance to those who'll start at the weekend. However, an unknown variable at this stage is whether Rafa will be so determined to build on that victory over United that he declines the opportunity to make wholesale changes and picks an experienced team that he thinks will have the beating of Arsenal's young guns. Another variable is that Wenger may be tempted to give senior players returning from injury a run-out at the expense of some of the kids.

Either way, a fascinating tie could be in the cards. These are two of the Premier League's major powers, whose Champions League commitments mean the League Cup is fourth on their list of priorities. That said, Liverpool are the competition's most successful club, having lifted the trophy no fewer than seven times (1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1995, 2001, 2003) and been beaten finalists on three other occasions (1978, 1987, 2005). Arsenal have won the Cup twice - in 1987 and 1993 - and lost in the final four times (1968, 1969, 1988 and 2007).

There is a lengthy history of League Cup meetings between the two clubs, too. This is the tenth time the pair have been drawn together, and including replays they have played one another 13 times previously - including the 1987 final at Wembley when Arsenal came from behind to win 2-1 thanks to a brace from Charlie Nicholas. That was the first time ever that an Ian Rush goal did not lead to a Liverpool victory. Overall, though, the Reds are ahead of the Gunners by five wins to four, with four games having been drawn.

Their last meeting in this competition was arguably the most memorable. Having beaten Liverpool 3-1 on Merseyside in the FA Cup on 6 January 2007, Arsenal returned to Anfield three days later with a more experimental side and triumphed 6-3. Brazilian Julio Baptista became the first visiting player in 40 years to score four times in a game at Anfield, and also had a penalty saved by Jerzy Dudek.

Only three of the players who appeared on the pitch that night for Liverpool are still at the club - Steven Gerrard, Fabio Aurelio and substitute Jamie Carragher. Of the Arsenal line-up, eight are still at the Emirates: Manuel Almunia, Johan Djourou, Armand Traore, Theo Walcott, Alex Song, Cesc Fabregas, Denilson and sub Abou Diaby.

That 6-3 League Cup tie was, though, the last occasion on which Arsenal have beaten Liverpool. In seven subsequent meetings in all competitions, five have been drawn and Liverpool have won twice. On the other hand, Liverpool have not won in their last 11 visits to Arsenal. Their most recent success on Gunners' turf was a 1-0 win at Highbury in February 2000 when Titi Camara scored the decisive goal.

In this season's competition, Liverpool booked their place in the fourth round with a hard-fought 1-0 win over League One leaders Leeds United at Elland Road, David Ngog scoring the only goal midway through the second half.

A young Arsenal side beat Championship promotion challengers West Bromwich Albion 2-0 at the Emirates in round three, with goals from Sanchez Watt and Carlos Vela. Only three of Wenger's squad that night were older than 19, and four of the starting XI had played against (and beaten) Liverpool in last season's FA Youth Cup Final - midfielders Jack Wilshere and Francis Coquelin, and strikers Sanchez Watt and Gilles Sunu.

One peculiar statistic that Liverpool will hope is not an omen is the fact that, in every season since Rafa Benitez became their manager, Liverpool's League Cup campaign has been ended by a team from London. They lost to Chelsea in the Final in 2004-05 and since then have gone out to Crystal Palace, Arsenal, Chelsea (again) and Tottenham (last season).



25 Oct (Premier League) v West Ham United (A) DREW 2-2
20 Oct (Champions League) v AZ Alkmaar (A) DREW 1-1
17 Oct (Premier League) v Birmingham City (H) WON 3-1
04 Oct (Premier League) v Blackburn Rovers (H) WON 6-2
29 Sept (Champions League) v Olympiakos (H) WON 2-0


25 Oct (Premier League) v Man Utd (H) WON 2-0
20 Oct (Champions League) v Lyon (H) LOST 1-2
17 Oct (Premier League) v Sunderland (A) LOST 0-1
04 Oct (Premier League) v Chelsea (A) LOST 0-2
29 Sept (Champions League) v Fiorentina (A) LOST 0-2



Arsene Wenger welcomes back French midfielder Samir Nasri from a broken leg, and Polish goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski from knee surgery, for their first appearances of the season. However, highly-rated young England Under-21 midfielder Jack Wilshere, 17, is ruled out with an ankle injury.

Full-back Armand Traore is also out with a groin problem, and Wenger will be fielding a relatively experienced side by giving strikers Eduardo (thigh) and Nicklas Bendtner (groin) starts after both missed recent games. Tomas Rosicky, Denilson, Theo Walcott and Johan Djourou are still unavailable.

The likes of Sanchez Watt, Gilles Sunu, Mark Randall, Francis Coquelin, Nacer Barzite and Kieran Gibbs could well be involved, as could more experienced players such as Aaaron Ramsey, Carlos Vela, Mikael Silvestre and Philippe Senderos.

Last starting XI (v West Ham): Mannone, Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Clichy, Song, Fabregas, Diaby (Eduardo 88), Eboue (Bendtner 82), Arshavin, Van Persie.
Subs not used: Almunia, Silvestre, Gibbs, Nasri, Ramsey.

Last starting XI in Carling Cup (v West Bromwich Albion): Szczesny, Senderos, Silvestre, Gibbs, Traore (Barazite 69), Gilbert, Ramsey, Wilshere, Coquelin (Randall 58), Sunu (Vela 58), Watt.
Subs not used: Shea, Bartley, Eastmond, Frimpong.


Javier Mascherano will miss out after being sent off in the 2-0 win over Manchester United at the weekend. His one-match suspension was the result of a late challenge on Edwin van der Sar for which he picked up a second yellow card.

Sunday's goalscoring hero Fernando Torres is unlikely to start, having played against United while only 80 per cent fit, and having felt pain when striking the ball. Fellow scorer David Ngog is a likely starter, but winger Albert Riera is still sidelined with a hamstring injury.

However, the good news for Liverpool fans is that Alberto Aquilani could make his debut after being named in the squad. The 25-year-old could be utilised as a second-half substitute.

Benitez told Liverpool's official website: "He will be with us. He is improving his fitness, so he's in the squad. He cannot start at this moment but he will be there and maybe we can give him some minutes. If it's possible we will try to use him."

Last starting XI (v Man Utd): Reina, Johnson, Agger, Aurelio, Insua, Carragher, Benayoun (Skrtel 90+2), Mascherano, Lucas, Torres (Ngog 80), Kuyt.
Subs not used: Cavalieri, Degen, Spearing, Voronin, Babel.

Last starting XI in Carling Cup (v Leeds Utd): Cavalieri, Aurelio, Kyrgiakos, Carragher, Degen (Johnson 71), Dossena, Riera, Mascherano, Spearing, Babel (Skrtel 90), Ngog (Gerrard 78).
Subs not used: Reina, Plessis, Torres, Voronin.



Samir Nasri sustained a fractured fibula during a training session at Arsenal's pre-season training camp in Austria in July, and Gunners fans will be delighted to see him back in first-team action after being impressed by the Frenchman's bright first season at the Emirates. Nasri scored on his Arsenal debut and hit two memorable goals in a 2-1 home win over champions Manchester United. He finished the season with seven goals to his name from 41 appearances in all competitions, plus three as a substitute, and won a host of new admirers.


Signed from Roma in July as a replacement for Xabi Alonso, who moved to Real Madrid, Alberto Aquilani's first appearance in the Liverpool first-team has been eagerly awaited. Benitez believes the Italy international, who has been sidelined by a persistent ankle injury, will add a new dimension to the Reds' midfield. "We can see in every training session that he has quality, game intelligence and good movements,” the Spaniard told the club's official website. "He is a different kind of player for us." A fit Aquilani pulling the strings will help banish the criticism that Alonso's departure has seriously weakened Liverpool this season.

Benitez Eyeing Gerrard Return

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez believes talismanic captain Steven Gerrard could return in Saturday's clash at Fulham.

The England midfielder has not featured in the Premier League since suffering a groin injury while on international duty earlier this month.

He did start in the 2-1 UEFA Champions League loss against Lyon on 20th October, but had to be substituted after only 25 minutes following tightness in his groin.

He is definitely out of the Carling Cup clash against Arsenal on Wednesday but Benitez is hopeful he can return for the Premier League game at Craven Cottage.

Benitez told the club's official website: "Gerrard will not be available for this game but he is improving, so hopefully he can be ready for Saturday."

Martin Kelly and Albert Riera will also miss the Arsenal clash with injuries, but Andrea Dossena and Sotirios Kyrgiakos are available after recovering from knocks.

Benitez added: "Dossena has been training and will be in the squad. It was one or two small things with him.

"Kyrgiakos has been training. We had bad news when everyone was talking about him being out for six months after the internationals.

"It wasn't that bad because now he's training and he's available too."

Benitez has also been boosted by the news that Fernando Torres and Glen Johnson came through Sunday's crucial win over Manchester United without troubling previous injuries.

He said: "It was difficult for both especially because it was a tough game, but they were training and we were taking care of them.

"Now they are training and I think they'll be available for the next games."

Liverpool Battle Arsenal For Zhano Ananidze But Spartak Moscow Insist Teenage 'Georgi Kinkladze' Is Not For Sale

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has joined the chase for Georgian wonderkid Zhano Ananidze.

Arsenal are already tracking the 17-year-old Spartak Moscow midfielder.

The Gunners, along with Sevilla, Juventus and AC Milan are said to be tracking the Georgia international - dubbed the new Georgi Kinkladze.

But Spartak sporting director Dmitri Popov insists the club will not listen to offers till Ananidze is at least in his 20s.

'I read the stories,' said Popov.

'The list of clubs did not surprise me, especially the first two: they are built on continually searching for new talent.

'But Spartak haven't received formal offers and we don't intend to consider them for the next three or four years.'

When he turned 12, Ananidze was attached to Georgian side Dinamo Tblisi, where he caught the attention of Ukraine giants Dynamo Kiev.

The boy spent six months a year at Kiev from 2005, but Spartak signed him up two years ago amid interest from Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and unnamed English clubs.

His agent revealed that several clubs in western Europe made enquiries, but that Spartak were the ones to formally offer him a contract.

Just eight days after his 17th birthday earlier this month, Ananidze became the youngest player to score in the Russian Premier League when netting against Lokomotiv Moscow.

He has played half a dozen senior matches and scored in a Cup match against FC Krasnodar.

Despite his inexperience, the 5ft 6in playmaker has already been capped, playing 90 minutes in the World Cup qualifying defeat by Italy last month to become Georgia's youngest international.

He is under contract till December 2014.

Alberto Aquilani To Make Liverpool Debut Against Arsenal

Rafael Benitez has confirmed that Alberto Aquilani has been included in the Liverpool squad for tomorrow night's Carling Cup match at Arsenal.

The midfielder has been recovering from an ankle operation since his summer move from Roma and made his first appearance in a Liverpool shirt in the reserves' 2-0 win against Sunderland last week.

Aquilani, who was bought to replace Xabi Alonso, is now expected to make his senior Liverpool bow in the fourth-round tie at the Emirates Stadium.

"He is improving his fitness, so he's in the squad," Benitez, the Liverpool manager, said. "He cannot start at this moment but he will be there and maybe we can give him some minutes. If it's possible, we will try to use him."

Benitez believes the Italy international will add a new dimension to his team. "We can see in every training session that he has quality, game intelligence and good movements," he said. "He is a different kind of player for us. We talk about using Steven Gerrard deeper sometimes, but maybe in Aquilani we have a player who can play there and pass the ball really well in the final third."

Aquilani is relishing the prospect of playing a part in Liverpool's season, having witnessed the atmosphere at Anfield for Sunday's 2-0 Barclays Premier League win over Manchester United.

"It was good to play for the reserves because I haven't played for a long time, but to play for the first team is something different again and I am looking forward to that," Aquilani said. "I really want to play, but I need to be patient, I know the time will come for me.

"I will be very happy when I make my debut. This is my job, it's what I am here to do, and I am looking forward to it."

Neither Gerrard or Fernando Torres are likely to be involved against Arsenal. Gerrard is still recovering from a groin problem, while Torres was only 80 per cent fit when he played - and scored - in the win over United. Both players are expected to return for Saturday's trip to Fulham.

Torres Tipped To Push Barca Duo For Coveted Award

Legendary French striker Jean-Pierre Papin has tipped Liverpool striker Fernando Torres to push Barcelona duo Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi as the race for the Ballon d’Or heats up.

The Spaniard has been in tremendous form at both domestic and international level since leaving Atletico Madrid, sealing himself a reputation as one of the world’s most deadly strikers.

Speaking to homeland channel L’Equipe TV, Papin threw Torres’ name into the hat of possible candidates:

"Do not forget Torres, he is able to score extraordinary goals and is often decisive.

"Liverpool do not have the same performance when he's not there."

Brazil Call Up Liverpool's Fábio Aurélio And Lucas For Middle East Friendlies

Liverpool's defender Fábio Aurélio was handed the chance of winning a place in Brazil's World Cup squad yesterday when he was named for next month's friendlies against England in Doha and Oman in Muscat.

The coach, Carlos Dunga, has named a 24-man squad made up of Europe-based players in order not to disrupt Brazilian clubs in the run-in to their championship. He also included Liverpool's much maligned midfielder Lucas.

Aurélio, 30, has no senior caps but played for Brazil at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 before a move to Valencia. "He's a player who knows how to mark; he's accustomed to European football. We spoke to him some time back about a call-up but he was injured and we couldn't pick him. Now we're going to give him that chance," Dunga said.

The strikers Carlos Eduardo, who plays for the German side Hoffenheim, and Porto's Hulk, as well as the full-back Michel Bastos of Lyon have been called up for the first time. "It's an option of ours to bring in players with other characteristics to see how they're going to fit in to the national team," Dunga said.

Manchester City's Robinho, who has not played since suffering an ankle injury during Brazil's 3‑1 win over Argentina on 5 September, was included despite having only just returned to fitness. "He has recovered, we've spoken to him. We're going to take him to [the friendlies] to give him the chance to accelerate his return to the pitch," said Dunga.

Brazil and England, who have both qualified for the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa, meet on 14 November before Dunga's men take on Oman in Muscat three days later.

For England the Brazil match will be a good test of their World Cup credentials, after they completed qualification for the finals by winning nine of their 10 group games. The Brazilians have had a successful year, winning the Confederations Cup in South Africa, where they defeated the United States 3‑2 in the Johannesburg final after being two goals down, and South America's World Cup qualifying group.

Dossena Wants Reds Chance

Liverpool defender Andrea Dossena is hoping to fight his way back into Rafa Benitez's side according to his agent.

Federico Pastorello claims the left-back wants to further his international career with Italy and hopes more involvement at Anfield could enhance his chances.

Dossena has been forced to watch recent Liverpool matches from the stands after suffering a groin injury in the Carling Cup win over Leeds last month but the Italian is now itching to make his return.

The 28-year-old was linked with a move back to Serie A this summer but his agent insists he is still keen to make a name for himself in the Premier League.

"Things have not changed too much since the end of the summer transfer window," Pastorello told Radio Goal.

"Andrea is not playing a lot. First he was blocked because of a technical choice and then by an injury.

"It is now important for him to be playing and he hopes to achieve big things and be involved with the national team."

The full-back only moved to Anfield from Udinese in 2008, but has so far struggled to make an impact in England.

David Ngog Has 'Undoubted Potential' - Liverpool Legend Ian Rush

Liverpool legend Ian Rush, who maintained a healthy 1:2 strike rate for the Reds during a trophy-laden career, has talked-up the talent of the 20-year-old goalscorer who finished off Manchester United on Sunday, David Ngog.

Ngog arrived at Anfield from Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain. While his domestic ability was unspectacular, he was highly prolific on a number of levels on the international scene.

Rush believes it will not be long before he replicates that form under Rafael Benitez, as the player has "undoubted potential".

Rush told the club's official website: "The most obvious quality is that he can score goals. The goal against Stoke earlier this season was merely the last-minute flourish to a game which was already won.

"But the winner at Leeds in the Carling Cup was both important and very well taken, while Sunday's finish was arguably his coolest and most significant yet."

He continued: "David is still rough around the edges, but the Anfield coaching staff are clearly working hard on him and he has undoubted potential.

"The experience of scoring a winning goal against United will only help his development."

Rush returned 346 goals whilst donning a Liverpool shirt.

Anfield Atmosphere During Manchester United Clash Inspired Alberto Aquilani

The "incredible" home support witnessed during Liverpool's 2-0 victory over Manchester United has increased Italian international Alberto Aquilani's desire to make his long-awaited debut for his new club.

Aquilani was purchased by Rafael Benitez in August for an estimated £17 million, as a direct replacement for Real Madrid-bound Xabi Alonso, but the former Roma star has been unable to represent the Reds in competitive action as his season has been beset with ankle trouble.

However, the 25-year-old is edging closer to cementing his Liverpool bow - he enjoyed a cameo role in the reserves on October 21 during a routine 2-0 win over Sunderland - and is now itching to play in front of the Kop.

He told "It was incredible to be at the stadium on Sunday.

"It was one of the best games I have seen so far. I don't normally like to watch a match inside a stadium when I am not playing, but I really enjoyed Sunday.

"When I was in Rome, although the stadium was bigger, it did not have the same atmosphere as here. Because the fans are closer to the pitch at Anfield, you can feel the atmosphere better."

He added: "It was very important to win against United and hopefully it can give us more confidence."

Regarding his run-out at Prenton Park against the Black Cats' second string, he said: "It was good to play for the reserves because I haven't played for a long time, but to play for the first-team is something different again and I am looking forward to that.

"I really want to play, but I need to be patient - I know the time will come for me.

"I will be very happy when I make my debut. This is my job, it's what I am here to do, and I am looking forward to it."

Liverpool Still The Number One Choice For Billionaire Kraft

Robert Kraft, the billionaire owner of the New England Patriots NFL franchise, has once again spoken out about the possibility of buying into a Premier League soccer club, with Liverpool his favoured destination.

Kraft, who watched Liverpool's 2-0 win over Premier League Manchester United on television before seeing the Patriots beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, owned by the Glazer family, again expressed his interest in a Premier League move, but confirmed he would not enter a league where success is so dependent on finance.

Kraft has often expressed his belief that the Premier League should have a salary cap and other measures in place, similar to the NFL, to encourage fairer competition.

"We don't want to be a business where the wallet determines what kind of player you have," he told the press at the weekend, before adding to the New York Times: "At some point in the future there's a good possibility we could be involved.

"I'm a very big fan of the Premier League. I would probably want to see some kind of salary-cap potential to get into it, but we have all kinds of opportunities come to us in this area."

On Sunday, some 5,000 Liverpool fans took part in a protest march against the team's current owners, American businessmen Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Benitez Blasts Carra Critics

Rafa Benitez believes Jamie Carragher proved with his performance against Manchester United that he is not at the end of his career just yet.

The Liverpool defender has been criticised for some of his displays during the early part of the season and there have been suggestions he is not the player he once was.

However, he was at his defiant best on Sunday and helped the Reds seal a crucial 2-0 victory over fierce rivals United.

Benitez insists he never had any doubts about the 31-year-old, while he expects Liverpool to get back on track now key players are returning to fitness.

"Jamie played well," said Benitez. "He had been having a difficult time but the only thing to do in such a situation is to try again and try again.

"It was only a question of keeping working hard, and he proved that he is a good centre-back and not at the end of his career just yet.

"He showed what a good defender he still is and (collectively) we have shown that we are not a bad team, not a bad squad. Maybe next April people will again judge us but at this moment we have enough quality.

"We have had five players injured, all at once. But when we are all fit we are difficult for anyone to beat."

Benitez and his players had come under pressure after a run of four straight defeats in all competitions but he maintains he always had confidence in the character of his squad.

He explained: "The players responded to the messages they had been given. It was simple, keep training the same way, keep working hard and things will change.

"In football you can talk a lot but if you do not work hard you will not change anything.

"We worked hard on lots of things, but the main thing was that everyone was together, the team, the fans, the staff. The attitude was fantastic, and you can see that we can beat anyone.

"This was the perfect answer, the perfect response because we were not winning.

"Against a good team you have to perform really well and be focused to achieve what you want. All the players wanted to impress, that was the difference.

"It was a result that will please a lot of people, maybe not United. But I have been saying all season that the top sides will lose more points that you would expect, that will make the title race more open.

"This is the proof. I was determined to keep my confidence, to keep my faith in my players."

Mascherano Warning For Reds

Javier Mascherano has warned Liverpool that Sunday's victory over Manchester United will count for nothing if it is not the start of a winning run.

Fernando Torres and David Ngog scored the goals to earn a 2-0 success at a deafening Anfield, but Mascherano played an equally influential role.

The Argentina captain was at his destructive best in the heart of midfield, snubbing United's attacks, before a late red card and he is well aware of the importance of the win.

Liverpool went into the game having experienced four successive defeats in all competitions, but the triumph over rivals United stopped the rot and has led some to suggest they could still be in the title race.

Mascherano hopes he and his team-mates can surge up the table, saying: "It was difficult for us to lose four games in a row.

"But now I say, 'let's start again'. Now we have won we cannot stop, and (we will) try to keep going. We are pulling together.

"If we want to fight for something we have to play every game like that. We cannot be relaxed with this win, that is the message."

Fifth-placed Liverpool trail table-topping Chelsea by six points, but Mascherano is focusing on one game at a time.

"We need to think about continuing winning, not to look at the table and seeing we are six points behind Chelsea," he said. "We have to look forward and not drop important points in the future.

"If we want these three points (against United) to be valuable we have to show this performance in the future.

"Maybe people thought we couldn't play as we can against the top sides, but we showed we can and we are really happy."

Lucas Leiva Set The Platform For Liverpool's Victory Over Manchester United

What will that victory do for confidence at Anfield?

Liverpool desperately needed that win yesterday. They had gone into the game on the back of four successive defeats, which is almost unheard of at Anfield. You had to go back to 1987 for the last time that had happened and go back to 1953 for the last time they had lost five games on the spin.

Liverpool needed a big show of character and the players delivered. It wasn't the most free-flowing football they have produced this season, they have passed the ball better, but it was important that they came through the way they did in such a high-pressure game.

Had they lost you could almost certainly have written off their title challenge for another season, but by winning they are right back in the mix. The most important thing in the short-term was to release the pressure around Anfield. It was becoming almost impossible to deal with and at least the players can go back to trying to get results away from the intense glare that has surrounded the club over the past week or so.

What did the result mean for Rafael Benitez and his future at the club?

No manager is unsackable and Benitez knows that. If Liverpool go another season without winning a trophy, or finish outside the top four, Benitez's position will be called into question again. That is the nature of the job.

But at this stage of the season there was far too much talk about Benitez's position. He had a bad run of results but that is all it was. Nothing had been decided, no trophies had been handed out, no places in next season's Champions League had been decided, so there was no need for that kind of talk at this stage.

Liverpool have never been the kind of club that have had a knee-jerk reaction to problems with their managers - they always take a considered view and as Christian Purslow, the managing director, said yesterday they see him as central to the long-term vision at the club. What they are trying to do now is put the investment in place that will allow him to build on what he has already achieved. No one likes losing games and they don't like to be under pressure - this victory will have been a big release of pressure for Benitez.

Without Steven Gerrard and with Fernando Torres not fully fit it was important the rest of the Liverpool side stood up to be counted. Who caught your eye?

To beat Manchester United everyone has to play well, so the first thing to say is that this was a really good team performance which hasn't been the case in previous weeks.

Having said that, there were a few outstanding individuals for Liverpool yesterday. Jamie Carragher was magnificent. There have been people writing him off in recent weeks which has been ridiculous. He is a top professional and one of the outstanding defenders of his generation. Like every player he will go through bad patches but he is a crucial part of Benitez's Liverpool side.

Yossi Benayoun created the first goal with a wonderful pass. He is growing in stature all the time and is now one of Liverpool's foremost players. He is someone Benitez is looking to, alongside Gerrard and Torres, to make things happen. Elsewhere, Javier Mascherano put in the kind of performance that is expected of him but that he had failed to produce so far this season.

Lucas Leiva was the one player who really stood out but it didn't surprise me. He has received an awful lot of criticism during his time at Anfield but he always works hard for the team, in the nuts and bolts rather than in the flashy stuff, and I thought his display in midfield set the platform for the victory.

What did you make of Sir Alex Ferguson's comments after the game?

When Liverpool won 4-1 at Old Trafford last season, Ferguson said Liverpool hadn't deserved the win but this time he held his hands up and was pretty magnanimous, although he still couldn't help but have a snipe at the referee, Andre Marriner.

Obviously, we know he is in trouble for his comments over Alan Wiley's fitness and yesterday he questioned Marriner's experience. What kind of referee does he want?

There is no such thing as a perfect footballer and that is also the case with referees. Marriner is a promising young referee and the only way to give him the kind of experience he needs is by taking charge of these high profile games. He got most of the big decisions right, the only contentious one was the decision he made not to send off Carragher.

Carragher could have been sent off but Marriner also showed Nemanja Vidic the yellow card when he brought Dirk Kuyt down as last man. He showed consistency in both decisions.

Ferguson's comments about Carragher's challenge on Michael Carrick were a little strange. It was a very forceful challenge but he took the ball. Ferguson only need have looked at his players' reaction for his answer - none of them even looked at the referee.

Apart from the comments about the referee, Ferguson did say Liverpool had deserved to win the game and he deserves credit for that.

Torres gave Rio Ferdinand and Vidic another torrid afternoon. Do United look fragile defensively this season?

That must be a concern for Ferguson. Anyone would want Ferdinand and Vidic in their side but neither looked entirely convincing yesterday. Ferdinand is struggling for form because of his fitness and as soon as he gets match-sharp again I would expect him to start delivering the kind of performances that we expect from him.

Vidic's problems are more psychological. When he sees Torres he almost looks scared of being shown up and when centre backs have that kind of problem with centre forwards it becomes a real problem. Ferdinand and Vidic won't face Torres every week; sometimes you can criticise the defenders too much and not give enough credit to the strikers.

Yesterday's result appears to have opened up the title race again. It promises to be as exciting a season as we have seen in some time.

It's fantastic. Every football fan should really enjoy this because it doesn't happen every season. There will be times when every manager that is challenging for the title will come under pressure because one result can really change things. Teams are winning and losing like never before because all of the teams involved have weaknesses - some of them glaring.

Chelsea have the points on the table at the moment but you can still see their weaknesses when they travel away from home and concede from set plays. They will also lose some key players to the African Nations Cup after Christmas.

United have shown weaknesses of their own and Liverpool's are well documented. It all makes for a fascinating season and there will be plenty more twists and turns to come.

Hansen: United Don't Inspire The Same Fear They Did Last Season

Liverpool legend Alan Hansen believes the Premier League champions Manchester United are not the same proposition minus the attacking threat of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, who left Old Trafford in the summer to join Real Madrid and Manchester City respectively.

Hansen told “I was very surprised at Manchester United’s performance at Anfield which lacked the quality and the desire that we are all used to.”

“My old club thoroughly deserved to beat the champions on the day which will relieve some of the mounting pressure on manager Rafa Benitez.”

“Whether this will be the catalyst behind a sustained run of form which could signal a title challenge remains to be seen but if Liverpool were to stand any chance of title success they needed to win that game.”

“Fernando Torres is not 100% fit but his importance to the Reds was underlined in the way he took his goal. There are few better strikers in the world, let alone the Premier League and his performance in comparison to United striker Dimitar Berbatov was vastly superior.”

“Manchester United may be just two points off the top of the table but there’s no doubt they are far from firing on all cylinders.”

“They certainly missed the combative Darren Fletcher at Anfield as they lacked a destructive player in the middle of the park to break up Liverpool’s attacks.”

“At the moment, United don’t inspire the same fear they did at times last season with Cristiano Ronaldo in the side and Carlos Tevez waiting in the wings.”

“Wayne Rooney fought hard yesterday but his striker partner Berbatov looked disinterested at times and certainly wasn’t up for a physical battle with Liverpool centre-halves Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger.”

“There’s no doubt the Bulgarian has superb ability but he has yet to show the fighting spirit synonymous with Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson.”

Hertha Linked With Forward Duo

Hertha Berlin general manager Michael Preetz has refused to deny speculation linking them with a move for Andriy Voronin.

Reports in the German press have suggested that Hertha are eyeing a winter move for the Liverpool striker, who spent a spell on loan at the club last season, as well as Wolfsburg attacker Ashkan Dejagah.

Hertha are currently rock-bottom of the German Bundesliga after a terrible start to the campaign, and they have been linked with a move for the duo as they attempt to turn their season around.

Preetz refused to deny the claims linking them with the pair, conceding that he will have to wait till the transfer window opens to sign attached players.

"We are only able to buy unattached players at this point this season and there is no unattached player able to help this club," he told

"I am only willing to look at the situation right now and I have faith in the manager and the team."

Hertha take on Borussia Dortmund on Friday looking to improve on their existing tally of four points from 10 games.

How Liverpool's Transfer Spending Compares

On the eve of this season, Liverpool manager Rafa Bentiez bemoaned his side’s lack of financial power. However, an analysis of the spending habits of the ‘Big Four’ since his appointment in June 2004 shows that the Spaniard has outspent Sir Alex Ferguson by £80m. Furthermore, when money raised through player sales is taken into account, Benitez’ net spending dwarves Ferguson’s by £95m and only Chelsea have spent more on player recruitment during the same five-year period.

Benitez wasted no time in splashing the cash on his arrival on Merseyside. In his first season at the club his net spending totalled £31m, including £20m on the misfiring strike partnership of Djibril Cisse and Fernando Morientes. At the same time, Ferguson was making an upfront payment – also of £20m – for Wayne Rooney, who has since confirmed that he was, and still is, the brightest prospect in English football.

With Roman Abramovich a year into his Chelsea spending spree at the time of Benitez’s arrival, only the West London club could match the Spaniard’s outlay. Their most expensive signing that summer was the £24m Didier Drogba but his 102nd goal for the club against Blackburn yesterday suggests much better value for money than the £6.3m Benitez paid for Morientes, who managed just 12 goals throughout his Liverpool career.

While Benitez was spending £41m on eight players in that first season – none of whom are still at the club – Arsene Wenger was splashing out £2m on four players, two of whom – Manuel Almunia and Emmanuel Eboue – have become crucial members of the Arsenal side, while a third, Vito Mannone has burst on to the scene this season. In fact, since June 2004, Wenger has earned his club £27m from his transfer dealings and has spent £154m less that Benitez.

The extent of the Liverpool manager’s spending comes as a surprise, his method of recruitment offers up a telling explanation; as the figures show he likes to spread his wealth thinly. Since joining the club, he has signed 23 players for less than £3m, while during the same period Ferguson has brought in just seven bargain-basement players, the last of whom was the out-of-contract Michael Owen – the first player Benitez allowed to leave the Anfield.

It is worth noting that the world record fee of £80m Manchester United received from Real Madrid for Cristiano Ronaldo this summer undoubtedly massages their 2004-09 net spending figure, although such largesse did not stop Florentino Pérez boosting Liverpool’s coffers by £30m in return for the services of Xabi Alonso.

While in the six months before Bentiez’s appointment, Ferguson spent £26.7m on Louis Saha, Alan Smith and Gabriel Heinze, he was at least dipping into a £40m war chest funded by the sales of David Beckham to Real Madrid for £25m and Juan Sebastian Veron to Chelsea for £15m. Even taking Ferguson’s pre-Benitez spending into account, the Liverpool boss still comfortably outspends the Scot.

In conclusion, he could only have been referring to Chelsea when he said on the eve of this season that: “It is always difficult to compete in the Premier League with clubs who have more money.” And even then, Benitez’s net spending over the last five transfer windows eclipses even that of Abramovich. Perhaps now it is time he turned to some more imaginative excuses.

Liverpool total net spend 2004-09: £122m loss

2004-05 Net spend: £31.05m loss in total
Players in + fee: Djibril Cisse £14m, Josemi £2m, Luis Garcia £6m, Xabi Alonso £10.5m, Antonio Nunez £2m, Mauricio Pellegrino free, Fernando Morientes £6.3m, Scott Carson £0.75m.
Players out + fee: Markus Babbel free, Danny Murphy £2.5m, Michael Owen £8m, Stephane Henchoz free.

2005-06 Net spend: £23.4m loss
Players in + fee: Pepe Reina (£6m), Mark Gonzalez (£4.5m), Boudewijn Zenden (free), Antonio Barragan (£0.25m), Mohamed Sissoko (£5.6m), Peter Crouch (£7m), Godwin Antwin (£0.5m), Jack Hobbs (£0.75m), Paul Anderson (£1m), Jan Kromkamp (Swap), David Martin (£0.5m), Daniel Agger (£5.8m), Robbie Fowler (Free).
Players out + fee: Vladimir Smicer (Free), El Hadji Diouf (£1.5m), Mauricio Pellegrino (Free), Gregory Vignal (Free), Antonio Nunez (£0.5m), Ritchie Partridge (Free), Milan Baros (£6.5m), Josemi (Swap).

2006-07 Net spend: £32.85m loss
Players in + fee: Craig Bellamy £6m, Gabriel Paletta £2m, Fabio Aurelio Free, Jermaine Pennant £6.7m, Dirk Kuyt £9m, Nabil El Zhar £1m, Alvaro Arbeloa £2.6m, Francisco Manuel Duran Free, Javier Mascherano £18.6m.
Players out + fee: Fernando Morientes £3m, Bruno Cheyrou (£0.5m), Dietmar Hamann (£0.4m), Carl Medjani Free, Antonio Barragan (£0.7m), Djimi Traore (£2m),Neil Mellor £1m, Jan Kromkamp £1.7m, Chris Kirkland £2m, Darren Potter £0.25m, Stephen Warnock £1.5m, Salif Diao Free.

2007-08 Net spend: £23.3m loss
Players in + fee: Andriy Voronin Free, Krisztian Nemeth £0.5m, Charles-Hubert Itandje £3.5m, Fernando Torres £26.5m, Yossi Benayoun £5m,Ryan Babel £11.5m, Emiliano Insua £2m*, Damien Plessis (£1m), Martin Skrtel (£6m).
Players out + fee: Florent Sinoma Pongolle £2.7m, Danny O’Donnell £0.1m, Luis Garcia £4m, Boudewijn Zenden Free, Djibril Cisse £6m, Craig Bellamy £7.5m, Mark Gonzalez £4.2m, Jerzey Dudek Free, Robbie Fowler Free, Mohamed Sissoko £8.2m, Gabriel Paletta Swap.

2008-09 Net spend: £6.45m loss
Players in + fee: Philipp Degen free, Andrea Dossena £7m, Diego Cavalieri £3.5m, David Ngog £1.5m, Robbie Keane £20.3m, Vitor Flora Free, Albert Riera £8m.
Players out + fee: Anthony Le Tallec £1.1m, Harry Kewell Free, Peter Crouch £9m, Danny Guthrie £2.5m, Scott Carson £3.25m, John Arne Riise £4m, Steve Finnan £2m, Robbie Keane £12m.

2009-10 Net spend: £4.95m loss
Players in + fee: Glen Johnson £18m, Alberto Aquilani £20m, Sotiros Kyrgiakos £2m.
Players out + fee: Paul Anderson £0.25m, Sebastian Leto £1.3m, Sami Hyypia Free, Jermaine Pennant Free, Alvaro Arbeloa £3.5m, Xabi Alonso £30m.

Manchester United total net spend 2004-2009: £27m loss

2004-05 Net spend: £20.3m loss
Players in + fee: Wayne Rooney £26m, Florent N’Galula Nominal
Players out + fee: Nicky Butt £2.5m, Luke Chadwick Free, Diego Forlan £2m, Bojan Djordic Free, Eric Djemba-Djemba £1.2m

2005-06 Net spend: £13.5m loss
Players in + fee: Edwin van der Sar £2m, Ji-Sung Park £4m, Ben Foster £1m, Nemanja Vidic £7m, Patrice Evra £5.5m
Players out + fee: Roy Carroll Free, Ricardo Free, Phil Neville £3.5m, Kleberson £2.5m, Roy Keane Free

2006-07 Net spend: £2.9m loss
Players in + fee: Michael Carrick £18.6m
Players out + fee: Jonathan Spector £0.5m, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake £0.2m, Quinton Fortune Free, Ruud van Nistelrooy £11m, Liam Miller Free, David Jones £1m, Tim Howard £3m

2007-08 Net spend: £24m loss
Players in + fee: Owen Hargreaves £17m, Anderson £17m, Tomas Kuszczak £2.1m, Nani £17m, Carlos Tevez Loan, Manucho Nominal
Players out + fee: Kieran Richardson £5.5m, Giuseppe Rossi £6.6m, Alan Smith £6m, Gabriel Heinze £8m, Ryan Shawcross£1m, Phil Bardsley £2m

2008-09 Net spend: £33.1m loss
Players in + fee: Dimitar Berbatov £30.75m, Zoran Tosic £9m, Ritchie de Laet £0.1m
Players out + fee: Gerard Pique £5m, Chris Eagles £1m, Mikael Silvestre £0.75m, Loius Saha Nominal

2009-10 Net spend: £66.5m profit
Players in + fee: Antonio Valencia £16m, Gabriel Obertan £3m, Michael Owen Free
Players out + fee: Cristiano Ronaldo £80m, Lee Martin £2m, Fraizer Campbell £3.5m, Carlos Tevez Released, Manucho Nominal

Chelsea total net spend 2004-09: £186m loss

2004-05 Net spend: £87.6m loss
Players in + fee: Arjen Robben £12m, Paulo Ferreira £13.2m, Alex £5m, Mateja Kezman £5m, Tiago £8m, Didier Drogba £24m, Ricardo Carvalho £20.6m, Jiri Jarosik £3m
Players out + fee: Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink Free, Mario Melchiot Free, Jesper Gronkjaer £2.2m, Boudewijn Zenden Free, Neil Sullivan Free, Celestine Babyaro £1m, Marco Ambrosio Free, Adrian Mutu Free

2005-06 Net spend: £32.1m loss
Players in + fee: Asier del Horno £8m, Lassana Diarra £1m, Shaun Wright-Phillips £21m, Michael Essien £24.4m
Players out + fee: Mikael Forssell £3m, Scott Parker £6.5m, Juan Sebastian Veron Undisc, Mateja Kezman £5.3m, Tiago £6.5m, Alexei Smertin £1m

2006-07 Net spend: £37.7m loss
Players in + fee: Michael Ballack Free, Salomon Kalou £8m, Andrei Shevchenko £30m, John Obi-Mikel £16m, Khalid Boulahrouz £7m, Ashley Cole £5m (swap)
Players out + fee: Eidur Gudjohnson £8m, Jiri Jarosik £0.5m, Carlton Cole £4m, Damien Duff £5m, Asier del Horno £4.8m, Hernan Crespo Free, Willian Gallas Swap, Robert Huth £6m

2007-08 Net spend: £13.5m loss
Players in + fee: Steve Sidwell Free, Claudio Pizarro Free, Tal Ben-Haim Free, Florent Malouda £13.5m, Juliano Belletti £3m, Nicolas Anelka £15m, Branislav Ivanovic £9m, Franco di Santo £3m
Players out + fee: Arjen Robben £24m, Glen Johnson £4m, Lassana Diarra £2m

2008-09 Net spend: £6.8m profit
Players in + fee: Jose Bosingwa £16.2m, Deco £8m.
Players out + fee: Steve Sidwell £5m, Claude Makelele Free, Tal Ben-Haim £5m, Shaun Wright-Phillips £9m, Wayne Bridge £12m, Carlo Cudicini Free.

2009-10 Net spend: £22m loss
Players in + fee: Mineiro Undisc, Gokham Tore Undisc, Yuri Zhirkov £18m, Daniel Sturridge £5m (tribunal)
Players out + fee: Ben Sahar £1m, Frank Nouble Undisc, Andrei Shevchenko Free.

Arsenal Net spend 2004-09: £27m profit

2004-05 Net spend: £2.55m profit
Players in + fee: Arturo Lupoli £0.2m, Manuel Almunia £0.5m, Vito Mannone £0.35m, Emmanuel Eboue £1m.
Players out + fee: Giovanni van Bronckhorst £2m, Martin Keown Free, Ray Parlour Free, Kanu Free, Francis Jeffers £2.6m, Igor Stepanovs nominal, Sylvain Wiltord Free, Rami Shabaan Free.

2005-06 Net spend: £5m loss
Players in + fee: Nicklas Bendtner undisc, Alexander Hleb £11.2m, Vassiriki Diaby £2m, Emmanuel Adebayor £7m, Theo Walcott £5m, Mart Poom undisc
Players out + fee: Stuart Taylor Undisc, Jermaine Pennant £3m, Patrick Viera £13.7m, David Bentley £3m

2006-07 Net spend: £0.7m loss
Players in + fee: Tomas Rosicky £6.8m, Fran Merida Free, Alexandre Song £1m, William Gallas Swap, Denilson £3.4m.
Players out + fee: Robert Pires Free, Sol Campbell Free, Pascal Cygan £2m, Ashley Cole £5m (swap), Anthony Stokes £2m, Lauren £0.5m, Sebastian Larsson £1m

2007-08 Net spend: £19.9m profit
Players in + fee: Lukasz Fabianski £2m, Eduardo £7.5m, Bakari Sagna £6m, Lassana Diarra £2m, Luke Freeman £0.2m Players out + fee: Fabrice Muamba £4m, Jeremie Alaidiere £2m, Thierry Henry £16.1m, Arturo Lupoli Free, Fredrik Ljungberg£3m, Jose Antonio Reyes £6m, Matthew Connolly £1m, Lassana Diarra £5.5m

2008-09 Net spend: £20.75m loss
Players in + fee: Aaron Ramsey £5m, Samir Nasri £15.8m, Amaury Bischoff Free, Mikael Silvestre £0.75m, Andrei Arshavin£15m
Players out + fee: Jens Lehmann Free, Mathieu Flamini Free, Alexander Hleb £11.8m, Gilberto Silva £1m, Justin Hoyte £3m

2009-10 Net spend: £31m profit
Players in + fee: Thomas Vermaelen £10m
Players out + fee, Emmanuel Adebayor £25m, Kolo Toure £16m.