Friday, January 23, 2009

Liverpool In Takeover Talks With Kuwaiti Billionaire

According to The Sun, Liverpool are currently in discussions with Kuwaiti tycoon Nasser Al-Kharafi regarding a potential mega-money takeover.

The British tabloid claims that the Reds have sent over a delegation to kick off talks which could see the club's current co-owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, sell their stakes for £400 million.

Although things have settled down in recent times, the American business-partners' reign at Anfield has been swamped with controversy after controversy.

The Kopites are still furious that Hicks and Gillett broke their promise not to pile debt upon the club, not to mention their inability to drum up the funds for a new stadium at Stanley Park.

Furthermore, the pair's relationship with manager Rafael Benitez has always been terse at best, and their constant disputes over transfer dealings have caused considerable unrest within the club.

Thus, a change in ownership would suit all parties concerned: the Hicks and Gillett would cash in and move out, much to most fans' delight, while Benitez should get the cash cow he always wanted.

For Al-Kharafi's fortune is much vaster than the current owners', weighing in at around £12 billion, and he is ranked as the 46th richest man in the world.

Al-Kharafi was linked with a takeover at Newcastle United last October, and his cousin held buy-out talks with Hicks earlier in the year.

Liverpool Goalkeeper Pepe Reina Respects Reserve Stopper Cavalieri

The Spanish goalkeeper has no complaints if Liverpool's reserve stopper is favoured for the FA Cup once more.

São Paulo shot-stopper Diego Cavalieri signed for Liverpool last summer in a deal reported to involve a £3 million fee.

In his six-year career at previous club Palmeiras he accumulated over a century of first-team appearances despite his relatively young age for a first-choice goalkeeper.

He is held in high esteem by the Liverpool management as he was awarded Jerzy Dudek's old jersey number: 1.

Spanish glovesman Pepe Reina expects the Brazilian to guard goal in the fourth round of the FA Cup this weekend. He insists that he wishes it was he who would be playing, but would have few complaints if he was overlooked for the starting role.

"I would like to play - I would be lying if I didn't say that - but I think Diego deserves it," Reina told the club's official website.

"I have a lot of respect for what he is doing. Diego played a great game against Preston in the last round of the FA Cup.

"It is not easy when you are not playing regularly, but he works really hard and is a great professional."

Cavalieri has been favoured in the cup competitions thus far this season.

Reina though will reflect on good memories in the FA Cup, having been a key member of the thrilling West Ham United 3-3 final in 2006; a game that was eventually settled on penalties.

Liverpool FC Won't Rotate Fernando Torres

Rafael Benitez is ready to throw Fernando Torres straight back into derby battle – despite admitting he will rotate his Liverpool squad for Sunday’s FA Cup tie.

The Anfield manager is expected to make a raft of changes for the home fourth round clash against neighbours Everton.

However, Torres is almost certain to retain his place in attack after making his first start since November in Monday’s 1-1 Premier League draw at Anfield against their Merseyside rivals.

The Spaniard enjoyed an 85-minute run-out in which only the width of the post prevented him from scoring in a third successive derby.

And Benitez said: “I was impressed with him on Monday.

“It is not easy to play in a derby when it is so intense. He was exhausted at the end but he did well.

“He is very close to full fitness – now it’s just about getting match fitness. He needs to play games.

“You know a striker needs to play games and be in front of the goal a few times. That’s the key – getting the confidence. The more chances you get the more likely you are to start scoring goals. Hopefully he can score this weekend.”

While Torres seems likely to stay in attack, the likes of Diego Cavalieri, Andrea Dossena, Lucas Leiva, Javier Mascherano, Ryan Babel and Yossi Benayoun are hopeful of a recall.

Alvaro Arbeloa and Daniel Agger will also be considered if they recover from their respective hamstring and calf problems, and Benitez accepts he has one eye on the Premier League clash against Wigan Athletic three days later.

“We have plenty of time before the game but we have to think about Wigan and Chelsea,” said the Spaniard. “Anyway, I think we have enough quality in the squad.”

Liverpool were three minutes away from a fourth successive derby triumph when, after Benayoun fouled Victor Anichebe, Tim Cahill headed in from Mikel Arteta’s free-kick.

Benitez has warned against a repeat on Sunday, and said: “We had to be careful and not commit silly fouls, and then after we had to defend the set-piece.”

Reds Must Stop Blunders

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has told his players they must cut out the sort of mistakes that cost the Reds two valuable points in the Merseyside derby.

There will be a re-run for Liverpool against Everton on Sunday, this time in the FA Cup fourth round, but the pain of conceding a late goal in Monday's Barclays Premier League draw is still felt at Anfield.

Benitez blamed two mistakes - first Yossi Benayoun conceding a needless free-kick in a dangerous position, and then the Liverpool defence giving Tim Cahill a free run to score with a header.

The Liverpool manager told his club's official website: "We have talked about both things. We had to be careful and not commit silly fouls, and then after we had to defend the set-piece.

"Okay, we made the mistake - and maybe we can learn from it for the future.

"Clearly we have talked about this. The players realise we have to improve. But we are not conceding too many goals, and it is always going to seem worse when you concede such an important goal in a derby.

"We work on these things every week, practising set-pieces for and against."

Benitez hinted he is likely to rotate his squad, especially with league games against Wigan and Chelsea to follow. Fernando Torres is likely to begin again against Everton.

"We have to think about Wigan and Chelsea," added the manager.

"Anyway, I think we have enough quality in the squad [to rotate].

"I was impressed with Torres on Monday. It is not easy to play in a derby when it is so intense. He was exhausted at the end but he did well.

"He is very close to full fitness - now it's just about getting match fitness. He needs to play games.

"You know a striker needs to play games and be in front of the goal a few times. That's the key - getting the confidence. The more chances you get the more likely you are to start scoring goals. I hope he can score this weekend."

Reds Agree To Brouwer Move

Liverpool have allowed Jordy Brouwer to join Dutch outfit RKC Waalwijk on loan until the end of the season.

The 19-year-old forward has moved to Holland after Reds manager Rafa Benitez agreed he should be offered the opportunity of first-team experience.

And having returned to Holland, Brouwer - who signed at Anfield from Ajax in January 2007 - is hoping to help Waalwijk earn promotion from the Jupiler League.

"I am happy RKC Waalwijk have given me the chance to play," Brouwer told the club's official website.

"I hope I can play a role in a possible promotion to the Eredivisie."

Brouwer has represented Holland at Under 19 level and was a key member of Liverpool's reserve side which won the title in 2007/08.

Paul Anderson Wants To Play A Role At Liverpool FC

As Merseyside football braces itself for another showdown, one Liverpool player is preparing for a Cup derby of a different kind tonight.

Paul Anderson will step out for Nottingham Forest at Derby County in the other significant local spat in the FA Cup fourth round.

The 20-year-old has been earning rave reviews at the City Ground since signing on a season-long loan from Anfield in the summer.

After overcoming a thigh injury that delayed his debut until October, Anderson has been a regular starter, first under Colin Calderwood and then new manager Billy Davies, who assumed the reins earlier this month.

Anderson played the full 90 minutes of Forest’s shock 3-0 win at Manchester City in the third round, and was a goalscorer in Saturday’s 2-0 triumph over Plymouth that moved them clear of the relegation zone.

And Anderson says: “I’m really enjoying it at Forest and now I’m starting every game since coming back from injury. I can play on either wing but I’m on the right wing mainly.

“I think I’m doing all right at the moment but I don’t think I’m playing as well as I have been the last couple of years. I’m still getting my fitness back, but in terms of my ability I know I can do better.”

Of the City game, Anderson adds: “It was a great day. It was nice to beat a club from the Premier League and especially one that’s the richest club in the world.

“Playing against City was a great experience for me, because as a young player you want to impress against those kind of teams because that’s hopefully the level you will end up playing at. Now we’ve got Derby, and that will be an even bigger game for us.
“I’ve only been here a few months but I know all about how important this game is for our supporters. I played at Derby earlier in the season and the atmosphere was very hostile, their supporters were really against us.”

Having been signed by Liverpool from Hull City as a 17-year-old in January 2006, the nearest Anderson has come to a first-team appearance is as an unused substitute in the Champions League defeat at home to Benfica two months later.

The youngster spent last season on loan at Swansea City, helping the Welsh side to win the League One championship.

Swansea manager Roberto Martinez was keen to sign Anderson, but the player instead signed a new three-year contract at Liverpool.

“Liverpool told me to go and enjoy myself at Forest and play as well as I can and as often as I can,” Anderson says. “I know that they try and have me watched as often as possible to see how I’m getting on.

“I haven’t really had much contact with Liverpool this season. The main feedback I get from the club is through my agent, although I’ve had a couple of little of conversations with the club to see how I’m getting on.

“I hope that by the end of the season I have done enough so that when I come back to Liverpool I can get in and around the fringes of the first-team squad, but we’ll have to see.”

Anderson is one of several youngsters on loan from Liverpool, as Rafael Benitez looks to broaden the experience of his reserve and Academy players.

But the camaraderie between the budding stars is such that the winger has a frank admission to make.

“I didn’t actually watch the game against Everton on Monday, I chose to watch the Leicester game against Yeovil because I wanted to see how Jack Hobbs is playing,” says Anderson, who hails from Leicester.

“I obviously keep an eye out for Liverpool’s results as that’s where I want to be playing eventually, and they are doing well this season. But as long as we’re not training, I will try and watch the game on Sunday.”

Anderson adds: “It was weird watching the FA Cup draw, and how Liverpool and Everton were drawn together and Forest were then drawn with Derby. Those are two big games.

“Maybe some Liverpool fans might end up tuning in to watch the game on Friday to see how I’m getting on – that’s if they even know who I am!”

Crowds Expected For Steven Gerrard Court Appearance

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard will make his first court appearance today.

Gerrard will appear at North Sefton Magistrates Court to answer an assault charge after an alleged brawl at the Lounge Inn in December.

Police have put a series of measures in place including a detachment of more than 30 police officers to maintain order outside the court. More police will control Southport’s traffic flow.

Paparazzi will be corralled into a designated area in front of the building with any press required to present a pass to gain entry to the court building.

Gerrard will face charges of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and affray. He will appear alongside John Doran, 29, of Woodlands Road, and Ian Gerard Smith, 19, of Hilary Avenue, both Huyton.

There have been several other arrests in the case which saw part-time DJ Marcus McGee suffer bruises and a missing tooth on December 29.

Coleen Rooney’s youngest brother, Anthony McLoughlin, 19 was arrested of assault and affray. He was released without charge on police bail.

And 28-year-old Accrington Stanley goalkeeper Ian Dunbavin was arrested at his Southport home and questioned on suspicion of assault and affray before being bailed.

Gerrard Prepares For Court Appearance

The next phase of Steven Gerrard's season will begin in the unlikely surroundings of North Sefton magistrates court tomorrow when the Liverpool player attends the first hearing into the bar brawl that has led to him being charged with affray and assault.

While the club's manager, Rafael Benítez, and the rest of the first-team squad will be training in preparation for Sunday's FA Cup fourth-round tie against Everton at Anfield, Gerrard has been excused duty to attend court amid tight security.

There is expected to be a strong police presence to deal with the large number of journalists and the possibility of supporters congregating to see the 28-year-old Liverpool captain and England international arriving. Gerrard will be accompanied by his legal team although it is not clear if anyone from the club will also accompany him.

Gerrard had been celebrating Liverpool's 5–1 win at Newcastle United on 28 December when the incident allegedly occurred at the Lounge Inn, a popular haunt for Merseyside's footballers, in the seaside town of Southport. Earlier in the day, the midfielder had scored in a victory that put Liverpool three points clear at the top of the league.

Marcus McGee, a 34-year-old businessman and part-time DJ who was working at the bar at the time, allegedly lost a tooth in the fight and required hospital treatment after sustaining cuts to his face.

Six men were arrested and Gerrard will appear in court with John Doran, 29, and Ian Gerard Smith, 19, both of Huyton, Liverpool, who are accused of assault and affray.

Aston Villa Plan To Hijack Emile Heskey's Liverpool Move

Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill wants a face-to-face chat with Emile Heskey - so he can talk the Wigan striker into snubbing Liverpool and signing for him.

O'Neill is planning to make a bid for Heskey which will force Wigan to let the England star speak to him.

He'll then attempt to persuade the target man to join his push for glory. Heskey is wanted by Rafa Benitez, who is keen to give him a return ticket to the Kop, although the Spaniard is happy to wait until he can get him for nothing in the summer.

O'Neill wants to make a case with Heskey to let him know how important he is to Villa right now.

Wigan are resigned to losing Heskey in the summer and for all Steve Bruce's protests they would accept an offer of around £3-£4million for their front runner before the window shuts.

If the Latics accept an offer from Villa, O'Neill will also have to come up with a contract worth £80,000-a-week for Heskey to match the Liverpool terms that will be on the table in the summer. O'Neill is deadly serious about signing the player he launched on the way to success while they were together at Leicester City and feels if he can get faceto- face with him he has a chance.

Liverpool do not want to buy Heskey at a high price just now, but could be put on the spot - especially as Villa now look like serious rivals at the top end of the table.

Benitez may even have to sell a fringe player to finance the deal now, which is another advantage Villa have.

O'Neill, due to fly to Europe to watch another possible target this weekend, failed to land Jermaine Defoe or Craig Bellamy.

Alonso Is Fired Up For Derby Revenge

Xabi Alonso insists Liverpool have to show their ruthless side to conquer Everton – and keep in the hunt for silverware.

The Kop kings were stopped in their tracks on Monday when Tim Cahill shattered their Premier League charge with his crushing late equaliser.

It meant that Manchester United stayed top of the table on goal difference with an ominous game in hand as Liverpool yet again threw points away.

This Sunday sees a re-run of that passionate Merseyside derby at Anfield in the FA Cup, which will provide the chance for Liverpool to take revenge on their close neighbours for derailing their title challenge.

However, Alonso knows that the Reds will need to go for the jugular when they get the chance – and effectively end Everton’s season in one game.

The Spaniard said: “This is our chance to take real revenge against Everton.

“The players were gutted and destroyed by the late goal we conceded against Everton, but we plan to make sure that the fans will be celebrating after Sunday.

“Tim Cahill’s goal was unjust because we had worked so hard for victory and Steven Gerrard scored a fabulous goal. We deserved victory, but it wasn’t to be.

“There will be just as much passion for this game and maybe more because there will be more Everton fans at Anfield for this FA Cup game.

“However, we want to make them cry and the way to do that is by being ruthless and taking control of the game.

“We need to make sure we score when we are on top, and maybe more than once, and then stay calm and hold our nerve.

“It is important to show mental strength as well as quality in our football.”

Liverpool have incredibly drawn five of their last 10 games in all competitions, which has put a skid under their season.

But almost more worryingly is the fact that they have only won two of their last six league games, drawing the other four.

That is eight points thrown down the drain, while Manchester United have been flying high and beating every team in their path, including a 3-0 hammering of Chelsea.

The FA Cup might not exactly be Liverpool’s main aim this season – especially given that they have an enticing last-16 tie in Europe against Real Madrid coming up – but getting back to winning ways is important.

And to do that Alonso knows that Liverpool will have to stop his fellow Spaniard Mikel Arteta, who helped set up Cahill’s goal on Monday. The midfielder added: “We all know what a good player Mikel Arteta is and he showed that against us on Monday.

“He’s a very good friend, but we know we can’t give him a chance with a free-kick because he’s capable of punishing us.

“The less Arteta touches the ball, the better for us because he is Everton’s key player.

“These derbies are always very difficult for the players and even more so given that it is two within seven days of each other.

“The fact that we have Fernando Torres getting back to full fitness is a real key for us because he is so important.

“We have played a lot of games this season without him and managed to be at the top of the Premier League and get a long way in the Champions League.

“We will be a far more dangerous side with him in the team and although a lot of people are talking about the Premier League, we want to win the FA Cup as it’s such an historic trophy.

“We won it a few years ago and want to repeat that this year and start getting back to winning ways.”