Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Match Preview: Everton vs. LiverpooL

Everton and Liverpool meet for the fourth time this season as the Merseyside rivals battle to reach the last 16 of the FA Cup.

The two North-West neighbours could not be separated in the original fixture of this fourth-round tie, drawing 1-1 on 25th January, and they require a replay at Goodison Park.

Liverpool have already returned from the short trip across Stanley Park with three Premier League points this season, but Everton have held the Reds to draws on two occasions at Anfield.

The 211th Merseyside derby is, therefore, tantalisingly poised and extra-time, and even penalties, could be required, with a definite opponent for either Aston Villa or Doncaster set to be established.

Drama is never far away in these fixtures and the last time the two sides met in an FA Cup tie provides perfect evidence as a 1991 fifth-round meeting took three matches to resolve, while former Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish famously resigned between the first and second matches.

Neither manager is likely to quit following Wednesday night's result, but Everton boss David Moyes is in the more comfortable position as Rafa Benitez's contract debate rumbles on and the Liverpool chief is preparing for his first game since controversially selling Robbie Keane back to Tottenham.

Moyes, though, could have to make a decision on whether to play forward Victor Anichebe after the Nigeria international was reportedly thrown out of training following a bust-up with his manager.

Everton already have attacking problems and Moyes is not spoilt for choice for possible replacements for Anichebe, with Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Louis Saha and James Vaughan injured and new loan signing Jo cup tied.

Liverpool will definitely be without defender Philipp Degen, who has been ruled out for a number of weeks with a metatarsal injury, but the Switzerland international was unlikely to feature.

Fernando Torres should keep a place in attack following his match-winning brace against Chelsea on Sunday, while Steven Gerrard is set to continue as captain as Benitez has no other new fitness problems.

Juventus Linked With Move For Liverpool Boss Benitez

Juventus want to hire Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez as their new manager in the summer, according to reports in Italy.

Juve's title hopes are fading after three matches without a victory and the board are losing patience with boss Claudio Ranieri, claims today's Il Giornale.

Chief executive Jean Claude Blanc is desperate to land some silverware but has made the Champions League his top priority.

Blanc has been impressed by Benitez's excellent record in the competition and could take advantage of the fact contract talks between the Spaniard and Liverpool board have stalled.

However, no move for Benitez would take place until the summer.

Degen Faces Long Injury Lay-Off

Liverpool defender Philipp Degen has been ruled out of action for up to five weeks with a metatarsal injury.

The 25-year-old Switzerland international picked up the problem during a reserve team match against Manchester United last week.

Although a scan revealed the bone was unbroken, he is expected to require at least a month to recover.

It is the latest in a string of setbacks that have kept Degen sidelined for most of his time at Anfield.

The right-back was making a comeback appearance for the Reds' second string when he picked up the knock and limped off at half-time.

Since arriving on a free transfer from Borussia Dortmund last summer he has made just two appearances for the Merseysiders.

Manager Rafael Benitez's other options at right-back are Spain international Alvaro Arbeloa, youngster Stephen Darby or to redeploy centre-back Jamie Carragher to the position.

Rafa - No News On Contract

Rafa Benitez has revealed that he has had talks with Liverpool owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, but not over his contract.

Both Hicks and Gillett were at Anfield on Sunday to see the Reds overcome Chelsea and reaffirm their title challenge.

The joint owners, whose off-field differences is public knowledge, sat at different ends of the directors' box and have now returned to their native America.

The Liverpool tactician revealed that the three of them held discussions twice over the weekend, although the Spaniard offered no update on his impending contract.

"I have had a conversation with both owners. Before the game (against Chelsea) those talks were positive, after the game they were even more positive," Benitez said.

"I was happy with those conversations, but I know no more about my contract."

Liverpool lock horns with local rivals Everton in the FA Cup on Wednesday and the Reds boss feels his side have been boosted by their latest victory.

A fifth-round tie against Aston Villa or Doncaster awaits the winners of the fourth round replay, where the Merseyside pair will square off at Goodison Park in what will be the third clash between the two clubs in 16 days.

Benitez accepts that Liverpool's form had been patchy during the past few weeks, despite the fact that they have gone 16 matches unbeaten in all competitions.

But the Spaniard feels that Sunday's victory over Chelsea has been a major boost to team morale.

He said: "Everything was positive against Chelsea, so going into the derby we are very confident.

"In the first game, the league match, we did not play well. In the second game we were much better, so hopefully this replay will see us play like we did in the first cup tie.

"The players needed to show their character, and now we know we can beat anyone. It will be difficult at Goodison Park, but we can do it. The win over Chelsea has given everyone a lift.

"Now we have a really big cup tie at Everton, one I believe we can win and one that will give the fans something to be excited about after our win over Chelsea.

"Our win over Chelsea gave everyone a lift, especially as it was against a side at the top of the table with us."

Rafa Benitez: Chelsea Win Will Give Us A Boost Against Everton

Liverpool’s chances of beating local rivals Everton in the FA Cup tomorrow have been boosted by their victory over Chelsea at the weekend, claims manager Rafael Benitez.

The Anfield men face a fourth-round replay at a hostile Goodison Park, with a home tie against Aston Villa or Doncaster awaiting the winners.

Benitez accepts that Liverpool’s form had been patchy during the past few weeks, despite the fact that they have gone 16 matches unbeaten in all competitions.

A string of draws, including two against Everton last month, underlined Liverpool’s inconsistency.

They were held 1-1 twice on their own ground by the Toffees, once in the league and once in the Cup.

But Benitez feels that the victory over Chelsea on Sunday has been a major boost to team morale.

He said: "Everything was positive against Chelsea, so going into the derby we are very confident.

"In the first game, the league match, we did not play well. In the second game we were much better, so hopefully this replay will see us play like we did in the first cup tie.

"The players needed to show their character, and now we know we can beat anyone. It will be difficult at Goodison Park, but we can do it. The win over Chelsea has given everyone a lift.

"Now we have a really big cup tie at Everton, one I believe we can win and one that will given the fans something to be excited about after our win over Chelsea.

"Our win over Chelsea gave everyone a lift, especially as it was against a side at the top of the table with us."

Benitez was critical of Everton’s defensive tactics in both recent games at Anfield, but he would not be drawn into further comment on the subject on the eve of the replay.

He said: "I do not know how Everton will play, whether they will attack more. But maybe in front of their own fans they will have to be more offensive.

"We have done well at Goodison Park of late, and we have enough confidence. But we know it is a derby and very, very difficult.

"We will have to approach the game carefully and we know it will be really tough. Anything can happen in this type of game."

Reina Dreaming Of Double Glory

Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina is dreaming of a 'magic week' as the Reds go in search of double domestic glory.

Rafa Benitez's side defeated Premier League rivals Chelsea on Sunday to reinvigorate their title challenge and on Wednesday they face derby foes Everton in a fourth-round FA Cup replay.

Reina is, understandably, keen to eliminate the Toffees from the cup, but the Spanish shot-stopper is eager for further icing on the cake.

The 26-year-old admits that if FA Cup progression was booked and league leaders Manchester United slipped up at West Ham on Sunday, a perfect seven days would be secured.

"I dream of a magic week after our victory over Chelsea," Reina told "I dream of eliminating Everton, and United failing against West Ham.

"Each match is a psychological battle because we have entered a decisive moment of the season."

Reina acknowledges Liverpool make the short trip to Goodison Park facing a tough task, but the former Villarreal player is desperate to again go all the way in the cup.

The 12-time Spain cap was a hero in 2006 as his penalty shoot-out saves earned victory over West Ham, and he is eager for further success in football's oldest knockout competition.

"Everton are never easy in their stadium," said Reina. "For us, the derby is a big match because we want to win the FA Cup.

"I remember the final at Cardiff and that was a sensational success. The competition is beautiful and I want to repeat the experience."

Benitez Failed In Signing Keirrison As Keane Replacement can reveal that Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez failed in a deadline day bid to sign Brazilian U-21 international Keirrison de Souza due to his complicated contract situation. exclusively revealed during the January transfer window that Benitez was interested in signing the player, however the Liverpool boss found it impossible to conclude a deal for the young starlet due his complicated transfer situation.Click here to read the first Keirrison exclusive.

Current club Coritiba own 20 % of the player, while business partnership Traffic, a partner of Brazilian club Palmeiras, own 80% of the player.

Palmeiras football director Toninho Cecilio had previously claimed that the player will move to Palmeiras before making a move to Europe:

“Keirrison cannot play in Europe without the consent of Palmeiras,” he told Globo Esporte. “He cannot move as soon as he agrees it. All the players have a contractual agreement with the club.

“He will only leave if there is a joint decision. We intend to count on Keirrison next season. The striker has contract with Coritiba until April 2009, and, if he does not have an agreement with our partner, he will fulfil the deal and later he will be presented at Palmeiras.”

Benitez is also rumoured to have failed in a bid to sign Portsmouth target and Real Madrid forward Javier Saviola on loan.

Ian Rush: Robbie Keane Was Unlucky At Liverpool

I feel sorry for Robbie Keane because I don’t think he was given enough of a chance to make it at Anfield.

As a striker you need to have a run of games and the absolute confidence of your manager. I’m not sure Keane ever really had either.

Some moves just don’t work out. Players look perfect for a particular club when they are signed, but for some reason it doesn’t turn out that way.

At least Rafa Benitez has taken a decision on Keane at the earliest possible opportunity and has moved him on.

I’m sure everyone at Liverpool will be wishing Keane good luck as he tries to get back on track at Spurs.

It was great to see Fernando Torres back in goalscoring form against Chelsea because Liverpool need him to be at his very best if they are to challenge for the title.

It had been some time since Torres last scored at Anfield but when the goals finally came they were well worth the wait and could not have been more timely.

He had looked sluggish in his previous game at Wigan so getting back on the score sheet will have lifted his confidence no end.

He also got through more than 90 minutes of the game, only being taken off when the match was all but over so he could get a standing ovation.

This will be as important to Torres as the goals he scored because he will now have even more faith in his own physical condition.

Mike Riley didn’t cover himself in any glory with his performance at Anfield on Sunday and I don’t think he should be given any big games after his latest poor display.

Sending off Frank Lampard was bad enough because I don’t think anyone in the ground thought it was a red card offence.

But even worse than that was his failure to spot Jose Bosingwa’s kung fu kick on Yossi Benayoun.

How a referee can miss something as blatant as this is beyond me. If players can be suspended for getting things wrong I think referees should do so as well.

There is a lot of talk about respect in football, but it must go both ways and referees have to be accountable for errors.

Liverpool One Injury Away From Goal-Scoring Crisis After Robbie Keane's Exit

Rafael Benitez's decision to sell Robbie Keane back to Tottenham Hotspur could come back to haunt him.

It is one thing to sell a £20 million striker at an £8 million loss after six months, 28 games and five league goals. It is quite another to sell a £20 million striker at an £8 million loss and not bring in a replacement.

Robbie Keane's short, unhappy stay at Anfield may have seen him relegated to backup for Fernando Torres, but at least he indicated a strength in depth to Liverpool's squad missing since 1990. Now he has returned to White Hart Lane, every Liverpool fan will be asking the same thing: what happens if Torres' hamstrings go again?

The Spanish international has already suffered three muscular injuries this campaign and a fourth cannot be ruled out. Where, exactly, would that leave Liverpool? Who would lead the line as Rafael Benitez's side bid to end their 20 years in the title wilderness?

Benitez essentially has three options. Dirk Kuyt was brought to the club as a striker, thanks to his prolific record for Feyenoord, but his early promise has worn off. He manages a dozen or so a season, mainly in the Champions League, from his new berth on the right flank and it is hard to see Benitez undoing all his work in converting him into a wide player now.

Kuyt's compatriot, Ryan Babel, also enjoyed a bright start to his Liverpool career in what might be termed the Henry position, the right-footed left wing spot the Frenchman exploited mercilessly. But Babel has always insisted he sees himself as a forward and, thanks to patchy displays and the form of Albert Riera, could now find his wish granted.

The young Frenchman David Ngog, a £1.5 million signing from Paris Saint-Germain last summer, is now the only member of the senior squad who could be considered an out-and-out striker, but despite evident power, height and pace, he remains raw. His presence on the bench signalled the end for Keane, but he is not yet ready to step into the breach full-time.

In an emergency, no doubt Benitez could look to the prodigiously gifted youth team striker Dani Pacheco, or even draft in midfielder Lucas Leiva as an emergency forward. Steven Gerrard is the best right back in the league, so why could he not be a top class striker?

Liverpool are short on firepower, suddenly, should Torres's hamstrings buckle under the strain of Anfield's expectation. What looks like a power play by Benitez is one injury away from backfiring. The fans, though, remain upbeat. After all, as several forum visitors mentioned on Monday, the club could always recall Andriy Voronin from Hertha Berlin.

Liverpool Have Plenty In Reserve, Insists Benitez

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez insists the Reds will not be reliant on Fernando Torres for the remainder of the season following Robbie Keane's return to Tottenham.

The Republic of Ireland striker went back to White Hart Lane on transfer deadline day in a reported £12million initial deal, just six months after he had gone the other way for around £8million more.

His departure has led some to question how Benitez's team would cope with the prolonged absence of Torres, given the apparent paucity of alternatives in the Anfield striking department.

But the Liverpool boss insists he has the resources in his squad to cope without his fellow Spaniard.

'I do not think it was a gamble to sell Robbie,' Benitez said.

'If Fernando Torres is injured we have Dirk Kuyt, Ryan Babel, David Ngog and if we need other players we have good youngsters in the reserves, Dani Pacheco and Krisztian Nemeth, while Yossi Benayoun can play as a second striker.

'We did not have time to sign a replacement so we have not got a new, big name, but we do have quality.'

Benitez - who is likely to field the same XI who defeated Chelsea 2-0 on Sunday in tonight's FA Cup fourth-round replay with Everton at Goodison Park - defended his decision to let the Irishman leave.

He said: 'Robbie needed to play, he needed to have confidence and he was not playing at the level that we know.

'He may not have settled down working with other players and systems. Sometimes a good player cannot perform in a different team. He was not doing as well as he could do.

'Maybe he did not have the understanding with other players, and sometimes it is difficult to play in a top side.'

Benitez added: 'We had to make decisions. We had to do it at this moment. If we had waited until the summer it would have been bad for him and bad for the club because the fee would have dropped.

'He did not ask to leave, and leaving Liverpool is not easy. But we were talking with his agent and people at Tottenham, in the end we knew it had to be done.'

Rafa Benitez Has No Regrets Over Controversial Robbie Keane Transfer

Rafa Benitez claimed last night that he had to sell Robbie Keane because the striker was not good enough for Liverpool.

Keane returned to Spurs with his new manager Harry Redknapp complaining he had not been given a fair chance by Liverpool in his six-month stay.

But Benitez said: "I think Robbie played a lot of games here and for a lot of reasons together, he was not playing at the level he can.

"Of course we know he is a very good player, but you can put a lot of things together to explain why he didn't do as well as we thought. Waiting and delaying the decision could have made it worse in the summer for him and for us.

"We didn't want to sell, but then in the last day we decided it could be good for the player and good for us.

"The player is a good player, a good professional and wasn't playing at the level he can. At his age it could have been worse if he continued without performing.

"Sometimes the teammates, the tactics, the understanding with everyone, the other teams, and not settling down in the other city, it could be a lot of things together.

"He started 20-odd games and in the end we had to come to a decision."