Friday, February 13, 2009

Fabio Aurelio: Liverpool Will Have Chances To Top Manchester United

The Reds' Brazilian star is confident that there will be enough opportunities to overhaul their North West rivals as the season wears on.

Manchester United's scintillating form since the turn of the year has seen them leapfrog Liverpool into first place, making them the outright favourites for the Premier League title.

But Fabio Aurelio reckons it is only a matter of when, and not if, the Red Devils slip up.

"I don't think they will get positive results right until the end of the season, plus we've also got to go to Old Trafford. So, if we keep getting our points we'll have a chance to beat them," the defender told Liverpool's official website.

"Every game is a final now if we want to fight for the title at the end. If United don't lose then they'll finish a few points ahead, but we still have to make sure we do our part."

Rafael Benitez's men are in the midst of a breakthrough campaign, as only two points separate them and United as the pointy end of proceedings draws near.

The Merseyside giants are also fighting for Champions League honours, and they will face Real Madrid later this month in a blockbuster last-16 tie.

But Aurelio said, "We know the most important thing for Liverpool and for us players is the Premier League.

"We also know the Champions League is an exciting competition and we have a good game against Real Madrid. If we can win that and keep involved as long as possible that would be great because Liverpool always do well in that competition, but we know this season the focus is on the Premier League."

The Brazilian full-back is no stranger to ending lengthy droughts at the highest level, having been part of the Valencia side that bested Barcelona and Madrid in 2002 to claim their first Spanish title in over 30 years.

"It was amazing, especially because Valencia wasn't a big club like Liverpool are," he said. "No one expected us to beat Barcelona or Real Madrid because we were always a long way behind."

The Reds' dry spell will clock 19 years if they fail to do the business this season, but Aurelio believes the Anfield trophy cabinet may have a very welcome addition come May.

He added, "Liverpool also haven't won it for a long time, but we are getting stronger every season and hopefully this can be our year."

Daniel Agger Wants To Be A Liverpool Legend - Jan Molby

The Reds' greatest Dane has no doubt that his young compatriot wants to end the speculation surrounding his future and commit to the club.

Rumours are swirling as to how much longer Daniel Agger will last at Liverpool following his latest comments in the press.

The Danish defender is yet to have his contract extended, despite negotiations kicking off last year, while he is becoming increasingly annoyed at his lack of starting opportunities.

But Jan Molby has declared that the 24-year-old, widely regarded as one of the most talented centre-backs in Europe, would like nothing better than to remain at Anfield.

"I know he [Agger] wants to stay in Liverpool and to become a real Liverpool legend. He feels he's at the best possible place to achieve his footballing dreams," the former Red said on the club's official website.

"Prior to his metatarsal injury [last season] he was very, very good in terms of his defending and forward play. He probably hasn't reached that level again since his return – maybe because he hasn't been playing every week – but potentially he is one of the best ball playing central defenders in the world."

Molby spent 12 seasons at Liverpool, between 1984 and 1996, and is often referred to by Kopites as 'the original Xabi Alonso'.

Former Liverpool Great John Barnes Wants Premier League Return

John Barnes has spoken out on the strengths of his Jamaica side, a potential Premier League return, and the possibility of England one day appointing a black manager.

John Barnes' managerial career did not get off to the best of starts with a largely underwhelming and short-lived tenure at Scottish giants Celtic.

Barnes then snuggled into the cosy cocoon of broadcasting, but this lengthy sojourn was interrupted with a triumphant return to management.

In November 2008 the 45-year-old took charge of the Jamaican national team and has already guided the Reggae Boyz to the Caribbean Cup.

The former England captain though has hinted that he would be using his current position as a national manager as a stepping stone to a Premier League return.

"Do I have long-term ambitions for Jamaica? Well, my contract lasts until June," he told The Liverpool Echo.

"If things go well perhaps we can talk about the future then. But you can’t have long-term ambitions in management. The experiences of Felipe Scolari and Tony Adams this week have proved that.

"As a manager you simply have to think about winning the next match, because if you don’t achieve that short term aim, chances are you won’t get the chance to do any long-term thinking.

"Ultimately, I want to get back into football management in England," he declared.

"Where? I’ll consider anything. Any club with a chairman or a board of directors prepared to support me and empower me to do my job properly. But I am immensely enjoying being back in management and I believe, without a shadow of a doubt, I can be a great coach."

Jamaica were last night held by Nigeria, but prior to this fixture Barnes had helped guide the side up 30 places in the FIFA rankings, and together they were unbeaten in six games.

"The players here in Jamaica have great ability and great physical attributes. It’s tactical discipline and awareness I need to build up – a belief that the team ethic can be successful.

"That doesn’t come naturally. I need to accentuate the positives of teamwork as well as the flair which we possess," he said.

"I am a very methodical manager in terms of how I want my teams to play."

Noting Paul Ince's record of being the first black Englishman to be in charge of a Premier League club (at Blackburn Rovers, later replaced by Sam Allardyce), Barnes discussed the possibility of a black manager one day coaching the Three Lions.

"Well, Obama is President of the United States because he is worthy, not because of his colour. So you have to find a manager who is good first," Barnes explained.

"I’m in that category, Paul Ince is, too. If the opportunity is there, I have full confidence that I could join that managerial elite," he concluded.

Gareth Barry Never Tried To Force Move Away From Aston Villa

Gareth Barry didn't contemplate forcing a move away from Aston Villa in the summer, because of his respect for Martin O'Neill. The England international came close to joining Liverpool, but the move fell through after the club failed to meet Villa's £18m valuation of the player.

However, Barry has maintained a professional approach this season, and has played a key part in the club's surge into the top four of the Premier League.

"I said straight away that myself and the manager are both professional people who want the best this season for Villa," Barry said. "The relationship is very good.

"It can go through your head what others have done to get away from a club - but it was just not the reputation I would have wanted. It never went through my head to go through that. I've got too much respect for the club, and for the manager, and I've just got on with the job."

Barry was initially stripped of the club captaincy, but O'Neill has reinstated him in the absence of the injured Martin Laursen.

"Everyone knows I enjoy captaining Villa," Barry added. "I've always looked forward to doing it and it does give you that extra lift, captaining the team out there. It can raise your game. But Martin is the captain this season and, if we win a trophy, that will be more than enough."

Red Card Nightmare For Liverpool's Emiliano Insua At Under-20 World Cup Hopes End

Emiliano Insua was sent off as his under-20 World Cup hopes ended in disappointment at the weekend.

The Liverpool left-back was Argentina’s captain in the South American qualifying tournament, but a 1-0 defeat by Colombia means the defending champions will not take part in the under-20 finals for the first time in 16 years.

Insua actually went closest to equalising after Richard Chara had given the Colombians a 65th minute lead.

And his misery was completed in the 83rd minute when he was dismissed.

Insua, who made his Reds debut in April 2007, had just made four successive starts in Rafa Benitez’s senior side and looked to have moved ahead of Andrea Dossena and Fabio Aurelio in the pecking order when he was called away on international duty.

Argentina’s Under-20 squad has won five of the last seven U-20 World Cups, but will not now defend their crown in Egypt.

Insua, however, will be available again for next weekend’s visit of Manchester City.

Liverpool International Stars Avoid Night Of Pitfalls

Liverpool’s Spanish stars came safely through last night’s international in Seville.

Fernando Torres negotiated 64 minutes against England before he was replaced by Spain’s second goalscorer Fernando Llorente, while Xabi Alonso played the full 90 minutes.

Goalkeeper Pepe Reina and defender Alvaro Arbeloa were both introduced at half-time.

On a busy night of international football, Yossi Benayoun was Israel’s match-winner, scoring from close range as his country beat Hungary 1-0 in Tel Aviv.

Young striker David Ngog also got on the scoresheet with a neat volley as France Under 21s drew 1-1 with Tunisia.

Javier Mascherano captained Argentina to a 2-0 win in France, while Daniel Agger was booked as he lasted 90 minutes in Denmark’s 1-1 draw against Greece.

Ryan Babel came on for clubmate Dirk Kuyt at half-time in Holland’s 1-1 draw with Tunisia, while Sami Hyypia played the full 90 minutes as Finland lost 1-0 to Portugal thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty.

On Tuesday night Martin Skrtel and Andrea Dossena both tasted defeat in international friendlies.

Dossena earned his sixth cap after replacing Andrea Pirlo 75 minutes into Italy’s 2-0 defeat against Brazil at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, while Skrtel played 90 minutes as Slovakia were beaten 3-2 by Ukraine.

All of Liverpool’s international contingent were due to report back to Melwood today – but there were no indications of any problems.

Liverpool Will Ring Changes Despite FA Youth Cup Win - Hugh McAuley

Liverpool’s youngsters won’t be allowed to rest on their laurels after last week’s excellent FA Youth Cup victory over Chelsea.

The Reds will entertain Bolton in the quarter-finals on February 27, but first travel to the Midlands in FA Premier Academy League action on Saturday – and coach Hugh McAuley has promised changes.

"We go to West Brom on Saturday and we’ll make one or two switches," he explained.

"The boys got us a first class result and worked very hard.

"But squad rotation is perhaps more relevant in our position because they are young lads who need to play.

"We also need to see all the lads play and ensure everyone gets their proper quota of games so we’ll change one or two.

"West Brom always give you a good game, especially on their own patch, but we’re up for it."

Liverpool’s last league outing was the mini mini-derby won by Everton, but McAuley said: "The two games we have played in the league this year have been against two tough teams, but we have played really well in both. We drew with Manchester City and lost to Everton, although I thought we were the best team and it was a game we should have won.

"And we’ll go into the next game full of confidence after the win over Chelsea.

"We are playing some good stuff. We have shown good spirit and really good enthusiasm. We have no problem on that side of it and I am sure if we keep that up, results will come in the league.

"It is important we keep our consistency, enthusiasm and the right motivation."

He added: "The game at the end of the week or the Youth Cup match are the situations where we judge our players, particularly when we play the bigger clubs like Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Everton and also Arsenal in the Youth Cup last year. They tell where our players are and how far we are compared to those teams."

Benitez Bruised In His Battle With Agger Over New Liverpool Contract

After proving useful ammunition for Rafael Benitez in his internecine battle with Liverpool's owners, the manager's focus on Daniel Agger has now backfired.

The Danish defender with a ridiculously inflated view of his talent and who is not a patch on first choice Martin Skrtel, has stopped moaning about his lack of a new contract and is now talking about leaving because he is not playing enough.

Benitez made much of Agger's situation before, blaming Tom Hicks and George Gillett for dragging their feet over the player's new deal and therefore pushing him towards the open arms of other clubs.

But what will the manager say now the finger of blame is pointing at him?

Agger said: 'If I don't play, then it's untenable and it can't go on like that. He won't let me play. The question now is whether that is the right thing for me.'

While Benitez's political manoeuvring was all about getting more power in a new deal, Agger's is about money and status. He is the pawn with teeth.

Liverpool Prepare Bid For Barcelona's Exciting Young Winger Deulofeu

Liverpool want to sign Barcelona's wonderkid winger Gerard Deulofeu.

Anfield scouts have been tracking the 14-year-old's progress for months and are preparing a deal to land one of Europe's hottest prospects.

Deulofeu, dubbed 'the new Ronaldinho', has been linked with Chelsea and Arsenal in the past but may favour a move to Liverpool due to the strong Spanish influence on Merseyside.

The left-sided attacker is just the latest talent produced by the Catalans. World stars Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Lionel Messi all graduated from Barca's famed academy.

But the Catalans will do everything in their power to block any move for Deulofeu.

The Spanish giants vowed never to lose another trainee on the cheap after Arsenal exploited a transfer loophole to land Fabregas for a nominal fee back in 2003.

Carra: We Are The Comeback Kings

Jamie Carragher believes Liverpool’s new-found ability to snatch late victories could see The Reds overhaul Manchester United in the title race.

Rafa Benitez’s side have needed late goals to claim the points in their last two league games against Chelsea and Portsmouth, with Fernando Torres riding to their rescue on both occassions.

Carragher says United have been pulling late wins out of the bag for years now and The Reds newly-discovered steel could see them pip their rivals for the title come May.

"It's not just a one-off game,” Carragher told the official club website. “We've come from behind like that quite a bit this season.

"It's something Manchester United have done a lot in the past to win titles and you've got to take your hat off to them because they've done it over the years and this season as well.

"It's something we've not been too good at in recent years but we seem to have it in our locker this season and hopefully that will push us as close to the title as possible.

"There's nothing better when you think you're going to lose a game and you come back and win – it knocks the stuffing out of the opposition and you just want the referee to blow the final whistle as soon as that goal goes in.

"We still had to defend a few high balls into the box (at Portsmouth) but you've got to keep your emotions in check. You're so excited but you realise that the game still hasn't finished. But we were delighted when we got back in the dressing room."

After a brilliant start to the season in which they soared to the top of the table, The Reds are now two points behind United after a poor January in which they failed to win a league game.

But Carragher says the Liverpool players have never stopped believing they have what it takes to win the title.

"We never thought our title hopes were dead and buried although we realised we were making things more difficult for ourselves," he added.

"We'll only be able to tell in the coming months what effect these two late wins have had but it can only be positive because scoring goals late gives you a massive lift."