Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Torres Still Out For Liverpool As Gerrard Takes To The Field

Despite hobbling off during Liverpool's 2-0 defeat to Middlesbrough, Rafa Benitez has claimed that the skipper will return to the pitch tomorrow to face Sunderland at Anfield.

As the game drew to a close at the Riverside, the skipper suffered leg cramp and had to be subbed off, but the gutsy Englishman was back training alongside his team-mates this morning.

Rafa Benitez has a considerable injury list that includes the likes of Fernando Torres, Alvaro Arveloa and Daniel Agger, who are all set to miss the clash with Sunderland tomorrow night.

Eager to impress in the Champions League this year, it seems that the Reds' gaffer is taking no chances with his Premiership starting XI.

"Torres is not ready yet. We have to wait to see how he progresses but he won't be in the squad. Arbeloa has a problem with his hamstring. He's had the problem before. It could be another week," claimed the Spaniard.

"Stevie was okay and will hopefully be available tomorrow," he added.

Rafa Benitez Refuses To Be Drawn Out On Liverpool Future

Many have speculated that the imminent departure of current chief executive Rick Parry is a sign that Rafael Benitez has decisively won a behind the scenes power-struggle at Liverpool.

However, the former Valencia manager's future with the Merseyside outfit remains far from certain.

“I will sit down with the owners and we will have a meeting – maybe in a few days, maybe in a few weeks," Benitez was quoted as saying by Setanta Sports.

“I will not talk too much about this.”

Instead, the notorious football obsessive preferred to draw attention to the next challenge at hand.

“My concern now is the game against Sunderland,” he added. “We have to prepare this game properly.

“We must not forget that our league performance is better than last season.

"Still, we have to improve. Yes, we have had key players injured and maybe that could have cost us four or five points.

"In this title race, that would be a massive difference. We are in a good position but we could be in a much better position.

"We are now rated in the UEFA rankings as the best team in Europe over the last five years – that underlines how we have done in those seasons – but we must go forward for the rest of the season, and in the future.”

Rafa Benitez Holds Injuries To Blame For Liverpool's Woe

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has bemoaned his side's injury list, believing that without the knocks his squad have suffered to key players they would be in a much stronger position.

Benitez's men lost 2-0 to Middlesbrough on Teesside on Saturday, and saw their Premier League points deficit to leaders Manchester United, who have a game in hand, remain at seven points on a weekend when the Red Devils were picking up yet more silverware, winning the League Cup at Wembley.

The Reds' gaffer felt that his men had particuarly struggled because of a lack of sharpness up front, something that would be remedied quite straigthforwardly for the Spaniard were his fellow-countryman Fernando Torres built a little more robustly.

"The title was difficult before, it is more difficult now," The Guardian reports Benitez as saying.

"What we have to do is take our chances, and that is something that has been the same problem the whole season.

"Maybe if Torres had not been injured so much things would be different, but we cannot change the situation now. Everybody has players who get injured.

"We have had some problems [following the 1–0 Champions League win at Real Madrid], several players have been injured, among other things. The worst thing has been the injuries to Torres. He has been our main striker and scored a lot of goals for us last season. And this season could have been totally different with him."

Benitez acknowledged that his team had made errors against Boro, a side who hadn't won in 14 league outings prior to Saturday's game at the Riverside Stadium, and that his team had discussed the situation.

"We have talked about the mistakes we made [at Middlesbrough] and the future," he continued.

"And the immediate future is playing Sunderland, trying to get three points and then waiting to see what happens with Manchester United.

"But we played with anxiety at Middlesbrough, we gave the ball away too easily with simple passes. These are things we have to improve if we are going to fight for the title. But we must not forget that our league performance is better than last season.

"Still we have to improve. Yes, we have had key players injured and maybe that could have cost us four or five points. In this title race that would be a massive difference. We are in a good position but we could be in a much better position.

"We are now rated in the UEFA rankings as the best team in Europe over the last five years. That underlines how we have done in those seasons. But we must go forward for the rest of the season, and in the future. The squad is good, but there are too many games when things go wrong and that makes a massive difference.

"We had confidence and we were in a very good position for a long time. It has been our best performance for several seasons. But when we need fresh legs when senior players are injured, things are not easy. To improve in attack is not easy, you can improve in defence with hard work but forwards need accuracy and confidence."

On what must have been a difficult day for him, Benitez still managed some polite congratulation when asked about the achievements of the club many see as Liverpool's greatest rivals.

"Manchester United are a good team, they have very good players and they have a good manager," he concluded.

Liverpool Legend Kenny Dalglish Breaks TV Silence On Hillsborough Tragedy

Football legend Kenny Dalglish has broken a 20-year TV silence on the Hillsborough disaster claiming police and officials should have delayed the kick-off.

Former Liverpool manager Dalglish, 57, will speak for the first time on Hillsborough Remembered, which marks 20 years since 96 fans died at an FA Cup semi-final tie against Nottingham Forest.

Dalglish reveals: “The easiest thing to do was to have put the kick-off back. That’s not a problem for anybody.

“If the police are talking to the FA then the FA have got to make that call, but there would have been no resentment or disagreement with people in the dressing room.”

In an emotional interview Dalglish also praises the Liverpool fans’ behaviour.

He says: “The punters were superb. They helped the police as much as anything else. They’re supporters – it was their club in trouble.”

Academy Football: Hughie McAuley Focuses On Liverpool's Bread And Butter

After the euphoria of reaching the FA Youth Cup semi-finals Liverpool under-18s turn their attention back to the FA Premier Academy League this Saturday at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday.

Friday night’s 4-2 victory over Bolton Wanderers following on the heels of another victory in the Academy League, when Hugh McAuley’s side beat Crewe Alexandra 3-1.

Liverpool wait to see who they face in the last four of the Youth Cup as they bid to try and lift the club’s third triumph in the competition in the past four years. Birmingham await the winners of Saturday’s fifth round tie between Ipswich and Watford, with Liverpool waiting in the wings in the semi-final.

But first McAuley will make sure his side focus on the league. He said: “I have always said the Youth Cup helps keep the season going. It keeps us in the spotlight with high profile games. And it is a vehicle for the players to develop and move on and for the best prospects to flourish when they get the opportunity. Thankfully we seem to have got to that point and we have two good games in the semi-final to look forward to.

“Hopefully it keeps that competitive spirit among the squad to perform. You know you have got big matches to look forward to. It is a nice finale to the season.”

Coach McAuley added: “We need to keep the same commitment as in the cup when we take on Wolverhampton on Saturday.

“The semi-final will come up in time. We just need to carry on trying to do well in the league. Hopefully they will also get chances higher up and to go to Melwood. That is the long-term objective of the Academy staff and we hope we will have got some good players to go and join Gary (Ablett) in the reserve team.”

James Ellison is still out with a lower back problem, but Spanish centre-back Daniel Ayala should be back before the semi-finals.

LIVERPOOL YOUTH: Bouzanis; Irwin, Wisdom, Kennedy, Buchtmann; Amoo, Pepper, Kacaniklic; Eccleston, Dalla Valle, Ince. Subs: Chamberlain, Roberts, Robinson, Clair, Coady.

Reds Eye Up Valencia Ace

Liverpool are keeping close tabs on Spain international Raul Albiol, skysports.com understands.

The Valencia defender is rated amongst the best in La Liga, but money problems at The Mestalla could see them lose a number of their top stars.

And Albiol may be one of the first to depart with a host of clubs checking on his progress.

Real Madrid are long-term admirers of the 24-year-old, who can play in central defence or as a holding midfielder, but Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has now dispatched his scouting network to follow Albiol.

Albiol is currently contracted to Valencia for another two years and has a huge buy-out clause of nearly £50million - although reports in Spain now suggest they could be willing to do a deal at £13million.

Valencia's sporting director Fernando Gomez has admitted the club would have to consider any reasonable offers, and also confirmed they were aware of scouts from Liverpool tracking Albiol.

"Today it is necessary to study each offer that we receive and after that we would decide," he told skysports.com.

"The money situation is complicated at the club, but formally nobody has spoken with us about Abiol.

"But we are aware that the Reds have been scouting around here in recent months.

Mark Lawrenson: This Summer Could Be Liverpool FC's Most Important Ever

This summer could prove to be the most important in Liverpool FC’s history. The off-the-field issues that have yet to be resolved are potentially so important that they could make even the decision over Rafael Benitez’s contract of secondary importance.

On the pitch, Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to relegation-threatened Middlesbrough was a bizarre way to end a bizarre week.

There had been the rumours that Rafael Benitez was about to leave Anfield but for now he insists he’s staying.

Amongst all this there was the terrific 1-0 win at Real Madrid in the Champions League but then it emerged that long-serving chief executive Rick Parry is to quit the club in the summer.

Obviously none of us know the finer details of all the ins and outs when it comes to running the club but it seems to me that Parry’s position had become untenable with co-owner Tom Hicks.

I also don’t see how Parry’s relationship with Benitez could ever have been the same after his knowledge of the infamous meeting with Jurgen Klinsmann.

When it comes to the subject of trust, the Spaniard might be thinking ‘What else don’t I know?’ – after all we all know how much Benitez likes to control everything.

It all seems such a mess behind the scenes but the situation could become even more serious this summer after Parry leaves.

Hicks and Gillett have been given until the end of July to re-finance the loan they used to finance their purchase of the club and as it stands there’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to make this payment.

If the bank forecloses them and takes control of Liverpool FC off them then who knows what might happen.

The bank might decide to sell the club for considerably less than what the Americans are looking to get and it could even be a chance for the fans to get their club back.

I’ll never know what Rafael Benitez was thinking when he decided to go with Martin Skrtel at right-back at Middlesbrough on Saturday.

Okay Alvaro Arbeloa was injured but why not move Jamie Carragher across, he’s played in that position to good effect on many occasions down the years.

When Carragher does play at right-back he’s great when he’s up against someone and he gets close and likes the challenge.

As far as I’m aware Skrtel has never played in that position before, certainly not for Liverpool and I felt sorry for him because he looked like as fish out of water and just got worse and worse.

Skrtel was put up against Stewart Downing and when you’re playing Gareth Southgate’s side then it’s more or less a case of if you stop Downing you stop Middlesbrough.

After the win in Madrid it was a downer to go from a real high to a real low.

With Manchester United playing in the Carling Cup Final this was also a chance to put some pressure on them but instead they’ll just be laughing.

After looking like the team to beat from August to December, Liverpool’s title challenge seems to have fallen apart.

We’re back to square one when it comes to messing about with players.

Dossena and Lucas came in against Manchester City and are clearly not good enough while after looking like a proper player Riera has been taken out and put back in and it looks like it’s messed with his head.