Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bayern Manager Uli Hoeness Wants To Avoid Liverpool In Champions League

Having thrashed Sporting 12-1 on aggregate to progress into the quarter-finals many teams will want to avoid Bayern. The Bavarians though are keen to avoid Liverpool.

Bayern Munich have sent out a real warning signal to the rest of Europe with their 7-1 demolition of Sporting CP at the Allianz Arena.

The 12-1 aggregate win saw them set a new Champions League record. A delighted Uli Hoeness has said he doesn’t mind who the club get in the next round, but he would like to avoid Liverpool, who beat Real Madrid 5-0 on aggregate.

"Our results have certainly earned us a lot of respect," said Hoeness in an interview with the club’s website."The other teams will certainly see videos of our games and ask themselves 'hold on a minute, what's going on there?' I certainly don't want to play against Liverpool," he said. "I think they are very, very strong at the moment.

"Liverpool have no chance of winning their league anymore and that enables them to concentrate on the Champions League.The important thing would be to play the first leg away. That would be a huge advantage. I would not like to have to play first at home against Manchester United and then go to Old Trafford.

"We are one of the eight best teams in Europe and that is where we wanted to be," he said.

"What happens now is a bonus. From the quarter-finals, you need a bit of luck too."

Liverpool FC’s Dirk Kuyt: ‘Now Let’s Send Out A Message To Man United’

Dirk Kuyt reckons Liverpool’s 4-0 thrashing of Real Madrid has sent out a message to their rivals but he now wants to make an even greater statement of intent at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Liverpool’s emphatic win at Anfield on Tuesday was the heaviest defeat suffered by European club football’s most successful side in the competition during the Champions League era and was the ideal result ahead of their domestic showdown with great North West rivals Manchester United.

Despite Sir Alex Ferguson’s side having a game in hand on Liverpool, Rafael Benitez’s men trail the Premier League champions by seven points, lying in third place behind Chelsea on goal difference. Kuyt knows that realistically it looks like Liverpool will have to win at Old Trafford if they are to keep their own title hopes alive but he hopes his team-mates can send out an even greater message than they did against the Spanish giants by pulling off the victory they need.

He said: “Of course our title hopes would seem over if we lose but if we can beat them on Saturday that would send out a big message, even more so than the one we sent out against Madrid.

“We’ll give it a try and it will be difficult but we are playing well and anything can happen.”

Liverpool were beaten 3-0 by United in the corresponding fixture last season and while they inflicted a 2-1 victory over them in the Anfield Premier League clash this term Kuyt does not want to think too far ahead in terms of putting pressure on Ferguson’s men in the title race.

He said: “I think that’s one step ahead. We can’t think about anything else but focusing on beating them on Saturday and then see what happens.

“Even if we win the gap will be big so it’s up to us to win our home games and hope they have some difficulties. When we get a good result on Saturday we’ll see what happens.”

Liverpool’s win over United in September was significant in that it was achieved without major contributions from Steven Gerrard or Fernando Torres but with the Anfield outfit’s two brightest stars back to goal-scoring form against Real Madrid, Kuyt believes that even United’s watertight defence could be breached.

He said: “Stevie and Nando were both unbelievable and the team behind those two gave a great performance as well so if we can replicate that performance against United with Fernando and Stevie doing what they did against Madrid we’ll have a great chance. They score a lot of goals, it’s an unbelievable partnership.

“Unfortunately for us Fernando has struggled with injuries for a long time this season and Stevie’s been out a bit himself but hopefully they can play the rest of the season together and give us a better chance in both competitions.

“We haven’t had the results we wanted over the last couple of months but we’ll see if we can surprise people between now and the end of the season.”

Kuyt believes that the emphatic demolition of Real Madrid was further proof that his team-mates can rise to the big occasion and was the perfect performance ahead of the short trip down the M62.

He said: “We had a gameplan and this is exactly what we wanted to do.

“We didn’t want to sit behind the ball and wait for them to attack, we just wanted to get at them, try to score early, get the crowd behind us and that’s exactly what happened.

“United are a very good team, but Madrid are too and we have shown this season that we can beat the big opponents when they come along.

“We won away to Chelsea and Madrid, we beat United and Madrid at home so I think we can do something on Saturday.

“It will difficult, we know that. United are playing really well, especially at home, but we will give it all we can and try to win because we have to take three points.”

Liverpool’s midweek victory is already being regarded as one of their all-time greats on the European stage but Kuyt admits there is little time for sentiment with another major task just around the corner.

He said: “It was definitely one of the biggest results we’ve had in the last few years, it was a great result.

“It feels great to beat Real Madrid at any time but to beat them 1-0 and then 4-0 was even better so we’re very happy but now we have to focus on the next games, starting with Manchester United on Saturday.”

Rafa’s Proved He’s A Master Tactician, Now For Ferguson

Fernando Torres last night hailed Liverpool's famous rout of Real Madrid as a tactical triumph for manager Rafael Benitez.

And the Liverpool striker believes that the Spanish coach can repeat his Champions League success when he goes head to head with Sir Alex Ferguson in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Ferguson is the most decorated coach in domestic football history, but Benitez has few peers in European football in recent years.

Despite his Champions League record with Liverpool and his Uefa Cup success at Valencia, however, Benitez had been criticised by the Spanish press in the build up to Wednesday's knockout round second leg with Real Madrid, for producing functional football teams.

But Liverpool ravaged Real's reputation with a compelling display of attacking football which handed out Madrid's biggest European defeat for 20 years.

Torres explained that their Spanish coach sent out his team supremely prepared.

“I think we prepared for the game better than them.

“The boss was brilliant in explaining how to play against them,” he explained.

“The plan before the game was to play with intensity and with a high-tempo. Spanish football has quality but it is slower, so we knew it would be difficult for them if we played with intensity.

“I am very proud. I am proud of the performance of the team and the performance of the fans. We knew the atmosphere would be amazing but it was even better than we thought.

“This was a big night for Liverpool and for English football as well.

“We showed Real Madrid that this is Anfield and that Liverpool can win against any team here. It was a fantastic performance. After the first goal they knew it would be difficult because they had to score two. The penalty finished the game.”

Liverpool came flying out of the traps and were two goals up inside 27 minutes, effectively ending the tie.

Torres and skipper Steven Gerrard combined to establish the unassailable position and Torres added: “Stevie made me the happiest player in the world on the night and got some more goals – I think he is the Champions League's top scorer now.

“We want to stop our injuries now for Liverpool and for us.

“We have to wait for the draw, but we have confidence now for the Champions League, and also for Saturday against United.”

With Liverpool enjoying a 24-hour advantage over United in preparation time for Saturday's Old Trafford showdown, Torres believes the Reds can repeat their performance levels against their title rivals.

“That is a massive game,” he added. “I hope to win that and have more chances in the league. We know it's very important to win there – if not they will be many points ahead.”

On his own fitness, Torres added: “I feel good. My ankle felt a little bit painful in the second half but that doesn't matter in a match like this. We will work hard from Wednesday morning and I think I will be 100% for Saturday.”

Benitez, who has only beaten Manchester United twice, echoed his striker’s confidence.

The Liverpool boss said: “We have an important game next, but we have played well here, scored four goals and are very confident. That is the best way to prepare for such a game.

“It was important for us to play that well, but we are now facing a very good team and we must win to close the gap at the top. We have a few days to enjoy this result and make sure we are positive and prepared properly for the game at Old Trafford.”

Gerrard scored twice in his 100th European game for the club with Fernando Torres and Andrea Dossena completing the crushing victory.

And Benitez was able to hit back at the critics who have branded him a defensive coach, particularly in his Spanish homeland.

He said: “Yes, I know people in Spain think that my teams do not attack, but look at this result and look at the 119 goals we scored last season. That says something different.

“We are ranked the number one club in Europe by Uefa over the last five years and a result like this against a great club like Real Madrid is very pleasing.”

He added: “We played really well from beginning to the end, and I am really pleased for the fans.

“Why are we so good in Europe? I can only say that we approach European games with confidence and in the right way.”

Real Madrid coach Juande Ramos was deflated by the crushing defeat.

He said: “We are very disappointed and it is sad that we are out and we are obviously not happy with the result.

“We conceded two early goals, and I had my doubts about both. There looked to be a foul for the first and the penalty was not clear at all.

“But Liverpool were excellent and deserved to go through. They were too good on the night, and there is no point in denying that they deserved to go through.”

Ramos, on a short-term contract as manager of Real, was questioned over the likelihood of that deal being extended after such a humiliation.

“Personal issues will be discussed at the end of the season, they are not for now as far as my future is concerned,” he said. “We must concentrate on the league now, we must make a huge effort to catch Barcelona now to restore some pride to the season.”

Vidic Demands Improvement From Manchester United When Liverpool Arrive At Old Trafford

Nemanja Vidic is convinced Manchester United will not be so casual against Liverpool on Saturday as they were against Inter Milan.

It was far from a vintage European night from United as they rode their luck at times in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 clash with Jose Mourinho's Serie A leaders at Old Trafford.

Inter twice struck the woodwork through Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Adriano. Fortunately for the reigning European champions, a goal at the start of each half from Vidic and Cristiano Ronaldo - scoring their sixth and 16th goals of this season respectively - paved their way into the quarter-finals.

It means the Quintuple is still on for Sir Alex Ferguson, who must now turn his attention to the visit of Liverpool, knowing a victory will virtually end Rafael Benitez's Premier League hopes.

But defender Vidic insists United must improve on Wednesday night's display if they are to move 10 points clear, and virtually out of sight of Liverpool.

'We need to forget Inter now,' demanded Vidic. 'Liverpool is the next big game we must play, and they are in good form, full of confidence. They had a great win against Real Madrid (4-0 on Tuesday).

'But we're at home in front of our crowd, and I think, I hope we are going to be much better than we were against Inter.

'We will definitely try to improve, to erase the mistakes we made and play better against Liverpool.'

Vidic refused to be drawn on whether a United win would bring the curtain down on Liverpool's title hopes.

'I don't like to say,' added the 27-year-old Serb. 'If we win we will be 10 points in front of them, but I don't like to think that far.'

Liverpool Can Beat Manchester United - And Anyone Else - Reckons Javier Mascherano

It is a Premier League riddle, wrapped in a Champions League enigma: just why can't Liverpool repeat their European form on the domestic stage?

As Javier Mascherano said straight after Tuesday's incredible demolition of Real Madrid: "When Liverpool play like that we are capable of beating any team."

He was thinking of this weekend's title showdown with Manchester United, and offered the notion as evidence his side can win at Old Trafford to keep alive their dream of being Champions.

The problem is, they simply do not perform that way in the Premier League. Ever.

One senior figure at Anfield, a long-time supporter of Rafa Benitez, said as he left on Tuesday: "It's just a pity we can't play like that against Stoke." It was a sentiment echoed by thousands of Liverpool fans.

It was one of the greatest results in the club's history, with mighty Madrid handed their heavie st-ever Champions League drubbing.

The question remains, what do the likes of Stoke, Hull, Fulham, Wigan, and West Ham have that the Spaniards do not? Or perhaps it is not what those sides possess, but what Liverpool lack.

Against Real, you would have to say they lacked very little.

But as winger Ryan Babel admitted, something has been missing. "We played superbly, but winning any game is possible," he said.

"A season is long, and that's why teams make mistakes.

"We've made a lot mistakes and almost given away the title. It may be it makes a difference if you go at opponents. We've seen a lot of draws in the Premier League and we have fallen behind United because of that."

What Liverpool lack in domestic football is the ability to blow away limited opponents in the way Manchester United do. They have drawn too many times because their game plan too often is based on percentages, rather than United's philosophy that they can always score more goals than weaker sides.

That idea seemed to be grasped by skipper Steven Gerrard. He could not contain his enthusiasm for the tactics against Real.

"The most pleasing thing was the way we kept on going right until the very end, we were awesome," he said.

"When we play like that we pin teams back and just keep on putting pressure on them. We kept on looking for more goals."

Liverpool went at Madrid from the first whistle, but as Gerrard hinted, too often they simply do not start adventurously enough.

Before Tuesday, they had not scored inside the first 40 minutes for 11 matches, and had scored before half time in only two of their last 15 appearances at Anfield, where surely they should passionately be going at their opponents.

But without Gerrard and Fernando Torres, Liverpool are an ordinary team and Benitez must then resort to more pragmatic tactics.

Put bluntly, the answer to the initial question is Liverpool have again slipped out of the title race because they do not have enough top-class creative players or goalscorers.

Frank Lampard Keen To Avoid Liverpool For Fifth Time In Champions League

Frank Lampard has admitted that he wants to avoid Liverpool in next week's Champions League quarter-final draw after being paired with the Premier League rivals in each of the last four seasons.

In three of those four meetings, the teams have met in the semi-finals, with Liverpool winning in 2004 and 2007, while Chelsea succeeded in last year's last four, in dramatic fashion.

Lampard helped Chelsea to a 2-2 draw against Juventus in Turin on Tuesday - and 3-2 aggregate win - but the England midfielder admitted the players were 'fed up' with what has become an annual Champions League clash.

"When you look around at who is left in the competition there is not a team you would say you fancy playing," said Lampard. "Maybe Liverpool don't want to play us either and, to be honest, we are all a bit fed-up of that one. If fate says it should happen then so be it, but I think we would all be happy avoiding it.

"Maybe every other team might not want to play us, but we are thinking about them too. We know whoever we draw will be strong and we will have to perform to go through."

And Lampard revealed that Chelsea are going back to the future to rediscover their form of old and threaten the best both here and in Europe. Lampard, a Stamford Bridge veteran of nearly eight years and more than 400 appearances, admitted that temporary first-team coach Guus Hiddink has helped the players revive their previously flagging fortunes.

The return of Michael Essien, six months after he underwent a knee operation, highlighted Chelsea's new-found confidence and belief and, after seven games without loss, including six wins, Chelsea have become difficult to beat again. Essien epitomised the Chelsea of old, a side of power and passion and one determined to fight for the right to win.

Against Juventus, Chelsea had a perfectly good goal disallowed, with television cameras showing that Didier Drogba's late first half effort crossed the line. And then the players had to keep their discipline when the Spanish referee awarded Juve a penalty.

"It was a big result for us to come through," said Lampard. "It says a lot about Chelsea. Even when we are faced with incidents like perfectly good goals being disallowed and penalties given against us we show the kind of spirit that gets that gets the job done. It is very important in those sort of situations that you keep going.

"The spirit we have had in the last five years is what we are all about. And with the quality we have in the squad we should be able to do that. It is all done to the players and at times this season maybe we didn't have that and it showed.

"But against Juventus, and in the last five games, we have shown just how together we are and when you have got the quality we have in the team you can achieve whatever you want."

The Hiddink effect has changed attitudes at Chelsea, and Lampard added: "He's done very well though the changes he has made have been subtle.

"It is always going to be difficult for a manager coming in mid-season but it is also very important players respond to what he says and we have shown that we have."

One problem Hiddink has yet to eradicate is Chelsea's poor away form in Europe; they have not won on their travels since November 2007 and Lampard admitted that had to change.

"Thankfully we scored twice and when you get to this stage of the competition performances away from home are vital. They are not always going to be the most beautiful performances, but we have to be tactically very clever and games in qualifying we weren't always like that.

"In Rome we were very open and against Bordeaux we didn't play well, but now is crunch time and we have shown we are capable. We were slow to start in the first 25-30 minutes (in Turin) when they were better than us, but we came through it."

Liverpool FC Impressed With Spearing After Debut

Jay Spearing has won plaudits for his rise through the Anfield ranks and emergence into Liverpool’s first team.

The 20 year-old was a second half replacement for Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard in the Reds’ commanding 4-0 win over Real Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday night and savoured every second of the encounter.

“It was an unbelievable night for me and it is hard to describe what I am feeling right now,” said Spearing.”

“Rafa just told me just to sit in and to try and enjoy myself which helped me relax a little bit.

“He said I had nothing to lose because we were 3-0 up and just to concentrate on trying to show what I could do. I don’t think it has sunk in properly yet.”

Spearing signed as a trainee for Liverpool on January 1, 2007 and made his first team debut on December 9 last year in the Reds’ 3-1 Champions League Group Stage win at PSV Eindhoven.

Reserve team manager Gary Ablett joined in the praise for Spearing. He said: “We are delighted for Jay.”

“Since I've been back at the club working with him, Jay has worked ever so hard every single day.

“He always gives his best and he got his just reward when Rafa gave him his opportunity.”

Spanish Press Praise Liverpool And Crucify Real Madrid After Champions League Rout

Spanish papers wasted no time putting the boot into Real Madrid after their pathetic display contributed to a night of glory for Liverpool.

The nightmare went on for Real fans, who woke up to horror headlines 'Madrid humiliated in Europe', 'Liverpool - white cemetery' and' Madrid crash to earth'.

The daily ABC wrote: "Liverpool gave a provincial looking Madrid a lesson in what Europe is.

"Their devastating play made Madrid look like they weren't at the game: no possession, no ideas, no energy and lacking control or width.

"A stellar Torres knocked Madrid to the ground and Gerrard buried them." El Pais blamed the Spanish champions' dismal showing partly on the club's recent internal problems, which it said urgently needed to be resolved.

Real have an interim president following Ramon Calderon's resignation in a vote-rigging scandal and El Pais said elections must be held sooner rather than later so a new president can breathe life into the club.

"Madrid have hit rock bottom." wrote El Pais.

"They have been there for a while on the institutional side and now they have fallen off a cliff in the sporting arena."

Torres Needed Injection To Play For Liverpool FC

Rafael Benitez has revealed that Fernando Torres needed a pain-killing injection and all his powers of persuasion to have the chance to destroy Real Madrid.

Torres took special delight in his goal-scoring performance as Liverpool sent Real crashing out of the Champions League with a 5-0 aggregate win on Tuesday.

A lifelong Atletico Madrid fan who spent 12 years as a player at the Vicente Calderon, Torres had longed for the moment to deal such a blow to Real.

And not even a heavily strapped and painful ankle injury was going to stop him, even though he faces a race against time to be fit to face Manchester United in the Premier League on Saturday.

Torres had barely trained in the fortnight since he picked up the injury in the 1-0 first-leg victory in the Bernabeu.

Manager Benitez said: “Fernando had only light training for three days but he desperately wanted to play against his former rivals.

“He caused so many problems, they could not handle him or his passion. But there was great commitment from all of my players.

“Fernando did his best to convince me to let him play. We talked a lot about it beforehand and he kept telling me he was 100%.

“But he still needed an injection in the ankle and it was heavily strapped up.

“Playing against Real, particularly with his past at Atletico Madrid, was so important for him. The strapping was very strong, but we felt it was right to take the gamble.”

Aurelio: 'Liverpool FC Victory Meant A Lot To Benitez'

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez felt he needed to prove himself against Real Madrid, according to defender Fabio Aurelio.

Benitez spent 15 years as a player and coach at the Bernabeu before leaving to learn his managerial craft, famously winning the Primera Liga crown twice with Valencia.

And on Tuesday he masterminded one of Liverpool’s greatest European achievements with a 5-0 aggregate victory over Real Madrid to send them out of the Champions League, with the Anfield club reaching the quarter-finals for the fourth time in five years.

The devastating 4-0 thrashing of Real at Anfield has shaken the Spanish champions – nine times European Cup winners – to the core and there could be far-reaching consequences, with the future of caretaker coach Juande Ramos now in serious doubt.

Brazilian full-back Aurelio, who played under Benitez at Valencia, said: “It was the performance that Rafa was looking for before the game, but it was even better maybe than any of us expected.

“The victory meant a lot to Rafa, too. He comes from Madrid, he worked and played for Real.

“So it was important for him to show that he has grown as a manager, he is as pleased about the result as all of us.

“He has achieved many fine results in the Champions League, but this was a fine, attacking victory. That, too, was important because of the things that Madrid had been saying about us before the game.

“That we were boring and defensive, that we only wanted a 0-0 in the Bernabeu and we were not interested in playing good football.”

He added: “We have shown that we can also be a strong, attacking team. In Gerrard and Torres we have fine players who can score goals. That is what made the result so beautiful for us, to play like that and score those goals. We can be an attacking team as well.

“It was a perfect result and a perfect performance. Perfect, just perfect.

“It was probably our best performance of the season, we passed the ball well, defended well and attacked well.”

Benitez, whose European record at Liverpool now stands at 42 wins from 69 matches, with only 13 defeats, said: “It was a special night and a special performance.

“The players were fantastic from the first minute to the last.

“I was very pleased with the positive performance right from the start.”

Liverpool FC Youth Team Lose 1-0 At Wolves In FA Premier Academy League

Liverpool Under-18s came back down to earth after their cup heroics as they lost 1-0 at Wolves in the FA Premier Academy League.

It was the Reds’ first match since they beat Bolton 4-2 at Anfield to progress to the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup.

Coach Hughie McAuley opted to ring the changes to give some of the younger members of his squad a chance to shine.

Consistent performers such as top scorer Lauri Dalla Valle and midfielders David Amoo and Thomas Ince were left on the bench.

The only goal came midway through the second half after some sloppy defending. The Reds created a couple of half chances but Alex Cooper and Nathan Eccleston failed to take them.

McAuley said: “We played three schoolboys and rotated the squad to give everybody a game.

“We rested some lads from the Youth Cup team. In terms of the result it didn’t work out, but all the lads who came in did OK and they will be better for the experience.

“It wasn’t a great game. It was very windy, the pitch was hard and the ball was all over the place.

“But it gave us an opportunity to look at a few lads and that is what we will do for the rest of the season.”

McAuley will be looking for a response when the Reds entertain Blackburn on Saturday (11am).

When the sides met in October the Reds were hammered 4-0.

“They gave us a hiding very early on in the season so it gives us a chance to redeem the situation and put the record straight if you like,” he added.

“But we are looking at the situation as regards who to play each week.

“We only have seven league games left. Those who didn’t have much action last week may come back in because they need to play.

“We need to prepare well for when the Youth Cup semi-final comes around in about another three weeks.”

Liverpool’s opponents in the semi-final will be either Birmingham City or Watford, who won 3-2 at Ipswich in the fifth round last weekend.

The other two-legged semi-final will see holders Manchester City take on six-time winners Arsenal.

James Ellison is still out with a back problem but Spanish centre-back Daniel Ayala should return before the Youth Cup tie.

LIVERPOOL UNDER-18s: Chamberlain, Wisdom, Coady, Kennedy, Buchtmann, Roberts, Kacaniklic (Amoo 60), Pepper (Dalla Valle 60), Clare, Eccleston, Cooper. Subs: Ince, Hakan Duyan.