Friday, March 13, 2009

Giggs Wary Of Reds Threat

Ryan Giggs insists Manchester United will not be caught off guard by Liverpool's Jekyll and Hyde form.

Rafael Benitez's side are going well in the UEFA Champions League but their Premier League form is mixed meaning Saturday's game - live on Sky Sports 1 and HD 1 - is one they must win.

Despite Liverpool's hot-and-cold nature, Giggs is fully expecting Liverpool to be firing on all cylinders.

"They've proven again this season they are a top European side, something they've managed to do over the last four or five years," assessed Giggs.

"But this year I feel they've improved, they've got good players, and so we're not going to be complacent. We know we will need to play well to win.

"If we do then it will obviously make it difficult for them to win the title.

"The games might be running out and the momentum is with us, but we still have to go out and win.

"I'm sure after their great result and performance the other night they'll be looking forward to the game as much as we are.

"No matter what is riding on the outcome, United v Liverpool is one of the games of the season, and as they're our closest rivals right now, along with Chelsea, it makes it a massive game."

Rio Ferdinand also appreciates the season does not end tomorrow.

"Could it end their title chances? Possibly, but we still have games after that to win," stated Ferdinand.

"People say 'If you win this game, you win the league', but it just continues until it's mathematically over and one team wins it, and hopefully that will be us.

"If we win it will obviously make it hard for them, but I couldn't care what happens to Liverpool as long as we beat them.

"If we do that and that leads to people thinking they're out of it, then so be it."

Rooney Wants To End Reds' Title Bid

Wayne Rooney has admitted he cannot wait for Manchester United's clash with Liverpool on Saturday so he can help end the Anfield side's title dreams.

The striker and his family were all Everton fans growing up and he achieved his dream of playing for his hometown club after coming through the ranks and starring for the Toffees himself.

His own relationship with Everton and their fans is now less than perfect following his move to Manchester United - but his feelings about their arch-rivals remain.

"I'm very excited about the match," he told MUTV. "I grew up an Everton fan, my whole family are Everton fans and I grew up hating Liverpool - that hasn't changed.

"Liverpool have been brilliant and put up a good challenge, but it will be great if on Saturday we can finally finish that challenge off.

"For me, it is our biggest game of the season. If we can beat Liverpool it will almost certainly put them out of the title race.

"For everyone at United, especially myself, that would be a great feeling.

"They are always anxious games against them and I am sure it will be frantic with a lot of challenges.

"It's a massive fixture for both clubs with what's at stake."

Rooney also fired a warning to both Liverpool and Chelsea by insisting that United have more to offer, despite the fact they are already well on course for an unprecedented haul of five trophies in one season.

The Carling Cup and FIFA Club World Cup are already in the Old Trafford trophy cabinet, whilst the Red Devils are in the FA Cup semi-finals and last eight of the Champions League.

They are also seven points clear at the top of the Premier League, but despite this Rooney still thinks United have yet to reach their best this term.

"We can still get better this season, we can score more goals. Chelsea used to win games 1-0 and if they got a goal they didn't look like conceding," Rooney said.

"It's the same with ourselves now. With our defence we are confident we can hold on to the lead.

"But we have been working hard in training on taking more chances and we have done better at that."

Reina Points To United Spending

Jose Reina has told Sky Sports News it is 'almost impossible' for Liverpool to compete with Manchester United's spending power.

The Reds tackle table-toppers United on Saturday, live on Sky Sports 1 & HD1, in a must-win game if they are to keep their faint title hopes alive.

Reina is wary of the test that lies ahead at Old Trafford, as they look to close the gap to four points, and has pointed to the quality United boast, having bolstered heavily in recent years.

The Spanish keeper told Sky Sports News: "If they beat us or we draw it will be very difficult.

"They have spent a lot of money in the last three or four years. It makes a big difference when you spend more than £100million.

"It makes you even stronger than you already are. Carlos Tevez is a big price, (Wayne) Rooney is big money, Cristiano Ronaldo, (Dimitar) Berbatov etc.

"To compete with that is almost impossible. To face this kind of team with the power in attack and the players of this quality, it is always difficult to defend.

"They have a really strong squad and they can use different players. It is tough."

Reina is hoping for a repeat performance of Tuesday night's impressive 4-0 UEFA Champions League victory over Real Madrid.

He added: "We have to perform the same way and it is in our hands to perform that way. We believe we can do it again."

Liverpool FC's Javier Mascherano Says Fernando Torres Will Inspire Title Race Come-Back

Javier Mascherano has backed a Fernando Torres-inspired Liverpool to claw their way back into the title race tomorrow with victory at Old Trafford.

Liverpool, who are seven points adrift of Premier League leaders Manchester United, trailing second-placed Chelsea on goal difference, realise that they will probably have to beat Sir Alex Ferguson’s side on their own turf this weekend if they’re to have any realistic hopes of knocking the English and European champions off top spot and preventing them from equalling their all-time record title haul of 18 this season.

With so much at stake, Rafael Benitez’s men encouragingly warmed up for their Old Trafford showdown in fine style by demolishing Real Madrid 4-0 in the Champions League at Anfield on Tuesday night.

Liverpool were inspired by an impressive display from Torres, the former idol of Real’s neighbours Atletico, with the striker netting the opening goal and Mascherano has backed the Spanish international and his team-mates to put in a similar display against their North West rivals tomorrow.

The Argentinian skipper reckons that if Torres and Liverpool show the kind of form they displayed against Real then nobody will be able to stop them – not even United.

He said: "From the beginning we were on top of Madrid and we didn’t allow them to play.

"We are happy after that result.

"We know it will be really difficult to play United but we have to try to play in the same way we played on Tuesday.

"We played very well (against Real). Fernando Torres was unbelievable and hopefully on Saturday he can be the same.

"If we play like that in all the games, it will be difficult for any team to beat us."

Torres was an unused substitute during Liverpool’s 2-1 win over Manchester United in September – their first Premier League success over them during Benitez’s stewardship as the Anfield outfit started the season brightly and looked likely to record their first title success since English top flight football was rebranded.

Ironically, since manager Benitez launched into Old Trafford counterpart Ferguson with a verbal tirade in the New Year, Liverpool have dropped off the pace at the summit but Mascherano believes that their emphatic midweek victory over the Spanish giants has given boosted confidence in the camp.

He said: "In the last two or three years we have been playing against top sides and we have proved we can beat them.

"We are in the quarter- finals of the Champions League so the teams are really good but we know, if we play like we did against Madrid, we can beat anyone."

Mascherano is also determined to keep his cool when he returns to Old Trafford for the first time since losing his cool last season.

Just less than 12 months ago, the midfielder was sent off a minute before half-time for a second bookable offence when referee Steve Bennett cautioned him for dissent.

The 24-year-old exploded in rage at what he felt was an injustice and had to be escorted from the field by team-mates.

He was subsequently charged with improper conduct by the Football Association and received a two-match suspension in addition to his statutory one- game ban.

Liverpool, trailing 1-0 at the time, went on to concede a further two goals, but Mascherano insists he has learned his lesson and history will not repeat itself tomorrow.

"It was really difficult for me but I am sure that situation will not happen again", he said.

"We are in the title race and we need to think about winning there and then see what happens.

"First you have to win. The most important thing for us is to try to win and give the supporters a happy day."

Liverpool Reserves' Philip Degen Limps Off After Scoring In Reserves Draw

Full-back Philipp Degen’s injury woes continued after he limped off after scoring in Liverpool Reserves 2-2 draw with Manchester United in the FA Premier Reserve League Northern Section at the Warrington’s Halliwell Jones Stadium last night.

The Swiss international scored after four minutes as he made his latest comeback from injury, but 20 minutes later he was hobbling off to be replaced by Ryan Crowther.

Following a clearance by Mikel San Jose United keeper Tomasz Kuszczak and defender Robert Brady failed to deal with it and Degen nipped in score into an empty net.

Dani Pacheco almost got in on a similar mix-up, before United cleared.

But after 20 minutes United equalised when Danny Welbeck lobbed Liverpool’s Australian keeper Dean Bouzanis.

Soon after Degen went off.

Then 10 minutes before the break United went in front. Lee Martin sent Fabio through in a one-on-one with Bouzanis and the Brazilian fired home.

Liverpool coach Gary Ablett had to make another change before the break as Brazilian Victor Flora also went off injured and was replaced by Jay Spearing, who featured in the first team’s 4-0 defeat of Real Madrid earlier in the week.

The Wirral-born midfielder played his part after the break as Liverpool pushed for victory.

Four minutes after the restart Vincent Weijl set up Pacheco to fire past Kuszczak to make it 2-2.

Spearing and Pacheco tried to help Liverpool to claim all three points but they couldn’t take the chances that came their way.

Captain Martin Kelly saw one shot blocked, while Pachecowent close with a free-kick from 25 yards.

But in the end Liverpool had to settle for a point.

Zinedine Zidane: Liverpool's Steven Gerrard Is The World's Best Player

Zinedine Zidane, who is a three-time World Player of the Year winner, has given his verdict on who he believes the best football player in the world at present is: Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard.

The legendary French international, who won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 with les Bleus, believes it is the England midfielder's all-round play that sets him apart from other world-class stars.

"Is he the best in the world? He might not get the attention of Lionel Messi and [Cristiano] Ronaldo but yes, I think he just might be," Zidane is quoted as saying in The Daily Mail when asked about Gerrard following Liverpool's 4-0 win over Real Madrid on Tuesday evening.

"If you don't have a player like Steven Gerrard, who is the engine room, it can affect the whole team.

"When we were winning league titles and European Cups at Real, I always said Claude Makelele was our most important player.

"There is no way myself, Luis Figo or Raul would have been able to do what we did without Claude and the same goes for Liverpool and Gerrard.

"He has great passing ability, can tackle and scores goals, but most importantly he gives the players around him confidence and belief.

"You can't learn that, players like him are just born with that presence."

Rafael Benitez To Resume Liverpool Contract Negotiations Next Week

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has revealed that his future at Anfield will be decided within the next month, with negotiations over a contract extension expected to begin next week.

"Next week I am going to study my present and my future with my bosses," Benitez is quoted as saying in British broadsheet The Guardian.

"I have to decide on my future in the next two weeks."

While the 48-year-old denied claims that he is ready to leave the Reds for hometown club Real Madrid, the former Valencia head coach suggested that he could leave the Merseyside-based outfit should he fail to receive the type of contract he is after.

"People who see me leaving for Madrid are wrong,” he stated. “I have a contract with Liverpool, I owe Liverpool and I am only thinking about Liverpool.

"I am happy here and there is a project under way. I have been here for five years and [if I was to stay] from now on things would be easier.

"I want a medium or long-term project. I don't want to be working day to day, always hanging on the latest result, without a programme to follow or an idea to develop over a period of time.

"What I want is hard to find in Spain. Long-term projects do not exist [in Spain], like they do in England. I am young as coaches go and I can't predict my future.

"Real Madrid are a great club, a very great club, but I am at another wonderful club, one that really motivates me. I will work where I feel I can develop a project."

Fernando Torres To Pepe: Real Madrid Have Nine European Cups, You Have None

El Nino did not only have the satisfaction of knocking Los Blancos out of the Champions League, but he also had the last laugh in two personal battles.

Liverpool hot-shot Fernando Torres got an overdose of vengeance this week after helping his side cruise past his bitter enemies, Real Madrid, in the Champions League last Tuesday.

El Nino, who had never tasted victory over Los Blancos during his time at Atletico Madrid, played a huge role in the second-leg clash at Anfield to guide his side to a thumping 4-0 win. But not only that, he also had a sweet taste of revenge against both Pepe and Vicente Boluda.

The Portuguese defender had boomed prior to the game that he knew exactly what to do to stop Torres. But it was the Reds striker who outfoxed the Whites centre-back to score the game’s opening goal.

The two continued to tussle throughout the encounter and at one point, according to Marca, Pepe was caught mouthing off to Torres during a face-to-face skirmish, “We have nine European cups,” to which the Spaniard replied, “Yes, but you have zero.”

Torres also put one over Madrid president Vicente Boluda, who had infamously predicted that his side would walk all over Liverpool at Anfield.

After scoring the first goal and celebrating with his team-mates, the 24-year-old striker, who had failed to make an impact at the Santiago Bernabeu in the first leg, marched over to Anfield’s theatre box and gestured to Boluda to keep quiet.

Torres had previously only ever scored one goal against Real Madrid.

Benitez Holds Leto Hope

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez hopes Argentine winger Sebastian Leto will qualify for a work permit to play in England next season.

The Reds were forced to loan out Leto for the season after the 21-year-old failed tp secure a permit from the Department of Work and Pensions after his Italian passport, which allowed him to play for the club last season, was revoked.

Leto has impressed during his time with Greek outfit Olympiakos, although his tenure has been littered with disciplinary problems that include being dropped after reportedly kicking balls at the club's coaching staff in training.

Benitez claims Leto's pedigree means he should qualify for a permit to play in England and that the rules should be changed to allow someone of his quality to feature in the Premier League.

"Leto is an asset for Liverpool and I hope that he will get the work permit in order to have him with us next season," Benitez told SportDay.

"I am disappointed at what happened last summer. It was a surprise for us that he didn't manage to secure a work permit.

"Leto played a high level football back in Argentina. He has experience for Argentina's Olympic team and played some Champions League games for us.

"Everybody says that he is good enough. There were a lot of clubs in Italy and Spain wanting him and he can't play with us in Premier League. I think that this rule must change.

"I hope him performing well for another club in another country and making his mark at the European competitions, the authorities have to admit this rule is wrong."