Monday, April 06, 2009

Liverpool FC Still Believe The Title Could Be Theirs

BRAZILIAN midfielder Lucas reckons that Liverpool’s dramatic last-gasp victory over Fulham has given them the belief that they can finally land the Premier League title.

Liverpool returned to the summit on Saturday night courtesy of substitute Yossi Benayoun’s injury-time strike at Craven Cottage but dropped back down to second yesterday following Manchester United’s dramatic late victory over Aston Villa.

Despite winning the old First Division on a record 18 occasions, Liverpool, who were 11 titles ahead of United when English football’s top flight was revolutionised in 1992, have yet to add to their tally while Sir Alex Ferguson’s men’s dominance of domestic football has seen them climb to 17 championships, just one behind their North West of England rivals.

With both sides going toe-to-toe this term, the name at the top has changed on several occasions with Liverpool seeing their big lead in the New Year eroded by the Old Trafford outfit, only to fight back in recent weeks with an historic 4-1 win at United which rocked the Red Devils, who went down 2-0 at Fulham the following week while Benitez’s men triumphed 5-0 over Aston Villa at Anfield.

Although Liverpool dominated the game at Craven Cottage on Saturday evening, they wasted several golden opportunities to go ahead in the first half with Andrea Dossena striking the crossbar twice, Xabi Alonso hitting the bar and Fernando Torres seeing a shot rebound off the post.

The winner eventually came two minutes into stoppage time from Yossi Benayoun and given the dramatic nature of their victory, which was understandably greeted by great adulation from the travelling supporters who remained singing in the away end for several minutes after the game had finished, preventing Liverpool’s players from embarking on their usual post-match warm-down, Lucas reckons that everyone at the Anfield outfit now feels they can be champions again this season.

He said: “I think we really do believe we can win the league now.

“We deserved the win, especially the way we played in the first half with four efforts hitting the woodwork but now we must keep going.

“There are still seven more Premier League games so we must keep working hard but I think we have enough quality to win the title.

“Whatever Manchester United did against Villa this gave us the belief – especially the fans.

“We are in a fantastic position now, we have confidence, everybody is playing well so that’s the most important thing, especially at the end of the season, and everyone is fit.”

The victory at Craven Cottage also displayed the character within Liverpool’s team as they showed the mental strength to overcome their earlier spurned opportunities to keep battling right through to the final whistle to secure the three points.

Lucas said: “We knew we must keep going until the end, we had lost some games in the last minute but Yossi (Benayoun) proved that the squad is important as he came from the bench to score the winning goal.

“I don’t remember a first half like that, I remember the Real Madrid game but we took all our chances then.”

With Javier Mascherano suspended for Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final first leg with Chelsea at Anfield, it was widely predicted that the Argentinian would feature against Fulham.

Mascherano endured a miserable trip last week with his country as he skippered Argentina in their 6-1 shock defeat in a World Cup qualifier away to Bolivia.

However, Lucas was delighted to be given his chance and knows all too well why his fellow South American was feeling jaded after his international exploits.

He said: “We knew Javier could be a bit tired because he had a long trip from Argentina. It is always really difficult, I know as I’ve played for Brazil and the journey takes a long time.

“But I was ready and had the chance and I had to take it.”

Torres: Forget The Title Race, Liverpool's Dream Is To Win The Champions League

Fernando Torres has told arch rivals Manchester United that the Champions League means more to Liverpool than the bitter title race.

The two giants are involved in a dramatic scrap as the battle at the top of the Barclays Premier League reaches boiling point.

United leapfrogged Liverpool to regain pole position after Federico Macheda's sensational last-gasp goal in the 3-2 victory over Aston Villa yesterday.

Torres' side are chasing their first title since 1990 but the Spanish hitman insists their main aim is to grab European glory.

'Domestic titles are very important but to win the Champions League you are saying we are the best team in Europe,' he said. 'This club has a great record in the European Cup but now I want to be a part of that history.

'Winning the European Championship was a great thing for me and I understood what it was to win a major trophy and what I had been missing.

'On the way home from the European Championship I made a promise that I wanted more of this success with Liverpool and it does not come any bigger than the European Cup.'

Liverpool, who take on English rivals Chelsea in the quarter-final first leg on Wednesday, are desperate to reach their third final in five years.

And Torres reckons they are capable of glory with inspirationals skipper Steven Gerrard at the helm.

'Stevie has been getting a lot of praise from some of the best players in the world,' he said.

'That is quite right because I think he is the best in the world. He is a great team player but he can also win a game on his own when maybe we are not playing so well.

'I would love to see him have a lot more success. I cannot think of a player I would rather be playing with.

'We know it is not going to be easy against Chelsea on Wednesday but both Stevie and I are happy with our form.'

Torres has also revealed that he has no intention of quitting Liverpool.

'I have said many times the only club I would leave Atletico for was Liverpool, and nothing has changed there,' he said.

'They are the only two clubs that are in my heart. I have supported Liverpool since I was a boy and I intend on staying here a very long time.'

Rafa Hopeful On Gerrard Fitness

Rafa Benitez is confident Steven Gerrard will shake off a minor niggle in time to face Chelsea in the Champions League on Wednesday night.

Gerrard was substituted late on in Liverpool’s dramatic last-gasp win over Fulham on Saturday.

Benitez has admitted Gerrard reported a groin problem, but the Spaniard is confident a couple of days of treatment will remedy the complaint.

"Steven had some problems, but I think he will be okay for Wednesday," said Benitez.

"He was a little bit tired and he felt something a bit tight. We will see."

Benitez will be desperate for Gerrard to be passed fit to enable him to continue his partnership with Fernando Torrres.

"Gerrard will stay in that position for us," said Benitez. "He is so good that he can play in different positions and if we need to change him for one specific game we can do that.

"But the team has balance with Gerrard and Torres in those positions and two midfield players behind.”

Benayoun's Twin Target

Liverpool star Yossi Benayoun believes they can juggle the demands of the Premier League and UEFA Champions League.

The Reds face Chelsea this week in the Champions League quarter-finals aiming to maintain their fine run of form as they challenge for honours at home and abroad.

Benayoun, who scored the dramatic winner in the last-gasp victory over Fulham at the weekend, feels Liverpool have proved they can fight for both competitions.

"It's a huge week. We have a massive game against Chelsea and hopefully we will be able to show all the good feelings of the strength and hard work to beat them," said Benayoun.

"We're very confident but we have to think now only about the next game. The main thing is to concentrate on Chelsea, after that Blackburn and then game by game to the end of the season.

"Every season is a test for Liverpool. You need to try to do your best in the league and the Champions League.

"It's true that in the past few seasons we weren't in the race for the title but we've shown a lot of character in the last few games in the Champions League.

"We beat Real Madrid and United in the league. We've proved we can manage with both of them."

Liverpool Skipper Steven Gerrard Turned Down Chelsea Twice

Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard has stated that it's the Reds turn to win the Premier League and also admitted that a couple of years ago he may have been persuaded with a move away from Anfield.

The Blues made a bid of around £32 million for Gerrard when it looked as though the Liverpool captain would not sign a new contract at Anfield, and according to the Sunday Express, the midfielder was close to a move.

The 28-year-old has dreamed of lifting the Premier League trophy for the club for the first time, and this season they are closer than they have ever been.

The club is currently battling with Manchester United at the summit of the Premier League table.

However, after the Reds 4-1 thumping of United at Old Trafford, Gerrard believes that the tide has begun to turn Liverpool's way and everything is gearing up for one of the closest Premier League finishes in history.

Speaking to the Sunday Express, Gerrard said, "It’s been too long. Over the last few years we’ve finished the season miles behind Chelsea and Manchester United, so at least this season shows the progress we’ve made.

"A club like Liverpool should be in the title race and we should stay in it until the end. We were surprised that Manchester United lost two games on the spin, with the quality they have, and the run they’d been on – 14 games unbeaten.

"It was surprising we got back into the race, so it’s important that we take this final chance."

Liverpool's next challenge comes in their Champions League quarter-final against rivals Chelsea, before a tough home game against Blackburn Rovers next Saturday.

Be Patient With 'Brilliant' N’gog

Gerard Houllier has told Liverpool fans to be patient with David N’gog during an exclusive interview with

The 20-year-old striker has come in for criticism for his lack of sharpness in front of goal, but France’s technical director Houllier has urged fans and experts to give him the time he needs to settle.

The former Liverpool manager has backed N’gog to make the most of training with Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, and then make a name for himself at Anfield.

“He is so young, 20 years of age and plays for the Under-21s. I think that we always tend to be impatient with young players,” Houllier told

“We have to wait. Besides he is part of a great club where he will learn a lot.

“When you train and play with world-class players, obviously you naturally improve.”

The France Under-21 international shone in the 2-0 victory over England at Nottingham’s City Ground, and Houllier has rated his display as ‘brilliant’.

“First of all I would use Bill Shankly’s words by saying: at least, he put himself in the position to score goals,” he added.

“As far as I am concerned I think that he played extremely well for the team thanks to his movement, control, passes and flicks.

“Two or three times he showed brilliant movement and it is a shame that he did not score, he was unlucky.”

Liverpool Target Barry Plans Summer Talks With O'Neill

Gareth Barry will hold talks about his Aston Villa future with boss Martin O'Neill if the club fails to qualify for the Champions League.

The Villa captain was keen to move to Liverpool last summer to fulfill his European ambition but O'Neill refused to sell the midfielder.

Barry hinted he would stay at the club beyond this summer if Villa qualified for the Champions League but a poor run of form has seen them surrender fourth-place to Arsenal.

Sunday's last-gasp defeat to Manchester United left them six points behind the Gunners and without a win in five league games.

It will take a major turnaround for Villa to overtake Arsenal once more and Barry admits, if they don't, he will seek a summit with O'Neill.

'My aim is for us to finish in the top four and play Champions League football at Villa Park. It's a big ask but it's more than achievable,' he said last night.

'If it doesn't happen, at the end of the season I'll speak with the manager about my future.'

Real Madrid Star Fernando Gago Wanted By Chelsea & Liverpool

Former Boca Juniors star Fernando Gago has emerged as a transfer target for Liverpool and Chelsea, both of whom are interested in bringing the Real Madrid midfielder to the English Premier League in the summer.

According to reports in British newspaper The People, Gago’s displays in the centre of Los Merengues midfield have made a number of English teams sit up and take notice of his no-nonsense midfield style.

Arsenal were said to be interested in the 22-year-old Argentine, as the speculation over Cesc Fabregas’ future continues to rage, but it has emerged that rivals Liverpool and Chelsea are also admirers of Gago.

Although no formal approach has been received by Real Madrid and there has been no hint of interest from either of the Premier League clubs, The People speculate that the player himself would not be against the idea of a move to England, at some point in his career.

Gago, who moved to Spain in 2007 for a fee of €20.5m making over 60 appearances for Los Blancos, is reported to have said, “I would always seek the best for me, not only in football but to develop as a person.

“When I feel comfortable, I feel happy and it shows in my game.”

However, Gago is highly regarded at the Bernabeu and it would take an enormous bid for Real Madrid to even consider parting with one of their biggest prospects.

Liverpool Hand Youngster Nathan Eccleston Two-Year Contract

According to a report in the British tabloid The Daily Mirror, Liverpool have handed youngster Nathan Eccleston a new two-year contract to stave off interest from Premier League rivals.

It is claimed that Blackburn Rovers and Everton had shown an interest in the highly-rated 18-year-old, prompting the Reds to secure his future at Anfield.

The striker apparently played a key role in Liverpool's FA Youth Cup triumph last season and has helped the team to the semi-final stage this campaign.

The England youth international's contract was due to expire at the end of the season, but manager Rafael Benitez was keen to keep the promising 5ft 10in forward at the club.