Friday, April 17, 2009

Dirk Kuyt Warns Manchester United Liverpool Will Not Give Up Title Chase

Liverpool striker Dirk Kuyt has warned Sir Alex Ferguson the title challenge is far from over.

The Manchester United boss pointedly suggested last week that whoever lost the Champions' League tie between the Reds and Chelsea would have their confidence shattered in the Premier League.

But despite crashing out of Europe, Kuyt believes the heroic performance of his side at Stamford Bridge will inspire Liverpool.

"There is far more to come from us and we will be giving everything to win the league," said Kuyt. "It is not over yet, far from it.

"If United struggle at all, they know we will be there, right behind them. We showed against Chelsea that we never give up the fight - ever.

"We showed a lot of character and this team proved that we can do that in the league too. We really believe we can bounce back after that performance."

Kuyt's battling words have been echoed by many of the Liverpool squad after the thrilling 4-4 draw at Chelsea.

Defender Fabio Aurelio, who scored one of the cheekiest goals of all time with a near-post free-kick, added: "We didn't win at Chelsea, but we did show that almost everything is possible in football, and so we can keep believing we can win the title.

"Now, we have only one competition to focus on, and even though we are behind we won't have any distractions, so who knows."

Liverpool FC's Charles Itandje In Hillsborough Storm

Charles Itandje’s Liverpool career could be in jeopardy following allegations that he behaved inappropriately at Wednesday’s Hillsborough memorial service.

Television footage of the event appeared to show the out of favour keeper fooling around during the ceremony and senior officials at Liverpool are already looking into the incident with a view to taking disciplinary action against him.

Hundreds of outraged Liverpool supporters have complained about Itandje’s behaviour on internet message boards with most pointing out that his behaviour was totally at odds with the solemn occasion which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy in which 96 Reds fans lost their lives.

The rest of the Liverpool squad conducted themselves impeccably during the service, as did members of the youth and reserve teams who were also present.

A senior Anfield figure who has viewed the footage from Wednesday’s service admitted to the ECHO that Itandje’s behaviour on Wednesday was “wholly unacceptable” and confirmed that the club is looking into the possibility of taking appropriate action against the 26-year-old.

Rafa Benitez is also said to be disgusted having seen the images himself having been alerted to the issue and has moved swiftly to seek action against the player.

Itandje joined Liverpool on a free transfer in the summer of 2007 and the former Lens man has only featured in seven first team games since then with his last appearance coming in last season’s shock FA Cup exit at the hands of Barnsley.

Though he retains a squad number, Itandje has not been included in Benitez’s first team squad all season and unsuccessful attempts have been made to offload him in the last two transfer windows.

Reina: We Can Still Win The Title For Rafa

Pepe Reina has told Liverpool to use their ­heroics in Europe to inspire them to the Premier League title.

Rafa Benitez’s side crashed out of the Champions League at Chelsea after an epic 4-4 draw saw them lose the tie 7-5 on aggregate.

But keeper Reina reckons the Kop boys must now turn their disappointment into a title charge for their boss and the fans.

Liverpool trail leaders Manchester United by a point with six games to go, although Sir Alex Ferguson’s side crucially have a game in hand.

The Reds are next in action in five days’ time when Arsenal visit Anfield, but Reina has told his team-mates they are still well and truly in the ­trophy hunt.

“We are still positive for the Premier League,” said a defiant Reina.

“There are six games remaining and we have to win them all. It’s in United’s hands. We must try to win them and wait.

“But we will never give up. We are Liverpool – that’s our character and the way we are.

“We will continue to fight until the end.”

Recalling the thrilling night at Stamford Bridge, Reina said: “We tried everything to turn it around, but in the end it was a pity.

“We are disappointed because we didn’t get through – but to be honest the lads are really proud of themselves.

“We have to be because we gave it our all, but we just ­couldn’t manage to do it.

“Whoever plays for Liverpool always plays with his heart and soul.

“All we could give was passion with commitment and effort.” Reina accepts being at fault for the own-goal which put Chelsea back in control in the quarter-final second leg.

The Spaniard was caught out in the 52nd minute by Didier Drogba’s faint touch on a Nicolas Anelka cross and fumbled the ball over the line to make the score 2-1 on the night.

“It was bad positioning by me,” he said. “I was too in the middle of the goal.

“I should have been closer to the near post. It was my mistake.

“I have to recognise it – that’s the life of a goalkeeper.”

Midfielder Xabi Alonso added: “It will be very difficult to win the league, but we have to have a go and try to win all our games.

“We keep fighting when in difficult situations. We showed that again.”

Liverpool FC's Fernando Torres Promises Title

Fernando Torres has promised to repay the Liverpool fans who “treat me like one of their own” by delivering the Premier League title.

But despite insisting he wants to remain for “many years to come” at the Anfield club, the Spain star has revealed he will one day return to La Liga.

The 25-year-old has made an incredible impact at Liverpool since signing for £21m in 2007, scoring a record-breaking 33 goals in his first season in England.

And Torres, who is believed to be in the early stages of negotiating a new deal, has revealed how the club’s supporters helped him settle.

“I would love to remain at Liverpool for many seasons to come,” he said. “I feel at home here. I still have this season plus another four years left to run on my contract.

“The club has been brilliant with me and I owe the fans a lot. They took to me as if I was one of their own. They treat me in the same way they do Gerrard or Carragher... it is unbelievable.

“I hope to repay their warmth by giving them a Premier League title because it has been a long time since the club last won the league.

“I do not have a buy-out clause in my contract; you do not get them in England. Both teams have to reach an agreement before a player can leave his club to sign for another.”

Torres also has a view on the continued speculation linking Real Madrid with Ronaldo, whose wonder goal last night sent Manchester United into the Champions League semi-finals only 24 hours after Liverpool went out of the competition at Chelsea after a heroic battle.

Torres said: “I cannot see Cristiano Ronaldo playing outside the Premier League for a while to come; you also have to take into account how well Manchester United are playing.

“Ronaldo is a devil on the pitch, the way he carries the ball towards the opponent’s goal is amazing. I am sure that, if he were to play in Spain, he would get more time on the ball and his individual qualities would stand out even more.

“He could handle playing in La Liga. But I don’t think that it would be any better for him to play there, as the way the game is played in England suits him down to the ground.”

And Torres, an Atletico Madrid icon, dismissed any suggestion he could one day play for Real.

He said: “Real Madrid are not the biggest team in the game. They are a big club but so are Barcelona, AC Milan, Bayern Munich and Inter Milan.

“It is not a team that interests me and, because of the time I spent at Atletico Madrid, the opposite could be said. I just cannot see myself playing for Real Madrid.

“In a few years’ time I would like to play in Serie A. I would then have played in the three biggest leagues in European football: Spain, England and Italy.”

Liverpool have to wait until Tuesday for their first chance to get over their European disappointment, when Champions League semi-finalists Arsenal are at Anfield for a crucial Barclays Premier League match.

Rafael Benitez: Liverpool Are No Longer Willing To Sell Xabi Alonso

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has issued a hands off warning to any clubs interested in signing Xabi Alonso at the end of the season.

The Spain international midfielder has been in terrific form for the Reds this campaign, so it is unsurprising that speculation has linked him with a move to Primera Division giants Barcelona and Real Madrid.

However, Benitez is adamant that the 27-year-old, who came close to leaving Anfield last summer, will still be a Reds player in the 2009-10 season.

"We had an offer from Juventus and asked a big price as he is a big player. They couldn’t meet it," Benitez is quoted as saying in The Sun.

"Xabi is having a good season and is a key player. He’s a player we want to keep."

Since moving to Liverpool for €11.8 million (£10.5m) from Real Sociedad in 2004, Alonso has scored 17 goals in 205 appearances.

I Want To Play For Milan Or Inter - Liverpool Star Fernando Torres

Spain and Liverpool star Fernando Torres is considered one of the best strikers in the world as he finished third behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the battle for last year's Ballon d'Or.

He has also been a dream target for many top-drawer Italian clubs, with Milan in particular being hot on his heels before he joined Liverpool from Atletico Madrid. However, if the player's latest claims are anything to go by, this dream could soon become a reality.

"I have already played in La Liga and the Premier League," he said to Spanish magazine Don Balon. "Now it would be nice to try Serie A, perhaps in a club like Milan or Inter. It would be nice to be able to say one day that I managed to play in the three most important leagues, and perhaps I will also try the Bundesliga."

However, the 25-year-old has no intention of leaving Anfield anytime soon.

"I am very happy at Liverpool and I still have a contract for four years," he added. "I am treated very well and I want to repay them by winning the Premier League title, which they have been waiting for a long time here."

Sean McGuire: Lessons Learnt Through Hillsborough Tragedy

The remembrance of the tragic events at Hillsborough has shown just how much the reputation of football fans have been rehabilitated in the last 20 years.

The messages and lessons have been painful but have also been slowly accepted by most people.

But it is also a time to reflect on whether there is still more that needs to be achieved within football grounds.

Facilities and atmosphere at football games are far more family-friendly than they were but there is still a lot that can be done, especially in the way opposing fans react to each other.

Football fans have come together this week in remembering those that died at a football match.

It would be fitting if this weekend the same level of respect was shown with fans supporting their team rather abusing their opponents.

Spanish Giants Turn Attention From Arsenal To Liverpool

Real Madrid and Barcelona have given up their pursuit of Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas and have set their sights on luring Liverpool’s Xabi Alonso instead.

The Anfield midfielder nearly left the club last summer as Rafa Benitez chose to pursue Aston Villa’s Gareth Barry as a potential replacement. Juventus had a concrete bid rejected having failed to meet Liverpool’s asking price, and the player has since flourished, emerging as one of their key players.

Alonso’s ever improving form has alerted Spanish juggernauts Barcelona and Real Madrid, and with the latter soon to experience Presidential elections Alonso has seen his name emerge a potential big money signing at the Bernabeu.

Pep Guardiola had initially targeted Gunners captain Cesc Fabregas as the final piece in an increasingly potent jigsaw, but Arsenal’s unwillingness to sell means the Catalan giants will make Alonso their number one transfer target.

The baying queue of European clubs after Alonso’s signature has led Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez to issue a hands off warning.

The former Valencia coach said: “Xabi is having a good season and is a key player. He’s a player we want to keep.”

Overriding Emotion Of Liverpool FC Is Defiance

Among the poetic banners draped from the away end at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night was one consisting of just a single word: defiance.

It has been the overriding emotion both on and off the field for Liverpool during a week in which they have remembered the past while underlining the promise of the future.

The refusal to give in was astonishingly apparent at Chelsea when Rafael Benitez’s side came close to pulling off one of the most remarkable comebacks in European Cup history.

And Liverpool’s players, beaten but unbowed, were together in the belief their show of character can bolster their efforts to chase down Manchester United in the quest for the coveted Premier League crown.

“There are six games remaining and we must win them all,” says goalkeeper Pepe Reina. “Of course it's in Manchester United’s hands and doesn't just depend on us but I hope United will drop points.

“It seems like they're not playing at their best but neither are we. We'll have to see what happens.

“They are under a lot of pressure. They are leaders and are in a great situation. All we can do is try to win every game.

“We played for Liverpool with heart. All we could give was passion and commitment. To be a Liverpool player is a pleasure.

“We will never give up, we are Liverpool and that's our character, it's the way we are. We will fight until the very end.”

While trailing leader’s United by a point and the Old Trafford side possessing a game in hand, it will be a tough ask for Liverpool.

But few are now willing to dismiss the chances of the Anfield outfit ending their 19-year wait for the championship.

Liverpool have played 44 games in the Premier League and Champions League combined so far this season, and lost only three.

In fact, Benitez’s side have been beaten just six times in almost two years of top-flight action, a remarkable statistic that highlights both their consistency and the achievement of United to remain ahead of their Merseyside rivals throughout that period.

The force, though, is with Liverpool, who have netted at least four goals in five of their last seven games at venues that have included Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge.

That tally wasn’t enough on Tuesday, however, despite Benitez’s men racing into a 2-0 lead at half-time to level the aggregate scores.

The evening’s pivotal moment came shortly after half-time when Reina fumbled Didier Drogba’s near-post touch over his own line for a goal that revitalised Chelsea.

And Reina admits: “It was bad positioning in my case. I was too in the middle and should have been closer to the near post. It was my mistake and I have to recognise that. That’s the life of the keeper. We are very disappointed but we must be proud of ourselves. We gave it all but we couldn't manage to turn them over.

“We had plenty of chances in the first half and there was just one team in it – Liverpool. It could have been more than 2-0.

“At Stamford Bridge we were better, at Anfield they were. But it doesn't matter who was better, only who goes through.

“In the first half I thought we were going through, we were playing fantastic football and dominating.”

Having faced each other 24 times in less than five years, familiarity has bred contempt between Liverpool and Chelsea.

But there was a new-found respect in light of a game that is already being touted as a modern classic.

“Liverpool are a fantastic team and play with no fear,” says Drogba. “They did everything to try and go through. It takes two teams to make big games like this and we saw two great teams.”

Florent Malouda adds: “We scored the goals at the right moments, but you have to say that Liverpool were really good. They kept pushing us until the end, it was a fantastic match for the supporters.”

Dirk Kuyt was among the Liverpool goalscorers on Tuesday, and the Dutchman says: “The team can be proud of the effort we gave. We tried everything we could and it was great to be 2-0 up at half-time.

“We played for the supporters and everybody together did everything they could. The supporters were really good. We tried everything we could. We’re disappointed, but we are very proud.”

One dream may have been dashed for Liverpool, but another still remains.

Liverpool Youngsters On Course For Youth Cup Final After Victory

Liverpool Youth team virtually secured their place in a third FA Youth Cup final in the past four years with a superb 3-0 victory over Birmingham City at St Andrews last night.

Hugh McAuley’s side will hope to complete the job in the second leg of the semi-final at Anfield next Friday night to book a place in the two-legged final against either Arsenal or Manchester City.

While McAuley was delighted with the win, he said: “I am very pleased with the result. I thought in the first 45 minutes we created chances, scored good goals and there was a lot of good football.

“But I was a little disappointed in the second half. I felt we didn’t pass the ball well enough and our all-round game wasn’t good enough. But it is only half-time and there is another game at Anfield next week.”

Valencia Ruined Their Big Chance Of Selling Silva To Us, Claims Liverpool Boss Benitez

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has hinted Valencia have wrecked any potential deal for Spanish forward David Silva.

Sportsmail revealed last month that Liverpool's chief scout Eduardo Macia had held talks with cash-strapped Valencia but the Spanish side wanted over £20m for the Spain international.

However, Benitez claims the 23-year-old is no longer a target for Liverpool because officials leaked his interest in the player to the media.

Benitez said: 'Our chief scout, Eduardo [Macia], was in Valencia and was talking with different people from the club, but someone was talking too much.

'So, at this moment, Silva is not a target. He is a good player, but not our target.

'If we are going to look for someone we will not announce it to the press - we will try to do it properly and secretly.

'We have a very good relationship with Valencia. It was just one person who was talking too much. Things have to be done in the right way and now you know we are not thinking about Silva.’

However, Benitez says he is unconcerned at missing out on Silva as he has a long list of potential targets to choose from to try and bring to Anfield.

He added: 'People are OK. I am more worried about the number we are signing. We have a list of 95 players - more or less - players that we could sign this year.'