Saturday, April 18, 2009

Steven Gerrard To Miss Liverpool's Premier League Clash Against Arsenal

According to a report in the British tabloid The Sun, Liverpool will be without their influential captain Steven Gerrard for Tuesday's Premier League clash with Arsenal at Anfield.

The news, if true, will come as a major blow to the Reds' title challenge as they may have to win every remaining game this season to stand a chance of overhauling Manchester United.

Apparently, the England international midfielder aggravated the groin injury he had been suffering from in a training session before the Champions League quarter-final second leg against Chelsea, which he was hoping to make an appearance in.

It is claimed that the Merseyside outfit now fear they may have to challenge for the league title without the 28-year-old, who could also miss the trip to Hull City four days after the Arsenal match.

"In the training session before the Champions League game with Chelsea, Steven aggravated a strain he had previously suffered in his adductor muscle," an inside source at Liverpool is quoted as saying in The Sun.

"A scan has since confirmed our medical team’s initial diagnosis and the player is expected to be out for between seven and ten days."

Ferguson Turns Up Heat On Benitez

Sir Alex Ferguson is showing no sign of letting up in his war of words with Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez.

The two have been verbally sparring since January and in Ferguson's latest outburst the Scot blasted Benitez for labelling Everton as a "small club".

"Everton are a big club, not a small one which Benitez arrogantly said," said the Manchester United boss.

Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce has also criticised Benitez, but the Spaniard has "laughed off" the duo's attacks.

Ferguson was unhappy about the way Benitez appeared to dismiss Blackburn once Liverpool scored their second goal in their 4-0 win on Saturday.

"Arrogance is one thing. You cannot forgive contempt, which is what he showed Sam Allardyce last weekend," said Ferguson, speaking ahead of United's FA Cup semi-final with Everton at Wembley on Sunday.

"When Liverpool scored their second goal he signalled as if the game was finished. I do not think Sam deserved that.

"Sam has worked so hard for the LMA (League Managers' Association) and he's had a weakened team. I just thought it showed contempt.

"In my experience no Liverpool manager has ever done that. It was beyond the pale."

Allardyce, preparing his team for a visit to Stoke this weekend, expressed his displeasure with Benitez, describing his actions as "unfortunate gestures after Liverpool's second goal".

The Blackburn boss saw the incident as "pretty dismissive to me and Blackburn - disrespectful and quite humiliating".

Allardyce added: "The game is hard enough without a fellow manager making an undermining gesture."

Following Liverpool's victory over Rovers, the Reds temporarily sat at the summit of the Premier League ahead of United, with Benitez claiming Ferguson was "nervous".

However, the Red Devils bounced back to defeat Sunderland 2-1 thanks to a late Federico Macheda winner, helping them to return to top spot with seven games remaining - one more than Liverpool.

After being dumped out of the Champions League by Chelsea in midweek, Liverpool's next league game is against Arsenal on Tuesday, while United play Portsmouth the following day.

Sam - Rafa Humiliated Us

Sam Allardyce has launched a scathing attack on Rafa Benitez in the wake of Blackburn's 4-0 defeat by Liverpool at Anfield last Saturday.

Allardyce has accused the Spaniard of being 'disrespectful' and 'humiliating' over gestures he made on the touchline after Fernando Torres had headed the home side into a two-goal lead before the interval.

Television replays showed Benitez shrugged his shoulders and then crossed his hands, which Allardyce has taken to mean that the Reds boss felt the game was already over, even though there was almost an hour still to play.

Relegation-threatened Rovers, who were second best throughout the match, were missing several players through injury and employed centre-back Chris Samba in a lone striking role.

Allardyce claims he attempted to speak to Benitez about his actions after the game but could not make contact with the Spaniard and has been left fuming by the incident.

He told Sky Sports News: "It's not out of our system for two reasons. One is the disappointment at the way the team performed. I know we had a lot of injuries on the day, but I still felt that we should have gone there and done better than we did.

"And two, is the unfortunate gestures from Rafa Benitez after the second goal. I wanted to clarify his gestures. I think you'll see them as pretty dismissive to me and to Blackburn Rovers' team as a whole.

"I think they are disrespectful and quite humiliating.

"I waited to have a word with Rafa Benitez in his room after the game but as usual, and unfortunately, he didn't turn up.

"I was hugely disappointed by those gestures and having re-looked at them this week I think I'm right and I think everyone will see why I'm complaining."

When asked if he felt Benitez was writing his side off, Allardyce replied: "That was the feeling by the gestures. It was an open arms and a cross-over of arms as if that was it.

"The game is hard enough as it is without a fellow manager trying to do, what seemed to be, an undermining gesture."

Liverpool FC Boss Rafa Benitez Shrugs Off Latest Alex Ferguson Attack

Rafael Benitez has shrugged off what he believes is a “co-ordinated attack” by Sir Alex Ferguson and Sam Allardyce after the duo attempted to sully his reputation.

Close friends Ferguson and Allardyce joined forces yesterday in launching a curious broadside at the Liverpool manager over an incident during his team’s 4-0 win over the Allardyce’s Blackburn Rovers last Saturday.

But the pair were left even more red-faced than usual after it emerged they had completely misunderstood Benitez’s actions.

After Fernando Torres headed Liverpool’s second against Blackburn, television replays showed Benitez smiling before making a seemingly innocent hand gesture towards his own players.

However, that was enough for Manchester United manager Ferguson to continue his unremitting assault on his title rival by describing the signal as an unforgivable show of contempt towards a fellow Premier League manager.

A clearly distressed Allardyce, speaking at a separate media conference yesterday, believes it was a “disrespectful” and “humiliating” gesture that “typifies the man”.

Benitez, though, has dismissed the furore the pair were creating, and a source close to the Liverpool manager said: “Rafa has laughed off what is clearly a co-ordinated attack on him.”

Emiliano Insua and Xabi Alonso were stood over the free-kick and the understanding is that after Benitez told the deliver the set-piece in a certain way, Alonso ignored the request and struck the cross from which Torres scored.

Benitez’s subsequent reaction was merely to show the pair that perhaps the manager doesn’t always know best, and the players were right.

The fall-out from the incident underlines how Benitez has become marginalised among the region’s managers, with many of his North West counterparts having forged strong relationships with Ferguson over the years.

Liverpool’s emergence as United’s main rivals for the championship has prompted Ferguson to become increasingly vindictive with his verbal tirades against Benitez.

No Hertha Deal For Voronin

On-loan Liverpool striker Andriy Voronin has admitted that he expects to return to the Premier League club at the end of the season.

Voronin - currently enjoying a season-long spell in Germany with Hertha Berlin - had been expected to make a permanent switch to the Bundesliga title chasers at the end of the campaign.

However, Hertha were unable to come to an agreement with Liverpool over a fee and the deal now looks dead in the water.

"On the matter of my contract there has been no movement in Berlin," he told Bild newspaper.

"Liverpool made a good offer which Hertha did not accept. It is a shame that it may not go through.

"I have already ordered the boxes and am moving out of the apartment within a month-and-a-half."

Hertha may yet be able to conclude a transfer for the 11-goal striker, but the capital club are believed to be waiting to see whether they can secure the windfall of Champions League football before returning to negotiations.

Liverpool To Offload Charles Itandje After His Hillsborough Service Antics

Liverpool will intensify their efforts to off-load Charles Itandje this summer after the reserve goalkeeper behaved offensively during the Hillsborough memorial service at Anfield on Wednesday.

The French goalkeeper was spotted laughing and acting the fool by TV cameras at the service to mark the 20th anniversary of the deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters at Hillsborough. Members of the congregation afterwards complained about Itandje's behaviour, which was in stark contrast to the solemn occasion and that of the rest of the Liverpool squad. Rafael Benítez, the team manager, is understood to be livid with the 26-year-old having studied the complaints and the footage.

Anfield officials have described Itandje's behaviour as "wholly unacceptable" and are exploring the maximum punishment they can impose on the player with their legal advisers. He is unlikely to play for the club again.

Itandje has made seven first-team appearances since joining Liverpool on a free transfer from Lens in 2007, but has not started a senior game since the FA Cup defeat by Barnsley last season. He does, however, remain a registered member of the first-team squad and still has over two years to run on his Liverpool contract.

Attempts to sell Itandje to several clubs last summer, including Galatasaray, were thwarted by the goalkeeper's personal demands, but Benítez will renew efforts to part with Itandje at the next available opportunity.

Chelsea Result Evidence Of Something Stirring At Anfield

When Eddie Futch placed a paternal arm around Joe Frazier’s shoulder and said: “Sit down, son; it's all over. No-one will ever forget what you did here today,” he was talking about a monumental effort in a losing cause.

Liverpool deserved the Eddie Futch treatment on Tuesday night – after their heavyweight performance at Stamford Bridge ended with them out, but not down.

They had the character, the class and the mental strength to shock Chelsea – and maybe even stun their own boss who had surely given up the tie when he withdrew Fernando Torres.

Not for the first time this season, the Reds have sparkled without their two best players on the pitch – and that has to say something about their long term title prospects.

Even if this season’s pursuit of Manchester United proves fruitless, there’s something stirring down Anfield Road – and there was evidence of it at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night.

Rafa Benitez Wants Kenny Dalglish Back At Liverpool FC

Kenny Dalglish is set for a sensational return to Liverpool Football Club.

Reds boss Rafa Benitez wants his legendary predecessor as a key new part of his backroom staff and moves are already afoot to create a position for Dalglish.

Benitez has raised the matter with American club owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett and would like to tie up a deal at the earliest possible opportunity.

The ECHO understands preliminary talks have already taken place between Benitez and Dalglish and although nothing has been finalised the discussions are believed to have gone well.

Benitez would like to give Dalglish a roving role which would see the 58-year-old divide his time between the Academy in Kirkby, Melwood and Anfield but with a particular emphasis on an advisorial role on youth development.

The Liverpool manager recently ordered a review of the Academy which is being headed up by former chief scout Frank McParland as he seeks to ensure more young players of potential first team standard are produced than is currently the case.

Should Dalglish be recruited it would provide a shot in the arm for the Academy which has come in for plenty of criticism in recent years.

Dalglish has not been employed in a senior football role since leaving his position as director of football at Celtic in July 2000.

The Kop hero has been linked with several managerial jobs since then but his strong links with Merseyside and his charity work on behalf of his wife’s Marina Dalglish Appeal have meant he has not been enticed into taking employment at any of the clubs which have shown an interest in acquiring his services.

But the lure of Liverpool would be strong for Dalglish who served the club as both player and manager from 1977 until 1991.

When he quit Anfield in February 1991 saying he needed to take a break from football the shockwaves reverberated throughout the sport with Liverpool fans being distraught at the loss of the man they refer to as “King Kenny”.

He later admitted his regret that he was not offered a return to Liverpool in the immediate aftermath of his sudden departure but 18 years later he could now finally be given the opportunity to reignite his love affair with the club he joined from Celtic.

It is now up to Hicks and Gillett to approve the proposed move and should this happen it would require only the agreement of personal terms for Dalglish to complete a sensational return to Anfield.

How Simple Gesture Of Hillsborough Solidarity Says So Much

Like countless others at Anfield last Saturday, I made my way to the Hillsborough memorial which resides beside the Shankly Gates to pay my respects to the 96 Liverpool fans who lost their lives in British sport’s worst ever disaster.

The match against Blackburn had ended over an hour earlier but there was still a queue of like minded people, some clutching bunches of flowers to lay in front of the eternal flame and others with scarves to adorn the marble monument.

In front of me was an Irishman and his son of no more than six or seven who minutes later would bless themselves and say a silent prayer in front of the memorial before father embraced son in a way which parents tend to following such emotional and tender shared moments.

Behind me was a middle aged Everton fan who stood out because he was wearing his distinctive blue and white shirt as he proudly represented the club he loves. In his hands was a single rose which, like almost everything else in view post match, was the kind of red which Bill Shankly wanted his players dressed in from head to toe.

The passing of 20 years means memories of April 15, 1989 and the immediate aftermath have been bubbling to the surface with increasing regularity in recent days and the sight of this sole Everton supporter will undoubtedly have struck a chord with anyone who joined similar queues at Anfield two decades ago.

It certainly did that for me as I recalled patiently waiting for the time to come when I would get the opportunity to pay my respects to the Hillsborough dead.

Stood next to me in the queue on that day was an Evertonian. He wasn’t wearing any colours for me to know that but he didn’t need to because he was one of my closest childhood friends who just days earlier had seen his team get through to another Wembley FA Cup Final.

Like all other Blues, his celebrations were curtailed by the tragic events over in Sheffield where so many of their brothers and sisters from this city had seen their lives cut short in such terrible circumstances.

Behind me in the queue was another Everton supporter who had come to pay his respects. In his hands was a half and half scarf from the 1986 all Merseyside FA Cup Final which he wanted to lay down in front of the Kop along with the sea of floral tributes which had been steadily growing ever since Reds chief executive Peter Robinson had taken the decision to open the Anfield gates to give fans a communal place to grieve.

It wasn’t just Everton supporters either, as then manager Colin Harvey recalled this week:

“On the Friday before our first game after Hillsborough, which was away at Spurs, we all went to Anfield to lay a wreath,” he said.

“It was something all the players really wanted to do.”

The tragedy may have befallen Liverpool and its fans but the response of Everton Football Club and its supporters could not have been more impressive.

This was a city united in tragedy in a way which no-one would have wanted but also in a fashion which typified the incredible bonds which can transcend even the most passionate of football rivalries.

The unity of the people of Liverpool was perhaps best symbolized by a mile long chain of Everton and Liverpool scarves which connected Anfield with Goodison, an initiative thought up by two local taxi drivers Tommy Atkinson and Jimmy Plunkett.

Another example of the solidarity came in Liverpool’s first competitive outing following Hillsborough, a Merseyside derby at the home of their great rivals.

As usual there was plenty of red visible on the terraces, particularly just to the left of the Gwladys Street goal where Liverpool supporters had traditionally congregated.

Before the game kicked off, a group of Liverpool supporters paraded a banner around the perimeter of the pitch. The banner carried a simple message: “LFC fans thank EFC fans”.

While in the away end another flag was unfurled which read: “The Kop Thanks You All We Never Walked Alone.”

The applause which greeted these heartfelt gestures underlined the feelings of solidarity which everyone on Merseyside felt in the aftermath of Hillsborough.

This was a tragedy for Liverpool as a city, not just Liverpool the football club, and the outpouring of emotion from all of its citizens no matter what team they supported reflected this.

On Tuesday afternoon, David Moyes followed in the footsteps of his predecessor Harvey by crossing Stanley Park to pay his respects to those who perished in the death trap that was the Leppings Lane terrace.

The Everton manager was rightly applauded as he took his seat on the Kop and the handshake of thanks he received from opposite number Rafa Benitez was clearly heartfelt and genuine.

Over at Goodison, the Everton flag was flown at half mast while the club also commemorated Hillsborough on its own website and by taking out a full page tribute to the 96 victims in the Echo.

Such official gestures were totally in keeping with the way Everton Football Club conducted itself 20 years ago and the homemade blue and white Justice For The 96 banner which a group of Evertonians displayed at Villa Park last Sunday was equally apt.

This weekend of all weekends, it is appropriate that Everton find themselves in another FA Cup semi-final, representing Merseyside’s hopes of having one of our teams grace a Wembley final.

In fact, it is difficult to think of anything more fitting.