Thursday, April 30, 2009

Steven Gerrard To Return For Liverpool Against Newcastle

Newcastle boss Alan Shearer has told his side they can save themselves with a win at Anfield - despite the return of Steven Gerrard.

Ominously for relegation haunted Magpies, the Liverpool skipper has recovered from a groin injury that has kept him sidelined for almost a month.

He should start in the game on Sunday, and Newcastle's former Anfield hero Michael Owen has conceded the fixture is unlikely to yield any points in the battle for survival. But Shearer has other ideas, and has banned any talk of writing off the visit to Liverpool.

"Obviously we go to Anfield as underdogs but we must believe we can get something there," Shearer said.

"There certainly can be no despondency and no one will be giving up the fight. We can't let our heads down.

"We will go to Anfield in good spirits and see what we get. There's still a lot of work to be done and we're still in there fighting."

With only four matches remaining, Newcastle are three points from safety, and have daunting visits to Anfield and Aston Villa to contend with. Shearer has yet to win a match since being appointed as interim boss following Joe Kinnear's heart problems, taking just two points from four matches.

Owen has already admitted that it is Newcastle's home games against fellow strugglers Middlesbrough and then Fulham that will decide their fate.

The striker has gone nine matches without a goal and missed a glorious chance to give his side victory against Portsmouth last Monday.

But despite accepting the visit to Anfield could be fruitless, he still believes he can steer the Geordies to safety.

Owen said: "I wake up and know where I stand in terms of performances, my standing in the game, the goals I will score given the opportunities and everything else.

"I've been around a long time and everyone knows if I get chances I will score goals. We understand the criticism we have received for where we are in the table, but we also know we are a better team than we are showing on a regular basis.

"We go to Liverpool and Aston Villa, and if we can get some points from those games we'll grasp them. But it's the next home games against Boro and Fulham that are the major focus."

Goal-Hungry Liverpool FC Can Win Title, Says Steve McManaman

Goal-hungry Liverpool are on course for their most prolific season since they were last crowned champions in 1990.

And former Anfield hero Steve McManaman believes that if this season’s title push falls short, the new, adventurous attitude can push Liverpool all the way to the Premier League crown next season.

Rafael Benitez’s side have already scored 66 times in Premier League action this season, just one short of last season’s total with four games still to play.

Their highest goals output since the title-winning days was 72 in 1996, when McManaman was still an Anfield regular.

And McManaman said: “They are by far the best team around at present. They are certainly playing the best football. They may not be getting the best results, but they are certainly the best team around. Normally you say it’s United who are the most creative team around, but it’s not, it’s Liverpool at the minute. It’s just unfortunate they’ve let in a few goals.

“I fancied them to win the title this year but certain things didn’t go their way.

“They finished last season strongly as well, but this year they look a different team.

“The so-called lesser players, the Benayouns the Rieras, something has happened over the past four or five games and they seem to have clicked.

“They are all closing the ball down, they are all aggressive and they are not giving anybody space to pass the ball.

“I think that’s what’s really clicked this year and if they can take that through to next season – and of course add that little bit of quality to their squad – they can certainly challenge strongly for the title.

“Rafa knows what players he can let go and what positions he needs to strengthen.

“But I am really impressed with the way they’re playing at the moment. I really am.

“I think they’re playing really, really well. It’s the best I’ve seen them play in a while, regardless of the results.”

The only occasions Liverpool have topped 70 league goals for a season since their title winning days of the early 90s was 2001 and 1996, when they scored 71 and 72 respectively.

But with fixtures remaining against Newcastle, West Ham, West Bromwich Albion and Tottenham – and a staggering 30 goals in their last nine matches – the Anfield outfit are well placed to top that figure.

“I just think the way they have set about games has really impressed me,” added McManaman. “They set about games more so than we did in those 4-3 games with Newcastle.

“They have started games really, really quickly and been very aggressive. They are closing people down like I have never seen all year.

“They steam-rollered Arsenal the way they set about them – I know Arshavin scored four great goals but they were largely due to Liverpool mistakes – and I thought Liverpool were excellent again.”

Kuyt Excited By Future After New Deal

Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt believes the future is bright at Anfield as skipper Steven Gerrard prepares to return to the side on Sunday against Newcastle.

Kuyt recently followed Gerrard and manager Rafael Benitez by committing his long-term future to the club.

He said: "I think it's important for Stevie and the manager to have extended their contracts because they are vital to the club.

"I'm really happy with my own deal and I think there will be a few more players to follow us.

"That is good because we have a great team and I hope we can win a lot of trophies together.

"There are not many better clubs than Liverpool. I've been here for almost three years and I've had a great time, playing with the best players in the world.

"Once you sign for Liverpool, you want to stay here as long as possible."

Gerrard has returned to training after recovering from a groin injury. It is a welcome boost for Liverpool ahead of the match, especially as they could be six points adrift of leaders Manchester United come kick-off as their rivals face Middlesbrough on Saturday.

"Steven is doing well and is training with the rest of the team. I think he will be fit and available for Sunday," Benitez told

"It is good news for the team and for him because he can be a key player for us over the remaining games. "Without Steven the squad has been playing well and scoring goals, so that is positive."

Benitez insists his thoughts are only with continuing their title bid and not potential business in the transfer market after Xabi Alonso was linked with a move to Juventus.

"I was reading the press and they are talking about different players," said Benitez.

"I can guarantee today that we are not thinking about selling anyone. All we are thinking about is to do our job and to try and win the Premier League title, if possible.

"After that you never know what can happen in the market. Clearly, at this moment, we are just preparing for winning games."

Kuyt believes a settled squad has been a key factor in their title challenge.

He said: "This team is getting better and better and I think the most important thing is we have spent a long period playing with each other.

"Most of the players have played with each for a few years now and that is really positive.

"We have made a lot of progress this season. We've shown we can beat the best, even in the most difficult of situations. We've proved we can compete with the other top teams. "We all know it is going to be difficult, especially if United win their game in hand, but as long as we have a chance we will fight for it."

Danijel Pranjic: Liverpool Lead Chase for Free Scoring Croatian Wing Raider

The Croatians impressed everyone at Euro 2008 with their victories over Austria, Germany and Poland last summer. Most of the plaudits fell firmly at the feet of Tottenham’s summer signing Luka Modric.

However, there are a number of players who caught the eye including Croatia’s left-sided flying wing raider Danijel Pranjic.

Reports today in the Dutch and Croatian media suggest Rafa Benitez is targeting Pranjic in a summer swoop.

His agent Soren Lerby confirmed that his client is a wanted man when he told Foot Mercato, “I can confirm to you that a host of clubs are following him, mainly English and Spanish teams such as Real Betis and Sevilla”.

The other English clubs reported to be interested are Newcastle and West Ham but if Liverpool do step up their interest then expect Pranjic to be plying his trade at Anfield next season.

The 27-year-old currently plies his trade with Dutch outfit Heerenveen in the Eredivisie where he has been playing for the past 4 seasons.

He is able to perform any left-sided role and enjoyed a superb campaign in Holland last season after scoring an impressive 9 goals in 33 League appearances.

Pranjic has bettered that total this season with 16 goals in 28 League appearances which suggests he is at the top of his game at the moment.

His overall League record for the club reads 32 goals in 127 (all starts) games and he’d be reportedly available at a bargain figure of around £5M.

He played every minute of all 4 Euro 2008 games playing a part in 2 goals. Pranjic has played 21 times for his country and would be a useful signing for Liverpool as he would not only provide competition for Albert Riera on the left wing but also for Fabio Aurelio at left-back.

Rafael Benitez Looks To Lorik Cana As Xabi Alonso Set For Liverpool Exit

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is eyeing Lorik Cana, Marseille's highly-rated captain, as a replacement for Xabi Alonso.

It follows news earlier this week that Juventus are believed to be considering returning to Liverpool for the second successive summer in an effort to tempt midfield playmaker Alonso to swap the Premier League for Serie A.

According to reports, Benitez has been in contact with former Liverpool player Boudewijn Zenden over Cana's credentials and the Dutchman's signs have been positive.

Albanian international Cana would cost in the region of £10 million - Benitez has been told that Liverpool need to sell before buying - and has won plaudits in France this season as Marseille look to secure the title.

Cana certainly has grit. Last week he escaped with a one-match ban after being sent off following an ugly skirmish with Lorient's Arnaud Le Lan in last weekend's Ligue 1 match between the two sides.

The two players fought on the ground after disputing a throw-in in the 88th minute of the game and Cana was seen clenching his fist, giving the impression he was going to punch Le Lan.

Liverpool Owners Deny Talks Over Indian Investment

Sources close to Tom Hicks insist Liverpool are not in discussions with the Indian billionaire Grandhi Mallikarjun Rao’s GMR group over either investing in the club or buying out the Texan and his co-owner, George Gillett.

A representative of the group, which owns the Delhi Daredevils IPL franchise, was present in the directors’ box for last Tuesday’s 4-4 draw with Arsenal but it is believed no talks have been held over possible investment in Liverpool.

Hicks and Gillett are due to repay a £350 million loan from RBS and the US bank Wachovia in July and are thought to have been in constant dialogue with both banks since January over ways to manage the debt, which include putting more personal equity into the club or paying off a slice of the loan.

Both men are looking for minority investors in their sports franchises, but have struggled to raise interest in the current climate, while City sources suggest any party able to finance a takeover at Anfield is likely to wait until the July deadline is imminent to ensure the best possible price.

Hicks,, who has said he is looking for new partners to invest in Liverpool from the Middle East, and Gillett have been assessing their personal financial situations amid the global economic crisis.

Both men were at Anfield last week to watch the 4-4 draw with Arsenal, a game also attended by Amanda Staveley, who was the chief negotiator for last year's failed takeover bid by Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

Staveley negotiated the Abu Dhabi United Group's buyout of Manchester City in September.

Liverpool Ace Xabi Alonso’s Agent Rubbishes Juventus Link

Reports in The Daily Mirror claim that Juventus might launch a fresh bid for Liverpool midfield star Xabi Alonso this summer after failing to land the 27-year-old last year.

The Bianconeri seemed on the verge of securing the services of the former Real Sociedad man last summer, but the transfer eventually fell through and they plumped for Danish international Christian Poulsen, amid protests from the fans who had set their sights on the classy Spanish international.

However, the player’s agent has quickly moved to quash the rumours that his client is on his way out of Anfield.

“I don’t know anything about these reports,” agent Ignacio Ibanez insisted on

“It is true that we negotiated his possible move to Juve last year, but we are talking about last summer. I have not spoken with Juve directors since.”

AZ Alkmaar’s Mounir El Hamdaoui Interests Arsenal & Liverpool

AZ striker Mounir El Hamdaoui’s fine season has not gone unnoticed by the English Premier League’s top clubs. According to, he is a possible transfer target for both Arsenal and Liverpool.

The Moroccan international helped lead his team to the title with 22 league goals. The player is still at the top of the Dutch scoring charts, despite being suspended for the weekend tie against Ajax. The match featured a goal from Luis Suarez, who is now tied with El Hamdaoui as the Eredivisie’s top scorer.

The Atlas Lion will also miss the upcoming match before returning on the final day of the season, on which he will hope to add to his tally, especially as Suarez will have had one extra game to overtake him.

El Hamdaoui was one of the few bright spots for the Moroccan national team during their 2-1 World Cup qualifying loss to Gabon in Casablanca on March 28. He scored the lone goal for his country but was also denied by the post and crossbar on two separate occasions.