Sunday, May 24, 2009

Premier League Preview: Liverpool vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Liverpool’s hopes of ending their 19-year title drought were dashed last Saturday, when Manchester United hammered out a 0-0 draw with Arsenal to equal the Scousers’ record of 18 English top-flight championships.

Thus, Rafael Benitez’s men head into the final round of the 2008-09 Premier League season with only second spot to aim for – but Steven Gerrard insisted earlier this week that the club’s fans deserve to see their team end the season in style.

The skipper said, "We haven't got much to play for really, but I think every time you put the Liverpool jersey on in front of your home supporters, the least they deserve is effort and if we go into it with that attitude, we can finish on a high with three points."

‘Pool will also be motivated to give Sami Hyypia, the veteran centre-back who has spent ten years at Anfield, a rousing send-off before he joins Bayer Leverkusen this summer.

Meanwhile, Tottenham Hotspur travel to the North West hoping to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for continental competition.

Harry Redknapp’s charges sit eighth in the standings, two points behind Fulham, who occupy seventh spot. Thus, Spurs must beat Liverpool – and hope the Cottagers slip up against Everton – to have any chance of claiming the final Europa League place.

Interestingly, the Lilywhites have the wood over their upcoming opponents. Only four teams have beaten Liverpool in any competition this season – Tottenham have done it twice, in the League and the League Cup.

However, both of those victories came at White Hart Lane. Travelling to Merseyside is a different prospect altogether, as Spurs haven’t won a league game in front of the Kop since 1993.



May 17 West Brom 0-2 Liverpool
May 9 West Ham 0-3 Liverpool
May 3 Liverpool 3-0 Newcastle
Apr 25 Hull City 1-3 Liverpool
Apr 21 Liverpool 4-4 Arsenal

Tottenham Hotspur

May 16 Tottenham 2-1 Man City
May 9 Everton 0-0 Tottenham
May 2 Tottenham 1-0 West Brom
Apr 25 Man United 5-2 Tottenham
Apr 19 Tottenham 2-0 Newcastle



Hyypia is expected to start beside his long-time defensive partner, Jamie Carragher, in what would be his final appearance for the Reds.

Hence, Daniel Agger may have to settle for a place on the pine – although he could miss out altogether if Martin Skrtel is named in any capacity.

Benitez demonstrated with last weekend’s line-up that he is determined to finish the season strongly, and that means the likes of Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and the much discussed Xabi Alonso should all feature.

Probable XI: Reina – Arbeloa, Carragher, Hyypia, Insua – Mascherano, Alonso – Kuyt, Gerrard, Benayoun – Torres

Tottenham Hotspur

The big absentee for Spurs is Tom Huddlestone. The 22-year-old starred last weekend against Manchester City but has since undergone knee surgery.

With Wilson Palacios out of the picture due to personal circumstances, that leaves only Didier Zokora to play the holding role in midfield.

Aaron Lennon (groin), Michael Dawson (ankle) and Jamie O’Hara (knee) are also out, while Jonathan Woodgate and Benoit Assou-Ekotto will undergo late fitness tests.

Probable XI: Gomes – Corluka, Woodgate, King, Assou-Ekotto – Modric, Jenas, Zokora, Bale – Keane, Pavlyuchenko



It’s all about big Sami Hyypia as far as Reds fans are concerned. Expect a typically accomplished performance that belies his 35 years. Also watch out for the in-form Xabi Alonso, who (if some reports are to be believed) could also be playing his final game for the club.

Tottenham Hotspur

As a Liverpool legend bids farewell, one of the club’s most high-profile failures returns. Robbie Keane found goals hard to come by during his six-month stint on Merseyside, and the Irish striker will be desperate to find the net on Sunday and help his side claim a rare treble over ‘Pool.

Davies Still In Anderson Hunt

Nottingham Forest boss Billy Davies has not given up hope of landing Paul Anderson this summer.

The winger spent the 2008/09 campaign on loan at the City Ground from Liverpool, and made 28 appearances for the club are as they successfully avoided relegation from the Championship.

Having impressed during his time on Trentside, Forest were keen to make his move permanent during the off-season.

However, their plans were thrown into jeopardy when second tier rivals Swansea saw an offer accepted last week.

While that deal is far from finalised, the 20-year-old has previously enjoyed a successful loan stint at the Liberty Stadium and knows what the Swans are all about.

That has come as a worry to Davies, but he insists he will be doing all he can to ensure Anderson heads to Nottingham not south Wales.

"We are still interested in Paul and it is not out of our hands (regarding Swansea's accepted bid)," he told the Nottingham Evening Post.

"We will be seeing what we can do and will sit down and discuss the situation with Paul and talk to him about it.

"We will see what happens. We plan to speak to him when he returns from his holiday.

"We are putting together a side where we have players who want to come here and want to play for Nottingham Forest. I have said that all along.

"I want players who want to play a part in moving this club on to better things. But, if players think the grass will be greener elsewhere, that is up to them."

Liverpool 'To Triple' Lavezzi Wages

Ezequiel Lavezzi’s representative hints Liverpool “offered to triple his wages,” but Pocho won’t force Napoli into letting him go.

It was reported this week that the club had turned down a £22m bid for the Argentine and manager Eduardo Rossetto conceded there was some truth in it.

“Napoli own the player’s contract and therefore the final word is down to the club. All we can do is wait,” said the representative.

“Are we waiting for Liverpool? You are the one who says that. All I can confirm is that there has been an important offer, superior to £19m, which [President Aurelio] De Laurentiis considered insufficient.”

Lavezzi is a hero to the Napoli fans and any decision to sell him would not be taken lightly, even though he won’t be in Europe with them next season.

“It all depends on Napoli. For example, if I have a sports utility vehicle in my garage then I don’t spend much money on its upkeep.

“However, if I own a limited edition vehicle then I have to take good care of it, polish regularly and basically spend more. Understood?”

If the Liverpool bid has been rejected, then it has only served to bump up Lavezzi’s wage requirements.

“Without going into detail, I will say the offer was to triple his current wages,” continued Rossetto.

“An agent has come to us with this offer, which is impressive and solid. We are not going to sit here and speculate on the situation. Napoli will decide and then let us know.”

Jermaine Pennant Is Spain Target

Jermaine Pennant is set for a shock switch to Spanish football - with both Madrid clubs keen to sign him this summer.

The Liverpool winger, currently on loan at Portsmouth, cost the Anfield side £8million when he signed three years ago but will be a bargain Bosman free transfer at the end of the season.

Spanish giants Real Madrid fancy Pennant, 26, as an impact player coming off the bench in the second half while Atletico see him as a potential first team regular.

Pennant's agent has been in Spain this week talking to both clubs.

The former England Under-21 star lost his place on the right flank to Dirk Kuyt this season and moved to Fratton Park in search of regular action.

Steven Gerrard Disappointed By Sami Hyypia's Decision To Leave Liverpool

Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard admits he is saddened by Sami Hyypia's decision to leave the club in the summer, though made clear that he completely understands the big Finn's decision.

The 35-year-old will be marshalling the defence of Bundesliga outfit Bayer Leverkusen next term, after having done that job so exceptionally well at Anfield for the better part of the last ten years.

"I understand the reasons behind Sami's decision to go because he's got a two-year deal, so good luck to him," Gerrard was quoted as saying by The Sun.

"But for selfish reasons I wish he would stay for another season here because he's such a fantastic player and great to have around the place.

"He's been here for the whole time I've been in the first team and has been a great influence and magnificent servant - an absolute legend."

Hyypia has already stated his intent to return to the club in a coaching capacity someday, which is something that Gerrard has wholeheartedly endorsed.

"I sincerely hope he comes back as a coach one day, because he can bring so much with him and impart so much knowledge," added the Reds skipper.

"He knows how Liverpool Football Club works.

"He's a great character and I could see him playing a big role in developing the youngsters, the reserves and even the first team in time.

"I took over from him as captain in 2003 and there was some controversy at the time, but not from Sami, who was incredibly supportive of me from the very start.

"That is a measure of the man. He should be regarded as a one of the greats of this club and I don't say that lightly.

"He has certainly helped transform Liverpool and got us back to where we should be."

Hyypia, who has not featured for the Reds' first team since playing a role in their 4-1 demolition of Manchester United at Old Trafford, could well make his farewell appearance at Anfield on Sunday, when Liverpool face Tottenham Hotspur in the concluding fixture of the Premier League campaign.

Xabi Alonso To Hand In Transfer Request At Liverpool

Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso is reportedly prepared to shock the club by handing in a transfer request.

The News of the World claims that the Spanish international will leave Anfield this summer and is ready to hand manager Rafael Benitez a written request.

Alonso’s future has been the subject of much debate since last summer, when Liverpool began a long and drawn-out chase for Gareth Barry.

Whilst the Barry deal fell through and Alonso remained on Merseyside, speculation has continued to mount over his future, despite the midfielder enjoying an impressive season with the Reds.

Manager Benitez has insisted that he wants Alonso to stay at the club yet it now appears that he may be forced into selling his compatriot.

It is understood that Alonso is becoming increasingly unhappy at the club and wants to leave this summer. Furthermore, his agent reportedly met Benitez on Friday to inform him of his client’s decision.

The tabloid goes on to quote a friend of the player as saying, “Xabi loves Liverpool but he doesn't feel he can stay. He has not been happy for a long time and wants to go somewhere he feels he can enjoy his football again.”

Liverpool will hope to raise £18 million from selling Alonso, concludes the report, money which they are then planning to spend on Carlos Tevez.

Alonso, meanwhile, is unlikely to be short of suitors with Real Madrid, Manchester City, Arsenal and Juventus all thought to be interested in signing the 27-year-old.

Rafa's Way May Have Put Barry Off His Move

Gareth Barry’s summer move to Liverpool could be ruined by the way he was treated by Rafa Benitez a year ago.

Barry was told by Benitez that the £18million transfer could not go through because Liverpool could not afford it, but then splashed out £20m on Robbie Keane.

Aston Villa want Barry to stay, offering him a new £60,000-a-week deal and manager Martin O'Neill said: "The disappointing aspect for Barry was that Liverpool were pleading that they could only afford this certain amount of money and then spent £20m on Keane almost overnight.

"If that worked in our favour, fine. Was Barry hurt by that? I'm sure that if I was a player I would have been.

"That's my view. If someone told me they were coming for me and they are going to do this and the next thing, then say they don't have the money but buy someone else for £20m and it's gone through in a day or two, that would be an issue."

O'Neill will ask Barry what his intentions are after England's two World Cup qualifiers next month and will also use his international future as a bargaining tool.

Barry has started every Premier League game for Villa this season and that has helped cement him in the England side, but at Liverpool, O'Neill will point out, Barry will be at the mercy of Benitez's rotation policy.

"In the summer time, after he has played the games for England, I think Barry would want to talk about his decision then because everything is hitting him at the moment,” said O'Neill.

"If you are asking me for my opinion, I'd be delighted if he stayed on with us. But I wouldn't guarantee it. We've had good discussions with his new agent.

"With regards to England, Barry plays in our side. But if he wants Champions League football the thing to consider is we rotate less than some of the other teams and he is one who thrives on playing most weeks."

Barry has three options. He can keep O'Neill to his word after he promised he would allow him to leave at the end of this season if he still wanted Champions League football.

He can stay for another season and run down the final year of his contract and be available on a free transfer, something Villa would agree to, despite losing a lot of money.

Or Barry can take the new four-year contract on the improved terms that are on offer to him.

Manchester City & Milan Hope To Beat Liverpool To Aston Villa's Gareth Barry

According to a report in the British tabloid The People, Premier League money men Manchester City and Italian giants Milan are planning to hijack Liverpool's move for Aston Villa's Gareth Barry at the end of the season.

The Villans have reportedly slapped a €11.3 million price-tag (£10m) on the England international.

The Sunday Mirror claims that Martin O’Neill is unwilling to accept anything less than that for the 28-year-old, despite Barry having only one year left on his current contract.

Liverpool are expected to renew their interest in the 28-year-old at the end of the season, despite spending the majority of last summer attempting, and failing, to snare the Villa captain.

According to the report in the tabloid newspaper, City, as well as the Rossoneri, are apparently ready to offer the 6ft midfielder wages in the region of €113,720-a-week (£100,000), amounting to around €21.8m (£19.2m) over four years.

This could rule the Merseyside outfit out of the race for his signature as they, as well as Arsenal who are also said to be monitoring his situation, will not be able to offer such terms.

It is also reported that the Citizens are considering offering England international defender Micah Richards as part of the deal, in the hope of having first option on Barry.

While his potential destination remains unclear, it seems almost certain Barry will leave Villa Park this summer after manager Martin O’Neill admitted he will not stand in his way.

“The price, obviously with a year left to run, is a different issue,” he told the Sunday Mirror.

“But, by the same token, he is an England international player, he has captained his country and he is still only 28-years-old.

“He wouldn’t come cheaply, even in this day and age.”

The news is unlikely to impress Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez with funds reportedly an issue at Anfield.

Indeed, the Spaniard may have to sell before he can buy with Xabi Alonso the man widely tipped to leave in order for Barry to arrive.

They may be more encouraged by the news that the midfielder hopes to play in the Champions League, which would rule out a move to Manchester City, although Milan may be an attractive proposition.