Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Liverpool Collect Records But No Trophy

Liverpool completed their first unbeaten home programme for 21 years in a season that has been statistically remarkable if lacking in silverware. Their points tally is their highest in the Premier League, likewise their total of away wins. No team since the top flight was rebranded has lost only two matches in a full season and not finished as champions.

The irony in this, of course, is that it is their home form that has cost them the title. Those two defeats – at Tottenham and, incongruously, Middlesbrough – may have hurt. But far more damaging were the home draws against Stoke, Fulham, West Ham and Hull, not to mention Manchester City, even Arsenal, given that Liverpool scored against them four times.

It is a failing to which Rafa Benitez did not refer in his programme notes, preferring to focus on positive facts, although he did confess that ''it is not easy to win this league'', which is something of an understatement. Then again, it could be argued that squandering cheap points at home is a shortcoming that ought not to be too difficult to put right.

Liverpool FC Star Javier Mascherano Urges Club To Buy Tevez

Javier Mascherano has urged Liverpool not to sell Xabi Alonso – while expressing his desire to see compatriot Carlos Tevez at Anfield next season.

Speculation continues to rage over Alonso’s future, despite Rafael Benitez repeatedly stating he does not want the Spanish midfielder to leave.

Real Madrid presidential candidate Florentino Perez is keen to sign Alonso and will reportedly make a £23m bid for the player should he as expected be elected into the Bernabeu hotseat next month.

But Mascherano believes Liverpool should resist any overtures from Madrid.

“Hopefully the great players in Liverpool can stay and we can bring another player to improve the team,” said the Argentine.

“It’s important when you have the team in good form to keep the key players and Xabi is one of them.”

Another player Argentina captain Mascherano wants at Anfield next season is Tevez, his international colleague and briefly his West Ham United team-mate when they both arrived in the Premier League in August 2006.

Tevez is likely to leave United in the summer and Mascherano is convinced Benitez should make a move.

“I don’t know what the situation is but it would be great if Carlos could come here because I know how good he is,” said the midfielder. “But maybe it’s a difficult situation.

“I don’t know exactly what is happening. The only thing I can say is that he is a great player and a great person.

“I don’t speak to him about football situations, just about his family. But everyone knows that Tevez is a great player.”

Rafa Benitez Hopes Steven Gerrard And Fernando Torres Avoid Injury

Rafael Benitez is already praying Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres will have an injury-free season next time around.

The Liverpool manager knows any improvement on this term’s runners-up spot in the Barclays Premier League will depend on Gerrard and Torres staying fit.

Benitez believes the pair are a frightening prospect for any opposition when they are in the side together.

But the Anfield outfit’s goal-scoring double act only started 21 games together all season because of injury troubles and that cost them the title, according to the manager.

Torres will be playing in the Confederation Cup this summer in South Africa, while Gerrard has England’s World Cup campaign to consider, something which has further frustrated Benitez.

The Spaniard said: “Fernando will be away with Spain, Steven also has international duty. It is not something we can stop so there’s no point complaining.

“Top players are needed by their countries. But you don’t have to ask me what I would prefer.

“Let’s hope the two of them can then have a relaxing summer and be fully fit when we start again in August, and stay that way through the season.”

Gerrard finished the campaign with 16 league goals, the third highest scorer in the top flight after Cristiano Ronaldo and Nicholas Anelka, and hit 24 in all competitions. Both tallies are career bests for the club captain.

Torres took his season’s tally to 17 with the opening goal in Sunday’s 3-1 win over Spurs, his 50th for the club and a total per games played that is quicker than Kenny Dalglish or Ian Rush achieved for their half-centuries.

The value of Torres and Gerrard to Benitez’s aims is only too obvious.

And as Benitez surveys a season which has seen Liverpool set a Premier League club record of 86 points, remain unbeaten at home in the league and finished the division’s leading scorer, he underlines how difficult it is to win the title.

He said: “We have missed Gerrard and Torres too much, they do make a big difference when they play in the side together which hasn’t happened as much as we would have liked.

“Let’s hope they can have a good rest this summer and be back for what I believe will be a better season.

“We have to maintain the levels of this season, the consistency and quality, to improve next time around.

“But the transfer market will be difficult. There will be many clubs trying to get the very best prices for their players and things may not happen quickly.

“We know players we want to sign but that depends on money and other clubs.

“This is now a challenge for all of us, to make that next step, to get closer to the title.

“We made some mistakes this season, the home draws. Next time we must avoid those mistakes.”

He added: “To get 86 points is a massive achievement, it would have won the league on seven previous Premier League seasons.

“But we have to improve, we have to be almost perfect to win the title with it now being so competitive and with such top sides involved. We have improved a lot this season, if we keep going the same way then we will be closer to the title next season.

“You just need to look at the statistics, we have only lost two games in the league all season and been undefeated at home. In fact we have lost only five of 55 games all season.

“But the Premier League is very difficult, winning trophies in England is very difficult.

“The quality we are facing is in effect the best sides in Europe, all the top four get to the final stages of the Champions League, three to the semi-finals this season.

“There is not just one top side, Manchester United. There’s Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, Aston Villa and Tottenham, they are all able to challenge along with us.”

Liverpool FC's Young Stars Bid To Turn Tables On Gunners

Exactly 20 years ago to the day Arsenal achieved a seemingly impossible result at Anfield to give their season a silver lining.

This evening Liverpool Youth team will look to do the same and turn the tables on their London visitors in the second leg of the FA Youth Cup final.

Few Liverpool supporters will want reminding that on May 26 two decades ago Michael Thomas grabbed the title for the Gunners in the most dramatic of conclusions to a league championship race.

Trailing 4-1 from last Friday’s first leg at Emirates, and with no away goals rule in the Youth Cup, Hugh McAuley’s young Liverpool side must defeat their Arsenal counterparts by twice as much as George Graham’s team to take the trophy.

The Liverpool coach said: “We have got to hope that we can get a good start, get at them and make things happen. We will try and get an early goal and give it our best shot.

“We have to stay positive and believe that we can get a result. That is the talk we will have with the boys.

“Our club has shown that you can pull games back if the attitude is right, the commitment is right and you get the breaks.”

Hertha Pass On Voronin

Andriy Voronin has confirmed that he will not be staying at Hertha Berlin next season.

The Ukraine international joined the German outfit on a season-long loan from Liverpool last summer.

Having struggled to adapt to life in England, the former Bayer Leverkusen forward rediscovered his goalscoring touch once back in the familiar surroundings of the Bundesliga.

He found the target on 11 occasions for Hertha as they challenged for a UEFA Champions League spot.

Their efforts ultimately proved to be in vain, as they finished fourth, and Voronin was informed that he would not be required in the 2009/10 campaign.

"(The match against Karlsruhe on Saturday) was my last match as a Hertha Berlin player," Voronin told Die Welt.

"I want to wish the club and their fans all the best in the future."

Silva Coy On Liverpool And Madrid Reports

David Silva has refused to comment on speculation that he will either join Liverpool or Real Madrid this summer.

Silva is one of the most coveted left wingers in world football, but he will not be playing Champions League football at Valencia next season after Los Ches were beaten by Villarreal on Saturday.

The 23-year-old has always remained loyal to Valencia, but reports in the Spanish press have long linked his name to former manager Rafa Benitez at Liverpool.

Monday reports in Spain are now suggesting Silva would be Florentino Perez’s top target should he win Madrid’s presidential vote, but the Spain international insists his current intention is to stay at La Mestalla.

"I have to be focused first on recovering [from a thigh problem] to be able to help my team and I'm not thinking of anything else,” said Silva, as Valencia prepare to face Athletic Bilbao for a place in the Europa League.

"I don't know anything about the rumours and I insist that I have a contract with Valencia that I wish to fulfil."