Friday, July 24, 2009

Liverpool Can Win The Premier League - Fernando Torres

Liverpool striker Fernando Torres, who made his first appearance of the Reds' pre-season program yesterday as a second-half substitute in the 1-1 draw with Thailand, is confident that the Merseysiders can end their 20-year wait for a league title in the coming campaign.

"Two years without a trophy is a long time for a club like Liverpool," he told the club's official website. "But we believe we can do it this year.

"It won't be easy because there are big challenges ahead but we think we can win."

Israeli international Yossi Benayoun echoed the Spaniard's sentiments, and was looking forward to continuing his excellent form into the new campaign.

"I have a lot of confidence in this team," said Benayoun. "We have a belief in the squad that we can win the league but we have to work hard and keep improving.

"Personally I want this to be an even better season for me,” he continued. “I want to take my chances and help the team."

Rafa Plays Down Alonso & Mascherano Talks

Rafa Benitez has moved to play down talk of Xabi Alonso leaving Liverpool.

The Spanish midfielder did not play in the 1-1 friendly draw with Thailand on Wednesday, and was quoted as saying he could offer no 'guarantees' about his future.

Real Madrid are still keen to sign Alonso, and reports in the Spanish on Thursday claimed a deal was all but done.

However, Liverpool have denied this, and Benitez said after the squad arrived in Singapore on Thursday: "Alonso is here and he will enjoy the weather and the fans and the journalists.

"He is ready and can play."

A Liverpool spokesman backed up his manager, saying: "Xabi is with us in Singapore, and will train with the rest of the squad. He was injured ahead of the Thailand game, people can say what they like about that.

"And there has been no deal agreed with anyone for his transfer to anyone."

Benitez went on to dismiss speculation that Javier Mascherano also wants out of Anfield.

His agent, Walter Tamer, was quoted on Wednesday as saying the Argentine midfielder was tired of life in England, and favoured a move to Barcelona.

However, Benitez said: "In the press these days there are too many websites, too many newspapers, radio, television. You have to have stories every day so sometimes you repeat something from 15 days ago.

"It's much the same situation, he knows our ideas. He's been working very hard and he's a very important player for us."

Liverpool FC: Refinancing Talks With Bank Set To Drag On

Tom Hicks and George Gillett, the owners of English Premier League club Liverpool, are unlikely to agree refinancing terms with RBS before this Friday’s deadline.

The two American businessmen have made regular appearances on sports pages on both sides of the Atlantic in recent weeks.

Gillett has agreed to sell the Montreal Canadiens ice hockey franchise for more than US$500 million.

Hicks, meanwhile, has dissolved Hicks Sports Marketing Group as he looks to sell off one of his sport franchises.

The Liverpool refinancing deal, meanwhile, continues to drag on.

‘The two parties have been in talks for several months and both sides have expressed confidence that a deal will be done.

It may not be concluded by the end of this week however, despite that being the date for the loan’s expiry given in the most recent accounts for the club’s holding company,‘ reports the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Benitez Backing For Gerrard

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez insists that captain Steven Gerrard has the full support of the club.

The England international is currently on trial at Liverpool Crown Court on a charge of affray following an incident at a Southport bar last December.

Gerrard is therefore absent from Liverpool's ongoing pre-season tour of the Far East, but Benitez is confident his skipper will soon rejoin the rest of the squad.

"I talk with him everyday, it is okay," Benitez told a press conference broadcast on Sky Sports News. "He has the support of the club and, for sure, the fans.

"I think that it will be okay so we are confident that everything will be good and at the end he will be playing for us and scoring a lot of goals."

Philipp Degen Looking Forward To Injury-Free Season At Liverpool

Philipp Degen is looking forward to making his first Premier League appearance for Liverpool this season.

Degen signed for the Reds on a free transfer before last season, but only managed two League Cup appearances due to a horrific run of injuries.

Having appeared in all the club's pre-season games thus far, he is now hoping for a better campaign.

The wing-back told Liverpool's official website, "Last year was a very sad year for me.

"I have worked hard during the holidays and now I feel really good. I am not yet at 100 per cent match fitness but I am feeling better every day.

"It's a new season and a new start for me. I have never had a season like last season before when I was injured all the time.

"I came to a new club wanting to show what I could do but it wasn't possible. I was injured, injured, injured and I know the fans were thinking I am that sort of player, but it isn't true.

"I want to fight to prove myself now and that's why I am looking forward to this year so much."

However, Degen faces a fight to claim a first-team place, following the big-money signing of Glen Johnson. He is not too worried, though.

"That is life at a big club like Liverpool," added the Swiss international.

"I will do all I can to show what I can do. That's the most important thing for me."

Rasmus Elm: Liverpool To Battle Everton For The ‘Swedish Beckham’

Everton are believed to be leading the chase for Swedish starlet Rasmus Elm after the player recently visited Goodison Park. However are reporting that Liverpool and Valencia have also joined the race for the midfielder’s signature. However, other admirers include Fulham, Stoke, Ajax and PSV.

It’s of little surprise that the player has attracted so much attention after an excellent European U21 Championships as well as superb league form for his club side Kalmar.

Elm has scored an impressive 8 goals in just 15 league games this season which leaves him one strike behind the leading scorers in the Swedish top division. Despite being just 21, Elm has made a total of 92 league appearances for his club while scoring 16 goals (64 starts). The midfielder made his debut in 2005 and has gone from strength to strength since with all 16 goals coming in the last 3 seasons.

Not only has Elm impressed for the U21 side but has also broken into the full senior side with 6 caps to his name plus one goal which came in a friendly v Austria back in February. Since returning from the U21 championships, his club form has gone from strength to strength with 5 goals in his last three league appearances.

Rasmus is the youngest of three brothers who have all played for Kalmar and he played a key role in the club’s first ever league title in 2008. His two brothers also impressed with the eldest 26-year-old David weighing in with 7 goals and 23-year-old Viktor scoring 15 goals.

Rasmus can play either in central midfield or on the right. The 6ft star has neat feet, good passing ability and a strong midfield engine. He is also renowned for his set-pieces and superb long-range shooting which saw him finish joint-top in last season’s assists league alongside the legendary figure of Henrik Larsson. Another important strength of the player is his Rory Delap-like long throw which explains why he is regarded as one of Tony Pulis’ main Stoke targets.

Fulham have shown an interest since December which is unsurprising as manager Roy Hodgson is an expert in the Scandinavian market. However, Everton did appear to be favourites after the player’s visit although comments from the player suggest he has yet to make up his mind. Elm told Sportbladet, “I don’t want to rush the decision. I have had to focus fully on Champions League qualification.

“I will continue to think about it and I might make a decision in a week or so.”

The reported price tag for the player was £6m but Kalmar’s Sports Director has dismissed the figure. He said, “I don’t know where that figure has comes from.”

“We haven’t been offered such a sum. We’ve got three offers from three different clubs and rejected all of them.”

Mavinga - Reds Move A Risk

New Liverpool signing Chris Mavinga admits he has taken a risk in leaving Paris St Germain to move to Anfield.

The defender signed a three-year contract with the Premier League side earlier in July after Rafa Benitez's scouts identified the teenager's talents.

Mavinga did not play for the PSG first team during his time at the Parc des Princes, but still came to the attention of Benitez.

The 18-year-old would have liked to have featured for PSG but he could not turn down Liverpool, despite the competition for places, because they showed greater determination for his signature.

Mavinga said in L'Equipe: "I wanted to play on the Parc des Princes pitch. I would have loved to wear that shirt. PSG is the club in my heart.

"Liverpool followed me for one year. Benitez even talked to me, while I never had any talks with (PSG recruitment officer) Alain Roche or coach Antoine Kombouare.

"I made Liverpool wait while they put me under pressure. Then, (former boss) Paul Le Guen, who asked me to take part in some professional training sessions, left.

"I felt Paris only offered me a professional contract to stop me from leaving.

"I know I won't play at Anfield this season and the step to Liverpool's first team is higher at Paris. It is a risk, but an opportunity too."

Liverpool To Rival Aston Villa For Portsmouth Defender Sylvain Distin

The speculation surrounding Sylvain Distin's future continues to mount, as The Mirror now credit Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez with an interest in the French defender.

Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill is believed to have already had one £2.5 million bid rejected by confirmed Portsmouth manager Paul Hart, so Benitez will need to act with a strong bid while he - and his squad - are in Thailand, before the Ulsterman returns to the fold with a more lucrative second fee.

Benitez has already considerably strengthened his rear-guard this season, with the expensive acquisition of roaming right-back Glen Johnson, who is equally adept at being a productive outlet high on the right flank.

The Reds considerably closed the gap between themselves and Premier League title holders Manchester United last term, and with the respective departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, Rafa Benitez may be confident of sneaking a title away from Sir Alex Ferguson, should he continue to bolster his own squad.

Barcelona To Go For Fabregas Instead Of Mascherano

Barcelona are preparing to test Arsenal and Cesc Fabregas with a bid for the Catalan playmaker if Liverpool continue to thwart their bid to prise Javier Mascherano away from Anfield, according to a report.

Blaugrana coach Pep Guardiola confirmed this week that he wants to add a midfielder to his ranks, but while he stated the player would not be expensive, the Board has other ideas.

With a deal for Zlatan Ibrahimovic almost completed, the treble winning Catalan outfit's next task will be to sign a star name to bolster their options in the centre of the pitch.

Mascherano was the first choice, but Liverpool are reluctant to let the Argentinian leave despite his own admission that he is unhappy in England and wants to go to Camp Nou.

Without wanting to upset the Merseyside club, Barcelona are prepared to look elsewhere and are ready to again test Arsenal's mettle with an enquiry for their own visionary midfielder.

Fabregas has stated that he is happy to stay at the Emirates, but oi the Blaugrana match his asking price then that loyalty will be stretched, Sport state.

According to the Catalan daily, the Arenys del Mar-born midfielder is disillusioned with Arsenal's transfer policy and is questioning whether or not they can fulfill his ambitions.

Guardiola has already stated that Fabregas is a player in the Barça mould and he would be able to play regularly in a squad that would be rotated to fit him in.

With Yaya Toure and Seydou Keita both expected to play in the African Cup of Nations, an extra midfielder is required, while Fabregas could slot in with Andres Iniesta moving out to the left for games when Thierry Henry is rested.

President Joan Laporta wants to leave a legacy at Barcelona in his last year at the helm and re-signing the player that left in his first summer would be seen as doing just that.