Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Jamie Carragher Wants Liverpool To Improve Before The Premier League Begins

Liverpool were at the wrong end of a 3-0 scoreline against Spanish side Espanyol in a pre-season friendly. Jamie Carragher looked back on the match and expressed his concern over the Merseyside club's pre-season form, imploring his team-mates to improve before the Premier League begins.

“Obviously it was only a pre-season game but it was still a disappointing result for us because you never want to get beat,” the Reds' vice-captain has been quoted in the Liverpool Daily Post as saying.

“If you look at the first 20 minutes to half an hour then I suppose we were chasing shadows a bit during that spell and that’s all credit to them.

“From our point of view, we’ve still got a few players coming back into it and I think we felt it in the conditions out there.

“But sometimes in a game of football you lose and you just have to hold your hands up and admit that you were beaten by the better side on the night and this was one of those occasions, so full credit to them, they played very well."

When asked as to the reason behind the poor performance at the Cornella-El Prat, he said, "It was a mixture of things really, it just wasn’t our night but it’s getting closer to the season now and we’ve got a couple of weeks to put it right.

“That’s what these games are all about, and hopefully we’ll be ready when the season kicks off.”

Liverpool will play their next pre-season friendly against Norwegian side Lyn today.

Liverpool FC Close To Selling Xabi Alonso As Real Madrid Agree Fee

Xabi Alonso’s departure from Liverpool is close to being sealed after Real Madrid agreed to meet Liverpool’s asking price.

The Spaniards have indicated they will go to a fee in the region of £30million to secure Alonso the move he has been craving all summer.

Anfield officials met with Real executive director-general José Ángel Sánchez yesterday and they stepped up their bid to finally bring an end to their pursuit of the playmaker.

Real capitalised on the fact that Liverpool were in Spain last night and held the talks in the team hotel in Barcelona prior to the 3-0 friendly defeat at the hands of Espanyol.

Although a deal was not struck, sufficient progress was made to convince Madrid that a final agreement is close.

Rafael Benitez has insisted all along that he will not accept a knockdown offer for the 27-year-old despite Alonso having indicated that he is ready to leave Anfield.

And the Liverpool manager’s patience appears to be paying off as Real finally got closer to the kind of bid he is looking for.

With Roma star Alberto Aquilani already lined up as Alonso’s successor Benitez will be keen for Real to put their money where their mouth has been and finally bring an end to the transfer saga.

The chances of that happening appear to have been boosted after reports in Spain suggested that the Bernabeu coffers will shortly be swollen to the tune of £18m due to the impending sale of Dutchman Wesley Sneijder to Inter Milan.

One of the main sticking points in Real’s pursuit of Alonso in recent weeks has been their insistence that they did not have the ready cash to meet Benitez’s demands following a spending spree that has seen them spend in excess of £165m on Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Karim Benzema.

Benitez has always remained adamant that this is not his nor Liverpool’s problem however and has continually made it clear that unless his value of Alonso is met then he will not be allowed to leave.

With the two parties now edging closer to an agreement and with a channel of communication now flowing freely again between Anfield and the Bernabeu it is looking increasingly likely that a deal will be struck in the coming days.

Liverpool Target Steven Defour Eyes Anfield Move As Reds Ponder Xabi Alonso Replacement

Steven Defour has joined Roma’s Alberto Aquilani on the list of candidates to replace Xabi Alonso at the heart of Liverpool’s midfield and has admitted his interest in an £18m Anfield move.

While Real Madrid have yet to match Liverpool’s valuation on Alonso, Defour, 21, said: ‘I have an agreement with Standard Liege that I could go to a top club, and Liverpool fit the bill.’

Defour, who is under contract until 2013, is also wanted by Real Madrid should they fail to prise Alonso away from Anfield.

'Steven's name has been mentioned not only at Real Madrid, but also at Liverpool - they are looking at him too,' said the player's agent, Paul Stefani.

'Normally he would stay for another year, but nobody could say no to clubs like those - and Liege would not stand in his way.'

Everton, Arsenal and Aston Villa have previously shown interest in the promising playmaker, who inspired Liege to their first title in 25 years.

Mark Lawrenson: Results Don’t Matter But Lack Of Sharpness Will

There’s only one thing worse than playing in a 3-0 defeat – not playing in it. So it’s not the result against Espanyol that should give anyone cause for concern ahead of the new season – it’s the fact that Jamie Carragher might not have one of his main defensive partners alongside him to take on Tottenham’s strikeforce a week on Sunday.

It’s typical that in the summer Liverpool let Sami Hyypia go that injuries to Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger have disrupted the pre-season preparations.

It seems that Agger will be okay for the beginning of the campaign which is a relief. But pre-season is like your revision – you need it to be ready for the tough examination. If you don’t do it, you struggle.

And having an experienced, established centre-back who is fully on his game and ready for the real business of the Premier League is vital.

Put two such defenders on the sidelines during those precious weeks of pre-season and suddenly White Hart Lane in less than two weeks time looks a very tough proposition.

At least Carragher will have no problems – in fact, he will be out of the traps like a greyhound after the amount of running he has had to do in these friendlies.

But even if Agger recovers as he is expected to, missing such a good test like the one Espanyol gave Liverpool on Sunday night is so unfortunate.

You don’t want your players to come in and play catch-up at the start of a season and I think Rafael Benitez can count himself unlucky to have injury concerns before the campaign has even started.

The fact is Degen and San Jose are unproven and neither can deliver the kind of automatic reliability you got when you could bring Hyypia in to plug the gaps at the back.

But let’s look at things positively. Benitez is currently going about solving his issues very well, especially in the case of Xabi Alonso.

I said here last week how important it was to get the cash in for the player as swiftly as possible and getting close to a conclusion of the deal with four weeks of the transfer window left is a good bit of business.

And one thing is also for certain – losing 3-0 to Espanyol in a pre-season friendly should not cause Benitez or anyone else sleepless nights.

I remember at Anfield that we always used to be notorious bad starters in the summer warm-ups - and the lads in the boot room couldn’t have given a monkey’s.

They might have given us stick for playing badly in a friendly but privately they’d be laughing about it.

They, like I’m sure Benitez is this week, were delighted we had been stopped from getting carried away and they knew that all the running we were doing chasing the ball was getting us primed for the important stuff.

Because a good competitive 90 minutes, even one when you lose 3-0, is worth far more than anything you can do in week on the training ground.

So Sunday night was great for everyone involved – and I feel a real setback for those who weren’t.

Rafael Benitez's Liverpool Face Unique Pressure - Phil Thompson

Ex-assistant manager Phil Thompson, a title winner with Liverpool as a player, believes the side he played in didn't face as much pressure as Rafael Benitez's current squad.

“There wasn't the same pressure on us back then,” he told LFC Magazine. “We weren't expected to go out and win the title because we hadn't won it for so long.”

“Saying that, it had been seven years and the gap was a bit of a burden for us. It was a new team that Shanks was putting together. I was just a young lad when we won that first one, a midfielder that was making it.”

Thompson believes it takes determination throughout the season to win a title.

“You have to dig deep at times," he added. “People think that when we were winning those seven titles Liverpool were fantastic week in, week out. We weren't.”

“We had to dig deep playing in some of the lesser games to actually scrape a 1-0 win or a 2-1.”

Talking about the current squad, Thompson intimated that Liverpool need to be more ruthless.

“We need to be able to put teams away," the 55 year-old explained. “Even against Stoke at home last season, where we had about 27 attempts on goal, that aggressive streak to finish them off was missing.

“Liverpool blitzed the top four but still haven't won the title. We've only lost two games all season, but haven't won the title.

"If it had been a position where we drew against all those top teams but beat the lesser lights, with respect, we would probably have won the league."

Voronin Expects Regular Role

Andriy Voronin is confident he will play a prominent role for Liverpool in the 2009/10 campaign.

The Ukraine international spent last season on loan at Hertha Berlin after being deemed surplus to requirements at Anfield.

He is, however, back in England and has featured regularly for the Reds during their pre-season preparations.

Having rebuilt his confidence in Germany last year, following a difficult debut season in the Premier League following his 2007 arrival from Bayer Leverkusen, Voronin believes he is now better equipped to force his way into Rafa Benitez's plans.

"I spoke to Rafa Benitez before my return and he said I need to work hard to get a chance in the first team," Voronin told Bild.

"So far I have featured in every pre-season friendly, despite all the competition for places.

"I am not afraid of all the strikers we have here. I am prepared to fight for a place in the side as I do not plan on sitting around on the bench."

While keen to prove his worth on Merseyside, Voronin does admit that he would have welcomed the opportunity to remain at Hertha had the club been in a position to make that possible.

"I would have loved to stay on at Hertha, no doubt about it," he added.

"I was very disappointed, since I gave my best for the club.

"(Manager) Lucien Favre is not the only one making decisions, though, there is also a general manager and a board of directors.

"But going there was great for my career and I hope to benefit this season."

Liverpool Close In On Poulsen

Sky Sports News understands Liverpool are closing in on the signing of Juventus midfielder Christian Poulsen.

Juve are open to the sale of the Denmark international and a number of sides have been linked with an interest in his services.

Premier League duo Fulham and Everton are among those clubs said to be admirers of the 29-year-old.

But it is believed that Rafa Benitez's Liverpool are in pole position to secure Poulsen's signature.

It is speculated that the Reds' move for Poulsen could be linked with Xabi Alonso's uncertain future, amid interest from Real Madrid.

Liverpool FC Stadium Architects Make New Appointments

Alan Palmer and Francis Gallagher have been appointed principals of the UK arm of HKS, the global architectural practice which built the Dallas Cowboys stadium and designed the new home for Liverpool FC.

Under the new London office structure, Palmer and Gallagher will lead the 90-person UK practice, overseeing architectural leadership, business development and operational management. They will be supported by five divisional executives, each representing the UK healthcare, education, workplace, hospitality and sports divisions.

Speaking on the strengths of the UK practice, Gallagher said: “Healthcare and education are strong sectors for us in the UK, and we are now developing opportunities in the Middle East and North Africa for these types of projects. Sports stadia design, especially in Eastern Europe, is also a growth area which, along with hospitality, is extending our international presence.”

Ralph Hawkins, HKS chairman and chief executive officer commented: “The appointment of Alan and Francis brings clarity to the architectural leadership of the UK business, and the revised structure strengthens London’s offer in its specialists sectors, both domestically and overseas. London is HKS’s platform for international expansion into Europe, the Middle East and Africa, allowing us to bring best-in-class talent from both sides of the Atlantic to current and prospective clients.”

As the new executive management, Palmer and Gallagher will report to the HKS Executive Committee at its corporate headquarters in Dallas, Texas.