Thursday, September 03, 2009

Carra Warning For Critics

Jamie Carragher has hit back at those who have written Liverpool out of the Premier League title race so early on in the season.

The Reds came in for heavy criticism after losing two of their opening three games of the new top flight campaign.

But Rafa Benitez's side showed character to bounce back at the weekend as they twice came from a losing position to beat Bolton Wanderers 3-2.

Defender Carragher concedes Liverpool have made a slow start but has reminded the doubters of his side's ability to mount a comeback time and time again.

He said: "We have taken a bit of criticism and rightly so because we haven't made the best of starts.

"But no one can ever write us off. Ourselves and Manchester United, not just in this league but probably anywhere in the world, are the best at coming back from deficits and winning games.

"At Bolton, the lads showed what great character we have.

"It was so important to get those three points, especially with the international break coming up."

The Merseyside club, who finished second last season, are eyeing a first league title since 1990.

Angry Ryan Babel Desperate To Quit Liverpool

Angry Liverpool winger Ryan Babel is desperate to go out on loan after claiming Rafa Benitez has broken promises made to him.

Babel, 22, has already targeted a move to his former club Ajax in January to salvage his World Cup dream.

The Dutch star has struggled to get any regular first-team football since moving to Anfield two years ago.

Back then Liverpool boss Benitez beat off interest from Arsenal and Spurs to land the highly-rated youngster.

But although the Dutch international started the first game of this season against Spurs, he has since made just one late appearance from the bench in the shock defeat at home to Aston Villa.

He said yesterday: "There have been a lot of things promised, but they haven't been followed up.

"I would get to play for more minutes and have more chances, but after the first defeat, I only lost my place.

Babel believes a loan deal in the January transfer window could be his best hope of making Bert van Marwijk's squad for next summer's World Cup in South Africa.

He added: "I think half a season at Ajax with a view to the World Cup wouldn't be a bad idea. I can add something to the Ajax squad.

"Loaning me out was not an option (in the summer). Now we have agreed to review the situation in January.

"I see the current situation as a signal that I really have to get playing."

Babel's remarks continue a troubled start to the season for Benitez, who has already lost two of opening four Premier League matches.

Following defeat to Aston Villa last Monday Benitez risked alienating senior players Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher and it is understood both unhappy players made their feelings known in a team meeting a few days later.

Alonso Says He Decided To Leave Liverpool Last Summer

Xabi Alonso has revealed that he first came to the conclusion he was ready to leave Liverpool when the club tried to sell him last summer.

The Spaniard spent five successful seasons at Anfield before leaving for Real Madrid in a £30m move this summer. However the Liverpool manager Rafael Benítez tried to offload the 27-year-old 12 months ago to raise money for prospective signings, in particular Gareth Barry.

At the time the former Real Sociedad midfielder had struggled for form, making just 16 Premier League starts in 2007-08, but an outstanding campaign last season saw Real lodge their interest. Despite handing in a transfer request in July, Alonso admits that he had decided to leave the club after they had tried to sell him against his wishes a year earlier.

"It was a very difficult decision for me to make," he told Sky Sports News. "After five years I have experienced wonderful nights at Anfield, to have experienced the support of probably the best fans in the world.

"That's why I have always been very grateful and I will always have them in my mind and it has been a pleasure. Last summer the club [told] me that I might have to be sold to find funds for new players. It was a difficult decision or difficult moment to accept that. I accepted that as a professional and that moment probably changed my mind."

Alonso has since admitted that his relationship with Benítez deteriorated when he demanded to leave, but that it remained a professional one. "There have been a lot of rumours but I have always said that it has been simply a professional relationship," he added. "I have always tried to do what he asked [me] to do. What he asked of me on the pitch, to do the talking on the pitch, and that's that."

Lee Warned Over Discipline

Liverpool assistant manager Sammy Lee has been warned about his future conduct by the Football Association's Regulatory Commission.

Lee admitted improper conduct after being charged over his conduct towards fourth official Stuart Attwell during the club's defeat to Tottenham on the opening day of the season.

Lee protested with Atwell after two penalty appeals were rejected in a tense finale and was sent to the stands by referee Phil Dowd.

The commission opted against a stiffer penalty having taken into account the former Bolton boss' "exemplary" disciplinary record.

Alberto Aquilani Will Be Worth The Wait - Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez insists he is happy with the progress Alberto Aquilani is making as he plots his return to action.

The Italian midfielder made the switch to Anfield in a £20million deal from Roma last month.

Aquilani has spent the past three weeks continuing his rehabilitation at Melwood following the ankle surgery he underwent back in May.

The 25-year-old is unlikely to make his debut before the start of October but Benitez is confident he will be worth the wait.

“Alberto is improving,” Benitez revealed. “We were talking before about six to eight weeks and after a few weeks his ankle is much better but he will need time.

“He’s in the swimming pool and in the gym and working with the physios but he’s not jogging yet.

“We cannot put a date on things and it’s important to just see how he progresses.

“We are checking on him regularly and he had a scan in the past week which showed he is much better.

“It’s just a case of keeping an eye on him every day. When he does start to play everyone will see what a clever player he is.”

Aquilani was signed as a replacement for Xabi Alonso, who joined Real Madrid in a £30m deal.

The departure of Alonso has been blamed for the Reds’ mixed start to the season but Benitez insists his side can cope without the Spaniard.

“We won a lot of games last season without Xabi,” Benitez said.

“Xabi is a good player but he decided to go. He’s not here so we have to concentrate on those players who are here.

“Gerrard, Mascherano, Lucas and Plessis are our midfielders now and Aquilani when he’s fit.

“We have to support these players and not talk about one player who decided to go.”

The international break means Liverpool are without a game until they entertain Burnley on September 12.

By that time Benitez expects to have left-back Fabio Aurelio back in his squad following the knee problem which has forced him to miss the start of the campaign.

“Fabio is back training and playing football,” Benitez said.

“After the end of the international break I don’t think he will have any problems and he will be able to be involved in normal training sessions and be in the squad.

“Daniel Agger is walking again after his back operation and Nabil El Zhar’s knee injury is also improving so that is very positive.”

PSV Wanted To Sign Liverpool Goalie Mihaylov

Bulgarian shot stopper Nikolay Mihaylov almost joined Eredivisie giants PSV on deadline day. The Liverpool goalie, currently on loan at Twente, claims that the Eindhoven side made a last minute approach for him, but that the Tukkers refused to let go of him.

"Liverpool and PSV had already reached an agreement, but Twente coach Steve McClaren refused to let me leave," was Mihaylov quoted as saying by Bulgarian medium 24chasa.

"We will continue talks during the winter break and I'm full of confidence that I will sign for PSV in January. Unfortunately, we lacked the time to terminate my loan deal with Twente in a proper way."

PSV had reportedly convinced Liverpool to let go of Mihaylov for €1.5 million. The English powerhouse insisted on a €3 million buy-back clause, but the transfer eventually collapsed due to a lack of time.

The Eindhoven side are in the market for a new goalie due to the far from impressive performances of current first choice glovesman Andreas Isaksson. The Swede has showed shaky hands on more than one occasion since signing for PSV in the summer of 2008.

Liverpool FC Reserves Face Bolton In Premier Reserve League North

Liverpool Reserves begin life at Prenton Park on Wednesday night as they take on Bolton in the Premier Reserve League North.

It will be a special return for new Reds second string boss John McMahon who had two spells as caretaker manager of Tranmere.

“Prenton Park holds good memories for me and I learned my trade there when John Aldridge brought me in as a youth coach,” he said.

“I had some fantastic times at Tranmere and I learned a lot of things. The club was always good to me and it will be nice to play our home matches there.

“Hopefully we can be strong, get some good results and put in some good performances.”

Danish youth international striker Nikola Saric will be out to impress after missing most of last season through injury.

“Nikola has joined in all the training sessions and hopefully he will start to push on and show what he is capable of,” McMahon added.

“He shows good technique and good awareness and he is a good finisher.”

Liverpool Launches World Cup City Bid

Liverpool’s World Cup city bid was officially launched this morning, including ambitious plans to rename one of its historic parks as ‘The Magical Mystery Park’ in homage to the Beatles.

The move would see Wavertree’s Mystery park renamed to become the first ever Beatles-themed World Cup ‘Fan Fest’ site, with events and attractions throughout the tournament.

Continuing the musical theme and reinforcing the council’s commitment to the environment, car-free transport would be heavily promoted under the “You’ll Never Walk Alone” transport programme.

Newsham Park would become the other FIFA Fan Fest venue during the course of the 2018 tournament.

It would carry a Victorian theme to play on the grass roots and heritage of football, those behind the plans said.

The ECHO arena launch event received the support of Reds manager Rafael Benitez and Liverpool FC legend Jamie Carragher.

It came on the same day representatives from governing body FIFA were in town to inspect the city’s potential to host the event.

Those attending the launch heard how four other North West clubs, including Tranmere, Wigan, Blackburn Rovers and Preston North End would allow their grounds to be used as base camp training facilities for teams coming from around the world.

Details also emerged of how “Celebration Squares” would be created in the city centre at the Pier Head, Clayton Square, Williamson Square and William Brown Street.

The city council is 100% behind the plans and is leading the bid.

Council leader Cllr Warren Bradley said: “We’ve worked hard to develop what being a host city would mean for the fans, visitors and residents.

“The Fan Fest sites and celebration squares will draw on the very best of what people saw in the Capital of Culture year, with a green transport theme and health promotion programme, which will ensure the city experiences a meaningful and lasting legacy of being part of the World Cup.”

Tranmere Rovers chief executive Mick Horton said: “It would be fantastic for the whole of Merseyside if Liverpool was to be a host city of the 2018 World Cup.”

Liverpool must now submit its final written bid to England’s World Cup bid company by November this year.

The country’s list of host cities will then be announced in December and the complete bid will be put forward in May 2010. City leaders hope bringing the World Cup to Merseyside will boost the local economy.

Manchester United And Liverpool Receive Huge Cash Windfalls

English Premier League champions Manchester United received a huge windfall from last season's Premier League's broadcast rights, which saw the league pay out more than UK£1 billion for the first time.

United and Liverpool topped the list of earnings, with the Premier League champions collecting £51.5 million. Liverpool also broke the £50 million mark, albeit narrowly, collecting £50.1 million. The totals represented approximately 20 per cent of United's total annual revenues, and an even more significant proportion of Liverpool's.

The 20 Premier League clubs collected a total of £790 million, with £70 million of parachute payments made to clubs relegated into the Championship and a further £136 million distributed throughout the game.