Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Liverpool FC Wait For Javier Mascherano Injury Update

Javier Mascherano is a major fitness doubt for Liverpool’s Champions League clash with Debrecen on Wednesday.

The Argentinean international failed to report back on time from international duty last week and missed Saturday’s demolition of Premier League new boys Burnley.

Mascherano picked up a pelvic injury in midweek and was advised not to fly by doctors in Argentina.

It was initially believed he had just returned late, but Benitez admitted: “He has still not returned. He picked up an injury and it was decided that he needed to have tests.

“Our doctor was in contact with the Argentina medical team and it was decided it was best that he stay there for the tests, and he will be back in England next week before the Champions League game.

“The problem was a minor one, but we needed to have the checks made straight away.”

Standard Chartered Joy At Liverpool FC Deal

Standard Chartered Bank, which employs 70,000 people worldwide and whose emblem will replace Carlsberg’s on Liverpool’s famous red shirts from next season, today hailed their new £80m, four-year shirt sponsorship deal.

While registered in London, SCB conducts most of its business in Asia and other parts of the world and its chairman John Peace said today as the deal was announced: “I am absolutely delighted.

“I am delighted for Liverpool Football Club and its fans, and particularly delighted for Standard Chartered and its stakeholders.

“It will be a great four years and we're looking forward to seeing some exciting football and working closely together with the team.

"Liverpool has a great heritage and has had some fabulous football teams over the years with great managers. With the heritage of Standard Chartered Bank we have a lot in common. We are both going places and that is important going forward.

“I think Liverpool will have a fabulous season and a lot of success in the coming years. Our bank is in a very similar position. I am delighted we are able to enter into this agreement today.

“Standard Chartered today operates in a global market, in a global economy. Liverpool recognised, very wisely in my opinion, that the market for football is global.

“Together we will find some new and very enthusiastic fans for the team.

“I can't wait until the day I see the Liverpool players wearing the logo of our company on their shirts. I'm really looking forward to that day.

“I am hoping this season I can say congratulations on winning the Champions League. And if at the same time you can win the Premier League then it won't be a bad way to start our relationship in 2010.”

Rafa Benitez: I Work Well With Christian Purslow

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez today stressed he is working well with new Anfield managing director Christian Purslow – following the well-documented tensions which existed with his predecessor Rick Parry.

Said Benitez: “We are working very hard together, very close.

“I would say we have a meeting not just every week but every day.

“We are on the phone and as soon as I try to do something or want to do something, he is there.

“So we are working very hard here and I think the relationship is good. I am really pleased.

Added Benitez: “I think he understands the club.

“He was telling me about some games and he remembers who scored the winning goals and things like this – so sometimes it’s a problem for me!

“He loves the club and he wants the best for the club.”

Kenny Dalglish added: “I know as a managing director you are judged on many things.

“Christian Purslow and the club’s commercial director Ian Ayre have to take a huge pat on the back for getting this record shirt sponsorship deal into the football club.

“It shows we have men determined to push the club forward in the right direction.

“And it illustrates the standing of Liverpool Football Club that a company the size of Standard Chartered Bank have come to put their name on our shirts. It's fantastic news.”

Kenny: Deal Will Help Rafa

Kenny Dalglish believes the club's new sponsorship deal will aid Rafa Benitez in his quest to bring silverware to Anfield.

Liverpool today announced the biggest commercial contract in its history, with Standard Chartered set to appear on our shirts for four years from 2010-11.

New club ambassador Dalglish claims the deal is another example of how the Reds are evolving on and off the pitch.

"Like every other Liverpool fan, I want the best assets of this club to be on the pitch - and this deal will help that," Dalglish told Liverpoolfc.tv.

"If it can help Rafa and increase his budget - well that's what everyone wants.

"Success on the pitch leads to success off it and vice versa. It all leads to the same thing - a lot of happy Liverpool supporters. This is a fantastic deal for everybody."

Dalglish met executives at Standard Chartered prior to today's announcement and believes our new partners fit perfectly with the traditions of the club.

"The size of this deal commercially is very important, but equally as important are the people involved," he said. "Standard Chartered are good, solid people. I've met them before and they're very good."

Dalglish thinks Liverpool's global support was a major attraction for our new sponsors.

"The importance of the support Liverpool have in the Far East is very important for them because they have their base there as well as the Middle East and Africa," he added.

"Our support out there was highlighted during our pre-season tour, and I think that time helped make up both minds that this would be a fantastic opportunity.

"This only endorses what a lot of people already knew - that this is one of the most important clubs in world football."

Liverpool Bring Dose Of Reality To The Table

At kick-off on Saturday afternoon, Liverpool and Burnley lined up as equals according to the Barclays Premier League table. Within a couple of hours, any ideas that such an unlikely equality could last had been ruthlessly dismissed.

Liverpool scored four times but, such was their dominance as the game wore on, could have underlined their superiority with several more goals. At the other end of the pitch, Pepe Reina was unemployed to such an extent that he had ample time to contemplate a pre-match interview given in his native tongue and translated into English in which he apparently questioned Liverpool’s ability to win the title. On the evidence of this game, any such notions appear misguided. The only problem is, Burnley provided anything but an acid test.

The victories that Owen Coyle’s side enjoyed over Manchester United and Everton counted for nothing at Anfield, apart from prompting many in the home crowd to question how such results had been possible, as Yossi Benayoun’s first Premier League hat-trick and a tap-in for Dirk Kuyt ensured that Liverpool would not become another notable notch on the Scottish manager’s bedpost.

If Coyle is to take any positives from such a one-sided affair, it will be that his team are a different proposition at Turf Moor, where both of their wins have been recorded. If safety is to be secured, it will be done in the manner of Stoke City last season, by making the most of home advantage.

Acutely aware of their vulnerability, survival remains Burnley’s goal and Tyrone Mears, the right back, recognised that it is against the Premier League’s lesser lights that their fate will be determined. “People might have thought we would have been sitting at the bottom of the table with no points,” Mears said. “But we have six and hopefully we’ll be picking more up, particularly from the teams around us. That will keep us up. I don’t think we should be judged on games against the likes of Liverpool.”

For altogether different reasons, Liverpool face a similar challenge, for it was a string of poor home results against teams from whom they should have taken maximum points that cost them the title last season.

The penny finally appears to be dropping, though, with Stoke and Burnley on the receiving end of four-goal hidings. “We know it is important to win these games, and it is important to be on top of these teams from the beginning, then if you get the first goal it becomes easier for the players with quality,” Rafael Benítez, the Liverpool manager, said.

For 27 minutes, Burnley were in the game and their resolution made life difficult for Liverpool, who, up to that point, had laboured in the face of qualities that ensured the visiting team were high on perspiration if a little lacking in inspiration.

Then Benayoun provided a wonderfully incisive finishing flourish and what had been a contest increasingly turned into a procession. Liverpool made the most of the resultant space afforded them and by the time this caricatured meeting of football’s have and have nots was reaching its closing stages, Steven Gerrard, Benayoun et al were playing give and goes on the edge of the Burnley penalty area with minimal fear of interruption.

“The first goal killed us and we lost our shape,” Mears said. “We passed the ball quite well but if you give Liverpool chances, they take them.”

He could have added that a goal was all that it took for the gulf in class between the hosts and visiting team to be exposed, but it had already been demonstrated where it matters most, on the pitch.

Itandje Aware Of Interest

Charles Itandje admits he could be tempted into securing a permanent move away from Liverpool.

The Reds keeper is currently taking in a season-long loan spell at Greek outfit Kavala, having been deemed surplus to requirements at Anfield.

His career on Merseyside appears to have come to an end, with Rafa Benitez now well-stocked in the keeping department.

That suggests the former Lens shot-stopper could be offloaded were a suitable approach to be lodged.

Greek giants Panathinaikos are reported to be keen on the 26-year-old, and Itandje has revealed that he is aware of mounting interest in his services.

"I am aware that there is interest but I am on loan at the moment so let's wait and see," the Frenchman told skysports.com.

"I have a contract with Liverpool until 2011, but I will never get the chance to play for the first-team there, so any other opportunities would be good for me."

Yossi Benayoun Is Liverpool FC's Title Omen

The champagne is likely to find a different home but Yossi Benayoun is here to stay.

The teetotal midfielder deservedly left Anfield with the man of the match bubbly on Saturday after running Burnley ragged.

Benayoun has had to battle to make the grade at Liverpool since he arrived from West Ham two years ago.

When he found himself warming the bench during the first half of last season his future at the club was in doubt.

But he responded with a string of crucial contributions, most notably a winner in the Bernabeu, and earned himself a new deal.

He is still on a mission to prove to Rafa Benitez that he is more than just a useful impact substitute.

Having been left out of the side for the trip to Bolton, this was his chance to stake a claim for a regular spot.

And he grabbed it in style with a third hat-trick for the club to sit alongside his trebles against Besiktas in the Champions League and the one against Havant & Waterlooville in the FA Cup.

Benayoun shrugged off fatigue after two World Cup qualifiers in Israel to demonstrate that he is an increasingly key member of Benitez's squad.

Burnley couldn't handle his nifty footwork and clever movement as he drifted inside from the right and exposed the gaping holes in the visitors' rearguard.

Ryan Babel and Albert Riera recently hit out at their lack of first team action but Benayoun has wisely kept his head down and let his boots do the talking.

Hopefully others will take note because Benayoun is a shining example to fringe players about what can be achieved through dedication and hard work.

The last time an Israeli scored a league hat-trick for Liverpool they went on to win the title.

Of course a thumping victory over Premier League new boys Burnley is hardly cause to get carried away.

But the manner of the triumph, in which Benayoun matched the feat of his compatriot Ronnie Rosenthal in 1990, offered genuine hope that the Reds are finding their feet after an unimpressive opening month of the season.

After seeing their proud unbeaten home league record stretching back nearly two years ended by Aston Villa, this was a case of normal service being resumed.

In the end the Reds settled for four but had they been more clinical they could have doubled their tally.

With an £80million shirt sponsorship deal with investment bank Standard Chartered in the bag and Michael Shields being released, it completed a good week for the club.

The presence of Shields and his family in the director’s box was celebrated but while that battle has been won, the banners on the Kop signalled that others are ongoing.

George Gillett's claim that the club's finances have "never been stronger" will hardly reduce the flak flying in the Americans' direction.

This was the first league meeting between the clubs for 33 years and the first in any competition since the Clarets dumped Liverpool out of the FA Cup in January 2005.

Back then Burnley benefited from a comical Djimi Traore’s own goal and the fact that the Reds' starting line up also included Antonio Nunez, David Raven, Zak Whitbread, John Welsh and Darren Potter.

Two of the promoted clubs grabbed a point at Anfield last season but another costly slip up was never on the cards as Burnley's positive approach played straight into Liverpool's hands.

Owen Coyle's side are easy on the eye but they were ripped apart with ease.

Fears about a hangover from the international break were just starting to grow in the stands when Benayoun opened the scoring midway through the first half.

He raced on to Glen Johnson's pass and turned away from Graham Alexander before slotting past Brian Jensen.

There was a collective sigh of relief and with the pressure eased the Reds stepped up a gear.

Javier Mascherano's extended stay in Argentina to have treatment had forced a reshuffle with skipper Steven Gerrard dropping back to play alongside Lucas Leiva. And the skipper underlined his versatility with a virtuoso display as he relished a deeper role.

Gerrard created the Reds' third and only Jensen's heroics and the woodwork denied him the goal his performance deserved.

Lucas, asked to play the holding role in the absence of Mascherano, barely put a foot wrong.

The Brazilian frequently won back possession and provided the platform for the Reds to bomb forward.

Benayoun and Lucas were both thwarted by Jensen before the second goal finally arrived four minutes before the break.

Defence was turned into attack with ruthless efficiency after Pepe Reina had punched clear a corner.

Fernando Torres and Emiliano Insua combined to set up Benayoun and when his shot was carelessly spurned by Jensen, Dirk Kuyt pounced on the rebound.

With Burnley's resolve broken the second half was simply a case of boosting the goal difference.

Gerrard kick-started proceedings just past the hour mark when he burst into the box and unselfishly squared for Benayoun to tap home.

Such was Liverpool's dominance that Benitez brought on Philipp Degen for his first appearance since the Carling Cup debacle at Tottenham last season, and the injury-prone Swiss defender' managed to get through half an hour unscathed.

Andriy Voronin and David Ngog were also introduced as Liverpool maintained their vice-like grip on proceedings.

Benayoun looked set to be denied his hat-trick when an effort was wrongly ruled out for offside but justice was done eight minutes from time.

A clever pass from Voronin put him clear and as Burnley appealed forlornly for a flag he held his nerve to fire past Jensen.

Voronin wastefully spurned the chance to add a fifth late on but it mattered little.

After the struggle to see off Bolton this was slick and straightforward.

And after a mixed start to the season all supporters will drink to that.

Kenny Dalglish Insists Liverpool Are Still In The Title Race And Starting To Click

Kenny Dalglish claims Liverpool can still prove their doubters wrong and win the Barclays Premier League this season.

The Reds moved up to fifth in the table on Saturday with a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Burnley, but they have already suffered two defeats in their opening five league fixtures this year, including a humiliating 3-1 loss to Aston Villa at Anfield.

That result, along with a defeat at Tottenham on the opening weekend and an unconvincing 3-2 victory at Bolton, has left many doubting the title credentials of Rafael Benitez's side, who lost only two league games all year last time out on the way to finishing second behind champions Manchester United.

But Dalglish, who managed the club to their last Football League championship almost 20 years ago, remains convinced Liverpool can silence their critics this season by becoming the kings of England once again.

"That's all right, let them keep writing us off," said Dalglish, who now works with the club's academy. "We'll add the points up at the end of the season and see what happens.

"Certainly when you lose a home game it is a disappointment, but it wouldn't be the first time that a team has lost a home game and gone on and won the league, so we'll keep our fingers crossed."

Liverpool have been prolific in fits and starts this season, hitting five past Stoke in their first home game of the campaign before Saturday's four-goal haul against Burnley, and Dalglish believes the signs are there that the players' confidence is growing.

"We can achieve whatever we want to achieve," he said. "We go out in every game to achieve maximum points, or get through the cup tie, whatever is relevant. We go out on the pitch with the same determination as we have ever done to be successful.

"We've never shouted our mouth off, we've just got on with our work, and I'm sure that's what the players are doing at the moment.

"They played very well on Saturday. (Yossi) Benayoun getting a hat-trick was fantastic for him and for everyone, I think it is starting to come together."

Club Legends Part Of Bright Future

Christian Purslow today insisted how important it was for Liverpool to embrace the greats of Anfield’s past – including legends like Kenny Dalglish.

The Scot, still worshipped by the Kop for his heroics as both player and manager, rejoined the Anfield hierarchy this summer.

Said Purslow: “Kenny Dalglish coming back to the club is a key development. It’s a key symbol of what we are all about.

“Liverpool is a family and our great legends need to feel included and wanted. And where they can play a role in driving Liverpool forward then that’s something that I passionately feel is important.

Š“Rafa and I discussed that probably on my second day at work and again it’s a perfect example of football and commercial working together.

“Kenny has two roles. He is helping Rafa in the Academy to be the face of our youth program in the community; to make families feel more comfortable about committing their family members to our set up and helping Rafa instil a sense of newness in a youth set up that for the last ten years, let’s not beat about the bush, has failed to deliver a single first team starting player.

“But at the same time on the commercial side, having a guy like Kenny working for the football club is incredibly important.

“Many of our key commercial partners now thrive at the prospect of spending time with him and some of our legendary players.

“And that is good for our football club.”

“On match day I am delighted to have businessmen, potential investors, and potential commercial partners as our guests on match day spending time with Kenny and our other legendary footballers, taking in what it is to be part of Liverpool FC.

“That’s the best way to drive long term commercial interest in our football club and that is something I’ve been very proud to have done in the last couple of months.”