Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rafa Wary Of Leeds Threat

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez is expecting a tough test against Leeds in the Carling Cup on Tuesday night.

The Reds travel to Elland Road, live on Sky Sports 2, to renew old hostilities with the Yorkshire club in an eagerly-awaited third round tie.

Benitez knows Leeds will be up for the game as they pit their wits against their former Premier League rivals.

"I believe the game will be a sell-out, and it is a surprise to me that Leeds find themselves in League One these days," said Benitez.

"Leeds will be difficult, we know they are a big club and we respect their history.

"I have been watching DVDs of their games and it is clear that their supporters are very important to them. They back their team all the time and make it tough for their opponents.

"Those fans are amazing, such loyalty and support, and that has been very apparent to me in watching tapes from last season.

"We know it will be tough. It is a massive club despite the division they are in.

"I have no doubts that this will be a very difficult match. They have quality and they are a big club with great traditions.

"They will want to win this one because of the situation they find themselves in.

"They have passion, quality and the fans are always really behind their team.

"It is a shock and disappointment for everyone to see Leeds in the position they are in now. I am aware that back in previous years, there was a big rivalry between Leeds and Liverpool.

"In those days the clubs met in cup finals, and Leeds have not forgotten those days."

Benitez has confirmed he will ring the changes to his side with a number of fringe players given a chance to impress.

However, the Spaniard is determined to field a strong side as he has set his sights on reaching this year's final at Wembley.

"We will try to manage the squad for the match and use some different players," added Benitez.

"But we want to win and get to the final. In my first season we got to the Carling Cup final and were winning with 10 minutes to go before we conceded an own goal.

"I would like to go to the final again and make amends for that defeat (by Chelsea)."

Liverpool Goalkeeper Pepe Reina Hails Fernando Torres

Pepe Reina has joined his Liverpool teammates in hailing Fernando Torres after the striker scored a brace to help his side beat West Ham United 3-2 on Saturday.

The Reds striker scored two quality goals to silence his critics after doubts over his early-season form, but Reina was never in doubt that his fellow Spaniard would get back on track.

"We knew that Fernando would score," he told the Liverpool official website.

"We all have 100 per cent confidence in him and we trust him always. He is always working hard for the team and he always creates space for the other players for them to score.

"His first goal was unbelievable. His turn was fantastic and he showed his quality."

Rafael Benitez's men were twice pegged back by a determined Hammers outfit and Reina was in no doubt as to the importance of the result.

"This was a massive three points," he said.

"It really was an important victory and we showed how much we wanted the victory. West Ham came back twice but we wanted the three points and I think we deserved the three points.

"We now look forward and need to keep playing like this game after game. Our target is to work hard in every game. We always have the mentality to play every game like a final and we play every game to win."

The clash with West Ham was Reina’s 150th league appearance for Liverpool, and the goalkeeper took the opportunity to reiterate his love for the Reds.

"I hope to play 150 more games for this club," he said.

"I'm very happy that the team won and this is a special club. It's a pleasure and a privilege to play in front of the Kop and our wonderful supporters."

Babel Keen On Reds Stay

Ryan Babel has ruled out a loan move to Ajax, stating he is happy at Liverpool and keen to stay.

The Holland international winger has failed to hold down a regular first-team place during his time on Merseyside, with the bulk of his Premier League appearances coming as a substitute.

Earlier this month Babel reportedly revealed he would be interested in re-joining Ajax in the January transfer window in order to secure regular football ahead of the World Cup finals.

However, the 22-year-old has stated those comments were twisted beyond recognition and that he has told manager Rafa Benitez that he is not looking for a move.

"I didn't say any of those things," he told the Liverpool Echo. "I did an interview in Holland and I don't know who in England got hold of it but it was the worst translation I have ever seen.

"The fact is I'm very happy here and I don't want to leave to go anywhere. I just want to concentrate on playing.

"Yes, there is a lot of competition for places at Liverpool but that's the same at every top club. It was like that when I was at Ajax and that isn't a problem for me.

"I heard about what was being reported when I was away with Holland. When I got back to Liverpool I went straight to the manager and told him it wasn't true. He accepted that and there is no problem."

Babel impressed for The Reds out wide right in Saturday's 3-2 win over West Ham after delivering the cross for Fernando Torres to head home their winner.

The Dutchman says the outing has given him confidence, although it remains to be seen whether he starts Tuesday's Carling Cup clash against Leeds United at Elland Road.

"It was great to be out there and I'm really pleased I was able to help us get a crucial three points," he said.

"Before I came on the manager said I needed to bring some energy to the game and that I needed to run at them.

"I enjoyed it and that will give me some confidence. Now I hope to carry on like this.

"If I keep working hard then hopefully I can get some more minutes and in the end get a place back in the starting line-up."

Torres Targets Goal Glut

Liverpool star Fernando Torres hopes to go on a goalscoring spree after his double strike in the win over West Ham.

Torres, who admitted earlier this week he was not at his best so far this season, scored the winner for Liverpool against West Ham late on to earn his side all three points.

The Spaniard is determined to build on his performance at Upton Park and help Liverpool to success this season.

"I hope there will be many more goals," said Torres.

"I know when I'm working hard they will arrive so I have to keep working hard all the time for the team.”

Torres also paid tribute to team-mate Ryan Babel for setting up his winner against The Hammers.

Babel came off the bench to provide the cross for Torres' headed winner 15 minutes from time

"Everyone knows Ryan is a fantastic player," added Torres.

"He played on the right wing and he gave me a fantastic cross which was easy for me to attack the ball and score. It is easy for a striker when the cross is as good as that.

"He is a player with quality who can do things like this, so without Ryan I couldn't have scored. It's thanks to him I could score the goal to win it for us.

Late Krisztian Nemeth Goals Hands Reds The Liverpool Senior Cup

Merseyside’s most handsome football trophy will adorn an Anfield trophy cabinet for another season, after Krisztian Nemeth’s late strike saw Liverpool Reserves claim the Liverpool Senior Cup last night.

But the part-timers from the Liverpool County FA – champions Waterloo Dock – gave their illustrious full-time rivals all the trouble they could handle in a close contest at Marine’s Arriva Stadium.

Their resistance was broken in the 76th minute, when Hungarian international striker Nemeth stabbed home from close range.

The goal gave Liverpool the impressive piece of silverware for the 39th occasion, but Waterloo Dock won plenty of friends in their first appearance in the final of the 127 year old tournament.

The County FA champions had chances, but Mikel San Jose made a last ditch block to deny hero of the semi-final Leighton McGivern, then Dock skipper Anthony Battle guided the best chance of the half wide of the target. It was a free header from just outside the six yard box and the midfielder’s anguished expression as the ball flashed wide said it all.

The Reds reserves have endured an unhappy season but they made a bright start and could have gone ahead after just five minutes, Nemeth spurning a good chance.

Dutch youngster Vincent Weijl's surging run created another opening for Nemeth and the Hungarian tested Dock keeper Ryan Brookfield with a low 25 yarder.

The dangerous McGivern then forced Dean Bouzanis into action after a clever turn and shot.

As the opening half came to close Liverpool gave one last warning of their quality when Dani Pacheco, the highly rated young striker signed from Barcelona's youth academy, curled a clever free-kick inches past the right-hand post.

Reds reserve boss Gary Ablett urged his side to offer more in the second period and they were first to show on 50 minutes when Gerardo Bruna saw a goalbound shot deflected just wide.

The Argentine starlet then turned provider with a sublime through ball for Nemeth, but despite rounding the Dock goalkeeper, the Hungarian was denied by Garry Riley’s timely interception.

The Reds were looking the most creative outfit in open play, but Waterloo continued to pose moments of real danger and both Craig Sutherland and Joe Roberts both saw their attempts blocked by Godwin Antwi.

With time running out and extra-time looming, Liverpool pressed for a winner in normal time and after Nemeth had seen his low shot brilliantly stopped by Brookfield, the striker finally broke his goal drought with the only goal of the game on 76 minutes.

A neat move involving San Jose and Bruna led to Weijl crossing low for Nemeth to stab home from six yards and win the cup for Liverpool.

But Waterloo Dock's famous Cup run which started against Liverpool, the newly created AFC way back in the first round, and included victories over Burscough, Tranmere Rovers and County rivals East Villa, will be talked about for years to come.

Former Teammate Suggests Benitez Needs To Find Carragher Replacement

The former Aston Villa and Liverpool striker Stan Collymore believes his former Anfield teammate Jamie Carragher is on the wane, and Rafa Benitez should begin to consider replacing him.

Carragher has endured a troubled start to the Premier League season looking vulnerable during their defeats to Aston Villa and Tottenham, whilst also being culpable at Upton Park against West Ham on Saturday, and Collymore believes the defender is beginning to look past his best.

Collymore told mirrorfootball.co.uk: “As much as I respect Jamie Carragher and everything he's done for Liverpool, I do think he's starting to dip.”

“Carragher and Martin Skrtel have had a shaky start to the season and again at West Ham he didn't have the best of games.”

“Once again Liverpool conceded goals from set-pieces and Carragher does not look as solid as he did.”

“It makes me wonder if Rafa Benitez shouldn't take whatever transfer budget he will have in January and spend it all on a top-quality centre-half.”

“I'm not saying he should replace Carragher now or that he is finished - far from it.”

“But I do think you should strengthen your team from a position of strength so if Benitez brought the new Jamie Carragher in now, he would have time to bed him in over the next season or two.”

“Every player - no matter how good they are - dips at some point and it would make sense to have Carra's replacement groomed and ready to take over for when he finally has to go.”

“Carragher is 31 and can't go on forever, so it's better to think about these things in advance.”

Tom Hicks: Liverpool’s World Record Shirt Sponsorship Isn’t Enough

Tom Hicks, the co-owner of English soccer club Liverpool, has vowed that the club will not rest on its laurels after securing a world record shirt sponsorship deal with Standard Chartered worth more than US$130 million over the next four years.

Hicks expects that deal - which will see Standard Chartered sell Liverpool shirts in its branches throughout Asia - to be worth more than it is at first glance, while the club's managing director Christian Purslow is spearheading a number of other commercial sponsorships, including one with outgoing shirt sponsors Carlsberg.

"We are seeing for the first time the real power of the brand and the power of a well managed club," said Hicks. "I feel very good about the entire club. The total sponsorship contracts should probably bring in 25, 26 million pounds (US$42 million) of incremental revenue a year. It's a huge development for the club. It's not just the 21 million pounds (US$34 million) that we will develop from the new sponsorship agreement with Standard Chartered because we will have an additional two or three million pounds for the Infinity part of the deal."

Carlsberg, meanwhile, are expected to keep hold of the lucrative pouring rights at the club's Anfield stadium. "We have an existing contract with Carlsberg until the end of the season," said Hicks. "Between now and the end of the season we will finalize new arrangements where we will retain the Carlsberg special sponsorship packages and pour Carlsberg products in the stadium. They will be one of our key sponsors, just not on our shirts."