Saturday, October 03, 2009

Rafa Ready To Dent Blues

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez knows that Sunday's crucial meeting with Chelsea can contribute towards the outcome of the Premier League title race.

The Reds travel to London to take on their fierce rivals in determined mood as they aim to respond to critics who have already questioned their 2009/10 credentials.

Defeats to Tottenham and Aston Villa have already rocked Benitez's plans and allowed the doom-mongers to congregate around Anfield before August had come to an end.

But Liverpool have since stabilised in the league and their boss is adamant that there will still be plenty of twists in the battle for silverware as he aims to add pressure on Chelsea, who lost at Wigan last weekend.

Benitez told Sky Sports News: "It is always important when you play against the top sides because it can make a big difference.

"But you never know. It is important to do the right things and if you can win it is fantastic. If not, you have to keep going. It is an important game for both teams."

He added: "If we can win, it will be two defeats in a row for them. But my idea is always the same, it is a long race and there is still much to play."

Benitez heavily criticised his players in midweek following a comprehensive defeat at Fiorentina in the UEFA Champions League and he is expecting a reaction on Sunday.

But the former Valencia chief is also wary that Chelsea, who were unbeaten before their setback at Wigan, are looking to rediscover top gear.

He said: "Both teams will be desperate to win so we will hopefully see a good game. You always have to go with the idea that you can win."

Benitez is set to renew rivalries with Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti on Sunday after twice crossing swords with the ex-AC Milan manager in UEFA Champions League finals.

Liverpool memorably got the better of Milan in 2005 in arguably the best European Cup final in history, however, Ancelotti's side gained revenge in 2007.

Benitez is therefore expecting another intriguing encounter with the Italian, saying: "It will be interesting because he is a great manager.

"We have played in the finals and, OK, it will be good to see him and hopefully we will see him again in another final.

"He knows how to manage a top side. He has experience at AC Milan where he did really well and here he is now doing a very good job with good players."

But Benitez - who has been critical in the past of the tactics from the Blues under former bosses Jose Mourinho, Avram Grant and Luiz Felipe Scolari - does not think Ancelotti has had a radical impact.

When asked if he had noticed any difference in Chelsea's approach this season, he said: "Not too much. He has changed the shape of the team a bit, but the style of football is similar."

Man Charged Over Gerrard Break-In

Police have charged a man with burglary and robbery at the home of Liverpool and England midfielder Steven Gerrard.

Gerrard's wife Alex Curran, 27, was confronted by four masked raiders at the couple's mansion in Formby, Merseyside, on the evening of December 11, 2007.

She was left shaken but uninjured as the robbers struck while Gerrard, 29, was playing in Liverpool's Champions League tie away to Marseille.

The offenders, who all wore dark clothing, hoods and balaclavas, made off with items of jewellery.

A Merseyside Police spokesman said: "Police have arrested and charged a 22-year-old man from Stockbridge Village, Liverpool, with burglary and robbery following an incident at a house in Formby on December 11, 2007.

"Martin Wilson will appear at North Sefton Magistrates' Court on October 30."

Dirk Kuyt: Chelsea Don't Worry Liverpool

Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt claims that his side are heading into Sunday's trip to Chelsea with confidence, despite the fine early season form of Carlo Ancelotti's men.

The Reds completed a Premier League double over the Londoners last season, and the Dutchman feels that that gives Rafa Benitez's men a strong reason for optimism.

"Okay, Chelsea had a one hundred per cent record until last weekend, but I'm not really worried about them," Kuyt told Liverpool's official website.

"If we play to the level we're capable of, we can win there again. We beat them home and away last season, so why not this year too?

"It's always a difficult game at Stamford Bridge but I believe we showed something last season by winning there.

"By beating both Chelsea and Man United twice in the league we proved we can beat most teams home and away. Chelsea have a group of players who have been together for a long time and with fantastic strikers such as Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka.

"But we know them well after playing against each other many times."

Two Premier League defeats already this season mean that there is a certain amount of pressure on Liverpool, although Kuyt maintains that if they focus on their own performance things should go well on Sunday.

He added: "We know what we have to do. At this stage we've already lost twice. That's the same amount as the whole of last season in the league.

"We just have to worry about our own games for now. Chelsea is a big game but we just have to look at ourselves.

"It's too early to talk about where the title is going, but if we beat Chelsea we'll be right back in there."

Babel Admits World Cup Fear

Ryan Babel is determined to earn an established place in Liverpool's first-team plans because his World Cup dream is in danger.

The Holland forward was dropped from his country's squad for September's meetings with Japan and Scotland after failing to play regular football at club level.

Babel was eventually called up by international boss Bert van Marwijk as cover for the injured Ibrahim Afellay, but his lack of games for Liverpool remains a concern.

The former Ajax player has still to settle since arriving at Anfield in 2007 and he has been linked with a loan return to Amsterdam.

But Babel is to fight for a role at Liverpool to earn a World Cup place, saying in the Daily Star: "Not being called up by Holland has definitely scared me into doing something.

"It's all about making the most of my chances in the first team now.

"The situation for me is clear. This has to be the year for me. I am trying to do whatever it takes to get into the team.

"If I give everything and the situation is still difficult, then you have to be honest with yourself.

"But I'm still confident that I can be a very important player for Liverpool.

"There's a World Cup at the end of the season and my position for the Holland national team is in danger.

"For the first time in 33 games, I wasn't called up for the national team. That was very scary. It's clear I have to play a lot of games for Liverpool to earn a ticket to the World Cup.

"The Holland coach made a statement that he wants his players playing for their clubs. It's clear I need to be playing more for Liverpool."

Aurelio Issues Warning To Liverpool

Fabio Aurelio has warned there can be no dwelling on the past as Liverpool seek to atone for their fiasco in Florence.

Liverpool head to Stamford Bridge on Sunday for a Barclays Premier League showdown with Chelsea knowing they cannot afford a repeat of their limp display against Fiorentina.

The 2-0 defeat at the Stadio Artemio Franchi resulted in Reds boss Rafa Benitez becoming apoplectic with rage during the break after witnessing a sub-standard first-half performance.

Brazilian defender Aurelio, who has known Benitez longer than any other Reds player after previously working with him at Valencia, confirmed after the game he had never seen the Spaniard so angry.

Now Liverpool have the perfect opportunity to atone for the loss by adding to Chelsea's league misery after the Blues' 100% top-flight record this season under Carlo Ancelotti was brought crashing down with last Saturday's shock 3-1 defeat at Wigan.

"We would have hoped for a better result against Fiorentina, but we can't think about that now, we must think about the future," the 30-year-old told

"We have an important game in the Barclays Premier League against Chelsea on Sunday, and we must try to make things right.

"Football is like this. You cannot think in the past, you must always look to the future.

"Hopefully it will be a different game and we can go there and get a result."

Benitez has also claimed it will be "a totally different Liverpool" at Chelsea, with his comments echoed by captain Steven Gerrard who insists the team have to produce a reaction.

The last time Liverpool failed to score in a game was in another 2-0 defeat, at Middlesbrough at the end of February.

It sparked a phenomenal goal rush over the final three months of last season, with Liverpool rattling home 43 in just 14 games.

Benitez is at least expecting Javier Mascherano to return to the side after he missed Wednesday's game with a slight hamstring problem.

Liverpool Legend Ian Rush Hails Fernando Torres As 'The Best Striker In The World'

Liverpool's record goalscorer Ian Rush believes Fernando Torres, the man who now wears the number nine shirt the Welshman made famous, is the best striker in the world.

Torres' hat-trick against Hull last weekend took his tally to eight goals in his last six Barclays Premier League matches.

The Spaniard is edging closer to breaking a long-standing club record of being the fastest to 50 league goals and needs just four more in his next 15 games after notching 46 in his first 64 top-flight appearances.

Should he do that he will surpass the mark set by Sam Raybould, who played for the Reds between 1900 and 1907, and Albert Stubbins (1946-52) who both took 80 games to reach the half-century.

In comparison, Rush, who scored 346 goals in 660 matches for Liverpool, took 84, Robbie Fowler 88 and Michael Owen 98.

Rush said: 'He has been fantastic. He is the Premier League's top scorer this season and the goals he scored against Hull were great, both right foot and left foot.

'Had he stayed on the pitch against Hull he could have scored five or six that day. With experience I think he will get better. He is only 25 and he is a big plus for Liverpool as he and Steven Gerrard play really well together.

'Without doubt he is the best striker in the world at the moment. Lionel Messi is a great player, Cristiano Ronaldo is a great player but they are different to Torres.

David Villa is a great striker as well but Torres has proved it in the English league.'

Despite Torres drawing a blank in the Champions League in midweek as Liverpool lost 2-0 to Fiorentina, Rush is hoping the striker will be back to his clinical best against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

'A good side never really has two bad games and the Fiorentina result may serve as a wake-up call,' added the 47-year-old at the launch of FIFA 10 in London.

It may be a blessing in disguise because in the Champions League you can get away with losing one big game, in the league you won't. I think Liverpool will be up for it on Sunday. They had the best record against the top four last season.

'They beat Manchester United home and away, Chelsea home and away and drew with Arsenal home and away.

'The first test comes this season now they play Chelsea. I think they go into the game with the belief they can do it. Hopefully we will see a bit of Torres magic again.'

Liverpool Striker Fernando Torres Vows To Never Join Rivals Manchester United As Spain Star Plans To End His Career At Anfield

Fernando Torres has pledged to never join Manchester United out of respect for Liverpool fans.

Although the Premier League's top scorer is only 25, the Spanish striker admits he is already contemplating ending his career at Anfield, having firmly settled in on Merseyside since his £20million arrival from Atletico Madrid in 2007.

Asked about the chances of playing for United, Torres said: 'I can understand the feelings between Man United and Liverpool.

'I'm a foreign player, but I know how the Liverpool fans feel and I remember the welcome I had when I arrived - it was just amazing.

'I hope to play a lot of years or maybe even finish my career here.

'I don't know, but Liverpool is my English team and I don't think about playing for another one.'

Torres, who has scored eight goals so far this season, knows how important a win at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea will be this Sunday if the Reds are to stake their claim as serious title contenders this season, insisting belief is the key to success.

'We know it will be difficult because a lot of teams want to win the Premier League,' he told Sport magazine.

'But I think we have to believe in ourselves.'

'We have the same chance as Manchester United, Chelsea, City or Arsenal.

'We just have to keep believing we can win, and then see what happens at the end of the season.'

Mascherano Making Progress

Liverpool could welcome Javier Mascherano and Daniel Agger back into the fold for Sunday's eagerly anticipated encounter with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Mascherano has responded well to treatment after missing Tuesday's Champions League defeat to Fiorentina with a hamstring injury while Agger came through a reserve team game in midweek unscathed.

The Danish defender has failed to feature in the first team so far this term after picking up a back injury in pre-season.

"It felt good to be back on the pitch again," said Agger. "It's always frustrating when you're out injured and can't play football, so to get back out there again was great.

"I knew in pre-season that my back wasn't right so I had to get the problem sorted. I set myself the target to be back around this time so I'm happy.

"I'll keep working hard and do everything I can to help the team and get back in the side as soon as possible."