Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Kuwaiti Royal Family Keen Viewers At Chelsea vs Liverpool

The Kuwaiti royal family, long since linked with a move to buy an English soccer club, attended Chelsea's match with Liverpool this weekend, which ended in a 2-0 victory for the London team.

Though Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is not believed to be seeking any investment in his team, the same cannot be said of Liverpool's co-owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, who have appointed Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Rothschild to advise on possible investments.

Last week Prince Faisal bin Fahd bin Abdullah, a member of the ruling family of Saudi Arabia, claimed that he was close to agreeing a deal to invest in Liverpool. He attended the match against Hull last weekend to discuss tie-ups between F6, his investment company, and Gillett's Richard Petty Motorsports Nascar franchise, as well as the possibility of establishing Liverpool-supported youth academies in Saudi Arabia.

This weekend also saw more controversy for Liverpool, with Gillett reportedly criticising both Hicks and coach Rafa Benitez in an interview with a representative of the fans' union Spirit of Shankly.

Alberto Aquilani Hands Rafa Benitez Fitness Boost

Alberto Aquilani could finally get his Liverpool career up and running within a fortnight after Rafa Benitez today issued a positive fitness bulletin.

The Italian international has yet to kick a ball in anger for the Reds since his £20m move from Roma in August but his manager hopes that will all change within the month.

Benitez has been delighted with the way Aquilani has responded to treatment on the ankle which required surgery in the summer and is now tentatively looking for a suitable starting point to take the wraps off the 25-year-old.

An optimistic target would be for the playmaker to be involved in the squad for the first time in two weeks – when Lyon are due at Anfield for a crucial Champions League fixture – but Benitez is erring on the side of caution.

A more realistic target is likely to be the Carling Cup clash against Arsenal on October 28 and Benitez hopes he will see Aquilani take another big step forward with his rehabilitation during the international break.

“I have been speaking to the doctors and things are going well with him,” said Benitez.

“Alberto is progressing all the time. It could be two to three weeks before he is back.

“But we need to use caution. If it is two weeks everyone will say ‘that is fantastic’ but if it is three, everyone will say it is not a problem. I think that we have to be careful.

“We will take it one step at a time and we have the international break to look forward to now. That will be good for him, as he will have some more time (to recover without missing any games).”

Aquilani arrived at Anfield during the first week of August following Xabi Alonso’s departure to Real Madrid and there is little doubt his cunning and guile in the engine room will make him a welcome addition.

Clearly, though, it is going to take a period for Aquilani to get adjusted to the hustle and bustle of the Premier League and Benitez will, understandably, look to ease him to the team initially.

“He is running and swimming – I think he will have the record in the swimming pool by the end of his program – and he is working in the gym,” said Benitez.

“He is doing almost everything and he is doing some things with the team. The only thing he is not doing is kick a ball – not yet anyway.”

Liverpool Interested In Werder Bremen Forward Aaron Hunt

Premier League powerhouse Liverpool are considering making a move for versatile Werder Bremen forward Aaron Hunt, according to English paper The People.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is desperate to add another striker to his squad to support Fernando Torres, and the Spanish manager has reportedly made Hunt his primary target.

The 23-year-old attacker is a product of the Werder Bremen youth academy and has made well over 80 league appearances for the Hanseaten since making his official debut in September 2004.

Hunt has represented Germany at Under-21 level, but he also qualifies to play for England because of his English mother.

The attacker's current Werder Bremen deal is due to expire in the summer of 2010 and the Europa League contenders could be tempted to cash in on Hunt this winter if a good offer comes in.

Ian Rush: Martin Skrtel Is Looking Back To His Best For Liverpool FC

Martin Skrtel will have been as disappointed as anyone to have lost at Chelsea.

He’s had his moments this season in a back four which hasn’t been water-tight. But on Sunday the Slovakian had a terrific game, right back on form.

He has just needed games and now that he has them he’s improved his match fitness and sharpness.

Sunday was his best performance this season without question.

If he and the lads felt a bit down by the result they should remember one stat I heard as Liverpool’s title chances were being written off by some.

Liverpool have 15 points from eight games. Guess who had the same total at this stage last season?

Steve Bruce has done a really good job at Sunderland already this season.

He knows English football and the Premier League so well by now – and I’m sure he’ll have them safely in the top half of the table come the end of the campaign.

The fact Sunderland were bitterly disappointed not to bag all three points at Old Trafford on Saturday tells you they are a capable outfit.

So when we go there for our next league game it will be a stiff test.

But it’s clearly a test this Liverpool side is more than capable of passing.

Of course the international break means we will have to wait a while for our chance at Sunderland.

But if everyone comes back fit and on the day we can keep the Stadium of Light crowd quiet, then three very good points are there to win.

Morecambe Look At Lindfield

Morecambe have taken former Liverpool youngster Craig Lindfield on trial, understands.

Lindfield is looking for a new club after having his contract at Liverpool cancelled by mutual consent.

The 21-year-old came through the ranks with the Reds and helped them win the FA Youth Cup in 2006 and 2007.

However, Lindfield failed to make the breakthrough into the Anfield first-team being sent out on loan to the likes of Notts County, Bournemouth, Chester City and Accrington Stanley in the last few years.

Lindfield had been on trial at Carlisle last month, but a deal failed to materialise.

Morecambe have now offered the talented striker the chance to win a move to Christie Park and Shrimps boss Sammy McIllroy will cast an eye over him in training before deciding whether or not to pursue his interest.

Glen Johnson Can Make England Place His Own, Says 66 Star George Cohen

The England World Cup winner George Cohen believes Fabio Capello has more or less settled on his defence for South Africa and believes Glen Johnson can make the right-back slot his own.

Cohen, who turns 70 later this month, believes a solid rearguard is key to success at next summer's finals. "Fabio Capello has still got to bring some more players into his squad, but he should know what his defence is now," said the former Fulham right-back who is an ambassador for the official England team sponsors Nationwide Building Society.

"Alf Ramsey had the same situation – the defence was marked out nine months before the World Cup finals, which was tried out against very good teams.

"We beat West Germany twice, Portugal, Spain, all those top teams before we actually won the World Cup, playing with a defence which was settled."

Much has been made of whether Johnson, 25, is up to the task at international level. The full-back, who left Portsmouth for Liverpool in a £17m summer move, has at times been caught out of position when linking up with the England attack.

Cohen believes the former West Ham trainee can be a potent weapon going forwards but should not forget his main duties at the other end. "Johnson has got a lot to think about," Cohen reflected. "He has got to get forward, and he is pretty good at that. He has got good distribution is fast and strong.

"Perhaps his positional play is not what it should be, but he should be learning all this right up until the day you finish playing football.

"As a youngster, I was taught through the old 'WM' formation, where you swivelled around just one centre-half, in what ever situation. But you go back, up, over and across as a team, keeping width and depth.

"Johnson does get caught out occasionally, but he will learn and learn very fast."

Cohen added: "The idea is to make sure the ball is in front of you and make sure you know where your man is. You are a defender first, and if an attack breaks down because of you, you are responsible and have to get back. Johnson is strong enough and powerful enough to do that.

"But why put yourself in that situation in the first place? That is the difference. I think he will learn and has got some time yet."

Capello has tried Manchester United's Wes Brown on the right side of defence, with his team-mate Gary Neville, who was at one time first choice for the role, admitting that, at 34, his international chances are probably over.

Cohen, though, feels Johnson now has the chance to establish himself in the role. "Gary Neville may come into the squad, but they have Brown who can fill in," he said. "Brown does not do badly there, but he is not necessarily a right full-back, so I think this kid [Johnson] will be OK."

George Gillett 'Blames Rafael Benítez' For Liverpool's Poor Start

Liverpool's co-owner George Gillett has reportedly defended his and Tom Hicks's reign at Liverpool and pointed the finger at the manager, Rafael Benítez, after a disappointing start to the season.

Liverpool's defeat at Chelsea on Sunday was their third in the Premier League this season and followed a 2-0 reverse at Fiorentina in the Champions League. According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, Gillett pointed to the investment he and Hicks have made when saying the owners were not responsible for any shortcomings.

"We have invested more money than our competitors, in keeping with the history of the club," he is quoted as telling a representative of the fans' group Spirit of Shankly last week. "In the last 18 months, we have invested £128m on top of what has come in.

"That means it should be getting better. Now if it's not getting better, it's not Gillett and Hicks; it's the manager; it's the scouting. You have to make sure you balance out your analysis. There was plenty of money, so if you have any complaints, take a look at the ins and outs."

Gillett said the £30m from Xabi Alonso's sale to Real Madrid "went straight back" into Bénitez's kitty and added to funds of "£22-23m as part of our budgets".

The American also claimed that Liverpool are "in an extraordinarily good financial position. Far better than Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal."

Agger - I Could Have Quit

Liverpool defender Daniel Agger has revealed that he considered retiring during his injury nightmare.

The Denmark international underwent an operation on a back problem during pre-season and only returned to the Reds' bench for Sunday's defeat at Chelsea.

Agger's career has been disrupted by a number of fitness setbacks and the 24-year-old has revealed that he considered quitting during his most recent injury.

"My back was hurting so badly that I considered stopping playing," he told Jyllandsposten.

"I asked myself if it was worth continuing playing. When you can't even lift your own child out of bed, then something is terribly wrong."

Agger has been named in Denmark's squad for the World Cup qualifier with Sweden on Saturday, a selection which has earned criticism from Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez.