Saturday, November 14, 2009

Liverpool Fear Fernando Torres Could Now Miss Merseyside Derby Due To Extended Hernia Treatment

Liverpool are bracing themselves for yet more devastating news as Fernando Torres yesterday began his bid to avoid surgery on his abdominal injury.

The Anfield striker is faced with a three week stint of treatment and therapy to overcome the pain and restriction of the 'sportsman's hernia', which he has endured for the past month.

Boss Rafa Benitez is still hopeful the treatment will be a successful way of negating the need for an operation, which would sideline Torres for at least a month, and could require up to three months on the injured list.

But there was a resignation within Anfield yesterday that the rest cure will mean the striker now looks set to miss not only the huge Premier League showdown with Manchester City and crucial Champions' League trip to Debrecen, but also possibly the Merseyside derby in three weeks' time.

Liverpool were hoping that Torres could play against Birmingham last Monday night and then begin his treatment program, but the Spanish forward complained of feeling discomfort, and was forced to rest.

This week though, he has been able, belatedly, to begin the rehabilitation plan which experts have suggested might cure the problem, which is a tear where the abdominal muscles meet the pubic bone.

Benitez is praying that Torres might reduce the treatment time to just over a fortnight, but that would now still make him touch and go for the Everton game, which is on November 28.

The manager though, remains hopeful that the rehabilitation will be quicker than expected, and allow the player to avoid surgery.

"With Fernando Torres we are now talking about two or three weeks of treatment and working with the physios," he explained.

"Hopefully he can be running in a few days and we will see how he progresses."

Benitez has become increasingly concerned about the injury woes that have struck his side this season, with the low point coming in Lyon when he travelled without 14 members of his first team squad.

He has called summit meetings with the club's medical staff to see if there is anything he can do to reduce the number of injuries.

The Spanish coach is concerned that many of his players, such as Torres, Steven Gerrard, Glen Johnson and Yossi Benayoun have suffered muscle injuries, and now he will conduct a far-reaching enquiry to see if training or treatment methods are contributing to the problem.

Rafa Benitez: Liverpool FC Only Have Minor Problems To Fix

Liverpool FC boss Rafa Benitez believes there are only minor issues to address with his faltering side and has urged his players to start their season afresh after the international break.

The Reds have already lost five Premier League matches - three more than during the whole of the previous campaign - and critics have already written off their title hopes.

Manchester City, one of the teams looking to take advantage of the Merseysiders’ inconsistent form to snatch a Champions League place, are the visitors to Anfield a week on Saturday when Benitez believes a victory would re-ignite his Liverpool FC squad.

"We have to change some small things that we need to improve on. We talk about the positives and analyse the negatives," said the Spaniard.

"We have to look at the big picture. We know we’ve had some problems and we’ve made some mistakes but still we are so close.

"Everything will be different if we win two or three in a row. The confidence will be high and everything will be easier.

"Maybe we can start the season right now. Winning against City will be a big boost for everyone and if that happens I’m sure we’ll see the best of the team.

"I am 100% sure everything will be totally different if we can win the game against City after this international break. The season can be good if we do well."

Benitez has been hamstrung by the worst injury crisis of his five-and-a-half-year reign at Anfield.

Striker Fernando Torres has a hernia problem which will keep him out for at least another three weeks while captain Steven Gerrard is nursing a groin problem.

England right-back Glen Johnson and wingers Albert Riera and Yossi Benayoun all have hamstring injuries, with the latter pair sidelined until at least December.

Centre-back Daniel Agger’s back continues to be a concern, while Fabio Aurelio pulled out of Brazil’s squad to face England at the weekend with a calf injury.

Benitez admits the injuries are causing him difficulties but is confident when he gets everyone back Liverpool FC can return to top form.

"We have a better squad than people think," said Benitez.

"It’s a question of getting some key players back. You could see the other day (in the 2-2 draw with Birmingham) that with Glen Johnson and Steven Gerrard we were creating so many chances. The quality is there."

Andriy Voronin Keen To Prove He Can Make The Grade At Liverpool

Ukraine international Andriy Voronin, brought to Liverpool in 2007 from Bayer Leverkusen, is yet to challenge for a consistent first-team role in Rafael Benitez's side, but the 30-year-old hopes that the goal ratio he secured while on loan last season will help elevate his status in his manager's mindset.

Voronin was loaned to Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin, but amid speculation in the summer that he would secure a permanent deal with Die Alte Dame, the forward ended up staying at Anfield.

"Last season was good for me because I wanted to play more matches," he informed the official website of the Premier League.

"I went to Hertha, played a lot of games and scored goals.

"I was happy there but I always wanted to come back to Liverpool because they are a massive club. It is very important for me to be here.

"I've spoken with Rafa [Benitez] and I want to take my chance, work hard and play for Liverpool. I hope in the next game I play, I can give the Liverpool supporters more."

Benitez has reportedly been looking at winter window recruits to supplement his attacking ranks. A £20 million move for West Ham United striker Carlton Cole has been rumoured, as has a loan move for Tottenham Hotspur misfit Roman Pavlyuchenko.

Roma Have Enquired After Liverpool Defender Andrea Dossena

The agent of Liverpool left-back Andrea Dossena has revealed that Serie A side Roma are prepared to battle Napoli during the January transfer window for the signature of the Italian international.

“Roma have made an initial approach,” representative Roberto La Florio told

“They are clearly a great team and Rome is a wonderful city. I am also aware that Napoli are interested in the lad. So, we’ll see what happens.”

The 28-year-old defender has failed to make an impact at Anfield since his move from Udinese in the summer of 2008 and is said to be keen on a return to his homeland to boost his chances of making Marcello Lippi’s Italy squad for next summer’s World Cup finals.

“Andrea is getting little space at Liverpool and would like to go back to Italy to play more regularly,” explained the agent.

“He wants to be part of Lippi’s 23-man party for the tournament in South Africa. We are evaluating the possibility of continuing with the English side.

“It will depend on the Reds too. We have to understand whether they want to loan him out or plan to sell him. In that case, we should assess his transfer fee.”

Liverpool Want An Amazing £14million For Lucas

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez wants an amazing £14 million for Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva - and plans to keep him despite needing to sell players.

The Kop chief has been approached by a couple of top European sides who hoped to exploit the Anfield cash problems by landing Lucas in a bargain deal.

However, hard-line Benitez wants the stunning sum for the 22-year-old who splits opinions among Liverpool fans but is always solidly backed by his manager.

Benitez knows he must move out players in January to bring in cash to strengthen his squad - but his sky-high valuation suggests Lucas is not one of those he will sacrifice.

Lucas has been a regular in the Liverpool side this season and even the arrival of Alberto Aquilani will not mean he is surplus to requirements.

The Brazilian will be watched by some of his admirers against England, but Benitez is steadfastly holding on to him.

Ngog - Torres Is World's Best

Liverpool striker David Ngog claims team-mate Fernando Torres is the best striker in the world and has played down his role as a direct replacement.

The French youngster has netted four goals from nine games this season and now heads the list of replacements for crocked first-choice Torres.

Usually deployed as a lone striker, the Spaniard has struggled with a hernia problem this term, despite leading the Premier League goalscorers charts.

With Dirk Kuyt now a recognised winger, manager Rafa Benitez favours Ngog as a direct replacement for Torres as opposed to the unfancied pair Ryan Babel and Andriy Voronin.

While 20-year-old is so far revelling in his new found dependency, he is keen for fans not to get too carried away and insists the burden of replacing Torres is a difficult task for any striker.

"Fernando is the best striker in the world, so any player would find it hard replacing him," said the France Under-21 international.

"All I can do is play my own game and try to be myself because few players can do the things Fernando does.

"I feel tactically I can play as a lone striker, behind the striker or with another partner, so I am desperate to prove to the manager that I am ready to play in any situation."

Ngog is enjoying the best spell of his short Liverpool career and he hopes to build on his four goals this season to secure a long-term future at Anfield.

He added: "I believe that I have enough quality to be a good striker for the club and score many goals but I understand that will come with time and experience.

"I am not 21 until next April so I have plenty of time to learn and I couldn't be learning from a better manager than Rafa Benitez or a better striker than Fernando."

Liverpool are suffering from a wretched run of form with just one win in nine games leaving their Champions League hopes dangling by a thread, while their title hopes have already been written off.

The departure of Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid has been highlighted as a primary cause of their downfall, but Ngog insists the squad is just as good as the one which pushed champions Manchester United all the way last season.

Ngog said: "We need to remain confident in our own ability as individuals, as well as a team, because not much has changed from last season when we weren't far away from winning the league.

"The team is still very strong and we have to believe in ourselves.

"I know that Liverpool demands success and needs to win trophies, so losing games like we have isn't acceptable."

Lucas Feeling The Heat At Liverpool Even More Than Brazil

Lucas Leiva believes the pressure is greater playing for Liverpool than Brazil because of the current predicament at Anfield.

The Liverpool midfielder is preparing for his country's friendly against England in Doha on Saturday. But thoughts of the situation on Merseyside are also on his mind with Liverpool facing Champions League elimination and currently seventh in the Premier League.

Lucas said: "How do I find the pressure of playing for Brazil and Liverpool? To be honest, the pressure now at Liverpool is worse.

"With Brazil, we are qualified for the World Cup. We always have pressure when playing, especially when it is against England, a big team.

"But in Liverpool now it is greater because we are in a difficult situation.

"We have to qualify now for the Champions League and also in the Premier League, we have to be in the top four.

"I know the pressure at Liverpool is difficult but now we have to think about the games for the national team and, when we go back, to try and change the situation.

"Even now when I am here, I don't feel well for Liverpool and no-one feels well.

"Of course, the results are not the best but I think if we keep the same mentality it will be okay. It is the time for Liverpool to keep together.

"I think Liverpool are playing well. Maybe we need something more but I hope we turn the bad situation around. Even against Lyon and Birmingham, I think we played well.

"We conceded some goals, maybe from our mistakes, and we have to keep working and hopefully the national break will come at a good time for us.

"Some players are injured so hopefully they will be fit for the next game."

Lucas believes England have a realistic chance of winning the 2010 World Cup and has massive respect for the way they have developed under Fabio Capello.

And he feels the weekend meeting between the two sides will be an ideal yardstick of how they are progressing ahead of the finals in South Africa.

Lucas said: "I think England is a top-level side. We have a lot of respect for them. We know all the players very well.

"Is this England's best chance of winning the World Cup? I think so. Of course, England have always had a good squad but I think the last results show the quality."

Eintracht Frankfurt Plot Swoop For Andriy Voronin:

Eintracht Frankfurt is plotting a swoop for Liverpool striker Andriy Voronin during the January transfer window.

The mid-table Bundesliga outfit has yet to make an official approach but is keen on securing the services of the Ukrainian international.

Voronin has struggled to adapt to the demands of the Premier League since he arrived at Anfield on a free transfer from Bayer Leverkusen in 2007.

However, the 30-year-old is highly rated in Germany and scored 11 goals during a successful loan spell at Hertha Berlin last season.

Hertha wanted to make the move permanent this summer but a proposed £3million deal with Liverpool fell through.

Boss Rafa Benitez’s attacking options are severely limited, but if Eintracht match that fee and the Spaniard are guaranteed he will be able to reinvest the funds he may decide to do business.

Voronin has yet to find the net in three starts and nine substitute appearances for the Reds so far this season and young Frenchman David Ngog has leapt above him in the pecking order to be Fernando Torres’ understudy.

The Ukrainian, who is under contract until 2011, may also have to move on in search of regular football in order to fulfill his dream of playing in next summer’s World Cup after he was left out of the squad for their play-off with Greece on Saturday.

Prodigious 14-year-old Returns To Old Trafford Despite Liverpool Loyalty

Manchester United have asked Norwegian youngster Sondre Tronstad to return to the club for a second trial having impressed the Premier league champions’ coaching staff recently.

The 14-year-old suggested it was a strange experience going to United’s Carrington training ground not least because he is a Liverpool supporter.

Tronstad told “They have said that it went well and that I should come back in February or March,”

“It's a bit special to visit Manchester United since I am a Liverpool supporter. But I felt it was a good chance.”

New Hillsborough Memorial Statue To Be Unveiled In Liverpool

A striking new memorial could be erected in Liverpool at the 21st anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy.

The metal artwork, to be funded by the public, is set to be unveiled in the city next April by the council’s Lord Mayor office.

It is expected to be initially stationed in the Town Hall ballroom before being moved to different locations within the city centre.

The lifesized model will stand 15 foot high and have a spiritual element with a top figure looking upwards to the heavens.

All the 96 names of those who died after the Sheffield crushes will be inscribed on the 96 flames carved into the metal stand.

The families hope football fans will drape their own scarves onto the flames when they visit the artwork.

Creator Tony Evans has created a model of the memorial and is keen to gain the backing of both grieving families and survivors for the model.

But the design, which features a top figure seemingly strewn on top of a metal fence, seems set to be controversial from the outset.

A number of families and survivors have expressed concerns about the very immediate portrayal of the 1989 disaster.

Letters have been sent to the 96 families and a period of consultation is set to begin, asking people for those opinions.

The Lord Mayor’s Office, who are behind the project, are keen to stress that nothing has been approved.

A letter to Hillsborough Family Support Group members read: ““The statue is not intended to elicit sympathy, but to tell the story of a tragic event which unfortunately part of Liverpool life, and which brought, and which continues to bring, Liverpool people together and those touched by this from further afield.

“It also shows that, 21 years later, feelings have not diminished, and so many still wonder why.”

Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said: “When I first saw the model, I went into quiet mode because of the way it looks.

“I think it does, however, tell the story of what those people went through.”

But in other quarters, the artwork not have won favour, and was today criticised by some people.

Both the Glover family, who lost their son Ian, 20, on the Leppings Lane terraces, and mum Anne Williams, whose son Kevin, 15, died, have registered their unhappiness with the design.

Dad John Glover told the ECHO he was taken aback when he first saw it, and he said: “For those people who were at Hillsborough, seeing this could knock them back to day one.”

Cllr Steve Rotheram, last year’s Lord Mayor and Liverpool FC fan who was heavily involved in the 20th Hillsborough anniversary, first had the idea for a permanent memorial.

He said: “We will ask all the families and survivors. If it causes concerns, perhaps it’s not the right time for it.

“The first time I saw it, it knocked me back. It’s very poignant. But the last thing we want to do is cause offence.

“This design is certainly not sanitised, it’s like Jimmy McGovern’s play which was warts and all.

“It provides a visual representation of what people will automatically recognise. The main figure seems to be looking to the skies, asking ‘why?’

Artist Tony Evans, however, stressed that the approval of the families and everyone affected by the 1989 disaster was of utmost importance.

He said: “I was asked to realise something in my style and create a suitable memorial, and being a Liverpudlian and an LFC fan I was only too happy.

“I tried to create a striking image of what it must have felt like to be in that position on that day, and it hopefully shows something of the strength of character of those people and how well they coped, rather than seeing them as victims.

“I realised it was an emotional subject and we had to tread carefully. The last thing we want to do is upset anyone. I thought it was a very worthwhile subject, and will go ahead if people thought it was worthy.

“Hillsborough is a major thing for me and most of Liverpool.

“We are looking for feedback of what people think of what I've come up with, we have contacted all the support groups and are giving them a chance to see it and comment on it. They are integral to the whole thing, and that is in the process of being done.

“It's a very delicate subject and it's all very well wanting to make a great piece of artwork, but when it's something so emotional you have to speak to those who have been affected by it, and give them the final say.”