Friday, November 20, 2009

Alberto Aquilani Is Asked To Kick-Start Liverpool's Season

Alberto Aquilani is in contention to make his long-awaited full Liverpool debut on Saturday as Rafael Benítez looks to the £20m summer signing to reinvigorate the club's season against Manchester City.

The Italy international has played only 21 minutes for Liverpool since arriving from Roma in August, as a substitute against Birmingham City and Arsenal, because of his recovery from ankle surgery plus illness. Benítez has been careful to nurse the 25-year-old towards full fitness after several months on the sidelines but is now considering handing the midfielder a first start against Mark Hughes's side at Anfield.

The Liverpool manager's final decision rests on the availability of Steven Gerrard, Yossi Benayoun and Albert Riera, who all could be fit for Saturday despite the Israel and Spain midfielders tearing hamstrings against Birmingham last week. But the option to start Aquilani, who has increased his training schedule significantly since Liverpool's last fixture, is an important breakthrough for Benítez before a demanding set of fixtures and after a succession of injury problems. However, Fernando Torres may be out until the Merseyside derby on 29 November due to a hernia.

Aquilani was bought as a more offensive replacement for Xabi Alonso in the summer and, despite his delayed debut and injury problems, has been tipped to have a major impact at Anfield by his former Roma team-mate and captain Francesco Totti. "He is elegant and smart – these are his main characteristics. Potentially he is one of the best in the world," said Totti. "He has been unlucky with injuries so far but I believe he will do really well in England. Good players prove themselves wherever they go. Alberto will adapt to any type of football. He really is a complete midfielder."

Roma's all-time leading goalscorer added: "Alberto can play in any position in the middle of the park really, either a bit forward or a few steps behind. The advantage he has is that he really understands the game and has great vision – he is dynamic and can make the last pass or try to score himself. Here at Roma, with our 4-2-3-1 strategy, he was playing in front of the defence next to Daniele De Rossi or David Pizarro but also as an attacking midfielder just off me. I think he can do very well in a 4-4-2 too."

Aquilani was given the added incentive of fighting for a World Cup place by Marcello Lippi yesterday, when the Italy coach admitted the midfielder, who appeared for his country at Euro 2008, remained in his thoughts for South Africa. "If he plays with consistency for Liverpool, then why shouldn't I consider him?" said Lippi.

Benayoun and Riera both have an outside chance of facing City despite being ruled out for four weeks when they damaged hamstrings against Birmingham last Monday. The pair received treatment at the Belgrade home of Mariana Kovacevic, the physiotherapist who massages liquid from a horse's placenta into the affected area and is treating Arsenal's Robin van Persie for an ankle ligament injury, and have since made a remarkable recovery.

Liverpool FC’s David Ngog Is Ready To Face Manchester City Despite Breaking His Nose

RAFA BENITEZ is confident David Ngog will be available to face Manchester City this weekend – despite breaking his nose on international duty.

The young striker sustained the injury during a training session with France’s Under-21 squad last week and has returned to Melwood for treatment.

Ngog’s last appearance for Liverpool, of course, was shrouded in controversy after he ‘won’ the penalty that enabled his side to secure a 2-2 draw with Birmingham City.

That incident, though, overshadowed what had been an encouraging display – he scored the Reds’ opener – and with Fernando Torres set to be sidelined, Ngog will be needed.

“Ngog has broken his nose, so we will have to see how he is before the weekend,” Benitez said today. “But we think he is going to be okay. It is not too serious.”

While Torres continues to work with the physios at Melwood, Benitez is confident his squad will have a more robust look to it by the time City arrive at Anfield.

Steven Gerrard trained with the first team yesterday and once again came through the session with flying colours to take a step nearer to his first start since October 20.

Glen Johnson And Fabio Aurelio Are The Latest Liverpool FC Stars To Go For Radical Horse Placenta Treatment

Glen Johnson and Fabio Aurelio have become the latest Liverpool players to visit radical therapist Mariana Kovacevic in an attempt to end their injury problems.

Albert Riera and Yossi Benayoun flew to Belgrade earlier this week to see Kovacevic, who has become famous for treating sportsmen with the liquid from horse placenta.

They have responded so well to treatment that there is a chance the pair could figure against Manchester City on Saturday and now Johnson and Aurelio have followed suit.

That pair were forced to miss England’s friendly against Brazil in Qatar last Saturday with respective hamstring and calf problems.

But after seeing Kovacevic, Johnson is now set to take his place on the right side of Liverpool’s defence when City visit, while Aurelio is making good progress too.

Similar sentiments apply to Fernando Torres, who has done his first couple of training sessions since being ordered to rest his damaged groin for three weeks.

Liverpool’s star striker, however, has not been involved with the rest of the first team squad and the club’s medical staff will continue to monitor his progress.

Liverpool Target Juventus Star Sebastian Giovinco

According to a report in the Corriere dello Sport, Premier League giants Liverpool are mulling over a bid to lure out-of-favour Juventus 'fantasista' Sebastian Giovinco to Anfield.

The diminutive hitman has only mustered six league appearances so far this term and has slipped further down the pecking order, after the arrival of Brazilian ace Diego over the summer.

The 22-year-old has been frequently linked with a move away from the Stadio Olimpico to boost his chances of proving his worth to Italy boss Marcello Lippi ahead of next year’s World Cup finals.

Premier League sides Arsenal and West Ham have allegedly sounded out Juve directors over his availability, but Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is now believed to have joined the hunt and could make an offer to secure his services during the January transfer window.

Giovinco would link up with fellow Italians Andrea Dossena and Alberto Aquilani on Merseyside, with the latter only making his Premier League debut earlier this month after completing a €20 million move from Roma last summer.

Giovinco Agent Rules Out Liverpool

Sebastian Giovinco’s agent has slammed reports that Liverpool are staging a swoop for the ‘Atomic Ant.’

The young Juventus prodigy has been linked with a January move to Anfield, where he would join fellow Italian Alberto Aquilani.

“I don’t think we can say there is anything true in these rumours,” agent Luca Pasqualin told

“Giovinco will remain at Juventus. I don’t know who spread this story around, but I can confirm Giovinco is staying in Turin. That is the reality.”

There were theories as to the Under-21 international’s future, as he is considered a reserve for Diego and Alessandro Del Piero.

“Giovinco is a Juventus player and must have faith in the Coach and his club. As for a hypothetical transfer to Liverpool, there is nothing to say other than he will stay at Juventus.”

Liverpool, Spurs And Fulham On Red Alert

Liverpool, Spurs and Fulham were put on red alert last night as Ruud van Nistelrooy admitted he would consider a return to the Premier League.

The Dutch striker is out in the cold at Real Madrid and is worried about his World Cup place.

The Spanish giants would consider selling the former Manchester United hitman for £5m in the January transfer market.

Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp would be interested in the 33-year-old as well as Fulham’s Roy Hodgson, who failed with a bid for Peter Crouch in the summer. Even Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez could consider an offer given his lack of attacking options and injury-ravaged squad.

Van Nistelrooy said: “If I do not get the chance to play in the next couple of weeks then the option to move on in January is very real and open. I need to speak with the new Dutch coach Bert Van Marwijk about returning to the national squad, but I know that is impossible if I do not play at Real Madrid.

‘’If things do not change then I will need to study my situation and consider my options in January. I have not closed anything with any club and I would be interested in going back to England.”

Reds' Struggles Surprise Carlo

Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti has admitted his surprise at Liverpool's Premier League struggles this season.

Rafa Benitez's men were expected to mount a serious title challenge this term but are already badly off the pace after losing five of their opening 12 games.

The Anfield outfit is already 11 points adrift of Ancelotti's league leaders, who have a five-point cushion over Arsenal and Manchester United following their 1-0 victory against the champions before the international break.

Some pundits expected the Red Devils to fall off the pace following the summer sale of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid, but it is Liverpool's failings which have been an eye-opener for Ancelotti.

The Italian told Il Giornale: "United were two points behind Chelsea before our face-to-face; they have done well in the Champions League.

"Valencia, his (Ronaldo's) replacement, has great qualities and is starting to click with the well-oiled machine that is United.

"The only real disappointment (of the season) is Liverpool."

Ngog Gets Cameroon Invite

Liverpool striker David Ngog has been approached by Cameroon to play for the African country.

Ngog, who has played for France from Under 16 level through to Under 21, qualifies for Cameroon through his father.

Cameroon coach Paul Le Guen is keen for Ngog to change his allegiance ahead of the African Cup of Nations and World Cup.

If Ngog decides to play for Cameroon it could leave Liverpool with problems in attack for January as Cameroon are involved in the African Cup of Nations in Angola at the turn of the year.

Ngog admits he is flattered by the approach and he is now considering his international future.

"I have had contact with the Cameroonian federation. Now I need some time to think about things. I'm very flattered," Ngog told The Sun.

Pepe Reina Is Saving Liverpool FC’s Season, Says Alan Hansen

Pepe Reina is the “tower of strength” that has already prevented Liverpool’s season from heading into oblivion.

That’s the verdict of Alan Hansen, who believes the Spain international is now challenging Ray Clemence for the title of the club’s greatest-ever goalkeeper.

Liverpool entertain Manchester City on Saturday having suffered a run of just one win in nine games to slip to seventh in the Premier League standings.

Another defeat at the weekend would further compromise their hopes of a top-four finish, with their ambitions downscaled following a poor start to the campaign.

And Hansen – who played more than 600 games for Liverpool and gained 23 winners’ medals in a 14-year Anfield career – reckons it would have been even worse but for the presence of Reina.

“Pepe has been invaluable again this season, and, for me, should now be considered as one of the greatest goalkeepers Liverpool have had,” said Hansen.

“He’s right up there with Ray Clemence and it’s probably just as well because if we didn’t have a keeper as good as Reina, we could have been in serious trouble this season.

“Liverpool’s back four have struggled at times this season, but if you have a back four that’s struggling, with a dodgy keeper behind them, then it’s the end of the story.

“Our defence has struggled but Pepe has been a tower of strength. He’s been a model of consistency. Keepers like him are worth their weight in gold as they give the back four confident.

“He has always been a good goalkeeper but if he had a weakness when he first came to Liverpool, it was when the ball was in the air, coming across him quickly.

“Initially he had one or two problems with those type of crosses but he has sorted it out and his judgement is now a lot better.

“In terms of every other quality you need to have as a keeper, Reina is right at the top of the tree. He is reliable, dependable and makes great saves.”

Liverpool are a point behind City having played a game more, and are three adrift of Tottenham Hotspur, who currently occupy the fourth and final Champions League qualification place.

Benitez’s side have played five of the six teams above them this season in all competitions and beaten only champions Manchester United, losing to Arsenal in the Carling Cup and Chelsea, Tottenham and Aston Villa in the Premier League.

And Hansen believes the visit of Mark Hughes’ Eastlands outfit is a must-win for Liverpool to get their season back on track.

“The City game is massive because if you take our current Premier League position into account and the fact qualification for the Champions League knockout stages is out of our hands, it becomes absolutely imperative Liverpool win,” said the Scot. “We want to qualify for the Champions League next season by finishing in the top four and a win would keep the spirits of everyone connected with Liverpool up after such a bad run.

“The sooner we get out of that, the better for the manager, players and supporters. What Liverpool must do is ensure that it isn’t them who are in danger of slipping out of the top four if City does come good.

“The players showed against United they are good enough and what they need to do now is play the same way against City.

“But if Liverpool gets everybody fit and our tried-and-trusted structure back on the pitch, I’m confident Rafa Benitez’s team is capable of showing what they’re all about.”

“Over the next few weeks the players will want to show everybody that their season is not dead and buried by putting a bit of light back into the challenge for the title.

“The players need to achieve a level of consistency to do that – and if they want an example to follow they need look no further than their goalkeeper.”