Saturday, November 21, 2009

Match Preview: LiverpooL vs. Manchester City

The first Premier League match of the weekend also happens to be one of the biggest, as Liverpool look to revive their season when they take on top four chasing Manchester City.

The Reds' 2-2 draw with Birmingham City last time out stretched their horror run to one win in nine games. With five league losses already, it would appear that their title race is all but run.

Although Rafael Benitez and his loyal charges have insisted that silverware is still well within their grasp, a top-four finish seems a more realistic target - particularly with the way things are in the Champions League.

Even that relatively humble goal is fraught with obstacles. One of which the 18-time English champions will welcome to Anfield on Saturday lunchtime.

City themselves have a point to prove after a summer of significant investment. Now is the time to show their cash-fuelled rise is no joke and they can mix it with the biggest clubs around.

The Blues currently sit in sixth place - one point ahead of their upcoming opponents. The 3-3 draw with Burnley last time out was their fifth consecutive stalemate in the league and left them further adrift from the leading pack

Thus, the international break could hardly have been timed better for either side. They will both be looking for a result that could save their season.



Nov 9 Liverpool 2-2 Birmingham City
Nov 4 Olympique Lyonnais 1-1 Liverpool
Oct 31 Fulham 3-1 Liverpool
Oct 28 Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool
Oct 25 Liverpool 2-0 Manchester United

Manchester City

Nov 7 Manchester City 3-3 Burnley
Nov 1 Birmingham City 0-0 Manchester City
Oct 28 Manchester City 5-1 Scunthorpe United
Oct 25 Manchester City 2-2 Fulham
Oct 18 Wigan Athletic 1-1 Manchester City



Steven Gerrard didn't join up with the England squad for the glamour game against Brazil and the skipper is fit to start after battling a recurring groin problem. Fernando Torres, however, is all but sure to miss out, along with Yossi Benayoun and Albert Riera.

But there is more good news for manager Benitez, as centre-half Jamie Carragher is available once more after serving a ban for his red card at Fulham.

Alberto Aquilani is an outside chance to make his first start for the club, while defensive duo Glen Johnson and Daniel Agger - who both stayed home over the international break - are expected to play.

Possible starting XI: Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Insua, Kuyt, Mascherano, Lucas, Aurelio, Gerrard, Ngog.

Manchester City

Gareth Barry sustained a groin injury whilst serving his country in Qatar, but the former Aston Villa captain is in line to face the club that coveted him for so long.

Craig Bellamy - who spent a season at Anfield - finds himself in a similar situation, although he missed Wales' 3-0 win over Scotland.

Nedum Onuoha (thigh) could be fit enough to make the matchday squad, and there are reports that Robinho (ankle) is all set to make his return - although other sources suggest the Brazilian is still a short while off.

Possible starting XI: Given, Zabaleta, Lescott, Toure, Bridge, Wright-Phillips, Barry, De Jong, Bellamy, Tevez, Adebayor.


Liverpool - Glen Johnson

The England full back has been shining light in an otherwise gloomy campaign, bringing a new dimension with his adventurous play from the right flank. He can be exposed behind, however, and will need to be vigilant given the visitor's quality in attack.

Manchester City - Gareth Barry

Reds boss Benitez admitted recently that this man was the lynchpin to a plan that will now never be put into place. The midfielder has copped some flak for a perceived lapse in his passing game, but he would no doubt love to show Tom Hicks and George Gillett that he'd have been money well spent.

Rafa Benitez Concedes Champions League Hopes Rest On Make-Or-Break Manchester City Clash

Rafael Benitez acknowledges that Liverpool's clash with Manchester City on Saturday is 'make or break' to their hopes of ensuring Champions League football next season.

The stakes are very high for boss Benitez, who has sent four players - Yossi Benayoun, Albert Riera, Glen Johnson and Fabio Aurelio - to Belgrade this week for unorthodox placenta cell treatment on their injuries.

Now all four, plus injured trio Fernando Torres, Daniel Agger and skipper Steven Gerrard, should be available to face Mark Hughes' ambitious side.

Benitez said: 'This is a big game, an important game. But then all Liverpool games are important. But this could be described as a make-or-break game for our season.

'We are aware of City's ambitions. They have spent some money on good players and they also have a good manager with experience.

'It will be tough, and important for us to win particularly with the Champions League game away to Debrecen next week. A good win will give us all confidence for that.

'We want to progress and we want to be higher in the table. We want to continue playing big teams and playing for something important.

'But it is too early to talk about final league positions, but clearly it is a big game for both clubs. But we must be confident we can win.

'I am not amongst the managers, 80 per cent I am told, in the Premier League who believe City will finish in the top four. We will be in the top four.'

Although City have been left clutching at draws recently, failing to win from their last five games, Liverpool are also under pressure to break their own poor form in the league following their 2-2 home draw with newly-promoted Birmingham nearly a fortnight ago.

Benitez added: 'The aim is to kick-start our season.

'We must improve and a win will be a real lift for everyone.'

'We know City have money and they have spent a lot, but we must not just keep looking at what they are doing.

'What we have to do is to keep going, keep playing at our best.

'We are not in a good position in the table or in the Champions League.

'But we cannot change what has already happened.

'We need to win two or three games and the attitude will be totally different, with the fans and players having more belief.

'It is normally against good teams that we do best because the games are more open. We did it against Manchester United, and we aim to do the same to City.'

Liverpool FC Commercial Chief Hails Club’s Links With Spain

Ian Ayre, the commercial director of English soccer club Liverpool, has paid tribute to the club's Spanish links, following the acquisition of the Spain Tourist Board as a sponsor and the success of Spanish driver Adrian Valles in the team's Superleague Formula motorsport franchise.

TurespaƱa, the Spain Tourism Board, signed a three-year contract with the club, which is managed by Rafa Benitez and has a number of Spanish stars including goalkeeper Pepe Reina and striker Fernando Torres. Last weekend, when Valles sealed the 2009 championship at a race in his home country, the link was further underlined.

"We're all aware of the clear Spanish connection Liverpool Football Club has and having Adrian is great," said Ayre. "He had a great day at Anfield the week before.

"The players keep in touch with him. I know Pepe Reina is a bit of a petrolhead and has been in regular contact. Rafa also sent a great message of congratulations to him on the day. He's fitted in really well and is clearly a rising star of motor racing."
Ayre added: "The celebrations were unbelievable. It looked like Adrian had his entire village from Spain up on the podium with him. There was lots of champagne being sprayed about."

Liverpool Boss Rafael Benitez Hails Miracle Cure

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has hailed the clinic that has got four of his top men fit for Saturday's crunch Premier League encounter with Manchester City.

Benitez defended the use of a controversial Serbian clinic to get Glen Johnson, Fabio Aurelio, Yossi Benayoun and Albert Riera all fit.

The Belgrade clinic is run by physiotherapist Mariana Kovacevic, and the unusual treatment involves massaging with a placenta cream.

All four are now in contention for the visit of Manchester City, and Tuesday's vital Champions League clash with Debrecen which has clearly buoyed the Reds boss.

"We knew of other players at Premier League clubs who have been to Belgrade for treatment with this lady, and we were made aware that it was very effective," Benitez told the Press Association.

"[Manchester City's Pablo] Zabaleta told Riera about it.

"She [Kovacevic] has been working for seven years with top-class sportsmen, not just footballers. So she has the experience.

"We felt it was a good opportunity to send some of our players. We sent two, Benayoun and Riera and they came back and started training straight away.

"So we decided to send two more, Johnson and Aurelio, and the same thing has happened. They have been training and all four will be in the squad against City.

"Arsenal's Robin van Persie went earlier, but now there are several more top players who are going to have treatment in the same way.

"City have sent two, [Vincent] Kompany and Zabaleta beforehand, and they were playing within days.

"There have been no injections, it is a placenta cream applied with a [massage] machine that creates waves of pressure."

He added: "We sent our players, and Van Persie was there. Kompany and Zabaleta have also been there, and we have been made aware of the success of this treatment over several years.

"Many top players have been going there for seven years, it has been successful and I believe it is safe.

"It is good for specific injuries, doctors have explained the treatment and the components of the cream that is used. We are happy with it.

"We checked it out when we became aware of the different players who had been there. I must admit we have been surprised with how well it has worked.

"It means we have players available and training that we expected to be out for several weeks. Can we guarantee that they are fully fit? We will see, but they have trained with the rest of the team for three days and they are OK."

Rafael Benitez Confirms Liverpool's Glen Johnson Received Placenta Treatment

Liverpool clash with Manchester City this weekend and Rafael Benitez will be hoping the international break will have given his side the opportunity to turn their recent shoddy form around.

Roaming right-back Glen Johnson, according to Benitez, has received the experimental placenta massage that Arsenal striker Robin van Persie elected to try following the injury he sustained while representing Netherlands.

Steven Gerrard, though, will likely feature against Mark Hughes' men. Benitez hopes his talismanic captain scores the winner against a side who are gunning for a top four spot in the Premier League this season.

Benitez told a press conference: "We have some problems, [Dan] Agger has been training, [Steven] Gerrard has been training, Glen [Johnson] too. We have [Martin] Kelly and [Fernando] Torres, who is still not fit.

"We have a plan of two weeks, but [Torres] is ten days away now."

Regarding the placenta treatment given to Johnson, Benitez said through a smile: "We knew from some players from other Premier League clubs that it was a good treatment, and the doctor has good experience with clubs in Europe. Some [Manchester] City players, an Arsenal player [have all received it], so it is something that is credited, he had no injections."

The Spaniard was also delighted to be able to welcome Gerrard back into the side: "Gerrard is important for us, not just on the pitch, he is an example. This is a very good for us, and hopefully he will score the winning goal for us."

Martin Kelly Respects Liverpool Rival Daniel Ayala

Liverpool full-back Martin Kelly has spoken of his respect for colleague Daniel Ayala, despite the fact that the young Spaniard is in direct competition with him for a place in the team.

Both 19-year-olds have represented their countries at youth level and both have now played for Rafa Benitez's first-team, but Kelly insists that their relationship is positive.

"There is a healthy rivalry," the Englishman told the Reds' official website.

"He came in from Spain when I came up from the Academy. We bonded and I have to take my hat off to Dani this season. He's done well and I have to respect that.

"I've got to play football for myself and not look at what anyone else is doing. I need to focus on what I'm doing as a football player and hopefully I'm developing well.

"My dad has always said to me to let other players worry about me. That's what I try to do."

Kelly made his full debut for the Reds against Lyon last month, and says the experience of fellow academy graduate Jay Spearing helped him adjust to the situation quickly.

"You have an idea you're playing during training but I didn't know for sure until about an hour and a half before kick-off. Then the butterflies started," he added.

"Luckily, Jay (Spearing) made his debut the week before, so he was going through a similar thing.

"I'd told him that the boss clearly believed in him, so he had to go out there and take his chance. And he was there to say the same to me. We sit next to each other in the changing room, so he gave me a little bit of advice.

"It lived up to expectations. At the start when You'll Never Walk Alone finished and then we ran out to the Champions League music - you can't get better than that.

"Now I've had a taste of playing in the first team I want to play as much as I can."

The versatile Kelly says he is not yet sure of his best position, but reveals that the experienced defenders at the club are helping his development though.

"At the moment I don't know which is my best position," said the 19-year-old. "I'll play anywhere across the back four. When I went to Huddersfield I played at left-back for the first three games and it didn't seem any different to right-back. I don't mind where I play.

"I've been working hard on the tactical side of my game, which helps. That's coming along and I can't thank the coaching staff enough for what they've done to bring me on as a player.

"The defenders here are top-class players but I'll be trying my hardest in training.

"They [Jamie Carragher, Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel] have been great with me, giving me advice and telling me how to put anything I'm doing wrong right.

"Training with them every day is fantastic - I can't wait to get out there with them and then I don't want the training sessions to finish."

Napoli President Aurelio De Laurentiis: Liverpool's Andrea Dossena Is Possible

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis has given the world another clue regarding his plans for Liverpool defender Andrea Dossena, indicating that a move could take place.

De Laurentiis, who is in Milan for the Lega Calcio general assembly, has uncovered part of his agenda for the January transfer window. Dossena is one of the targets, but the chief is not keen on hasty moves as he plans changes with Walter Mazzarri.

"I will not exclude a move for Dossena," he told the press. "We have also looked at Cristian Molinaro and Antonio Candreva, but I have to speak with Mazzarri about it."

All the hype has revolved around the international scene this week. France's controversial win over Ireland has got the world talking for all the wrong reasons. De Laurentiis has added his voice to the millions calling for video technology.

"I think we need replays on the pitch for these things," concluded the director.

Why Rafa Benitez Is Definitely In It For The Long Haul At Liverpool

Rafa Benitez said he would quit Liverpool if Fernando Torres is sold. The Spanish striker could have been sold last summer to Manchester City if Benitez had accepted their offer – and there will no doubt be more enquiries coming in for Torres until the day he does actually leave.

But what is remarkable about the offer made to Liverpool last summer is the scale of the City bid: £70million for Torres plus and additional £30million for Javier Mascherano. Benitez rejected both offers from Mark Hughes – but I wonder if those Liverpool fans clamouring for some headline grabbing transfer activity and the thrill of purchasing the likes of Ribery, Villa and Silva would have preferred Benitez to say yes?

In rejecting those bids in the summer, Benitez stuck with proven Premier League performers who are guaranteed to succeed, ahead of the instant impact of glamorous summer transfer activity: which in my opinion, was absolutely the right thing to do.

If anyone should question Benitez’s commitment after making that comment about leaving Liverpool – then they should know this. Rafa Benitez turned down the opportunity to take over at Real Madrid in the summer for the FOURTH time since he has been at Anfield.

Benitez rejected a package worth €6million per year over a four-year deal and a transfer budget that a manager’s dreams are made of. The reason he rejected Real Madrid? Rafa believes that he is in the middle of a major project at Anfield, one that so far hasn’t reaped the rewards he expected, but is clearly a work in progress and he has faith in its ultimate success.

The aim is not to bring one league title to Anfield, but a succession of them and an era of Liverpool challenging for all major titles for years to come.