Monday, November 23, 2009

Debrecen Can Deal Liverpool A Knockout Blow

French fair play could help keep Liverpool's Champions League hopes alive when they take on Debrecen in Hungary Tuesday.

Five times champions Liverpool must win to have any hope of reaching the last 16 but they also need France's Olympique Lyon, who are already through, not to lose against Fiorentina in Italy.

Lyon have 10 points from four matches in Group E, Fiorentina are on nine and Liverpool four.

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez suggested last week's World Cup qualifying furore, with France beating Ireland after Thierry Henry handled the ball before the crucial goal, could help his side's position.

"I don't know if the Henry incident will affect Lyon, but it could be good for us," British Sunday newspapers quoted the Spaniard as saying.

"If they want to show everyone in the world they are good professionals and want to win every game, it would be good," he added.

"It could be something that works out positively for Liverpool. Their coach said they would try to win. He is a professional. I know Lyon have a good group of professionals and a good manager."

Unless Liverpool overcome Debrecen, a side that have yet to score a point in Group E while conceding more goals (14) than anyone else in the competition, the Premier League side can forget about going any further.

Lyon and Fiorentina both put four goals past them in their away matches but Liverpool have won just once in their last 10 games and managed only a 1-0 victory over the Hungarians at Anfield.

Sunday's 2-2 domestic draw at home to Manchester City only added to Benitez's headache with Danish defender Daniel Agger needing five stitches for a head wound while Ryan Babel limped off with an ankle injury.

Liverpool, who can ill afford to miss out on the lucrative final stages, are already without key striker Fernando Torres but are confident England full-back Glen Johnson will have recovered from a calf injury by Tuesday.

Israeli Yossi Benayoun, who came back from a hamstring injury to score the equaliser Sunday, should also be fit while Benitez refused to rule out Babel and Agger.

Debrecen manager Andras Herczeg will be without key player Leandro, who is suffering from a partially torn knee ligament and could be out for a month or two. Either Zsolt Laczko or Marcell Fodor is likely to take the left back's position.

Norbert Meszaros had recovered from a groin injury but forward Robert Feczesin is still injured. Montenegro keeper Vukasin Poleksic was rested for Friday's 2-1 away win at Honved but should start.

Fernando Torres Absent From Budapest

Liverpool will try to keep their Champions League hopes alive without Fernando Torres.

The Spanish striker will again be absent when Liverpool head to Budapest today for the must win tie with Debrecen.

Torres is to continue his rehabilitation from a hernia problem on Merseyside and misses the game Liverpool have to win to have any chance to stay in the competition.

Kop boss Rafa Benitez also needs Fiorentina to be denied a home victory by Lyon, who has already qualified from Group E.

“We thought it would be two or three weeks for Fernando and he’s only about 12 or 13 days into that, so there is no point in him going,” said Benitez.

Skrtel Pleased To Score First Ever Liverpool Goal

Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel was happy to break his scoring duck in Saturday's 2-2 draw with Manchester City.

It was Skrtel's first for Liverpool in 65 appearances, but the final outcome of the contest ensured it was a bittersweet afternoon for the Slovakian.

He told "I was very happy to score my first goal for Liverpool. I have been waiting a long time for it, so it was a good moment for me.

"I am in my third season here and hadn't managed to score until today, but I hope this is the first of many more.

"But we are frustrated to have drawn again because we wanted to win. We couldn't in the end, and we are not happy because of this.

"There is nothing we can do about the result now and we have to look forward to the next game and try to win."

Liverpool Eye January Loan Move For Ruud Van Nistelrooy

The Dutchman has spoken recently of his desire to leave the Bernabeu, unless he can force his way back into the first team, as he wants to play his way back into the Dutch squad for next summer’s World Cup.

Yet with Real now possessing a glittering array of attacking talents, that looks unlikely meaning he could be set for a move in January, with Liverpool reportedly interested in signing the 33-year-old.

The tabloid claims manager Rafael Benitez is keen to add an extra striker to the ranks, and could take the Dutchman on loan until the end of the season.

The report adds that whilst both Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City are also interested in the Real man, he would prefer a move to Anfield, despite his strong connections with Manchester United.

The Dutch ace enjoyed phenomenal success in his five years Old Trafford, winning a Premier League and FA Cup and bagging 150 goals in 219 for the Red Devils.

Napoli Refuse To Rule Out Andrea Dossena Interest

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis has refused to rule out a move for out of favour Liverpool defender Andrea Dossena.

The Italian has in the past been heavily linked with a move to the Partenopei, and the club has now indicated they are looking into the possibility of bringing the player back to the peninsula.

"I will not exclude a move for Dossena," De Laurentiis told the assembled press.

"We have also looked at [Cristian] Molinaro and [Antonio] Candreva, but I have to speak with [manager Walter] Mazzarri about it."

The top boss also shed some light on the talking point in football in recent times, as he called for video technology to be introduced into the sport so as to ensure that the 'Hand of Henry' incident is not repeated.

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

Rafa Benitez Still Believes In Zonal Marking

Rafael Benitez maintains his players still believe in zonal marking despite Liverpool’s continued failure to defend set-pieces costing them the chance of a morale-boosting victory at the weekend.

The Anfield outfit required a goal from substitute Yossi Benayoun to salvage a 2-2 home draw with fellow top-four aspirants Manchester City on Saturday.

After Martin Skrtel prodded Liverpool into the lead shortly after the interval, poor defending allowed Emmanuel Adebayor and then Stephen Ireland to put the visitors ahead.

Adebayor’s goal was a free header from a Craig Bellamy corner, the 12th goal Benitez’s side have conceded from a dead-ball situation this season.

It has led to criticism of Liverpool’s continued use of zonal marking, but while admitting there must be an improvement the Anfield manager has no plans to change his approach.

“When you’re using a zonal marking system you have to attack the ball and if there’s a player near you, you have to challenge,” said Benitez.

“We watched some set-pieces beforehand, and Richard Dunne scored against them when they were using man-to-man. In England, 35% of the goals come from set-pieces.

“But it is clear you have to attack the space or the player, it doesn’t mean you have to stand like a post.

“I think the majority of players believe in it, maybe you can find one or two who don’t. But we were one of the best – THE best – before.

“This year has been bad but it is still early in the season. We will see how things are at the end.

“We were improving at set-pieces, but it’s something we have to keep looking at.”

Liverpool have now won just one of their last 10 games and conceded 27 goals in 19 games in all competitions this season, and stand five points off the Champions League qualification places.

Their defence, disrupted by a calf injury to Glen Johnson before kick-off, was further affected by Daniel Agger being forced off after 11 minutes following a sickening clash of heads with Kolo Toure.

“We have had too many problems with defenders from the first game of the season,” said Benitez. “Like on Saturday, in the morning we thought ‘this is the team’, but then Glen Johnson couldn’t play.

“The understanding between the defenders is vital but it is a question of time.

“We had a shocking day with injuries. Glen was not happy with his calf and he had been limping a bit in training. Then we lose Agger.”

Placenta Doctor Mariana Kovacevic Wanted Over Possible Tax Evasion

Serb authorities investigating the mysterious housewife who uses placenta to treat Barclays Premier League players want to question her about possible tax evasion.

Mariana Kovacevic, whom they believe has at least three aliases and as many as four different addresses around Belgrade, is thought to charge 3,000 euros for sessions treating the likes of Robin van Persie and Frank Lampard.

That is six times the average monthly take-home pay in the Serb capital. She is not officially registered as a practising physiotherapist and the only Mariana Kovacevic in health authority records is listed at a pharmacy in Sarajevska Street.

When Sportsmail attempted to trace her at the pharmacy, we were told: ‘Ah, the woman that everybody in the city is looking for? No, I don’t know her. She doesn’t work here.’

In a case which is developing the sinister trappings of an underworld operation, Kovacevic has disappeared without trace. The players she is currently treating are also being kept hidden from view by a bewildering combination of subterfuge, private jets, fast cars and eagle-eyed surveillance.

Chelsea have admitted privately that Lampard flew to Belgrade on Friday for treatment on his damaged left thigh, yet he was not even seen at the airport, being funneled through the VIP arrivals terminal.

The authorities believe Kovacevic regularly changes her appearance, notably her style of dressing and her hair colour in a constant effort to avoid detection.

Now that the authorities have been alerted to her existence and her dubious medical practices - notably by van Persie, who unwittingly alerted the world at large last week - and the lack of unpaid tax, the fortysomething mother of three who is now thought to have spent time working for the Azerbaijan national side will be constantly sought by Serb Police.

Kovacevic has not been seen at her New Belgrade clinic since Wednesday when Van Persie, Glen Johnson and Fabio Aurelio arrived for treatment which is now understood to involve the use of electrical impulses and small metal sticks covered in placenta jelly penetrating the skin and then being fed back through it.

Seven days ago, Serb sportsmen happily spoke about their visits to see Kovacevic and the miracle cures she had performed on their injuries. Now it is almost impossible to find one who will even admit to visiting her.

Partizan Belgrade’s Portugal midfielder Almami Da Silva Moreira denied seeing her, in spite of being identified by the owner of the cafe bar directly opposite as having entered Kovacevic’s clinic earlier this season.

Speaking after Saturday’s 2-1 league win over Smederevo, Moreira said: ‘I haven’t been to see her and I hope I don’t need to see her in the future, but I would go. You must believe in life. If people believe in her it’s a good thing. She can help them.

‘Maybe the players who have seen her can’t explain to their club doctors what she is doing there. Maybe she is doing magic things with a magic potion. If she was stopped doing what she does by the authorities, it would be a pity for football players. It would be a shame for everybody because Belgrade is the centre of the Premiership just now.’