Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Rafa Benitez Dismissed Fears Of Euro Fix

Rafa Benitez dismissed fears of a French conspiracy wrecking his Champions League hopes as he chases the miracle that will keep Liverpool alive in the competition.

Liverpool must beat Debrecen here and then bank on Lyon denying Fiorentina a home victory in Group E’s other game to ensure there is something riding on the final match with the Italians at Anfield on December 9.

Lyon have already reached the knockout stages and it was put to Benitez that his team’s recent impressive record in the competition means the French side would prefer seeing Liverpool dumped out so they could not meet them again in the knockout rounds.

But Benitez claimed he is not concerned about Lyon, who scored last-minute goals in a 2-1 win and a 1-1 stalemate in their group games with Liverpool, colluding with the Italians.

“I don’t think that will be how they are thinking. They will want to finish at the top of the group,” he said.

“They are good professionals. When you qualify first it can be an advantage in terms of which team you draw, but also for the confidence of the team.

“Lyon will try to win. They have quality and they play good counter-attack football, so we will see. I am confident they will do it.”

Liverpool have twice found themselves cornered at the group stages, in 2005 and 2007, when they needed to win their last three matches to keep alive Benitez’s record of never having stumbled at this stage.

Their destiny is not in their own hands, however, and for that reason Benitez added that reaching the knockout stages again would emulate his best escape acts.

He said: “To win 8-0 against Besiktas, 4-1 against Porto and 4-0 against Marseille was really good and, if we can do it again, it will be as important.”

There's Always The Europa League For Liverpool - Jamie Carragher

Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher believes that all is not lost if the Merseyside club fail to reach the last 16 in the Champions League.

The Reds' vice-captain believes that should his side - currently third in Group E - bow out early, they will accept the cards that fate has dealt them and concentrate on winning the Europa League.

"If we don’t make it through [to the Champions League knock-out stage], then we have to accept it and move on," Carragher is quoted on as saying.

"Stevie Gerrard and myself won what was the UEFA Cup [now Europa League] back in 2001 and it was a great moment. It is still a chance to win silverware and there are some great teams in that competition.

"Benfica looked really strong against Everton, and Valencia are in it too. Obviously, we are all still hoping we are in the Champions League."

The Premier League outfit must secure all three points in Hungary and hope that Fiorentina drop points against Olympique Lyonnais at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.

"The hardest thing is our destiny isn’t in our own hands," Carragher continued.

"When we have been in situations like this before, we have been able to sort it out ourselves. We have to concentrate on our own game and hopefully things will go our way. We have to look after ourselves and get the three points. We just have to concentrate on what we can affect and make sure we do our job.

"Nobody is thinking about the other game yet because we have to make sure we win first. There would be nothing worse than Lyon doing us a favour and we haven’t managed to get the win we need."

Ryan Babel Will Quit Liverpool FC Unless Rafa Benitez Picks Him

Liverpool FC winger Ryan Babel wants winter talks with boss Rafa Benitez - and is vowing to leave unless he plays more games.

The Holland international is unhappy with the limited number of matches he has started with the Anfield club since his £11.5million move from Ajax in the summer of 2007.

Babel explained: "I have tried to talk to the manager but it isn’t of any use. I couldn’t really do anything with the feedback Benitez gave me.

"We have agreed to look at my situation in the winter. If there’s no improvement then, I have to be honest, I want to be somewhere else.

"I don’t play a lot so I can’t be happy and I can’t cheer out loud. Sometimes I wonder how long I can sustain it but I will fight for my position - what else can I do?"

Babel scored an impressive long-range goal for Liverpool FC in their last Champions League match, the 1-1 draw at Lyon.

However, on tonight’s must-win match against Debrecen he spoke of his frustration at failing to make more of an impact with the club.

He continued: "Isn’t it unbelievable that in my first year I got chosen as Talent of the Year? And a season later I hardly play and without getting a proper chance."

Babel, who represented Holland in Beijing last summer, added: "I don’t know if it has anything to do with my little trip to the Olympics. I know the manager wanted me to stay."

However, he does not think Benitez has a grudge against him.

Babel explained: "I really don’t believe he is trying to get back at me. Every time me or my agent (Willie Haatrecht) have a chat with him he stresses I can’t leave and he believes in me. We have to trust he is telling the truth. Saying it is different to showing it."

Babel has confidence in his own ability and still believes he can make the right impression in a Liverpool FC shirt.

He added: "I have shown I can do it plenty of times. I know I could be further in my career but if nobody helps you, if they don’t make it easier for you, then it is difficult."

Yossi Benayoun Delighted With Rapid Recovery

Liverpool will seek a miracle cure for their Champions League campaign this evening – as Yossi Benayoun praised the radical doctor that has given him the chance of helping the Anfield cause.

Rafael Benitez’s side take on Hungarian champions Debrecen in the 69,000-capacity Ferenc Puskas Stadium with their European challenge on a knife edge.

Liverpool must beat the Group E whipping boys and pray Lyon do them a favour in Italy against Fiorentina.

While Glen Johnson is expected to be available after missing the weekend draw with Manchester City because of a calf problem, Fernando Torres, Ryan Babel and Albert Riera are all absent.

But Benayoun was among the party that flew to Budapest after a remarkable recovery from the hamstring tear he suffered against Birmingham City earlier this month.

The Israeli was expected to be sidelined for up to five weeks but was fit enough to score Liverpool’s equaliser as a substitute on Saturday after visiting radical therapist Mariana Kovacevic.

And the midfielder has revealed the Belgrade doctor - who also treated Johnson, Riera and Fabio Aurelio last week – used the placenta of a woman and not a horse to help cure his ailment.

“I have seen so many stories about the treatment on my hamstring, but, for me, there were never any worries,” said Benayoun. “There were no animal parts used and no injections.

“The doctor has treated a lot of players and seems to be held in very high regard.

“She explained everything to me beforehand and told me she would be using fluid from a placenta that had come from a woman.

“Nothing went into the muscle itself. It was just a case of massaging the liquid on to the skin around the affected area and letting it get to work.

“It meant I was able to play again and help the team within a fortnight of suffering the injury.

“When I felt the hamstring go, against Birmingham, and signalled to the bench that I couldn’t carry on, I never envisaged being back on the pitch so soon. I have to be happy with that, and it shows what can be done with this treatment.”

Benayoun will now compete with Aurelio for a starting role this evening as Liverpool aim to conjure another Champions League escape act.

“It was clear I was not ready to start against Manchester City, and it was unfortunate I had to go on so early, after those injuries to Daniel Agger and Ryan Babel,” said Benayoun, a 19th-minute substitute at the weekend.

“If I can play a part in Hungary, great. It is always a good feeling when your coach wants you in the team, and I desperately want to contribute anything I can to try and help us qualify from the group.

“But I can’t see myself playing the full 90 minutes. I don’t believe that is a realistic aim after missing so much training.

“Everyone in the squad knows my condition and how I’m still trying to get my fitness back, but I will do the best I can.

“This is an important phase for the team and, of course, the manager. We have had one or two disappointments since the start of the season, but he has proved his worth many times over the years, and I don’t believe he is about to leave.

“We just need a bit of luck, with injuries off the field and the bounce of the ball on it, and everything will change for us.”

Purslow The Catalyst As Liverpool Look To Enter The Big Leagues

Compared to clubs like United and Real Madrid over the years, Liverpool has failed to capitalise on their markets abroad. Although they have millions of supporters around the world, the Merseyside club has lagged behind financially because it has lacked the business acumen to tap into the lucrative markets in Asia. Although the Reds have toured the Far East on many occasions, the lack of marketing and sponsorship from such areas was to plain to all to see. Combined with his apparent falling out with Rafa Benitez, this failure to capitalise financially in highly lucrative areas was one of the main reasons Rick Parry resigned as Chief Executive at the end of last season.

In a very public interview, Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks expressed this very concern about Rick Parry’s abilities as a business manager, and contributed to the long serving Chief Executive’s departure. The arrival of Christian Purslow as Managing Director was a clear sign of the direction that both the co-owners and the Liverpool board wanted the club to go in. With the naming of the Chief Executive being delayed for the immediate future, Purslow has the full reins to begin tapping into these unopened pots of gold. As always with the American owners, an air of cynicism will cloud these attempts as it will be seen to be just another way to squeeze every ounce of profit out of the club.

To some extent there is truth in this, the debt on the club has to be repaid somehow and this will be a profitable way of doing this. However there is no doubt that Liverpool Football Club could be produce far more financially. Its large fan base around the world could finance not only the debt, but also the new ground and the ability to produce funds to not only buy players, but to keep many players that are already on board. As most Liverpool fans are fully aware, despite the fact that the club is struggling in the league at the moment, there will be little money to spend in January. Of course we could demand the American owners to empty their pockets for cash, but we know that is not going to happen. Even if we did, it is not a sustainable business model to keep a football club afloat in the long term and see continued success in the future.

The answer is expansion abroad, and this is where the role of Christian Purslow comes in. Purslow has a background in private equity, a financier unlike Parry, but he also has links in football. He is a friend of Kenny Dalglish and he also speaks fluent Spanish which means he has struck up a very good relationship with Rafa Benitez. His job has been to open avenues of revenue around the world, and he has made an immediate impact in this area.

I believe the most significant development of the season for Liverpool, both off and on the pitch is the signing of the new sponsorship deal with Standard Chartered bank. A 20million a season four year deal with the London/Hong Kong based bank which matches, if not slightly exceeds the deal Manchester United made with Aon. It is intended to extend the global reach of Liverpool. Purslow stated Standard’s operations around the round will be crucial to that:

“We have a long-term plan to increase the family of Liverpool fans, Many branches in these countries will effectively be a shop window for Liverpool Football Club and a means of attracting more supporters to the cause.”

It is the biggest sponsorship in club’s history. If it sets the precedent for other deals that Liverpool are involved in; the future will look bright both on the field and off the field for the club. It could bring in an era of prosperity to allow Liverpool to compete financially in the transfer market with Manchester United and Real Madrid, and consequently lead to an era of prosperity on the pitch with Benitez as the manager. As Purslow said:

“As you drive your revenues forward, you try to generate profits and those profits will be used to invest in the future of the club, which, in football speak, often means buying players. From next summer, one of our key [income] lines, the revenue line, will be substantially increased as a function of this commercial agreement, so a normal ratio of that will go to the wage bill and my ability to support Rafa in the transfer market will be hugely enhanced. We want to be the best football team in the world and there is a pretty clear link between that and having the best performance off the field.”

In another interview, before the Manchester United game, Purslow expressed that his plans for the club included a long stay for Benitez:

“Liverpool Football Club is on a long-term journey and that journey is to be the most successful club, firstly in our country and secondly in the world and you don’t do that by worrying about short-term results. You do that by having long-term plans centring on the people and the strategy. Rafa Benitez is absolutely central to that plan.”

If that journey is completed, Liverpool will be one of, if not the biggest in the world, financially as well as on the pitch.

Arsenal Boss Arsene Wenger Feels Sorry For Liverpool

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says he can sympathise with Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez's current plight, and believes that the Merseysiders have been the victims of some bad luck this season.

Liverpool travel to Debrecen this week facing elimination from the Champions League. The Frenchman does not think the Anfield outfit's fans deserve to see their club in such a precarious situation.

"I have a huge sympathy for Liverpool," he told the Gunners' official website.

"I can elaborate because first of all it is a hugely historical club.

"And I have a massive respect for their fans who, for me, have always been outstanding."

Wenger feels that those fans have become a little quieter than usual in recent weeks, as the pressure of an extended run of poor form has made everyone at Anfield much more anxious than usual.

"I must say I watched a little bit of the [2-2 draw at home to] Manchester City and their fans looked to be a little bit affected by fear as well because it was the first time I saw them a bit quiet," he added.

"As well, I feel Liverpool have been a little bit unlucky in the last six weeks; they do not get from the games what they deserve."

Benitez's Time Is Up - Berger

Former Liverpool winger Patrik Berger insists "time is up" for Rafael Benitez as Liverpool manager.

The Spaniard has come under pressure for much of this season, with the team 13 points adrift of Premier League leaders Chelsea and in severe danger of failing to progress from Champions League Group E.

Benitez's transfer policy has also frequently raised eyebrows, with Berger alluding to a lack of quality throughout the squad.

And the former Czech Republic international told BBC Radio 5 live: "He did ever so well for Liverpool but in my opinion, for him time is up and they should change their manager as soon as possible.

"He has spent so much money over the years - he did have success a few years ago but right now, for me, Liverpool do not look a side who can win either the Premier League or Champions League."

Injuries have hampered the Reds for much of the current campaign, but Berger believes Benitez is lacking options having allowed several big-name players to leave Anfield.

"In my opinion, Liverpool is not as strong as they were last year or the year before," he continued.

"If they have all the top players fit, the starting XI is very strong - but as soon as they lose two or three, they don't really have the same quality as when they had Craig Bellamy, Peter Crouch or Robbie Keane on the bench.

"They really rely on the starting XI, if they get a few injuries they are struggling. If they don't have a Steven Gerrard or (Fernando) Torres up front they really look, to me, an average side."