Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Benitez Hails Walking Wounded

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez hailed his walking wounded after a spirited display in the Merseyside derby.

Steven Gerrard played a full 90 minutes in the 2-0 victory despite being still way short of match fitness.

And Yossi Benayoun, Glen Johnson, Albert Riera, Daniel Agger, Fabio Aurelio and Gerrard are all still at various stages of recovery but featured in some part of the game.

Benitez said: "Gerrard has found it hard. He has played three difficult games in a row without training for three weeks prior, and that is tough.

"People have to understand that some players are trying very hard to help the team when they are not really fit. But they want to play, and their attitude is very positive.

"Now we have a week of training, and that I hope will see a lot more of them much fitter for the next game."

He added: "There are several players who maybe should not be out there at the moment. They are not fully fit, they are not training and they have injuries.

"But we are working so hard together. We are seeing players involved when they should really be on the treatment table.

"But they all wanted to play, to do a job for the team and to work to get us going again as a team."

Fernando Torres failed a fitness test with his groin problem and did not even make the bench at Goodison, but Benitez hopes the striker will be fit for Saturday's trip to Blackburn.

He added: "Fernando is close, but he still has some pain. We now have a week to work with him and for the physios to try to get him fit to play.

"We will monitor this every day and then decide. But we do not want to take any risks with him now, he needed three weeks of treatment and that is not fully completed yet.

"There is no deadline. We will have to decide after we have watched him working this week."

Benitez also believes Sunday's victory can act as a springboard for the rest of the season.

He said: "We deserved more in recent games against Manchester City and Birmingham, we should have won them both. But we only managed draws so it was important to start winning matches again.

"We have now managed consecutive clean sheets, including a win against Debrecen, and that is something to build on for the rest of the season.

"Before the game we talked about how we could take advantage of the draws amongst the other sides at the top of the table. We won and we have found more confidence, and with players coming back from injury.

"It will give us confidence now for the rest of the season. We have played well in games and not managed wins, but this time we had to fight against a direct style and we got the victory."

Dirk Kuyt: Mersey Derby Win Can Be Catalyst For Liverpool’s FC Premier League Campaign

Dirk Kuyt believes derby day success was the perfect way to banish Liverpool’s Champions League misery – and can be the catalyst for another assault on the top four.

The Holland international is no stranger to scoring crucial goals against Everton and he repeated his trick of two years ago, when he bundled in from close range to give the Reds a priceless 2-0 victory.

Liverpool have climbed up to fifth in the table now and are just three points behind third-placed Tottenham Hotspur but, as Kuyt accepted, three points were not secured with a performance to please the purists.

That, though, was no concern to the Dutchman, who feels winning one of the most significant games they will play in the Premier League calendar will give him and his teammates the belief to emerge from their dreadful autumn with a bang.

“We’re really happy with the result,” said Kuyt, who netted for the first time September 19.

“It’s one of the most important games of our season and to beat Everton always gives you a special feeling. I’m really happy for the team and the supporters.

“It’s a good result and hopefully we can take the confidence from this into our next couple of games. It’s been a while since I scored, but for me that’s not the most important thing.

“We needed to win, and that’s what matters most. This win has come at the right moment for us. Everybody knows that we have struggled in the Premier League this season and haven’t done well in the Champions League. But we have to move on.

“When you play in a derby match, they aren’t often the greatest games to watch but I think we showed a lot of character to win, and that’s what it was all about.

“A derby is more important than almost every other game, and to win this means a lot for us.

“The result is more important than the performance in a derby. You know it’s going to be hard to play football and you need to show character. We beat Debrecen with a clean sheet and we did the same here, so hopefully we bring some of our confidence back.”

Liverpool took the lead when Javier Mascherano’s long-range effort deflected off Joseph Yobo past Tim Howard but for much of the game they were subjected to a barrage of Everton pressure.

That the Blues did not find a way through was down to Pepe Reina’s enduring brilliance and Kuyt was quick to pay tribute to the Spaniard, particularly after his double save midway through the second-half from Tim Cahill and Marouane Fellaini.

“Everton put us under a lot of pressure with the long balls because they have quality players in the air like Fellaini and Cahill,” said Kuyt. “They caused us a few problems but I thought the defence and Pepe Reina were superb.

“Pepe made a great double save, and for me he is one of the best goalkeepers in the world. He definitely showed that with the save today. We work hard to get results and we’ve all come to Liverpool to win trophies.

“When things don’t go your way it’s disappointing. It has been a very hard period for us but, like the manager says, we have to move on now and look forward. This was a good win, especially as it gets us back in the top five.

“Liverpool have had a great history in the Champions League, including the three years I have been here. We have had some special nights and we want them again.”

Reina Improving Everyday - Benitez

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez hailed Jose Reina as "one of the best goalkeepers in the world" after a singular piece of brilliance helped the side to a 2-0 victory in the 212th Merseyside derby at Goodison Park.

Leading through Joseph Yobo's 12th-minute own goal from a deflected Javier Mascherano shot, the Reds were coming under increasing pressure in the second half.

With 20 minutes remaining Reina pulled off one of the saves of the season when he dived low to his left to keep out Tim Cahill's header and then sprung to his feet to block Marouane Fellaini's follow-up.

Both Benitez and Everton boss David Moyes agreed it was a turning point as, with 10 minutes to go, Dirk Kuyt made the game safe by scoring from close range after substitute Albert Riera's shot was half-saved by Tim Howard.

"When we signed him we knew he was a good keeper and he is improving here," said Benitez of Reina.

"Xavi Valero, our goalkeeping coach, is doing a really good job with him and you can see him improving every day.

"For me he is one of the best goalkeepers in the world and (yesterday) he showed why.

"It was a great save. In this situation he was amazing."

Benitez was also pleased with the defensive performance after a second successive clean sheet made it five matches without defeat.

"The team defending was very good and that is another positive thing for the future," said the Spaniard, who felt vice-captain Jamie Carragher was returning to form after a shaky start to the season.

"Daniel Agger and Carragher were doing a good job but Mascherano and Lucas Leiva were working so hard in the midfield, helping the defence.

"Carra is the one who can organise them. He showed character again because, after the beginning of the season, he is doing well again."

The victory moved Liverpool up to fifth in the Barclays Premier League, just two points behind Arsenal, but Benitez issued a note of caution to his players.

"Always it is important to win and winning games in a row is the key if you want to stay high and in the top four," he said.

"We have to go one game at a time. We have done our job and we have some days to go before Blackburn (next Saturday) so we have to enjoy it and then prepare the team for the next week and hopefully a victory."

Benitez is hopeful of having Fernando Torres back for that game after the striker sat out his fourth successive match because of a groin problem.

"We were testing Fernando on Saturday. He told me he still had a little bit of pain, but he is improving," said the Liverpool boss.

"He is progressing and next week hopefully we can test him again."

Everton are just three points above the relegation zone but Moyes was happy with the performance.

"I don't feel we came off the pitch losers. The players worked extremely hard and I felt they deserved more than what they got," he said.

"The deflected goal took the sting out of us but I thought the players reacted great.

"They kept going and I thought in the main we kept Liverpool quiet.

"It is disappointing you don't get anything from that but overall I thought the players did a good job.

"I've got encouragement from that but it doesn't change our position."

Nemeth Considers AEK Move

Krisztian Nemeth admits that he would seriously think about making his loan move to AEK Athens permanent.

The Liverpool forward is on a season-long loan and after two seasons at Anfield without any first-team opportunities is considering his options.

Despite injury disrupting his time on Merseyside the 20-year-old is seemingly enjoying a change of fortune in Greece having scored three goals in seven league games.

AEK have endured an inconsistent start to the season and currently sit sixth in the Greek Super League, 14 points off leaders Panathinaikos.

"The fans keep telling me that AEK is a great club," he said.

"They're really impressive and certainly more enthusiastic than Liverpool's. What I experienced at the derby with Olympiakos (in which Nemeth scored) was something that I've never felt before.

"I really wondered what the fans would be able to do if we performed better in the league. I think that if Liverpool and AEK work something out, I'd be extremely thoughtful about staying in Athens permanently."

Nemeth added that just because AEK were struggling in the league would not put him off signing permanently.

"It never crossed my mind to ask terminating my loan deal due to AEK's bad performance," he stated.

"Certainly, we should be better. I'm sure that we'll get better and along with the team, I'll improve myself too. I've fallen in love with Greece and AEK's fans."

Manchester City Plot £50m Swoop For Liverpool Striker Fernando Torres

Manchester City are planning an audacious January swoop for Liverpool striker Fernando Torres, according to a report by The Daily Mail.

The Manchester club plans to use their immense wealth to further unsettle the troubled Reds, who they believe would find it hard to turn down an offer of around £50million for the world-class Spaniard.

However, Torres would surely want some guarantee of Champions League football next season – a guarantee which City can't give in January.

Still, the pressure is very much on City boss Mark Hughes to engineer a top-four finish this season. The Welshman's position has come under further scrutiny after Saturday's draw with Hull City - it was the Sky Blues' seventh successive draw.

Former Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink has been reported as a likely successor should Hughes lose his job.

Bayern Deny Ryan Babel Link

Bayern Munich have dismissed reports they are lining up a bid for Ryan Babel.

The Liverpool forward is far from happy with life at Anfield and has made his feelings known to boss Rafa Benitez.

Babel's time on Merseyside looks to be coming to end and a number of clubs have been linked with a move for him in January.

Bayern were one of the clubs said to be keen on the Dutchman, but their director of sport Christian Nerlinger has denied any interest.

"I do know anything about it," he told Liga Total.

"If I do not know anything, you can easily assume there is no truth in this link."

Liverpool And Everton Should Forget Their Differences And Cohabit At Stanley Park

The councillors in Kirkby may have done Liverpool as well as Everton a favour in finding fault with the Toffees’ grand designs.

A Liverpool flagship in Stanley Park remains an empty promise, holed by the collapse of the financial model of the club’s American ownership.

David Moyes is hemmed in at Everton by empty pockets in the boardroom. The club cannot afford to buy a centre-forward let alone finance a new home alone.

The time has come to rise above ancient rituals and old thinking and contemplate a ground share. Do Internazionale and AC suffer identity loss as a consequence of both calling the San Siro – one of the world’s great footballing temples – home?

Individuality is accommodated by the colonisation of separated ends. The supporters of Liverpool and Everton could draw lots then set about hanging their banners behind their respective goals.

It is no argument to point to the policy at Arsenal and Tottenham, clubs who pursued their own mad ambition with the development of new homes on adjacent sites.

As beautiful as the Emirates is and Tottenham’s emporium will be, they are absurdities in a city that has a £750 million new pin lying idle at Wembley.

Merseyside deserves a world-class facility. Stanley Park is the only place for it to go.

Bill Shankly 'Invented' Liverpool Football Club - Wales Boss John Toshack

Wales manager John Toshack believes that Bill Shankly is the reason that Liverpool established themselves as a footballing giant, and that the values instilled into Anfield by the Scot will persist for years to come.

"I suppose he invented Liverpool as the club they are now. You only have to go there now and you see the foundations he laid down 50 years ago are still evident," Toshack said, according to Press Association Sport.

"Shanks used to say, and it is poignant now because it is 50 years since he was appointed, that 'the most important things in football were important 50 years ago and they will be important 50 years from now'.

"Shankly is the most important thing in the history of Liverpool and he will still be important 50 years from now.

"Everything he did, the style, the system, the way Liverpool played, is still in place. Still as relevant now as it was all those years ago.

"He gave Liverpool that mystique, that aura of greatness. Without a shadow of a doubt."

Toshack was a target man who formed a deadly strike partnership with Kevin Keegan during the 1970s at Anfield. Throughout that time, Shankly's secret was to keep things simple.

"He didn't really coach, I don't recall anyone telling me what to do. But they watched us all closely before they signed us and then pieced us all together into a team," the Welshman explained.
"The training was simple. Control, pass, move. We worked with the ball every day, they had the training routines and set-ups always the same. But it was always enjoyable.

"Shankly always had a story to get his point over. You might not always have had a good day or feel right, but by the time you went out to play for him you knew how important Liverpool was.

"He almost invented Liverpool as a great club, the magic, the mystique.

"He created one great side that won the cup, and then he created another one equally as good. But he only used, I think, 14 players one season in 60 games.

"He would not have understood rotation. When you asked him what the team was, he said, 'the same as last season'.

"Shanks almost changed the way fans perceived managers. He was Mr. Liverpool, unique."

Financial Woes Put An End To Possibility Of Liverpool FC Takeover

The financial troubles that have beset Dubai have put an end to any potential takeover of English soccer club Liverpool from within the emirate.

Dubai investment Capital (DIC) has long been interested in taking over the club, which is owned by American businessmen Tom Hicks and George Gillett. As long ago as 2006 the club and DIC held talks on a potential takeover, and the eventual sale of the club to Hicks and Gillett did nothing to dampen DIC's interest. Last year, DIC announced it was within three or four weeks of completing a takeover, though that was subsequently blocked by Hicks.

DIC's interest in owning a Premier League club has only increased in the 15 months that Manchester City, another English side, has been owned by the ruling family of Abu Dhabi. Liverpool and Manchester City are just one point apart in the Premier League table.

The current time would be the ideal point for DIC to complete the takeover. Liverpool have struggled in recent weeks, and failed to reach the commercially lucrative Champions League knock-out stages. However, Liverpool's current financial travails are nothing to the problems Dubai faces, and sources close to DIC say that any possibility of a takeover has now been extinguished.

Earlier this month, the emirate asked for a six month delay on payments on US$59 billion of debt, raising the possibility of the largest government default since the Argentine debt restructuring in 2001.

The United Arab Emirates central bank has now issued emergency credit facilities to banks in the region.