Friday, December 25, 2009

Ian Rush: Fernando Torres Will Stay At Liverpool Even If They Finish Outside Of The Top Four

Liverpool legend Ian Rush believes Fernando Torres won't leave the club - even if the Reds finish outside the top four this season.

The club has endured a shaky start to the season - exiting the Champions League at the group stage and slipping to 8th in the Premier League.

"He is a fantastic player. He is one of the best strikers in the world and the way he adjusted to the English game was fantastic," Rush told ESPN Soccernet.

"He is one of a few players that, if he becomes available, every top club in the world would want him.

Rush believes there will be interest in Torres, but thinks he will remain at Anfield because of the affection he has for the club.

"It wouldn't surprise me at all if teams were in for him in January, but he does have genuine affection for the supporters because he knows the supporters love him," he said.

"Him and Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher - the fans love them because of the effort they put in and the skill they have.

"I think that if they didn't finish in the top four, the likes of Torres and Gerrard would still be at Liverpool because they have a feel for the club. I think they will think, 'Let's give it one more go here. I owe it to the fans to give it one more go to get back into the Champions League'."

McCarthy - Reds Not Vulnerable

Wolves manager Mick McCarthy insists he does not view Liverpool as 'weak' ahead of their Boxing Day clash at Anfield.

The Reds are eight points off the top four in the Premier League after losing their seventh league game of the season at Portsmouth last weekend.

In contrast, Wolves have won three of their last four games and have climbed to 12th position in the table to ease relegation concerns.

But while McCarthy recognises that a trip to Anfield does not hold the fear factor of previous seasons, he maintains that Liverpool still represent a major threat.

The Wolves boss told Sky Sports News: "All through my life and football career, I have never ever thought that Liverpool are vulnerable.

"I suppose there are better opportunities than others, but I never see them as being weak, or go to Anfield thinking you can take advantage of their results.

"If it was us and we lost against Birmingham, and you see the resolve, determination and results we have had since then, I think that is what football clubs tend to do.

"There are two ways to look at it."

Alberto Aquilani Could Start For Liverpool Against Wolverhampton Wanderers

Alberto Aquilani could make his first league start for Liverpool against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield on Saturday.

Aquilani, a £20million summer signing from Roma, has yet to start a Premier League game for Liverpool, having battled to overcome an ankle injury.

Despite his recovery from that injury, Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has perplexed fans by his refusal to play the Italian more. But with Javier Mascherano currently injured and suspended, Aquilani could be asked to fill in.

Benitez said: "Alberto picked up a calf injury in the win against Wigan and was not able to travel to Portsmouth.

"He is getting better but we will have to see how he progresses. He is certainly in contention to play against Wolves."

There was speculation that Aquilani was due to fly to Belgrade this week for treatment from the same specialist, Mariana Kovacevic, who has been used to treat Glen Johnson, Yossi Benayoun and Albert Riera.

But bad weather put paid to flights to the Serbian capital and Benitez confirmed: "Alberto was with us all week, working with our physios."

Aquilani's first appearance for Liverpool was as a substitute in the 2-1 defeat by Arsenal in the Carling Cup on October 28. He made his first start for the club against Fiorentina in the Champions League, a game they lost 2-1 on December 9.

Rafa Eyes Gerrard Improvements

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is expecting to see improvements from Steven Gerrard over the festive period.

The 29-year-old has struggled to perform at his highest level this season, due in part to a series of niggling injury problems, and that dip in form has coincided with the Reds' much-publicised fall from grace.

The Anfield club have won just four of their last 17 matches and currently sit eighth in the Premier League table, eight points behind fourth-placed Aston Villa.

Benitez has spoken with his captain over the club's current predicament and is confident he will soon be firing on all cylinders once again.

"Steven knows that he has to improve but that for me is very positive," Benitez said.

"He knows he is a very important player for us and we were analysing his statistics and he is doing much better.

"In the last game he wasn't at his level but that can happen in one game. He knows he is improving physically and the main thing now is confidence.

"I was talking with him this week about how to improve. He wants to give more.

"I am 100 per cent that he wants to give more. He is the captain and he is very important for the team and the club. He is someone who is pushing now and wants to improve."

Atletico Madrid & Zenit St Petersburg Favourites To Sign Liverpool’s Andrea Dossena

Atletico Madrid and Zenit St Petersburg have emerged as the favourites to sign Liverpool flop Andrea Dossena in January, according to the Daily Mirror.

Dossena is almost certain to leave Anfield after a disastrous 18-month spell since his arrival from Udinese.

The Italian international left back has barely featured this season, and will depart Merseyside next month.

A host of Italian clubs have been sniffing around, including Napoli and Juventus, but Spanish strugglers Atleti and Russian outfit Zenit are now the new favourites.

Atletico sporting director Jesus Garcia Pitarch is reported to have already started negotiations, but Dossena may be swayed by the Italian influence at Zenit, as they are coached by Luciano Spalletti and include Alessandro Rosina amongst their ranks.

Rafael Benitez: No Hernia Operation For Fernando Torres

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has declared that striker Fernando Torres will not be going under the knife to correct a persistent groin problem.

The Spanish media had previously reported that the 25-year-old may have to undergo an operation in order to be rid of his problem, which could otherwise pose as a threat for 'El Nino' with regard to appearing in the 2010 World Cup.

The former Valencia manager insists, however, that the Reds will continue to "manage" their star striker, who has had his fair share of injuries in recent times.

"An operation is not in our minds, I was surprised to hear such suggestions from Spain because we have a good working relationship with their medical team," Benitez said, according to the Press Association.

"We will continue to manage Torres' problem and assess him on a game-to-game basis."

Torres is expected to lead the line against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield on Boxing Day.

Liverpool Want To Sign Belgrade 'Placenta Doctor' Marijana

Liverpool want ‘placenta doctor’ Marijana Kovacevic to take a permanent role with the club.

Manager Rafa Benitez and his medical staff have been so impressed by Kovacevic’s work with their injured players that they want to discuss a deal that would see her prioritise care for them.

The club want to explore the possibility of the Belgrade housewife, dismissed by some as a quack, establishing a base at Anfield so their players do not have to travel so far for treatment.

Kovacevic has already been courted by Manchester City, who flew her to Manchester earlier this year to discuss working for them. She also has an offer on the table from Romanian club CFR Cluj, which is believed to be worth £190,000 a year but allows her to carry on working with players from other teams.

She is believed to favour that type of arrangement rather than an exclusive deal which would limit her earning power.

A source close to Kovacevic said: ‘Marijana is in demand. Some doctors are not sure about her but many players from England, Germany, France and Holland are coming to her regularly because it works for them. Liverpool are obviously happy with the results so far.’

Kovacevic’s methods have attracted controversy over recent months after she shot to prominence with her efforts to repair Arsenal striker Robin van Persie’s torn ankle ligaments in November.

Frank Lampard was another high-profile visitor but Chelsea’s club doctor was not a fan of Kovacevic’s process.

She massages placenta fluid into the injured area and then treats it with an electro-magnetic device. However, questions have been raised over where the placenta is sourced, with conflicting reports it is from humans rather than horses.

Undeterred, Liverpool have used Kovacevic to help cut the recovery times of Alberto Aquilani, Albert Riera, Glen Johnson, Fabio Aurelio and Yossi Benayoun.

Indeed, Israel midfielder Benayoun insisted he had ‘no worries’ over the methods used in her placenta massage.

He said: ‘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. It meant I was able to play again within a fortnight and help the team at an important time.

‘I never envisaged being on the pitch again so soon, and it shows what can be done with this treatment.’

Kovacevic operates from a tiny first-floor clinic above a stairwell in an austere development of shops, offices and apartments in the area known as New Belgrade.

The mother of three, whose second husband is believed to run a betting shop, is said to cut an extraordinary figure. She ‘dresses crazily’, according to the owner of the hairdressing salon at the foot of the stairwell.

With long black hair, thick black eye make-up and thigh-length boots, ‘she always looks like she is going out for the night’, according to the proprietor.

Another bar owner, who has known her since she moved in a year ago, said: ‘She is an extrovert, but nice.

'She always wears big lipstick. She looks like Morticia from the Addams Family.’

Rafa Benitez Stands By His 'Hurt' Liverpool Players And Prays Steven Gerrard And Fernando Torres Don't Get Hurt Any More

Rafael Benitez insists Liverpool's under-performing players are hurt by their current struggles.

The Merseysiders, who have won just four of their last 17 games, were hit by criticism from former striker Ian Rush this week, the Welshman claiming not enough players were smarting after last weekend's abject 2-0 defeat at Portsmouth.

Rush, who exonerated Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Jose
Reina from blame, said: 'It should hurt them all, not just a few.'

But Benitez responded, saying: 'I do not accept that the players are not hurt by what is happening. They are working very hard to put things right. I can guarantee 100 per cent that they are trying to win every game and they are upset when things do not go

Benitez has held talks with several players - Torres and Gerrard included - to try to prompt an upturn in form ahead of the Boxing Day clash against Wolves and the trip to Aston Villa on Monday.

He said: 'I have spoken to several players, not just Gerrard and Torres. They are all determined to do well, but when we concede a goal now we lose any confidence that we have acquired.

'That is my responsibility, to improve confidence. To do that I have to be positive, it is the only way. The message is very clear, we have quality in our squad and we must show that.

'We can win a run of games in a row, we have done that with these same players. That is the positive thought we must retain. We have talked about just why we are in this position. There were many ideas, but the main one was that Torres and Gerrard were not fit.

'They have been included in FIFA's world team this week, that shows how good they are and what they can produce. But when they are not fully fit, they cannot perform to those standards.'

He added: 'They still have some problems, so we must manage them carefully over a period of so many games in such a short space of time. We virtually have to decide on them before every game.

'And after each game we have to check them, to see how they are coping with their recoveries from injury.'

Benitez, who will be without the suspended Javier Mascherano against Wolves, is hoping the hard work carried out on the training ground will reap its reward against Mick McCarthy's men.

'We do not need to talk too much about the problems we have, we have to work hard and find solutions. The only way to change things is hard work,' he said.

'I have been a manager for 23 years, and I know you have good and bad moments. The only way to change things is to keep working.

'We have tried to relax the lads. On Tuesday we had a Christmas meal for all the staff and players, which was a very positive occasion.

'We have a good team spirit, the players know we must improve and they know the only way is to stick together. We must show this unity on the pitch, and the players are concerned, they are talking about what is going wrong.

'I must manage and control the anxiety of the players, and the anxiety of the fans. We know we have to change the situation, sooner rather than later. That is clear.

'If we talk too much about having to win a title, or win a cup, it just makes things worse. We must help our players by making them concentrate on the next match and winning it.'

Liverpool Upset By Garry Cook’s Claim Of Roberto Mancini Approach

Garry Cook, the chief executive of Manchester City, has sparked fury at Anfield by claiming that Liverpool approached Roberto Mancini with a view to the Italian replacing Rafael Benítez as manager.

Cook’s latest controversial comments have landed him in hot water with the Liverpool hierarchy, who have refused to comment. Privately, however, they have not been impressed by his outburst.

The City chief executive has been at the centre of a storm of negative publicity after the sacking of Mark Hughes last Saturday and the subsequent appointment of Mancini as manager. In particular, Cook was criticised after he claimed that Mancini had not been offered the job until last Thursday, but it has emerged that the decision to replace Hughes had been taken three weeks ago.

Cook used Liverpool’s approach to Jürgen Klinsmann as a potential replacement for Benítez two years ago as evidence that clubs often have managerial successors lined up before the incumbent has been dismissed.

“It is naive to think that clubs are not looking at their options,” Cook said. “Of course they are. Do we think that Liverpool just talked to Klinsmann? I am sure they also spoke to others, and I have no doubt that Roberto Mancini was one of them. Of course he would have been.”

Shortly after talks were held with Klinsmann, in November 2007, Tom Hicks, the Liverpool co-owner, confessed that an approach had been made to the German, but said it was only as a contingency in case Benítez left the club to join Real Madrid.

At the time, Liverpool were not linked with any other manager nor was there any evidence that they had launched a recruitment offensive, with agents employed to sound out potential successors to the Spaniard.

Benítez will also see Cook’s comments as an unnecessary distraction as he attempts to reinvigorate Liverpool’s flagging fortunes.