Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Redknapp Lifted By Weakened Liverpool

Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp wants his side to be the big beneficiaries of the recent cold snap when they travel to Anfield to face a Liverpool side without Fernando Torres or Steven Gerrard.

Spurs were due to face their rivals for a Champions League place earlier in the month but the match was postponed due to snow, with Gerrard and Torres then suffering injuries in the FA Cup defeat to Reading.

Redknapp's own options have been bolstered by the return of Jamie O'Hara as the Premier League's transfer embargo for Portsmouth meant the midfielder could not re-register on loan at Fratton Park.

"I'd be lying if I stood here and said that the absence of Gerrard and Torres won't matter," said Redknapp, ahead of the Wednesday evening fixture.

"Of course, they are two world-class players, and they will miss them.

"But they have a strong squad. I have never been there and had an easy game. It is a difficult place to go."

Rafael Benitez will also be without Yossi Benayoun, a player Redknapp has worked with before and rates highly.

Another creative player to miss the game is Aaron Lennon and the Spurs winger is struggling to face his former club Leeds in the FA Cup at the weekend.

Better news for Redknapp are the scan results on Ledley King's knee after the centre-back missed the draw against Hull at the weekend.

"He had another scan on his sore knee, but the scan showed up OK," Redknapp said.

Spurs have kept six clean sheets in a row but could not find a way past Hull's Boaz Myhill on Saturday, with Redknapp now needing to decide whether to recall striker Peter Crouch to face his former club.

Crouch came off the bench for Robbie Keane against Hull.

Redknapp said: "It is a good run we're in, so let's hope we can keep it going at Liverpool. It will be a different game there.

"When Crouch came on against Hull, and not being disrespectful to Robbie, we suddenly looked [more dangerous].

"They put so many bodies in there and it was hard to play through them. When Crouch came on we could miss them out and drop balls up to him and he won headers and we were getting shots on goal."

Rafael Benitez May Stick With Current Liverpool Squad

Beleaguered Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has admitted he may not make signings during the transfer window.

The Reds have lost Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard and Yossi Benayoun to injury, and are seventh in the Premier League and out of all major cups.

But Benitez said: "We will see if we can do something more in this window.

"If we cannot we will stick together for the next challenge. We have a good team, a good squad and not as bad as people think."

Liverpool have won only five of their last 17 games in all competitions, a run that has seen them eliminated from the Carling Cup, FA Cup, Champions League and ended any realistic title ambition, with the Europa League now their only hope of honours.

Their most recent result was a 1-1 draw at Stoke on Saturday, which came off the back of a home loss to Reading in the FA Cup.

But a belligerent Benitez added: "It is important to have confidence. When people say we need two strikers like Torres you say 'OK. Where are these strikers and how much can you pay for them?"'

Liverpool Fighting AC Milan For Milan Jovanovic

Liverpool have locked horns with AC Milan to secure the services of Standard Liege's Milan Jovanovic, according to The Sun.

The sought-after Serb had previously revealed the Reds' interest in luring him to England, while also explaining that he had been courted by the San Siro outfit.

Liege appear to be willing to dispose of their player before his contract runs out in the summer, and Merseyside is said to be smelling of a £2.5 million signing-on fee.

A source from Standard allegedly said: "It looks like its 50-50 between Liverpool and AC Milan for Jovanovic.

"There are many other clubs but those two are ahead of the rest.

"It seems he will make a decision very soon."

There have also been reports claiming that the 28-year-old may have signed a pre-conractual agreement with Liverpool.

Javier Mascherano Backs Liverpool's Team Spirit To See Them Into Premier League Top Four

Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano has called on the players at Anfield to not allow themselves to be downhearted by the club's current situation.

Instead, the squad must pull together even more, and believe in the collective spirit and tradition of the Anfield club as they continue to push hard for a top four finish.

"The situation is enough to get anyone down, but this team is going to keep going forward because of the spirit and history of the club," the Argentine told the Reds' official website.

"It is normal that we are being criticised - we are all to blame for going out of the Champions League and FA Cup."

"We share the credit when things go well and the blame when things go badly.

"Rafa [Benitez] has a difficult job because this season key players are getting injured, which would upset the plans of any coach.

"[Fernando] Torres and [Steven] Gerrard are fundamental for us and any team would miss them.

"It is true we are not in certain competitions now but there are still things to resolve."

Winning the Europa League is also a target worth achieving this season, Mascherano feels.

"Being champions of the first Europa League sounds good and getting into the top four after all the problems we have had, anyone of us would sign up for that now," he added.

"They are the objectives and nobody is going to drop their guard, because it is impossible to do so with our manager.

"We have to sort out the problems and win. For once, I'd prefer to get the points over the level of our performance."

Kop Get Torres Op Boost

Fernando Torres has had successful keyhole surgery to save his season.

The Liverpool striker needed the op on his damaged right knee and his surgeon later revealed everything had gone to plan during the 45-minute procedure.

Dr. Ramon Cugat, the specialist who operated on the troublesome cartilage in a Barcelona hospital, said: "The surgery was a success and, if there are no problems, Fernando will be OK in six weeks."

That will be a huge relief for Kop boss Rafa Benitez, who first feared his talisman could be lost for months after the player limped off in the FA Cup loss to Reading last week.

A source close to the striker said: "Fernando is calm and satisfied after hearing the news from the medical staff.

"They think he can make a quick recovery so he can help Liverpool improve their season, then help Spain in the World Cup."

Babel Fined And Set For Swift Exit After Benitez Bust-up

Ryan Babel will be swiftly shipped out of Liverpool after a row with Rafa Benitez sealed his fate.

The Dutch striker has been hit with a fine of a week's wages – around £60,000 – and effectively told by manager Rafa Benitez that he has no future at the club, after a furious argument between the pair.

The Holland international stormed out of the Melwood training ground yesterday, following a confrontation with Benitez over his Twitter revelations on Friday.

Babel had infuriated his Reds manager by telling the world on his Twitter site that he had been dropped at the weekend.

Yesterday Benitez hauled the out-of-favour star into his office to demand an explanation, and told him to axe the site immediately as he gave the forward a real dressing down.

While Benitez was furious with what he saw as such an unprofessional attitude, the player himself hit back by accusing his boss of ignoring calls from his agent Winnie Haatrecht, over a move.

Babel was informed the matter was being handled by Liverpool's chief scout Eduardo Macia, and to concentrate on actually playing well enough to even be in contention for the first team.

But the volatile Dutchman took that to mean he isn't wanted by the club, and he immediately stormed out.

He subsequently returned half an hour later following a telephone call, and Benitez will now hit the Dutchman in the pocket, to the tune of around £60,000.

The set-to is the most serious in a host of controversies surrounding Babel this season, and has sealed his fate after talks about a possible move to Sunderland or Birmingham.

He had to explain himself to Benitez after claiming he felt let down by the Kop boss earlier in the season, and only on Saturday he KO'd a potential trade for Sunderland striker Kenwyne Jones.

Benitez is hoping to offload the 23-year-old and bring in much-needed attacking power, especially with Fernando Torres out for six weeks with cartilage damage.

But Babel has rejected both moves out of hand, even though he now accepts he has reached the end of the Anfield road.

The player was in talks with his agent last night over his next move, but it seems only a matter of time before he departs, with Besiktas or Galatasaray a possible destination.

Ryan Babel And Liverpool In Confusion Over Offer To Sunderland

Rafael Benítez's strained relationship with Ryan Babel deteriorated further yesterday when the Liverpool forward left the club's Melwood training ground without permission after a misunderstanding over his Anfield future.

The Dutch international was called into the manager's office yesterday morning, having been omitted from the squad that drew at Stoke City on Saturday and offered to Sunderland in exchange for the striker Kenwyne Jones. Steve Bruce, the Sunderland manager, was not receptive to the proposal but Benítez may return with a cash bid for Jones should he manage to sell Babel before the close of the transfer window.

After the meeting with Benítez, Babel drove away from Melwood under the impression that he was not wanted at training. It took a phone call from a member of the Liverpool back-room team to inform the player that was not the case. He eventually returned to the training ground.

The Liverpool manager publicly challenged Babel to prove himself at Anfield. He said: "I was talking with Ryan one week ago and I explained the situation very clearly to him. After the meeting everything was fine.

Cats Rule Out Jones-Babel Swap Talk

Sunderland manager Steve Bruce insists he has no intention of sanctioning a swap deal involving Kenwyne Jones and Liverpool's Ryan Babel.

Bruce is adamant the Black Cats will not be offloading key men during the January transfer window, despite speculation to the contrary.

He claims reports regarding the future of Jones, who is believed to be a target for a number of Premier League clubs, are wide of the mark.

Liverpool are one of those said to be keen on the Trinidad & Tobago striker with Rafa Benitez keen to cover the loss of Fernando Torres to injury.

A deal involving Dutch winger Babel, who is unhappy at a lack of first-team opportunities at Anfield, has been mooted - but Bruce has made it clear he has no interest in discussing such an agreement.

"The one thing I am trying to do is build the squad and build the squad to improve," he said.

"The last thing I want to be doing is trade or anything like that."

While Babel may not be heading to the Stadium of Light, his time at Liverpool could still be coming to a close.

He was left out of the Reds' matchday squad for Saturday's trip to Stoke and Benitez admits he needs to be convinced of the 23-year-old's commitment to the cause before bringing him back into the fold.

"If Ryan trains hard and is ready to play he will be available for the next game (against Tottenham on Wednesday)," said the Spaniard.

"If not, he won't be available.

"I was talking to Ryan one week ago and I explained the situation very clearly to him. After the meeting everything was fine.

"He was working and he was on the bench and he played against Reading. After that game I decided he would not be on the bench and that is it."

Aurelio Unimpressed By Mason

Fabio Aurelio feels referee Lee Mason was partially responsible for costing Liverpool two points at Stoke.

The Reds were held to a 1-1 draw by the Potters at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday, piling yet more pressure on under-fire coach Rafa Benitez.

A lacklustre display did little to suggest that Liverpool are capable of rescuing their season and securing a top four finish in the Premier League, with few opportunities created by both sides during a disappointing contest.

The Reds do, however, feel that luck was firmly against them in the Potteries, with the match officials, sloppy defending and the woodwork combining to ensure they were forced to settle for a point.

Brazilian full-back believes that Benitez's men were deserving of a morale-boosting success, after battling bravely against stubborn opposition, but insists referee Mason did all he could to deny them a welcome win.

"We mentioned before the game that we just had to let the referee do his job and not speak to him because he has not been very good for us in the past," Aurelio said in the Liverpool Daily Post.

"In the end, during the game, we had to push him on things because we could see a lot of decisions that should have been in our favour.

"Speaking to Lucas, he said he has two clear penalties turned down.

"There were a lot of decisions that the referee just didn't see. That's why we are so disappointed."

Benitez also feels that referees who underperform should be held accountable for their actions and has called on the appropriate authorities to take action.

He said: "They have people in charge of referees who analysis these things and they know. We have to try to be positive after this game, it is important we stay positive, and we have to be disappointed with the decisions. They were not the best.

"I don't think you can change too many things (about this game) even if you do say anything. The question is, they have people who are in charge and they have to decide what to do when they have seen the performance of the referee on the pitch.

"It's like me dealing with a player. If a player makes a mistake then you put the player on the bench."

Liverpool FC Managing Director Says Banks Won’t Loan Club Cash For Stadium Without New Ownership

Christian Purslow, the managing director of English soccer club Liverpool FC, has revealed that the banks with which the club hopes to secure financing for a new stadium will only deal with the club if new investment can be attracted.

Liverpool's owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, are keen to sell a stake in the club, in what Purslow says "could be part ownership or it could be complete ownership". Either way, it appears that the club's plan to build a new stadium and move from its current home of Anfield has no chance of success while Hicks and Gillett remain the two co-owners of the club.

"Late last year, the bank market was essentially shut," said Purslow. "It's now very much open for business and a number of banks are very interested in financing our new stadium. However, a condition of all those banks' interest is that in the first instance, we have brought new investment into the club. So I see it as a two step process - new investment in the next couple of months which reduces our existing debt to a very low level, to enable us then to push on with discussions with banks about financing the stadium."

Purslow, whose time at Liverpool has been marked with some significant off-field success, including a record shirt sponsorship deal with Standard Chartered that will begin in the summer, is confident that the team's on-pitch struggles would be a thing of the past in a new ground. "It's that stadium which holds the key to us transforming our fortunes both economically and in football terms," he added.

"The stadium is absolutely central to the club's strategic development because with a new stadium comes a transformation in the financial resources of Liverpool that can be ploughed back into the core of our activity - which is our playing squad."

Liverpool hope to build the new ground close to Anfield, the club's current home, in the city's Stanley Park.