Saturday, January 23, 2010

Steven Gerrard Could Return For Liverpool Against Wolves Next Week

Liverpool star Steven Gerrard has revealed that he could make his return from injury in next weeks' Premier League game at Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The England midfielder has been struggling with a hamstring injury and has admitted that his time on the sidelines has been frustrating.

The Reds have also been missing Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun, but beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 at Anfield this week and Gerrard is looking forward to being back in the thck of the action.

"I am hoping to return in time for the Wolves game next week," Gerrard told the Reds' Official Matchday Programme.

"That's my target. It's always a nightmare for me when I'm injured and I can't help the team."

Gerrard is expected to return to full training in the next few days.

Milan Consider Swapping Klass-Jan Huntelaar For Liverpool's Ryan Babel In Loan Move

Milan striker Klass-Jan Huntelaar could be about to bag a move to Liverpool with Ryan Babel heading the other way on loan.

According to, Huntelaar is Premier League bound. There is rampant speculation surrounding the player, and the latest idea being floated around in Italy is a move to Anfield.

The report claims Rafa Benitez is looking for a striker, and Huntelaar is the one closest to suiting his needs on Merseyside. The move is likely to be welcomed by the Rossoneri. It's a quick-fix answer to Huntelaar's lack of action, and it could pave the way for Babel, himself the subject of abundant transfer talk, to arrive at Milanello.

It is said Babel can be an alternative to Ronaldinho and Alexandre Pato, while Liverpool could revive Huntelaar ahead of the World Cup. As things stand there have not been any negotiations, and the reports remain unconfirmed at this stage.

Liverpool Lead Chase For Nigerian Ace

Liverpool are reportedly leading the way in a race to sign Nigerian defender Taye Taiwo.

The Marseille left back has been on the Premier League radar for some time after admitting his desire to play in the Premier League at the end of last season, and now Liverpool appear ready to make their move as other European clubs target the player.

Reports in the French media suggest Rafael Benitez is preparing to move amidst rumours that Inter Milan boss Jose Mourinho is monitoring the powerful defender.

24-year-old Taiwo had previously been linked with Spurs and Manchester City in the Premier League, but now the Reds will look to make the addition in a position lacking strength in depth at Anfield.

Taiwo is thought to favour a summer move away from Ligue 1, but with clubs sensing a bidding war on the horizon, it seems possible that a January move is in the offing.

An obvious stumbling block arises with Taiwo currently representing his homeland in the African Cup of Nations.

His desire for a move to the Premier League might prevent this from being an issue however, with the player believing he is ready to play for a club like Liverpool in the Premier League.

“If I was to depart, then I would not join a small club. It will be Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool or Arsenal,” Taiwo told France-Football.

“I am not scared by the level in England. I believe I have the right level to defend against [Wayne] Rooney."

With the tight financial equation on Merseyside, players might have to depart Anfield before the 2006 Young African Player of the Year can make a switch to the club.

Liverpool will have to move quickly or face the prospect of losing out on the Super Eagles star.

£20 Million Man Talks About Liverpool Move

Liverpool midfielder Alberto Aquilani has revealed that he has found the move from Serie A to the Premier League a taxing ordeal but stressed that he is determined to start playing more regularly and at the level which earned him a £20 million move to Anfield.

Aquilani joined the Reds in the summer as a direct replacement for Xabi Alonso but spent much of the first half of the season trying to regain fitness and making cameo appearances from the substitute’s bench.

With Liverpool struggling for form and already knocked out of the Champions League, FA Cup and Carling Cup fingers have been pointed at Rafael Benitez and his decision to buy a player who has failed to perform.

Speaking to the Daily Mirror about the pressures of life on Merseyside, Aquilani stated:

"Ideally, I would have been able to start playing in a team that was winning matches.

"But instead, by the time I was fit, the team was going through a difficult period.

"That made the transition to English football a lot harder. As a foreign player, moving to a new country with different team-mates, it would have been easier for me if I was starting my Liverpool career in a winning team."

Liverpool eased some of the pressure on the beleaguered manager by beating Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 on Wednesday in a match which Aquilani started.

However, despite an improved showing the Italian international made clear that there was more to come.

"It hasn't been that way, so the pressure has been on me to produce performances straight away - when I have played though I know I can do a lot, lot better.

"At the moment I am still regaining my fitness after a long time away from football and it will take me time to get back to a level I am happy with - but I don't think I'm that far away," he said.

"The manager has explained to me in detail what he wants me to do for the team.

"When every player is fit, including me, I think it will bring the best out of me, and the fans will see the real player.

"I am happy at Liverpool and am already completely settled.

"It is clear it is a family club and I am grateful for the way I have been treated - and I now want to repay that kindness."

Three Liverpool Legends In The Making

Daniel Agger

The Danish centre-back is still only 25 and, with Jamie Carragher looking like he is slowly on the way out, Agger is perfectly primed to make himself the defensive main man at Anfield for many years. Now the Slovakian Martin Skrtel needs to get up to scratch alongside Agger, just as Agger has done alongside Carragher and Sami Hyypia in the past.

Yossi Benayoun

The Israeli’s loss to injury has even been mentioned in the same breath as those of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres is testament to the niche he has gradually forced himself in Rafael Benitez’s squad. It took him a good while to get going but now we are seeing the cultured and productive footballer that we saw at West Ham United.

Dirk Kuyt

The Dutchman has been criticized of late for failing to live up to the gold standard he set for himself last season but, despite his limitations, he never gives less than his all and showed with his brace against Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday night that he could be an able deputy for Torres. His workrate and knack for important goals endeared him to Kopites and, if he keeps exerting the kind of influence he did against Spurs, he could go down as an Anfield hero.

Liverpool FC Fans Cleared After Alleged ‘Yanks’ Race Slur Against Club Owners

Two Liverpool fans were taken to court after police allegedly deemed their chants of “Yanks Out” against the club’s controversial owners as “racist.”

A leading UK football supporters organisation today condemned the attempted police prosecution as both men, one a leading member of Reds fans’ union Spirit of Shankly (SOS), were cleared at court within minutes.

James McKenna and another SOS colleague were hauled off the streets by officers during a peaceful protest against the American multi-millionaires Tom Hicks and George Gillett before the Liverpool game against Arsenal at Anfield in mid-December.

They were directing cries of “Yanks Out” to an expensive-looking vehicle, with blacked-out windows, which was driven through the Anfield Road gates towards the directors box entrance.

Mr. McKenna, 22, and his friend, were apprehended by police who, according to him, said they were under arrest for “racist chanting”, specifically the use of the colloquial term for an American.

They were taken to Wavertree Road police station, kept for six hours, before being charged at 9pm with what is now described by Merseyside Police as “an offence of public order.”

But just over two weeks later, at the pair’s first appearance at court in Liverpool’s Community Justice Centre in Vauxhall, the Crown Prosecution Service immediately withdrew their case due to a perceived lack of evidence.

Malcolm Clarke, chairman of the Football Supporters Federation, who were so outraged they gave Mr. McKenna legal advice, said he was taken aback by the police reaction to the use of the word “Yank”.

He told the ECHO: “It would be of grave concern if people who lead protests are particularly targeted by police or clubs.

“We live in a free society and people are entitled to put forward their opinions about their football club.

“This was clearly a protest against two particular people, not a general racist slur against Americans. I would be curious of how a court would have viewed this supposed offence.”

On December 13, up to 200 fans took part in the planned protest amid rumours both Tom Hicks and George Gillett planned to attend the fixture.

When one car pulled into the ground, some Reds fans mistakenly assumed the occupants were the American owners and a bout of chanting erupted.

In the event, neither of the owners went to the match although Foster Gillett, who sits on the Liverpool board, took his place in the stands.

Today, Mr. McKenna, from Bootle, who has previously confronted Mr. Gillett in the city’s Crown Plaza Hotel for an impromptu meeting, said: “I just shouted ‘Yanks Out!’

“The police were out on their horses and they grabbed me. When I asked what for they said: ‘For racism.’

“We were just there to make our point to the owners as we heard they were attending.”

A spokeswoman for Merseyside Police said: “Three men were arrested following a commotion on Anfield Road just after 2pm.

“A 22-year-old man from Bootle was arrested for using threatening, abusive or insulting words or disorderly behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress and was subsequently charged with a public order offence.

“A 30-year-old man from Dingle was also arrested and charged for a section five public order offence.

“Both men were bailed to appear at North Liverpool Community Justice Court where the charges were discontinued.”

Steve Bruce Issues Challenge To Rafa Benitez Over Sunderland Striker Kenwyne Jones

Furious Sunderland boss Steve Bruce has challenged Liverpool counterpart Rafael Benitez to put up or shut up over his pursuit of Kenwyne Jones.

The 49-year-old has grown exasperated recently with repeated speculation on Merseyside that he will allow the Trinidad and Tobago international to join the struggling Reds on loan before completing a permanent move during the summer.

Bruce insists there has been no contact between the clubs, and that Jones would only be allowed to leave if the Black Cats received an offer they could not refuse.

He said: “Kenwyne Jones is not going to go on loan to anybody for the help of Liverpool or anybody else. I would be mad.

“Now, if Liverpool are going to come and offer an amount of money, then we all know what happens.

“Every player - every player - has got a price and a valuation. I have to say though, it would have to be a huge amount of money for us even to contemplate it with a week to go in the transfer window.

“The only thing it’s done is unsettle the boy. It’s got him probably in a situation where he thinks I don’t want him, which is far from the case.

“But I can’t stop it. Publicly or privately, I can’t stop this constant thing of Kenwyne Jones every day.”

Even normally mild-mannered chairman Niall Quinn has been angered by the speculation, and Bruce, who admitted he would have to re-assure Jones he is wanted on Wearside after training today, was at a loss to explain a story which simply refuses to go away.
He said: “I have said - and I try to be as honest as I can - everybody in football has got a price, whether you are Ronaldo or Kaka or Kenwyne Jones.

“Now if Liverpool are serious - which I don’t know if they are or whether it is Rafa having games with his board, I don’t know - but the ones who are suffering from it are Sunderland and Kenwyne Jones.

“This notion that I’m going to let him go on loan, people must look at that and think I have lost my marbles.

“I may not be very good at the minute after being beaten 7-2, but I haven’t lost my marbles totally, that’s for sure.”

Bruce’s admission that Jones has his price, however, is not necessarily an invitation to Liverpool.

He added: “I haven’t even got a price because I don’t think Liverpool can go there.

“It’s like me asking for Steven Gerrard on loan - I’ll try, maybe.

“It’s hugely disrespectful.”

Liverpool Will Fight For Fourth, Says Philipp Degen

Liverpool defender Philipp Degen says the Reds still have the appetite to fight for a top-four finish in the Premier League.

The Reds' 2-0 victory over Tottenham at Anfield on Wednesday moved them to within one point of Spurs, who currently occupy fourth place.

"We saw a team who fought for Liverpool, who fought for this club," he told BBC Radio Merseyside.

"Every player knows we fight for fourth place, and we try our best every day."

The 26-year-old Switzerland international has featured in each of the Reds' last three fixtures, with two of those appearances out of position on the right of midfield.

But in a season blighted by injury, he has often been an observer as Liverpool have toiled.

He believes, however, that the team's poor run has actually brought the squad closer together.

"We spoke a lot in the team, we spoke a lot about spirit and we know we have a lot of injured players but now I think everyone is taking their chance and working hard," said Degen.

"[Against Spurs,] everyone kept going and kept their heads up and showed the fans that we are ready to fight for this club.

"We are ready to fight for fourth place and that's the most important."

Lee: Our Fans Have Been Phenomenal

Sammy Lee has heaped praise on Liverpool's fans for their 'phenomenal' support through another turbulent week at Anfield.

The club emerged from a difficult spell to beat Tottenham on Wednesday night and move to within a point of the Londoners who currently occupy the fourth and final Champions League place.

However, rumours regarding dressing room and training ground bust-ups between players and coaching staff had threatened to interfere with Liverpool's preparations for the game.

Among others, Steven Gerrard was the subject of speculation concerning an alleged disagreement during half-time of last week's FA Cup exit to Reading.

The club captain laughed off suggestions of dissent in the ranks and was backed by manager Rafael Benitez, who called for a show of unity from the pitch to the stands ahead of Tottenham's midweek visit.

And assistant manager, Lee, was delighted when the team bus was welcomed at Anfield by hundreds of fans, keen to demonstrate their backing for the club with an overwhelming show of support.

"Every three points is crucial but considering what has been happening this week in the build up to the game this was massive," he said of the 2-0 win over Spurs.

"Everyone realised that, the staff, the players and all the supporters and everyone involved in the football club.

"There is not enough praise for our supporters. To see them showing their support when we arrived was massive. We try to integrate our supporters into everything we do because they are part of what we are doing.

"It was really emotional for us to see them singing and supporting us as always.

"The players certainly appreciated it. Pepe Reina came up to me in the dressing room and he was very emotional. He said this wouldn't happen at any other football club and it meant a lot to everybody.

"We had a difficult game away to Stoke last weekend and the support for us was phenomenal. They saw the effort the lads put in and it was the same against Tottenham.

"Everybody played their part in this victory."

Prior to the win over Tottenham, Benitez admitted the outcome of the game could have a huge bearing on both club's Champions League qualification hopes.

Had Spurs won, they would have opened up a seven point gap on Liverpool.

Instead, the Anfield outfit have now won three of their last four league games to put pressure on Spurs as well as Aston Villa and Manchester City, who are all vying for a Champions League place this year.

Liverpool will be looking to extend their unbeaten league run against Wolves at Molineux next Tuesday in an attempt to break back into the top four.

And Lee believes the Spurs result can be the catalyst for the side to begin to show the kind of form that saw them finish second to eventual champions Manchester United last season.

"Hopefully we can take a lot of confidence from this victory," says Lee.

"It has given us a great boost because we are supposedly in crisis. With that win we have put ourselves in fighting distance of the top-four.

"We have another difficult game at Wolves next Tuesday. We need to keep this momentum going.

"Winning breeds confidence and if we can keep doing that then who knows? We are not making any false promises apart from the fact that we will make sure everyone goes out onto the pitch with the determination to win every game.

"We like to think we are heading in the right direction now. Nothing is won or lost at this point of the season and we know what we need to do."