Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dalglish Leading Famous Four In Race To Succeed Benitez

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez is under intense pressure at Anfield after the Reds lost 1-0 at the DW stadium thanks to a goal form Wigan Athletic forward Hugo Rodallega.

The future of Benitez has been called into question ever since Liverpool were knocked out the Champions League and were ruled out of the race for the Premier League crown. Fans and pundits have criticised the transfer policy of the Spaniard, replacing Xabi Alonso with lightweight £20 million Italian midfielder Alberto Aquillani, who has barely featured for Liverpool this campaign.

The boardroom unrest has also unsettled proceedings this campaign, with Benitez being linked with the managerial position at Italian Serie A giants Juventus, with the Spaniard refusing to rule out a move to Turin this summer.

Odds on the successor of Benitez at Liverpool have been slashed overnight with Kenny Dalglish the favourite at 11/4, Jose Mourinho, who is rumoured to be unsettled at Inter Milan at 7/2, and former Tottenham striker and German coach Jurgen Klinsmann. The German was rumoured to have been offered the job in late 2007, early 2008, with American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks offering the former German legend a detailed package.

The latest candidate tipped to be a contender to succeed Benitez at Liverpool is the number 1 candidate for the France job, and current Bordeaux boss, Laurent Blanc. Blanc has guided Bordeaux to the French Ligue 1 title and the knockout phases of the Champions League, while also finishing above Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, and Marseille manager Didier Deschamps.

Ryan Babel Insists Liverpool Are Still Fighting For Fourth Place In Premier League

Liverpool forward Ryan Babel insists that the Reds will not give up in their bid to claim fourth place in the Premier League, despite Monday evening's disappointing defeat at Wigan Athletic.

The 1-0 defeat was the Merseysiders' first ever loss to the Latics, and leaves Rafael Benitez's men in sixth place, a point behind Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, both of whom have games in hand.

Benitez has questioned his team's mentality after the defeat, but Babel insists that there is still plenty of fighting spirit in the squad.

"We definitely still have faith we can get fourth place. It will be harder and it's important to get three points in every game, as it was before Wigan. That's why it is so disappointing to have lost," the Dutchman told his club's official website.

"It is frustrating that we had built up some confidence by winning games, but one game can spoil the confidence.

"The disappointment is very big for everybody, but we have to start again."

Babel did acknowledge that Liverpool had made things hard for themselves at the DW Stadium, though.

"I think we made it difficult for ourselves. In the first half especially, there was space to play football but we failed to do it," he added.

"Then they scored and it was difficult because they were staying behind the ball. In any away game it is hard to score two goals."

And the Dutch forward admits that some serious analysis will be needed ahead of the Reds' next game, the first leg of a Europa League tie against Lille on Thursday.

"We will analyse the game and then we will know what his thoughts are," he said of manager Benitez.

"We have another important game on Thursday, so we have to be ready and prepared.

"We cannot be disappointed for too long. We will analyse and watch videos, like we always do, and I am sure we will be good for the game."

Sterling On The Mark In Mini Derby

Raheem Sterling scored on his debut as Liverpool Under-18s produced a stunning second-half fightback to beat 10-man Everton 4-3 on Tuesday afternoon.

The Reds recovered from a 2-0 deficit to see off their Blue rivals, with the former QPR teenager enjoying a dream start for the club.

Michael Roberts (penalty), Krisztian Adorjan and Craig Roddan (penalty) were the other scorers as the away side made their numerical advantage count, following the 46th minute sending off of Toffees defender Shane Duffy.

It was an afternoon to savour for boss Rodolfo Borrell, who dedicated the victory to first-team manager Rafael Benitez.

"It is a nice victory for me, but especially for the fans and the club," he told

"I am also happy for Rafael Benitez, as he invests a lot of time in the club and the Academy.

"He made a bold move to bring me and the rest of my staff to Liverpool, so it's nice to be able to win this sort of match for him."

Reflecting on a rollercoaster 90 minutes, Borrell admitted his side were almost made to pay for some poor defending.

"We cannot concede such sloppy goals," he said. "If you concede so easily then normally you lose the match."

The Reds coach also had some words of encouragement for debutant Sterling, but was keen to stress that it was a team performance that saw Liverpool come away with the three points.

"I was pleased with Raheem's contribution and that he scored on his debut. He is quick and skilful but still only young. He can improve tactically and has a long way to go, but he is a great signing for this football club.

"He was one of a number of good individual peformances, but the main thing was how well the team did as a whole. That is what matters most and they all contributed to a deserved triumph."

Yossi Misses Training

Yossi Benayoun is a doubt for the trip to Lille after sustaining an ankle injury in the 1-0 defeat to Wigan on Monday.

The Israel international missed training today and Rafa Benitez must now decide whether to include him in the party which will travel to France for Thursday's Europa League last 16 clash.

Meanwhile, Daniel Agger should make the trip after recovering from a sickness bug which ruled him out of Wigan.

Benitez told "We had some problems with Agger. He was sick and lost some weight. We had to be careful with him but he's training now so hopefully will be okay.

"Benayoun had a problem with his ankle. We have to see - we have one more day. He wasn't training today so we have to decide."

One plus for Benitez on Monday night was the return as a substitute of Glen Johnson.

The gaffer added: "It was the only positive. To have another body and another player. He can be an important player for us for the rest of the season.

"It was clear he still hasn't got the match fitness but at least he showed his quality. He was going forward and it's a different option in the side."

Wigan Defeat Is Lowest Moment Of A Wretched Season

Liverpool's hopes of securing a top-four finish this season are hanging by a thread after Rafael Benitez's blundering side served up the worst performance in a season of strong contenders.

Most had guessed that Liverpool's abject surrender at crisis-ridden Portsmouth in December or their FA Cup humiliation to Reading in January would be the nadir of a season in which Benitez's furrowed brow and disbelieving stare have become part of the Anfield furniture, but this surrender to a superbly energetic and completely deserving Wigan Athletic side must surely rank as a new low.

Liverpool were, in a word, pathetic. Their supporters may point out that on another night Fernando Torres may have had a hat-trick, having spurned a succession of presentable chances either side of half-time, but to do so is to ignore the bigger issues which are blighting the Reds' season.

Torres' evening mirrored Liverpool's, early rustiness quickly turned into downright ineptitude, and ended in petulance. For the second league game in three, Liverpool collected five bookings. They can expect a letter from the FA for their disciplinary issues, but they should be receiving another for their performance. If that wasn't 'bringing the game into disrepute', then nothing is.

Wigan, by contrast, were everything you would expect from a side battling relegation in front of their own fans. Roberto Martinez can be rightly proud of his struggling side, who matched their illustrious guests from the first minute, and who were excellent value for their victory - their first ever against their Merseyside visitors, and only their second ever against a 'Big Four' club. But for his countryman Benitez, the aftermath will cast a far harsher light.

Benitez was angered by Blackburn Rovers' perceived spoiling tactics at Anfield last weekend, with some justification, but he can have no such complaints about Martinez's charges, who achieved their goals through smart passing, intelligent movement and a well-crafted Hugo Rodallega goal. In short, they produced the kind of display that a side chasing Champions League football should be able to muster, even away from home.

That Liverpool couldn't, that they failed to force Chris Kirkland into getting his knees dirty, that it took more than an hour, and the introduction of Alberto Aquilani, for them to string any sort of cohesive passing move together, will sicken their supporters, who travelled to Lancashire with optimism ahead of a testing Europa League trip to Lille.

A run of one defeat in 10 league games had reignited hope that spring would prove to be Red after a desperately blue winter, but it seems that little has changed at Anfield, despite constant reassurances from inside the camp. Turning corners every week will only lead you back to where you started, after all.

They have already surrendered the initiative in the race for fourth - Tottenham and Manchester City remain a point clear, having played less games, whilst Aston Villa now boast three games in hand - and even a favourable run of fixtures offers few guarantees between now and May.

Benitez bristled after the game when asked about his side's shortcomings, offering only sombre responses to inevitable questions. It was probably for the best - if he had gone into detail about this display we would probably still be waiting for him to finish.

Liverpool Manager Rafael Benitez Denies Any Knowledge Of Steven Gerrard's Offensive Gesture During Wigan Athletic Match

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez maintains that he did not see skipper Steven Gerrard produce any offensive gestures or hand signals during the match against Wigan Athletic, insisting he was not in a position to see the events that unfolded on the pitch.

In a match that saw the Reds produce a lacklustre performance, a lone strike from Hugo Rodallega was enough to give the Latics a major boost in their battle against relegation.

Towards the end of the encounter, Gerrard was booked for a foul, and the skipper appeared to make an offensive two fingered gesture while hurling a mouthful towards referee Andre Marriner.

"I don't know if Steven did anything or not, because it was too far away to see," Benitez said, according to the Daily Mail.

Although the man in charge did not take note of the incident at the time, it is speculated that the Kop favourite could be sanctioned by the authorities for his actions on Monday night.

Steven Gerrard Could Face FA Probe

Liverpool FC captain Steven Gerrard could face an FA investigation after he appeared to flash a V-sign at referee Andre Marriner during his side’s 1-0 defeat at Wigan on Monday night.

The England midfielder was booked in the 81st minute of the Barclays Premier League clash at the DW Stadium following a robust challenge from behind on James McCarthy, and replays of the incident suggested that Gerrard had gestured towards Marriner as well as mouthing an obscenity at the official.

Marriner did not notice the gesture but the FA may decide that Gerrard, who captained England in their 3-1 friendly victory over Egypt last week, has a case to answer.

Liverpool FC manager Rafa Benitez, speaking after the game, insisted he had not seen the incident.

"I don’t know, I was too far away," he said.

Rafael Benítez: Liverpool 'Played Without Intelligence'

Rafael Benítez cut a dejected figure as Liverpool's Champions League ambitions suffered a serious setback with a 1-0 defeat at Wigan Athletic last night, though he mustered enough venom to condemn his players for the attitude and lack of character they displayed at the DW Stadium. "We didn't show the right attitude and even though we worked harder in the second half, we played without game intelligence," complained the Liverpool manager.

Wigan's first ever league win over Liverpool has left the Anfield club in a precarious position. Hugo Rodallega's first-half goal gave Roberto Martínez's side a major fillip in their bid to avoid relegation, but Wigan's emotions were in stark contrast to Benítez.

The Liverpool manager added: "We didn't do anything in the first half. The attitude was much better in the second half but it wasn't enough. It is difficult to explain because we prepared for the game properly. We knew Wigan would play in this way but there were too many things from us that I cannot understand."

Liverpool had five players booked on the night and Steven Gerrard was pictured raising two fingers after he was shown a yellow card for a foul on the impressive 19-year-old, James McCarthy. Liverpool later denied the gesture was intended to be offensive or was directed at the match referee, Andre Marriner.

"We have to keep going for fourth place," added Benítez, who had described this fixture as a must-win before kick-off. "That is all we can do. You can have good and bad times but we had to do better tonight on what was a crucial moment."

Liverpool FC: Hicks’ Sale Plans Hit A Snag

Reports in America suggest the sale of Liverpool FC co-owner Tom Hicks' Texas Rangers MLB franchise, thought to be a done deal, may have hit a snag.

SportsBusiness Journal sources have indicated that MLB officials last week informed the team’s creditors that there would be delays in responding to the lenders’ concerns about the deal.

Liverpool co-owner Hicks wrapped up a deal worth some US$500 million at the end of January. Much to the chagrin of Liverpool fans, none of that cash was injected into the English Premier League team.

Now, it seems, the true complexities of the Texas Rangers sale are slowly emerging, with lenders and lawsuits revolving around Hicks but spilling over into the ownership transfer process itself. It remains unclear as to how much of the cash from the sale Hicks will see.

Chuck Greenberg, the lawyer at the centre of the buyout group, is still confident that the deal will be finalised by his self-imposed 1st April deadline. "We've had delays, not of our making," he said, "but you deal with it and move on. Nothing yet has knocked us off the 1st April date. What's best for us, for Tom, and for the team, is to finally get this thing done."

Hicks, meanwhile, was handed a boost last week as it was revealed that Liverpool's revenues, despite the owners' well-documented troubles, have been boosted by almost €10 million.

The English Premier League side recently handed lucrative contract extensions to Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Dirk Kuyt, Yossi Benayoun and Pepe Reina.