Saturday, March 27, 2010

Rafa Aware Of Transfer Impact

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez acknowledges that his transfer options could depend on a place in the top four of the Premier League and success in the Europa League.

The Reds are clinging to the hope of a spot in next season's UEFA Champions League and they are also preparing for a Europa League quarter-final against Benfica.

Benitez has admitted that sixth-placed Liverpool are now dependent upon mistakes among their rivals in the race for fourth position and they were grateful on Wednesday when Aston Villa and Manchester City dropped points.

The Anfield boss is well aware of the importance of participating in the Champions League and winning silverware from a playing perspective, but also in attracting new faces to move to Merseyside.

"Players want to win trophies and want to finish in the top four," said Benitez, who has already agreed a pre-contract deal with Standard Liege forward Milan Jovanovic.

"The players know it is important to perform now for the future and they want to stay here so I think it will be okay.

"We are now in a situation where we have to move forward and try to bring the best from each player. It is not easy to stay at a very good level in a season.

"The main thing is we have some players coming back from injuries and if they are together and push together I am sure we will do really well.

"This club is a massive club so if we can progress in the Europa League and finish in the top four a lot of (other) players will be thinking whether to come here or stay where they are."

Benitez Confirms Riera Set To Leave Liverpool

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has confirmed the club are looking to offload winger Albert Riera in the next fortnight.

The Spain international angered Benitez with his outspoken criticism last week, claiming the manager does not communicate with players and describing Liverpool as a "sinking ship''.

He was immediately suspended for several days by the club and it now seems certain Riera, who has a Russian wife, is likely to be farmed out on loan to a Russian club before the close of their transfer window early next month.

"We are working with different clubs trying to find a solution at this moment,'' Benitez said.”We will try to do some business if we can and see what happens.''

Benitez: Rest Of The Season Vital

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez believes how his side finishes the season could have a significant bearing on his transfer options in the summer.

Although the club are sixth in the Barclays Premier League, four points behind fourth-placed Tottenham having played a match more, on paper they have the easiest-looking run-in of all the Champions League hopefuls.

And Liverpool go into a Europa League quarter-final against Benfica next week hoping there is still a chance of winning some silverware.

Benitez believes the incentive to finish fourth and win the Europa League applies not only to his players but any prospective new signings.

"Players want to win trophies and want to finish in the top four," said the Spaniard, who has already agreed a pre-contract deal with Standard Liege forward Milan Jovanovic.

"The players know it is important to perform now for the future and they want to stay here so I think it will be okay.

"We are now in a situation where we have to move forward and try to bring the best from each player.

"It is not easy to stay at a very good level in a season.

"The main thing is we have some players coming back from injuries and if they are together and push together I am sure we will do really well.

"This club is a massive club so if we can progress in the Europa League and finish in the top four a lot of [other] players will be thinking whether to come here or stay where they are."

Last week goalkeeper Jose Reina confirmed he was very close to signing a new long-term contract and now Javier Mascherano has followed suit.

Securing the pair on extended deals was a priority of Benitez's and it seems he has been successful in persuading the 25-year-old Mascherano, who was linked with a move to Barcelona last summer, his future lies at Anfield.

"I have never said I was not happy at Liverpool. That was the press," said the Argentina captain, who has been one of the more consistent performers in a disappointing season - even when filling in as an emergency right-back on a couple of occasions.

"I am happy here and the only way I can show that is with my performances on the pitch.

"The club are talking with my agents. I don't like to be involved in the contract meetings so I leave that to my agents and the people at the club.

"Liverpool know I want to stay. I don't think it will be difficult to arrive at a deal and we will see what happens in the next few weeks."

Rafa Looks For Gerrard Lift

Rafa Benitez has called upon Steven Gerrard to rekindle his form of old and help salvage Liverpool's season.

The Reds skipper has admitted that his standards have dipped this term, along with many of those around him.

The midfielder has fallen short of his buccaneering best on too many occasions and results have suffered as a result.

Gerrard cannot be expected to carry the side all by himself, but he is needed to lead those around him.

Benitez sympathises with his skipper, acknowledging that the demands placed upon him are great, but insists the England international must improve if he is to provide the spark for a late charge into the Premier League's top four.

"I think more or less in terms of his position and his movement it is similar [to previous seasons]," said the Spaniard.

"The team has had some problems and some players are suffering because we are not giving them too many good balls or options.

"But Gerrard is an important player because he also has to create something for the rest of the team and he knows he has to improve.

"But the main thing for me - and we have had conversations with the team - is that everyone knows we have to improve.

"He is one of the players who is really focused and has a great determination to improve.

"That is the first thing; if you want to improve you have to believe you can do it and work hard trying to do it."

Steven Gerrard Vows To Rescue Liverppol's Season Ahead Of World Cup

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has vowed to turn around his disastrous season in time for the World Cup.

Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard, who was troubled by a niggling injury earlier in the season, has scored only nine goals this season - his worst campaign since 2006-7.

However, Gerrard remains confident he can turn things around in the remaining seven Barclays Premier League matches in time for the World Cup.

He said: “I am my own worse critic, I know myself when it is good and when it needs to be stepped up and the challenge for me now in the remaining games is to step up and drive Liverpool into fourth, try to go to the Europa League final and go to the World Cup.”

Liverpool's 2-1 defeat at Manchester United last Sunday was their 10th in the Barclays Premier League - eight more than last season.

And Gerrard has today admitted he is not happy with his form this season.

He added: “I think it can be better, if you look at my form through the season as a whole I am not totally happy, I have not reached the level I would like to be at.

“It is not worrying me as I still have confidence that it can switch and turn at any given time to where I would want it to be."

Mascherano Defends Benitez Style

Javier Mascherano has praised Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez for making him "a better player and a better person".

The Reds boss was criticised last week by winger Albert Riera for his communication skills and handling of players.

That outburst appears certain to see the Spain international farmed out on loan in the next fortnight to a club in Russia, where the transfer window does not close until early next month.

However, Argentina captain Mascherano, who expects to sign a new contract soon, has praised Benitez.

"All managers have different ways of working," said the 25-year-old midfielder who was rescued from the fringes of a struggling West Ham squad in January 2007 by Benitez.

"Rafa is totally different from (Argentina coach) Diego Maradona and the other managers I've had.

"For three and a half years I've been working with Rafa and I can now say I'm a better player and a better person from when I arrived here.

"That's down to Rafa and his staff."

Mascherano, who has been one of Liverpool's most consistent performers this season, believes the team have to win their remaining seven matches to secure Champions League football next season.

If they were to do that they would finish with 72 points, which was more than enough for Arsenal to clinch fourth last season as they finished nine points clear of Everton.

"I think we will have to win all our games. We have seven finals and we have to win all of them to have hope of finishing fourth," added Mascherano.

"If we can win 21 points, maybe we will be there. If not, it will be very difficult."

And the Argentinian has singled out their three remaining away matches - against Birmingham, Burnley and Hull - for special attention.

Liverpool have won only four times in the Barclays Premier League on opponents' grounds, with their last victory coming at Aston Villa on December 29.

"I think the problem for us this season has been the away form," he said.

"Obviously we have to keep going in the same way at home, but if we want to have hopes of finishing fourth, we have to improve away."

Pepe Reina: Spain Winning World Cup Will Not Make Up For Liverpool's Bad Season

Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina has revealed that even a World Cup triumph with Spain this summer would not ease the pain of such a disappointing season with his club side.

Although the Spaniard admits that he would be absolutely overjoyed were he to return to Merseyside from South Africa a World Cup winner, it is a Premier League winner's medal that he really craves.

"It would be great to win the World Cup, but it definitely wouldn't make up for this season with Liverpool," Reina told LFC Weekly.

"The World Cup is your national team and I want to achieve medals with my club too.

"To win a Premier League title with Liverpool would be amazing. Hopefully we can do that during my time here.

"We know we have to get back nearer the top of the table and we can do it.

"We've had difficult moments but we know the team is good enough to play good football. We've shown that on many occasions."

Rafael Benitez's side are now preparing for the Sunday visit to Anfield of Sunderland, whose form has improved in recent weeks.

Reina is expecting a tough test and insists that only by focusing on their own performances can the Reds' bid to claim fourth place in the Premier League be successful.

"There is no point in us looking too closely at the league table all the time," said Reina.

"We know other teams have games to play. There isn't anything we can do about their results.

"We have to focus on ourselves, our own form and winning as many games as possible.

"It looks like it will be tight right up until the very last game so we have to make sure we get plenty of points.

"At the start of this season we knew a lot of teams would be better this year, and that has proved to be the case.

"Manchester City were always going to be a contender to do well. Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur too. They are the teams we have to finish ahead of now."

McMahon: We Never Got Going

John McMahon admitted he was disappointed with the performance of his Reserve team after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Wigan Athletic at Prenton Park on Thursday night.

Martin Kelly had fired Liverpool into the lead but the Latics responded a minute later when Jordan Mustoe beat Martin Hansen direct from a free-kick.

It means the unbeaten run is now extended to 15 games. McMahon's side are now six points behind leaders Manchester United and have three games in hand.

"We are pleased to continue our unbeaten run but I have to be disappointed with our performance," McMahon told

"We played at a slow pace with no intensity and we were lacklustre. We have praised the lads for how well they have done this season but tonight wasn't good from us.

"We got ourselves in front but we were disappointed to give the free-kick away and then concede straight away."

Lauri Dalla Valle headed against the bar and almost won it in stoppage time but was denied by a superb save.

"Lauri was unlucky," he added. "His first touch is excellent and it was a good save."

Kelly Fires As Reserves Held

Martin Kelly fired as Liverpool Reserves were held to a 1-1 draw by Wigan Athletic on Thursday night.

Right-back Kelly did his first-team ambitions no harm with a goal early in the second half at Prenton Park only to have it cancelled out within minutes by Jordan Mustoe.

The result, which makes it 15 unbeaten for John McMahon's youngsters, leaves them six points behind league leaders Manchester United with three games in hand.

It took 16 minutes for either side to create a goalscoring opportunity, and it came when Wigan left-back Daniel Redmond sent in a wicked cross which Adam Buxton really should have converted.

Five minutes later Liverpool responded with a nicely floated free-kick to the far post from Francisco Duran. Daniel Ayala headed across goal for Lauri Dalla Valle but goalkeeper Lee Nicholls was sharply off his line to intercept.

McMahon's side were soon threatening again when a right-wing cross bounced to the head of Alex Kacaniklic, who attempted to nod the ball over Nicholls only to be denied by a superb fingertip save.

Rachid Bouaouzan drove towards the Liverpool area before unleashing a low drive too close to Martin Hansen with 15 minutes of the half remaining, while at the other end Jordy Brouwer dragged wide from 30 yards.

The final chances of the first period fell to Dalla Valle, first at the far post after some slapdash defending from Wigan, who were again saved by their goalkeeper. Next the excellent Duran swung in another perfect cross which the Finn headed against the crossbar.

The Wirral rain had started teeming by the time the teams emerged for the second half, but it didn't deter Damien Plessis from surging down the right to send a tantalising cross towards Brouwer, who mis-kicked from six yards.

Minutes later Steven Irwin volleyed too close to Nicholls after Kacaniklic's cross but it was Liverpool who were now firmly on top.

The opener was deserved, then, when it arrived 12 minutes into the half through Kelly, who was there to blast home when Brouwer knocked Duran's free-kick back across the six-yard box.

Wigan didn't let their heads drop, however, and two minutes later were level when Mustoe drilled into the bottom corner from a 20-yard dead ball.

Liverpool almost restored their lead when centre-back Victor Palsson steamed forward to centre for Dalla Valla, who failed to connect properly with a diving header.

Irwin then came close with a speculative effort, while substitute Nikola Saric glanced wide from eight yards.

Goalscorer Mustoe might have had his second when another set piece hit the wall before looping narrowly over the bar.

Wigan ended the game with 10 men after Steven Boothman was dismissed in injury-time for a professional foul on Brouwer.

Seconds later Dalla Valle had a golden opportunity to capitalise and seal the three points but was smothered out of it by the goalkeeper after a sublime first touch.