Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Rafael Benitez Hopeful Liverpool Left-Backs Emiliano Insua And Fabio Aurelio Will Return To Action Soon

Rafael Benitez is hopeful Liverpool's left-back problem will solve itself in the coming weeks as two players return to full fitness.

The Spaniard is increasingly optimistic that Emiliano Insua will play some part in the remainder of the season despite tearing a muscle in his calf against Birmingham City last week, while fellow left-back Fabio Aurelio is also almost ready to return to training having not played since the end of February.

"Emiliano is doing well but it's a bad injury so we have to wait. He's working and having treatment," Benitez told the club's official website.

"He tore his quadriceps. He could play again this season if the treatment is good. It will be difficult but we'll see - we're trying very hard.

"Fabio is doing well too. Maybe in one week or 10 days he can be ready to train with the team. If Fabio can be ready it will be very important."

In the meantime centre-back Daniel Agger has been filling in at full-back. In other injury news, the club is still waiting on the results of Fernando Torres' knee injury after the striker visited a specialist on Monday.

Meanwhile, Jamie Carragher has encouraged the Reds not to give hope of finishing fourth, and believes the lack of pressure on them after Sunday's 0-0 draw with Fulham might play to their advantage.

"The other teams ahead of us will now be expected to get into the top four but they might not be able to deal with that pressure, so we won't give up," Carragher said.

"You never know what can happen in football so the pressure is on and we will see what happens."

Liverpool Forced To Wait On Fernando Torres Injury News

Liverpool will have to wait for news on the extent of Fernando Torres' knee injury after his first visit to a specialist proved inconclusive.

The Spanish international missed Sunday's disappointing 0-0 draw with Fulham to travel to his homeland for treatment, but will have to wait for a prognosis of his injury layoff after Monday's consultation brought no firm conclusions.

"Fernando Torres was examined by a knee specialist in Spain," a club statement read.

"He received treatment and will continue to do so over the next few days, with the injury being reassessed later this week."

Liverpool's next game is against West Ham United next Monday, which gives Torres some breathing space in the race to be fit for the Reds crucial run-in.

The 26-year-old has scored 18 goals in 22 league games this season.

Mascherano Eyes Home Return

Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano has revealed he would like to return to his native Argentina towards the end of his career.

The 25-year-old, who is currently in negotiations over a new contract at Anfield, admits he wants to go back to South America for a number of seasons for his swansong.

He is reportedly the target of a number of Europe's elite clubs, but could stay at Liverpool before returning home.

"You never know and I don't want to be tied down by what I say, but I don't think I'll be staying on forever," he told Fifa.com.

"Right now I'm thinking about playing for another three or four years at the highest level and returning home to play at a good level there.

"I want to enjoy Argentinian football for four or five years and I'd love to do it at River (Plate), the club that gave me everything and treated me so well."

Mascherano has been playing for the Reds since February 2007 and is enjoying his time on Merseyside, despite their poor campaign this term.

He added: "It's been fantastic and I don't get tired of saying that. They've treated my family and I superbly right from day one and we don't have any complaints."

The Argentina captain is set to lead his county out in this summer's World Cup in South Africa.

They crashed out in 2006 to hosts Germany, but Mascherano insists he is better equipped to deal with the elite tournament this time around.

"Four years ago I was still playing in South America and I'd never faced players like (Didier) Drogba and (Michael) Ballack," he remarked.

"But for the last four years I've been playing against the best every weekend and that means when you go out and play in a World Cup you know you're going to take the right decisions."

Reina Puts Happiness Before European Football

Pepe Reina is happy to be playing at Liverpool, whether they are in the Champions League or not.

The Spain goalkeeper looks unlikely to be playing in Europe's elite competition next year after a frustrating goalless draw against Fulham further damaged the Reds' slim hopes of a top-four Premier League finish.

Liverpool now trail fourth-placed Manchester City by six points and have just four games remaining compared to the Eastlands outfit's five. Tottenham also sit between them.

But the Anfield side have struggled all season to keep pace with the other three members of the so-called 'big four'.

That has led to suggestions big-name players could leave or the club could struggle to attract top stars, but Reina, who signed a new six-year deal on Friday, has not been not put off.

The 27-year-old said: "I am really happy at Liverpool. The supporters and the club are also satisfied with my performance and attitude. That is why we have agreed six more years and I am very pleased. Everybody wants to play Champions League because it is a great tournament but there is a league as well to play in next season and probably a European competition as well.

"It does not matter if we play Champions or Europa League in terms of making a decision, it is just to be at the right club and Liverpool at the moment is the right club for me.''

Reina admitted the result against Fulham was a big blow but is not giving hope just yet.

He said: "Before the game we knew we couldn't drop any more points and we did. But until the end we have to fight and try to win as many points as possible. We have to keep working, no matter if it is difficult or not.

"Credit to Fulham because they were well organised and defended well. It was fair enough, we didn't create too many chances like in other games. We tried our best but it wasn't good enough.''

On-Loan Martin Back At Liverpool

On-loan Liverpool goalkeeper David Martin has returned to the Premier League club following his one-month spell at Derby.

The 24-year-old was signed when first-choice keeper Stephen Bywater was injured and his understudy Saul Deeney was suspended.

Martin stepped in for two matches, at Doncaster and against Middlesbrough at Pride Park.

"He has been a fantastic professional during his time with us, working exceptionally hard on the training ground and when he did play he didn't put a foot wrong," boss Nigel Clough told the club's official website.

Arsenal And Liverpool Preparing Bids For Hull City Defender Steven Mouyokolo

Liverpool and Arsenal are considering making a summer bid for Hull City defender Steven Mouyokolo, according to the Daily Mirror.

The 23-year-old joined Hull from French side Boulogne last summer, and has put in a number of eye-catching performances in a underwhelming season for the club.

Currently fighting against relegation, a drop to the Championship for the Tigers could see the Frenchman become an attractive cut-price option for a number of Premier League clubs.

Chelsea are another club that have been linked with Mouyokolo, who has recently expressed his delight at the interest shown in him.

"I am flattered by the interest of prestigious club like Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea, these clubs are dream clubs," Mouyokolo told Sky Sports last month.

"I have a four-year contract here, but you never know. When clubs like that come for you it makes you think."

Stoke City boss Tony Pulis is reportedly the nearest to lodging a bid for the defender, who is reportedly valued at around £2 million, but he will have to move quickly to avoid the bigger clubs joining the auction for the youngster's services.

RBS Sets Six-Month Deadline For Tom Hicks & George Gillett To Sell Liverpool

Liverpool owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett are set to be handed more time with which to find a buyer for the club, it seems, with the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) about to extend the deadline on the club's outstanding debt, according to a report from The Liverpool Echo.

The club has outstanding debts of £237 million and creditors RBS and American bank Wachovia had demanded a £100m repayment by July.

That deadline will be extended by six months though, allowing Hicks and Gillett more time in their search for a buyer for the Reds.

The Echo also reports that the Americans will this week confirm that the club is up for sale and that they do not intend to retain a stake for themselves, whilst the report also discounts weekend rumours that Barclays Bank were about to provide a refinancing package that would speed a change of ownership at the club.

Barclays Capital are set to search for new investors to buy the business and fund the development of the club's long awaited new stadium.

An extension to the loan repayment deadline by RBS would apparently remove the refinancing issue.

This should then enable the club to avoid a 'fire sale' situation when it comes to negotiating with any interested investors.

Fat Lady Is Waiting To Sing Her Song For Liverpool Champions League Hopes

It’s not over until the fat lady sings. On a glorious day at Anfield it was as though the Weather Girls were waiting in limbo with a few of their larger sisters in tow.

As each passing goal from Eastlands filtered through, the spark in Liverpool’s play that continued from where it was left against Benfica gradually fizzled out.

After starting so brightly, the game ended with a whimper.

Rafa Benitez didn’t quite wave his white handkerchief afterwards. The submission in his voice suggested it might not be long.

In Spain, the ritual signifies a dissatisfaction with the effort of the players.

But that couldn’t be levelled at Liverpool on Sunday.

As the only team that tried to win the game, it is a crying shame they didn’t turn one point into three.

For all their dominance and possession, particularly in the first half when chance after chance went begging, the Reds simply couldn’t find a way through Fulham’s stubborn resistance.

That is to take nothing away from the Cottagers however.

While the participants in the half-time penalty shoot-out presented more threat to the Kop end goal than the visitors mustered after the break, this is a Fulham side that has failed to win on their league travels since the opening day of the season.

To say that was at Fratton Park would add weight to the argument had Liverpool not floundered there to the now relegated FA Cup finalists.

When the inquest begins it will find that Liverpool’s failings this season have been on the road.

It is the exact opposite of last year when home form scuppered the club's title hopes.

It is something that only adds to the frustration felt by all those concerned.

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson set his stall out to prevent Liverpool from scoring rather than encourage his team to do so. His tactics got the desired effect.

Yes, they rode their luck at times but, in what was their 55th game of a season that began in earnest on the penultimate day of July in the Intertoto Cup, perhaps Fulham deserve the rub of the green at this stage of the most gruelling campaign in the club's history.

With little over 25 minutes remaining, Hodgson decided to substitute his top scorer.

Unlike his opposite number’s decision to do likewise at Birmingham last weekend, you’re unlikely to here much more of Bobby Zamora’s withdrawal.

The change did tell is everything about Fulham’s mindset however.

At this stage of the season it all comes down to differing aspirations.

While a 2-1 win over Wigan last weekend saw Fulham limp over the 40-point finishing line, they have earned the right to bask in the achievement of reaching the semi-finals of the Europa League in what is only their second continental campaign.

In dong so they have also earned the right to relax a little.

With that in mind, much of the pre-match gossip predicted wholesale changes by Hodgson.

Instead the Fulham boss avoided the wrath of the FA by making just two alterations to the side that beat Wolfsburg in Germany to set up the prospect of an all-English final against you know who.

It was Liverpool who were forced to take more severe action with four changes from the side that swept past Benfica here.

Fernando Torres, of course, was the greatest loss.

How Benitez must have been tempted to say ‘I told you so’ when he revealed the striker had undergone a scan on his knee while his teammates were banging their heads against another brick wall.

It wasn’t for the want of trying that Liverpool failed to turn one point into three though.

In short, their best wasn’t good enough and here within lies the problem facing the club.

Benitez claimed at the weekend it will take a £60 million summer spend to transform the team’s fortunes.

The way things are you wonder whether he has £6m at his disposal.

When forced to make changes to a winning team there are no guarantees that those coming in can reproduce the same exacting standards of his first choice side.

On paper, you would back the eleven that started yesterday to beat a Fulham team blighted by such profound travel sickness.

The fans will just hope the latest reports of large scale and, more importantly, long term investment finally come to fruition.