Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Liverpool Must Stop Relying On Fernando Torres - Ian Rush

Liverpool legend Ian Rush believes that the Reds desperately need to find a way of covering for the absence of Fernando Torres.

The striker's problems with injury over the last couple of seasons have been well-documented, and Rush feels that the Reds' lack of form when the Spaniard is not in the team has become a real issue for manager Rafael Benitez.

Benitez left the striker out of the goalless draw with Fulham at the weekend as the player nursed another knee problem, and Rush feels that the time has come to ease the burden on the shoulders of Torres.

"Even when he’s carrying an injury there’s an argument to play him," Rush told The Liverpool Echo.

"The medical staff will know whether he could or couldn’t have played on Sunday.

"Obviously, they’re trying to look after him to get him ready for the rest of the season if possible. Or maybe Rafa Benitez felt the team was good enough to beat Fulham without Torres.

"That’s when you need a good squad, to get you through these games.

"We can’t keep relying on Torres though.

"We don’t want to get to a situation where as soon as Torres doesn’t play we stop winning.

"It’s too much to ask of one player all the time and that’s why Liverpool need to invest in the squad with people who are capable of keeping things going when some of the star players are out."

And Rush believes that the excuse that it is hard to find a stand-in for a player of such stature will not wash with supporters for much longer.

He added: "Whoever comes in when he doesn’t play has a big job trying to live up to those standards, but that is what the supporters expect."

Rafael Benitez Believes Alberto Aquilani Can Still Influence Liverpool's Season

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is optimisitic that Alberto Aquilani can still exert a key influence on the rest of the Reds' campaign.

Although Liverpool look to be out of the race for fourth place now after a goalless draw with Fulham at the weekend, they are in the semi-finals of the Europa League.

Aquilani has not enjoyed the best of debut seasons at Anfield, after struggling with his fitness following ankle surgery in the summer.

However, Benitez still believes that the Italian can yet contribute to the Reds' run-in because his confidence is now so high.

"He has quality and that is important because if he has more confidence, he can use his quality and help in the rest of the season," Benitez told his club's official website.

"Clearly he has had too many problems this year and I am sure that next season, if he can stay fit, he will be a very good player."

Juventus Meet Agent Of Liverpool Coach Rafael Benitez

Juventus president Jean-Claude Blanc has met Rafael Benitez's agent Manuel Garcia Quilon to discuss the Liverpool coach's availability, according to Tuttosport.

The two men spoke about his future during a day-long meeting in Milan. And the main agenda related around Benitez's option to rescind his contract with Liverpool by paying a €16 million clause.

Quilon and Blanc also spoke about Benitez's plans and set out a policy to discuss future transfer objectives. He likes Wolfsburg striker Edin Dzeko and would likely bring him and Fernando Torres to Turin.

Furthermore, Juve patron John Elkann wants the best for his club, and he is ready to provide extra transfer allowances to accommodate Benitez's arrival. He has promised a cash injection to ensure both Juve and Benitez get the best deal.

Reports have previously suggested that Juventus are not in a financial straitjacket, and they have around €80m to spend following a new sponsorship deal.

The club are also prepared to pay the Spaniard €4m per annum plus success-related bonuses.

Liverpool's Reputation Will Attract Players, With Or Without Champions League Football

Jamie Carragher is putting a brave face on Liverpool's fall from grace this season, believing a failure to qualify for next season's Champions League will not affect the club's ability to attract top players.

Carragher and team-mate Fernando Torres, among others, have been vocal in their assessment that Rafael Benitez needs to sign four or five quality players in the summer for the club to compete at the highest level — but the defender doesn't believe that the possibility of missing out on Europe's premier competition will make that task harder.

"Finishing in the top four attracts players, but I think playing for Liverpool is the main attraction," Carragher told the club's official website.

"People forget that there have been times when we haven't played in the Champions League.

"We missed out under (Gerard) Houllier at Bradford on the last day, and we had to win the trophy to get into the Champions League in the current manager's first season.

"I wouldn't say we have been spoilt by being in the Champions League, or we should expect to be there just because we are Liverpool. It isn't something that we have done all the time.

"It's nothing new if we don't get there. And if we don't get there, we'll just come back and have another go next season."

The 18-time champion Reds are currently sixth in the Premier League table, six points behind Manchester City in fourth having played a game more. Some pundits believe the lack of Champions League qualification, and the subsequent windfall that will be missed, will send the club into decline but Carragher is more pragmatic.

"People are saying that if we miss out, then that'll be it for us, speaking as if we'd never get there again. That's just nonsense," he said.

"If we can't get there we'll battle on next year. We can't be as bad as we have been this season.

"The Champions League is a big thing, you want to play in it and the revenue it generates is important for the club.

"We're a massive club and I'm sure we'll get back into the Champions League."

Fernando Torres Tipped To Return Next Week

Liverpool striker Fernando Torres could return to action as early as next week, according the Spaniard's specialist.

The 26-year-old has undergone treatment from Dr Ramon Cugat in Spain after a knee problem kept him out of Sunday's 0-0 draw with Fulham.

The Reds play West Ham in the Premier League on Monday and Cugat said: "The problem's not serious but he needs to stop and rest to avoid more risk.

"But in normal circumstances, he could be ready to play next week."

Torres, who joined Liverpool from Atletico Madrid in 2007, has been beset by various injuries this season.

He was sidelined for a month after a knee operation in January and before Christmas struggled with a groin injury.

Cugat, who supervised the striker's return from recent hamstring trouble, told the Liverpool Echo of the latest problem: "It depends how it settles down.

"The decision is now up to Liverpool's medical staff and the manager."

Another significant match for Liverpool is the Europa League semi-final first leg at Torres' former club Atletico Madrid on 22 April.

Torres, who has scored 22 goals in all competitions this season, is an integral part of Liverpool's plans, but manager Rafael Benitez has admitted his side are virtually out of the Champions League qualifying race.

"To finish in the top four is now very difficult," said Benitez. "The difference is maybe too much."

The Reds boss has always vowed that the Merseysiders would finish in the top four in the Premier League, but that promise now looks unlikely to be fulfilled with his side six points behind fourth-place Manchester City having played one game more.

"We know the fourth position is a little bit far away," added Benitez, whose team has been devilled by inconsistency this season.

"We have to keep going but two or three teams have to make mistakes."

McMahon Relishing United Test

John McMahon believes Liverpool Reserves can stake a claim for title glory by beating Manchester United on Wednesday night.

The Reds are currently six points behind table toppers United in the Barclays Premier Reserve League North, though they do have two games on their Old Trafford rivals.

McMahon acknowledges the clash at Altrincham FC could go a long way to deciding the outcome of the championship, and has called on his contingent to make a bold statement in the quest for success by recording a third victory of the campaign over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men.

"If we're going to do anything in the league with regards to winning the title, there's only one result we can go for and that's the win," he told

"But as I always stress, it's about development and progression of players and tonight will be a good test of how far the young lads have come.

"It's not about getting one over on United, it's about us doing the right things, believing in ourselves and the way we set things up, having confidence to go an express ourselves and, when we do recover the ball, how we can go and hurt them."

McMahon is well aware his second-string face arguably their most difficult challenge of their campaign, particularly given the first-team experience in United's ranks.

However, he insists he will send his troops out with a positive mentality.

"It certainly is (going to be difficult), especially with the squad we've got at the moment as we're really down on numbers, but we'll give it our best shot," said McMahon.

"The strength and depth of the squad United have is extensive and they can call on a number of players. Whatever side they put out, they're going to be formidable.

"We will be organised, work hard, difficult to break down and look to play when we have the ball."

The Reserves slipped to a disappointing 3-2 defeat at Wigan Athletic last time out, spurning the chance to go joint-top of the table - and McMahon is urging his players to bounce back in the best possible fashion.

"We stopped playing and doing the right things," he said. "We need to get back to doing what we do well, which is staying together and showing good movement as a team and not as individuals, which we tended to do (at Wigan) and lost our concentration and focus.

"We were organised in the first half at Wigan but we were very disappointing in the second half, so we're going to look at why it went wrong and try to solve those problems on the pitch."

Liverpool Ready to Make Summer Move for £9m Wing Wizard

Rafa Benitez is ready to make a renewed effort to snap up promising Dutch winger Eljero Elia this summer. The Liverpool boss has been trailing the 23 year old Hamburg player and will attempt to persuade Elia’s Bundsliga employers to accept a £9m bid for his services.

The Anfield boss has reportedly been looking at alternatives to help give his side natural width to help boost the club’s midfield creativity and to help provide more firepower to its front line. Having seen Albert Riera and Ryan Babel struggle to adapt to Premier League life Benitez is looking to bring in new additions but knows that funds may well dictate just what targets he can afford to make moves for.

The Merseyside outfit has severe financial concerns and any signings made this summer will have to be funded by outgoing sales and with that in mind the Spanish boss is looking to offload under performing members of his Anfield squad. Albert Riera is a target of several Russian sides as is Yossi Benayoun but the Israeli has surely done enough to persuade Rafa of his worth.

Eljero Elia has come to the fore over the past 18 months and is now hoping to be part of Bert van Marwijk’s Dutch squad for the forthcoming World Cup in South Africa. Although the former Ajax man only arrived at Hamburg last summer he has seen the club fall from the Champions League placings and could well find himself without any European football to speak of and the Bundesliga side reportedly find themselves in financial woes of their own which may result in them having to sell players of their own.

Dutch Sensation Wijnaldum Denies Talk Of "Dream" Liverpool Move

Following claims in the English media last week that Feyenoord star Georginio Wijnaldum was interested in playing for Liverpool, the 19 year-old has categorically denied that he made such comments which specified his desire to follow in Dirk Kuyt’s footsteps at Anfield.

Wijnaldum is Feyenoord's youngest ever first-team player, having made his debut aged 16. Since then, he has been a regular performer for the Rotterdam based side and the playmaker has scored three goals and contributed four assists in 27 games so far this season.

Wijnaldum was reported to have last week said, "It's my dream to play in a big league and England would be the perfect choice. To follow in the footsteps of Dirk Kuyt would be sensational. He triumphed at Feyenoord and has had great success at Liverpool."

However, according to Dutch publication Elf Voetbal, Wijnaldum was taken by surprise by the reports.

He told Elf Voetbal, "I've never talked to anyone about Liverpool! So, if it was news to you, it certainly was for me. It seems crazy in England. In the Netherlands, I have never been quoted when I haven't spoken. What do I think of Liverpool? I'm not involved with the club; I am fully focused on Feyenoord."

However, Wijnaldum said he is confident of reaching "the absolute top in Europe" at some point in his career. He is widely acknowledged as one of Holland's brightest prospects and is renowned for his excellent technique and vision.

'Dani Talent Can Be Key'

Rafael Benitez is confident Daniel Pacheco has the talent to become an "important player" for Liverpool after the starlet's encouraging cameo against Fulham on Sunday.

The Spaniard was introduced as a late substitute against the Cottagers as the Reds looked to break the visitors' stubborn resistance.

Though Liverpool were ultimately forced to settle for a point in a goalless draw, Benitez believes Pacheco can be a useful weapon in helping unlock opposition defences.

The boss told "He was trying. It was difficult without space but he was doing well. He is the kind of player who can make a difference in that situation.

"He is a player with talent and if he can keep working hard, he will use it more effectively.

"Sometimes players with talent are a little bit inconsistent, so if he works hard, like he is doing now, he can be very, very important."

Pacheco's appearance against Fulham was his fourth senior run out of the campaign.

Benitez feels training alongside the likes of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres at Melwood on a daily basis has been influential in the 19-year-old's development as he edges closer to regular first-team action.

"He is closer every day. He is training with the first-team, learning and gaining more experience," said the manager. "But still there is plenty of time for him and a lot of things he can improve.

"Training with the first-team is always massive for the young players. It is extra motivation and they can learn a lot of things that maybe they would not see in other young players."

The Malaga-born teenager's introduction to the action drew plenty of applause from those inside Anfield on Sunday, and Benitez added: "Everybody can see him playing really well with the Reserves, scoring fantastic goals and getting a lot of assists.

"He is a player who can make a difference in the final third, which is what the fans like."

The figures That Reveal Why Liverpool Will Fall Short Of A Champions League Place This Season

The party will carry on, but Liverpool will not be invited. As the Champions League draw is made for next season, the Reds' name will surely be missing, after a miserable Premier League campaign.

Sunday's draw with Fulham at Anfield effectively ended Rafael Benitez's side's hopes of sneaking into the top four, with both Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur boasting points, and games, in hand, and Liverpool seemingly unable to string together the run of wins required.

But it wasn't the stalemate in the sun last weekend which cost Benitez's men; UK examines the numbers which have consigned English football's most decorated club to another season in the Europa League...

56 - Liverpool have picked up 56 points so far this season, which is six fewer than fourth placed Manchester City. At this stage last season, the Reds had mustered 74 points.

1.6 - At 1.6 points per game, Liverpool's average is well down on last season, when they managed 2.2 points per game.

4 - Benitez's side have picked up just four wins on their travels this season, and lost a shocking eight away fixtures - at the likes of Wigan, Fulham and Sunderland.

14 - Just 14 goals scored away from Anfield may explain the above statistic. Liverpool's goal record on the road is worse than that of Burnley, who have found the net 15 times.

21 - Liverpool's goal difference of +21 is decent, but compared to Arsenal (+41), Manchester United (+50), and Chelsea (+54) they are trailing behind.

12 - The number of league games Fernando Torres has missed this season. The Spaniard is currently awaiting news on a knee injury, so could yet add to that total before the end of the season.

7 - Goals scored in the Premier League by Steven Gerrard - his worst return since Gerard Houllier's last season in charge, 2003-04. The Reds' captain netted 16 league goals last term.

0 - Premier League goals from regular central midfield pairing Lucas Leiva and Javier Mascherano. The reliance on Gerrard and Torres is overstated, but it certainly exists.

12 - Different defenders used by Benitez this season. Little wonder the Reds found keeping a clean sheet so tough in the early weeks of the season.

-£8m - Liverpool's net transfer spend this season. When your hands are tied, there is only so much you can do.

£1m - Interest repayments due on the £237m worth of club debt every nine days.

3 or 4 - New players needed this summer, according to both Benitez and Torres.

And a few stats which offer some hope for the future...

2005 - The last time Liverpool missed out on qualification, they would win the Champions League a couple of weeks later. With Atletico Madrid waiting in the Europa League semi-finals later this month, the chance is there for another European trophy.

6 - Months in which Barclays Capital, employed by co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks, have to find a suitable buyer for the club.

6 - Years for which Pepe Reina has signed up, after agreeing a contract extension. The Spanish 'keeper is currently in the running for the Premier League's 'Golden Gloves' award, after keeping 14 clean sheets this season.

5 - Academy graduates to make their Premier League debut this season. The likes of Daniel Pacheco, Daniel Ayala and Martin Kelly are highly-rated by many at the club, and Liverpool will be hoping they can fulfil their obvious potential.

18 - League goals managed by Torres this term. Injuries aside, he would surely be competing for the Golden Boot with the likes of Wayne Rooney and Didier Drogba.

2 - Victories over Everton. Even in the midst of a crisis, Liverpool remain top dogs on Merseyside.

Liverpool Owners Asked By Royal Bank Of Scotland To Relinquish Control

The Royal Bank of Scotland is to increase its control at Liverpool having insisted on the appointment of an independent chairman, Martin Broughton of British Airways, as part of its latest refinancing offer to the club's co-owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

Hicks and Gillett are expected to confirm within the next 48 hours their intention to sell Liverpool eventually, with an announcement that Barclays Capital has replaced Rothschild and Merrill Lynch as the bank searching for new investors. The appointment of Broughton as the chairman is due to be ratified by the Americans this week, signalling increased influence in the Anfield boardroom by the largely government-owned RBS.

The deal represents a six-month extension to Hicks and Gillett's existing arrangement with the bank and affords the Americans added time to find an investor willing to meet their £500m asking price for the club. It also reduces the threat of a "fire-sale" of key assets such as Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard this summer should the co-owners fail to repay £100m of their £237m debt before July, as was stipulated in their last refinancing agreement.

The failure of Hicks and Gillett to secure investment is the latest in a catalogue of unfulfilled promises by Liverpool's unpopular co-chairmen, who have had a fractured business relationship and have both been badly affected by the global economic crisis. The proposed appointment of Broughton, therefore, is an attempt to break the state of paralysis over major decisions within the Anfield boardroom and gives Liverpool's lenders greater assurance over the co-owners' efforts to sell. Liverpool last night declined to comment on Broughton being an RBS appointment.

The former chairman of British American Tobacco, the British Horseracing Board and current deputy president of the CBI will work alongside Liverpool's managing director Christian Purslow in the search for new investment. Several parties have expressed interest in Liverpool, who need to reduce their debt before work on the stalled but critical stadium project can commence, but only one, The Rhone Group, has submitted an official offer since Purslow's global hunt for possible investors began last year. The deadline on their proposed offer of £110m for a 40% stake in Liverpool passed last Monday.

Hicks and Gillett are believed to be close to finalising the refinancing extension with the RBS, although what funds will then be left available to manager Rafael Benítez for spending on new players this summer is uncertain. Reports of an alternative, three-year refinancing deal with Barclays Bank have been denied by officials at Anfield and sources close to the Americans.

Liverpool look increasingly likely to miss out on the revenue streams from the Champions League next season after falling six points behind fourth-placed Manchester City following Sunday's goalless home draw against Fulham.