Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Gerrard Wants Quality Signings

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard believes the club needs to make 'three or four quality signings' to improve next season.

The Reds have had a poor campaign and have failed to live up to expectations that they could challenge for the Premier League this term.

While they are still in the hunt for Europa League glory, Rafa Benitez's men need a number of other results to go their way if they are to finish fourth in the league and qualify for next year's UEFA Champions League.

Gerrard knows that Liverpool need to buy players if they are going to up their game and compete with other top sides.

"There are teams that have grown significantly in recent times, like Chelsea. In addition, Manchester United have been too strong (for us) for many years," he said in the Daily Mail.

"Last year we came close to beating them but it is very difficult to overcome such a powerful team.

"Everyone knows that we must learn from this season. Some players have said we need a stronger squad and the key is to have better players and improve.

"I do not believe in profound changes or a revolution. Three or four quality players should be enough but more quality than quantity.

"The Premier League is the food of this club. We haven't won it for such a long time and the crowd demands it.

"They want us to win this more than any other competition. We must continue to fight for this, hopefully finishing fourth this season and having a real go next season.

"After finishing second last year we started this season with the idea of winning the league and the Champions League.

"After a series of bad results we had to change targets. Now the fans are desperate for us to win the Europa League. It's the only trophy left for us to fight for and we want to win it."

Liverpool take on Atletico Madrid in the Europa League semi-finals on Thursday and they are having to travel by road, rail and air to the Spanish capital due to the cloud of volcanic ash that is disrupting flights in Europe.

Yossi - We'll Do It For Torres

Liverpool midfielder Yossi Benayoun has set his sights on winning the Europa League for injured striker Fernando Torres.

The Reds are without their star forward for the remainder of the season after he underwent a second knee operation in four months back in homeland Spain.

The setback rules Torres out of the upcoming Europa League semi-final showdown with former club Atletico Madrid.

And Benayoun, speaking ahead of Thursday's first leg, spoke of his desire to win the trophy for his crocked team-mate.

"Fernando is the best striker in the world and with him it is much easier but unfortunately he is injured and cannot play," said the Israeli, who scored the opening goal in Monday night's 3-0 Premier League victory over West Ham.

"We need to give more to try to play for him because he won us a lot of games and played a big part in us getting to the semi-final.

"I wanted him to play against his old club because that would have been a special moment for him.

"Last time we played them he couldn't play. He deserves to play against his old fans but this is football and life.

"We need to try to win the game for him and all the club."

The comfortable Anfield triumph over West Ham raised spirits ahead of a lengthy trip to Madrid.

The Liverpool squad departed for London via train on Tuesday afternoon and, after an overnight stay in Paris, are scheduled to arrive in the Spanish capital 24 hours later.

Benayoun opened the scoring against the Hammers before a rare David Ngog strike and an unfortunate Rob Green own goal sealed the win.

"It is always good to get the win and get the confidence back before a big game on Thursday," said Benayoun.

"We are in a good mood to go to Madrid and try to win.

"We want to win a trophy and we are now very close so we need to do everything to make sure we get a good result to bring back for the second leg.

"It has been a disappointing season so far and we need to finish with a trophy to give everyone a better feeling.

"Winning the Europa League would give us a better feeling but if we don't finish top four we cannot say it is a success - but any trophy you win is great for any club.

"Of course we'd prefer to be in the Champions League and win that but the Europa League is interesting and there are a lot of good teams."

Victory over the Hammers maintained Liverpool's outside chance of catching fourth-placed Tottenham.

But Benayoun admits the five-point gap with only three matches remaining will be difficult to overhaul.

"It is very difficult (to get the top four). We need to be realistic but the only thing we can do is try," he added.

"Mathematically we can still do it so with the points that are left we need to do our best to win the remaining games and get a bit of luck from the other results."

Liverpool FC Will Only Get 12,000 Tickets For Europa League Final

Liverpool have been told by UEFA that they will only receive around 12,000 tickets for the Europa League final in Hamburg if they get past Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals.

The Reds face the Spaniards in the first leg on Thursday night with supporters being warned that thousands won’t be able to get their hands on a ticket for the final on May 12.

There were similar problems for the club’s last major European showpiece occasion – the Champions League final against AC Milan in Athens in 2007 – when Liverpool were dismayed by an allocation of just 17,000 out of 64,000 tickets.

The Hamburg Arena has a capacity of just over 57,000 but for the Europa League final the standing area in the north stand will be converted to seating, reducing the capacity to around 51,500.

Around 25% of the available tickets will be allocated to each club with the rest going to German residents and UEFA sponsors.

Liverpool are keen to accurately guage demand for tickets and are asking fans to register their interest. Only fans who have registered their interest will be eligible to buy a ticket.

You can do so via the club’s website at or by calling 0844 844 0844 and pressing option 2.

A club statement today read: “From our previous experiences in 2001, 2005 and 2007, we expect demand from our supporters to easily exceed the number of tickets the club is able to supply.

“An initial analysis shows that qualifying criteria could potentially be set for any Season Ticket holder or Member/Fan Card holder who has already attended seven or more games in the UEFA Champions League and Europa League this season (and who in addition, attends at least one of the semi-finals against Atletico Madrid).

“However, we would need an indication of the demand for this level before the final criteria is set.

“For Season Ticket holders or Member/Fan Card holders, who have already attended six games in the UEFA Champions League and Europa League this season (and who in addition, attend at least one of the semi-finals against Atletico Madrid), it is anticipated that an independently regulated ballot will take place to determine the allocation of tickets.

“To help us much more accurately gauge demand and enable us to plan accordingly, we need the following supporters who would like to purchase a ticket for the potential Europa League Final to register their interest: Season Ticket or Member/Fan Card holders with at least six 09/10 European games (not including the semi final) on their Fancard.

“Regardless of how many games you have attended, only fans who have registered their interest will be eligible to purchase a ticket in the event that the club reaches the Final.”

Rafael Benitez Worried About Return Journey Following Europa League Encounter Against Atletico Madrid

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has bemoaned the fact that UEFA have pressed ahead with the Europa League fixtures as originally scheduled.

The Reds travel to play Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the semi-finals of the European competition on Thursday. And the volcanic ash cloud that has turned a significant part of Europe into a no-fly zone has made it difficult for teams playing on the European stage to commute to their destinations for the first leg of their respective games.

However, the Spaniard maintains that he is more concerned about the return journey, which could have a bearing on the club's domestic aspirations.

"We are assessing things hour by hour," Benitez told the press. "We have two or three options going and at this moment just one coming back but we will see if we can improve that.

"The key point is we can prepare the flight or travel to Madrid but we have to wait.

"We have the organisation for coming back as soon as possible but any way it will be Saturday - which is not the best for the Premier League game [away to Burnley on Sunday]."

"If the airports are open maybe we can fly directly but at this moment it is more difficult to come back than it is to go."

He added: "In these special circumstances it could be better to postpone the game but we have to go.

"We had some time yesterday to rest the players. It will not be ideal but we will try to do the best for the players.

"The news we have is we will go to London and see what can happen. Maybe then the airports will be open and maybe we can fly from there.

"The key point is we can prepare the flight or travel to Madrid but we have to wait."

Del Bosque Backs Torres

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque does not think that Fernando Torres put country before club after undergoing surgery.

He is also confident that all of his stars will be ready for this summer's World Cup in South Africa.

The timing of Torres' operation has been questioned by some, as he will miss the end of the domestic season, but his international coach believes he had no alternative.

"If he has decided to have an operation then it will have been with the consent of the club," Del Bosque explained.

"It would have been because he could not have continued playing in the condition he was in."

Whether Torres returns in time for the World Cup is a matter Del Bosque is monitoring closely, but he is not prepared to take any players to the finals that are not fully fit.

"We cannot go with five or six players wrapped in cotton wool. In the case that some players are not able to come then we have other great players," he said.

"But there is just over a month before we start to work and I think that is enough time for everyone to be fit.

"Now we are at the crunch stage of the season and I think that everyone will join us in great condition."

Spain will play South Korea, Poland and an unconfirmed opponent in three friendlies before their World Cup campaign kicks off against Switzerland on 16th June in Durban.

Ngog Targets More Goals

Liverpool striker David Ngog admits he is happy to get back on the goal trail after finding the net against West Ham and hopes it is a sign of things to come.

The French forward struck the second goal in the Reds' 3-0 victory over the Hammers at Anfield on Monday night, having been handed a starting place due to an injury to Fernando Torres.

It was Ngog's first goal since 18th February and the 21-year-old is targeting a better return in the future.

"I am pleased with my goal," he told the club's official website. "I hadn't scored for a couple of months and as a striker you always want to score.

"It was good for me and my confidence. Hopefully if I can score more, it will be good for the team too.

"It was a good performance from the team. We started well, played good football and scored goals. It is good for the future.

"We scored an early goal and that made things easier. We could pass the ball and take our time in attack."

Torres has been ruled out for the remainder of Liverpool's season after suffering a knee injury, although he is expected to return in time to play for Spain in the World Cup.

Ngog admits losing the star striker is a blow, but says he is doing his best to fill the gap.

"Fernando has had problems with injuries and it is bad for the team because he is a really key player for us," he added.

"But now we will try to do our best and I think we have a good team to do this.

"Liverpool supporters are great with me and the team and it was very pleasing (to be given a good reception).

"They are with the team and they really support us. It has been a difficult season, we know that, but we will try to do our best for the supporters."

Ian Rush: Youngster Daniel Pacheco Is Not Ready To Replace Fernando Torres Yet

While Liverpool try to fill the void left by the injury to star striker Fernando Torres, it shouldn't be Daniel Pacheco as his replacement, reckons Reds legend Ian Rush.

The 19-year-old, who has made four appearances for the Reds this season, looks set to feature in the remaining games due to Torres’ knee injury, which will keep him out for the rest of the season.

Liverpool will be without their leading goalscorer for Thursday’s Europa League clash with Atletico Madrid and Rush believes although Pacheco has the ability to change a game, he is not ready to replace Torres.

He told the Liverpool Echo: "While the young Spaniard has certainly got the kind of intelligence and ability to change a game, I’m not sure he’s the one to come in for Torres yet.

"His size means he could struggle leading the line on his own, and would probably be better playing off someone."

David Ngog have come in for criticism in recent weeks, especially after missing some relatively simple chances against Birmingham City, but Rush believes he would be a more suitable replacement for Torres.

"Ngog has done as well as can be expected of him when he’s been asked to cover for Torres," Rush said.

"Although he didn’t score at St Andrews I was impressed with his movement against Birmingham.

"But as a striker you’re judged on goals and he tends to snatch at chances whereas Torres will take that extra split second to gain his composure."

'Time To Show Derby Response'

John McMahon has challenged Liverpool Reserves to stand up and be counted when they face Everton in the mini derby on Tuesday night.

The second-string have seen their title chances all-but ended following a run of three straight defeats and McMahon has urged his charges to show more fight and spirit when they lock horns with the Toffees.

"The title is almost gone now," he told

"Manchester United are a strong side and I can't see them slipping up in their two remaining matches.

"We've had a good spell in the season but unfortunately we couldn't maintain the momentum and passion that we had.

"I'm looking for a response from the match against Everton. It's a great game for us to do that in because Everton are always committed.

"I'm sure it will be a very good game because when we beat them 1-0 earlier in the season it was a very competitive encounter.

"If we can match their level of passion and desire we will hopefully be able to come out on top in terms of the football."

Last time out the Reserves slumped to a 3-1 loss at Burnley, leaving McMahon to describe it as the worst display of his tenure.

"I think that and the second-half at Wigan are the worst," he said.

"The fact that they came so close together is really frustrating.

"We know we will lose games and have indifferent performances, but what you cannot accept is players not committing or showing the right passion."

With only three games remaining, McMahon has now called for his team to rediscover their winning mentality and end the campaign on a high.

"We need to keep improving," he added. "If we show a better desire and commitment then will hopefully see the rewards with better results."