Saturday, April 24, 2010

Striker Facing Fitness Fight

Rafa Benitez will assess the fitness of David Ngog before deciding who will play up front against Burnley on Sunday.

The striker had a problem with his back against Atletico Madrid and the Liverpool manager may have to shuffle his pack.

Benitez said: "Ngog was really tired. He had some knocks and a problem with his back, so I was talking with the doctor at half-time. He told me he couldn't play 90 minutes.

"We will consider a number of things but it's too early. We have to train and afterwards analyze carefully."

Benitez was relieved his side could fly straight back from Madrid following their 24-hour jaunt to the Spanish capital.

"And it's positive that we came back from Madrid via plane - that's great because we were thinking about arriving back late on Saturday.

"Now we have some time - we can rest and be ready."

Benitez is targeting an improvement in Liverpool's away form.

He said: "We have to improve away from home and this is an opportunity to do that. It's never easy to play away, especially against a team fighting relegation but we will try to do best.

"We have confidence we can play well and score goals - and if we win we'll have more confidence for the next leg against Atletico.

"In the league we have to do our job - we have to win and see what happens. We can't control the other teams.

"It will be difficult to get fourth but still we have to do our job."

Jamie Carragher Confident Of Another Liverpool FC Comeback In Europa League

Liverpool FC defender Jamie Carragher admits the Reds have not made their Europa League campaign easy for themselves but has faith their experience will see them through to next month’s final in Hamburg.

A 1-0 deficit to Atletico Madrid is far from insurmountable next week at Anfield, where they have staged second-leg comebacks in the previous two rounds against Lille and Benfica.

It promises to be another rousing night on Merseyside and Carragher is confident Liverpool FC will get the result they need.

"We expected to play a bit better in Madrid but even though we lost 1-0 I think we’d take that," said the centre-back. "We limited the damage and it is all still to play for.

"We’ve definitely made it difficult for ourselves in the Europa League as we’ve always been behind going to Anfield but somehow we’ve always seemed to come through it.

"It is not something we’ve planned on doing but after our last two trips it’s something we’ve had to do and we know exactly what we need to do.

"It will be a long 90 minutes and we have to be patient. The job is to put them under pressure, play at a high tempo and hopefully it will be enough.

"It will be another great European night."

Liverpool FC, who have become the first English club to play in 16 European semi-finals, are now just 90 minutes away from their third European final in the last six years.

But even though they are so close to booking a place in Hamburg on May 12, Carragher said the players did not feel any additional pressure.

"Not to get the away goal is disappointing but we are always confident with second legs at Anfield," the 32-year-old said.

"I don’t think it makes any difference it’s the second leg of a semi-final.

"Atletico will be pleased with the score and be thinking if they get an away goal we’ll need three, but it’s up to us to stop that.

"We’ve been in lots of different situations. We were in the (2007 Champions League) semi-final with Chelsea and we lost the first leg 1-0 and eventually went through on penalties, so it is something we are aware of."

Liverpool FC manager Rafa Benitez is also targeting a clean sheet in the second leg to make his side’s task much easier.

"We have confidence. We have to score and a clean sheet would be fantastic because that would mean we just have to score two goals," said the Spaniard.

"It is really important for us to play the second leg at Anfield, where we’ve scored three goals against Lille and four goals against Benfica.

"We couldn’t give the fans the away goal they wanted but hopefully at Anfield we can give the fans a lot of goals.

"I’ve said 20 times before we can reach the final and I still say yes."

Atletico Madrid Will Be Difficult To Overturn But We Can Do It - Pepe Reina

Next Thursday will have to be another one of those special nights at Anfield. After their disappointing result against Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the Europa League semi-final, the Reds have it all to do in the return. It's not so much the score that is so daunting. After all, Liverpool lost their first leg in France to Lille, and lost at Benfica 2-1 and on both occassions overcame their opponents.

But there is a difference. For a start, there is no Fernando Torres to spearhead the attack as he did against the French side when he scored two goals. Secondly, neither Lille nor Benfica possess the qualities in attack that Atletico have. Sergio 'Kun' Aguero, who was suspended for Thursday's first leg, will be back, and his partnership up front with Diego Forlan is always lethal. With Simao and Reyes on the flanks and Jurado prodding just behind the attack, it's impossible to imagine Atletico not scoring at Anfield.

The real worry for Liverpool is that in the last three rounds Atletico have done it the hard way too, but exactly in reverse to the English side. Against Frank Rijkaard's Galatasaray they drew at home 1-1, only to score a shock injury time winner in Turkey to win the game 2-1. Then they dulled the senses in a drab goalless draw at home to Sporting Lisbon only to produce a sparkling 2-2 result in Portugal. And in the quarter-finals they again scored twice away from home in a 2-2 draw at Valencia which helped them through. It's exactly these performances and results away from home that make Atletico strong favourites to reach the final in Hamburg next month.

Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina accepts the complexity of the tie, but believes that Anfield is always a special ground for teams to play at.

"We believe that we can do it, but I know it will be difficult. But at Anfield it will be easier for us and I hope our supporters will push the team right from the beginning."

Of that there is little doubt, but Reina lamented the manner of the goal that the team conceded. A comedy of misfortunes and errors that allowed Diego Forlan to bundle the ball over the line.

"To be honest, I think their goal was a bit lucky and it was really difficult for us to accept. But that's the way it was, and if you look at it, they didn't really create that many chances, but they were the ones who scored a goal so it has become massive for them now," said the keeper.

Atletico may have not created plenty, but the media in Spain has been highly critical of the way Liverpool played, describing their football as being "disappointing" and ultimately ugly. The confidence in the Spanish capital is high regarding Atletico's chances of winning through. Reina accepts that the way the Spaniards play means they will be dangerous opponents in the return.

"It's going to be interesting but it's difficult to play them. They play very well on the counter-attack so that is going to be a problem, but this is now at Anfield and we know what Anfield can do, so let's just have belief."

Steven Gerrard Calls On Liverpool To Become Europa League Heroes

Steven Gerrard believes Liverpool's Europa League semi-final second-leg tie against Atlético Madrid next week will be an occasion "when heroes are made". The Merseyside club lost the first leg at the Vicente Calderón on Thursday night 1-0 but, according to Gerrard, they still retain hope of making the final in Hamburg on 12 May.

"It is still half-time," said the Liverpool captain. "We are still confident we can progress and we know we can turn any result around with our fans behind us, especially a 1-0.

"Although it's not the perfect result for us – it's a bit of a dangerous result – everyone in the dressing room is confident. I'm really looking forward to next week and the sooner Thursday comes around the better. If you don't want to play in that game there is something wrong.

Liverpool have been in this position many times before and on several occasions this season have taken teams back to Anfield and turned things around.

Against Lille they trailed 1-0 and won 3-1 on aggregate, and they demolished an accomplished Benfica side 4-1 in the quarter-final second leg having been 2-1 down from the first game in Portugal.

In fact, Liverpool's record when playing European semi-final second legs at home is formidable, with seven victories and one draw.

It is that experience which Gerrard expects will provide the platform for yet another famous night at Anfield, even without the injured Fernando Torres.

"The frustrating thing was that we were nowhere near our best and had no cutting edge in the final third in Madrid," said the 29-year-old. "We haven't played well at all on the road in the league or in Europe but we've got the experience, the know-how, of turning these results around.

"Next week will be a lot different on our pitch with our fans behind us I'm sure we'll play at a higher tempo and create more chances.

Aquilani Exit Talk Dismissed

Alberto Aquilani's agent has refuted talk that the midfielder could leave Liverpool at the end of the season.

Rumours have been rife that Aquilani could be on his way out of Anfield this summer after just one season on Merseyside.

The Italian international has failed to hit the heights at Liverpool since his arrival from Roma and due to fitness and form has been unable to establish himself as a regular in Rafa Benitez's first-team plans.

However, Aquilani's representative Franco Zavaglia insists the proposed sale of the club will have no bearing on the midfielder's future at Anfield.

"I don't think Liverpool will dismantle the team because they are in an economic crisis," Zavaglia told

"Plus, Alberto has a five-year deal there. How can people say that he will be sold?"

Benitez Eyes Takeaway Nando

Rafael Benitez will take Fernando Torres and coach Sammy Lee with him to Juventus this summer — according to reports in Italy.

The Serie A giants have targeted the Liverpool manager after his future at Anfield became uncertain.

Juve are also planning a mass clear-out of stars in order to give Bentiez a strong transfer kitty.

And a host of Italian newspapers claim the Spaniard will use this money to lure Torres and No2 Lee away from Merseyside, even if the Turin side also look set to miss out on a Champions League place.

Rafael Benitez Insists That Liverpool Will Not Sell Fernando Torres To Manchester City

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has angrily refuted suggestions that the Reds might sell Fernando Torres to Manchester City this summer.

The Citizens were linked with a £60 million offer for the Spain striker in reports which emerged this week.

However, Benitez claims to find the idea absurd, especially as the player has never expressed any desire to leave the club.

“We have said repeatedly that Fernando is not for sale and he still has three years of his contract remaining,” Benítez told reporters.

“So how can they sign a player who does not wish to leave?”

City boss Roberto Mancini was himself coy on the rumours linking his club with the player, although he acknowledged that Torres was one of the world's top players.

He also hinted that City would be prepared to splash yet more money in the close season as they look to build a team that can mount a serious challenge for the title.

“I think we must buy a top player,” he said. “We must make sure we don’t spend too much on normal players, but if there is the possibility to spend the money on top players, young players who can help us build a future, I think it is OK [to spend big].

“I don’t like to waste money because I have respect for the club and the owners, but if we need a player [we will spend].

"If we want to win the Premier League ahead of Chelsea and Manchester United, I think we must sign some important players.

“Every year the club has improved and we want to do the same again. Sometimes you don’t have to buy 15 players and you can buy three or four important players. Next season we want to play to win the Premier League.”

Dirk Kuyt Sued Over Liverpool House Conversion

Dirk Kuyt, the Liverpool footballer, has been accused of scoring an own goal after allegedly failing to compensate high-end property group Knight Frank for works carried out on his house.

Knight Frank has launched a legal claim against the Liverpool player to try and recover monies it claims it is owed for acting as contract administrator at a former school Mr. Kuyt bought and converted.

The property group claims it is owed £50,600 after arranging for works to be carried out at the site on the outskirts of Liverpool in 2008.

"Pursuant to the contract, the claimant's fees would be 11pc of the total sum due under the construction," the legal action claims.

"At no time during the administration of the contract did the defendant express any dissatisfaction with the claimant's services. The total contract sum was £400,000 giving a fee of £44,000 plus VAT."

Knight Frank claims that after it submitted its invoice, Mr. Kuyt's Dutch representatives "expressed surprise" at the fees being calculated on a percentage rather than hourly rate.

"Subsequently, vague and entirely spurious allegations have been raised about the claimant's services and the defendant has failed and refused to pay the invoice," Knight Frank said.

Mr. Kuyt, in the team for Thursday's Europa Cup semi-final against Atletico Madrid, moved to Liverpool in 2006.

A lawyer for Mr. Kuyt said he entirely disputes Knight Frank's claim and will file a full defence in due course.

Rafa Coy On Future Talk

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez is remaining tight-lipped on talk linking him with a switch to Juventus.

Widespread reports in Italy claim Juve have made Benitez their top target to take over from interim boss Alberto Zaccheroni this summer.

It has been suggested Juventus are prepared to offer Benitez a lucrative contract and hefty transfer war chest to lure him to Turin.

Reports circulating have also claimed Juventus are now working on recruiting Benitez's backroom team if he does decide to leave Anfield.

Benitez insists he is not thinking about his future and is waiting to see who will buy Liverpool after American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett put the club up for sale last week.

The Spaniard admits Liverpool's search for new owners could decide his future on Merseyside.

Benitez told Premium Calcio: "The future? I just think about the next week, only of the sale of the club.

"I'm interested in who buys Liverpool.

"Resignation? I will have to wait for next week. I will talk to who will buy the club. We must wait."

Juventus Ready To Close Deal For Liverpool Coach Rafael Benitez

Juventus president Jean-Claude Blanc will fly out to Liverpool next week to close a deal for Rafael Benitez, who has informed the Italians that there are no problems relating to his future arrival in Turin, according to Sky Sport 24.

They report Juve's strategy as being a clear and concise one. First, Blanc will wrap up the transfer for Benitez after agreeing a deal, then he will head to Genoa and seal an agreement with Sampdoria sporting director Giuseppe Marotta. Blucerchiati president Riccardo Garrone has already given the Italian the all-clear to join Juve.

Marotta will then approve budgets and transfers strategies for Benitez to use in the summer.

The Spanish coach will earn €4 million per annum wages, with an extra €1m to spend on his backroom staff as he intends to select his own team of assistants.

Juventus are now trying to negotiate with Liverpool to help the Spaniard climb out of his 2014 contract. Reports have suggested it will take €16m to release Benitez from Anfield, but the Old Lady is hopeful of doing it for half that amount.

Blanc will now head to Anfield and speak directly with Liverpool so all parties can reach an agreement that satisfies needs and ensures there are no further obstacles.