Thursday, August 26, 2010

Europa League Qualifier Preview: Trabzonspor vs Liverpool

Liverpool visit Trabzonspor looking to protect a slender 1-0 advantage in this Europa League play-off second leg but they will have to do so without influential duo Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres.

A draw or win will see the Reds qualify for the group stages of the competition although the job becomes decidedly more difficult with both Gerrard and Torres out of contention, as well as a number of other first team members including the likes of Javier Mascherano, Maxi Rodriguez, Milan Jovanovic and Daniel Agger.

It's been something of an uncomfortable start to life in the Anfield hotseat for new boss Roy Hodgson with Liverpool having failed to register a win in their opening two Premier League games that included a dismal 3-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester City.

The Reds are undoubtedly still favourites to progress and avoid the humiliation of a pre-group stage exit after Ryan Babel's solitary strike in the first leg secured victory although, as Hodgson himself confessed, Liverpool still have it all to do having failed to kill off their Turkish opponents last week.

While the Merseyside outfit are stuck on one point in 17th place after two games in England's top flight, Trabzonspor have picked up maximum points in Turkey having won both their opening two league fixtures of the season, including an impressive 3-2 win over rivals Fenerbahce on Monday.

Defeat for Hodgson and his charges resulting in Europa League elimination would be a bitter pill to swallow after all the disappointment associated with Monday's visit to Eastlands although Trabzonspor will certainly fancy their chances of progression given the Reds' somewhat depleted squad.



Having decided to switch things around for Monday's meeting with Fenerbahce, Trabzonspor coach Senol Gunes could be tempted to go with the same starting XI that only narrowly lost out at Anfield in the first leg.

After missing out on a starting spot against the Reds last week, Ibrahima Yattara will be desperate to get the nod having found the net against Fener.

Striker Umut Bulut will be hoping for a recall to the side while Burak Yilmaz will be another looking to be included having not featured on Monday night.

Possible Starting XI: Kivrak; Korkmaz, Glowacki, Gulselam, Cale; Yilmaz, Balci, Inan, Colman; Gutierrez, Bulut.


Roy Hodgson has confirmed that Liverpool will be without both captain Steven Gerarrd and Spanish striker Fernando Torres. England midfielder Gerrard is struggling with a back problem, while Hodgson is reluctant to field Torres for three consecutive games as he continues his recovery from last season's injury problems.

Wantaway Argentina international Javier Mascherano has again been left out of the Reds' squad heading for Turkey, while Daniel Agger (concussion) and Maxi Rodriguez (illness) are also absent.

Forward Milan Jovanovic has also been left out of the travelling party, seemingly being rested after the club's hectic start to the new season.

Possible Starting XI: Reina; Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Aurelio; Lucas, Poulsen; Kuyt, Cole, Babel; Ngog.

Joe Cole Looking To Make Up For Penalty Miss In Europa League Return Leg Against Trabzonspor

Joe Cole is looking to make amends for his missed penalty when Liverpool travel to take on Trabzonspor in their Europa League second leg on Thursday.

The England international will make his return for the Reds as he is in the midst of a three-match suspension for the red card he received in his Premier League debut for Liverpool against Arsenal.

Cole is hoping to make up for the penalty he missed in the first leg against the Turkish club, a miss that means that Liverpool will go into the return fixture with just a 1-0 lead.

The former Chelsea star admitted fault for his missed spot-kick, but Cole intends to own up to his mistake and help the Reds advance on Thursday.

“I’m not a penalty-taker,” Cole told the Daily Star.

“I haven’t taken a penalty for about 15 years and I might wait another 15 years before I take another.

“I hold my hands up and admit that it wasn’t good enough. I set my standards high and I want to do better.

“I feel there is a lot more to come from this team, too. I am anxious that we get the job done so it won’t matter.”

The midfielder is disappointed that the Reds were not able to build a more comfortable lead for the tough return leg, but Cole insists that Liverpool have to get the job done.

“It would have been nice to take a two-goal lead there, but we have got a job to do and we have got to make sure we do it. We’ve got to be ready to fight.

“They were two weeks away from winning the league last year and we probably got the toughest draw possible out of the pot we were in.

“They are a good side and it is always difficult playing in hostile atmospheres, but we have got to have confidence we can see it through.

“European games are notoriously tough, but we got the job done in the end at Anfield. Hopefully we can do the same here.”

Roy Hodgson Hands Barcelona Ultimatum Over Javier Mascherano Transfer

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson has given Barcelona until Sunday to sign midfielder Javier Mascherano.

With the Argentina international having already declared that he is keen to leave Anfield before the close of the summer transfer window, Hodgson left him out of the squad in the 3-0 loss to Manchester City on Monday, declaring that the player was not in the right frame of mind to feature for the Reds.

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola has expressed an inclination to sign Mascherano and now Hodgson has declared that he wants the player's future to be decided by Sunday.

"I wouldn't want to say he has played his last game for Liverpool," Hodgson said, according to Sky Sports. "The negotiations are ongoing between the two clubs and if he had played here it might have prejudiced the transfer and I didn't wish to do that to the player.

"I am seriously hoping that in the next couple of days it will be sorted out one way or another - although I have no idea which way that will be.

"Thursday night was out of the question but Sunday is very much a question because I think by then I should know one way or another whether he is going to play for Liverpool this season or Barcelona."

It is believed that Liverpool wants €30.5 million for the former River Plate midfielder.

Liverpool Open Real Madrid Talks For Diarra

The agent of Real Madrid midfielder Mahamadou Diarra has hinted at talks with Liverpool.

The 29-year-old is thought to be on the periphery of the Spanish side's squad under Jose Mourinho, and new Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson has lined-up the Malian international as a replacement for Javier Mascherano should he leave Anfield.

"Mahmadou is still a top player and he can do a great job in the Premier League. There is a lot of interest," said Frederic Guerra.

AS says that the Reds have begun negotiations with an emissary on behalf of Real Madrid with a view to signing Diarra before the close of the transfer window.

Kuyt Talks 'Ongoing'

Liverpool striker Dirk Kuyt is still in negotiations over a move to Inter Milan, according to his agent Rob Jansen.

The Holland international has been linked with a move to the reigning European champions, who have reportedly made an offer for the 30-year-old.

Kuyt's agent claims the clubs are still in negotiations, but are yet to reach an agreement over a deal thought to be worth in excess of £15million.

"The two clubs continue to talk, but things are moving slowly," claimed Jansen.

"The difference between demand and offer is important. It is something between the clubs but Dirk told Liverpool he no longer wants to be involved as this is something that regards his career and life.

"It doesn't mean he wants to leave at all costs, but when a club like Inter comes along it's normal to look into the situation further."

The former Utrecht and Feyenoord frontman was omitted from Liverpool's Europa League win against Trabzonspor at Anfield last week but did play in the Premier League defeat at Manchester City on Monday night.

Kuyt looks likely to be heading for a reunion with former Reds manager Rafa Benitez who is a known admirer of the hard-working Dutchman.

The player's current contract sees him tied to Liverpool until the end of next season, although he has yet to publicly confirm his desire to stay at Anfield.

Inter Milan Bid £20m For Javier Mascherano

Inter Milan have tabled an official £20-million bid for Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano, the Treble winners have confirmed.

"I sent an offer to Liverpool by fax on Tuesday and am waiting for a reply from them," said Inter sporting director Marco Branca.

"We're not speaking to the player at the moment because we want to do this in the right way and make sure that Liverpool is happy.

"Everybody knows that Mascherano would like to change team and to change country. He also has a good relationship with our manager Rafa Benitez.

"We've made a very good offer, around the amount they are asking for. We have a strong team here, the best in Europe, but we would like to add one or two players to make us even stronger."

Liverpool has turned down an offer from Barcelona of €15 million (£12.3 million) plus former Arsenal man Aleksandr Hleb for the holding midfielder.

Michael Klein Re-Emerges As Key Figure Behind Scenes At Liverpool

Michael Klein seems to have re-emerged as a key figure behind the scenes at Liverpool. The former Citibank grandee was instrumental in BarCap's acquisition of Lehman Bros two years ago and was the man who recommended the appointment of Martin Broughton as the Anfield chairman in April.

Klein and Broughton were, until 2008, co-chairmen of the Transatlantic Business Dialogue lobby and it was Broughton who confirmed that Liverpool's co-owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, "knew [Klein] from old".

Now Digger can reveal that a certain Klein Group – whose backer is unknown, but is more likely to be Michael Klein than the WalMart builder or the Dallas kids' clothing retailer by the same name – will earn up to $400,000 (£260,000) in fees from the setting up of the Hicks Acquisition Co II this column exposed yesterday.

That was set up at the time when BarCap drew up a refinancing proposal for Hicks and Gillett, and fans are worried the proximity of Klein both to Hicks and to BarCap will lead to Barclays assisting the Americans in retaining control of the club beyond Royal Bank of Scotland's 6 October refinancing deadline. The Kop Faithful pressure group yesterday sent an open letter to 40 BarCap staff demanding that they do not proceed with the refinancing plans. But it may never get that far in any case.

Although Broughton knows Klein well, he did oppose the refinancing scheme when it was presented to the board. And RBS, which as primary lender stands to lose most if BarCap were to deliver Liverpool to Hicks with reduced debt, told Digger: "We have full confidence in Barclays and the chairman to complete a sale."

Michael Owen To Play For Liverpool In Jamie Carragher's Testimonial

Michael Owen is to pull on the colours of Liverpool for the first time since leaving the club six years ago after agreeing to brave a potential backlash from Manchester United's supporters by playing for his old team in Jamie Carragher's testimonial match. Owen, reviled by some Liverpool fans after crossing one of the game's oldest divides, is said to be uncertain of the reaction he will get from the Anfield crowd but does not have great expectations considering the abuse when he returned last season for the first time since joining their rivals at Old Trafford.

The former England striker has given his word to Carragher, however, that he will play in the match at Anfield on Saturday week, swapping the red of United for that of the team where he began his career. Sir Alex Ferguson, the United manager, has given him permission to play for 45 minutes and Owen will be in attack for a Liverpool XI taking on an Everton XI.

Carragher has also persuaded Jamie Redknapp, Danny Murphy, Jason McAteer and Emile Heskey to play, but he had told Owen he would understand if he thought it was too delicate for him politically bearing in mind the rivalry between Liverpool and United.

There is also the distinct possibility that United's fans will not be too impressed about one of their players being willing to wear a Liverpool shirt, especially with their first encounter of the season to follow only two weekends later.

Owen, though, regards Carragher as one of his closest friends in football and the organisers hope the goodwill felt towards the long-serving Liverpool defender will persuade the Anfield crowd to go easy on their former player and maybe even demonstrate some warmth and appreciation for a man who scored over 200 goals for the club in eight years and has been described by Steven Gerrard as "the best striker in the history of Liverpool Football Club." Nonetheless, it is understood Owen will be given his own security on his way to and from the stadium.