Thursday, October 21, 2010

Europa League Preview: Napoli vs Liverpool

Gone are the days when the great Diego Maradona weaved his magic at the Stadio San Paolo, but Napoli are slowly but surely moving in the right direction towards recreating the glory days.

Mazzarri’s men finished 12th in 2008-09, sixth last season, and are currently in fourth position in Serie A.

A victory over the Reds would be seen as another feather in their cap, as Paolo Cannavaro said: “It will be a game that goes down in the history of Napoli.

"We can't be fooled by Liverpool's ranking in the Premier League. They are one of the most successful clubs in the world and are accustomed to challenges at the highest level. To win we must play the perfect game."

In the meantime, there has also been some vandalism at the San Paolo with the pitch having been dug in certain places, but the game is expected to take place as planned.

Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson has chosen to cast one eye on the Premier League fixture against Blackburn Rovers, as his side are currently in 19th place in the domestic circuit – their worst in the Premier League era.

With the focus firmly on a resurrection in the league, the former Inter boss has provided a stage for some of his fringe players to force their way into his thoughts.

Hodgson said: "I'll leave some players out that's for sure. Some of the more important senior players won't travel because their participation on Sunday is going to be so important to us.

“But it'll still be a strong team we put out there and I think it's a chance for some players who have been on the fringes, like David Ngog and others like Ryan Babel who has had very few chances.

"It's yet another opportunity for these players to blast their way into the team and force me to look at them in a different light, to make sure they are players that are first on the list and not down the pecking order."



Cristiano Lucarelli (knee) remains sidelined having sustained a long-term injury against Utrecht, but otherwise coach Walter Mazzarri should have most of his squad available at his disposal.

Possible starting XI: De Sanctis; Campagnaro, Cannavaro, Aronica; Maggio, Gargano, Pazienza, Dossena; Hamsik, Lavezzi; Cavani.


Despite issues concerning form, under-fire manager Roy Hodgson has decided to stick with his rotation policy, admitting that a few fringe players will be given a run out against the Italian club.

The gaffer has confirmed that David Ngog and Ryan Babel will be given opportunities to shine, as the duo have had few chances to prove their mettle this season.

Steven Gerrard, along with Fernando Torres, has been rested, which means Jay Spearing looks likely to continue in midfield.

Defenders Glen Johnson and Daniel Agger are out through injury and sickness respectively, while Dirk Kuyt (ankle) is another casualty.

Possible starting XI: Reina; Kelly, Carragher, Skrtel, Konchesky; Maxi, Poulsen, Spearing, Cole; Ngog, Babel.

Three Liverpool FC Fans Stabbed In Naples

Three Reds fans were stabbed and three more were injured as trouble flared ahead of Liverpool FC’s clash with Napoli.

A group of men aged 27, 44 and 53 were attacked at knifepoint in the old part of the city last night after supporters were met with a hostile reception whipped up by the Italian press.

The 27-year-old and 53-year-old were today in hospital but their condition was not thought to be life-threatening.

In a second incident, a woman and two men were targeted, but not seriously hurt.

The attacks came after an article printed in the newspaper Il Mattino Napoli branded Liverpool fans as hooligans.

A report yesterday had the headline: “Naples, the arrival of Liverpool and hooligans. Police: Stop sales of alcohol.”

The report read: “Naples will host Liverpool in Thursday night’s Europa League, and the city expects around 1,000 hooligans from one of the most violent fringes of English football supporters.

“In a red letter day for security in the city, extraordinary security measures are to be put in place.

“No beer, alcohol or other spirits will be on sale in bars and shops in the run-up to the game.”

A foreign office spokesperson said: “We can confirm the hospitalization of two British nationals in Naples, Italy, on October 20. We are providing consular assistance.”

Merseyside police’s contingent commander Chief Superintendent Dave Lewis, in the historic city as a liaison officer, said the attack was thought to be a random incident.

But online fans reported gangs of up to 30 Italians, some on scooters, targeting Reds supporters.

Others gave accounts of Italian police escorts for fans to their hotels.

Reports from local police also suggested Italian authorities had dealt with two incidents in which bottles were launched at Liverpool fans.

A Merseyside police spokesperson said the force would work with the Italian police to advise fans if they were at risk.

Zenit St Petersburg Won't Stop Aleksandr Kerzhakov From Joining Liverpool

Russian striker Aleksandr Kerzhakov 's club Zenit St Petersburg have said that they will not stand in his way should he wish to join Liverpool.

Liverpool has reportedly been trailing Kerzhakov and would consider paying £6million for his services. With Roy Hodgson's side languishing in the Premier League relegation zone and star striker Fernando Torres out of sorts, Liverpool will likely look to boost their strike force in January.

27-year-old Kerzhakov is in fantastic form and has recently hit a Europa League hat-trick against Anderlecht and also scored for Russia against the Republic of Ireland last week. He has been a consistent scorer in the Russian league over several seasons with both Zenit and Dynamo Moscow. However, Kerzhakov failed to settle in a two-season spell at Spanish side Sevilla.

Responding to speculation linking Kerzhakov with Liverpool, Zenit boss Luciano Spalletti is quoted in the Daily Mail saying, "I think he wants to stay at Zenit. But if a player really wants to leave, I’m not going to stop him.

"Our team has players who are ready to replace him in this concrete case it’s (Alexander) Bukharov."

Kerzhakov himself refused to be drawn on the speculation, commenting "I’m completed focused on Zenit - morally and physically…I don’t allow myself even a fleeting distraction."

Kerzhakov is a predatory striker, renowned for his eye for goal, clever movement and positional sense. At only 5ft 7in, he is hardly a physical presence, but has the speed and ingenuity to worry defences. He also has plenty of experience, having scored 18 goals in over 50 internationals

Hodgson Appoints Alan Harper To Senior Scouting Role

Roy Hodgson has appointed former Everton player Alan Harper as a senior talent spotter at Liverpool.

Harper began his playing career at Anfield but never made a first-team appearance for Liverpool, before moving across Stanley Park to Everton in 1983.

He won league, FA Cup and European Cup Winners Cup medals while at Goodison Park and later enjoyed spells at Sheffield Wednesday and Manchester City.

More recently, Harper has been working as a scout at Bolton Wanderers. However, Hodgson has now appointed him to a 'senior' role at Liverpool with a remit to identify and recruit the top British talent.

According to the Daily Mirror, Harper will report directly to Liverpool boss Hodgson.

Roy Hodgson Admits Liverpool Could Lose Fernando Torres

Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson candidly admitted that Fernando Torres could leave Anfield, especially with Manchester United soon to be in the market for a top class striker.

Hodgson was widely praised by the Liverpool faithful over the summer for successfully keeping Torres and Steven Gerrard at the club, while adding Joe Cole to the squad. However, things have quickly turned sour for Hodgson with Liverpool languishing unexpectedly in the Premier League relegation zone.

Torres had a poor World Cup and has hit the net just once for Liverpool this term. Nonetheless, his quality is unquestioned and the Spanish hit man scored 22 goals last season, despite suffering from injuries.

Hodgson however has now said that realistically, Liverpool may lose Torres at some point.

He commented, "I'm not naive enough to believe there won't be any danger and we will never lose a player like Torres.

"When a great player like Rooney is looking to leave his club, United will be in a position to target a lot of players around the world."

The New Man In Charge At Liverpool Is No Ordinary Joe

The new man in charge of Liverpool is Joe Januszewski, the Boston Red Sox executive who persuaded John W Henry to buy the club.

Sportsmail understands that Januszewski, who runs the Red Sox corporate sales team, is the new chief operating officer, replacing managing director Christian Purslow, who stepped down yesterday. He will be joined by an experienced football administrator.

Januszewski, who has been a Liverpool fan for 20 years and was at the team's European Cup victory in Istanbul five years ago, advised Henry to watch the situation at Liverpool, which pricked the multi-millionaire's interest in Anfield.

Januszewski told reporters: 'It was as a fan, really. I told him my bags are always packed for Liverpool, I know a great couple of places if you need a tour guide.

'People walk into my office at Fenway Park and, OK, I work for the Boston Red Sox but there is another club that wears red which has a pretty solid representation on my wall. There's souvenirs, ticket stubs, all the rest. People look at me and say, "What's the deal?"

'I tell them baseball is my business but Liverpool FC is my passion. 'Purslow will remain at the club as an advisor to the new owners, who have reportedly dissuaded commercial director Ian Ayre from leaving.

Purslow quit just five days after helping to push through the £300million sale to Henry's New England Sports Ventures.

Nobody, however, told under-fire manager Roy Hodgson, who said: 'Will his departure affect my position? Not that I know of, but that is not a question for me to answer.

'The fact is I had no idea before today that he was planning to leave the club. I have only worked with Christian Purslow for three months.

'I know he and Martin Broughton were brought in to sell the club to the right owners and to put right a lot of the things they saw were wrong with the club and he has worked hard to do those things.

'His lasting legacy will undoubtedly be the fact that they have given the club the right owners to take the club forward and build an exciting future.'

Purslow, who has been commuting from his home in Surrey for the past two years, told the club's website: 'I came to Liverpool Football Club to lead it through a sale process to get the best overall deal including, vitally, the removal of the debt. I am immensely proud of what we have all achieved.

'I now look forward to assisting the owners in any way I can at this exciting time as they drive the club forward towards a bright future.'

Ian Ayre’s Resignation Rejected By NESV

Following the resignation of Liverpool managing director Christian Purslow, the Daily Telegraph can disclose that club commercial director Ian Ayre has been dissuaded from leaving the club by their new American owners New England Sports Ventures (NESV).

Ayre is understood to have been uncertain of his position at the club following the takeover and tendered a letter of resignation to the club’s owners on Tuesday.

His offer was rejected by owner John W Henry and his advisers however, and Ayre was reassured that he has a future at the club.

The commercial director is considered one of the unqualified successes of the Hicks and Gillett regime, improving the club’s revenues and his contacts in Asia, where he worked for several years, are valued.

Ayre’s position at the club could also have been undermined by his links to Peter Lim, the Singapore investor whose bid for Liverpool was rejected. Ayre brought Lim to the table but it has not affected his position with NESV.

Meanwhile lawyers for Royal Bank of Scotland and the club’s former owners Hicks and Gillett will return to the High Court on Thursday for a further hearing in front of Mr Justice Floyd.

It was described last night as a purely procedural hearing to tidy up the loose ends of the injunctions served in favour of RBS last week, but Hicks and Gillett may seek to use the opportunity to institute proceedings for damages. They have said they will seek more than £1bn in compensation.

Ayre is on holiday and unavailable for comment. A club spokesman said that he had not resigned but that they had no knowledge of his resignation letter.

Martin Broughton To Leave Anfield For Sports Investment Project

Martin Broughton's spell as Liverpool chairman, expected to end shortly following the sale of the club, will not be his last involvement in sport.

Broughton, a former chairman of the British Horseracing Board, is to chair a private equity investment group targeting investment in specialist sports projects.

The company, Sports Investment Partners, was the brainchild of Broughton's son Martin, an executive at experienced sports head-hunters Nolan Partners, and discussions with potential investors began a year ago.

The Broughtons identified sport as an area that could benefit from specialist private equity investment, following a model that has seen sectors such as green technology develop with the aim of targeted investment.

SIP is not expected to invest in football clubs – Broughton's experience with Liverpool is thought to have persuaded him against further involvement – but will identify projects that have an application across sport.

It is expected to target areas including technology, the gaming and betting sector and support services that can be provided across sport.

SIP will look at small to medium sized projects to which they can add value, providing management expertise or equity investment where appropriate.

The project is one of the reasons why Broughton is understood to have declared himself unavailable for the vacant post of FA chairman, for which he would be a leading candidate if he expressed serious interest.

Like several other senior business figures, he may also have reservations about the structure at Wembley, where an independent chairman is expected to steer a course through competing factions without the assistance of the non-executive directors proposed by the Burns Review five long years ago.

Christian Purslow Steps Down From Liverpool Managing Director Role

Liverpool managing director Christian Purslow has decided to stand down from his role following the successful sale of the club.

Purslow was brought in by formers owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett in the summer of 2009 to initially look for further investment in the club.

However, he took on a more key role - alongside a newly-appointed chairman in Martin Broughton - last April when the Americans decided sell the club.

The pair helped negotiate a deal with New England Sports Ventures, who completed their £300million takeover last week.

Purslow will remain as a non-executive director in an advisory capacity to the new owners.

It is expected Broughton will also step down from his position in the near future once NESV have been brought up to speed with details of their new acquisition.

"I came to Liverpool to lead the club through a sale process to get the best overall deal including, vitally, the removal of the debt," Purslow told the club website,

"I am immensely proud of what we have all achieved.

"I now look forward to assisting the owners in any way I can at this exciting time as they drive the club forward to a bright future."

New England Sports Ventures chairman Tom Werner was grateful Purslow was remaining on board for the time being as a special adviser.

"We are delighted Christian has accepted our offer to help us and the club, given his great experience and love for Liverpool FC," said Werner.

"We will now begin a global search process for a chief executive officer."