Sunday, October 24, 2010

Premier League Preview: Liverpool vs Blackburn

Liverpool are in a sorry state of affairs as far as their domestic adventure is concerned, as they are in the relegation zone having amassed only six points from their opening eight games.

With only one victory against their name, there have been several questions asked of Hodgson's methods. But the Liverpool manager has remained firm, insisting that the team still needs time to gel under his guidance.

There had also been some speculation that the former Fulham boss could walk away from Anfield, but here recently rubbished such talk by affirming that he will not resign under any circumstances.

Meanwhile, West Bromwich Albion are the only side to have visited Anfield and not taken a point or more off their opponents, though even their defeat came in the form of a narrow 1-0 scoreline.

And the club's recent defeat to Blackpool means that the players must really pick themselves up and put in a strong performance to take their first steps towards restoring lost pride.

Blackburn have a terrible record at Anfield as they have not registered a victory in their last 14 trips. Their last victory at Liverpool was 17 years ago, and since that win, they have drawn nine and lost five.

But now they have an excellent chance of setting things straight and piling the pressure on their opponents.

But with opposition skipper Gerrard and striker Torres having had a rest, their back line will have to defend well if they are to take anything away from Hodgson's men.

But the back line will have to work doubly hard, as they are missing Chris Samba while Ryan Nelsen has only just recovered from a thigh injury.



Roy Hodgson rested some of his players during his side's recent goalless draw with Napoli, and should recall them for this encounter.

Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres will return to the starting line-up, with midfielders Raul Meireles and Lucas also expected to start after they were not used in Italy.

Glen Johnson (hamstring) and Daniel Agger (back) are still doubtful, but could feature if they recover in time. Dirk Kuyt (ankle) is sidelined.

Possible starting line-up: Reina; Carragher, Skrtel, Kyrgiakos, Konchesky; Maxi Rodriguez, Lucas, Meireles, Cole; Gerrard; Torres.


Rovers boss Sam Allardyce will be hoping that defender Ryan Nelsen (thigh) recovers in time to play a part in this game, having missed the previous fixture against Sunderland.

Should he return, the 33-year-old is likely to partner Gael Givet in the absence of Chris Samba, who is serving a suspension.

In the meantime, Benjani has recovered from a concussion he suffered while playing against Sunderland, and is now in contention to play a part at Anfield.

Keith Andrews (groin), Vince Grella (hamstring) and Jason Roberts are still out.

Possible starting line-up: Robinson; Salgado, Nelsen, Givet, Olsson; Pedersen, N'Zonzi, Jones, Dunn, El Hadji Diouf; Kalinic.

Fernando Torres, Pepe Reina And Glen Johnson Want Out Of Liverpool

Ahead of their make-or-break clash with Blackburn Rovers on Sunday afternoon, Liverpool have been hit with the bombshell news that three of their most influential players are ready to leave Anfield in January.

Spanish duo Fernando Torres and Pepe Reina along with England defender Glen Johnson are said to be unhappy at the club, and with morale at an all-time low the trio are keen to seek pastures new, according to The Daily Mail.

The news will come as a bitter blow to under-fire manager Roy Hodgson as he fights to hang on to his job after a miserable start to the season which has dumped Liverpool in the relegation zone going into today’s game.

Torres, who has not scored in six games – equalling his worst run for the club - is said to be regretting his decision to stay in the summer; and Johnson, who may miss today’s game with a hamstring injury, is aware of interest from Bayern Munich and Juventus.

Both players - along with Reina - are far from impressed that former Wimbledon, Birmingham and QPR goalkeeper Mike Kelly, 68, has been placed in charge of first team coaching, including running through Reina’s routines.

Liverpool’s new owner John W Henry, who will not be at Anfield today due to illness, had planned on giving Hodgson a trial until Christmas; but with things looking in danger of spiralling out of control on the pitch, Hodgson’s future could be up for discussion a lot sooner than that.

Liverpool Line Up Move For Aston Villa's Ashley Young

Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson is keen to sign Aston Villa winger Ashley Young after the 25-year-old turned down the chance to sign a new deal at Villa Park for now.

New Aston Villa boss Gerard Houllier will be disappointed that he has failed to tie down Young as yet, with the player himself insisting that he will talk about a new deal in the summer but is happy at the club for now.

According to The People, Houllier's former club Liverpool is ready to take advantage of Young's hesitancy with Roy Hodgson prepared to meet Villa's £14million valuation.

The People reports that Anfield boss Hodgson will have £30million to spend in January and hopes to bring five new faces to Liverpool, of which he wants two to be British talent.

Young has impressed at Aston Villa since arriving from Watford in 2006 and enjoyed another good season last campaign, scoring five goals and contributing eight assists. Young has already won ten England caps but was not considered for Fabio Capello's World Cup squad.

Barcelona Tracking Liverpool Striker Fernando Torres

Fernando Torres' time at Liverpool is reportedly over and the clock at Barcelona has started to tick as the Catalan giants plan a move to lure him over to Camp Nou. claims that Barcelona are ready to approach Liverpool and broker a deal for the Spanish international hitman who has endured a miserable campaign at Anfield.

That, coupled with Liverpool's recent turmoil behind the scenes in relation to their takeover by NESV, has given the Azulgrana hope and encouragement.

Torres is said to be considering his own future, and a swift move is being garnished by Barcelona who are putting the finishing touches to their initial blueprints.

It's no secret that coach Pep Guardiola admires the former Atletico hitman who dreams of playing alongside Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi.

With finance becoming the byword of trouble at Anfield, Torres could be sold sooner rather than later.

Roy Hodgson Takes A Swipe At Frank Rijkaard

Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson has taken a swipe at Frank Rijkaard, questioning the Dutchman's managerial capabilities and defending his own record ahead of his side's game with Blackburn Rovers.

The 48-year-old's time at Galatasaray recently came to an untimely end after the Turkish club fell to four defeats in eight weeks and suffered elimination from the Europa League in the process.

The Dutchman has since been linked with a move to take the reins at Anfield, with the former Fulham boss thought to be heading for the chopping block after a run of poor results.

The Reds are currently in the relegation zone in the Premier League, and have also been dumped out of the League Cup.

Now Hodgson has hit out at suggestions that Rijkaard could be in line to replace him.

"I had two-and-a-half years of this kind of thing when I was at Inter when, every day, there would be stuff in the newspapers that someone was going to get my job," he said, according to The Mirror.

"If I took two-and-a-half years of that in Milan I can take two-and-a-half years of it here.

"It ended up with my being offered a new contract by Inter when I left for Blackburn.

"The doom and gloom that surrounds us is not coming from within the club, not from me and not from the players – it’s coming from people outside who are having a field day and delighting in the fact we are having a bad time.

"Rijkaard has just been sacked from Galatasaray - he must be a great manager to have been sacked by Galatasaray! What you are talking about is Frank Rijkaard’s agent putting his name around. It is all speculation."

Hodgson also defended his reign at Blackburn Rovers, where he was fired after 18 months in charge with the club at the bottom of the standings.

"At Blackburn, I took a team that avoided relegation by one point to the UEFA Cup when we finished sixth in the league," he said.

"That seems somehow to be forgotten when the next season we had a lot of injury problems and found that things were not going so well. But in that first season we were being feted everywhere and I was being tipped as the next England manager, but after a poor start the following season I didn’t get a chance to follow it through.

"I am sure that if I had been given a chance to follow it through, I would have dealt with that one too. You do get bad periods and I have been lucky in having had more good ones than bad ones.

"At Blackburn, 18 months of work got judged on the last two or three months when we did poorly. But that is the business.

"So many good things have been written about me over the last two-and-a-half years that it would be churlish of me to start complaining. But I wasn’t happy about the way my time at Blackburn was perceived."

Now the 63-year-old will go up against his former club Rovers when Sam Allardyce's charges visit Anfield on Sunday.

"Now it is up to the players who will be fresh from not having taken part [against Napoli in the midweek Europa League tie] to step up to the plate," he said.

"We have left more than two behind - there is [Raul] Meireles, there is [Glen] Johnson, there is [Lucas] Leiva; Jamie Carragher played half the game, Joe Cole only came on at the end.

"I think we won’t be taking any fatigue into the match. It doesn’t always work that way, but we won’t have that as an excuse if we don’t go on and win the game."

O'Neill Looking To Return

Martin O'Neill has revealed that he wants to get back into management sooner rather than later.

The 58-year-old coach left Aston Villa just days before the start of the season and is now looking to return to the dugout.

O'Neill has had successful spells at Wycombe, Leicester and Celtic during an impressive 23-year managerial career, but left Villa after a disagreement with owner Randy Lerner.

"I've been enjoying myself and getting rather lazy these last two months," he said in the Daily Mirror.

"But I obviously miss the game and I'm sure I'll get back into it at some stage if I can.

"I'd rather that happened sooner rather than later."

On his departure from Villa in August, he added: "I think we decided we weren't going in the same direction, I'm not sure what direction that was. Probably the less said, the better."

O'Neill has been linked with a number of high-profile positions such as the vacancy at Middlesbrough, and with Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson under pressure, speculation has suggested that he could potentially be the next manager at Anfield.

A career-defining job could be O'Neill's next step. He has also been linked with England, as Fabio Capello is set to step down after the European Championships in 2012.

The former Northern Ireland midfielder was interviewed for the Three Lions job following the departure of Sven-Goran Eriksson in 2006, and he has revealed his disappointment that he was not appointed.

"I was interviewed for the England job back before Steve McClaren got it," O'Neill remarked.

"Obviously Steve had been there as assistant to Sven at the time, but I'm not sure of the way the voting system went.

"A number of candidates were interviewed - Big Sam Allardyce brought every piece of machinery and all the stats with him, unfortunately I didn't.

"I just brought myself, and we all know what happened."

NESV Duo Join Anfield Board

Two senior officials of New England Sports Ventures have been appointed to the Liverpool board.

David Ginsberg, one of NESV's two vice-chairmen, and investor Michael Gordon have been installed as club directors.

Both men will watch Liverpool's Premier League match against Blackburn on Sunday alongside new co-owner Tom Werner.

John W Henry, the principal owner of NESV, is unable to travel to the game because of illness.

But Henry said: "Sunday promises to be a special day at Anfield in more ways than one.

"I'll be watching the game from home and, although I have only been here for a few days, I already miss Anfield.

"We are hard at work setting a course for the future including the search for a chief executive officer.

"I wish the club and the fans all the best for the match against Blackburn."

Tom Hicks And George Gillett To Press Ahead With $1.6bn Liverpool FC Damages Claim

Lawyers for Liverpool FC’s ousted American owners today said they were still intent on “gathering information” ahead of a potential multi-million pound lawsuit.

But Tom Hicks and George Gillett have refused to put a deadline or timescale on their threatened claim for a massive $1.6bn damages.

Today lead litigator Tom Melsheimer told the ECHO the departed Americans were “exploring all avenues to seek relief”.

Their case, it appears, will now be heard before an English court – although some proceedings may still take place in the US.

At present, Mr. Melsheimer said, no date has been listed.

In an interview with the ECHO the lawyer reaffirmed the view the Reds’ sale to New England Sports Venures was a “swindle”.

And he claimed last Friday’s deal undervalued Liverpool FC by hundreds of millions of dollars.

But Mr. Melsheimer was unable to detail:

The particulars of the last-gasp Mill Financial offer, broached by Hicks, specifically if that takeover was designed to give the Texan some retention of control at Anfield along with his 50% stake.

Why the other bidders, put forward by Hicks and Gillett and supposedly offering higher valuation for the Reds, only emerged at the 11th hour.

If those claimed bidders still intended to leave huge debts on Liverpool, extending the club’s crippling leveraged status.

The make-up of the alleged “better offers” or provide a comprehensive explanation of how they would have left Liverpool financially.

Hicks’s team suggested the reason for the late spate of supposed offers to buy Liverpool, a claim made by the co-owners legal team, was due to previous approaches crumbling because of a lack of proven funds.

Mr. Melsheimer said: “Selling a team like this is a complicated business.

“Initially they show interest but they can’t bring the finance.”

He also confirmed the battle for damages was “very much a joint action” despite suggestions Gillett’s influence as a co-owner was arguably eradicated after he defaulted on a £75m loan to Mill Financial in August.

The Canadian has been conspicuous by his low profile in recent weeks.

Although he was said to be in London last week discussing his position during the quickfire moves leading up to Friday’s NESV sale.

The $1.6bn figure claimed for damages, Hicks’ legal spokesman added, represented their valuation of “potential of loss of opportunity and loss of profits”.

Mr. Melsheimer said: “We don’t have interest doing anything to unwind the sale of the team and we wish it the very best and its fans.

“But the way things have been handled for the last month, we believe, was a conspiracy to violate our rights.

“We are looking at what are next options might be. We’re not saying anything definitive, but we are gathering information in Liverpool and elsewhere.

“We acknowledge people were unhappy about the ownership and we understand all that.

“But none of that is justification for what happened here.

“We think the fans of the club were hurt as the best price for the club was not obtained.

“We had other buyers who we believed were interested.”

Mr. Melsheimer was questioned on the wisdom of any action for damages bearing in mind High Court judge Mr. Justice Floyd’s central argument last week that the sale was approved by a five-strong legally-constituted board and appeared to be the crucial legal tenant of the dispute.

He replied: “Now the sale has taken place, there’s much less emotion and time pressure.

“The full facts about how our rights were violated will emerge.

“Once the dust has settled we will figure out how we were violated in terms of English law.

“We respect the English judicial system, one of the best in the world.

“All that said we are seeking avenues for relief.”

Mr. Melsheimer added: “The events of the last few weeks have been emotional. We duly pursued all real prospects to buy the team and we had better prospects that eventually consumated.

“These were not just phone calls in the last three days, but the last six months. I understand people saying ‘Where were they?’

“But it can’t be that owners don’t get to control who their team is sold to.”

Mr. Melsheimer was reminded that chairman Martin Broughton was introduced in April to lead the sale process, after long periods of unsuccessful touting of Liverpool by Hicks and Gillett to investors around the world.

He said: “Tom and George were selling the team, there was no plan to do anything under the table.

“We thought we were on the same page as the directors.

“We understand the animosity people have, but that cannot be a justification for these two gentlemen to see their interests reduce to zero.”