Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Babel Hails Team Effort

Liverpool attacker Ryan Babel has hailed the team effort following the victory over Aston Villa on Monday night.

The Reds cruised to a 3-0 win over Villa at Anfield in the Premier League, as Gerard Houllier suffered a disappointing return to his former club.

Dutch forward Babel, 23, netted the second goal just two minutes after David Ngog had given Liverpool a 14th-minute lead, and Maxi Rodriguez made sure of the points in the second half.

Babel was handed a place in the starting line-up following the late withdrawal of Fernando Torres, who was absent due to the birth of his second child, and he was pleased to take his chance, praising a united effort as the reason for the team's success.

"Fernando's circumstances were clear to the team at that point, so the question was who the boss was going to replace him with," he said.

"He chose me and I was very pleased with that. It was good to play the full 90 minutes and to get involved with the team.

"Of course I was happy to score. Scoring a goal is always wonderful and gives any player confidence.

"But at the same time, it was also very important for the team, so I'm very delighted.

"I think the team spirit was very good. We went onto the pitch as a team and we left the pitch as a team.

"For us, we just have to look at each game that's coming and not look too far into the future.

"It's clear we came from a very difficult situation. We're still trying to improve our game in every match we play."

Liverpool endured a woeful start to the campaign under new boss Roy Hodgson but now seem to have turned a corner and they are up to eighth in the league.

Dirk Kuyt paid tribute to the effort of strikers Babel and Ngog, and was also happy with the work rate of the whole team.

"It's not easy to replace someone like Fernando but I thought David and Ryan did really well for us," he told the Liverpool Echo.

"They both scored a goal but it wasn't just that. They also worked really hard for the team and kept the ball well for us. It was a great performance from both of them.

"I thought it was a great team performance and everyone contributed to us getting the three points.

"We played really well from the beginning of the game and got the goals we wanted. Now we need to build on this."

Pepe Reina Tells Teammates To Ignore Transfer Rumours

Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina has told his team-mates to ignore any talk of new signings and to concentrate on matters on the field.

Following the takeover of the Anfield club by American group New England Sports Ventures (NESV), there have been reports that significant investment will be made to upgrade the squad in the near future.

Despite the potential for new arrivals, Reina has reminded the club’s players that such matters are out of their hands and to instead focus on upcoming matches.

"I am always talking about these things and I don't want to be annoying saying the same things," he said, as quoted by the Press Association.

"We all expect Liverpool to be one of the top clubs and it is on the manager and the new owners to level up that but all we can do is play football and do as well as we can.

"We know anyone can beat anyone and it has happened so many times this season so we have to be consistent and find that balance which makes us stay up there and fight to be as high as possible.

Liverpool earned their fourth consecutive Premier League home victory with a 3-0 win over Aston Villa on Monday and Reina believes that the side is starting to improve after their poor start to the season.

"We are 10 points adrift of the leaders [Arsenal] but it is just some space,” he said.

"Knowing the ideas and keeping the shape and philosophy we have to find ourselves playing with more confidence now and aim a bit higher.

"We are happy just because we have shown, especially in the first halves, better performances and the team has been more consistent and more focused from the first minute.

"That is something which the team lacked in the first 10 matches and now we have found ourselves better from the first minute we have to keep that."

Reina revealed that the team was well aware that their start to the season would be difficult as they adjusted to life under new manager Roy Hodgson following former boss Rafael Benitez’s departure.

However, the 28-year-old believes that the side can start to set their sights higher if they successfully negotiate the upcoming festive period.

“We said when we played Birmingham - the fourth league fixture - we knew it was going to take a while with a new manager, new players coming in and new ideas," he said.

"Hopefully we can once again build from a good home win [against Villa].

"There is never an easy game - we lost to Blackpool at home and we have to play them in Blackpool - and we know the Christmas period is vital, crucial.

"After those four games [up to Bolton on January 1] we can start talking about where the team is going to aim."

Liverpool To Battle Real Madrid For Swiss Right-Back Stephan Lichtsteiner

Liverpool and Real Madrid are both being linked with a move for Lazio's Swiss international right-back Stephan Lichtsteiner.

The 26-year-old is renowned as an attacking right-back and his marauding runs down the right flank have seen him dubbed 'Forrest Gump' in Italy. He is also able to play right-midfield.

Lichtsteiner moved to Lazio from Lille in 2008, having impressed at that summer's European Championships for Switzerland. He has since been a regular feature in the Lazio side and last season formed an exciting attacking full-back partnership with Aleksandar Kolarov.

Italian website Tuttomercato speculates that both Real Madrid and Liverpool are chasing Lichtsteiner. The Spanish giants have been linked with the defender before, but apparently Liverpool's interest is a recent development. There has been recent speculation over the Anfield future of current right-back Glen Johnson, particularly after he was publicly criticized by Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson.

Liverpool Willing To Offer £12 Million For Torres Partner

Liverpool’s owner NESV has set aside £12 million for Athletic Bilbao striker Fernando Llorente, although that figure could fall short of the asking price.

The Metro is reporting the Spanish side wants £16 million for the 25-year-old, a price that could be a stretch too far for the American owners.

Liverpool is known to be in the market for a striker and John W Henry has revealed he is willing to splash out on one ‘world class player’ in January.

That player had looked certain to be Eden Hazard but the Belgian is now likely to stay with French club Lille until the summer.

After receiving that news, Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson, as well as director of football strategy Damian Comolli, has turned his attention to Llorente.

The forward knows current Anfield striker Fernando Torres, having been part of the same squad that became World and European champions last July in South Africa.

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp also reportedly wants to bring Llorente to White Hart Lane but Torres is likely to convince his friend that Anfield is the right place to be at.

Spanish journalist Guillem Balague, though, feels the Basque striker would be well out of Liverpool’s reach financially and that he will eventually stay in Spain.

Balague wrote on his blog: “Fernando Llorente costs 36m euros - money I don’t think Liverpool have at the moment.

“Llorente is thinking about moving on but I would favour Barcelona over Real Madrid, who will also want him. There will be a fight between those two clubs for his services in the summer.”

Milan Ace Ronaldinho Linked With Liverpool Move

Liverpool are the latest in a long list of clubs pursuing out of favour Milan playmaker Ronaldinho.

The Brazilian, 30, is designed to amuse, but his season thus far has been far from jovial. He has become peripheral to plans under Massimiliano Allegri, who has preferred Robinho.

Ronaldinho's lack of regular football has led to speculation his time will be up in January as promises of a new deal have been placed into the background by Milan.

Itasportpress now claims Liverpool are looking at the former Barcelona man. Roy Hodgson is said to be looking for a creative side-kick to line up alongside Fernando Torres.

Ronaldinho would arrive on a free deal as his contract at Milan expires in June, leaving him free to negotiate with other clubs.

However, Liverpool would have to convince him to drop his €7.5 million per annum wage demands. Los Angeles Galaxy and a host of Brazilian clubs are said to be keen also.

Liverpool Striker Target Wants To Be Next Anfield Hero

Liverpool striker target Cleo has opened the door to a potential January move.

The Partizan Belgrade striker has been on the Anfield radar for some time now, with Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson thought to be keen on the player as a potential foil for Fernando Torres.

Signed by the Serbian SuperLiga outfit in 2009, Cleo has scored more than a goal every other game for the Crno-beli, form which has led to speculation over a move away from the Stadion FK Partizan.

The club are thought to be willing to listen to offers for the player after a valuation in the region of €14 million, and despite previously admitting being in the dark over a link to Liverpool, Cleo has fueled speculation over a potential Anfield switch.
"I will only leave Belgrade if I get an offer which I couldn't say no to," SkySports reports that the player told Serbian reporters.

"Liverpool is one of the biggest clubs in the world and who wouldn't like to play football at Anfield?"

The come-and-get-me plea comes ahead of Partizan's Champions League clash against Arsenal at the Emirates on Wednesday, and Liverpool could send scouts to watch the player in the crunch clash.

"My club will have the last answer. They will do what will be best for them," Cleo concluded to reporters.

Liverpool have money to spend in the January transfer window following the arrival of NESV as new owners at the club, and a transfer war chest in the region of £35 million is thought to be on offer for the former Fulham boss.

A wish list of 'five or six' players is thought to have been drawn up by the Merseyside outfit, but Cleo's admission of a desire to play for Liverpool could change the club's thinking over striker signing options.

Liverpool Closing In On Rennes Defender Rod Fanni

According to a report in L'Equipe, Ligue 1 outfit Rennes is set to part company with France international Rod Fanni. The full-back is continually being linked with a move to Liverpool and Rennes is now supposedly ready to cash in on him.

Liverpool isn’t too pleased with the performances of Glen Johnson at right-back and manager Roy Hodgson is therefore eager to sign a new full-back in the January transfer window. The former Fulham gaffer supposedly sees the 29-year-old Fanni as the perfect signing.

"A decision about the future of Rod Fanni will be made in the next 48 hours," Rennes' general director Pierre Dreossi was quoted as saying.

Fanni has also attracted the interest of Olympique de Marseille, but the right-back has apparently set his sights on a move to the Premier League.

Additionally, Rennes is reluctant to sell Fanni to a domestic rival, meaning that the full-back is probably on his way to the Reds.

Pulis Rules Out Shawcross Sale

Stoke City boss Tony Pulis has warned clubs off making a move for captain Ryan Shawcross.

Liverpool and Manchester United are both thought to be keen on luring the powerful central defender away from the Britannia Stadium.

Reds boss Roy Hodgson is believed to be keen to bring in Shawcross as a replacement for the injured Jamie Carragher.

Former club United have kept an eye on Shawcross' progress at Stoke and they are believed to have watched him in action against Wigan last weekend.

A number of foreign sides are also thought to be tracking the 23-year-old, but Pulis insists Stoke are under no pressure to sell Shawcross.

"We are under no pressure to sell and Ryan is somebody the chairman will not contemplate leaving," said Pulis.

"Ryan could not be happier here and we've also got him on a very good long-term contract.

"Obviously if we were offered ridiculous money, then any club would have to look at it. But we've had no offers as yet and wouldn't welcome any.

"We see Ryan as a major part of our future. He's only progressed since coming here and is now the club captain."