Thursday, December 09, 2010

Hodgson Holds Top-Four Hope

Roy Hodgson insists it is still possible for Liverpool to gatecrash the top four this season.

A torrid start to the 2010/11 campaign threatened to undermine the Reds' efforts, with their UEFA Champions League dreams fading fast.

They have, however, been able to establish some consistency since then, with stability achieved on and off the field.

A 3-0 victory over Aston Villa on Monday was their fifth success in eight outings and they are now just seven points adrift of Manchester City in fourth position.

Hodgson, who remains under pressure to deliver results, is convinced that Liverpool can catch the frontrunners, with the uncertainty which accompanied managerial and boardroom changes now a thing of the past.

"We'd like to think so," he told the club's official website when asked if the Reds can catch the top four.

"But when you start as badly as we did then it's sensible for us to keep our feet on the ground.

"We are in something of a rebuilding process. As many as 20 to 22 players have left since I arrived here and very few have come in.

"But right from the beginning I've had the impression that the players are behind the work we are trying to do.

"We didn't get the results at the beginning but I never doubted we would become a more solid team. It was just a question of when our quality players would bring their quality to bear."

Among those Hodgson feels have raised their game over recent weeks are Argentine wide-man Maxi Rodriguez and England international full-back Glen Johnson.

He said: "Maxi Rodriguez is a very intelligent player. Despite the fact I do not speak Spanish and he doesn't speak that much English, we've always had a good understanding together.

"He knows what I want and I've been happy to see him do it on the field."

Hodgson added: "Glen Johnson is now different to the Glen Johnson we saw at the beginning. He's playing with confidence and is doing extremely well.

"It's the same with Fernando Torres recently. He's different to the one in the opening games. Now we are working together every day and we are seeing better team performances."

Liverpool Will Not Gamble On Steven Gerrard For Newcastle Trip

Liverpool are unlikely to risk Steven Gerrard in their starting line-up at Newcastle United on Saturday as the captain continues his recovery from a hamstring tear.

Gerrard is scheduled to return at St James' Park having missed Liverpool's last four games with a grade two hamstring tear sustained during England's friendly defeat by France last month.

The midfielder aggravated the injury in training last week although Liverpool's manager, Roy Hodgson, explained that "he just tweaked a bit of scar tissue" and the club have allayed concerns he faces a prolonged spell on the sidelines.

Nonetheless, Liverpool will not rush back Gerrard ahead of a demanding Christmas period and they may even resist naming the midfielder among the substitutes at Newcastle.

Reds Condemn Hillsborough Comments

Liverpool Football Club has condemned comments from a journalist who described the Hillsborough disaster as a "riot".

Alex Beam has sparked anger among Liverpool fans for using his column in the Boston Globe to suggest "internet fan sites are still agonizing over a 21-year-old soccer riot that killed 96 people."

The newspaper later amended the article online and acknowledged an error had been made.

A Liverpool FC spokesman said: "Mr. Beam's comments are disgraceful and ill-informed.

"His newspaper has belatedly recognized this by repeating the findings of Lord Justice Taylor that absolved Liverpool supporters of any blame for the tragedy."

Families of the 96 who died at Hillsborough were understandably outraged when made aware of the article.

Hillsborough Family Support Group spokeswoman Margaret Aspinall, who lost her son James, 18, on the Leppings Lane terraces, said: "It's been nearly 22 years since Hillsborough - why are people still coming out with these things?

"Particularly at this time of year, it's pathetic and just hurts the families and survivors. They ought to be ashamed of themselves.

"If you know nothing about Hillsborough and read nothing, then it's best to keep your mouth shut."

"If you want to pass comment, make sure you've read the Taylor Report."

Luis Suarez Talks 'To Open Between Liverpool And Ajax For January Move'

The Uruguayan international is said to be disappointed at manager Martin Jol's departure from the club on Monday following a poor run of form.

And Suarez, 23, has now instructed his agent to instigate talks with Ajax bosses over engineering a move away - possibly as soon as the January transfer window - according to reports in the Netherlands.

Spurs were linked with Suarez - who impressed at the World Cup in South Africa - in the summer, but a move never came to fruition.

Arsenal were also said to be interested, although Arsene Wenger has ruled out raiding the transfer market this winter.

But it appears Suarez favours a move to Anfield, where manager Roy Hodgson is desperate to add to his options up front.

The former Fulham boss has been eyeing up several options to play alongside star man Fernando Torres, and Suarez's movement - and his ability to play off an out-and-out striker - mark him out as a definite option.

Given his desire to leave, Hodgson is hopeful of securing the South American's signature for a bargain price of £9million - especially as the post-World Cup hype surrounding him now appears to have died down.

Aside from his talents on the ball, Suarez is best known for two controversial incidents in recent months.

Most recently, the Ajax star was banned by his own team for biting an opponent in a domestic league match against PSV Eindhoven.

And during the World Cup, Suarez became one of the world's most hated players overnight when he prevented Ghana from becoming the first African side to progress to a semi-final when he deliberately handballed a goal-bound shot in extra time.

Uruguay won the match on penalties to advance to the last-four after Asamoah Gyan missed from the resulting spot-kick, awarded when Suarez was sent off.

Liverpool Plan £15m Ashley Young Raid

Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson is ready to raid Aston Villa to sign England star Ashley Young in a major Kop coup in the transfer window.

Hodgson and transfer negotiator Damien Comolli are working on the ambitious project and hope to seal a deal worth £15million for the England winger in January.

Anfield’s new American owners are willing to find the cash for Young as they chase a Champions League place.

Hodgson wants to bring in top-quality recruits and Comolli has identified Young and used his contacts to start work on setting up the swoop for the opening of the window in the New Year.

Young could be persuaded to join the exodus from Villa, who lost James Milner at the start of the campaign and are now under pressure to keep their next star.

Villa will want a big fee for Young but Liverpool sources are quietly confident they can come to an agreement on price, especially if the player indicates that he fancies the move.

Manchester United and Tottenham are also admirers of Young, but Liverpool think they can come up with more cash to tempt him to move to Merseyside.

It would be a massive statement by the new Anfield regime after a lull in their transfer affairs, and the swoop could help their case as they try to scramble towards the top four.

The Reds know signing a player of Young's calibre would give their season fresh impetus and send out a message to current stars such as Fernando Torres and Pepe Reina, who will review their futures at the end of the campaign.

Liverpool’s move for Young will be a blow for Villa and former Kop chief Gerard Houllier.

Villa wanted to be a buying club in January but are now under pressure to sell one of their top men before making any moves to strengthen the side.

Hammers Linked With Lucas

West Ham is amongst a number of clubs who are believed to be lining up a January move for Liverpool midfielder Lucas.

A recent good run in the first team has led to a host of clubs being linked with the player. These include West Ham in the Premier League as well as Brazilian side Santos and Sevilla in Spain. Former boss Rafa Benitez at Inter Milan is also thought to be keen.

The 23-year-old Brazilian international has been singled out for special praise from Reds boss Roy Hodgson of late and he appears to be in no rush to move away from Anfield.

"I'm pleased to have my work recognized in this way at Liverpool," he said. "It shows that I have put in some good performances for the club.

"I'd already been voted young player of the year by fans last season. Receiving a positive response for what I do on the pitch is always rewarding.

"I'll dedicate myself to keeping things that way for Liverpool and Brazil, where things are also going well for me."

Marseille Optimistic Over Beating Liverpool In Hunt For Fanni

French champions Marseille are hoping to tie up a deal to sign Rennes' right-back Rod Fanni, who is also wanted by Liverpool.

Fanni is one of the best right-backs in the French top division and has forced his way into the French national team over the past couple of years, making five appearances for them so far.

The attacking-minded defender has been watched closely by Liverpool of late, with Roy Hodgson travelling to France to watch him play against Auxerre last month. With Hodgson having had a public disagreement with Glen Johnson recently, speculation increased over Fanni's arrival at Liverpool.

However, Marseille have also been linked with Fanni for some time and have now indicated that they are about to tie up a deal for the 29-year-old.

Marseille coach Didier Deschamps commented on the situation after last night's Champions League victory over Chelsea.

Deschamps is quoted in France Football saying, "I am naturally optimistic. I hope it will succeed quickly, if possible before the Auxerre game (on Saturday). There are discussions."

Charles Itandje Quits Club For Greek Side Atromitos

Liverpool has confirmed the release of controversial goalkeeper Charles Itandje.

The Frenchman’s contract was due to expire in the summer but he has been allowed to move on early, with Greek Super League side Atromitos already securing the services of Itandje from January 1.

The goalkeeper arrived at the club from Lens but made only seven appearances for the Reds, and will more likely be remembered for being involved in a controversial incident at the club’s memorial service commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.

Itandje was caught on camera laughing during the service and was subsequently suspended from the club for 14 days and fined two week’s wages for his actions.

Although he later apologized for the incident, the 28-year-old has rarely appeared for Liverpool since, with Brad Jones taking over as Pepe Reina’s understudy since his summer arrival from Middlesbrough.