Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Carragher Plans To Play On

Jamie Carragher has shrugged off his 'veteran' tag by insisting that he has no plans to retire any time soon.

The Liverpool defender is a Premier League stalwart with over 650 appearances to his name.

Such a record, coupled with his 33 years of age, have led some to suggest that he could be approaching the twilight of his career.

Carragher, though, is adamant that he can compete at the top level for some time yet, with stepping aside something he is not prepared to consider until at least 2013.

"I want to play for Liverpool as long as I can," the former England international told the Liverpool Echo.

"I picked up some of the papers after the Chelsea game and each one said 'veteran Carragher'.

"It made me think to myself: 'God, I mustn't have too long left'.

"I know that at a minimum I have two-and-a-half years, and that time will fly."

Carragher's aim this season is to help Liverpool cement a top-six standing in the Premier League and secure European qualification for next season.

One man set to aid that cause over the coming weeks is record signing Andy Carroll, with the £35million striker closing on full fitness and an eagerly-anticipated debut.

Kelly Believes Liverpool Now Have Squad To Mount Challenge

Liverpool defender Martin Kelly believes the squad is now better placed to cope with the dual demands of domestic and European football. Liverpool resumes their Europa League season when they fly out to the Czech Republic today ahead of tomorrow's last-32 game against Sparta Prague.

Having gone unbeaten in their last six Premier League matches, Kelly believes restarting their European program cannot hold any fears for Liverpool. In the group phase, then manager Roy Hodgson chose to use fringe players in order to ensure his first-teamers were not overwhelmed by an arduous campaign, which had disappointed in the early stages.

New manager Kenny Dalglish will have no such concerns and, buoyed by their unbeaten run that has lifted them to sixth and with a free weekend coming up because of the FA Cup, he will select a strong squad.

Morale is high in the camp and – coupled with very few injuries – Kelly believes there is no reason why they cannot be competitive on two fronts – even after the disappointment of a 1-1 draw against Wigan at the weekend ended a four-match winning streak.

"We would have wanted to get the win against Wigan but we have to put it behind us and look to our game against Sparta Prague on Thursday now," said the England Under-21 international. "We've done well to progress and we want to go on to win it but we have to take it one game at a time. Any club can go on and win it so any game as a professional you want to win.

"That's our aim, but we'll take one game at a time. Our next one is the Sparta Prague one and that's what we're focused on. The knockout phase provides a different test to the group stages, you know you are up against good sides.

"We've got to get a good result over there so the second leg will be easier here at Anfield. I think the squad is pulling together now and you can see that on the pitch. We are trying to play our football, which is what we have been told to do, and hopefully we can get the results in the future."

Dalglish will make late decisions on the fitness of Steven Gerrard and Martin Skrtel after both missed the game against Wigan through injury. The manager still will not be able to call on club record signing Andy Carroll, who is continuing his rehabilitation work from a thigh problem at the club's Melwood training ground.

The former Newcastle striker could be set for a debut early next month and vice-captain Jamie Carragher is confident the new arrival will add an extra dimension to Liverpool's play.

Carragher also believes Carroll will work well alongside fellow new signing Luis Suarez, who has already made an impression. "They can become a partnership and bring other things to the team as a target man and someone who can feed off the pieces," Carragher said. "Likewise, if one is injured, the other is still capable of playing on their own through the middle."

Liverpool Target Eljero Elia Unsettled At Hamburg

Eljero Elia came on as a halftime substitute in last week's 3-1 victory for Holland over Austria and did what he has done so many times before, completely change the complexion of the match with his pace and flair.

Yet, despite being in such form, Elia isn't getting opportunities at his current club, Hamburg, and as a result, the Liverpool target may soon want out.

''Apparently there is not much confidence in me,'' he told Voetbal International. ''That hurts. I feel strong and would like to show the fans what I can do. It is very frustrating.

''I have started eight games and we have won seven of them so I cannot have done that badly. I don't know what I have done wrong, I have not been told. I know that I am not a bad player and I am in good shape.

''I am a player who needs confidence. If I play every week I will improve," said Elisa. "No-one can accuse me of not working hard enough, I am as fit as a fiddle.''

Though he hasn't spent much time in the shop window for Armin Vey's club this season, the interest in Elia surely hasn't gone away -- even as Hamburg has been unwilling to sell.

''Last summer, Juventus and Wolfsburg lodged bids for me and in January there was real interest from four teams in the Premier League. Hamburg did not let me go and I resigned myself to staying. I have not created any unrest. The club cannot blame me, I give more than 100% every game," said Elia.

That situation, though, isn't one that is sustainable, as far as the 24-year-old rising star is concerned.

''I'll just keep working hard in training every day. I've been doing that all season and will not change. But at the end of the season we will still have to look at the situation.

''If I am still a substitute then we will sit around the table and see what the consequences might be.''

Width remains Liverpool's area of greatest need heading into the summer signing period. Given Elia's unrest and Liverpool's prior interest, it would be no surprise to see the powers that be at Anfield move to bring in the Dutch winger.

Jose Enrique Keeps Transfer Options Open For Now

Liverpool defender target Jose Enrique is holding out on a new contract at St James' Park.

The Spanish full back has been in fine form for his club this season, earning rave reviews on his return to the Barclays Premier League. Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish is thought to be keen on bringing the player to Anfield.

Footylatest claim Damien Comolli, director of football strategy for the Merseysiders, has identified the player as a potential summer addition who can bolster the Liverpool defence. It's thought that Enrique could be the long-term replacement for Paul Konchesky, who is out on loan at Nottingham Forest.

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew does not wish to sell the player, who joined the club for a fee in the region of €7.5 million back in 2007. The former Hammers boss knows that if the Magpies fail to secure their survival soon though, the former Valencia player could leave the club.

“Jose has made it quite clear to us that until we’re safe he doesn’t want to open any discussions and we’re comfortable with that, it makes sense for us,” said the Toon boss yesterday.

Dalglish has hinted that new Liverpool owners NESV will spend again in the summer after splashing out over £55 million on strikers in January.

Luis Suarez Ideally Suited To Liverpool - Kelly

The best thing about new Liverpool striker Luis Suarez is that he is "100% committed", according to Reds defender Martin Kelly.

The Uruguayan, 24, has scored one goal in two appearances following his £22.8m move from Ajax earlier this month.

His determined attitude has made a big impression on Liverpool supporters after this season's listless displays from former idol Fernando Torres.

Kelly, 20, told BBC Radio Merseyside: "There is a lot to come from Luis."

Kelly continued: "He [Suarez] gives everything. The best thing is he's 100% committed and at a club like this that's what you need to be, and he shows that commitment for the full 90 minutes."

Another player currently impressing at Anfield is Brazilian midfielder Lucas, who reached a century of Premier League appearances during Saturday's 1-1 draw with Wigan.

The 24-year-old signed for the Reds from GrĂªmio in 2007 and has enjoyed an extended run in the Liverpool starting line-up this season, playing all but one of the matches since Kenny Dalglish returned as manager.

Lucas says the return of "King Kenny" has had a positive affect on and off the pitch.

"We know how good he was as a player and we can see he has a lot of knowledge about football," Lucas said.

"[First-team coach] Steve Clarke is helping the team a lot and both of them lift our confidence and tell everyone to stick together and believe in ourselves. That has been the most important thing to us.

"Kenny has told us how he wants us to play and the way Liverpool used to play football. We want to do what he tells us and we have to listen and perform on the pitch.

"He gives us things to think about, because at the end of the day we as players make the decisions on the pitch. It's on the training ground where he can give us advice and we have to listen to him and then translate that onto the pitch."

Defenders Fear Liverpool New Boy Andy Carroll - Jamie Carragher

Jamie Carragher believes that Liverpool new boy Andy Carroll strikes fear into his opponents.

The 22-year-old forward joined the Merseyside outfit in the January transfer window, after the Reds agreed to cough up £35 million to Newcastle United in exchange for the services of the hitman.

"We've had big tall lads, people like Heskey or Crouch, who have done very well for us," Carragher told LFC Weekly.

"But Carroll has that aggression that makes defenders fear him. He seems like a good lad - someone who'll fit in.

"As a defender you know when you go into certain games against particular players that you're going to have a hard day. There aren't too many of them but I know few people will relish playing against Andy.

"You wake up in the morning and think, 'Ah God - I don't want to play against him.' Everyone who has faced him probably thinks, 'I don't need this today.'"

The arrival of Carroll and Luis Suarez also saw the departure of former fans' favourite Fernando Torres, whose transfer to Chelsea has seen his image on Merseyside take a battering.

"It's two players for one if you like," Carragher said. "They can become a partnership and bring other things to the team as a target man [Carroll] and someone who can feed off the pieces [Luis Suarez]. Likewise if one is injured, the other is still capable of playing on their own through the middle."

Carroll, however, is currently recovering from a thigh injury, and earlier reports point towards a March return for the forward.

Liverpool FC Supporters’ Fury Over Cost Of Europa Match Ticket

Angry Liverpool FC fans have written to Europe’s governing body of football in protest at the “exorbitant” match ticket prices for the Europa League game in the Czech Republic tomorrow night.

Fans paid £145 for a single ticket for the match against AC Sparta Prague, which will be played at the Generali Arena.

Fans group Spirit of Shankly (SOS) has written a formal complaint to the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) on behalf of its members.

SOS believes travelling Liverpool supporters who have paid £145 have been asked to stump up at least another £30 more than the home supporters have done for similar seats, which counters UEFA’s rules.

SOS spokesman James McKenna said: “We have submitted a complaint to them because it goes against their rules and it is not acceptable for fans to have to pay £145 for a ticket.

“We copied Liverpool FC into the complaint that we sent to UEFA, but we have not heard anything from either of them yet.

“We found that home supporters were paying a maximum of £115 for their tickets – that is £30 less than what the Liverpool fans have to pay [for their maximum priced ticket].”

The fans group investigated the regulations around ticket pricing and noted that UEFA state: “Unless the associations or clubs concerned agree otherwise, the price of tickets for supporters of the visiting team must not exceed the price paid for tickets of a comparable category that are sold to supporters of the home team.”

Initially, the Anfield club received an allocation of 955 tickets priced at £54 each. A further 100 priced at £145 were later made available.

Daniel Nicolson, who bought a ticket for £54 in the away allocation, told the Daily Post: “What I paid was an extortionate price as it was, especially in a country where the price of living is lower than the UK.

“It seems that because we are Liverpool fans, they have increased the amount of the ticket prices.”

He added: “My flight was £125 and my hotel was fairly cheap.

“No one was expecting it to be dear, but the ticket prices have caught everyone out.”

A Liverpool FC spokesman said last night: “We have written to UEFA to express our concerns because the prices have increased solely because Liverpool is in town. We have not had a reply.

“UEFA regulations say they are allowed to set their own ticket prices. They are substantially higher than previous games in the same competition, and we share the concerns.

“The regulations say that like for like tickets should be put at the same price.”

Mr. McKenna added: “Having to pay that amount of money just shows how far it is out of touch with reality. People are struggling to keep their jobs and they are playing on our loyalty.”

SOS is concerned with the increase in ticket prices for supporters, and has been contacted by many of its members to ask what it can do.

At last Saturday’s annual general meeting, a plan to campaign against higher ticket prices was under discussion.

Saric Strike Sinks Crewe

Nikola Saric struck a late winner as Liverpool Reserves continued their fine form with a 1-0 friendly success against Crewe on Tuesday afternoon.

The Danish striker cut in on his left foot and unleashed a low drive into the far corner on 84 minutes as a young second-string side edged out the Railwaymen in front of the watching Kenny Dalglish.

The Reds had gone into the contest without a number of regulars and boss John McMahon used the occasion to give a first start to Conor Thomas.

The 17-year-old, who is on loan from Coventry City until the end of the season, gave a good account of himself and looked a composed figure throughout what proved to be a hard-fought encounter in Kirkby.

The visitors had named a relatively strong starting XI for the contest and it was no surprise when they almost took the lead inside six minutes.

A ball into the box found French trialist Marc-Andre Manga in space but his goalbound shot was well blocked by Andre Wisdom, who looked solid on what was his first start since recovering from a serious knee injury.

Next, Manga broke free of Emmanuel Mendy on the left side of the Liverpool area and as the defender attempted to get back he caught the Crewe forward's heels, leaving the referee with no option but to point to the penalty spot.

Up stepped Antoni Sarcevic, but his low shot was brilliantly saved by Martin Hansen in the home side's goal.

The Faroe Island's U21 international, Rogvi Poulsen then crashed a shot way off target before Hansen was again forced into action when he got down well to block Manga's drive following a clever pass from Sarcevic.

Liverpool had rarely threatened but they did carve out a decent chance just after the half hour mark when Saric glanced Brad Smith's searching cross just wide.

With half-time approaching it was the Railwaymen who were again wasteful in front of goal as Poulsen smashed an 18 yard shot off target after he had looked certain to score.

At the interval McMahon replaced Hansen with Brad Jones, while Karl Clair, Jakub Sokolik, Tom King and Henoc Mukendi were also introduced.

The changes almost paid immediate dividends when Saric put Clair in on goal, but the youngster dragged his effort across the face of goal.

Crewe responded and were unlucky to see Sarcevic's low shot crash back off the post.

Defences were clearly on top but Mukendi almost changed that with a rasping shot that shook the stanchion.

Steven Irwin was the next to show, teasing two defenders before thrashing an effort just wide of Steve Phillips' left-hand post.

It was becoming more and more evident that one goal would be decisive and the away side again came close when Joel Grant cut in from the left and fizzed a shot against the post that had Jones beaten all ends up.

Michael Roberts then tested Phillips with a blockbuster from distance before Saric won it six minutes from the end when he cut in from the right and fired a low shot into the far corner.