Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ian Rush: No Top Four For Liverpool

Kenny Dalglish can’t propel Liverpool to a dream top-four Premier League finish – despite turning the Reds’ season around.

That’s according to Kop legend Ian Rush, who says Champions League qualification is beyond the Merseysiders this term.

But he insists that the appointment of Dalglish WILL ultimately lead to glory.

Dalglish has galvanized Liverpool since replacing Roy Hodgson in January and the Anfield side is hovering on the fringes in sixth place – just behind Chelsea after a run of four league wins and a draw.

The results included a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge after selling Fernando Torres to the Blues for £50million.

Dalglish spent the cash on Newcastle ace Andy Carroll and midfielder Luis Suarez from Ajax.

But despite a new mood of optimism at the club, Rush says thoughts of a speedy return to the Champions League are premature. “For me it is too much to expect a top-four place this season,” said the former Wales hitman.

“It’s something that will probably be beyond Liverpool but that doesn’t mean what Kenny has done isn’t fantastic.

“The fans must be patient and remember that it wasn’t long ago people were talking about a relegation battle,” said Rush, who hit 229 goals in 469 games for the Reds.

“But without doubt Kenny is the right man and I’m sure Liverpool can still have a say in who wins the title.

“We have still got to play Manchester United, Arsenal, Manchester City and Spurs.

“And it’s such a crazy league with everyone capable of beating everyone else you can see the influence they could have on the destiny of the title.”

And former Wales striker Rush reckons Liverpool’s owners – John W Henry’s New England Sports Ventures – have shown their intention of making a bigger impact next season by splashing the Torres cash.

“It is a massive statement of intent. A top-four finish is unlikely to happen this year but I’m sure we’ll be in with a shout next time.”

Jamie Carragher has also issued a reality-check message to fans convinced Dalglish is about to bring the good times back.

A draw with Sparta Prague in the Europa League on Thursday night and an FA Cup Fifth Round weekend without any football indicates where Liverpool currently stand.

Carra says there is a lot of hard work ahead and said: “Liverpool get a lot of criticism.

“People say we live in the past – that we should be winning this and that.

“But the truth is Liverpool have not won the league for the past 20 years.

“Kenny did a fantastic job in his first spell but Liverpool was already steeped in success. In the two years before his appointment they had been to two European Cup finals.

“I hear people criticize Gerard Houllier and Rafael Benitez, saying they are failures because they didn’t win the league. – yet I have to disagree with that.

“But if Kenny can get us back to where we were when he left in 1991, that in itself would be a brilliant achievement.”

Kuyt Tips Reds For Euro Win

Dirk Kuyt insists Liverpool will triumph over Sparta Prague next week at Anfield.

A much-changed Liverpool team failed to take advantage of the fact their opponents have not played a competitive game for two months, due to their winter break, during Thursday's goalless first leg.

However, the Holland striker was able to extract some positives from the result - most notably the fact they did not concede.

"You always want to win and that's what we wanted," said Kuyt.

"It's always important to score an away goal in Europe but it is never bad not to lose.

"It was a tough game, they defended well and we struggled with the pitch and the weather - it was a bit difficult.

"I think the positive thing is the clean sheet.

"Where we could, we tried to score but unfortunately that didn't happen but I think we are in a great position to win next week.

"We're playing well at Anfield, we have to win. It is always difficult for European teams at Anfield, the crowd will be behind us and we'll definitely play at a higher tempo.

"The ball can be moved more quickly and I've got a lot of confidence that we can go through next week."

Juventus Will Pay Only €6m For Alberto Aquilani

Juventus have told Liverpool that they do not intend to meet Alberto Aquilani’s hefty €20 million price-tag, and that the Reds will have to renegotiate his €12m buy-out clause if they want Juve to take the Italian off their hands on a permanent basis – according to a report in The Mirror.

Former Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson loaned Aquilani to Juventus for the current season at the start of the campaign, as the midfielder sought match fitness following a difficult first year at Anfield in which he suffered repeated set-backs through injury and failed to find his form.

The ex-Roma star struggled to settle into life on Merseyside, but has recently enjoyed a decent spell with Juventus, and will potentially make his move to Turin permanent.

However, the Serie A side has told Liverpool that they will need to reduce significantly the €12m buy-out clause inserted into the loan contract. Juve's financial constraints mean they are only prepared to pay €6m for Aquilani.

But Liverpool now have a new manager at the helm in Kenny Dalglish, who may decide to recall the 26-year-old, reintegrate him into the Reds' squad and make use of him in his future plans.

Johnson Happy Seeing Liverpool Kids Involved In Euro Tie

Liverpool fullback Glen Johnson was happy seeing so many of their youngsters involved in their 0-0 draw at Europa League opponents Sparta Prague.

Johnson had words of comfort for the youngsters who made the trip to Prague as Dalglish included Conor Coady, Jack Robinson, Raheem Sterling and John Flanagan in his squad. Coady made the bench.

"They are good lads, they want to learn and they are pleased to be involved with the first team and all of us made them feel really welcome," he told

"They have been training well and they deserve to be a part of it."

New Deals For Dirk Kuyt And Pepe Reina At Liverpool

Liverpool is ready to hand keeper Pepe Reina a £10,000-a-week pay rise to keep him out of the clutches of Manchester United.

And Dutch star Dirk Kuyt is poised to sign a new deal that will keep him at Anfield for the rest of his career.

It’s the clearest sign yet that caretaker boss Kenny Dalglish WILL be handed the role full-time by American owner John Henry, who is delighted with the Scot’s impact since he replaced Roy Hodgson.

Reina gave Kopites a major scare last week when he refused to rule out a summer move, confessing he is desperate for regular Champions League football. United, searching for a long-term successor for soon-to-retire Edwin van der Sar, head the queue of clubs in the running for one of Europe’s best keepers.

But the Spaniard’s agent Manuel Garcia Quilon is to meet Liverpool’s top brass next month to discuss a pay rise that will see Reina pocket £110,000 a week.

That’s hugely reassuring for Kopites, who have already seen one hero-worshipped Spaniard – Fernando Torres – leave Anfield this year.

And the feelgood factor will be increased by the news Kuyt wants to finish his career on Merseyside.

The Dutchman, 30, said: “My contract has one more season to go after this but there are things happening.

“We have had some talks and I can only say it looks positive.

“I feel at home in Liverpool and I don’t want to leave here.

“It has been a difficult time for everyone at the club with the changes that have happened since last summer but now I can sense something good is happening – I think Liverpool is on the way back.”

Fairclough Likens Meireles To McDermott

Liverpool icon David Fairclough has likened Raul Meireles to former teammate Terry McDermott.

The Kop legend is a big admirer of Liverpool's No.4 and he has no doubt that playing the midfielder in a central role will always bring out the best in him.

"Meireles is a class act, there's no doubt about that," Fairclough told

"We have to be really impressed by his form in front of goal at the moment. I like his desire to get into the box and the runs he makes.

"The run he made for the goal against Chelsea was fantastic because he was on the halfway line and he showed a fantastic desire to get into the box which is so important.

"Getting forward is a regular feature in his game now and he looks very comfortable playing under Kenny.

"I think it is very favourable to make comparisons with Terry McDermott and Raul does remind me of him.

"Terry scored some spectacular goals for Liverpool, some of the best in our history, and he made these trademark runs.

"Meireles makes similar runs and he is a big asset for our team."

Comolli Role Under Scrutiny At Liverpool

Liverpool football chief Damien Comolli's position is coming under intense scrutiny.

The Daily Mail says when Kenny Dalglish is confirmed as the permanent Liverpool manager, insiders are standing by for a power battle with director of football strategy Comolli.

Dalglish has an old-school managerial attitude of liking to be in sole command.

So how he copes with Comolli will be an intriguing sub-plot, especially as Dalglish has expert knowledge himself of European football.

Youngsters Hit Four Past Stoke

Raheem Sterling grabbed a brace and Conor Coady hit a thunderbolt as Liverpool U18s made it six straight wins with a 4-1 triumph against Stoke City on Saturday afternoon.

The Reds' skipper fired home an unstoppable volley to open the scoring on 28 minutes before the winger everyone is talking about tapped home the second after a superb run and cross from Brad Smith.

The visitors did pull one back just prior to the interval when Patrik Poor headed into his own net but Adam Morgan and Sterling both added second-half goals to seal the points.

Ahead of the clash Rodolfo Borrell included Coady and Sterling in his starting XI despite their exertions with the first-team squad in Prague.

It was clear the Reds coach was eager not to lose focus following the emphatic 9-0 success over Southend in the Youth Cup but it was the away side who made most of the early running.

On 11 minutes a right-wing cross from Michael Clarkson was met on the run by Flo Cavalier, but the midfielder guided his controlled volley wide of target.

The Potters skipper was proving to be a thorn in Liverpool's side and he was unlucky not to earn a penalty soon after when Stephen Sama appeared to bring him down in the area.

The hosts had struggled to get in behind the Stoke rearguard but snatched the lead just shy of the half hour mark when Coady caught a volley that arrowed into the corner of the net with Dave Parton rooted to the spot.

It was a goal of the season contender from the 17-year-old and capped a week that had seen him net at the Kop end as well as appear as an unused substitute for the first-team's Europa League draw in Sparta Prague.

The opening goal seemed to help the Reds settle and seven minutes later they doubled their lead.

Matty McGiveron played in Smith down the left flank. The Australian showed great control to take the ball on the run before delivering an inch perfect centre for Sterling to guide home from inside the six yard box.

The Reds were now in complete control but they were given a warning of Stoke's threat just before half-time when a high ball into the box was flicked into his own net by Poor.

Borrell's charges would have been well aware of the Potters' threat having been beaten in Staffordshire early in the campaign and the Reds coach would have called for his side to start the second period with renewed desire.

They did just that too and restored their two goal advantage on 52 minutes.

Krisztian Adorjan produced a through ball that sent Sterling speeding in on goal. The winger was driven wide by Parton but showed great awareness to pick out Morgan, who slid home at the second time of asking after Andy Hall had blocked his initial effort.

The Reds suddenly had the bit between their teeth and five minutes later it was all over as a contest.

Another sublime pass from Adorjan sent Sterling through again. The youngster hit a low shot that Parton got a big hand on but despite the efforts of Hall to clear off the line, the referee's assistant awarded the goal.

The diminutive forward then came within a whisker of netting his hat-trick but his teasing curler was brilliantly tipped over the bar by Parton.

It was one of the last acts of the day for one of the club's emerging talents as he was replaced by Tom Walsh on 64 minutes. It brought to an end six sensational days for the No.7 who netted seven times and was involved in Kenny Dalglish's Europa League squad.

His absence did little to quell the tide of Liverpool pressure as the hosts continued to play champagne football.

Substitutes Josh Sumner and Tom Walsh both had chances to add to the margin of victory late on but it wasn't to be.