Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Carroll Set For European Debut

Liverpool's £35million striker, Andy Carroll, is set to make his European debut in Thursday's match against Braga.

The former Newcastle star has recovered from a long-standing tendon injury and made his first appearance in red as a substitute in Sunday's win over Manchester United.

Carroll played the last 16 minutes at Anfield to mark his return to action after an almost three-month rehabilitation process, which began prior to his record-breaking January transfer.

Liverpool now plan to gradually increase their new England international's workload, which is likely to include a substitute outing in the Europa League last-16 first-leg match against Braga at the Estadio AXA.

"It's been a long process rehabilitating him - about eight or nine weeks - but we are happy with the result," Liverpool's head of sports medicine and sports science, Dr Peter Brukner, told the club's official website.

"We've seen steady improvement over that time. He's much stronger in that tendon and in general as well.

"We still need to keep working with him and we want to build his training and playing load up to the level required.

"He'll play some more minutes against Braga and hopefully he'll be involved more and more with each game."

Brukner added: "He had a tear in the tendon just above the knee, which was a rare injury because it is more common to have that below the knee.

"We were really determined to build him up slowly and just get him a lot stronger to cope with the load."

Brukner has also been impressed by 22-year-old Carroll's determination to return to full fitness.

He said: "The physio and fitness guys have worked really hard with Andy and to his credit he's not shirked the issue."

Cameron Park Could Be On His Way To Anfield

Middlesbrough academy graduate Cameron Park is a transfer target for Liverpool reports the Times.

Described as an outstanding left-sided prospect, the 18-year-old winger has captured the attention of Reds’ Director of Football Strategy Damien Comolli.

The Liverpool chief has reportedly been in touch with the Championship club over a possible move to Anfield in the summer.

Liverpool scouts have also been monitoring Park’s progress in the Boro reserve team with Riverside bosses saying he has shown more potential than both Stewart Downing, and Adam Johnson who also made their names in Middlesbrough’s youth set-up.

Park agreed professional terms on a four-and-a-half year deal in January but with Boro set to lose their Premier League parachute payments after the end of the current campaign, Liverpool are set to capitalize on the likely financial restructuring needed at the club.

Kenny Dalglish is keen to add to his attacking midfield options, and despite Park having only made three senior appearances as a substitute this season, the Liverpool boss has seen enough to pursue his interest in one of the hottest young prospects in English football.

Since the appointment of new Liverpool owners NESV, the Anfield club’s philosophy of acquiring promising young talent wherever possible means that a summer approach looks increasingly likely.

Liverpool Made Contact With Stephen Ireland But Manchester City Vetoed Move

Liverpool reportedly made an attempt to sign Stephen Ireland last summer but the move was blocked by Manchester City.

The 24-year-old playmaker subsequently joined Aston Villa in a deal which saw James Milner move in the opposite direction but was shipped out of Villa Park in January - moving to Newcastle on loan.

Ireland has endured quite a fall from grace since being named City's Player of the Season for 2008/09 - an accolade which saw him rewarded with a new five-year contract.

The departure of Mark Hughes from Eastlands signified the start of Ireland's downward spiral and the Irishman soon fell out of favour after Roberto Mancini took the City reigns.

An exit from Manchester was always predicted during the summer transfer window and the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham were reportedly monitoring Ireland's situation with great interest.

However, the midfielder has revealed that - despite contact from both Liverpool and Manchester United regarding a potential transfer - City opted not to sell the £8 million-rated Ireland international to a Barclays Premier League rival.

"I saw Shay Given the other day, Arsenal want him but he can't go as City don't want to strengthen a rival," Ireland told So Foot.

"It was the same with me, I had contacts with Manchester United and Liverpool but City vetoed it."

Liverpool were also linked with Ireland in January but were reported to have doubts over his fitness, although a summer move could still be in the offing.

The Reds are known to be keen to add some midfield creativity to their ranks as of June 1 and Ireland could provide Liverpool with the extra invention they so crave.

Liverpool's Strike Force Is World Class - Jay Spearing

Liverpool midfielder Jay Spearing believes strike duo Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll are world class.

Both joined the ranks at Anfield in the January transfer window and Spearing thinks Suarez has been impressive.

The 22-year-old told BBC Radio Merseyside: "The two strikers we've brought are world class and we've paid good money for them.

"Suarez has shown already that he's very sharp in and around the box, likes to take people on and gets shots in."

He added: "He has shown in Holland, in a small amount of games, his goalscoring record is unbelievable.

"Andy Carroll has proved he can score all sorts of goals in the Premier League and has played at international level."

Liverpool's form has improved since the return of Kenny Dalglish as manager in January and a fine 3-1 victory over Manchester United on Sunday was described as the "highlight" of the season by the Scot.

The Reds have been beaten only three times in 12 matches under Dalglish and have also beaten last season's league champions Chelsea in the process.

Spearing believes Dalglish, who scored 172 goals in 515 appearances for Liverpool, has inspired the players and improved their confidence.

"He's the greatest player to come from Liverpool Football Club," said Spearing. "He has an aura and he's come in and given the lads a lot of confidence.

"He's not changed much but he's brought in his own ways of training and Steve Clarke [first-team coach] has come in and took the training and brought in new ideas.

"It just shows in the results and in the games that we're right behind the manager. We've all got a bit of confidence in ourselves, which you could say was a little bit lost in the first few months of the season.

"Since Kenny has come in a new leaf has been turned and we're looking forward now."

Liverpool FC Launches Official Game App For Apple Devices

Liverpool FC has launched what it claims is the first official football club game app for the iPad.

The game, which pits players against Liverpool FC’s goalkeeper Pepe Reina in a penalty shootout, will be available across all Apple’s mobile devices including the iPod Touch and iPhone 3GS.

The game’s developer, Bright AI, has used a combination of the physics of a real football’s movement, recordings of supporters’ chants and sound effects from matches to replicate the experience of a penalty shootout at Anfield stadium.

Mobile manager at Liverpool FC Kathy Smith said the club would be extending its product range to other devices in the near future as it looks to strengthen its standing in the mobile market.

“Mobile provides an important channel for fans to engage with the club, not only on matchdays but for entertainment too,” she said.

Liverpool Close In On Arsenal Man

Liverpool appear to be leading the chase for Arsenal left back Gael Clichy as the French international continues to struggle to resolve his contract dispute with the club. The 25 year old defender will apparently not now iscuss the issue with his North London employers until the end of the season and that has led many to believe that Arsene Wenger is not willing to compromise on his initial offer to the former Cannes man.

There seems little chance Clichy would move to hated rivals Tottenham, not after eight years and 250+ appearances for the Gunners and the talented wide man is apparently open to the idea of staying in the Premier League if big moves from Abroad are not forthcoming.

Italian giants Juventus are reportedly willing to pay as much as €20m (£17.2m) for the experienced Toulouse born full back and Liverpool may have to match that offer, which may seem steep for a player who will have a year left to run on his contract come the summer, but we are talking about arguably one of the best players in his position in Europe and the price is still less than the Merseyside club paid for Glenn Johnson.

Clichy may not be keen on a move to Turin though as the club is in something of a crisis at present and may well finish outside the European qualification places altogether. Liverpool are looking for a new left back as they look to offload Emiliano Insua and Paul Konchesky, the aforementioned Johnson has been played out of position on the left but is clearly more suited to the right side where his place seems in the balance given the great form shown by youngster Martin Kelly.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has also been linked with moves to offload under performing members of his squad including Manuel Almunia, Nicklas Bendtner and even Andrei Arshavin who is attracting interest from his former club Zenit St Petersburg.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic Must Decide On Either Anfield Or Stamford Bridge

AC Milan loan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s long-term future has been cast into doubt, alerting a number of Barclays Premier League clubs reports the Metro.

The player’s agent Mino Raiola has intensified speculation linking the Swedish international with another summer move after being quoted in the Italian press.

"Zlatan might not end his career at AC Milan. We will decide everything in 2012 according to the results achieved here," Raiola told 7 Gold.

The news is likely to alert the likes of long-term admirers Chelsea as well as new potential suitors Liverpool.

It was only last week that Ibrahimovic declared he would finish his career at the Rosseneri after scoring 19 goals in 33 games in his debut season.

He has also contributed 12 assists in the club’s pursuit of the Scudetto (Serie A title) for the first time since 2004 – fine form which has prompted Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti to earmark Ibrahimovic as a top target to bring to Stamford Bridge in the summer.

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish is also in the market for more attacking options, despite the Reds spending in excess of £50million on their January recruitment drive that saw Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez move to Anfield.

Liverpool owners NESV have backed the club financially and the spending looks to continue when the transfer window reopens in June, with Ibrahimovic rumoured to be a confirmed Anfield target.

Having failed to live up to his €56million price tag after a swap deal with Barcelona took him to his first spell at the San Siro with Inter, Ibrahimovic’s stock has since risen again.

AC Milan have the first option of purchasing for a reported €24million, but with news that the 29-year-old is keen to embark on another challenge elsewhere, a summer transfer tussle for Ibrahimovic’s signature between Chelsea and Liverpool is anticipated.

Lucas Wants New Contract

Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva believes he has done enough to deserve a new contract at Anfield.

The Brazil international will enter the final year of his current deal at the end of the season and there have yet to be any discussions regarding an extension.

Lucas has shown significant improvement this campaign, despite almost being sold by Roy Hodgson last summer, and he has remained a part of Kenny Dalglish's plans since January.

The 24-year-old accepts that club owners, the Fenway Sports Group, and Dalglish, if he is offered a long-term contract, are likely to make summer changes to Liverpool's squad as they continue their rebuilding process.

But Lucas hopes that he is not a player who is moved on, as he told the Liverpool Daily Post: "Always in the summer a few players will go and a few players will come, so we have to wait and see. We want to finish this season well.

"I hope to be one of those that stays in the summer. Why not? I still have one year left on my contract after this season so I have a commitment with the club, and I'm doing everything to show I am capable to be here.

"There haven't been any talks over a new deal. I'm just looking at finishing this season. This season has been very good for me, and I just want to keep that going.

"I only have to convince two people - Dalglish and the Brazil national team manager. I just have to keep going."

Injuries To Fabio Aurelio And Daniel Agger Hand Liverpool FC A Left-Back Blow

Kenny Dalglish faces a defensive headache ahead of Liverpool’s Europa League trip to Braga tomorrow, after both Fabio Aurelio and Daniel Agger were ruled out due to injury.

Neither will be included in the travelling Reds party, which heads for Portugal today, leaving Dalglish with a decision to be made over the left-back position.

Glen Johnson is favourite to start there, with Jamie Carragher pushed out to right-back, though Dalglish has used young Scot Danny Wilson at full-back in recent weeks, and could be tempted to give the 19-year-old another European start at the Estadio AXA.

Aurelio limped out of Sunday’s 3-1 victory over Premier League leaders Manchester United after just 24 minutes with a hamstring injury, and club doctor Peter Brukner has confirmed the Brazilian will be out for at least a month.

“He’s got a significant hamstring injury,” said Brukner. “Unfortunately his body lets him down. He always plays well when he’s fit. We’ve been managing him carefully because he’s not been playing twice in a week, but this just came out of the blue.

“He had a minor adductor strain a few weeks before that. We rehabilitated him and he trained all week with no problems at all. He’ll be out for a month so that’s a blow. It’s a partial tear. It’s what we call a secondary degree hamstring. It’s similar to Martin Kelly’s, and these are three or four week injuries.

The news will come as a fresh blow to the 31-year-old, who has only just shaken off an adductor problem, and has been plagued by injuries during his five year stay at Anfield.

“He’s obviously very down,” added Brukner. “It was a sad sight to see him walking off the pitch. He’s frustrated because he was playing well on Sunday. He was looking forward to getting a run of games but it wasn’t to be.”

Agger, meanwhile, is making slow progress after suffering a calf injury in the win over Sparta Prague in the last round of the Europa League. The Dane, another who has suffered tremendously with injuries during his time on Merseyside, received a kick to the leg during the 1-0 success at Anfield a fortnight ago, and Brukner says Thursday’s clash in Portugal has come too soon for the 26-year-old.

“Daniel had a nasty kick on a joint to the side of his knee,” he said, “It’s an unusual spot to get an injury. They take time and he’s a bit of a slow healer.

“He’s still not 100 per cent so we’ll have to see if he’s fit for the game this week. But it’s more likely to be the following week.”