Friday, April 15, 2011

Andy Carroll Confident That Liverpool Can Beat Arsenal To Break Emirates Duck

Andy Carroll is confident that Liverpool can finally break their winless streak at the Emirates by beating Arsenal.

The striker scored twice against Manchester City on Monday to get himself off the mark after his £35 million move to the Reds in January from Newcastle United.

Carroll hopes his new team-mates can repeat the success of his former side, who won at the Emirates earlier this season thanks to a goal from the England man.

He told the club's official website: “We need to work hard to close them down and make sure that we don't give them space or time on the ball because we know what a good side Arsenal are and what they can do if you allow them to do that.

"All the Newcastle lads played well that day. It was a great ball in from Joey Barton and it was something that we had practiced in training beforehand.

"He put it right where I wanted it and the 'keeper was in two minds whether to come and claim it or not. I got there first and put it into the back of the net.

"There's no reason why Liverpool can't win there and all the lads are confident that we can beat Arsenal."

The striker is not the only Liverpool player to win at the Emirates this season as Lucas Leiva also tasted victory when Brazil played Scotland in a friendly last month.

Dalglish - Justice Is Closer

Kenny Dalglish believes that the families of the 96 Liverpool supporters who died at Hillsborough are closer to obtaining justice.

The Reds boss will lead mourners at Friday's memorial service at Anfield to mark the 22nd anniversary of disaster.

Families of those who lost their lives in Sheffield have been campaigning for answers since 1989, but still no-one in authority has been held accountable for the tragedy.

An independent panel is examining previously unseen documents relating to Hillsborough and James Jones, the bishop of Liverpool who is chairing the panel, is expected to complete the report later this year.

Dalglish, who was Liverpool's manager in 1989 and who is currently in caretaker charge, is hopeful the families will finally get the justice they have been battling for.

"I think it's getting closer to some positive news for the families, but it has taken a long time to get to this point as well," he said.

"Two years ago Andy Burnham [then secretary of state for culture, media and sport] came up to the memorial service and promised that he would do the best he could to get access to some papers that were not due to be released for another three or four years and to the man's great credit he has done that.

"They have got access now to some papers that they've never had before and have now got to file through them and that's why I'm saying it's getting a bit more positive for the families."

Dalglish, who helped the club deal with the aftermath of Hillsborough, believes it is important that those who died are remembered by everyone associated with the game.

"I don't think what happened there will ever be removed from anybody and neither should it," added Dalglish. "I don't think anybody should ever forget it.

"I suppose the people who were there are the ones who have the strongest opinion on it. There are people now passing an opinion on things but I'm sure had they been there they would have a different opinion.

"For ourselves also, it has been that long that there is a generation of our supporters now who know about it but obviously weren't there. I'm sure it is to the forefront of their minds as well.

"Everybody knows what it means to the football club and everybody knows how difficult it is for the people who lost someone there. The sooner they get the justice for themselves, the happier they will be and we all will be for them."

Liverpool Face Serie A Scrap For £11m Marauding Midfield Target

Newly capped French international Blaise Matuidi has expressed his desire to move to a bigger club 'when the time is right' reports

The highly-rated Ligue 1 midfielder recently graduated into Laurent Blanc's national side after a string of fine performances for his club.

Liverpool have long been linked with a move for the combative midfield general, as manager Kenny Dalglish looks to strengthen that department of his Reds squad.

However, talkSPORT now reports that Liverpool may face competition for the Anfield target from Serie A side Genoa who are also said to be courting the player.

At 24, Matuidi feels he has achieved all he can at St Etienne, a club he joined from Troyes in 2007. He now wants to play on a bigger stage, and has targeted a number of Europe's elite clubs as potential destinations.

Liverpool Make Enquiry For £10m Standard Liege Star Steven Defour

Liverpool is weighing up a £10 million move for Standard Liege midfielder Steven Defour after Manchester United cooled their interest in the Belgian star.

United have been tracking Defour for more than two years but have indicated that they are unlikely to follow up their interest with a summer bid.

The 23-year-old is set to leave his Belgian club at the end of the season and Liverpool have now emerged as one of the leading contenders for his signature.

Defour's agent, Paul Stefani, has held talks with Portuguese giants Benfica within the last month but he has also been in contact with Damien Comolli, Liverpool's director of football, about a summer move to the Premier League.

Comolli and Reds manager Kenny Dalglish want to add creativity to the Liverpool midfield next season and have identified Defour as one of their candidates.

Defour had previously been reluctant to join the Anfield club as he feared he would ruin his dream of playing for Manchester United. Sir Alex Ferguson took the extraordinary step of writing a letter to the player in 2009 after he suffered a long-term foot injury.

But Defour has been impressed by the direction the Merseysiders have taken since Dalglish took over from Roy Hodgson in January and a summer switch could be on the cards if Liverpool decide to make an offer.

"Liverpool are now a different club to last year," a source told UK. "Defour could really thrive and achieve his goals at Liverpool - and he is the kind of player they want to sign now."

The Belgian international would fit into Liverpool's strategy of buying young and talented players under owners Fenway Sports Group and his £10m price is considered attractive by the decision-makers at the club.

Comolli has said he wants to bring “top players” to Anfield and has promised movement in the transfer market during the summer as the Reds look to build on the January signings of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll.

Liverpool 'Considering' Swoop For £15m English Starlet

Liverpool are ready to step up their pursuit of Connor Wickham by offering £15 million for the Ipswich Town forward, reports the Daily Star.

The 18-year-old has signed two new contracts this year alone to re-enforce his commitment to the Tractor Boys.

Tottenham Hotspur were reportedly leading the race to sign Wickham, but now, with Liverpool having bolstered their attack already this year as they swooped for Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll, it appears Kenny Dalglish is keen to add another member to his star studded attacking line-up.

Wickham, who has already progressed into the England Under-21's, scored his eight goal of the season against Middlesborough on Tuesday, just weeks after netting his first professional hat-trick against Doncaster Rovers.

Such has been his impact on the first-team that Ipswich had Wickham extend his deal until 2013 in January, and then by a further year earlier this month after he was named the Football League's Young Player of the Year and the Champions Apprentice of the Year in March.

Damien Comolli, Liverpool's director of football, has been to watch Wickham on a number of occasions, and could be ready to tempt the forward to the Premier League.

The Anfield club hasn’t been frightened to splash the cash after spending close to £60 million on Suarez and Carroll, and if Liverpool's ambitions of closing the gap to the top five in the Barclays Premier League are genuine, a swoop for Wickham, who is available at a reported £15 million, would be expected.

Mamadou Sakho: I Have No Interest In Joining Liverpool

Speculation that defender Mamadou Sakho is on the verge of agreeing a move to Liverpool this summer has been rejected by the Paris Saint-Germain star.

Sakho had been rumoured to be a £12million target for the Gunners earlier this season, while Liverpool have this week become the latest club to join the race for the highly-rated 21-year-old.

However, the versatile starlet - who can play in the centre of defence or at left-back - has distanced himself from talk of a move to the Premier League.

'I am focused on PSG at the moment,' he said.

'I am reading nothing into the speculation.'

Sakho admits he was ready for the interest to come his way after an impressive campaign in France.

However, he appears to have ruled out a move to England in the near future, adding: 'If I do well then clubs will look at me, but I plan to stay with PSG for a long time.'

Liverpool is said to be monitoring several targets to strengthen its defence this summer.

Keeping Hold Of Pepe Reina Would Be Massive Boost For Liverpool

Rafael Benitez has stressed the importance of former club Liverpool holding onto Pepe Reina this summer.

The Spanish shot-stopper has been linked with a move to Premier League rivals Arsenal and Manchester United in recent months, with the 28-year-old recently saying that he was happy but would "not swear eternal love" to any club.

Benitez, the man who brought the goalkeeper to English football in 2005, believes the Merseyside club have to retain the services of the former Barcelona and Villarreal man.

He told Yahoo: "When any team has a good player it is important to keep them. Pepe is one of the key players for Liverpool so if he stays it will be a massive boost for Liverpool."

Benitez, out of work since parting ways with Inter in December, admitted he would be tempted by offers from abroad but his priority is to return to the Premier League as he sets his sights on a return to management.

The Spaniard, who won the Champions League in 2005 and FA Cup in 2006 with Liverpool, left Merseyside last summer after guiding the side to a disappointing seventh place, just a season after running Manchester United close at the top of the table.

The ex-Valencia manager has previously been linked with a return to Anfield and with the club's board stalling over offering Kenny Dalglish an extension to his current short-term deal, Benitez admits a return to the Premier League is what he desires.

He said: "I am watching as many games as I can but in a different way as you are not under pressure and you do not need to prepare for the next game.

"I am still analyzing games at the moment. If I have good offers abroad it would be ok but my priority is to return to the Premier League."

Since leaving Serie A, Benitez has enjoyed time with his family and is adamant that he does not feel his experience with Inter was a bad one.

"I think it was positive," he added. "In the circumstances that we had won two trophies which was a good achievement, especially winning the Fifa Club World Cup as this was the main target of the club. Six months and winning two trophies is not a bad statistic if you consider it in this way."

Benitez also believes that Premier League clubs are more patient than any other league in Europe and that there is more respect in the English game, and talked about another of his former players, Lucas Leiva, who was often cited as a transfer dud before becoming one of the club's most consistent performers.

"I think that people have more respect and are more patient," he continued. "You can build and prepare a team and work better with younger players. You have more time overall. In Italy or Spain you have one or two weeks and everything can change.

"I was defending Lucas from the beginning. He played a lot of games and the people in the stadium could see he was working very hard and improving every day. The more mature a player he becomes the better he will become. I am so pleased for him because he is not only a fantastic player but a nice lad."

The 50-year-old manager also took time out to have his say on how to get the best out of Fernando Torres, something he achieved at Anfield.

He added: "Fernando is a good professional and although he had some injuries he was learning the English style he was scoring a lot of goals at the beginning and at the end.

"He had a good mentality, he has good quality and his relationship with me was good because we could talk in Spanish."

Martin Skrtel Excited By Liverpool Youth Players

Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel believes the impressive debut of John Flanagan this week underlines the potential of an exciting crop of Reds youngsters.

Reserve team right-back Flanagan, 18, gave a composed performance after making his first senior appearance from the start in Monday's 3-0 Barclays Premier League thrashing of Manchester City.

The local-born youngster follows in the footsteps of fellow defender Martin Kelly, who has impressed in the same position this season but is currently injured, while midfielder Jay Spearing is also getting opportunities.

Other teenagers such as Conor Coady, Jack Robinson and Raheem Sterling are highly rated and have been on the fringes of first-team squads.

When asked about Flanagan's display, Skrtel told LFC TV: "He was brilliant. He is just 18 and on the pitch he looked like an experienced player.

"I think he showed his best and he showed he can be a very good player.

"The young guys from the Academy have already got a chance in the first team, like Martin Kelly, Jay Spearing, Flanno and Peter Gulacsi.

"They are still young players but they are part of the first team.

"We can see they are the future of Liverpool FC and it is on the right way. These players can be big in the future of Liverpool."

Skrtel says the convincing win over City, which included record signing Andy Carroll's first two goals for the club, has done wonders for team spirit going into the final six games.

The Anfield side remains sixth in the table but is determined to close the gap to Spurs above them and secure a European place.

Slovakia international Skrtel, 26, said: "It was a great game for us.

"These few days after the game we have really enjoyed the atmosphere at Melwood.

"You can see the smiles on the faces and that is very important."

Liverpool now faces another tough test as they travel to title-chasing Arsenal on Sunday.

The Merseyside club has not won away at Arsenal since a 1-0 success at the old Highbury ground in 2000.

Skrtel said: "It is going to be a big game, a very important game for us.

"We are in a race for the best position (we can reach) in the league table at the end of the season.

"We have to work hard and we try to repeat the performance we did in the game against City and we can get a good result there."

Four Reds Called Up By England

Four of Liverpool's most promising Academy youngsters have been called up by England for the forthcoming U17 European Championships.

Raheem Sterling, Adam Morgan, Brad Smith and Matty Regan have all been named in John Peacock's squad for the tournament in Serbia between May 3 and May 15.

England U17s will be defending their title as European Champions.

Sterling and co will face hosts Serbia, France and Denmark in Group A, and if they finish in the top two of their group of four then they will progress to the Semi-Final.

Group B is made up of Czech Republic, Germany, Holland and Romania.

The competition also offer an opportunity for the squad to qualify for June's FIFA U17 World Cup in Mexico, which they will do by finishing in third place or higher in Group A.

England will kick-off the tournament with a clash against France on Tuesday, May 3.