Monday, May 09, 2011

Match Preview: Fulham vs Liverpool

Fulham will be looking to halt Liverpool's surge on Monday, with the Reds aiming to clamber into fifth spot.

The Cottagers will welcome Kenny Dalglish's side to Craven Cottage in buoyant mood, having enjoyed a productive run of their own of late.

Back-to-back victories have helped to lift them into the top half of the table and they can cement that standing with another positive result.

Their home form bodes well, with maximum points taken from six of their last seven outings in front of their own supporters.

During that impressive run, only Blackburn have managed to breach a watertight back four.

The Cottagers will, however, be aware that they have struggled to find the target against the Reds in the recent past, drawing a blank in six of their last seven meetings with the men from Merseyside.

Liverpool will be hoping to secure another shut-out on Monday, helping them to move above Tottenham in the table.

A point would be good enough to take the Reds into fifth place, but they will be determined to pick up a third straight league success.

They have scored in 10 consecutive games on the road, suggesting they have no firepower issues, with that run now the joint-longest of its kind in the Premier League this season.

The Reds will also head to the capital in the knowledge that only Chelsea (35) have picked up more points than them (30) since Dalglish returned to the Anfield helm in January.

Clint Dempsey and Brede Hangeland come back into contention for Fulham.

Midfielder Dempsey (hamstring) - the Cottagers' all-time top scorer in the Premier League - and defender Hangeland (illness) missed last Saturday's 3-0 win at Sunderland.

Damien Duff will not play again this season after undergoing Achilles surgery, while Zoltan Gera and Rafik Halliche remain sidelined.

Liverpool striker Andy Carroll may have to settle for a place among the substitutes again at Craven Cottage.

The £35million club record signing came off the bench for a 20-minute appearance in last weekend's win over Newcastle after recovering from a knee injury but the form of Dirk Kuyt and Luis Suarez may mean the England international has to wait for a starting opportunity.

Forgotten winger Milan Jovanovic (knee) and defender Fabio Aurelio (hamstring) both have a chance of being included.

Martin Kelly (hamstring), Fabio Aurelio (thigh), Daniel Agger (knee) and Steven Gerrard (groin) all miss out, but defensive stalwart Jamie Carragher is in line to make his 666th appearance for the club - edging him above Emlyn Hughes and Ray Clemence and into second place on Liverpool's all-time appearance list.

Possible starting XIs
Fulham: Schwarzer, Baird, Hangeland, Hughes, Salcido, Davies, Sidwell, Murphy, Kakuta, Dempsey, Zamora.

Liverpool: Reina, Flanagan, Carragher, Skrtel, Johnson, Lucas, Spearing, Meireles, Maxi, Kuyt, Suarez.

Jesus Navas Being Targeted By The Reds

Liverpool are plotting a £20 million bid to tempt Sevilla winger Jesus Navas to the club, according to

The Spanish midfielder was thought to be too homesick to contemplate a move away from his native Spain, but after the player travelled to South Africa last summer with his international teammates during the World Cup finals, those fears appear to have been put to bed.

And Liverpool is now ready to make Navas their own, with a plan to offer £20 million this summer.

Kenny Dalglish has put a winger at the top of his transfer wish list this summer after the signing of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll called for a greater need for service from the wider positions, after the disappointing form of Joe Cole, who could leave Liverpool this summer.

Navas is known to crave Champions League football, and although the Anfield club will miss out on Europe's premier club competition next season, Liverpool will hope to tempt the 25-year-old with the carrot of a genuine title challenge next season.

Dalglish To Raid Villa For England Midfield Pair

Liverpool is set to raid Aston Villa for the clubs two England wingers Ashley Young and Stewart Downing who have both enjoyed am impressive season with the midlands club.

Former Watford midfielder Ashley Young is a long term target of Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish and appears likely to leave at the end of the season after refusing to enter into negotiations to sign a new contract.

With just one year remaining on his current deal it appears as though Villa will have to cash in on their talented winger, rather than risk losing him on a free at the end of next season.

Liverpool are not the only club interested in the 25-year-old with Sir Alex Ferguson also known to be a huge admirer of Young, while Spurs were also linked with the winger during the January transfer window.

While many expect Young to leave Villa Park in the summer, the future of Downing is still up in the air with Villa manager Gerard Houllier desperate to get the former Middlesbrough winger to sign a new contract.

With Houllier currently in hospital, caretaker boss Gary McAllister has reiterated the importance of trying to tie down Downing to a new long term contract.

"Of course, there’s two years left and we are getting into that area where it’s coming into our vision," revealed McAllister. “It’s in progress at the moment. We are starting to make contact with his agent.

“That’s something we’re looking at all the time. It’s been a very mixed season but I’ve got to say Stewart Downing’s consistency, especially for a forward in a team that hasn’t been playing as well as it can, would make him my pick as player of the season."

The pair have both been in fantastic form for much of the season, despite Villa struggling at the wrong end of the table and Villains defender Luke Young admitted that clubs are circling as they attempt to lure the duo away.

"Stewart has been brilliant, he is showing the form and you've got bigger clubs sniffing at him and it's going to be difficult for us to keep him," said the former Middlesbrough defender.

"Clubs are circling for Ashley as well so it's going to be a difficult summer for us and hopefully we can keep hold of both of them, we certainly wouldn't want to lose both of them."

Liverpool proved in the January transfer window that they were prepared to spend large amounts of money to bring the right players to the club and now Kenny Dalglish wants to bring wingers to Anfield to compliment his new strike force.

Should the Reds attempt to land the England midfielders then it is believed that they would need to bid in the region of £20million for Young and £10m for Downing.

Liverpool FC Planning Summer Swoop For Valencia's Juan Mata

Liverpool is planning a summer move for Valencia winger Juan Mata.

Reports in Spain suggest that both the Reds and Manchester City have expressed their interest in Mata in recent weeks, as have Premier League champions-elect, Manchester United with Valencia's ongoing financial woes threatening to force the sale of the 23-year-old.

Valencia currently occupy La Liga's third Champions League qualification place but debts of €500million (£439.5M) could see one key player at the Mestalla sold during the close season.

Leading Spanish football journalist Guillem Balague understands that 'Los Che' are willing to sell the highly-rated Mata if an offer in the region of €25million (£21.9M) and €30million (£26.3M) is received for the wide midfielder.

Liverpool and City remain the favourites in their pursuit of Mata but despite the lure of Champions League football, Roberto Mancini's side appears an unrealistic option with compatriot David Silva currently occupying the left-wing role at the City of Manchester Stadium.

Real Sociedad's Antoine Griezmann is being tracked by Liverpool as an alternative option. Coincidentally, Valencia have lined up the French winger as Mata's replacement should he leave.

Liverpool Star Is Desperate To Quit Anfield

Liverpool’s want-away midfielder Alberto Aquilani looks set to make his loan spell at Juventus permanent, after the player’s agent once again reiterated that the 26-year-old is desperate to end his nightmare at Anfield by switching to Serie A giants Juventus.

While Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish has stated that he would like to bring Aquilani back to Anfield in the summer, the Italian midfielder has repeatedly insisted that he would prefer to stay at Juventus.

"My situation is simple. It all depends on Juventus – if they want to, [they can] buy me without asking anyone's opinion," Aquilani told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"I would like to stay in Turin for a long time and win a lot. I want to be a protagonist in the new winning cycle that is opening up at Juventus. I have no doubt that Juve's project is a winner, they just need a little patience."

Since arriving at Liverpool from Roma in 2009, Aquilani struggled to settle despite commanding a fee reported to be in the region of £20 million. An injury ravaged spell left Aquilani with just 18 appearances in a Liverpool shirt before agreeing a loan switch to Turin giants Juventus in the summer of 2010.

With the Italian back in good form domestically, Juventus boss Giuseppe Marotta has revealed that he fully expects Aquilani to seal a permanent deal when the transfer window reopens in July.

Within the loan agreement was an option for Juventus to but the playmaker outright, and Aquilani’s agent has insisted the deal is a certainty.

“Juventus and Liverpool have established an agreement for the player," agent Franco Zavaglia told Radio-Mercato.

"The Bianconeri's leadership is absolutely determined to retain the player at the end of the season and they have repeated it several times.

"Everything that has been said recently about Aquilani is just assumptions. Liverpool will not discount the player and he will only be sold on the predetermined basis.

"If Juventus will not retain him, he returns to Liverpool even if the player wants to play in Italy, but I don't think in Italy there are another clubs other than Juventus which can take him."

The only obstacle that remains is an agreement on the fee for the player. Should the two clubs not successfully negotiate a deal, Aquilani may face the prospect of returning to Liverpool despite being desperate for a move to Serie A.

Aquilani's agent Franco Zavaglia restated his desire for the Italian midfielder to remain in Serie A, claiming that his client would find it very difficult to return to Anfield. However, with Juventus still unwilling to match Liverpool's valuation of the Italian international, Zavaglia's confidence in a deal being brokered seems to have lessened with the agent now at a stage where he is just hoping the two clubs can settle their differences.

“We are certainly waiting to hear how the situation develops and hope they can reach an agreement," Zavaglia told "As far as Alberto is concerned, he has always been clear: he wants to stay in Italy. We are waiting to hear if a deal will be reached and that would be a huge bonus for us.”

Dirk Kuyt Highlights Partnership With Luis Suarez At Liverpool

Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt believes his burgeoning partnership with Luis Suarez has contributed to their recent good run.

The Holland international has played alongside the £22.8million January signing in the last eight Barclays Premier League matches.

Not all of those occasions have been as a front two as Suarez's fellow transfer deadline day arrival Andy Carroll has also featured, but injury to the England international meant they have been paired together for the last two victories over Birmingham and Newcastle.

Eight goals scored and none conceded in those outings point to successes all over the pitch, although what has stood out is the way Kuyt and Suarez have combined.

The Dutchman extended his goalscoring run to four success matches against Newcastle, and eight in his last seven league appearances,

Suarez won the penalty from which Kuyt scored against the Magpies and the favour was returned as the Uruguayan international hit his third goal for the Reds from his partner's lay-off.

But it is not just about scoring goals, the workrate of them as a front two also makes it difficult for opponents.

"Although we are different players and offer different skills we are both hard workers," said Kuyt.

"Kenny (Dalglish) has emphasized to us that he wants us to press high up the pitch and that has suited us.

"We also sometimes speak Dutch together on the pitch (Suarez was signed from Ajax) and that makes life more difficult for the opposition."

Kuyt is the club's leading scorer with 14, 10 of which have come since Dalglish replaced Roy Hodgson as manager in early January.

He believes the start of the new year was a key point not only for the club but for him personally.

Kuyt was a losing World Cup finalist in South Africa last summer and he feels the knock-on effect of returning back late for pre-season training and almost 22 months of football without a proper break took its toll.

"I had just a few weeks off and then came back to Liverpool and suffered a couple of injuries," he added.

"It was the first time in my Liverpool career I was getting little injuries and my form wasn't how I wanted it to be.

"Since January it has been different. I have felt a lot stronger physically and the manager has given the team a lot of confidence."

Liverpool head to Fulham on Monday looking to regain fifth place in the Barclays Premier League from Tottenham.

Defender Fabio Aurelio (hamstring) and forward Milan Jovanovic (knee) are close to a return after injury but Dalglish may opt to stick with the same squad he put out against Newcastle.

Goalkeeper Jose Reina is set for his 150th consecutive league match, having last missed a game on the final day of the 2007 season just before the Champions League final, while Jamie Carragher will play his 666th Liverpool game - taking him second on the all-time appearance list.

Reds Welcome Korean Trialists

Two Korean youngsters have today made their first tentative steps towards realizing their dream of playing for Liverpool FC.

Kim Yoon-Soo, 16, and Park Hyeon-Jim, 18, arrived in the city on Saturday ahead of a week-long trial at the club's Academy.

A meet and greet with first-team stars Dirk Kuyt and Andy Carroll was first on the agenda prior to a Monday morning training session with the reserves.

The duo both showed some neat touches during a two-hour work-out and later sat down with to explain what it means to be the first Koreans to pull on a red shirt.

"I've grown up as a Liverpool fan so this is very special for me," said Kim, a central midfielder who has grown up idolizing Barcelona star, Xavi.

"I couldn't believe what I was seeing when I was shown the letter saying I was coming here. I was so excited I woke up several times last night and couldn't wait to get out there.

"I'm pleased to have completed my first session and can't wait for the rest of the week now.

"Back home we can only dream of an opportunity like this. I am living that dream and have no words to describe it. It is massive."

Kim's feelings were echoed by Park.

"I've always wanted to play on the European stage so this is a huge chance to show what I can do," said the attacking midfielder.

"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I am very grateful to be here. It is something I will be able to talk about for the rest of my life and I'll always be proud of it no matter what the outcome is."

Both Kim and Park looked relaxed as they were put through their paces by reserve team coaches Pep Segura and Steve Cooper.

The right environment is crucial if staff are to make a considered judgement on a player - and Academy director Frank McParland is confident the club's youngsters will make the newcomers feel more than welcome.

"I always tell lads who come on trial to enjoy themselves and to smile," said McParland.

"They are playing football and they are at Liverpool - what more do they want? It's a great opportunity so they should relax and express themselves.

"They trained with the reserves today and will be with the U18s for the rest of the week. We'll have a really good look at them and see what they can do.

"This club is a massive club - but it's a friendly one too. The kids are always really good with the trialists and we work hard on that side of things. If you are going to bring someone all the way from places like Korea, then you want to see the best of them.

"For that to happen they need to feel comfortable and I got the impression they felt content when I spoke to them earlier."

The reserves will travel to Hong Kong for a tournament on Tuesday morning but Segura still found time to give his verdict on the pair's first run-out in red.

"It is a massive experience for them and for us too," said Segura.

"They arrive here from a different culture and have good technical quality and speed. That is important.

"But you can never judge a player on just one training session and it is now up to them to show what they can do over the next few days."

Dalglish Believes He Has Disposed Of Liverpool's Image Of Being Overreliant On Certain Players

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish believes that he has been successful in changing the club's overreliance on some players.

In past seasons the Reds appeared to be heavily reliant on the performances of either skipper Steven Gerrard or striker Fernando Torres - who has since made a move to Chelsea.

But the recent rise of the Merseyside outfit has seen it accomplish success without the Spaniard, while the England international has been injured for a significant portion of the campaign under the former Celtic boss.

During the Scot's reign, the Reds have gone up from a mid-table position to sixth place in the table, one point behind Tottenham Hotspur in fifth.

And Dalglish reckons he has managed to help the club shake off the tag of being a two man team.

"The more options you have, the better it is for everyone," he said, according to The Mirror.

"In any team you are going to have players who shine more than others. Successful teams are the ones with the greatest number of options going forward. It is great credit to them and the confidence and belief they have in themselves. They have built that up themselves with their results.

"Where you get your ammunition from doesn’t really matter, but the more choices you have, the stronger you are going to be.

"Results give you belief. If you can’t believe in each other on the pitch then you are going to have a problem.

"Everyone feeds off the success of the team. Different people get a lift in different ways, and not everyone can score a goal."

The Reds boss also hailed his fringe players for putting forth a positive attitude despite not playing regularly for the club.

Dalglish added: "The most important thing is the players who aren’t playing and how they react. It’s easy to enjoy training when you are playing every week and getting results.

"The hard part is for those not playing as often as they would be at other clubs. When they come in with a positive attitude it lifts the whole place."

Hughes Applauds Reds' Business

Fulham manager Mark Hughes believes Liverpool are currently benefiting from replacing Fernando Torres with Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll.

Torres left Anfield for Chelsea in January for a British transfer record fee of £50million and boss Kenny Dalglish acted swiftly to bring in reinforcements.

Uruguay international Suarez was drafted in from Ajax for £23m, before Dalglish completed the signing of 22-year-old striker Carroll from Newcastle on transfer deadline day.

The inflated £35m-plus price tag for Carroll raised more than a few eyebrows, but Hughes believes Liverpool, who travel to Fulham on Monday night, have done some shrewd business.

"I think the view is that they've done good business in terms of the two players they've got in with the money they've got for Torres," he said.

"Given the way it's panned out for Fernando Torres, you'd argue at this moment in time it's the better deal, only because the two guys that have gone in at Liverpool seem to have very quickly struck up a partnership and that seems to be working well for Liverpool.

"Right through the history of football, there's great partnerships and there are always examples of where one player triggers off the good, positive parts of another player.

"And there are signs that there's the possibility Carroll and Suarez will obviously continue in the same vein and be a very strong partnership for Liverpool for years to come."

Hughes was also quick to praise the work Dalglish has done in his second spell at the helm of Liverpool.

"It's probably the personality of the manager, I would suggest, because he always played with a smile on his face," added Hughes.

"At times, he'd moan and groan as a player. But, certainly, when you see him with a big smile, that filters through to the group he's working with, I'm sure."