Thursday, July 28, 2011

Preview & Matchday: Liverpool vs Galatasaray S.K.

Three games down, three left, and with the new Premier League season just over the horizon it wouldn’t be surprising to see many key players get more than a half of action when Liverpool heads to Istanbul to take on Galatasaray later today. While Istanbul is hardly unfamiliar territory for Liverpool, the sold-out Turk Telekom Arena will be new, as the modern, state of the art stadium that took the club out of its old haunts and dropped it next to a freeway on the city’s outskirts only opened in January.

While no news has been released on Liverpool’s traveling squad yet, rumours have Pepe Reina and Steven Gerrard far from match fit and remaining in Liverpool, while Raul Meireles (ankle) and Daniel Agger (unknown) are believed to have stayed behind nursing slight knocks as well. Martin Skrtel, however, is expected to be available to make his first appearance of the preseason after a 2010-11 campaign that saw him regain something of his old form after the arrival of defensive guru Steve Clarke alongside Kenny Dalglish. No matter how many minutes he gets, it’s obvious that signs of a tighter defence will be integral for Liverpool as they build towards the new season.

Elsewhere, despite recent talk that he could be one of the players to head out on loan to free up space in Liverpool’s crowded midfield, Jay Spearing will be with the team, too, after talking about his determination to stay and fight for a place. Meanwhile, after saying that his client was definitely staying with Liverpool this season, over the weekend Alberto Aquilani’s agent changed his mind and started spreading rumours that the player was heading to Fiorentina on a loan similar to the one that sent him to Juventus last season—only this time around it would be even worse for Liverpool, as the agreed end of season fee the Italian club would be free to walk away from would be set at £10M and Liverpool would be picking up 20% of the player’s wages in the meantime. Needless to say, if Liverpool actually were to go through with such a deal it would be right to question the sanity of those involved, but as the days slip by with nothing happening it’s quickly turning into the reverse of the Charlie Adam saga: Nobody’s sure if he’s gone or not yet but most assume it will happen sooner or later. Maybe. Unless his agent changes his story again.

With the preseason friendlies at their half-way point, many will be eagerly awaiting team news to find out if the Italian has made the trip or not. Without any whispers of injury, if he hasn’t headed to Turkey with the club it would add credence to the recent rumbling that his future indeed lies elsewhere. Either way, though, with the bulk of Liverpool’s incomings this summer sorted and most of the squad approaching match fitness, at the very least an improved performance compared to the tired outing on Saturday against Hull will be expected—and as brought up earlier in the week, despite talk of it only being preseason the actual result might offer more insight into Liverpool’s future fortunes than many would guess.

As for Liverpool’s opponents, Galatasaray have started slowly through three preseason matches of their own, having so far registered a 1-1 draw at 2. Bundesliga side SpVgg Greuther Fürth, a 0-0 draw at home to Inter Milan, and a 1-0 loss on the road to FC Twente.
Their manager Fatih Terim, who was named the seventh best manager in the world in 2008 after taking Turkey to the semi-finals of the European Championships, returns for his third spell managing the club he earlier spent a decade playing for. After a tumultuous 2010-11 season that saw them go through Frank Rijkaard, Gheorghe Hagi, and finally Bülent Ünder, the return of a familiar face who once led the club to four Super Lig titles and one UEFA Cup sees Galatasaray back in steady—and popular—hands.

If Terim will be familiar to Galatasaray fans, there are a few names on the playing side who most following Liverpool will themselves be well acquainted with. Johan Elmander, their big signing of the summer so far, will be familiar to many, with the Swede looking to make a fresh start after moving to Galatasaray from Bolton on a free. Elmander only managed 18 goals in 92 appearances across three seasons while in the Premier League, but he and his new club will be hoping that a change of scenery brings back the form that saw him playing an important role for Toulouse and Brondby earlier in his career.

And of course there’s Milan Baros, who was an important part of Liverpool’s squad when they headed to Istanbul in 2005 for the Champions League final. As much as anything, he’ll be remembered by Liverpool fans for dropping the trophy during the celebration, leaving a lasting dent that the club decided not to repair. After he left Liverpool, he bounced from Aston Villa to Lyon to Portsmouth before finding a home in Turkey, but following a strong start for Galatasaray in 2008 he has spent much of the past two seasons injured. He’s fit now, though, and will expect to play against his old club.

Meanwhile Arda Turan will also be looking to impress against the side he’s publicly talked of wanting to move to in the past. He hasn’t been linked as often to Liverpool this summer as in other years, but the young captain was Juan Mata and Enrique Lavezzi before Juan Mata and Enrique Lavezzi were—a player who thanks to some small scrap ends up becoming a short-term obsession for half the people following Liverpool, even though in the end it seems likely the club was never in for him in the first place. In any case, if earlier preseason performances by Turan and Galatasaray are anything to go by, today’s affair will be a tight and chippy one. Though of course if Liverpool’s earlier preseason performances are anything to go by a sloppy goal-fest could be on the cards.

Kenny Dalglish Hopes Memories Of 2005 Will Inspire Liverpool FC In Galatasaray

Kenny Dalglish is hoping returning to the city of one of Liverpool’s greatest ever triumphs will bring out the best in his players tonight.

The Reds face Galatasaray at the new Turk Telekom Arena as they continue their pre-season preparations.

It will be the third time Liverpool have played in Istanbul since their stunning comeback to beat AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final.

“It’s a great game for us and everyone is looking forward to it,” Dalglish said.

“It’s a shame we’re not playing at the Ataturk as that stadium will always have a special place in everyone’s hearts.

“But everyone has great memories of Istanbul after what was achieved here back in 2005.

"That was a fantastic achievement.

“This game is only a friendly but we will try to get the maximum we can out of the game.

"We’re playing at a new stadium and Galatasaray will pose a decent test for us.”

Dalglish fielded a different side in each half of last Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Hull City.

However, he is set to make fewer changes tonight with a number of players saved for Monday’s trip to Oslo to face Valerenga.

“We’ve got two games in the space of a few days and the players need to get more minutes in than they’ve had so far,” he added.

“But we will do whatever the situation dictates and we won’t leave players on longer than needed just for the sake of it.”

Highly-Rated Striker 'Signs Pre-Contract' With Liverpool

Mexican starlet Marco Bueno has signed a pre-contract agreement with Liverpool, his current employers Pachuca have confirmed, and he will now have a trial at the Kirky Academy before a permanent deal is agreed.

The 17-year-old has been linked with a move to Merseyside for the past few weeks and, should he impress Reds representatives on trial, Bueno is expected to sign a five-year contract.

"A pre-contract with the parents and Bueno was signed to be sent to Liverpool," Pachuca vice-president Andres Fassi said.

"So we are accepting the 10-day trial and the conditions, if the English decide to keep him."

Bueno's trial will commence in mid-August - reports the Liverpool Echo - and the youngster is ready and waiting for his chance to shine.

"I feel very happy and very motivated," Bueno said. "I am wearing the shirt of Liverpool. I have my family behind me and that's enough to face any challenge.

"I have to face it with great motivation and commitment to represent the country in the best way, and with faith that everything is achievable.

"It's a life experience that I will never forget. I'm very excited about that and will give my best. Where the opportunity arises I will make the most."

Bueno - who has been compared to compatriot Javier Hernandez - was a an integral member of Mexico's under-17 World Cup winning squad earlier this month, and will come to Anfield with a reputation that is growing with each passing day.

Gunners Join Liverpool In Copa America Champion Chase

Arsenal are being linked with a summer move for Uruguay defender and reported Liverpool target Alvaro Pereira.

The Porto full back has been linked with a move away from the Estádio do Dragão following the departure of Andre Villas-Boas, with Juventus also thought to be keen on the 25-year-old.

However, Tuttomercatoweb now claims that Arsenal are keeping tabs on the left back, with the former CFR Cluj player thought to be seeking a new challenge away from Portugal.

With Gael Clichy making a move away from the Emirates earlier in the month, Arsene Wenger is believed to be in the market for a player in the position at Arsenal.

Carl Jenkinson has already joined in a £1 million move, although the Arsenal boss is likely to be after experience with Kieran Gibbs the only left back with experience on the books.

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish has also been linked with a move for the player, with the Reds to bring a player in the position to Anfield as they look to replace Paul Konchesky.

A handful of players in the position have already been linked, but when questioned on the subject Pereira admitted he was yet to hear anything concrete from Liverpool.

"Liverpool? I do not know, I cannot say anything. My only wish is to celebrate Uruguay's big win [at Copa America]," he told A BOLA on Sunday.

"After this, I will return to Porto, my club, and then we will see what happens."

Milan Jovanovic Will 'Definitely' Sign For Anderlecht - Agent

Milan Jovanovic's agent Dejan Veljkovic believes the midfielder will "definitely" join Anderlecht from Liverpool.

The Serbian winger has been told that he is surplus to requirements at Anfield, despite only joining the club from Standard Liege last summer, scoring just two goals in 18 appearances.

Anderlecht have already announced their interest in Jovanovic but the Belgian club’s general manager Herman van Holsbeeck has revealed that his wages, reportedly £65,000 a week, could prove to be a stumbling block.

However, Jovanovic’s agent is sure that his client will sign for Belgium’s most successful club side, and is confident any difficulties in the deal can be solved.

"Milan will definitely come to Anderlecht," Veljkovic told Het Nieuwsblad in Belgium.

"We are talking again and everything looks good: the sporting aspects, financial, contributions.

"We are still a few solutions [away] but there is movement."

Jay Spearing Ready To Fight For Liverpool Place

Liverpool's Jay Spearing is ready to fight for his place in an overcrowded midfield this season.

The 22-year-old signed a new long-term contract towards the end of the previous campaign after impressing manager Kenny Dalglish.

An injury to captain Steven Gerrard meant the Wirral-born player was given a chance in the final three months of the season and he seized the opportunity, starting the final nine matches of the Barclays Premier League season.

With Gerrard returning to fitness and the summer arrivals of England Under-21 international Jordan Henderson and Scotland's Charlie Adam, midfield is an area where Dalglish is now blessed with a surfeit of talent.

However, it is not a concern for Spearing.

"I've got more competition to fight against now but that doesn't bother me," he told the Liverpool Echo.

"When you are at a club of this stature you know that in the transfer window they are going to spend money on buying top-class players.

"I'm delighted with the signings we've made. Adding Adam and Henderson to the squad is a massive improvement for us, they are both great players.

"From a personal point of view, I wouldn't say them coming in puts extra pressure on me but it makes me fight more.

"I know I need to step up again and prove I can play alongside them or in front of them."

Spearing has been linked with a loan move to Premier League rivals Wolves, but having just had his best season for the club with whom he lifted the FA Youth Cup in 2006 he is not thinking about leaving Anfield.

"The first I heard about the Wolves stuff was in the papers and it's not something that's been discussed," he added.

"I'm just getting on with giving everything for this club.

"Last year was a massive season for me. (Former manager) Roy Hodgson gave me a lot of games and I owe him a lot for that.

"Then as soon as Kenny came in he showed confidence in me straight away.

"I've got a lot of thank Kenny for. Hopefully I can now kick on, even with the signings who have come in."

Alberto Aquilani’s Move To Fiorentina From Liverpool Collapses

Alberto Aquilani’s proposed loan move to Fiorentina from Liverpool has fallen through, according to Sky Sports.

The two clubs had been in talks over a loan deal with a view to a transfer at the end of the season, but the Italian midfielder is believed to have stalled on the move and is holding out for a permanent switch away from Anfield.

Fiorentina were also unwilling to match Liverpool’s asking price for the 27-year-old, who spent last season on loan at Juventus, and the deal has now collapsed.

Gazzetta dello Sport also report that Fiorentina have now turned their attentions towards Santos midfielder Arouca.

The news will come as a blow to Reds boss Kenny Dalglish, who had hoped to use any money raised from Aquilani’s transfer to further reinvest in his squad.

Borrell Joy As Reds Sink Blues

Liverpool Reserves secured their first win of the pre-season courtesy of a 3-0 triumph over Birmingham City at the Academy on Wednesday afternoon.

A first-half brace from Nathan Eccleston and a clinical spot-kick from Suso did the damage as Rodolfo Borrell's side produced an impressive showing.

The manner of the success left the second-string coach satisfied with another good work out as his squad continues to make progress in the lead up to the new campaign.

Borrell told "It's a step forward for us in our pre-season.

"We played well, especially in the first half, and overall I am happy.

"We arranged this type of game as part of our pre-season program as we want to be tested.

"Birmingham are a big, physical side and we had to earn the right to play our football.

"We managed to do that and I am happy to get the win. Obviously we need to keep improving but we've only been back three weeks and I think we are on schedule in our preparations."

Asked about Eccleston's contribution, the Spaniard added: "I thought Nathan (Eccleston) did well for his goals and he showed great hunger and desire to work for the ball.

"But that can be said all of the lads. We worked hard throughout and we will now look ahead to our next test against the first-team of Tranmere Rovers on Tuesday. They are a League One side who will be just five days away from their first competitive match so it will be a big game for us."

On an afternoon of brilliant sunshine in Kirkby, the Reds dominated the early stages and took the lead on 20 minutes when Eccleston cut inside from the right before curling a delightful left-foot strike into the top corner.

The visitors were struggling to cope with the inventive approach play of the Liverpool youngsters and five minutes later they found themselves two down when Suso showed good composure to outwit veteran stopper, Maik Taylor with a cool penalty after Eccleston had been fouled in the area.

The hosts were clearly well on top and they sealed the win in first-half stoppage time when a sublime run and pass from Krisztian Adorjan provided Eccleston with an opportunity to calmly stroke home the third.

Suso, Raheem Sterling and David Amoo all went close to extending the lead following the interval but it wasn't to be as the Reds cantered to a well-deserved success.

Ladies Go Down To Derby Defeat

Liverpool's lack of potency in front of goal again proved costly as they were edged out by a Natasha Dowie goal in the Merseyside derby.

Liverpool started well but were unable to put Rachel Brown under any kind of pressure before the home side began to dominate.

First Vicky Jones then Danielle Gibbons denied Everton an opener around the 20 minute mark, as Jones slid in to block a Dowie effort, before Liverpool's young goalkeeper turned a Toni Duggan strike around the near post.

On the half hour, Everton's dominance did tell, but Liverpool will have felt that Dowie's goal was preventable. Good work by Duggan down the left led to a harmless looking cross, but Dowie beat both Vicky Jones and Gibbons to the ball to turn it into the net.

Duggan almost doubled the lead when she headed Becky Easton's cross narrowly over, before Liverpool finally registered a shot on target at the other end.

A strong run by Littlejohn ended with the ball breaking to Kelly Jones, but the energetic midfielder couldn't get a true enough connection on her shot to trouble Brown.

Duggan then wasted another headed chance, this time directing her effort straight at Gibbons.

Despite the dominance of the hosts, the Reds should have gone into the break level. A 43rd minute Michelle Evans corner was met by Nicola Twohig, but, from around six yards, she could only head over the bar.

The combination of Dowie and Duggan again proved dangerous in the second half, as the home side tried to put the game to bed with a second.

That killer goal nearly arrived on the hour as Dowie latched onto a Jody Handley through ball before firing narrowly wide of Gibbon's far post.

Minutes later, Vicky Jones and Sam Chappell both produced last ditch clearances to keep Everton out - Jones blocking Unitt's shot and Chappell heading Duggan's cross clear from underneath her own bar.

Ruesha Littlejohn's tireless forward work nearly produced a Liverpool chance on 67 minutes, but her shot was tame after she broke from the halfway line.

Duggan then skewed a shot wide of the near post before Everton substitute Gwennan Harries was inches wide with a spectacular half volley.

The introduction of Nicki Harding added more impetus to the Reds' attacks, but Everton nearly doubled their lead with a freak goal on 75 minutes.

Gibbons' clearance was blocked by Dowie, but as the ball trickled goalwards it appeared to lose pace and Gibbons retrieved it comfortably a foot in front of her line.

Substitute Cheryl Foster almost salvaged a point at the death, but Brown was able to smother her shot.