Friday, August 05, 2011

Preview & Matchday: Liverpool vs Valencia

The final friendly, and, at least on paper, Liverpool’s most difficult opponent. It’s no doubt been a challenging preseason for Kenny Dalglish and company, and if earlier results in the preseason are any indication, Saturday’s match poses a hefty challenge of its own. Valencia have won four of their five friendlies thus far, getting past opponents like PSV Eindhoven, Sporting CP, and Hamburg SV, dropping only an away match to perennial Austrian powers Rapid Vienna. They’ve only conceded once outside of the match in Vienna (in which they shipped four in a hotly-contested match), and will enter Saturday’s match with a talented squad.

By the end of the month that squad will be bolstered by the arrival of Real Madrid midfielder Sergio Canales on loan; the twenty year-old will join a midfield already stacked with names like Ever Banega, David Albelda, Tino Costa, Joaquin, and Mehmet Topal. Up front things will, of course, be focused on perennial lust object Juan Mata—after a sparkling summer to help the U21s to Euro glory in Denmark, he was heavily linked with a move to the Premier League and, if you were tweeting about it enough, Liverpool. That link has died down significantly, with Arsenal nudging ahead to take most of the headlines recently. Valencia’s position has waffled a bit, first acknowledging that the player might leave, then stating that no offers would be considered. With a few weeks left there’s still a chance something might happen, but the chances of that something having anything to do with Liverpool are slim.

With two weeks left to go before their own league opener and some nice sentimental links with Liverpool—Fabio Aurelio won two titles there with Rafa Benitez—tomorrow’s likely something to look forward to for Valencia.

Stop if you’ve heard this before—now’s the time for Liverpool to kick things into gear, to really start to get ready for the season proper. Give the provisional first team an extended look, and we’ll finally come away feeling satisfied with a Liverpool match this preseason. In many ways that was supposed to be the trip to Norway, but again the club stuttered, and again we’re left hoping for signs of encouragement with little time remaining.

The biggest concerns are obviously in defense, where they’ve conceded an alarming number of goals against average opposition, and looked remarkably amateur no matter the personnel. Conceding three goals in five consecutive matches, preseason or otherwise, is a good indicator that vast improvements are needed. And as noted above, Saturday presents the biggest challenge in terms of talent that Liverpool will have faced thus far, meaning that, short of a 180-degree turnaround, Liverpool could be up against it at the back.

It’ll likely be a similar look in terms of personnel despite the struggles—Martin Skrtel suffered another injury towards the end of last week, and while Fabio Aurelio has apparently returned to training, there’s nothing new about any of the others that have spent most of the preseason on the sidelines or slowly returning from international duty.

So despite the fact that it’s the final match of the preseason, the name of the opposition and that it’s at Anfield, Liverpool still have plenty of questions left to answer. The summer additions are still getting comfortable, the midfield is clearly lacking the influence of its most talented names, the best performer is a wantaway, and the defense has looked like a disaster waiting to happen.

Kenny Waiting On Suarez

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish says he will have to wait and see whether star striker Luis Suarez will be ready for the start of the season.

After helping Uruguay lift the Copa America this summer, Suarez will make a delayed return to pre-season training with the Reds next week.

It remains to be seen whether the 24-year-old will be involved for Liverpool's opening clash of the Premier League campaign against Sunderland at Anfield next Saturday.

And Dalglish says he will make a decision over the hitman when he has had a chance to look him over.

He said: "Luis will be back next week some time and we'll start thinking about him then. We'll just see when he comes in.

"He's had a fantastic summer in the Copa America both as an individual and as a team player.

"We'll see how he is when he comes in and have a discussion with him. We can't predict what he is going to be like."

Gerrard Excited By New Boys

Steven Gerrard is confident the club has made some excellent signings this summer.

Writing in the Official Matchday Programme ahead of our Valencia friendly on Saturday, Gerrard is glad of the added competition for places and is hoping to see even more new faces walk through the Anfield door.

"I believe we've made some very good signings this summer, with Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing and Doni all coming in," he said.

"Hopefully there will be one or two more arriving before the transfer window closes.

"You always want competition for places because it's a long season. Obviously it gives the manager more options and it also pushes the players on because they know not everyone can start every game."

The skipper also reckons that Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez will be like new signings for the club, despite the pair arriving in January.

"It also still feels like Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez are new signings, even though they've been with us since January," said the 31-year-old, who will be back from a groin injury in September.

"They both did well in the second half of last season. That experience should help them to perform even better in 2011-12."

Liverpool Line Up Lucas Biglia As Lucas Leiva Replacement

Liverpool are reportedly weighing up a move for Anderlecht midfielder Lucas Biglia as a cut-price replacement for his namesake Lucas Leiva.

Leiva, the Reds’ player of the year last season, is rumoured to be on his way out of the club on loan to balance the books after manager Kenny Dalglish spent big on the likes of Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing.

According to the Daily Mirror, Argentine midfielder Biglia is seen as a cheaper option in the defensive midfield position than the Brazilian, who signed a bumper new contract in March.

The 25-year-old former Independiente man is, it is suggested, keen to play for Liverpool having been sold on the idea by ex-Anfield compatriot Javier Mascherano.

An Argentina international, Biglia took part in this summer’s Copa America tournament, in which Leiva also participated.

The Reds have already agreed to allow striker Milan Jovanovic to depart for Anderlecht.

Liverpool Set To Hijack Arsenal Move For £20m Belgian Starlet

Liverpool are ready to hijack Arsenal's potential move for Belgian playmaker Eden Hazard.

According to, the Merseyside club is eyeing one more attacking player and has already made an enquiry for Barcelona winger Ibrahim Afellay.

However, it is unclear how likely it will be to land the Dutchman as he was only signed by the Catalans in January. Therefore, Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish has turned his attentions to 20-year-old Hazard who is also a target for Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

The Frenchman even admitted in January that the club was tracking him. He said: "We follow him. And personally I think he's a real talent and he's good enough to play for Arsenal, yes.

"In the offensive department we have many players. At the end of the season we'll have a look at the situation but at the moment it's completely ruled out."

The Lille midfielder has attracted the interest of a host of top European clubs following a season in which he was instrumental in his club's first league title since 1954.

Arsenal though, remains favourites to sign Hazard thanks to their close ties with Lille built during their successful negotiations over £10.9m forward Gervinho.

The Gunners are reportedly willing to meet the £20m asking price but will only make an offer with the proceeds of any possible sale from Samir Nasri or Cesc Fabregas.

This has given Liverpool a window of opportunity to make a move for the Belgian starlet, although they must also off-load players before making an official bid.

A number of players are expected to leave the Reds in the coming weeks with Alberto Aquilani, Milan Jovanovic, David N'Gog and Joe Cole all reported to be on the verge of moves. It is thought the departure of that quartet will free up enough space on the wage bill and generate enough transfer money to fund a move for Hazard.

Tranquillo Barnetta Representative Opens Door To Possible Liverpool Move

Tranquillo Barnetta's representative in Britain has opened the door to a possible Liverpool switch this summer after reacting angrily to an offer made by Newcastle.

The Swiss international midfielder has been linked with a move to St. James' Park for several weeks now, with the Toon's interest thought to have intensified after Joey Barton was placed on the transfer list.

However, an offer from the Magpies of less money than the player currently earns with Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga has been met with a firm rejection from Barry McIntosh.

"As it stands there is not a hope in hell that he will be going to Newcastle. In fact I am angry at their attempts to do it, and behind my back also," he told

"They have made an approach, but their offer equates to somewhere in the region of £40,000-a-week - which is just ridiculous. Why on earth would Tranquilo move to Newcastle for less money?

"No offence to Newcastle, he would possibly consider going to Arsenal, Liverpool even Tottenham for less - but not Newcastle.

"They have known all along, what it would take to land Barnetta and what he is earning now, and this sort of offer really does border on ridiculous."

The 26-year-old, who usually plays on the wing, has earned 59 caps for his country after making his debut in 2004.

A move to Liverpool this summer would appear unlikely though, with the Reds already spending heavily to reinforce their midfield.

Kenny Dalglish has drafted in Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam and Ashley Young at Anfield, with the trio joining skipper Steven Gerrard, Brazilian international Lucas and a handful of other players fighting for a starting spot at Liverpool.

Despite the statement, it's also unknown if the Liverpool boss has any interest in the former Hannover 96 loanee, and a move to Newcastle would still appear to be the most likely move despite the statement from his representative.

PSG Eye Liverpool Midfielder In Latest Big Money Move

Queens Park Rangers has already had dealings with Paris Saint-Germain in this transfer window and refusing to sell Adel Taraabt may come back to haunt them.

PSG has entered the race for Joe Cole and with the Liverpool’s midfielder’s £90,000-a-week wages proving a stumbling block in QPR’s loan bid, the French outfit are in pole position to sign Cole.

Cole has featured in all of Liverpool’s pre-season friendlies as Kenny Dalglish gives the England international another chance at staking a claim to a first team spot, but Cole has still not settled at the club and his high wages are a reason Liverpool are looking to offload him.

Backed by the Qatar Investment Authority, PSG have become the Manchester City of France’s Ligue 1 and Antoine Kombouare’s side have been linked with Taarabt, Palermo’s Javier Pastore and now Joe Cole in this transfer window.

Kombouare has already spent nearly €50m in this transfer window having brought in seven players including Mohamed Sissoko for €8m, Jeremy Menez for €9m, Blaise Matuidi for €10m and Kevin Gameiro for €15m.

Add to that three youth team players have been offered professional contracts plus three players have returned from loan spells last season and Kombouare has 13 new players for the start of the new season.

The French club is still chasing a marquee signing and Pastore has been heavily linked with a move to France, but Joe Cole looks a more realistic proposition with Liverpool not asking for big money.

Pastore would cost somewhere in the region of €45m and while the PSG board can certainly afford him, it’s not clear if Pastore is willing to leave Palermo for France.

Owen Coyle Rejects Talk Of Anfield Move For Gary Cahill

Bolton manager Owen Coyle says reports suggesting star defender Gary Cahill is on the verge of a big-money move to Liverpool are "without foundation".

The England defender has been linked with moves to Arsenal and Manchester City this summer.

There has also been speculation suggesting that Liverpool are close to securing a deal for the 25-year-old.

But Coyle said: "It is irresponsible. Nothing has happened, there is nothing concrete, there is nothing to report."

Liverpool, who face Valencia in a friendly on Saturday at Anfield, have struggled defensively in pre-season and could do with back-up to the injury-prone Daniel Agger and veteran defender Jamie Carragher, 33.

But Coyle made it clear that an imminent move for Cahill to Anfield was not on the cards.

He said: "This story is without a shred of foundation. To just reel words off is in poor taste. Nothing surprises you in football but people should have more knowledge of the background for anything before they write it.

"It doesn't faze me. I am not raging about it. I am just making a point.

"If someone leaves, it will be the right business for the club but I don't pre-occupy myself with thoughts like that when I have a team to prepare for the rest of the season."

Agent Invites AC Milan To Make Bid For Alberto Aquilani

AC Milan has been told to make Liverpool a £8.7 million bid for Alberto Aquilani by the player's agent Franco Zavaglia.

The Italy international has been strongly tipped to return to his homeland after failing to make a mark at Liverpool following a big-money move from Roma in 2009.

AC Milan CEO Adriano Galliani recently claimed his club could be interested in the 27-year-old, who was linked Fiorentina after a successful loan spell with Juventus last season.

Talks with Fiorentina broke down as Aquilani preferred a permanent move, not the offered loan deal.

Milan is looking for a top midfielder with Fiorentina's Riccardo Montolivo one of the names associated with them, but Zavaglia is eager to hold dialogue with Galliani.

"Galliani is in China for the Supercoppa Italiana and so we have to wait until he returns to Milan," the agent is quoted as saying by

"I think with a bid of €10m [£8.7m] an agreement with Liverpool can be found."

Liverpool Stadium Boost

Liverpool football club could yet move to a new stadium after a local councillor admitted that the club could be handed a further extension on their decision whether or not to take up a lease on Stanley Park.

The Merseyside club's new board of directors have been mulling over the proposition which had been made to the previous regime, though Liverpool's new owners, led by John Henry, were thought to favour redeveloping the current Anfield site. With a redeveloped Anfield proving more difficult than first anticipated Liverpool were keen to have a rethink on the Stanley Park proposal but are in a race against time with the local council imposing deadlines on the decision.

Speaking in the Daily Mirror this week, City council leader Joe Anderson has hinted that they may be prepared to offer an extension to the current deadline, though the future of the Anfield residents also has to be taken into consideration.

"We realize the issue over the lease is a difficult one for the football club, and we have already extended the deadline for a period of six months to allow time to explore all options," Anderson said.

"What we can’t do is give an open cheque and an open guarantee, because ultimately while we have a responsibility to the club and the fans, we also have a responsibility to the people in the Anfield area, who have been living in squalor for 10 years.

"But we recognize there are new owners who have to explore all decisions, and if they can demonstrate there is a real need for more time to make that decision, then we are prepared to extend the deadline further.

"From our point of view we have always had a good relationship with the club, and we’ll bend over backwards to do whatever we can to support the decision they make."