Friday, September 30, 2011

Dalglish: New Boys Ready For Derby

Kenny Dalglish today insisted Liverpool's derby debutants will be well-prepared for the task of taking on Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday lunchtime.

The likes of Luis Suarez, Andy Carroll, Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing, Jose Enrique, Jordan Henderson and Sebastian Coates could acquire their first taste of a Red versus Blue encounter when the boss leads his side across Stanley Park for the 216th meeting between the teams.

However, Dalglish is confident the derby experiences those players have picked up elsewhere will stand them in good stead.

He told his pre-match press conference: "I think Rangers against Celtic will have given Charlie a good grounding. For Andy, the north-east derby isn't to be undermined either, and for Stewart Villa against Birmingham isn't the smallest of derbies, is it?

"They may not have experienced one of these derbies before, but everybody has experienced a derby of some sort.

"Even for Luis (Suarez), the derby he's been involved in in Holland will have been frenetic as well. Every derby starts the same way.

"I don't think there is anybody who will be involved with us on Saturday who would undermine or be surprised by what they come up against.

"That's very important and although they might not have experienced the derbies here, they have somewhere else and they were equally as important to them when they were playing in them as what this one is."

He added: "We know what a victory in a derby means to the people of Liverpool and we know how much elation the players would get from it.

"There are some players who haven't played in it before that might play on Saturday, but I'm sure they understand what this football club stands for."

Liverpool's preparations for the short journey across Stanley Park were bolstered on Thursday by the news Daniel Agger had returned to training at Melwood following a rib injury, while Glen Johnson edges ever-closer to a comeback meaning Dalglish has a near-fully fit squad to choose from.

Earlier in the week, Dirk Kuyt spoke about the strength of the Reds squad and his determination to regain a regular starting berth - and the gaffer is delighted by the attitude and work ethic of his players.

Dalglish said: "Dirk works very, very hard - and so does everybody. We're not going to get anywhere without people working hard in training because it's an important part of preparation for games.

"Everybody has been a tremendous credit to themselves in the way they've conducted themselves in training and the effort and commitment they've put into it.

"If you want to play, you've got to do that. If you do, then when you're given your opportunity, it's much easier for you to succeed.

"We keep saying we've got a stronger squad than last year, so that means the competition will be greater as well. The better the players play when they're given the opportunity, the better the competition will be.

"We're happy with that and it stands us in good stead to have a strong squad. I don't think there is anybody here who is not competing for a first-team spot, and that's great for us."

A veteran of the Merseyside derby, Dalglish is well aware of the joy success in the fixture can bring to either the red or blue sides of the city.

However, ultimately the boss knows that obtaining three Premier League points is the most important aspect of the contest as Liverpool look to build on last weekend's 2-1 win over Wolves.

Dalglish said: "For me a win is a win and for them (Everton) a win is a win. It will get us three points and a bit of bragging rights. How much it means to them, I am not in a position to judge and you'll have to ask them yourself - but for us it is very important to win games.

"We've got to earn anything we want to get in life and we'll certainly need to work hard to get anything from Goodison on Saturday. If we want to get three points, then we'll need to stand up and be counted because I'm sure they'll make it very difficult for us.

"We'll try to play the way we want to play and at the same time stop them playing the way they want to. I'm sure Moysie (David Moyes) will be saying the same thing.

"The most important thing for us is to be confident, composed and have belief we can win the game. It is up to us to get that into our players and get them to believe it. We'll be totally committed to getting a result - and we know we have to be or we won't get anything.

"We'll compete as best we possibly can. The preparations have gone excellently and we look forward to it."

He added: "Moysie has done a fantastic job and we've got a great deal of respect for David Moyes and also for the football club.

"He's a good lad and we know him well, but come Saturday the two of us will be rivals and that's the way it should be. Afterwards we'll have a drink and move on."

As both player and later manager, Dalglish contested some classic Merseyside derbies during the 1980s - including two FA Cup finals at Wembley.

Reporters were keen to hear the Reds manager's favourite memories of the fixture ahead of the latest showdown.

"The most poignant one was the '89 Cup final - not just for Liverpool because we won it, but for the whole city of Liverpool," recalled Dalglish.

"Another was the first (Cup final) in '86 when we saw fathers going to the game with their kids, one in red and white and one in blue and white.

"Both Cup finals spoke volumes for the city about how they (the fans) conducted themselves and how much the clubs meant to them.

"They're the most vivid derby memories for me."

Meanwhile, journalists asked Dalglish about Liverpool's defensive record so far in 2011-12.

He replied: "I wouldn't say we're worried about it, but it's always nice to have your opposition with a 'nothing' after their name, isn't it?

"It's something we've got to continue working on, but if we keep scoring more goals than the opposition then fine.

"Last week against Wolves we might have been under pressure a little bit and got a couple of tackles in around the box, but for me we had by far the greater and most chances in the game. It looked more likely that we would have extended our lead than lost it.

"If you keep scoring goals, it makes it more difficult for the other team, but certainly losing no goals makes it a bit easier for ourselves as well as scoring at the other end.

"If you want to get points, then it's helpful not to lose any - but I wouldn't say we've got a problem with it."

Kuyt Predicts Suarez Improvement

Dirk Kuyt has been impressed by how quickly Luiz Suarez has adapted to the Barclays Premier League, and expects the Liverpool striker to become even better.

Suarez has scored eight times in 21 appearances since his move to Liverpool from Ajax in January, and Kuyt knows how difficult it can be to make the transition from Dutch to English football.

Kuyt himself moved to Anfield from the Eredivisie - having joined the Reds from Feyenoord in 2006 - and has been amazed by how easily Suarez has slotted in.

“What people seem to forget about Luis is that it really is a very big step to come from Holland and the Eredivise there,” said the 31-year-old.

“It's a huge step, and it's really difficult to be a success straight away. The style of football is different, and the pace is different too.

“He has done brilliantly from the very beginning, and he has become a very important player for Liverpool."

Kuyt also believes Suarez will continue to improve as the Uruguayan becomes more familiar with the rigours of the English game.

“But it is my belief he will be even better in the future. He's a great player already, but it still takes time to settle in, coming from Holland," he added.

“He's still young, so he has time on his side to get used to new team-mates, and to get used to the Premier League properly.”

Dalglish Gives Injury Latest

Kenny Dalglish has confirmed that Daniel Agger has returned to training for Liverpool, with the centre-back close to a full recovery from injury.

Agger left the pitch with a fractured rib in Liverpool’s match with Tottenham a week and a half ago, and many feared he would be out for at least three or four weeks.

But now Dalglish insists that Agger is close to being included in the squad once more, along with Glen Johnson, who suffered a hamstring problem.

"Daniel Agger is back training today and Glen Johnson is on his way as well,” Dalglish said.

"Everybody else has trained fully."

After Steven Gerrard made a return to action for Liverpool against Brighton in the Carling Cup, and came on again for the Reds against Wolves the following week, the skipper looks closer than ever to receiving a place in the starting line up.

But Dalglish is still insistent that Gerrard won’t be rushed, with the manager desperate to keep his star midfielder as fit as possible in preparation for the rest of the season.

“The game is not the important thing - Steven Gerrard is more important,” Dalglish explained. “As we've said before, we'll manage Steven as well as we possibly can."

Liverpool play Everton this weekend in the Merseyside derby, and the match will mark Dalglish’s return to Goodison Park for the first time since he managed Liverpool to a 4-4 draw with the Toffees, and resigned days later, in 1991.

Distin Plots Suarez Shutout

Sylvain Distin has sung the praises of Luis Suarez, but the Frenchman does not fear the Liverpool striker as the Merseyside derby approaches.

The Reds cross Stanley Park to face the Blues at Goodison Park on Saturday, as Kenny Dalglish returns to the dugout for the derby for the first time in 20 years.

The Liverpool boss quit shortly after he saw his side draw 4-4 with Everton in 1991 and the weekend is sure to be an emotional affair.

Distin, meanwhile, has earmarked Suarez as the man likely to be the ringleader of Everton's tormentors, but expects to be able to deal with the threat of the 24-year-old.

“Luis seems to be a great player, an amazing player with great quality who can score goals. But he won’t be the first great striker I have played against," the Toffees centre-back told the Liverpool Echo.

“I have been here for 10 years, I don’t know how many games I have played, but I have played against players like Thierry Henry, Alan Shearer, Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka, Fernando Torres. I could give you 50 names of top strikers I have played against.
“I played against [Edin] Dzeko and Aguero last weekend, so it is just going to be another good challenge, and one which I will enjoy. I can’t wait.

“I actually think Aguero and Suarez are very similar in the way they are built physically, and the way they play. It will be another good test.”

Liverpool Ready Shock Bid For Former Arsenal Midfielder

Liverpool are reportedly watching former Arsenal midfielder Havard Nordtveit with a keen eye, as the Borussia Munchengladbach youngster continues to impress in the German Bundesliga.

The news is surprising given Nordveit’s inability to break into the Gunners first team despite serving there for three years, but reports are emerging that Arsene Wenger reluctantly sold the Norweigian as he realized the youngster needed more first team opportunities.

Nordtveit was sent out on loan moves to Salamanca, Lillestrom and FC Nuremburg, becoming a more important asset to each club every time he moved.

Eventually signing for Borussia Munchengladbach at the end of 2010 for just £800,000, Nordtveit has since developed into a competent player, earning his first cap for Norway and establishing himself as a key first team player for his new club.

With Liverpool trying to rebuild for the future, the club have identified 21-year-old Nordtveit as a potential defensive focal point for the team. The youngster is versatile – he can operate from a central defensive or midfield position – and fits the criteria set out by Liverpool owners the Fenway Sports Group, who claim new signings must be young enough to have a potential re-sale value.

Reports are suggesting that Nordtveit currently has a valuation of £5 million, though it has been suggested that Borussia Munchengladbach will hold out in the hope that Liverpool’s interest can spark a bidding war with other European clubs. Featuring 20 times already for the German side since arriving, they will not be keen to lose a player who has progressed impressively in a matter of months.

Roma To Rival Liverpool For Teenage Brazilian Star

Roma have emerged as Liverpool's strongest competition to land Brazilian star Lucas.

The talented playmaker, not to be confused with Liverpool's Lucas Leiva, is one of the most wanted teen stars on the planet.

Full name Lucas Rodrigues Moura da Silva, the 19-year-old was courted by Liverpool back in the summer as Damien Comolli searched across the globe for reinforcements.

Sao Paulo, however, were adamant Lucas would not leave in the summer and they have been true to their word.

But there is a growing feeling at the club that they will be unable to hold on to Lucas for much longer as he is keen to move to a major European league.

While Liverpool still admire the player, Roma are the latest to express an interest and sporting director Walter Sabatini is eager to schedule meetings with Sao Paulo ahead of the January transfer window.

Roma feel by scheduling meetings with the club and establishing a relationship would give them the edge over Liverpool.

Lucas, now a full Brazil international, has not expressed a preference for a specific club but Roma are confident they can persuade him to move to Serie A instead of Anfield.

South American Starlet Plays Down Liverpool Move

Bologna's highly rated midfielder Gaston Ramirez has played down talk that he is leaving the Rossoblu, amid reports Liverpool are leading the chase for his signature reports

The 20-year-old Uruguayan international is the latest South American starlet to be linked with a move to the Barclays Premier League.

Sources indicated last month, that Ramirez was on Reds boss Kenny Dalglish's radar, and the Merseysiders could look to tempt him into a move to Anfield to link-up with fellow compatriots Luis Suarez and Sebastian Coates.

Liverpool director of football Damien Comolli has been instrumental in improving club liaisons in Uruguay, having recently announced a partnership with club Nacional.

Speculation linking the Reds with a January bid for Ramirez continues to gather pace, but the player remains unperturbed by the constant rumours, insisting he is happy in Italy.

"This summer there was talk of many things that are not true," he told local Italian press. "There are just journalists who invented things.

"I have never spoken, and if I did it would have fed what they said. I want to be here in Bologna - I'm fine and they are nice to me."

Jordan Henderson Is Looking To Create His Own Legacy At Liverpool

Jordan Henderson laughs when he hears a comparison between himself and Steven Gerrard.

It is not that he finds the parallels between both players absurd - they are both two versatile box-to-box midfielders – but Liverpool’s highest-priced signing of the summer - at a reported £20 million - has his own ambitions. He wants to create his own legacy at the storied club.

"It’s not a bad comparison but I think Steven Gerrard is Steven Gerrard and I think I just have to be myself," Henderson explained exclusively to "I have to do what I do best and not concentrate on anyone else."

The 21-year-old has said that Gerrard is his favourite player but that’s not the reason why he came to Anfield. Speaking to as part of Umbro’s Geometra Boot campaign, he admitted that leaving Sunderland, the club where he rose from an academy player to professional star, was a tough decision considering the Tyneside club's fans are equally passionate as those on Merseyside.

But Henderson knew that in order to become one of the the Premier League's top players, he would have to join one of its biggest teams. The challenge of bringing success back to Liverpool, a club with great tradition which hasn’t won a domestic title since the year that he was born, in 1990, was too good of an opportunity to ignore.

"Liverpool is a massive club and I thought this would be a massive opportunity for me," said Henderson.

"They’ve got some great players and the history speaks for itself. I think the main thing going to Liverpool, was it was another chapter [of my career] and I wanted to prove myself as a player."

Inconsistency has plagued the Reds since their stunning 2005 Champions League’s win over AC Milan in Istanbul. The opening of this season has been no different. Liverpool have at times played tantalizing football and secured quality wins over Bolton and Arsenal, but at other times have looked out of sync, playing uninspiredly in a 1-0 defeat against Stoke and flat out terrible in their 4-0 rout by Tottenham.

Liverpool sit fifth in the Premier League table with 10 points in six matches, but Henderson acknowledges that the aim has to be much bigger.

“Obviously, it would be nice to finish in the top four,” said Henderson, who has one goal so far this season.

More than anything, time and patience is the biggest factors that will eventually lead the Reds from a good team to one of England’s elite, according to Henderson.

In addition to Henderson, Liverpool signed Charlie Adam, Jose Enrique, Craig Bellamy, Sebastian Coates and Stewart Downing this summer. Add those names to the club’s expensive outlays in January in forward tandem Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll, and it is easy to understand why the new-look team has struggled at times.

There is obviously a lack of coordination and chemistry, even though Henderson says the locker room support among players has been great. Once that translates on the pitch, manager Kenny Dalglish’s vision for the club will be realized, says Henderson.

"The atmosphere's been good and the lads are getting on well so I think there's a lot of new faces and we need to just get together and keep going," the midfielder said.

He added: "I think we’ve showed some good things [so far]. Obviously, there has been a lot of new signings on the team that is still trying to get together but we’ve put together some good results. When things come together, we'll start winning more games."

As for Dalglish, count Henderson as one of his fans. The young player says that he understands how the Anfield legend has transitioned so seamlessly back into management in spite of the demands of today’s modern players.

"He treats everyone with respect and he expects players to treat him with the same respect," said Henderson. "He's great with the players because he was a player once, he knows how to handle players in the way he speaks to them and treats them."

A central midfielder during his time at Sunderland, Henderson has been used by Dalglish in a variety of positions, but primarily on the right side of the midfield, hoping to take advantage of Henderson's electric pace to add width. The adjustment has shown some promise and Henderson says the most important thing is that he is on the field contributing to the team's results.

"It's a good thing to be able to play in a few different positions but the most important thing is that I'm picked," he said. "All I want to do is play football. As long as I’m in the starting XI then it doesn't matter where I fit."

In addition, Henderson believes that his two greatest strengths as a player, his work rate and eye for creating goals, will allow him to develop well in the role. Last season, he created 82 goal-scoring chances for his Sunderland team-mates, the fourth highest in the Premier League.

"I think I bring a lot of energy to the team and passing as well," he said. "Obviously, when I'm playing in a wide position, I try to deliver as much as I can to the strikers and hopefully I would think I'm okay at that but I'll keep working to get better."

Henderson might have downplayed the comparison between himself and Gerrard but that doesn’t mean that he is not hoping to learn from the Reds icon. Prior to joining Liverpool, Henderson trained with the 31-year-old before making his first cap with England in a friendly last year against France.

Gerrard, who started alongside Henderson, calls that period a great experience. Now that the two are team-mates, he expects that the club captain will guide him in becoming a more complete player.

"To be training with him every day and hopefully playing alongside him, in the end it will help me and bring me further as a player," said Henderson.