Monday, April 30, 2012

Match Report: Norwich City 0 - 3 Liverpool

Luis Suarez netted a stunning hat-trick as Liverpool warmed up for the FA Cup final with a comfortable 3-0 win at Norwich.

The Uruguayan struck twice in the space of four minutes midway through the first half to put the Reds in command.

After Norwich - who are all but secure of a place in the Barclays Premier League heading into their final two games - rallied briefly, Suarez completed his treble eight minutes from time with an audacious lob from just inside the Norwich half to give Kenny Dalglish's men the perfect tonic ahead of their Wembley date with Champions League finalists Chelsea next Saturday.

Reds captain Steven Gerrard had been restored to the starting XI after being rested for last weekend's disappointing home defeat by West Brom which was a seventh in 10 Premier League games.

The Carrow Road pitch had been drenched for several hours this afternoon, making for testing conditions during the opening exchanges.

Norwich winger Anthony Pilkington slipped as he looked to cut back inside after getting clear down the left, before keeper John Ruddy was also on the floor at the edge of the penalty area as the ball squirmed loose.

On eight minutes, Norwich left-back Adam Drury pulled up with a groin injury and was eventually replaced by Russell Martin.

Despite Liverpool having the better of possession, Norwich fashioned the first real opening when Pilkington got away down the left again, and his low centre was hacked clear by Jamie Carragher with Steve Morison waiting at the back post.

Craig Bellamy - who came through the Norfolk club's youth team before being sold to Coventry for £6.5million in August 2000 - moved down the Norwich left and floated a cross into the area, but Stewart Downing lost his footing and somehow could only hack the ball back out of the box.

The visitors went in front on 24 minutes.

Gerrard battled to win the ball out on the left from David Fox, and fed Suarez, who took one touch on into the Norwich area before lashing home into the top-right corner.

It was almost 2-0 soon after when Suarez stretched the hosts again down the right and crossed for Gerrard, whose goalbound effort hit Ryan Bennett and flew behind, as the Reds appealed for what would have been a harsh handball against the defender.

Liverpool, though, did double their lead on 28 minutes.

Again Suarez was proving too much for the Norwich defence to handle, as this time he robbed Elliott Ward following a short pass out on the right and darted into the box, before this time drilling a low strike across Ruddy and into the bottom corner.

Liverpool's quick double salvo had silenced the home crowd and the visitors were now in cruise control heading into half-time.

Norwich made a change for the start of the second period as former Everton striker James Vaughan, back from a series of niggling injuries, replaced Fox.

It was a lively return by the home side, who forced a couple of corners.

Elliott Bennett forced Jose Reina into a full-stretch save with a fierce 20-yard strike, while Bradley Johnson glanced his header wide from the resulting corner.

Liverpool almost put the game beyond Norwich on 51 minutes when was played in down the right and his cross caused panic in the Norwich six-yard box before Jonjo Shelvey headed against the crossbar.

The former Charlton midfielder then somehow failed to make contact with a low ball across the face of goal from Jose Enrique.

Ruddy made another good stop to deny Downing as the England man cut in from the right and flashed in a low shot.

As the hour mark passed, it was all Liverpool.

Suarez was played through on goal in the 65th minute.

However, the Uruguay forward tried a cheeky chip from 12 yards, which floated over the keeper and cleared the crossbar - much to the amusement of the Norwich faithful behind the goal.

With 15 minutes left, Norwich sent on captain Grant Holt, who had scored in the 1-1 draw at Anfield earlier this season, as he replaced Morison.

Bradley Johnson let fly from 25 yards, but was well off target, which just about summed up the afternoon's display by the home side.

Suarez completed his hat-trick on 82 minutes as this time his perfectly-weighted lob over Ruddy from just inside the Norwich half dropped into the net.

Dalglish Praises Whole Team

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish preferred to hand praise to his whole team rather than single out hat-trick hero Luis Suarez after their 3-0 win at Norwich.

The Reds went into the game at Carrow Road having won just three of their last 15 Premier League matches, losing nine in that run.

But the manner of the Merseysiders' performance pleased the Scot more than the Uruguayan's goalscoring heroics as they ran out easy winners.

"It's all part of the team performance, they were three great goals for us," Dalglish told ESPN.

"It was a fantastic performance but we've played like that plenty of times this season, there've been games we've played even better and come away without anything.

"It's even more credit to them that they keep going out there and believing in their ability and we've won easily on Saturday."

Liverpool still managed their habitual strike of the woodwork when Jonjo Shelvey headed against the crossbar, and the midfielder also failed to find an unguarded net when sliding into the six-yard box.

Dalglish said: "We'll forgive it when we're 2-0 up - we've done it again but at least we've won on Saturday and got the three goals."

Gerrard Hails Special Suarez

Steven Gerrard revealed he was ready to give Liverpool striker Luis Suarez both barrels when he let fly from 45 yards to complete a sensational hat-trick against Norwich at Carrow Road.

Liverpool warmed up for next week's FA Cup final against Chelsea with a comfortable victory at Carrow Road.

The Uruguay international netted twice in the space of four first-half minutes before brilliantly chipping goalkeeper John Ruddy from just inside the Canaries half late on.

Suarez had wasted an earlier opportunity to add to his two clinical first-half strikes when he lobbed over the bar from the edge of the penalty area, but Gerrard told ESPN: "That's the type of player he is, but I still had confidence he could get the third."

Recalling the eventual spectacular clincher, he added: "It was just on the tip of my tongue to give him a b******ing but then he did that.

"He's a special player, his movement's first class and it makes my job as a midfielder easier alongside him.

"He's a top player, one of the best in the world on his day, and today was his day. It was great finishing and we as a team could have had more."

A home game with Fulham on Tuesday night represents Liverpool's final dress rehearsal for Saturday's Wembley date with Chelsea and Gerrard continued: "We've got to beat Fulham first, we'll take each game as it comes and we want to go into the cup final in good form.

"We're excited, we've done really well in the cups this year and we deserve to be in the final but it would be silly and naive to focus on the final with league games to come."

Spearing Never Considered Switch

Jay Spearing insists leaving Liverpool has never crossed his mind, despite seeing a number of international stars drafted into the Anfield ranks.

A product of the Reds' academy system, Spearing has faced a fight to be noticed at senior level.

While the likes of Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher have paved the way for home-grown stars, Liverpool has bolstered their squad with big-money additions on a regular basis.

A number of those - such as Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam - have been brought in to swell the midfield options at Anfield, providing direct competition to Spearing.

The 23-year-old has stepped up to the challenge, though, and claims he has never considered quitting the club in order to find regular games elsewhere.

"With the club that I'm at, I knew there'd be big players going to want to come to this club," Spearing told the Independent on Sunday.

"I thought to myself I would get myself ready and fight and earn the place I personally think I deserve.

"I had that confidence to prove to the boss exactly what I could do. There was never any inkling to move on. Liverpool is where I have always wanted to be a part of.

"I want to get better and follow in the footsteps of players like Steven Gerrard, who also came through the academy like me, and if I can do that I will be very happy."

Spearing rightly considers the 2010/11 campaign to have been a breakthrough year for him, with 20 appearances made and his progress rewarded with a new contract.

"I was fortunate enough last season for the manager to put me in for the last 10 or 11 games on the bounce and that gave me a lot of confidence going into the summer," he said.

"I sat down with my family and my agent and we said that this year was going to be a big year to show exactly what I'm all about.

"We knew new players would come in and that was something I'd have to deal with. I had to show my capabilities of competing against them and try to get in the first XI before they do.

"It took a little while to stamp my mark but towards Christmas I hopefully proved to people what I'm all about."

Maxi Considers Future

Liverpool midfielder Maxi Rodriguez has admitted that he is considering quitting the club this summer.

The Argentine has been restricted to just seven Premier League starts this season, but he has still managed to claim four goals for The Reds.

But the former Atletico Madrid ace is not happy about being a squad player at Anfield.

"I'm not playing the amount of minutes that I want to play," he told The People.

"When I play, I take my chances and do a good job. I score goals.

"I don't know if I will stay for next season, that's the truth. I will decide at the end of the season.

"All the people here have treated me well, but I want more minutes."

Feyenoord Miss Out On Kuyt

Feyenoord sporting director Martin van Geel said Dirk Kuyt is unlikely to leave Liverpool at the end of the season.

The Rotterdam side has earmarked the attacker as the perfect replacement for on-loan star John Guidetti, who is expected to return to Manchester City this summer.

Van Geel admitted, however, that financial issues complicate matters.

"Dirk would fit in really well here, and we would love to see him return this summer. However, our chances of re-signing him this summer are very slim," Van Geel told Eredivisie Live.

"Even if we manage to qualify for the Champions League, which will not increase our budget for new players.

"We don't include income from European games in our budget, so we can't afford any big expenses."

The 31-year-old Kuyt has also been linked with clubs such as Roma and Hamburg in the past few months.

Reina Makes Form Claim

Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina insists the Reds are a better team now than they were this time last year.

The Reds form in the Premier League has been poor since the turn of the year but they have excelled in the Cups, winning the Carling Cup and getting to the final of the FA Cup where they face Chelsea next month.

The Reds are currently eighth in the Premier League, but the Spaniard believes the Cup success shows they are a better team than they were 12 months ago.

"There's no doubt we've improved from last season already," Reina told LFC Magazine. "We've won the Carling Cup with the possibility of a second while also qualifying for Europe.

"The target of the club is still to get back in the Champions League. But before the start of the season, if someone had said we'd win the Carling Cup, reach the final of the FA Cup, as well as getting seventh, probably most people would have taken that.

"It's always good to go back to winning days. Some people might say the Carling Cup is not that important but, at the end of the day, it's a trophy. We knocked out Stoke, Chelsea and Manchester City.

"It was not easy. So it was a well-deserved success and I was pleased to be part of it."

Johnson Eyes Champions League

Glen Johnson admits getting back into the Champions League remains Liverpool's priority but he is satisfied with this season.

Reds defender Johnson admits Liverpool are disappointed that they have not secured a top-four finish this season and will not be taking part in the Champions League next season.

However, the defender feels if Liverpool can win the FA Cup the current campaign can be considered a success, having already landed the Carling Cup title this season.

"Of course, we'd like to be in the Champions League - and that was the aim at the start of the season, to finish in the top four," Johnson told the club's official website.

"But we can't do that now and if we come away with two medals then you can't say it's a negative season. Last season we didn't have any medals or the top four.

"It's an improvement on last season but the main priority is still to get in the top four."

Dalglish Reveals Liverpool Transfer Fund

Kenny Dalglish has revealed Liverpool have the funds to delve into the transfer market once more this summer.

Liverpool have spent big since Dalglish took over the club last January, and splashed over £100 million on the likes of Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson in 2011.

However despite that heavy investment the Reds have failed to make an impact on the Premier League table and currently occupy eighth spot, although they have secured a place in the FA Cup final to go along with their Carling Cup success in February.

“We will have money to spend, whoever it’s on,” Dalglish told the Daily Mirror.

“Whether it’s the FA Cup money, Raul [Meireles] being sold to Chelsea [last summer] or from commercial sources, it doesn’t matter where it comes from.

“It all goes into the coffers. The money which is there for us to spend ... we will get whatever they can give us,” he added.

The Liverpool boss also confirmed that, despite the departure of director of football, Damien Comolli who dealt with the club’s transfers, that they hadn’t been twiddling their thumbs ahead of what could be another busy summer.

“We’re not idle,” Dalglish said. “The owners haven’t decided how they are going to replace Damien, but that doesn’t mean the work has stopped.

“Anything we have got to do, we will continue to do the best we can until the owners make the decision on how they want Damien replaced.

“Then whoever comes in will just take up the conversations we have had. We know where we are going.

“We’re not happy with the number of points we have, but the performances have been really pleasing”

He added: “There are not a lot of changes needed but, like every other football club in the summer, there’s going to be transfer activity because that’s what players expect.

“They look at the football club and say ‘who are they going to bring in this summer?’ They want to be excited as much as the supporters want to be excited.

“We’ve only been at it since August. Although nobody is happy with the results we have had at home, I don’t think it’s been a bad turnaround.”

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Match Preview: Norwich vs Liverpool

Norwich striker James Vaughan is pressing for another Premier League start after his recovery from a frustrating injury spell.

Former Reds centre-back Zak Whitbread (hamstring) remains sidelined and will not be playing against his old club.

Fellow defenders Marc Tierney (groin) and Daniel Ayala (knee), another former Liverpool man, are ruled out of the season.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard returned to training during the week after being rested for the home defeat against West Brom.

However, with an FA Cup final in just over a week and two league matches to play before then manager Kenny Dalglish may look to protect some of his players, starting with Saturday's trip to Norwich.

Midfielder Charlie Adam's knee injury has ruled out a return before the end of the season.

Norwich (from): Ruddy, Ward, Naughton, Drury, Crofts, Pilkington, Surman, E Bennett, Fox, Hoolahan, Holt, Jackson, Morison, Wilbraham, Steer, Johnson, Martin, Howson, R Bennett, Vaughan.

Liverpool (from): Reina, Johnson, Flanagan, Kelly, Coates, Skrtel, Carragher, Agger, Enrique, Spearing, Shelvey, Gerrard, Henderson, Downing, Suarez, Carroll, Bellamy, Doni.

Dalglish Wants Results Over Style

Kenny Dalglish is prepared to see his side sacrifice their style for the sake of some results as they search for a winning formula.

Liverpool has struggled to secure victories this season as their expensively assembled attack has continually malfunctioned.

A familiar pattern was witnessed again last week against West Brom at Anfield, where the Reds dominated the game, but failed to find the decisive goals.

Dalglish's side have won just five games in front of their home fans this season and scored only 20 goals at Anfield over the course of the campaign.

And with the FA Cup final against Chelsea coming up next Saturday, Liverpool needs to build some confidence and moment ahead of the showpiece event.

"We want to win games but it would be nice if we were rubbish and won a game," said Dalglish.

"Our incentive is to get as much as we can from every game we play.

"We want to finish with as many wins and points as we possibly can and the incentive we have is just representing the football club as much as anything else.

"We have always set ourselves high standards in terms of the level of performance and there are not too many times when we've let ourselves down on that front.

"But winning is what it is all about and points on the board is what it is all about."

Liverpool's lack of a killer instinct has been illustrated by the fact they have hit the frame of the goal 30 times this season.

It is a statistic which grates their former player who believes their approach play and determined efforts are worthy of so much more.

He added: "There is no one happy with what has happened in games and we've said that in our post-match interviews.

"But nothing changes in the week to what we have said after the game. The less you have to change the easier it is and it is great credit to the players that they continue to get in there and try their best to win the matches.

"They show great resolve and determination - but I am repeating myself. We know that they are good players and that is not being arrogant or big-headed.

"There is not much more we can say and there are no answers coming up. Their performance level is very high so if they continue to play at that good level then eventually it is going to work for us."

Liverpool Close In On Bologna Midfielder

Liverpool may have moved a step closer to signing Uruguayan star Gaston Ramirez after his agent revealed they have received a bid from an un-named Premier League team for the Bologna midfielder.

Ramirez has been one of the star performers for his club side in Serie A and has been attracting interest from Kenny Dalglish.

The Liverpool manager is set to make a number of changes during the summer and has been strongly tipped to make a move for the 21-year-old.

According to Italian TV station TMW, Ramirez' agent Pablo Bentancur has confirmed that a Premier League club have made an offer for his client and a decision will be made at the end of the season.

Bentancur said: "Bologna have received an offer near to 20 million Euros from an important club in the Premier League.

"Bologna will decide at the end of the season what they are going to do."

Liverpool Will Face Competition For Highly-Rated Playmaker

It is believed that Liverpool will face strong competition from Turkish giants Galatasary if they follow up their rumoured interest in Keisuke Honda.

The Reds have been linked with the Japanese star for a number of weeks, and according to reports on TalkSport, are considering a summer move for the player.

However, the CSKA Moscow playmaker is hot property, with Lazio already having failed to lure him to Serie A in January.

Kenny Dalglish's men have struggled to find consistent league form, and it is widely expected that the Liverpool boss will venture into the transfer market.

With Dirk Kuyt expected to leave Anfield at the end of the season, Honda would be an adept replacement, with his ability at set-pieces one of the more outstanding attributes he possess.

Should Liverpool move for the 25 year-old though, it is expected that they will be met by Galatasaray who are hoping to make Honda their marquee signing of the summer.

Spurs And Liverpool Prepare To Battle It Out For Barca Star

Tottenham and Liverpool could be about to reignite their interest in Ibrahim Afellay after it was revealed that he is set to leave Barcelona on loan.

According to reports in Italy, Lazio are hoping to seal a deal to take the Dutch winger for the whole of next season, as he attempts to get his career back on track following a six-month injury lay-off.

Spurs and Liverpool both wanted to sign Afellay from Ajax before he joined Barca back in January 2011.

But he failed to establish himself at the club in his first nine months before the cruciate knee ligament injury struck last September.

Now a loan spell seems the most likely scenario, which could tempt a Premier League club to approach Barca this summer.

However, sources in Spain have suggested that unnamed English clubs have already been in touch with the reigning European champions about Afellay's availability this summer.

Ancelotti Confirms Paris Saint-Germain Interest In Suarez

Paris Saint-Germain boss Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed his interest in signing Liverpool striker Luis Suarez.

It was reported in February that the Ligue 1 giants were open to offering the Uruguay international a route out of England following his eight-game ban for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.

The link resurfaced earlier this week and, when Ancelotti was asked during an interview with PA if he would like to acquire the services of the Reds forward, the Italian replied: "Suarez is a good striker, yes."

Ancelotti also revealed that he expects to sign winger Florent Malouda from Chelsea during the summer, having failed with a previous attempt to land the Frenchman.

"We were interested in January, but I think in June we will have a different solution," the two-time Champions League winner claimed.

Addressing his departure from Stamford Bridge at the end of last season, just a year after he led the Blues to the double, Ancelotti insisted that he bore no ill will towards club owner Roman Abramovich for firing him on the back of a trophyless campaign.

"When I signed a contract for Chelsea it was very clear: If I couldn't win, I had to leave," he explained. "So, it was not a surprise."

Ancelotti insisted that he is currently enjoying the challenge of trying to establish PSG as a major force in European football but did admit that he would one day like to lead his country.

"Yes, it's a different job to train the [Italy] national team," the former AC Milan coach mused. "[It] could be another good experience."

PSG are currently second in Ligue 1, two points behind leaders Montpellier with five games remaining.

Gerrard Ready To Return

Liverpool boss Kenny Daglish has confirmed that captain Steven Gerrard is fully fit and there are no issues over his fitness.

Gerrard was left out of Sunday's defeat to West Brom, with worries over a hamstring injury.

But Daglish has admitted that it was a precaution to leave him out last week and he has been training all week with no issues.

With nothing but pride left to play for in the Premier League, Dalglish does not want to take any chances with the England international with an FA Cup final coming up in just over a week's time.

"He's fine, no problem," was the Scot's assessment on Gerrard.

"We said it was just a precaution so he's back training. He's been training all week, so there's no other problems."

Dalglish: Adam Out Of Olympics

Kenny Dalglish has confirmed that Charlie Adam will miss the remainder of Liverpool's season through injury, and does not expect the Scotland international to feature in this summer's Olympic Games.

Adam has not played for the Reds since the defeat to Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road in late March, and his knee injury will keep the 26-year-old out until next term.

That means Adam will miss Liverpool's final four Premier League fixtures but, the fact that he is now unavailable for the FA Cup final on May 5 will serve as a greater blow for the midfielder.

Meanwhile, Adam had reportedly been named on the 80-man shortlist to represent Great Britain at the Olympics, and would have been under consideration as one of the three 'over-age' players in Stuart Pearce's squad.

But Dalglish does not believe the former Blackpool captain would be fit in time to take part in the tournament, should he be selected.

"There is no operation needed but he won't play this season," Dalglish told his weekly press conference.

"And I would think if they had any designs on having him in the Olympics he wouldn't be fit for that either."

Dalglish Opens The Door For Aquilani Return

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish has insisted that he would be happy to have AC Milan loanee Alberto Aquilani back in the summer, but has urged the Italian giants to let the midfielder know where his future lies.

The Italian joined Liverpool for £16 million in 2009, but struggled to settle due to injuries and has since returned to his homeland in loan deals with Juventus and Milan.

The former Roma man has made 22 appearances this season, but has failed to start any of the last four games amidst rumours that Milan do not want to trigger the automatic £6m buy-out clause that will come into effect if he plays 25 games.

Dalglish expressed his frustration at the Italian champions’ conduct, but admits that he would welcome Aquilani back to Anfield.

"We've done everything right from our side, so how they want to play it and what they want to do, that's up to them," told reporters.

"If they don't want him, tell the boy you don't want him. They will do what they have to do. If they don't trigger it or they don't want him, it's not a problem.

"I'll be disappointed for the boy, but then he'll come back here as he's our player."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Carragher Calls For Improvement

Jamie Carragher has warned his Liverpool team-mates they will need to play for their FA Cup final places in the league fixtures against Norwich and Fulham.

The club have won the Carling Cup and beaten fierce rivals Everton to reach the Wembley showpiece against Chelsea.

But despite their heroics in cup competitions, Liverpool have one just once in the last six league games and have now slipped to eighth, two points behind their neighbours with four games left.

And Carragher is expecting the battle for FA Cup final places to be reflected by some much-improved performances as the league campaign draws to a close.

The 34-year-old defender told Liverpool's official website: "It's all to play for in terms of cup final places, but we're going into these games to get three points because we need to move up the table.

"Of course, if you perform well in these games, you have a greater chance of playing in the final.

"And certainly, we all want to play in the big games. There are two games now before the final and I'm sure the manager will mix it up because the Fulham game is just before the cup final.

"We'd like to finish above Everton but I'd rather win the semi-final, like we did against them, than if they were to finish above us."

Gerrard - Forget About FA Cup

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has urged his team-mates to forget about the FA Cup final - and concentrate on improving their league position.

Gerrard admits three top-flight wins in 2012 is not good enough for the Merseyside giants, who are facing their worst position and points tally since the launch of the Premier League.

And Reds forward Dirk Kuyt says the players will still not be satisfied with their league campaign, even if results improve in their final four games of the season.

Kenny Dalglish's men currently sit in eighth position and only four points separate them from 14th-placed Stoke.

They have enjoyed greater success in the domestic cup competitions, having won the League Cup by beating Cardiff in February and reaching the FA Cup showpiece at the expense of Mersey rivals Everton earlier this month.

But Gerrard said: "We know our league form hasn't been good enough, particularly in the second half of the season. We have to concentrate on getting it right - and forget about Chelsea in the FA Cup final."

Kuyt added: "Whatever happens between now and the end of the season, we will not be satisfied with our league position.

"We are playing for Liverpool and when you do that you have to win every game. We have lost too many games and too many league points.

"We can't look back, we want to change things and we have to do that now by winning as many games as possible between now and the end of the season."

Meanwhile, Liverpool will begin their pre-season tour of north America with a friendly against Toronto FC.

Major League Soccer outfit Toronto will host the Reds on 21 July.

The fixture will take place at the 47,000-capacity Rogers Centre, which is also the home of the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team.

Liverpool has already lined up a friendly against Roma on 25 July, at the home of the Boston Red Sox - who share the same owners in Fenway Sports Group.

The Reds will also play Premier League rivals Tottenham in Baltimore on 28 July.

Liverpool Told To Pay £10m To Land Hoffenheim Midfielder

Hoffenheim are hoping that they will be able to keep hold of midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson by slapping a £10million price tag on the player who has impressed for Swansea since joining on-loan in January.

The Iceland international moved to the Welsh side at the turn of the year and has scored seven league goals in his 14 appearances for the club, attracting the attention of a number of Premier League sides.

The Daily Mirror has reported that Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish watch the midfielder in action at the weekend against Bolton, while Everton sent coach Jimmy Lumsden and Manchester United asked Martin Ferguson to report on the youngster.

The paper goes on to explain that while Swansea would also like to keep Sigurdsson, the German side knows that there could be a bidding war and want at least £10m for the 22-year-old.

Liverpool have struggled for goals all season and especially from midfield where Jay Spearing and Stewart Downing have not scored a single league goal, while Jordan Hendeson has just one.

In fact Sigurdsson would be the second top league scorer in the Liverpool side, with Luis Saurez the only man to score more with eight league goals this season.

One factor that could possibly help Liverpool is that the German side are managed by former Red Markus Babbel who enjoyed a successful spell on Merseyside.

Liverpool Hoping To Improve Squad With Benfica Winger

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish knows that he must improve his squad in the summer after a difficult season in the league and it seems he will start by trying to sign Benfica winger Nolito.

According to Talksport, the midfielder is rated at £15million after joining the Portuguese side last summer on a free contract after decided to reject an offer from Barcelona.

The 25-year-old made more than 100 appearances for Barcelona B where he was managed by current Barca boss Pep Gaurdiola, but he struggled to make the transition to the first team.

After making the move to Benfica, Nolito has continued to impress both in the league and in Europe where he was a member of the side that knocked Manchester United out of the Champions League.

Nolito has scored eight league goals in 26 appearances, while he has scored three goals in 12 appearances in Europe, as Benfica reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

Talksport have reported that Portuguese newspaper Record believe that Liverpool are strong favourites to land the versatile midfielder who is contracted to Benfica until 2015.

Liverpool have struggled to find goals from midfielder all season, with Stewart Downing and Jay Spearing without a league goal, while Jordan Henderson has scored just one Premier league goal.

Dalglish Held Meeting With Inter Milan Striker

Liverpool have made an approach for Inter Milan striker Luc Castaignos in the hope of completing a summer deal for his services, reports in his native Holland have claimed.

Much was hoped of the 19-year-old when he moved to the San Siro from Feyenoord in June of last year, having scored 16 goals during his debut season in the Eredivisie.

But Castaignos has made only six appearances for Inter this season, five of which have come as a substitute, and he could yet leave the club after only one year in Milan.

According to esteemed Dutch football magazine Voetbal International, Liverpool are aware of his situation, and he has previously held a secret meeting with Kenny Dalglish regarding a move to Anfield.

The Liverpool boss reportedly informed the youngster he would like him to move to Merseyside during the January transfer window, but Inter have put any potential deal on hold until the summer.

Dalglish is now expected to reignite his interest in the youngster at the end of the season, in the hope of bolstering his goalscoring options in time for the next campaign.

Castaignos certainly has plenty of potential, and his acquisition could be seen as quite a coup for Liverpool.

Liverpool Consider Andy Carroll Loan

Liverpool will contemplate sending beleaguered striker Andy Carroll out on loan next season, as the Merseysiders plot a summer overhaul of their forward options.

Reds boss Kenny Dalglish is targeting up to five new players when the transfer window re-opens at the end of the season, and having seen his side score just 40 times in the league this term, adding extra fire power is a certain priority.

Valencia's Roberto Soldado, Athletic Bilbao's Fernando Llorente and FC Groningen's David Texeira are all under consideration by Dalglish, who has once again been promised substantial funds by owner John W. Henry, in a bid to continue revamping his under performing squad.

Yet the arrival of a big name striker will force Dalglish into making a decision on £35 million flop Andy Carroll - with talk on Merseyside suggesting he will be allowed to leave Anfield on a short-term loan deal, should the right offer arrive.

Dalglish toyed with the idea of letting Carroll quit the club last January, on the suggestion of then Director of Football Damien Comolli, but stuck with the 23-year-old, who has netted two crucial goals in his last three games.

However, if Liverpool can land a top quality partner for Luis Suarez, and can find a suitable club, Carroll will be allowed to move on loan until the New Year, in a bid to re-discover the form that saw him capped for England in 2010.

Elsewhere, Liverpool will also listen to offers for Dutch forward Dirk Kuyt - a target for Hamburg - while Dani Pacheco, currently on loan in La Liga, has been told he is free to negotiate a permanent transfer.

Exciting youngsters Nathan Eccleston, Jonjo Shelvey, Jon Flanagan and Raheem Sterling are also likely to leave, but only on loan, while Spain Under-19 winger Suso could be promoted to the first-team, if he continues his fine form for the reserves.

Clough Plans Raid For Liverpool Starlet Robinson

Derby boss Nigel Clough is set to raid his former club Liverpool for promising young defender Jack Robinson.

Clough has watched Robinson in action for the Reds' reserves and hopes to take the 18-year-old left-back on loan for the whole of next season.

Robinson, who became the youngest ever first-team player for Liverpool when he came on against Hull as a 16-year-old in 2010, has played twice in the Carling Cup this season.

After coming through the ranks at Anfield, Robinson signed a long-term contract towards the end of last year.

He said at the time: 'I've just got to keep working hard in training. I can't just sit back on this contract.

'I've got to keep improving and showing people what I'm about.'

Clough, who was a Liverpool player between 1993 and 1996, has steered the Rams to a mid-table finish in the Championship.

Liverpool Could Have Cole And Aquilani Back For Next Season

It had been assumed that Liverpool would sell both Joe Cole and Alberto Aquilani at the end of the season but it now seems as though the midfield duo could yet play for Liverpool again.

The decision was made by Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish to loan both players out after he signed Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing and Charlie Adam, but all three have failed to live up to expectation.

Yesterday it was revealed that Aquilani was no longer wanted by AC Milan and that the Italian club was keen for the midfielder not to make 25 starts as this would evoke a £6million transfer clause.

Should Milan decide not to keep the Italy international then he will be forced to return to Liverpool in the summer where it seems be could be teaming up with former Chelsea man Cole.

The Daily Mail has reported that Lille is struggling to find the money that would allow them to sign the creative midfielder who has impressed in France on his season-long loan.

Lille president Michel Seydoux has openly voiced his concerns that the club will not have the funds needed to sign the player who also has wages of around £90,000-a-week.

"It’s rare that an England international comes to France and that he then publicly declares he wants to stay," Seydoux is quoted as saying in the Daily Mail.

"We will see. I haven’t found a machine yet that lets you make beautiful bank notes by pedalling. It’s true that the league table will have a bearing on Lille’s recruitment."

Lille are currently third in Ligue 1 and there ability to sign Cole may well depend on them achieving Champions League football which would bring in extra revenue.

Both players have struggled to hold down a regular first team place when at Liverpool, but the Reds have struggled in the league this season and have been short of goals from midfield.

Liverpool Ready To Appoint Comolli Successor

Liverpool academy director Frank McParland is believed to be a strong candidate to replace Damien Comolli as the club's new director of football strategy.

McParland is being touted for the role according to the People, who claim that Kop boss Kenny Dalglish is keen on aligning himself with Liverpool's former chief scout.

Comolli parted ways with the club a fortnight ago after Liverpool's owners, the American-based Fenway Sports Group, reviewed the Frenchman's position following the big money acquisitions of Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing.

Liverpool co-chairman Tom Werner recently described Comolli's departure as the result of a “disconnect” in the club's transfer strategy.

Dutch legend Johan Cruyff has been mentioned as a potential candidate for the role. However, commenting on rumours that he was to join Liverpool's back-room staff, Cruyff said it was “just talk”.

Another name to be linked to the vacancy is former Barcelona sporting director Txiki Bergirstain, who is commended for helping mould the Spanish giants into the dominant force in European football.

However, it appears as though McParland is favourite among the Kop. McParland is credited with helping to develop the latest raft of players to come from Liverpool's Melwood academy. The emergence of Jay Spearing, Martin Kelly and John Flanagan have been in part down to McParland's ability to identify new talent.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Match Preview: Liverpool vs West Brom

Liverpool will aim to improve their stuttering Premier League form when they host Roy Hodgson's West Brom on Sunday.

The former Reds boss returns to Anfield for the first time since being sacked in January 2011, knowing his Albion side can move within just one point of Liverpool with a win.

And there is much to encourage the Baggies given that Liverpool have just one Premier League win at home in 2012 - and that was against an under-strength Everton side.

But Kenny Dalglish has reiterated his desire to finish the league season strongly despite the looming distraction of the FA Cup final on May 5th.

Indeed, with just three matches until that Wembley date with Chelsea and a near full-strength squad to choose from, Dalglish will be hoping his players will use the remaining games to push their claims for a place in the cup final.

The incentives for West Brom are less obvious and Hodgson has already admitted that, with the club having achieved its primary goal of survival, they will not be risking injured players in the run-in.

But with several stars playing for new contracts and encouraging recent form with six points from their last three games, the Baggies should still prove tricky opponents.

Liverpool welcome back Pepe Reina after serving his three-match ban so Brad Jones' time in the limelight is set to come to an end.

Andy Carroll is expected to continue up front but Dalglish could rotate in midfield given the options available.

In defence, Jose Enrique is pushing for a recall and could return in a reshuffled back four at the expense of Jamie Carragher, whose error allowed Everton to take the lead at Wembley last weekend.

Hodgson insists he will not rush back Zoltan Gera or James Morrison as they step up their training following injury.

Marc-Antoine Fortune is also unlikely to feature after struggling with a knock, but Jonas Olsson could return after missing the win against QPR as a precaution.

Possible starting XI

Liverpool: Reina; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique; Henderson, Gerrard, Spearing, Downing; Suarez, Carroll.

West Brom: Foster; Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell; Brunt, Andrews, Mulumbu, Dorrans; Odemwingie, Long.

Suarez Lauds Carroll Link-Up

Liverpool forward Luis Suarez claims playing alongside Andy Carroll makes life easier for him, with the pair showing signs of forming a devastating strike partnership.

Carroll has not enjoyed the easiest of times at Anfield since completing a £35million move from Newcastle to become the most expensive British player in history.

He has, however, shown signs over recent weeks that he is starting to settle on Merseyside and is capable of producing the kind of form which convinced the Reds to spend big on his services.

The England international has netted crucial goals in Premier League and FA Cup clashes and has looked dangerous alongside Suarez.

Liverpool's Uruguayan hit-man claims to be enjoying working with Carroll, with his physical attributes complementing his goal-getting abilities perfectly.

"I think it's great for us to have a player of his ability and style," Suarez told the Reds' official website.

"His height and his ability in the air and to bring the ball down makes it easy for us smaller forwards in the side to link up with him.

"You only have to be running alongside him and you find the ball at your feet.

"I think he's showing that his technique on the ground has really come on and I think in the games where he has featured recently we are now seeing the Andy that we've all been wanting to see and he's really contributing, which is important."