Thursday, March 29, 2012

Reds To Tour North America

Liverpool has announced that they will face Roma in a pre-season friendly in Boston during a trip to North America this summer.

The Reds will play the Italian giants on 25th July at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, who share owners with the Anfield club.

The match will form part of the ballpark's 100th anniversary celebrations.

Manager Kenny Dalglish said: "We had a great time playing in front of our supporters in Asia last year and it will be good to give our fans in North America the chance to watch us live this summer."

The full schedule for the tour will be announced in due course but Liverpool's main base will be in Boston and they will train at Harvard University.

Managing director Ian Ayre is also looking forward to the tour, saying "It's been a few years since we last travelled to North America to play, but everyone's very excited about our plans for this summer.

"We'll work closely with our main sponsor Standard Chartered and our other partners in the region to put together a fantastic tour schedule, which will hopefully see us engage with as many fans as possible.

"Taking on AS Roma at Fenway Park will be a great experience, particularly as the ballpark is currently celebrating its 100th anniversary."

Carroll Nervous About Newcastle Return

Andy Caroll has admitted that he is feeling the nerves as Liverpool prepare to play Newcastle on Sunday in what will be a vital game for both clubs ambitions of achieving a top six finish.

Liverpool are currently eight points behind Newcastle who are level on points with Chelsea after a fantastic season that has seen Alan Pardew's side shock most pundits and observers.

However, it is an even more important game for Caroll who left Newcastle in January last year for £35million but has struggled to repeat his goal scoring exploits with Liverpool.

"I don't usually get nervous but this might be a bit different," Carroll told The Sun. "All of my family and friends will be there but they're so big on football I'm not sure who they'll be supporting.

"It's great to see Newcastle doing so well. I support them, was brought up there and was lucky enough to have played for them. They will always mean something."

Should Newcastle manage to beat Liverpool then they are almost certain to finish at least in sixth place, while the Reds can drop as low as ninth depending on other fixtures.

Dalglish has begun to come under pressure after spending so much money since taking over from Roy Hodgson but he has seen his club achieve cup success.

The Reds have already won the Carling Cup and will travel to Wembley to play their Merseyside rivals Everton in the FA Cup semi-final next month.

Skrtel Deserving Of Liverpool Plaudits

It’s been a season of ups and downs for Liverpool, winning a piece of silverware in the shape of the Carling Cup but losing pace in the Premier League and almost certainly missing out on a top four finish.

And, should the Reds navigate an FA Cup semi-final against Merseyside rivals Everton, another domestic final could be on the agenda before the season culminates in May.

Of course, recent form in the English top flight has put a bit of a dampener on things at Anfield, with five defeats in six league matches hardly the form of world-beaters.

But, whilst the manager is receiving a certain level of criticism for the recent poor run, Kenny Dalglish must be credited with helping to get the very best out of defender Martin Skrtel.

The Slovak international’s presence at the club was already growing when ‘King Kenny’ took charge last January, and the Scot continued the 27-year-old’s momentum by playing him in every league match last season.

This term, things are much the same, and whilst the former Zenit St. Petersburg man has missed a couple of fixtures, he’s featured 28 times in the league and 36 in all competitions.

With injuries to Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger at different stages of the season, Skrtel has needed to take on a huge amount of responsibility in the side, and has been one of the veterans on the pitch in a lot of matches – especially during the periods of injury for Steven Gerrard too.

"I'm not sure how many years he has been here but he's improved every season," noted defensive colleague Daniel Agger earlier in the week.

"This year he has become better and better. I think in most games he has been our man of the match."

Summer signing Sebastian Coates was also quick to herald his teammate in the past few days, admitting he’s happy to bide his time at Anfield and learn in the shadow of Skrtel.

"Martin has been outstanding this season and is an example to me because he originally came from a completely different country with an alternate philosophy on football and has made himself a success,” said the Uruguayan international.

"During the sessions I watch all of my teammates closely because you can learn from any position, not just your own.”

For many years, it was Jamie Carragher whom young players looked up to at the club, with any foreign import hoping to emulate the club’s legendary defender.

But, with the former England international now in the twilight of his career and used more sparingly by manager Dalglish, it is Skrtel who now sets the model for other players to follow at the club.

It’s understandable, given his ferocity and vision at the back. Skrtel has won 80% of his aerial battles in the league this term, and on the ground won 76% of tackles made. His discipline is also pretty solid, with just one red card and two yellows.

A regular in the cup competitions, his equalizer against Cardiff in the Carling Cup final at Wembley was vital, and one goal in this season’s run to the FA Cup semi-final isn’t bad going for a centre back either. He’s notched four goals in all competitions.

Dalglish can’t take all the plaudits though, as Skrtel bided his time in his first two seasons at the club before capitalizing when the senior chances fell his way. Supporters will be hoping that Coates can follow suit and come of age at the club – if not next season then the following year.

His hard work and effort on the training ground has paid major dividends, and there is little doubt that the 53-cap international should win the team's player of the year award this term.

And, whilst Liverpool have struggled as a team, a case could be made for the centre half to be included in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year when their awards ceremony comes around in April.

Liverpool Linked With Renewed Diego Approach

Liverpool could reportedly renew their interest in Brazil international Diego this summer, although he has not ruled out a move back to Wolfsburg.

The 27-year-old has spent this season on loan with Atletico Madrid, having fallen out with the Wolfsburg hierarchy after a series of misdemeanours at the German club.

According to talkSPORT, Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish had been keen to bring Diego to Anfield last year, and was considering another approach for the playmaker at the end of this season.

However, it would appear that Dalglish's chances of securing Diego's signature have suffered a setback, with a return to Wolsfburg now a possibility.

"Anything can happen. It is not only in my hands. I did many things wrong in Wolfsburg," Diego said, according to talkSPORT.

Diego made 32 appearances for Wolfsburg after only one season at the Volkswagen Arena, following a €15 million transfer from Juventus.

This season, he has scored three goals in 21 appearances for Atleti, who have the opportunity to sign him on a permanent basis when the loan agreement expires.

Liverpool Track €15m Lazio Midfielder

Liverpool are reportedly monitoring the progress of highly-rated Lazio midfielder Hernanes, although may face competition for his signature.

The 26-year-old Brazilian has scored 21 goals in 65 appearances for the Biancocelesti since moving to the Stadio Olimpico in the summer of 2010, and appears to be attracting plenty of interest.

According to Tuttomercatoweb, Liverpool are one of three clubs chasing the €15 million-rated former Sao Paulo star, with Juventus and Bayern Munich also in the race for his signature.

It is not the first time Hernanes has been linked with a move to Anfield, with Liverpool reported to have been considering a move for him prior to his switch to Lazio.

Whether or not an official approach transpired remains to be seen, but Hernanes eventually signed for Lazio in a deal worth some €11 million.

Benitez Plays Down Liverpool Return

Former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has expressed his desire to find a new managerial role in the Premier League but has distanced himself from a return to Anfield.

The Spanish manager, who is currently without a club, claimed that he would be pleased to make a Reds comeback one day, but is not currently pushing the move out of respect for the club and current boss Kenny Dalglish.

Benitez left Anfield after his contract was ended by mutual consent in 2010 and went on to spend less than a season at Italian club Inter, but has claimed that his heart pines for a new job in England.

Speaking at the Soccerex conference in Manchester, the 51-year-old said: "Every time that I talk about Liverpool. I try to be respectful because of my relationship with the fans and the city.

"I'm a professional and I'm looking for a new job. At this time Kenny is the manager and I have a lot of respect for him.

"No rush. If Kenny retires in 10 years and I'm available, I would be pleased.

"I want to manage in the Premier League because I know, with my team, we can win trophies."

Dalglish has come under criticism of late as he has failed to carry the Reds' fine cup form into their Premier League campaign this season, with Liverpool currently sitting in a disappointing 7th in the table despite having won the League Cup and setting up an FA Cup semi-final clash with local rivals Everton.

Houllier Calls For Dalglish To Be Given More Time

Gerard Houllier has said that no amount of cup success will quell the "obsession" with the league title at Anfield -- but insisted that Kenny Dalglish needs at least another year to make a success of his second tenure as Liverpool manager.

The Frenchman, Liverpool manager from 1998 to 2004, said there is "too much expectation" at Anfield, but reflected also on the way that managers' reputations diminish too abruptly in football.

"In football, you can go from the attic to the basement very quickly so one day he is the hero and the next day he is the zero," Houllier said. "You have to be careful. Liverpool need another year to kick in. They have had a lot of recruitment done and a lot of problems, so give him some time.

"There was a time when David Moyes was criticized and Arsene (Wenger) was criticized -- see where they are now. It is a rollercoaster. They won the League Cup the same way we did in 2001. It is a good sign for the future. I think he is heading in the same direction."

Only Wolves have taken fewer Premier League points than Liverpool since January 1, and Dalglish's haul of eight from a possible 33 in 2012 is less than the total managed by predecessor Roy Hodgson in his last 11 games.

Gerrard Backs New Campaign

Steven Gerrard has lent his support to a new initiative that aims to tackle the growing issue of obesity and associated disease in youngsters in the UK.

The Liverpool Football Club Foundation teamed up with the Zesh Rehman Foundation to pilot the 'Get Up, Get Moving' project at the city's Shorefields secondary school.

Gerrard is the ambassador of the educational initiative, which has been designed to increase awareness of physical activity, healthy eating and consequences of inactivity and poor lifestyle choices.

The UK has one of the highest rates of obesity and inactivity in Europe and the rest of the world - and statistics are on the increase.

Get Up, Get Moving believes prevention is better than cure and therefore aspires to educate children on the importance of healthier lifestyles now.

The messages are promoted via five one-hour lectures (which is how much physical activity is recommended for children per day) and is delivered by the school teachers, who are supplied with all relevant materials.

This pilot project is headed up by Liverpool's first-team doctor, Dr. Zaf Iqbal and Irfan Kawri, the Zesh Rehman Foundation's north-west coordinator.

After two small pilot studies in Manchester, the pair were delighted to bring the program to Liverpool and are confident the increase in knowledge and awareness amongst youngsters will continue.

Dr. Iqbal said: "It's very important. If we just look at current figures, every day we read in newspapers about the increasing rates of obesity and this, unfortunately, is going to cause massive problems in the future.

"Britain has one of the highest rates of obesity in both adults and kids, and associated with this are the chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. This will have a huge impact on the individual, and also on the NHS in terms of cost.

"I've been involved in promoting physical activity in various community groups over the last eight years. I heard about the Zesh Rehman foundation and they then made contact with me. Together, we came up with this project - and because I am working at Liverpool Football Club, we thought it would be a good idea to use the power of LFC to add to the message we are trying to get across."

Dr. Iqbal is delighted to have the support of Gerrard, whose appearance as Shorefields helped enforce the positive messages of Get Up, Get Moving.

He added: "It's absolutely fantastic to have someone like Steven Gerrard become the ambassador for the project. He's got kids himself and as a sportsman, he's aware of the importance of healthy eating. To have his profile attached to this message is fantastic."