Thursday, April 12, 2012

Gerrard Wants Full Focus

Captain Steven Gerrard knows Liverpool cannot afford to get swept up by derby fever as they aim to reach a second cup final of the season.

Kenny Dalglish's Carling Cup winners are preparing to take on Merseyside rivals Everton in Saturday's FA Cup semi-final.

The two near-neighbours last met at Wembley in 1989 and, with the game coinciding with the 23rd anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, there is added poignancy.

Liverpool has defeated Everton twice this season, but Gerrard knows he and his players cannot allow their focus to drop.

"It's a proud day for me to lead the lads out at Wembley again and it's a proud day for the city," said the England international.

"It's a massive game and it's been a long time since Liverpool played Everton at Wembley so it's a fantastic occasion for the supporters.

"It's another important game for us players, we need to try and forget it's Everton and just focus on a really tough game on the day.

"We realize that it's important not to get ahead of ourselves. Although the game is at Wembley, it's still only a semi-final.

"There's still one massive hurdle to get over before we can get to the final. We still believe we can beat anyone, Everton included.

"What we have to do is make sure we're ready and focused and we concentrate on the game rather than the occasion."

Gerrard in March became the first Liverpool player to score a hat-trick in a Merseyside derby at Anfield since Fred Howe in 1935.

That result and Tuesday's last-gasp win at Blackburn will give the side a boost going in to Saturday' game.

"We've beaten Everton twice this year so that should give us belief and confidence, but we need to perform to the same levels at Wembley to get the same result," Gerrard told Liverpool's official website.

"We believe that we have the players in our squad capable of doing the job on the day but we all need to deliver good performances - all the players.

"To reach two major cup finals in the same season would be a fantastic achievement."

Jones Is Ready For Wembley

Brad Jones is still getting used to the fact that he has been thrust into the Liverpool spotlight, but claims he is ready for a day out at Wembley.

As third-choice goalkeeper at Anfield, the Australian shot-stopper was not expecting to see a lot of first-team action this season.

He has, however, seen Kenny Dalglish suffer something of a shot-stopping crisis, with Jose Reina and Alexander Doni forced to serve suspensions after picking up red cards.

Doni's dismissal against Blackburn on Tuesday saw Jones called from the bench, and he helped the Reds to a dramatic 3-2 victory.

Success at Ewood Park has offered Liverpool a welcome pick-me-up ahead of Saturday's FA Cup semi-final against Merseyside rivals Everton, with it vital they established some momentum heading into that tie.

Jones is expected to line-up in a crucial clash at the home of English football and insists, despite taking in a hectic few days, he is the man for the big occasion.

"It hasn't really sunk in yet," he said.

"It is not something I've been thinking about to be honest but it is a big game and now it is about preparing for that and making sure I am focused and ready.

"These things can happen, as it proved for Doni coming in a couple of days ago (against Aston Villa).

"You just have to be prepared and have it in your mind that it could happen at any time.

"That is the thing being a goalkeeper on the bench - it could happen, but 99 per cent of the time it doesn't.

"It's going to be a big occasion against Everton. I have to make sure I do the right things and it's going to be an extra special day.

"It's massive just to be a Liverpool player. I'm as proud as anyone to do that and be part of this club."

Rush: Goal Will Boost Andy

Ian Rush believes Andy Carroll's last-gasp winner against Blackburn on Tuesday night will give the forward great confidence going into Saturday's FA Cup semi-final against Everton.

Carroll connected with a Daniel Agger header to power the ball past Paul Robinson and settle the Barclays Premier League clash on 90 minutes.

And Rush, who watched events at Ewood Park unfold from Accra, the Ghanaian capital, where he was busy launching the Liverpool Football Club and Standard Chartered coaching clinic, was clearly delighted to see the Reds' current No.9 clinch the winning goal.

"It's great to see Andy Carroll back on the scoresheet because that will give him a tremendous amount of confidence," said the Welshman. "He had a good game on Tuesday and he won a lot in the air.

"When we went down to 10 men, he did a lot by himself up front. He put a lot of hard work in and he got his just rewards in the end. It was quite a powerful header."

Rush was buoyed by the reaction of the Liverpool players, both on the pitch during a frantic 90 minutes of play and then after the final whistle blew.

"At the end of the game, everyone was hugging each other and that's what it's all about," said Rush. "What I liked about it was how hard the lads worked. It was always going to be difficult with 10 men but they put the effort into it and they got their rewards.

"After the win, the next few days are going to be exciting. We have a semi-final against our fiercest rivals Everton and I'm looking forward to it. Everton will be confident but just looking at the way the Liverpool lads worked on Tuesday night, I think it's going to be an absolutely fantastic game.

"It'll be great for Merseyside and let's just hope we get the result."

Rush gave his full backing to Brad Jones who is likely to be Liverpool's 'keeper for the all-Merseyside semi-final on Saturday.

After Alexander Doni was shown a straight red card at Ewood Park, which ruled him out of the weekend's fixture, the spotlight was immediately on Jones and the Australian made an instant impact by saving a Yakubu penalty.

Rush said: "Brad hasn't played for a long time but he made a couple of good saves and I think he should be looking forward to playing in the semi-final."

Reds To Recall Gulacsi

Liverpool are to recall Peter Gulacsi from his loan at Hull City in order to solve their goalkeeping crisis.

Hull have announced the Hungarian will later on Wednesday return to his parent club to provide cover for the suspended Jose Reina and Alexander Doni.

Liverpool have been plunged into a shortage of goalkeepers for this weekend's FA Cup semi-final against Everton at Wembley.

Reina serves the third match of his three-game suspension for his red card at Newcastle at the beginning of April, while Doni was sent off in Tuesday night's win at Blackburn.

Brad Jones replaced Doni at Ewood Park, but was himself fortunate not to be sent off when giving away a penalty against Yakubu in the second half.

Gulacsi will likely be a part of the Liverpool squad at Wembley for the Saturday showdown with Merseyside derby rivals Everton, with Jones starting in Kenny Dalglish's first XI.

The soon-to-be-22-year-old made 15 appearances for Hull since joining on loan last summer and the Tigers have thanked him for his efforts.

Liverpool Send Scouts To Watch Exciting Italian Winger

Liverpool are tracking the progress of Atalanta winger Ezequiel Schelotto who has been attracting interest from some of the biggest sides in Italy.

Both Inter Milan and Roma have been linked with the Argentinean-born winger and now it seems that there is interest from the Premier League, with Liverpool checking on the progress of the youngster.

The 22-year-old was a regular for the Italy Under-21 side and there have been suggestions that due to his impressive form he will be given a chance at Euro 2012 by Cesare Prandelli.

A report on Italian website has revealed that Liverpool sent representatives to Italy at the weekend to watch Schelotto in action against Siena.

The clubs owners and manager Kenny Dalglish want to bring the best young talent to Anfield as they did when they signed the likes of Jordan Henderson, Sebastian Coates and Andy Carroll.

While not all of these signings have impressed at Liverpool. the club are seemingly determined to sign younger players and Schelotto would definitely fit the bill as he would certainly represent value for money.

Atalanta would certainly not demand the sort of money Liverpool had to pay to other Premier League clubs for players and it is clear that his former manager at Cesana believes he has the ability to play at the very highest level.

"I’ve always said it; he has the potential to play for Inter, Milan, Juve. He has incredible pace, speed and acceleration. he needs to work on the tactical aspect of things, like all youngsters, but I have rarely a youngster with his strength," Pierpaolo Bisoli told

"If he keeps his work ethic and wants to become better he can become a champion. In Serie A not many could stop him once he starts running with the ball."

Liverpool Looking At Motherwell’s Chris Humphrey

Liverpool are one of the clubs reportedly tracking exciting young winger Chris Humphrey, but he is ignoring the speculation.

The Motherwell man has been attracting interest from a host of Premier League clubs and one of these is Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool, according to Sky Sports.

The interest comes amidst a spell of good form for the Jamaica-born midfielder and the Reds are reportedly monitoring for a possible move to Anfield, but the 24-year-old is only concentrating on continuing ‘Well’s good form.

“I know it's a cliché but we really are trying to win each game as it comes. We cannot afford to start looking any further than the next game,” he said.

“Of course it's flattering to be linked with some clubs but my focus is first and foremost to be selected to play for Motherwell and then to do the best I can when on the pitch.”

The Reds are not the only club said to be watching the winger, the report claims other Premier League sides Aston Villa, Sunderland and Swansea City have all sent scouts to watch him.

Humphrey is eligible to play for both England and Scotland as he moved to Walsall when he was a young child, but he was called up to the Jamaica squad last year and intends to play for them.

Liverpool Attacker To Be Offered Coaching Role

With Liverpool attacker Dirk Kuyt's future shrouded in uncertainty, his former club Feyenoord is hoping to entice him back to Holland with the offer of a player/coach role.

The 31 year-old Dutch international left Feyenoord to join Liverpool in the summer of 2006, after enjoying three seasons at the club.

However, following reports that he could leave Liverpool for around £1 million, the Daily Mail claim that his former side is willing to supplement their salary offer of £1 million per year with a coaching role under Ronald Koeman.

Despite being a regular under former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez, Kuyt has struggled to nail down a first team place under Kenny Dalglish, who has opted for more natural width, rather than Kuyt's industry.

Feyenoord are rumoured to be facing competition from Italian side Fiorentina, who it is understood are prepared to offer Kuyt a more lucrative contract.

The Dutch giants are hoping that the player's desire to return to his homeland will prove decisive, as will their offer to help him develop his coaching skills.

Feyenoord boss Koeman recently spoken of his interest in bringing Kuyt back to Holland. “I’m only focusing on the rest of the season. But of course its common sense that Kuyt would always be welcome here. He would add value to this team,” he said.

Comolli Leaves Liverpool

Liverpool has confirmed today that Director of Football Damien Comolli has left Anfield by mutual consent.

A statement from Fenway Sports Group and principal owner John W. Henry on the club's official website read: "We are grateful for all of Damien's efforts on behalf of Liverpool and wish him all the best for the future."

Comolli was appointed the club's Director of Football Strategy on November 3, 2010, with part of his remit being to oversee the recruitment of new players.

He made an instant impact at Liverpool as he was responsible for the signings of two key players - Luis Suarez and the record-breaking deal that saw Andy Carroll join Liverpool in a £35million deal on January 2011's transfer deadline day.

"I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to work at Liverpool and am happy to move on from the Club and back to France for family reasons," said Comolli. "I wish the Club all the best for the future."

Liverpool Chairman Tom Werner added: "The Club needs to move forward and we now have a huge game on Saturday. It is important that everyone joins us in supporting the manager and gets behind Kenny and the team and focuses on a strong finish to the season."