Thursday, August 09, 2012

Europa League Preview: Liverpool vs FC Gomel

Brendan Rodgers takes charge of his first home game as Liverpool manager on Thursday night as his side defends a 1-0 first leg advantage against FC Gomel in a Europa League qualifier.

Last week's first encounter saw Stewart Downing earn the Reds a deserved victory against last season's Belarusian Super Cup winners, and quite understandably they're 1/5 favourites to win the second leg too.

Rodgers has promised to make Anfield a 'cauldron' and has spoken of his desire to get off to a perfect start in front of fans who he says have made him most welcome, but he did sound a warning shot to those expecting fireworks.

"Last week we were literally only four weeks into our pre-season before we had our first competitive game," he told the club's official website. "And we've still got a lot of improvement to make. There's no question about that.

"If people are expecting us to be coming in after four weeks and to be playing fast, flowing, fluent, dynamic football then that won't be the case.

"It takes time. There's a lot of work that goes in to making a team play that way and so it's going to take longer than four weeks."

Whether or not Liverpool are fast, flowing, fluid and dynamic shouldn't really matter too much this time, as although Gomel have enjoyed one or two fine nights in Europe they really don't possess the quality to make Thursday the most famous in their history.

Suarez Signs Reds Extension

Liverpool has confirmed that Luis Suarez has committed his long-term future to the club by penning a contract extension.

Sky Sports revealed earlier that the Uruguay international was poised to agree fresh terms with the Reds.

An agreement has now been thrashed out, just 24 hours after Suarez re-joined the Reds fold following his involvement at the 2012 Olympics.

New Anfield boss Brendan Rodgers has convinced the 25-year-old that he is in the perfect place for his career, bringing to an end any uncertainty regarding his future.

Suarez insists he was more than happy to put pen to paper just 18 months after arriving in England on a five-and-a-half-year deal from Ajax.

"To sign a new contract with Liverpool is unbelievable for me because I am so happy here at both the club and also in the city," he told the Reds' official website.

"That is important for me and I am very happy with my new contract.

"When you are a kid, everybody wants to play for Liverpool. I am here now and it is a dream for me, and now I am a Liverpool fan.

"I am happy off the pitch because the people of Liverpool are good with me and my family. I try my best on the pitch and when you are happy off the pitch, you are happy on the pitch.

"I want to say thank-you to the fans because they are our 12th player. The supporters of Liverpool are unbelievable.

"Five or six years ago I watched on TV the stadium and the club, and now I play here and the supporters have helped me. That's very important for me."

Rodgers added: "I'm delighted. When you have the opportunity to work with world-class players it's fantastic.

"There were certainly a few clubs who were interested in him but over the off-season he and I communicated well - and he's committed himself for the long term here now.

"He's really looking forward to playing in this way of working. As a manager and for the supporters, I'm delighted because I know how important he is for them."

Rodgers Reveals Suarez Interest

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has revealed that there was "genuine interest" from other clubs in forward Luis Suarez this summer.

Suarez had been linked with a move out of Anfield earlier this summer, and Rodgers is delighted to have the striker's future sorted.

"There was genuine interest from other clubs," he said. "I had only just come through the door when a fax came through about him.

"It is brilliant that someone of that quality has agreed to stay with the club. It is great for the Premier League.

"It is a new beginning for him. There are very few world class strikers around. He is a very important signing for the club.

"He is still young and has his best years ahead of him."

Liverpool will begin their Premier League campaign with an away game against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday August 18th.

Downing Out To Change Opinions

Stewart Downing is determined to dispel the notion that he is a "confidence player" after his form divided opinion amongst Liverpool fans.

Downing, 28, was an £18million arrival at Anfield last year after Kenny Dalglish lured him to the club from Aston Villa.

From such a lavish acquisition, fans expected more than the two goals and no assists that he returned.

Questions over his morale arose because there were occasions when it was claimed he was overwhelmed by his transfer fee, prompting fans to draw the conclusion he must be a confidence player.

"I seem to be labelled that a lot," he told the Liverpool Echo.

"I was disappointed with how last season went but I'm not sure I'm a 'confidence' player.

"I just like to be in the team and doing well. It's not nice when you are not getting results and we certainly took a lot of stick last season when it wasn't happening, especially with us new players coming in."

Downing notched the goal which gave the Reds victory over FC Gomel in Brendan Rodgers' first competitive game in charge last week.

And while some players may view the Europa League through disparaging eyes, Downing insists Rodgers has stressed the importance of winning games, no matter the competition.

He added: "It is the second tier of European competition but it's certainly one we still want to win.

"Earlier on you don't know where you are going to be playing but the further on you get, when the Champions League teams drop in, then there are some good sides in the competition.

"The manager has stressed from day one that whatever competition we are in, we go to win it.

"So you can see his mentality, he wants to win every game, he is hungry and his players have got to be the same otherwise you don't get picked."

Liverpool Star Admits Return To Anfield Will Be Special

Liverpool star Lucas Leiva has revealed he can’t wait to play at Anfield against FC Gomel as he continues his rehabilitation after a serious knee injury.

The Brazilian midfielder, 25, is likely to play a part in the Reds’ Europa League qualifying round second leg clash with the Belarusians on Thursday.

And Liverpool will go into the game with a 1-0 lead thanks to Stewart Downing’s strike in the first leg last week.

Lucas was able to get some valuable playing time under his belt as a substitute in that match and following after nine months on the sidelines he has told the club’s official website he is excited about returning to the field and playing in front of the Kop.

"I think it will be a special moment for me when I go to warm up at Anfield or if I come on because I have been out a long time and watching from the stands," Lucas told

"It will be a special day for me and I hope it will be another step for me. I'm looking forward to meeting the fans again and playing at Anfield. It's where I really feel strong and comfortable and where I had very good performances before the injury. I can't wait to meet the fans again."

Liverpool & Arsenal Face New Competition For Sahin

AC Milan look set to rival Liverpool and Arsenal for the services of unsettled Real Madrid midfielder Nuri Sahin.

The Turkish international joined Real from German champions Borussia Dortmund last summer, but endured a disappointing injury-hit debut season at the Bernabeu, managing just two league starts.

If successful, Real Madrid’s pursuit of Tottenham playmaker Luka Modric would further limit Sahin’s first-team opportunities this season, and coach Jose Mourinho is thought to be willing to allow the 23-year-old to leave on loan.

Milan are playing Real Madrid in a friendly in New York on Wednesday evening and, according to, Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani will use the occasion to probe Real president Florentino Perez’s about Sahin’s availability.

The two clubs have already entered negotiations over a proposed move back to the San Siro for Brazil ace Kaka, and Galliani is keen to take Sahin to Italy too.

Liverpool Hit Stumbling Block Over Peruvian Winger

Liverpool have hit a stumbling block in their reported pursuit of Fiorentina winger Juan Manuel Vargas, after the Peruvian revealed that he is content with life at the club.

As reported by talkSPORT, Vargas has been increasingly linked with the Merseysiders for a number of months, and was expected to complete a move this summer, after he was told to find a new club.

The 28 year-old has enjoyed a successful spell with the Viola, but has recently been informed that he no longer features in the club's long term plans.

Vargas was linked with a £5 million switch to fellow Serie A side Genoa, but this was put on ice, after the club refused to meet Fiorentina's valuation.

Liverpool, who continue to be linked with the wide man, were thought to be in the driving seat for his signature, until he commented that he will remain at the Stadio Artemio Franchi for the foreseeable future.

"I am training with Fiorentina and hope to stay here. I don't know what my future will be,” Vargas is quoted as saying.

His stance is a fresh blow to new Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers' plans to add more natural width to his inherited side.

Rodgers Confirms Bellamy Talks

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has confirmed talks are taking place with Cardiff City regarding a deal for Craig Bellamy.

Sky Sports revealed earlier this week that Cardiff are in pole position to sign the 33-year-old after Liverpool reluctantly agreed to let Bellamy move on.

Bellamy is understood to want to return to South Wales for personal reasons and the Reds are willing to let the versatile attacker head back to Cardiff for free.

The Wales international has refused to comment on reports that he could rejoin his hometown club and says that he is taking his future 'day by day'.

However, he now appears to be closing in on a move to Malky Mackay's side after Rodgers revealed that discussions between the two clubs are ongoing.

"We have been in talks with him and Cardiff," said Rodgers.

"I had a really good meeting with Craig before I moved up here.

"He is a big Liverpool supporter but I also understand his thinking.

"He is 33 and has travelled around the country all his life, so there are compassionate reasons.

"We will look at it but we will wish him all the best and move forward."

Bellamy spent the 2010/11 season on loan at Cardiff and he scored 11 goals in the Championship before returning for a second spell at Liverpool last summer.

Liverpool Want £25m For Agger

ESPN understands that Liverpool will only consider an offer of £25 million for Denmark international Daniel Agger, who has been targeted by Premier League champions Manchester City.

Liverpool sources have confirmed that City has made approaches over Agger, 27, but that the two sides are some way apart in their valuation of the player, who has two years left on his contract.

Anfield manager Brendan Rodgers said: "Daniel's a top player, and any manager will tell you that they don't want to lose their best players. But I suppose we've seen it at every club - every player has a price.

"For me, Daniel is a top-class professional. I've really enjoyed working with him and speaking with him over the last few weeks.

"You're going to have your top players linked with other clubs, but I'm not forced to sell anyone and Daniel is a very important player. But you can never say never, and I'm a realist as well. We'll see what happens between now and the end of the month."

With talks over a new deal for Agger having stalled, City have made their interest known and indicated that they would be willing to go as high as £18 million for the centre-back - but that falls well short of Liverpool's valuation.

It is thought, though, that the Merseysiders would find it difficult to resist a bid of £22 million - the same fee Manchester City paid Everton for Joleon Lescott in 2009.

With the two sides still to find a compromise, England winger Adam Johnson could be used as a makeweight to smooth out a deal.

Agger was omitted from Liverpool's squad for last week's Europa League qualifier with Gomel in Belarus, which many saw as an indication of an impending departure.

Although the club and Rodgers insisted that it was purely down to concerns over fitness, Agger's agent, Per Steffensen, said his client was "not injured in any way"

Marsh Promoted To Liverpool First-Team Coaching Staff

Mike Marsh has been promoted to the Liverpool first-team coaching staff, manager Brendan Rodgers has confirmed.

The 42-year-old will leave his old role as coach on the Under-18 setup to join up with Rodgers’ staff at the club’s Melwood training base after helping in first-team matters over the summer.

Rodgers is delighted to have Marsh working alongside him and feels it’s vital to the team to have someone understands the club and city in the management structure.

"Michael will sign a deal this week,” Rodgers confirmed.

“For me, it is very important to have people with the sort of root of Liverpool in their heart, the soul of the club.

"I've come in and I've got an understanding of what it is like. I feel I'm from the same bottle of the people of Liverpool and the city, with similar backgrounds. There are no worries about that, and I've also got players from Liverpool in the first-team group.

"When I went to Swansea, I went in on my own and promoted a couple of people from there, such as Colin Pascoe to first-team coach. He was a former player there and from the Swansea area.

"When I looked at the staff when I came in, Marshy was someone who had come in with the Under-18s. He was a terrific young player - he walked out of a pub team into Liverpool, which is an absolutely incredible story. His roots are here at the club, his passion is for the club and he's played for the club. He was here in a period when we were a proper team, a proper club.

"He will also help build a bridge between the first team and the Academy. It is important for me this bridge is smooth and the young players can come across and progress into the first team."