Thursday, August 30, 2012

Europa Cup Preview: Liverpool v Hearts

Lucas Leiva is the only confirmed absentee for the Europa League play-off second leg tie with Hearts.

On Wednesday Brendan Rodgers confirmed that the Brazilian midfielder could be out for up to three months with the thigh injury suffered during last weekend's draw with Manchester City.

Those Liverpool players who sat out the first encounter at Tynecastle are likely to play some part.

Though with Arsenal due to visit Anfield on Sunday afternoon the involvement of Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard, Glen Johnson and Martin Skrtel amongst others could be limited - be that as a starter or via an introduction from the bench.

Despite the game taking place just 24 hours before the transfer window closes those linked with moves could also be given roles. Andy Carroll and Charlie Adam are amongst those not declared in the pool available.

Though unlikely to start Hearts keeper Peter Enckleman is rated as a doubt due to a shoulder problem.

Marius Zaliukas, the Edinburgh club's skipper, could feature after responding well to treatment for a thigh injury.

Ahead of the game Brendan Rodgers gave more information on Lucas's setback, explaining that there are more consultations before a full diagnosis can be made on an unusual problem.

"It's quite a unique injury at the top of his right fem [femur]," the Anfield boss said.

"He's had his scan and he will see a specialist this evening and we'll see whether he needs an operation or whether it's just recuperation and we'll see how that evolves from there."

The midfielder sat out most of last season after suffering a knee injury in November and regained fitness ahead of schedule.

Rodgers is hoping to see a similarly strong recovery adding: "He's a quick healer so I'd hope that he would be back sooner than that.

"We won't be rushing him. He's worked terrifically well and it's unfortunate that he's got over his knee problems and he looked strong and somewhere up to near fitness and now he's had this injury.

"I had a good long chat with him. He went for his scan and then he got the news last night. He's obviously disappointed because he's worked so hard but this will be an opportunity and a chance for him to work on other areas.

"One [is] to make sure that the strength in his knee continues to improve. He can still do some work off the field as well and it gives him a chance to focus. We are hoping that the [three months] will be a maximum.

"At this moment he's disappointed but he's a very courageous guy and he's focused. So his aim now is to get back as quick as he possibly can."

Sahin Ruling Nothing Out

Nuri Sahin has refused to rule out the prospect of completing a permanent switch to Liverpool if his loan deal proves to be a success.

The Turkey international has linked up with the Reds on a season-long agreement from Real Madrid.

Arsenal were also believed to be keen on acquiring his services, but Sahin will spend the 2012/13 campaign at Anfield after being convinced to head for Merseyside by Real colleague Xabi Alonso.

The 23-year-old arrives in England with a reputation as a midfielder capable of unlocking defences and grabbing the odd goal.

He will be hoping to bring those attributes to Brendan Rodgers' first-team squad, with Liverpool of the opinion that he can help them to push for a top-four finish.

Should Sahin prove that he is an asset worth retaining, the Reds may decide to look into the possibility of keeping him on a full-time basis.

No deal has been discussed as yet, but the former Borussia Dortmund playmaker admits anything is possible.

"In football you never know," said Sahin.

"I am here for this season and then you never know what will be happening in a few months.

"I am looking forward to playing this year here and after, we will see."

Liverpool Offer Players In Part-Exchange In Fresh Dempsey Talks

Liverpool has revived their move for Clint Dempsey by opening fresh talks with Fulham over a deal worth £7 million, can reveal.

The Merseysiders are back in negotiations with the Londoners, with discussions centring on the players who could move to Craven Cottage in part-exchange.

Liverpool are reluctant to meet Fulham’s asking price for the 29-year-old even though the Londoners will settle for a fee of around £6-7m.

Sources have said that discussions have focused on the identity of the players that could be used as makeweights in the deal in order to meet Fulham’s valuation.

Manager Martin Jol is in the market for a central midfielder after selling Mousa Dembele and Danny Murphy this summer, prompting Fulham to enquire again about Charlie Adam but it is understood that he is reluctant to move down south.

A number of junior members of the first-team squad have also been discussed as alternatives as Liverpool attempt to bridge the gap between the cash sum they are offering and the fee that Fulham want.

Liverpool have not yet made a concrete bid for Dempsey but there is a growing expectation that their summer-long pursuit of the American will reach a successful conclusion in the next 36 hours.

As revealed by last week, Fulham have lodged a formal complaint to the Premier League about Liverpool’s conduct by effectively accusing them of tapping up the midfielder.

Nevertheless, negotiations have been revived as Jol and senior Fulham figures accept that there is no way back for Dempsey at the club.

The 29-year-old has made it clear that he wants to quit Craven Cottage for Liverpool, whose manager Brendan Rodgers has admitted that he has made enquiries about signing the player.

As revealed by earlier this month, Dempsey has been training on his own after making it clear he does not want to play for the Londoners again while waiting for a move to Liverpool to materialize.

The attacking midfielder, who scored 17 Premier League goals last season and 23 in all competitions, has rejected Fulham’s offer of a new three-year contract that includes an option for a fourth year.

The west Londoners have fined Dempsey for refusing to play for the club and Jol has said that it would be “impossible” to keep the player at Craven Cottage.

The American has been left in limbo while his future remains up in the air but he has been reluctant to consider alternative offers, with Sunderland showing the most interest.

Dempsey, who moved to west London five-and-a-half years ago, believes that Liverpool’s interest could be the last opportunity he gets to play for one of the elite Premier League clubs.

Lucas Out For Three Months

Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva has suffered a new fitness nightmare after being ruled out for up to three months with a thigh injury.

The Brazilian sustained the problem in the warm-up before last Sunday's draw with Manchester City and limped out of the game after just five minutes at Anfield.

It is a cruel blow for Lucas, whose last season was ended by a serious knee ligament injury in the League Cup win at Chelsea in November 2011.

Lucas said on Twitter of his new injury: "No words to describe my feelings at the moment. It is been hard to be positive but I am sure better days will come. YNWA."

The defensive midfielder's absence is also a setback for new manager Brendan Rodgers as he looks to mould his tactics onto his squad.

New signing and former Swansea star Joe Allen was forced to drop into a defensive role against City after Lucas had gone off, with Jonjo Shelvey having come on as a substitute.

But Rodgers could now opt to give loan signing Nuri Sahin his debut as a starter in this Sunday's Premier League match against Arsenal, who the Turk almost joined.

It remains to be seen whether Liverpool will still decide to send Bolton Wanderers target Jay Spearing out on loan in the wake of Lucas' lay-off until November.

Liverpool will now decide whether or not Lucas' injury requires an operation and the 25-year-old is to see a specialist on Wednesday night.

Rodgers said: "It is very unfortunate. He has worked ever so hard to come back and he has been an outstanding player for me and person off the field as well.

"The indications are two to three months. It is quite a unique injury at the top of his right thigh.

"He has had a scan and we will see a specialist this evening. We'll see if it needs an operation or whether it is just recuperation."

Coyle Admits Spearing Battle

Owen Coyle has confirmed Bolton Wanderers are facing competition from 'bigger' clubs in the battle to sign Liverpool midfielder Jay Spearing.

Sky Sports revealed on Tuesday that Bolton are one of five clubs keen on signing Spearing, who is considering his future at Liverpool following the recent captures of Joe Allen and Nuri Sahin.

A loan move or £3million permanent exit for Spearing has been mooted, with Premier League trio Aston Villa, Queens Park Rangers and Southampton also thought to be considering a bid for the 23-year-old.

Coyle remains hopeful of bringing the midfielder to the Reebok Stadium and is waiting to see if the Trotters will win the race before Friday's transfer deadline.

"It's more complicated than people think," said Coyle after Bolton's Capital One Cup defeat at Crawley. "It isn't just a case of going out and bringing him in.

"Jay Spearing is a very good player and there's a lot of competition for that lad's signature.

"All we can do is our very best, and we'll continue to do that.

"I can't say right now that he's going to sign tomorrow morning because there is huge interest in him from clubs much bigger than ourselves. We'll see what transpires."

Carroll Asked To Leave

Andy Carroll has been asked to consider his future with Liverpool after boss Brendan Rodgers told the big money signing that he will be third choice striker at Anfield.

Rodgers is desperate to offload Carroll to fund a deadline day transfer swoop and he has left Carroll out of the Europa League squad to face Hearts tonight to give him time to consider a move.

The new boss has praised the attitude of Carroll, who has stated his desire to stay at the club, but believes that players who are not part of his plans should be looking to move on.

“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see Andy’s been a cover player but he’s been excellent in his attitude and acceptance of where he is at,” Rodgers said.

“But, as a club, I’m not sure we are in a position to have £35million players as third-choice strikers, or a winger on £5-6m a year.

“There’s still a wee bit of thinking time, and it’s hard to walk away from here. The ones who want to play will probably look elsewhere, irrespective of finance, because that’s their passion.”

Any transfers hinge on Liverpool players leaving first and Carroll could be joined at the exit door by Jay Spearing and Charlie Adam.

Rodgers explained: “The club financially needs repair. So to sign the players linked, unfortunately I don’t have the ability to do that – not in this window anyway.

“This is an incredible club and some players, even if you want to move them on, won’t walk out.

“I can only ever be straight with players.

“I’ve made it clear my group will be made up of starting players, cover players who can come in, and development players who can progress.

“If you feature outside of that I will tell you and then it is up to the player what they want – do they want to play football?”

Milan Rule Out Carroll

AC Milan chief executive Adriano Galliani does not think the club needs to sign another striker amid new reports linking the Serie A giants with Liverpool's Andy Carroll.

The £35million man was this summer expected to leave Anfield, as he seemingly does not fit into the plans of new manager Brendan Rodgers.

Carroll's former club, Newcastle United, is interested along with West Ham United while Milan were also thought to be monitoring the situation.

But with the Italian club set to sign Bojan Krkic to add to their existing attacking options, Galliani has quashed the links to England international Carroll.

The Milan official told Italian media when asked about the 23-year-old: "We already have many forwards."

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers last week said he would 'need to be a nutcase' to let Carroll leave on loan but speculation of a permanent exit has not gone away ahead of Friday's transfer deadline.

Carroll played just the final six minutes of Sunday's draw with Manchester City and it has been suggested he will be sold to raise money for signings.

Stewart Downing, Charlie Adam and Joe Cole have also been reported as players who Rodgers is prepared to let leave in order to fund a move for Chelsea's Daniel Sturridge.

Rodgers Plans New Downing Role

Stewart Downing could have a Liverpool future as a left-back, according to Reds boss Brendan Rodgers.

The £20million signing from Aston Villa has struggled at Anfield since his arrival last summer and has been usurped from his left-wing role by 17-year-old Raheem Sterling.

But Rodgers used Downing at full-back against Hearts in the club's Europa League play-off and is planning a new role for the 28-year-old England international on a long-term basis.

The Liverpool boss said: "I think it's a big possibility that he can play there. If you look at the modern day full-backs, like Jordi Alba and Ashley Cole, Ashley was a centre-forward.

"When I bring young players through, I will always bring attackers because they can move back.

"When Middlesbrough reached the UEFA Cup final against Sevilla, Stewart played left-back on that run, and sometimes that can release pressure on players.

"His job at the top end of the pitch is to create and score goals.

"But you looked at him in the half hour against Hearts, and he served the ball well, he got forward and defended a couple of times. That's important. I think he's good enough for that.

"I don't like to just give up on players, I always look at different ways you can play them.

"Stewart has a future as an attacking player but I have had a good chat with him on the role and he's excited about it.

"That's the biggest thing, because there is no point putting a player into a position he doesn't want to play.

"But when you speak to someone and tell them what the future could be, along with the qualities that he has, there is no doubt that in the modern game, he could play that role."

Potters Bid For Adam

Sky Sports sources understand Stoke have tabled a £4million bid for Liverpool midfielder Charlie Adam.

Adam has struggled to make an impact at Anfield since joining from Blackpool last summer and looks unlikely to be part of manager Brendan Rodgers' first-team plans this season.

The 26-year-old, who cost the Reds a reported £6.75m to bring to Merseyside a year ago, has repeatedly said he is happy at the club and wants to stay.

However, his stance could change in light of Stoke's £4m offer, with Tony Pulis looking to bolster his midfield options at the Britannia Stadium.

Everton and Fulham are also thought to be keen on the Scotland international but the Potters could beat them to the punch.

Rodgers Casts Doubt Over Adam's Liverpool Future

Charlie Adam has been warned by his manager that he may have to leave Liverpool if he wants regular first-team football.

Brendan Rodgers has indicated to Adam that he will only be a squad player at Anfield this season. Adam was not involved on Sunday as Liverpool drew 2-2 with Premier League champions Manchester City, and is understood to have acknowledged that he needs to move on.

The 26-year-old, who arrived from Blackpool last summer, has been linked with Everton and Fulham, although it is not thought either club could match his salary at Anfield.

Rodgers said: "I've been open and up front with all our players. I think you saw on Sunday that our spirit is very strong in the group.

"But the reality is that players want to play. Everyone knows where they stand at the moment, and over the next few days, one or two of them might have decisions to make - in terms of whether they want to be a squad player or whether they want to play regular football somewhere else.

"Charlie's a very good player. He'll be a pivotal part of the Scottish national team going forward. He's a terrific player, with a good left foot and he will score goals. And I'm sure he'll do very well for Scotland."