Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Match Report: Southampton 3 - 1 Liverpool

Jay Rodriguez inspired relegation-threatened Southampton to what could prove to be a vital victory against Liverpool on Saturday.

The 23-year-old joined from Burnley in the summer for what was a club record fee and showed on Saturday why Saints forked out £6million for his services.

Rodriguez put Mauricio Pochettino on course for a second win at the helm in the sixth minute, nodding a Gaston Ramirez cross into Morgan Schneiderlin's path to slot home.

Liverpool fan Rickie Lambert soon doubled Saints' advantage with his 13th goal of the season coming when his 25-yard free-kick deflected home off Daniel Sturridge.

However, as good as Southampton are on the attack, they have often been found wanting at the back and Philippe Coutinho, a reported January target for the hosts, reduced the deficit in first-half stoppage time.

Brendan Rodgers' side pushed hard for a leveller but Rodriguez made sure of the three points with 10 minutes remaining, putting Saints seven points clear of the drop zone in front of a record Premier League crowd at St Mary's of 32,070.

Liverpool's regular number one Pepe Reina was unavailable for Saturday's match, meaning understudy Brad Jones once again deputized in goal.

The Australian conceded twice in last weekend's defeat of Tottenham and had to pick the ball out of his goal again in the sixth minute.

After earlier attempts by Rodriguez and Ramirez, the pair combined brilliantly to set-up the opening goal.

Ramirez floated a weighted cross to the back post to Rodriguez, who nodded across the face of goal for Schneiderlin to direct past Jones.

It was quite a start by Saints and they could - and probably should - have doubled their lead in the 10th minute.

Ramirez put Saints talisman Lambert through on goal but he could not find a way past Jones.

The Australian was again called into action to deny a stinging Rodriguez drive moments after dealing comfortably with a Ramirez effort.

Liverpool was struggling to cope with Southampton's attacking intent and failing to create anything of note at the other end.

Aside from an offside Sturridge effort two minutes in, Rodgers' side had little to show for their efforts as Saints' defence dominated.

Liverpool's backline were enduring a much tougher afternoon, with Rodriguez hooking over from close range after Jones parried an Adam Lallana strike.

The Reds were struggling to cope with the home side's wing play but beginning to make inroads at the other end.

Luis Suarez was incensed by referee Phil Dowd's decision to call back play for a foul on Jos Hooiveld when he was through on goal, before Sturridge struck from distance.

Liverpool will have been relieved to see the impressive Hooiveld limp off soon after, with Jose Fonte coming on in his place after 30 minutes.

However, their task was made all the more difficult three minutes later when Southampton netted a fortuitous second.

After Martin Skrtel was adjudged to have fouled Lambert, the Saints striker stepped up to hit the 25-yard free-kick that wrong footed goalkeeper Jones after taking a deflection of Sturridge.

A lunge from Fonte lunge denied Daniel Agger an immediate response, before an exquisite Rodriguez snapshot flew inches wide at the other end.

It was Liverpool that ended the half on top, though. After Artur Boruc denied Coutinho on a one-on-one, the Brazilian beat the Saints goalkeeper.

Steven Gerrard headed across goal to Sturridge, whose blocked shot was slotted home by the former Inter Milan man.

It was the 18th goal Saints have conceded in the final 15 minutes of the first half this season and Coutinho found the back of the net again five after the restart, although he had already been ruled offside.

Sturridge was next to come close, hitting a half-volley into the side-netting before Suarez almost latched onto a through ball by substitute Lucas.

It seemed to jolt Saints back into life as they began threatening down the flanks again, although Suarez was still proving a thorn in the side at the back.

Boruc saved a free-kick from the Uruguayan but Saints were well and truly on the back foot, with only latch-ditch defending and fine goalkeeping denying the visitors.

Boruc stopped a long-range Gerrard effort, before Jones did fantastically to smother a goalbound Lallana dink.

Southampton were, in truth, feeding off scraps but soon got the goal they desired, thanks to fine work by Rodriguez.

The former Burnley striker burst through own goal, brilliantly drove past Skrtel and tucked home after Jones stopped his initial effort.

Jose Enrique put into the side-netting as Liverpool looked for a late goal, but the only late action was a booking for Suarez after hassling Boruc.

No Complaints From Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers had no complaints with the result after Liverpool's recent resurgence was brought to a halt by a 3-1 defeat at Southampton.

Liverpool had won three Premier League games in a row to raise hopes of European qualification, but produced a ragged performance at St Mary's, particularly in the first half.

Rodgers was disappointed with the goals his side conceded on the South Coast and admitted Liverpool did not get going until they were 2-0 down.

"I thought Southampton deserved to win," Rodgers told Sky Sports. "We were nowhere near what we've been in the last number of weeks.

"It's very difficult at this level whenever you make the start we made on Saturday of being two goals behind. We only started to play when it went to 2-0.

"The three goals conceded were disappointing goals, but in between the second goal and the third goal we were very good.

"We got to 2-1 just before half-time and had more fluency and flow in our game. We created chances, but then conceded a poor third goal that was far too easy and from that perspective it was bitterly disappointing."

The international break means Liverpool do not play for a fortnight and Rodgers wants a positive response in the next game at Aston Villa.

He added: "I said before the game that this game was arguably going to be one of the toughest games for us this season and overall I can't complain.

"We weren't at our best and we're not the sort of team yet when, if we're not at our best, we can see through results.

"We have to lick our wounds for a couple of weeks before the next game, and we have to make sure it was a one-off and we get back to how we were playing, at a real high level and with confidence."

Sloppy Defeat Riles Downing

Liverpool winger Stewart Downing was left frustrated as his team suffered a lacklustre 3-1 defeat at Southampton.

Following their stunning victory against Tottenham a week before, the Reds arrived in buoyant mood at St Mary's on Saturday but were second best throughout.

It was a dismal result against a team battling for Premier League survival and left the visitors seven points behind fourth-placed Chelsea.

"If you can beat Tottenham at home, you should come here and win," Downing told the club's official website. "If you want to be in the top four, you have to come to places like this and win.

"That's easier said than done. It's difficult with them being in a relegation fight and playing for the new manager as well. I still think we had chances in the game considering we didn't play well. We started too late and the game was over."

Early goals by Morgan Schneiderlin and Rickie Lambert left Liverpool rocking and only a Philippe Coutinho goal earned them minor consolation with Jay Rodriguez slotting in a cool third for the impressive hosts.

"We just didn't start brightly enough," Downing added. "The manager said we didn't start playing until we were 2-0 down. He stressed from the start that this was a difficult game, probably one of the hardest of the season.

"They are scrapping for their lives and, to be fair, they were the better team on the day. You've got to give them credit for that. We started too late."

Liverpool's Champions League Hopes Still Alive, Insists Henderson

Despite a disappointing 3-1 defeat away at Southampton on Saturday leaving them nine points adrift of fourth spot, the midfielder says the Reds' end-of-season aim remains in sight

Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson says their Champions League hopes are not yet dashed despite a 3-1 defeat to Southampton at St Mary’s.

Brendan Rodgers had outlined his team’s ambition to claim a top-four finish and Champions League football come the end of the season after victory over Tottenham but the loss ended the Red’s three-match winning streak and leaves them nine points adrift.

But Henderson remains positive, highlighting games against teams above Liverpool as opportunities to climb up the table.

"It was a big disappointment against Southampton but Europe's not gone yet," he told reporters. "We've still got eight games to play and that's a lot of points to play for.

"We've still got to play some of the teams above us so we have to keep going. We have to pick ourselves up from this and ensure we respond positively against Aston Villa after the international break."

Henderson has endured a frustrating few weeks recently with his first-team exposure limited, but an injury to fellow midfielder Joe Allen has afforded an opportunity to force himself into manager Rodgers' plans for the run-in.

"I've just got to keep working hard," Henderson told the Liverpool Echo. "Before Saturday the team had been playing brilliantly so I can't complain.

"You can't really change a winning team so I've understood why I've not played. I just have to make sure that when the manager needs me I'm ready to take my chance."

Liverpool Ponder Move For Diego Capel

Liverpool is weighing up whether to make a move for Diego Capel in the summer.

The Reds are set to be given a £20m transfer kitty in the summer, and Brendan Rodgers is prepared to bring in some new arrivals.

Swansea captain Ashley Williams is believed to be a mooted target and Rodgers is looking to strengthen in other areas too.

Capel has had a disappointing by his standards at Sporting Lisbon and looks poised to be placed on the transfer list.

Italian website Tutto Mercato claims Sporting's financial problems means Capel could be sacrificed to free up funds.

Capel joined the club in 2011.

He has scored twice in the Portuguese Liga.

Liverpool & Chelsea To Step Up Interest In Fabio Coentrao

Liverpool and Chelsea are to rival each other for Real Madrid left-back Fabio Coentrao.

The Portuguese defender has been on Chelsea's radar for a while and could be a long-term successor to Ashley Cole.

The Reds on the other hand are looking to dip their toes in the market, with manager Brendan Rodgers expected to be handed a £20m transfer kitty.

And Coentrao represents the ambition that Rodgers needs to take the Reds to the next level.

According to Italian football site TuttoMercatoWeb, Real Madrid has placed an £18m price tag on Coentrao.

Manchester City has also believed to be courting Coentrao, as they look to revamp their squad in the summer.

Coentrao has managed only 14 La Liga appearances this season.

He has scored one and provided an assist.

Liverpool & Man City Set To Miss Out On Alexis Sanchez

Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez is ready to ignore interest from the Premier League and return to Serie A with Inter Milan this summer.

After enjoying a fine first season in Spain following his £30m move from Udinese, Sanchez has struggled somewhat in his second campaign at the Nou Camp.

The Chilean international has been forced to play an increasingly marginal role since Pep Guardiola's departure, and has been linked with a move away at the end of the season with Liverpool and Manchester City among the interested parties.

But according to Italian sports paper Gazetta dello Sport, Serie A side Inter Milan are set to secure the signing of the 24-year-old.

"Negotiations between Alexis [Sanchez] and Inter Milan are at an extremely advanced stage", revealed the paper at the weekend.

It is thought that an agreement has already been reached between Inter and Sanchez's agent Fernando Felicevitch, with Inter wanting to bring in the wide-man on a loan deal with an option to buy.

City was close to Sanchez in 2011 before he eventually signed for Barcelona, while Liverpool is in the market for wingers and Brendan Rodgers is apparently keen on the diminutive South American.

Inter president Massimo Moratti is also looking into the possibility of signing former Arsenal midfielder Alex Song and Spain Under-21 full-back Martin Montoya from Barcelona.

Joe Allen Withdraws From Wales Squad

Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen has pulled out of the Wales squad for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Scotland and Croatia.

It was announced last week that the Welshman had been troubled by a shoulder problem for several years and that, since October, it has been getting progressively worse.

The 23-year old had been playing despite the problem, however, Liverpool manager Brendan Rogers has accepted that an operation is needed to sort the problem out.

The summer signing from Swansea has struggled to make an impact with the Reds and was taken off at half-time during their 3-1 defeat to Southampton on Saturday.

Surgery will see Allen sidelined for three months and the Wales international is keen to start to recovery process as early as possible in order to be fit for the start of next season.

The withdrawal is also a bitter blow for Wales as Allen was expected to start against Scotland at Hampden Park this Friday.

Cup Final Despair For Ngoo & Wilson

Michael Ngoo and Danny Wilson tasted cup final defeat on Sunday as Hearts lost 3-2 to St Mirren in the Scottish Communities League Cup final.

The Reds duo, who joined Hearts on loan in January this year, were powerless to prevent their team slipping to defeat in front of a packed Hampden Park crowd.

Ryan Stevenson fired the Tynecastle outfit ahead on 10 minutes; however, goals from Esmael Goncalves, Steven Thompson and Conor Newton handed St Mirren a comfortable lead.

Ngoo, who struck against Inverness Caledonian Thistle on his Hearts debut to send them through to the cup final, weighed in with an assist for Stevenson to halve the deficit on 85 minutes.

However, the Saints held out to clinch their first piece of major silverware for 26 years courtesy of a thrilling 3-2 win.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Match Preview: Southampton vs Liverpool

Southampton will be looking to edge clear of trouble on Saturday, while bringing Liverpool's return to form to a shuddering halt.

The Saints head into the weekend precariously perched just four points clear of the drop zone.

A run of one win in eight has prevented the South Coast outfit from climbing the standings, with much of their season having been spent in and around the bottom three.

They do have fixtures against fellow strugglers to come, but will be keen to make the most of any game on home soil.

Liverpool, though, will arrive at St Mary's buoyed by a three-match winning run.

The Reds have fired themselves back into the hunt for European qualification, with there still an outside chance that they could force their way into the top four.

Brendan Rodgers will be eager for his side to maintain momentum and will be in mood to offer favours to a side scrapping for their top-flight lives.

Southampton have a clean bill of health, with no fresh injury or suspension concerns to contend with.

Danny Fox and Steven Davis were the only absentees in last weekend's 0-0 draw at Norwich but could feature for Mauricio Pochettino's side at St Mary's.

Vegard Forren played for the U21s again on Monday, so is a step closer to fitness.

Liverpool is sweating on the involvement of first-choice goalkeeper Jose Reina.

The Spanish shot-stopper sat out a 3-2 victory over Tottenham last time out with a calf problem and a decision is yet to be taken on his fitness heading into the weekend.

The Reds will, however, have Joe Allen available on Saturday, with the midfielder prepared to delay undergoing surgery on a shoulder complaint.

Rodgers: Liverpool Not Out Of Top-Four Race

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers believes any slip-ups from the Reds’ rivals could allow them to finish inside the top-four this season.

The Northern Irishman is confident that his side can make the most of their astounding recent form to up the pressure on their opponents in pursuit of the Champions League places.

Liverpool currently hold the sixth spot in the table. An epic 3-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur last week brought them within two and seven points from Arsenal and Chelsea respectively, having played a game more than their London rivals.

On Saturday, the Merseyside club will visit strugglers Southampton, eyeing a fifth consecutive league win – something that they have not achieved in four previous seasons.

Booming with confidence and playing arguably the best football in the Premier League at the moment, Rodgers feels his side can still finish ahead of Arsenal and Chelsea for the fourth place.

However, the 40-year-old manager admitted that the Reds need results elsewhere to go their way to lift their chances, and feels that it was that part of the campaign where teams cannot afford to slip-up.

He told reporters: "The teams above will know they can’t be making any slip-ups, not only because of us but for themselves.

"This is the stage of the season when you want to win games, and you have to win them. Our recent run of form shows without doubt we’re a team which is improving and developing.

“The result against Tottenham showed the further enhancement of that, and we have to maintain that form to keep moving forward."

Liverpool would have had a strong case of finishing inside the top-four had it not been for their shaky start which saw them register their first league win in the sixth match of the term. It was the club’s worst start in more than 100 years.

However, Rodgers was pleased to see them overcome a stuttering start and thinks that they have now acquainted themselves to his playing philosophy.

He added: “People know now we’re a different team compared to the start of the season, for sure.

“There is a different mentality now, but there is no point in us getting carried away and looking too far ahead. We can only concentrate on ourselves and get as many victories as we can.

“I’ve seen the change since the turn of the year when we got another two players with the profile that helps this way of working. Anyone watching the team regularly will see the amount of difference but as I said there is still a lot of work to do."

Liverpool finished eighth last season under former manager Kenny Dalglish.

Saints Aiming To Avoid Suarez Repeat

Luis Suárez will return to St Mary’s on Saturday, with Saints hoping he does not repeat the dazzling performance he produced on his first ever visit to the stadium.

The Liverpool striker was part of the Ajax team that played Saints in a 2009 pre-season friendly, a game that doubled as a memorable welcome to the club’s new owner, Markus Liebherr.

The arrival of Liebherr in the director’s box, signalling a bright new future for the club, along with the official unveiling of Alan Pardew as manager, distracted much of the attention from the pitch that afternoon.

But it was hard for anyone inside St Mary’s to ignore the masterful performance produced by Suárez, who scored twice as the Dutch side triumphed 4-1.

It says much for the progress of Saints over the last three-and-a-half years that they are now welcoming a player of his calibre for a competitive match.

But they will likely need to be at their best this weekend to avoid suffering a similar fate to the one in 2009, as the Uruguayan arrives on the south coast in a sensational run of form.

The Premier League’s top marksman has scored a sensational 15 times in his last 14 matches, and has netted 29 goals across all competitions for the Reds this season.

The 26-year-old’s influence on the Liverpool team has even been compared to that of Lionel Messi’s at Barcelona.

Pochettino Talks Up Coutinho

Mauricio Pochettino believes Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho possesses qualities similar to Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi.

The Brazilian has enjoyed a promising start at Anfield since joining from Inter Milan in January, and also attracted interest from Southampton during the transfer window.

Pochettino knows the 20-year-old midfielder well after coaching him during a loan spell at Espanyol last season, and admits he could cause Southampton problems when Liverpool visit St Mary's on Saturday.

"Philippe is a Brazilian player and, as it happens with most Brazilians, he has a special magic in his feet," said the Saints boss.

"Aside from the magic that he has, he also has an amazing work-rate and that makes us doubt whether he fits the mould of a typical Brazilian player or a European one because his work ethic is outstanding.

"What is important about him is he is a good lad, a good kid - a great, humble person.

"I do think Coutinho has that same quality that Ronaldinho and Messi have, but he has much to prove yet.

"What is really clear to me is that Coutinho is a really responsible player - really dedicated and responsible to his own players."

Sturridge Fit For Reds Run-In

Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge is looking to make the most of the club's last nine matches and finish the season on a high.

The £12million January signing has scored five goals in eight appearances but a thigh injury has forced him to sit out two matches during that time.

He returned for last weekend's 3-2 win over Tottenham but was understandably short of his previous sharpness.

However, he is now looking to push on in the final two months of the campaign.

"My fitness is fine," the 23-year-old told liverpoolfc.com. "When I came back for the Tottenham game I trained for a couple of days prior to that. I didn't feel as sharp as I could have.

"I'm not making excuses for not performing as well as I'd have liked to have done. I'm glad the team won and I was happy to help the team.

"We've got nine games left and its nine cup finals in my opinion. I'm hoping to remain fit and God willing I can for those nine games."

The Reds' current injury concern surrounds goalkeeper Jose Reina, who missed the last game with a calf injury.

His participation in training has been restricted this week and Rodgers will make a decision today on whether the Spain international travels with the squad to face Southampton on Saturday.

"He hasn't trained so much this week, but he's coming along better and had a real good response to some of the work," said the Reds boss.

"We'll find out by today for definite if he's going to be fit."

Midfielder Joe Allen also requires an operation to cure a long-term shoulder injury but the Liverpool manager said they would not stop the player joining Wales for their internationals this month.

"It is something he has been playing through," Rodgers said. "He has an operation he will probably need but he has been fine with it for a few years.

"Since October he has really felt it and it is something that, at the right time in the next couple of months, we'll look to get organized.

"But at this moment he is involved with the group and will be involved with the Wales squad and we'll look at it after that."

Liverpool Tracking Valencia Playmaker

Brendan Rodgers is debating whether to make a £9 million move for Valencia midfielder Sofaine Feghouli.

The Reds boss is targeting four signings ahead of next season as he bids to push the club towards Champions League qualification, with a playmaker among the areas set to be strengthened.

Valencia midfielder Feghouli is thought to be on Rodgers' shortlist, along with Newcastle winger Hatem Ben Arfa, Fiorentina's Mounir El Hamdaoui and Ajax star Christian Eriksen.

According to reports in his homeland, Liverpool is prepared to offer around £9m to sign the 23-year-old former Grenoble player.

Algerian newspaper Le Buteur states that the Merseyside club is tracking Feghouli with a view to a bid this summer, although the Los Che star is not pushing for a move.

With his current contract set to run until 2016 after a recent extension, Valencia could play hard-ball with Liverpool for Feghouli who they value at closer to £15m.

Liverpool & Chelsea Face Competition For Croatia Defender

Liverpool and Chelsea have further competition in the race to sign promising defender Dejan Lovren as AC Milan is also interested.

According to talkSPORT, the 23-year-old interesting Anfield manager Brendan Rodgers and Stamford Bridge scouts has also impressed the San Siro club.

Lovren has excelled since he made the switch to Lyon from Dinamo Zagreb in 2010 and Liverpool’s interest may well be down to them looking for a long-term replacement for Jamie Carragher.

The Reds great confirmed he would be retiring from football at the end of the season, which will leave Rodgers short of one in defence.

Meanwhile, Chelsea captain John Terry is in the latter stages of his career and a reported interest in Lovren could be Blues owner Roman Abramovich setting up plans for when the veteran leaves.

However, both teams will now have to fight off interest from AC Milan as the Serie A side is looking for young talent as they carry on rebuilding their squad.

Lovren is an established Croatia international and has scored twice for Lyon.

Rodgers Rubbishes Loan Exits For Sterling & Suso

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has dismissed any suggestions that youngsters Raheem Sterling and Suso will leave the club on loan.

The pair, who came through the club’s youth system together, enjoyed regular appearances earlier in the season, earning rave reviews in the process but have seen themselves frozen out of the first-team picture a little recently.

Rodgers has been quick to point out, though, that despite the duo’s omission from the first-team squad of late, it doesn’t mean that he is willing to allow them to leave on a short-term loan deal.

"It's very simple, neither of them is available for loan," said Rodgers, as cited by Sky Sports.

"I'm not sure where the stories have come from, to be honest. They're both young players that have played a lot this year - they have been very much a part of the group.

"Raheem has been outstanding this year, he's only young and we need to nurture and protect him.

"We've got a very small squad and those two boys are an integral part of the group. That (loan deals) won't happen."

Sterling was in inspirational form at the start of the campaign, even earning himself an England call-up and debut in the 4-2 friendly defeat against Sweden in November of last year.

But he and Suso, who also appeared regularly with assured and confident displays earlier in the season, have dropped down the pecking order at Anfield at present with new boy Coutinho and the in-form Stewart Downing taking over Liverpool’s attacking options out wide.

Coutinho Inspired By Reds Stars

Liverpool forward Philippe Coutinho has been inspired by the "phenomenal" talents of Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard.

In the short time since he joined from Inter Milan in January the Brazil international has had chance to assess his new team-mates and believes they are 'out of this world'.

"Suarez is phenomenal - he is otherworldly," said the £8.5million signing.

"The goals he scores, the way he gives himself to the team...it is very important and I am very happy to be able to play next to him.

"I think it's the way he gives himself to the team. He doesn't let one ball go - even if it's the hardest one.

"He fights all the time to win and I admire that in a player. I think it is one of his strong points.

"I'm not only happy to play next to him, but also other players like Steven, who is phenomenal too. These are guys from another world!"

The 20-year-old has hit the gym in order to be able to cope with the physicality of the Premier League but has already made an impact, scoring once and providing two assists in just 202 minutes of football.

Gerrard has already hailed the youngster's "moments of magical brilliance" but Coutinho has been quick to understand that while Suarez, with 29 goals this season, and Gerrard are the key men there is a wider picture.

"What I have noticed in the last few weeks here is that the whole group is very united, strong and fights for their aims," he told liverpoolfc.com.

"I hope I can learn more and more with my team-mates here."

While the Brazilian hopes to get up to full speed as soon as possible, manager Brendan Rodgers is likely to cut him some slack after admitting his team-mates took a while to fully grasp the concepts he is instilling at Anfield.

The Reds boss, however, praised their courage for committing to the plan without question when he arrived in the summer.

That commitment and belief in the system is now starting to pay dividends as the side recorded a third successive league victory for the first time since May 2011 with Sunday's win over third-placed Tottenham.

"What we are seeing is the characteristics of the team, which is control and domination, but also a real steel to the defensive unit and everyone working for the cause and that is very important at the moment," said Rodgers.

"We are trying to form new ways of working and it is not easy for players, especially if you have worked a certain way with a certain manager and you bring in another manager who is a different man who works tactically different.

"There were some teething problems but staying calm was important for us.

"It is never easy. You want players to get on the ball and play but on the other side of that is to show your steel.

"In order to co-ordinate that it takes a bit of time but thankfully everyone has been really positive.

"You have to give credit to the players because they have continually believed and seen the development.

"You look at the quality of some of them but aligned to that is their courage.

"I inherited some very good players here but this season was a transition in many ways because of finances and there were management issues which I had to undertake coming in which were not just on the football operation.

"But the players have coped really well and slowly we have made a few additions and we hope we can do likewise in the summer.

"If we can do that over the course of the summer as each window goes by you start to see more of your type (of player), but that's taking nothing away from the players because they've been outstanding."

Liverpool head to struggling Southampton looking to maintain their winning run and try to close the seven-point gap on the top four but Rodgers stressed they were focused only on the next match.

"We can't get too far ahead of ourselves," he added.

"The second part of the season has been outstanding. We had a tough game physically and mentally against Tottenham and this week has been about getting refocused and re-energized for Southampton."

Ngoo Hopeful Of Winning Place At Liverpool

Hearts striker Michael Ngoo has stated that he hopes to earn a place in his parent club Liverpool's plans for next season.

The promising England youth international has notched three goals in his first four appearances on loan for the Maroons, endearing himself to local fans in the process.

Ngoo is set to start on Sunday against St. Mirren in the Scottish Communities League Cup final, and says he wants to break into the first team at Anfield in the near future.

"Maybe [Liverpool manager] Brendan [Rodgers] might be looking for other things in his team, like height and strength, so hopefully I have done enough to be considered in his plans for next season," he told the club's official website.

"I'm glad that I've been a challenge for very good defenders in my first ever top-flight run. I'm still young, I'm 20, and if I keep working and practicing then I could be a Plan B for Liverpool.

"They have DVDs of all of my performances. Even if they don't get to the game they'll see the DVD and I am always getting texts from the staff at Liverpool."

Nuri Sahin Slams Liverpool Boss

Nuri Sahin has criticized Liverpool manger Brendan Rodgers are he suffered an unhappy loan spell at the club earlier this season.

Sahin joined the Reds from Real Madrid at the start of the season but failed to make an impact at Anfield, managing just 12 appearances before moving back to his former club Borussia Dortmund.

"Brendan Rodgers wanted me to play as a 10. But I do not play behind the forwards," Sahin told Spanish newspaper AS.

"I spoke with him and asked him why I was playing there. It is not my real position. The boss could not answer me... still, I am not sorry about it.

"To play in the red jersey and be in Anfield is something marvellous.

"Maybe if I had not gone there I would not have been able to return to Borussia Dortmund. For that, I am happy.

"But I have left Brendan Rodgers, thanks be to God."

Sahin is enjoying his time back at Dortmund where he made his name before moving to the Bernabeu in 2011.

He said, "I feel well physically and mentally, everything is perfect. After returning to Germany, I feel much better."

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Liverpool Boss Targets Four Signings To Seal CL Return

Brendan Rodgers wants to make four new signings this summer, as he bids to strengthen Liverpool's squad and become credible Champions League challengers again, reports the Daily Mail.

The Reds boss is believed to be considering an offer for Swansea City captain Ashley Williams, and is also lining up summer moves for Newcastle United forward Hatem Ben Arfa, Blackpool winger Thomas Ince, and Paris Saint-Germain striker Kevin Gameiro.

Rodgers has already landed Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho in January, and the Reds have made significant progress in the Premier League since they joined.

The new signings have become regular starters for the Reds already, so Rodgers will be looking to sign Ben Arfa and Gameiro for back-up in attack.

Bringing in Ashley Williams will help to compensate for the loss of Reds legend Jamie Carragher, who is retiring at the end of the season.

The Liverpool boss was criticized last summer for not having a strategy in the transfer market, mostly due to missing out on the signature of Clint Dempsey.

Rodgers feels it is imperative to bolster his squad and give his first-team quality back-up, as Liverpool bid to regain their status as a top four club in the Premier League.

If Liverpool continues their impressive form shown in recent weeks until May, they could still have a chance of qualifying for Europe this season.

The Reds are currently 6th and would need to climb one position in the table to fifth for a place in the Europa League.

Rodgers: Downing Deserves Another England Shot

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes that if Stewart Downing can keep up his recent good form, he can force himself back into the England reckoning.

After signing for the Anfield club for a believed figure of around £20 million, Downing did not create or score a single league goal throughout the whole of the 2011/12 campaign – leaving not only his England prospects but Liverpool career in tatters.

However, summer appointment Rodgers showed belief in the confidence-stricken winger and slowly but surely that has paid off as Downing’s recent form has been impressive with the winger notching five goals in all competitions so far this season – with two of these in his last two Premier League appearances.

"I've been delighted with Stewart, he has come into the team and made the position his own. He has been absolutely outstanding," Rodgers told Liverpoolfc.com.

"There's no doubt about Stewart's qualities and what he's showing at the moment is that fighting spirit, doing all those things that we ask of every player in the team.

"It was a terrific goal at the weekend, how he read the game to press the centre-half and challenge the goalkeeper. It was a wonderful finish with his right foot.

"It showed his confidence level and how he's playing at the moment and we'll look to keep that going.

"If he continues this form, I'm very hopeful he'll play himself back into the England team."

Downing hasn’t always been a popular choice among England fans but with his career seemingly on the up, England boss Roy Hodgson could give him another chance.

Seemingly a fan of the winger, Hodgson included Downing in the Euro 2012 squad last summer. However, the ex-Middlesbrough and Aston Villa midfielder hasn’t actually featured since a friendly with Norway in May of last year, which was Hodgson’s first game in charge of the Three Lions.

Allen Named In Wales Squad Despite Surgery Concern

Joe Allen has been called up to the Wales squad for their World Cup qualifiers against Scotland and Croatia regardless of a shoulder injury that, if operated upon, will sideline the midfielder for an estimated three months.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers confirmed that Allen will go under the knife in the near future after the side’s 3-2 triumph over Tottenham on Sunday, and Allen himself said he is keen to have the treatment as soon as possible.

But Chris Coleman insists he has been kept in the dark over the situation and considers Allen to be available for Wales’ qualifiers starting on March 22.

"Obviously Brendan made the comment after the game at some stage he's going to have to have surgery, but at no time have we been told or has anybody said that he's not available,” Coleman told reporters.

"Of course if that was the case we wouldn't pick Joe. I totally respect Brendan and Liverpool and I think we've always tried to work with clubs because at the end of the day they're not our players. We're only borrowing them really.

"But no, we've not been told anything - that Joe's not available - so at the minute he's very much in the squad."

Liverpool Arrange Deal To Sign Malaga Star

Liverpool has arranged a deal to sign Malaga playmaker Manuel Iturra, according to reports in Portugal and Italy.

Iturra, a 28-year-old Chilean international, has impressed for the Spanish club in both La Liga and the Champions League this season and has caught Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers' eye as a potential target.

And now according to Portuguese newspaper A Bola and Italian website Calciomercato, a deal between the two clubs over Iturra’s future is all but finalized.

Iturra only moved to European football last year, where he joined the Spanish outfit as a free agent but he is out of contract at the end of the season and apparently keen to sort out his long-term future – which could now be at Anfield.

For now, Iturra’s attentions will be purely focused on current club Malaga as he looks to help his side overturn their 1-0 Uefa Champions League first-leg defeat to Porto on Wednesday evening.

Fabio Coentrao Is Wanted By Liverpool & Chelsea

Liverpool and Chelsea will struggle to land Fabio Coentrao in the summer amid reports Real Madrid are ready to use him as a makeweight in their bid to sign Edinson Cavani, reports talkSPORT.

The 25-year-old full-back cost Los Blancos £26.4million when he arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu from Benfica in 2011, but has fallen out of favour under Jose Mourinho, starting less than half of the club's Primera Division matches in 2012/13.

His plummet down the Real Madrid pecking order has prompted rumours of a move to the Premier League at the end of the season, with both Chelsea and Liverpool credited with an interest in the Portuguese international's signature.

Reds boss Brendan Rodgers has already made clear his intention to add three or four quality signings to his Anfield squad when the transfer window reopens, while Stamford Bridge owner Roman Abramovich always seems to be willing to fund the acquisition of new players to improve an ageing Blues squad.

Chelsea was actually linked with Coentrao before he signed for Real Madrid, and could make a renewed effort to lure him to west London.

However, both Chelsea and Liverpool's hopes of landing the player have been dealt a blow after Tuttosport's claim that the left sided winger will form part of the deal to see Real Madrid sign £54million-rated forward, Cavani.

The Uruguayan is one of the most highly-rated striker's in world football at the moment, having scored 95 goals in all competitions since joining Napoli from Palermo in 2010.

Despite his fine form, the Spanish giants are unwilling to meet the Serie 'A' outfit's asking price for Cavani, but will offer £35million as well as Coentrao to sweeten the deal.

Sterling Set For Championship Move

Liverpool have offered Raheem Sterling around a number of Championship clubs after making him available for a loan move.

Sterling has taken the Premier League by storm this season making 23 appearances for the Reds’ first team and picking up an England cap, but he has been relegated to a fringe role in recent weeks with manager Brendan Rodgers concerned about pushing him too quickly.

The 18-year-old, who penned a new contract at Anfield in December, has now been told he can finish the season with a loan spell in the Championship instead of sitting on the bench.

It’s thought that Rodgers has already recommended Sterling to Bolton, Brighton and table topping Cardiff City, while Blackpool is another option, with a deal possibly proving a sweetener for Thomas Ince’s transfer to Liverpool in the summer.

No deal is yet to be formally agreed, but Rodgers has already confirmed he is considering loaning out Sterling along with Spanish play-maker Suso.

‘Raheem has shown he can play at this level, but I gave him a week off to get away from football mentally and physically,’ said Rodgers.

‘If the young players are good enough they will be involved in the squad, but I have to look at the individual plan to see if they can be here.’

‘Obviously, there might be people who aren’t playing who might want to think about going elsewhere, but at the moment it’s a strong squad.’

Rodgers has previously rejected the notion of loaning out Sterling, but it’s thought both player and manager agreed the move at a meeting last week.