Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Rodgers Warns Against Coutinho Hype

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has warned against putting too much expectation on Philippe Coutinho.

The Brazilian playmaker created two goals in an impressive performance to help his team to a 6-0 Premier League win at Newcastle on Saturday.

Coutinho has become a regular since arriving from Inter Milan for £8 million in January, starting each of Liverpool's last nine league games, and scoring twice.

But Rodgers wants to build up the 20-year-old slowly, and is wary of hyping him up.

The manager told the club's official website: "We build up players in the country and put them on a pedestal and then quickly nail them down.

"He's had an outstanding performance and people can see why we brought him in. He's 20 years of age and fits the culture of what we're trying to do here.

"He's technically strong and he's a very humble boy. He works hard, you can see the effort in his game, the pressure, the intensity, so he fits in really well, but there's a long way to go.

"If you look at the stats you'll see I haven't eased him in gently. He's played nearly every game."

Borini To Fill Suarez Gap

Liverpool striker Fabio Borini says he wants to step in and fill the gap left by Luis Suarez's 10-match ban.

Borini returned from 10 weeks out with a dislocated shoulder to come off the bench and score in the 6-0 hammering of Newcastle at the weekend.

Having now scored his first Premier League goal for the club Borini hopes he can not only help fill the gap left by Suarez's ban but also contribute when the Uruguay international comes back.

"It had been a long injury for me and a long wait to score in the Premier League," he said.

"It's been hard. When I hurt my shoulder they said my season could be over but I fought back as I really needed to come back earlier.

"I took the minimum possible to get back training which was eight weeks instead of 12. Some people probably didn't think I could make it but I fought back.

"I can play a big part now not because Luis is suspended but because I am back fit.

"Whether Luis is available or not, we all need to focus on doing our jobs."

Liverpool face Everton at Anfield on Sunday and the Italian is looking forward to playing in his first Merseyside derby

"Next weekend will be my first derby here," he told liverpoolfc.com.

"But I've played in big derbies in Italy (Roma v Lazio) so I know the feeling.

"The atmosphere in those games was always very hot and I am sure here will be the same."

Spearing Unsure About His Future

Despite a broken toe that has kept him out of the lineup in recent weeks and would prevent him from taking part in the Championship playoff until at least the final should Bolton qualify, midfielder Jay Spearing is insistent that should the Wanderers make it that far he'll be in the lineup. Whether he's still in the lineup for them next season, though, remains up in the air despite recently being named player of the season by the Bolton Wanderers Supporters Association.

"I’d do anything to play a part in the final," he said. "If we get there, and I’m given a slight chance, I’d take it. When I heard the news that my toe was broken in three places I was absolutely devastated. But, hopefully, I can still do something. Any way I could be involved, as long as the gaffer wanted me to come back in—I’ll be there."

Spearing has made 36 starts for Bolton this season, scoring two goals and adding five assists as the energy man in Dougie Freedman's midfield. However, despite his positive impact, the Bolton manager has refused to be drawn into speculation concerning whether he will seek to keep Spearing on beyond the end of the season—and Spearing is similarly noncommittal.

"I’m not going to say yes or no at this point and it probably won’t be for me to decide," was Spearing's take on the matter. "The gaffer has got to want me in the first place, hasn’t he? But I’ll go away on holiday in the summer and then come back, sit down with Liverpool and with my agent to decide what happens."

Though his standing as a local prospect has always meant Liverpool fans have been eager to hope he might one day come good at Anfield, a regular role for Spearing in a side with Champions League aspirations remains unlikely. Whether his future is at the Reebok may still be up in the air, but it seems a near certainty that when he and his agent sit down with Liverpool over the summer, a return to his parent club won't be the alternative if it isn't.

Henderson Says Liverpool Can Cope Without Suarez

Jordan Henderson believes that Liverpool proved they can cope without Luis Suarez after the hit Newcastle for six on Saturday evening.

Henderson grabbed himself two goals against the Magpies and has praised his team mates’ response to the Uruguayan.

“It was important we ended the week on a high. I don’t think we let what has happened with Luis affect us. The players have handled it brilliantly.

“The attention has been diverted anywhere but football. But we just want to get on with our job.

“Luis is a massive player for us and has scored a lot of goals this season and we’re happy when he’s in the side.

“But we’ve shown that we can cope when he’s missing through suspension or injuries.

“We’ve answered a few critics with this performance who thought we’d struggle without Luis.

“We are a good team. If we can keep building and keep progressing then we can keep getting better.

“And on a personal note it was great to get a couple of goals.”

Carragher Chooses Pundit Role

With manager Brendan Rodgers fueling speculation about Jamie Carragher coming out of retirement before he has actually retired, discussion around the stalwart defender has largely revolved around one of two possible inevitabilities of late: that he'd follow through on his previous announcement and retire, or that he'd be convinced by the gaffer to give it one final season next year.

What fell off the radar somewhat was the potential for Carragher to take up television punditry full time, an act he tried on for size with ITV during Euro 2012 and found that it was a very good fit. Although it was reported last month that Carra had come to an agreement with Sky Sports for next season, news on that front cooled as Carra maintained his form and Rodgers spoke of summer chats and future ambitions.

Punditry is now not only back on the table but apparently also a done deal (again) with Carragher set to join the likes of former Reds Jamie Redknapp and Graeme Souness, as well as former rival Gary Neville, at Sky Sports. There's even super convincing, absolutely not photoshopped photographic proof to go with the announcement!

The news will come as a bit of a disappointment for anyone who had hoped Carragher would jump straight into a coaching role with Liverpool after retiring. Carra's steady acquisition of UEFA coaching badges over the years suggests a strong interest in keeping that avenue open in the future, but he is also quite practical about the challenges of actually making it as a manager in any league.

"We all look at Ferguson and Mourinho and think we’d love to be them — on the sidelines, winning games, big trophies — but you have to think where they started," Carragher said. "Mourinho was an assistant for years. Brendan Rodgers hasn’t just got the Liverpool job. He has been working for 20 years. Would I be prepared to go and work at an academy? Maybe, but it’s not top of my list of things that I want to do.

"I'm not sure players in [his and fellow retiree Michael Owen's] situation will go down that road. Maybe if you get a good job straight away, but think of the journeys the managers have gone on to get to the top. Very few top players now would be prepared to do that."

With a very successful playing career nearly behind him, Carragher's careful weighing of whether or not it's worth it to him to start from scratch and build a second career is both sensible and realistic given the ever quickening pace with which clubs sack their managers. Carra might very well have an inside track to one of those "good jobs" whenever he decides to take up the managerial mantle, but until that point fans will have to be content with hearing his voice through a studio microphone rather than over the din of a noisy pitch.

Liverpool Preparing A Move For Tiago Ilori

Liverpool FC is interested in signing Sporting Lisbon defender Tiago Ilori as a long-term replacement for Jamie Carragher.

The 20-year-old defender has broken into the Sporting Lisbon first team after joining the club’s youth system back in 2006. Interestingly, Ilori started his footballing career as a striker, but after he failed to impress in his first season in the club’s youth team, the youngster was loaned out to Estoril. It was at Estoril that he started playing as a defender and caught everyone’s attention in Portugal.

Since returning to the club, Ilori made his first team debut back in 2011, but it is only now that he has made his presence felt in the senior side. Ilori, who born at London to an English father, is a versatile footballer and is equally at ease in playing as a center-back or as a full-back. He has also progressed through the Portuguese youth teams and made his debut for the U-20 national side last year.

According to latest reports, Liverpool is interested in signing the 20-year-old defender as they seek a long-term replacement for Jamie Carragher, who is set to retire at the end of this season. There are also doubts about the future of Sebastian Coates at the club, as the Uruguayan international has been linked with a move to Serie A.

Sensing that Tiago Ilori will attract a lot of interest in the summer, Sporting Lisbon recently extended his contract till 2015. His recent contract extension means that the youngster won’t come cheaply for the Merseyside club. But Liverpool is not the only club interested in signing the Portuguese U-20 international. French club PSG and Toulouse are also monitoring his progress at the club.

Toulouse has in fact attempted to sign Tiago Ilori during the winter transfer window, but the Portuguese club rejected their bid for the defender. But the French club, along with Liverpool and PSG, are expected to vie for the defender in the summer once again. It is believed that Sporting Lisbon will look for bid of around £2 million for the highly rated defender.

Rodgers Chasing Reading Defender Alex Pearce

Reading defender Alex Pearce has moved a step closer to joining Liverpool after rejecting the offer of a new contract at Reading.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is an admirer of Pearce, 24, from his brief stint in charge at the Madejski Stadium.

Rodgers sees the Republic of Ireland international as a replacement for the retiring Jamie Carragher.

Pearce informed Reading he would not be signing a new deal before their relegation was confirmed in Sunday’s 0-0 draw at home to QPR.

Oxfordshire-born Pearce has played 127 league games for Reading since making his debut as an 18-year-old.

Rodgers is also battling with Fulham and Newcastle to sign the Royals’ England Under-21 goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, 23.

Atletico Want Suarez To Replace Falcao

Liverpool forward Luis Suarez is a transfer target for Atletico Madrid should Radamel Falcao move to Chelsea in the summer.

It is widely reported that Falcao will move to the Blues in the summer with Roman Abramovich ready to pay his £50m release clause.

The Express reports that they will look to use Suarez victimization in England as way of persuading him to move to La Liga where he may feel more comfortable.

Atletico Madrid has also been linked with Manchester United's Javier Hernandez and Chelsea's Fernando Torres, although he insists he wants to see out his contract at Stamford Bridge.

Suarez has bagged 23 goals this season for Liverpool and finished second in to Gareth Bale at the PFA Player of the Year awards.

Barcelona Back In For Agger

Liverpool defender Daniel Agger will once again be targeted by Barcelona this summer as they look to find a long term replacement for Carlos Puyol.

Agger has been an ever present this season under Brendan Rodgers but reports in Spain say that former team mate Javier Mascherano has told Barca officials that Agger is the man they need at the heart of their defence.

The Express also acknowledges that the Dane was a target for the Catalan giants last season but a deal was not able to be brokered.

The centre back is also a threat in front of goal scoring on four occasions.

Stephane Sessegnon Rebuffs Liverpool Talk

Sunderland star Stephane Sessegnon has refuted suggestions that he could leave the Stadium of Light in the summer.

The 28-year-old was the subject of transfer talk during the January transfer window, but interest in him subsided.

Despite past reports suggesting he is unsettled on Wearside, Sessegnon insists he has put his personal issues to bed.

In an interview with the Northern Echo, Sessegnon said: "The issue with my family is settled now.

"Two years ago when I arrived, sometimes my family wasn't here, but now it's fine.

"They live here now and the problem is completely finished.

"Even then (last summer) through, I never gave it (leaving the club) a thought. I didn't think about it and I didn't think about was being said about me."

Sessegnon has seven Premier League goals to his name this season.

Liverpool Take Spanish Youngster On Trial

Diego Gonzalez is a talented left-back with Cadiz who has also attracted interest from AS Roma.

Liverpool has had a rich recent history when it comes to bringing in Spanish talent. Firstly under the stewardship of Spaniard Rafa Benitez the club saw many young Spaniards come into the club over the course of his tenure some of which were great successes like Xabi Alonso or Pepe Reina; while others did not fare so well such as Antonio Nunez.

Now with Brendan Rodgers at the helm with his tiki-taka footballing philosophy the emphasis on technically gifted players in order to help him implement his way of thinking.

That spreads all the way down to the youth teams and it seems their recruitment drive is taking a turn in that direction.

According to Spanish football expert David Jaca on Twitter Liverpool are ready to bring in 16-year-old left-back Diego Gonzalez to the club on a week’s trial.

Described as fast with good technical ability he sounds a little like current Spanish full-back Jose Enrique and he has already made an appearance for his current club Cadiz CF in the Segunda Liga this season; playing five minutes against Albacete in November.

Such is his promise that he has already attracted interest from Real Madrid after it was reported he rejected the offer of a new contract at his current club.

They will also receive competition from Italian side AS Roma; who have good links with Cadiz owner Alessandro Gaucci and were considered to hold the upper hand until this most recent piece of news.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Match Report: Newcastle 0 - 6 Liverpool

Daniel Sturridge filled Luis Suarez's boots to perfection as Liverpool hit top gear to pile the pressure on Newcastle boss Alan Pardew.

The striker, who scored for Chelsea at St James' Park last season, helped himself to a double as the Reds romped to a stunning victory which leaves the Magpies still deep in relegation trouble.

Newcastle was utterly shambolic on a day when they could have all but secured their Barclays Premier League status for another season, and the visitors took full advantage.

Central defender Daniel Agger headed them in front with just five minutes gone and Sunderland old boy Jordan Henderson made it 2-0 12 minutes later.

Pardew threw on substitutes Hatem Ben Arfa and Yoan Gouffran at the break, but it was Sturridge who ended any doubt that that Brendan Rodgers' men would leave north-east with all the points with a double inside six second-half minutes.

Further strikes from substitute Fabio Borini and Henderson rubbed salt into black and white wounds, as did the 75th-minute dismissal of Mathieu Debuchy for a second yellow card.

The Newcastle boss had gone into the game having expressed his disappointment with the tide of criticism which had come his way in the wake of the derby defeat by Sunderland a fortnight ago, but Saturday's dreadful display will have done little to appease either the club's fans or owner Mike Ashley with relegation a distinct possibility.

Pardew stood impotently on the sideline as his side imploded, and one fan among a crowd of 52,351 made his feelings clear when he hurled his scarf towards the 51-year-old.

A collective sigh of relief issued forth from St James' some 40 minutes ahead of kick-off when news of Tottenham's late equalizer, which denied Wigan a much-needed victory, left them still five points clear of the drop zone.

As a result, Pardew's players emerged from the dressing room knowing a victory would edge them to the brink of safety, far from their objectives for the campaign, but the bare minimum requirement.

But within 17 catastrophic minutes, their hopes had all but died as Liverpool cut loose to rekindle memories of their 5-1 victory on Tyneside in 2008.

Few inside St James' needed reminding that on that occasion, they would slip out of the division five months later.

The Reds tore at their hosts from the off and needed just five minutes to forge their way ahead when Agger took advantage of lazy defending to run unmarked on to Stewart Downing's lofted cross and head past the helpless Rob Elliot.

Newcastle were woeful as they conceded space to Liverpool in the middle of the field despite employing James Perch and Cheick Tiote in front of the back four to allow the excellent Philippe Coutinho and Sturridge to run riot.

They increased their lead with 17 minutes gone after mounting a flowing attack which left the magpies floundering again, Coutinho sliding the ball into Sturridge's path for him to square for Henderson to double the dose.

Sturridge forced a 24th-minute save from Elliot and Steven Gerrard uncharacteristically volleyed wide five minutes later with the locals fearing the worst.

By contrast, Newcastle had little or no penetration as lone striker Papiss Cisse was starved of possession with Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sissoko becalmed by a sea of red shirts.

But they should really have been back in it with nine minutes of the half remaining when full-back Massadio Haidara produced the first cross of any note to present Perch with a free header, only to see him head wastefully wide.

Pardew made his move at the break, withdrawing Perch and Jonas Gutierrez with Ben Arfa and Gouffran, knowing his side needed something different and needed it fast.

Gouffran might have obliged within four minutes when he got his head to Cabaye's cross, but his looping header was easily collected by Pepe Reina.

The balance of the game had changed as Newcastle poured forward and started to find space in advanced areas, although Cabaye passed up a glorious chance after miscontrolling on the edge of the box with 52 minutes gone.

But the game was effectively over two minutes later when Ben Arfa, who had shown encouraging signs, was robbed by Coutinho wide on the right and sped forward to slide in Sturridge, who blasted past Elliot.

But things were to get much, much worse for the Magpies.

They were carved open once again when Gerrard and Henderson combined to set up Sturridge for his second with half an hour still to play, and the rout was far from complete.

Borini needed just two minutes to find the back of the net on his return from injury as a substitute when he converted Downing's cross, and Henderson sent a 74th-minute free-kick across Elliot and into the bottom corner with no team-mate able to get a touch to make it 6-0.

Within seconds Debuchy got his marching orders after receiving a second yellow for a foul on Coutinho, and only a fine 82nd-minute save by Elliot denied Coutinho a seventh goal as the storm clouds gathered over Tyneside with three games of a difficult campaign remaining.

Rodgers Draws Line Under Suarez Affair

Brendan Rodgers said Liverpool's resounding 6-0 win at Newcastle was the perfect way to end a week that was dominated by the ten-match ban meted out to striker Luis Suarez.

The Uruguayan was sitting out his first game after biting Branislav Ivanovic, but his presence was not missed as Liverpool racked up a heavy win thanks to two goals from Daniel Sturridge, two from Jordan Henderson and further strikes from Daniel Agger and Fabio Borini.

After a win that set Liverpool up in perfect fashion for next week's Merseyside derby, Rodgers said he hoped the club could now move on from the furore of the past seven days.

"Of course last week was difficult,'' Rodgers told ESPN.”I spent a lot of time talking to Luis. We move on from that, we don't want to keep bringing it up. He is suspended for 10 games. My plan is to keep him fit and working and there is a plan. It was a real test for us today.

"We do it (move forward) collectively. Luis has been brilliant, we can only move forward with the players we have. As you have seen, our focus and job at hand was fantastic.''

Liverpool dominated from start to finish and Agger's third-minute header set the tone for the rest of the game. "It was a terrific start, we were very aggressive, the pressing was very good,'' he said.

"Daniel Sturridge can prove to be one of the top strikers in Europe in the next three years, he needs an opportunity. You can see his strength, his speed, his power and his finishing as well.''

Liverpool Go For Cut Price Sevilla Defender

Liverpool are set to make an offer for Sevilla centre back Ferderico Fazio, according to reports.

Fazio’s contract is set to expire at the end of next season and Sevilla are ready to accept a cut price of £5 million this summer for him according to the Express.

Brendan Rodgers was linked with a move for the 26-year-old in January, and could revive his interest this summer with Jamie Carragher set to retire and question marks over the long-term future of Martin Skrtel.

Fazio is thought to be a good fit for the Premier League, with his strong 6ft 5in frame a key component that should allow him to adapt easily from the Spanish game.

Luis Suárez Is Wanted By Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich are expected to make a move for Liverpool’s Luis Suárez with the Germans increasingly resigned to missing out on Robert Lewandowski to Manchester United.

United are confident that they are now favourites to sign Lewandowski, a long-term target, who scored four goals in Borussia Dortmund’s 4-1 Champions League semi-final first leg victory over Real Madrid.

If Lewandowski, 24, is signed it will raise questions over where Wayne Rooney fits into Sir Alex Ferguson’s plans although the United manager has already stated that he intends to offer the striker, who has two years left on his current contract, a new deal.

That resolve may be tested over the summer especially as United are not likely to offer Rooney, 27, the same terms as he signed with his last deal and if Lewandowski arrives he will expect to be first-choice alongside Robin van Persie.

When asked whether he could find room for Lewandowski, whose contract expires in June 2014, in his team, Ferguson said: “Have I got room for him? I can find room for anybody.”

Ferguson added that he did not think, in the wake of the £32 million transfer of Mario Götze, that Dortmund would also sell Lewandowski to Bayern.

“Dortmund fans are not going to be happy and I don’t think they will sell Lewandowski to Bayern Munich,” Ferguson said. “I think they’ll let his contract run out, or sell him somewhere else.”

Bayern are now planning to formalize efforts to tempt Suárez away from Anfield.

Liverpool have insisted that the 26-year-old Uruguayan will not leave the club this summer, despite him being hit with a 10-game suspension for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic.

While Suárez has told team-mates that La Liga, rather than the Bundesliga, is his preferred destination should he leave Liverpool, the impending arrival of Pep Guardiola as Bayern coach could prove decisive.

Guardiola has made no secret of his admiration of Suárez, who is represented by Pere Guardiola, the former Barcelona coach’s brother.

Manchester City also retains an interest in Suárez, but the player’s reputation could trouble the club’s image-conscious Abu Dhabi ownership.

Juventus are also monitoring his situation.

Liverpool In Shirt And Stadium Sponsor Talks

Liverpool could be the next club to receive a major financial injection from Qatar, according to a report.

Arab-based TV station Al Jazeera is said to be claiming that the Reds are in talks with Ooredoo - a major telecommunications company in the Arab state - over becoming their new shirt sponsors and, perhaps controversially, buying naming rights to Anfield.

The story apparently quotes an Ooredoo director, who explains why they want to be in business with Liverpool.

“The goal was to sponsor a big English club with a huge history, our search included Arsenal and Manchester United but the former two have long sponsorship deals and the same applies to Manchester City, so Liverpool is the only club available right now," he reportedly said.

"We want to sponsor the club in full. We want to sponsor the stadium as well as the club's kits.

"Our goal is to reach the Asian markets, where the Premier League has an enormous fan base.

"We received the tender from the club a few days ago and we are currently in the process of due diligence and we are studying each aspect of the study.

"It is a dual interest, Liverpool needs the money to compete with the European heavyweights and we want to expand our brand to reach new markets via football."

Liverpool are trying to regain their once-traditional place among English football's best under their new American owners, but have not played in the Champions League since the 2009-10 season and face missing out on Europe entirely for next season.

Last month, it was reported that Liverpool were negotiating with current shirt sponsors, bankers Standard Chartered, over extending a £20million-a-year deal that expires next year.

Spanish giants Barcelona already have Qatari shirt sponsors, and Qatari money has helped take another La Liga side, Malaga, and France's Paris Saint-Germain to the last eight of the Champions League.

Andy Carroll Drops Hint At Anfield Return

Andy Carroll has provided the most significant clue yet that he’s ready to re-build his Liverpool career.

The £35million striker is close to agreeing a move - to a new house in Southport. And that could sabotage West Ham’s hopes of signing the 24 year-old England ace.

Hammers boss Sam Allardyce wants Carroll to stay after spending this season on loan from Anfield.

But the hitman wants to have another go at establishing himself at the Reds – and boss Brendan Rodgers may need him with Luis Suarez’s future uncertain.

Manchester City Want Rodgers To Replace Mancini

Brendan Rodgers is the shock name in the frame to replace Roberto Mancini as Manchester City manager, writes the Sunday People.

The Liverpool boss has significant behind-the-scenes support at the Etihad despite a hit-and-miss first season at Anfield.

The Blues power-brokers believe the 40-year-old Irishman fulfils all the criteria they deem essential – like a willingness to blood young players early, media skills, and European experience – and the ace in his pack is that he is fluent in both English and Spanish.

Rodgers was City’s first choice a year ago when he was at Swansea and Mancini was on the ropes – before the dramatic turnaround that saw his side crowned Premier League champions.

Now the Irishman is back on City radar, with Mancini not safe even if he wins the FA Cup next month.

Rodgers has two years left on his Liverpool contract so City would have to pay compensation – but that won’t deter them.

Chelsea boss Rafa Benitez is also a live contender for the City post – sources close to the Spaniard say he is desperate for the job.

But it’s the pursuit of Rodgers, just a year into his Liverpool career, that will raise most eyebrows.

Ferguson Sympathises With Liverpool Over Suarez Ban

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed he sympathizes with rivals Liverpool after Luis Suarez’s recently imposed 10-match ban for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic.

When asked about Uruguayan’s sanction from the FA, the Red Devils chief reflected on the governing body’s decision to hand former United striker and captain, Eric Cantona, a nine-month ban for attacking a fan in January 1995.

The prolific Frenchman dived into the Selhurst Park stands during a Premier League match against Crystal Palace in the 1995-1996 campaign, after a member of the crowd allegedly hurled abuse and missiles at the Red Devils man.

And while Ferguson said he feels for Liverpool following the news of the Uruguayan’s ban, the Scott also questioned the FA’s decision in regards to Cantona’s extensive suspension.

“I can understand how Liverpool is aggrieved at it, and I’m sure they are," he said. "I think back to Cantona and I have to say, a nine-month ban doesn’t equate to a ten-match ban does it?

“I keep going back to the Cantona incident, and I must say, the FA did us that day. When you think about it, a nine-month ban is quite incredible and I still can’t get around it. I would never allow that to happen now.”

Ferguson went on to slam the FA for the handling of Cantona’s outburst, and revealed FA directors guaranteed the club that their own disciplinary action of the forward would suffice, only to impose a more severe ban days later.

“I would have never listened to them in the first place when they said they would be happy if we decided Cantona’s punishment," he added. "[FA executive director] David Davies promised us that if we did there would be no more action taken.

“So we did that, we gave him a four-month ban, but two days later they charged him and sentenced him to nine. This club would never allow that to happen again. I bet Liverpool are glad they didn’t [listen to the FA], because it didn’t work with us, that’s for sure.”

Enrique Expects Skrtel Comeback

Jose Enrique has ranked teammate Martin Skrtel alongside the best the Barclays Premier League has to offer and backed the defender to follow his path back into the Liverpool side.

After beginning the 2012-13 campaign as first choice for Brendan Rodgers, the Slovakian has made only two starts since the end of January.

Enrique found himself on the substitutes' bench earlier in the season too but has cemented the left-back berth as his own - and expects Skrtel to achieve a similar turnaround.

"I think we have one of the best centre-backs in the league in Martin Skrtel," said the Spaniard.

"Last season he was player of the season for us. For me, when he comes on he will be top-class again for sure.

"In my case it was the start of the season and it was not really good but when the manager told me [I would not be playing] I didn't think to go.

"Last year I played a lot of games for Liverpool and before the start of the season I knew I would play a lot of games because, if I am fit, I can play in this team.

"From the start I tried as hard as I could and sometimes it is good for someone to tell you the bad things you don't want to hear.

"This, to be honest, woke me up and now I am playing well."

O'Hanlon Strikes In West Ham Loss

A stirring second-half performance was not enough for Liverpool's U18s as they suffered a 2-1 defeat by West Ham on Saturday.

Steve Cooper's side fell behind early on against the Hammers and a defensive error allowed the home team to double their advantage before the half-time interval.

The young Reds rallied after the break, increasing both the tempo and their pressing, and were rewarded with a goal from Alex O'Hanlon around the hour mark.

Cooper's team bombarded the West Ham goal throughout the rest of the period but was frustrated in their attempts to find an equalizer and the Londoners held on for three points.

"We weren't good in the first half, we weren't bright enough," Cooper told Liverpoolfc.com post-match. "The second half was much better but we just needed a bit more quality in and around the goal."

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Liverpool To Honour Gerrard With Summer Testimonial

Liverpool will honour captain Steven Gerrard with a testimonial match this summer.

The Reds will host Greek champions Olympiacos at Anfield on Saturday, 3 August, with both clubs donating the proceeds to charity.

Gerrard's dramatic late goal against the Greeks in December 2004 sent Liverpool through to the knockout stages of the Champions League and he went on to lift the trophy the following May.

"I am delighted to be honoured by Liverpool FC with a testimonial match and particularly thrilled that Olympiacos have accepted my invitation to play the fixture," Gerrard said.

"Last time we met proved to be such a memorable game both for me personally and Liverpool Football Club.

"I am also especially grateful that Olympiacos have truly embraced the aim of this match and chosen to donate their fee to charity. I am looking forward to what I know will be a fantastic game and a wonderful occasion."

Liverpool will donate monies raised to The Steven Gerrard Foundation, a charity for disadvantaged youngsters, while Olympiacos will give their appearance fee to local causes back home.

Suarez Banned For Ten Matches

Liverpool striker Luis Suarez has been handed a 10 game ban for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic.

The incident took place during the Reds' 2-2 Premier League draw with the Blues on Sunday afternoon, with the 26-year-old facing a backlash as soon as the match had finished.

The Uruguayan had accepted the FA charge but contested whether a three-match ban was 'clearly insufficent'.

But the FA appears to have sent a clear message to the former Ajax man, who was suspended for seven matches in 2011 for the same offence, with their judgement.

A statement on the governing body's website said: "Luis Suarez has been suspended for a total of ten matches after an Independent Regulatory Commission ruled on a charge of violent conduct.

"A three-person Independent Regulatory Commission upheld The FA’s claim that a suspension of three matches was clearly insufficient and the player will serve a further seven first-team matches in addition to the standard three. The suspension begins with immediate effect.

"This follows an incident with Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic in Sunday’s fixture at Anfield.

"The Liverpool forward had accepted a charge of violent conduct but had denied The FA’s claim that the standard three-match sanction was insufficient for the offence.

"The incident was not seen by the match officials and has therefore been retrospectively reviewed. Suarez has until midday on Friday 26 April to appeal the additional suspension, above the standard three matches."

Liverpool Shocked And Disappointed By Suarez Ban

Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre says the club is 'shocked and disappointed' by the Football Association's decision to ban Luis Suarez for ten matches.

Suarez has been handed the punishment after being found guilty of violent conduct for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic at Anfield on Sunday.

"Both the club and player are shocked and disappointed at the severity of today's Independent Regulatory Commission decision," Ayre said. "We await the written reasons before making any further comment."

Liverpool is almost certain to appeal against the length of the suspension, which, if upheld, will rule the 26-year-old out of his side's remaining four fixtures of this campaign and the first six games of next season.

Suarez served a seven-match ban in Holland for the same offence in 2010 and was forced to sit out eight games last season after being found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra.

The Uruguayan has already been fined by Liverpool for the incident with Ivanovic and took to Twitter on Monday to express remorse over his latest indiscretion.

Ban Could Force Suarez Out

Former Liverpool midfielder Ray Houghton has called Luis Suarez’s 10-game ban for biting “excessive” compared to the eight he received for racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra last season.

And Houghton has blasted the FA’s disciplinary procedures as being “outdated” and in need of radical overhaul.

Suarez had accepted a charge of violent conduct and expected the maximum three-match ban, but an independent regulatory commission agreed with the FA that such a suspension was insufficient.

The ban, which begins with immediate effect, will include the first six games of next season.

Houghton said: “Handing out a longer ban for biting than racial abuse doesn’t add up. How did the FA reach that decision?

“Of course, biting is unacceptable, but racial abuse is far more serious.

“The FA hide behind their disciplinary panels and independent commissions, but it’s about time they faced up to the fact that the punishments don’t always make sense.

“In this case, 10 games is excessive and I’m sure Liverpool will feel they’ve got a good chance of overturning the length of the ban.

“I sometimes wonder if the FA just like to flex their muscles to show who is boss. If so, why didn’t they also take retrospective action against Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge and Manchester City’s Samir Nasri for dangerous tackles on Sunday?

“The key about disciplinary action is that it must be seen to be applied fairly and in this case I don’t think it is.”

Houghton is worried that the latest controversy might mean that Suarez could decide to move on in the summer.

He added: “If the ban is upheld that will mean that two bans has cost him 18 games – almost half a season.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if his advisers are telling him that it is time to cut his losses and move on.

And as Goal.com exclusively revealed earlier this week, the Reds would be willing to entertain marquee offers of £40 million upwards. Liverpool, for now, has control. His new long-term, £100,000-a-week contract in August did what Premier League defenders can't - tying the striker down. Well, for now, at least.

“The ball is very much in the player’s court and he needs to go in to a corner with people that he trusts and sort himself out.

“For his sake and the club’s sake he must learn to control his actions on the pitch. It is in his DNA and won’t magically disappear without him accepting he is wrong and addressing it.

"Despite it all, Liverpool coach Brendan Rodgers won’t want him to go. There are not talented players like Suarez around, certainly not at Liverpool.

“If you take Suarez’s 30 goals out of Liverpool’s season then you are faced with a season that is not very good – and that’s putting it mildly.

“The problem with Liverpool is that there might not be very much they can do about it. We saw with [Cristiano] Ronaldo at Manchester United, if your top player has his heart set on leaving then they usually get their wish.”

Carragher Defends Suarez

Jamie Carragher believes that Liverpool is doing the correct thing by standing up for Luis Suarez and says that a bad challenge which could break someone’s leg is worse than a bite.

"The way things are now being pitched is that Liverpool have got to do something about the rotten apple in their midst," he said in the Daily Mail.

"It is as if Luis is the only player to have represented Liverpool who has ever been embroiled in controversy. That simply isn't the case."

He added, "Every one of the players I mention regretted what happened and Luis is the same. More importantly, the club stood by every one of them."

Carragher also attempted to put the incident into perspective, saying it was not as bad as leg-breaking tackle.

"The bite was shocking, no question, and everyone who has seen it was amazed," he said. "Yet was it worse than a challenge that could end someone's career?

"I know what it is like to have your leg broken by a reckless tackle. Lucas Neill cost me six months of my career in September 2003 when he played for Blackburn. Would I have preferred to have been bitten? Absolutely.

"I suspect that Branislav Ivanovic, who has conducted himself with great credit in the aftermath, would agree."

Mkhitaryan Signs With New Agent To Secure Liverpool Move

Shaktar Donetsk winger Henrikh Mkhitaryan has switched agents in a bid to secure a summer move to Liverpool, according to reports.

Mkhitaryan has signed with Italian super-agent Mino Raiola as the summer transfer window edges ever closer, with the 24-year-old keen to secure a transfer out of Ukraine.

Raiola has developed a reputation for brokering big-money transfer deals and has contacts at many of Europe’s biggest clubs including Manchester United and Juventus.

But it is Raiola’s close relationship with Liverpool that is of interest to Mkhitaryan – and the Armenian is keen to secure a switch to Anfield after making them his number one priority.

It is thought that Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is also keen on doing business, as the player has enjoyed his best campaign yet for Shaktar, scoring 24 goals in 34 matches.

Mkhitaryan is likely to cost upwards of £15million and, if successful in getting his client a move, Raiola stands to pick up a cool £3million on top of that.

Tottenham have previously been linked with Mkhitaryan, but it is thought that Liverpool are the front-runners.

Liverpool Eye Free-Transfer Move For Serie A Defender

Liverpool have received a boost in their bid to sign Lazio defender Modibo Diakite at the end of the season with the news that the player’s proposed summer move to Napoli may have broken down, reports the Daily Express.

The Reds have been keeping close tabs on the French centre back all campaign and reportedly came close to signing Diakite in the recent January transfer window, only for the two clubs to fail to agree a deal for the highly-rated player.

However, Liverpool head-coach Brendan Rodgers may now revive his longstanding interest in the 26-year-old when the transfer window reopens for business on June 1, with Diakite’s contract with the Serie A giants set to expire at the end of this month.

And that means that the Merseysiders would be able to pick Diakite up on a free transfer, which would greatly appeal to the club’s American owners Fenway Sports Group.

Rodgers is known to be on the look-out at present for a long-term replacement for veteran former England international centre-back Jamie Carragher, who is set to finally call it a day at Anfield at the end of the season, while both fellow defenders Martin Skrtel and Sebastian Coates are also expected to leave the club this summer.

Liverpool & Man United To Battle Over German Starlet

Liverpool and Manchester United are set to do battle over the signing of promising young German Matthias Ginter.

Both Sir Alex Ferguson and Brendan Rodgers are keen on the 19-year-old and have sent scouts out to watch him, according to Tuttomercatoweb.

Ginter is a talented and versatile young player and has played in a number of positions for his club Freiburg in the Bundesliga

He initially went into the first team as a central defender but has since been deployed at full-back, centre midfield and even on the right.

Manchester United have a players with similar attributes in Phil Jones, who Ferguson recently claimed could one day be the Old Trafford club’s greatest ever player.

An interest in Ginter could be to do with the reported second retirement of Paul Scholes and long-term fitness doubts over combative midfielder Darren Fletcher.

Liverpool meanwhile will be looking to further add to their squad this summer as they attempt to try and get back in to the Champions League again.

Anfield owners FSG carry out a policy of purchasing almost exclusively young talent from around the world and Ginter would certainly fit the bill.

Evra Celebrates Title By Mocking Luis Suarez

Manchester United players completed a lap of honour around Old Trafford after they sealed their 20th league title and fans showered them with ‘Champions’ flags, red and black scarves…and severed arms.

Pictures of the post-match celebrations, after United beat Aston Villa 3-0 thanks to a Robin van Persie hat-trick, showed left-back Patrice Evra wielding a (hopefully plastic) severed limb, as the Frenchman mocked old adversary Luis Suarez.

Suarez yesterday was caught up in yet more controversy after he bit the arm of Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic, for which he was today charged by the Football Association.

But football fans are never ones to pass up such a golden opportunity, particularly not where Manchester United and Liverpool are concerned.

Evra and Suarez themselves have history, with the Uruguayan having received an eight-match ban for racially abusing the United man.

And Evra seemed to enjoy the opportunity to mock Suarez as much as the title-winning celebrations.