Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Gerrard Vows To Return To His Best

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has found his form hard to come by this season but has told supporters that he is close to being back to his best.

The Anfield and England captain has had a mixed campaign due to injuries and tactical changes under Brendan Rodgers, which have forced him into different roles and seen him score just five goals.

He told the official Liverpool FC magazine, "I've had mixed experiences this season. I've passed some unbelievable landmarks for club and country, getting to the 600-games mark and winning my 100th cap for England.

"But, with the slow start we made and being where we have in the league, it's been a bit mixed for me.

"There's my form as well. I've played well in some games but I've been disappointed with myself in others and I'm not happy with my goal tally at the moment.

"People's opinions, perceptions and the way they judge you changes when you get a goal.

"I think my performances are getting closer to where I want them to be so if I can add goals to those performances, then maybe people will start saying the old Steven Gerrard is back.

"I don't think the manager has asked me to do anything different in terms of the way he wants to me to perform.

"But because of certain injuries, situations that have happened to the team and formations that we've played, I've naturally played a little bit deeper.

"I've maybe gone into protection mode rather than playing the old Steven Gerrard way with the shackles off and going for the jugular."

Gerrard added, "But I've got the buzz that the team's improving and it's going to get better.

"I'm confident that come the end of the season I will be satisfied with myself and the team, because I do believe we can finish the season really strong."

Scholes: Manchester United & Liverpool Rivalry Still As Intense

Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes still believes the rivalry between his club and Liverpool is still as concentrated as ever, despite the noticeable decline in the Merseyside club’s fortunes over recent years.

Liverpool will arrive at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon looking to put a dent in Sir Alex Ferguson’s side’s title aspirations, but find themselves 21 points off the Premier League leaders, a deficit that defines the growing chasm between the two great rivals.

Manchester City now provide the biggest threat to Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, but Scholes still relishes the opportunity to take on Liverpool, and identifies the rivalry as United’s biggest, despite the lack of a title threat from Brendan Rodgers’ side.

“Liverpool probably hasn’t done as well as they’d have liked over the last few years – and they’d probably admit that. But it’s definitely still right up there, it’ll always be right up there,” Scholes said, speaking to Manchester United’s official website.

With seven points between United and Roberto Mancini’s City, Sunday could holds the possibility of having a pivotal role in the title race. Manchester City face their own formidable challenge in a visit to Arsenal, but for Scholes is focused on getting one over the team he still considers to be United’s biggest rivals.

“Whether Manchester City have overtaken Liverpool now [as United’s biggest rivals], I don’t know… it’ll probably take years for City to create what Liverpool have done,” he added. “But Liverpool historically are our biggest rivals, they’re always the biggest games and the best atmospheres. But I’m sure City will run them close.”

Webb To Referee Man United-Liverpool

Howard Webb has been named as the referee for Sunday's Premier League clash between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford.

It will be the first time the Rotherham official has taken charge of one of the biggest domestic club fixtures in world football since the two contested an FA Cup tie in January 2011.

In that match - Kenny Dalglish's first game back in charge of Liverpool - United won 1-0 courtesy of an early penalty from Ryan Giggs and Reds captain Steven Gerrard was sent off in the 32nd minute.

That result prompted then Liverpool forward Ryan Babel to post a mocked-up picture of Webb wearing a United shirt on his Twitter account.

The post and the accompanying tweet - "And they call him one of the best referees? That's a joke." - saw the Dutchman fined £10,000 and warned about his future conduct.

Webb is regarded as one of the top officials in world football, and in 2010 became the first referee to take charge of the finals of the Champions League and the World Cup in the same year.

Former referee Graham Poll told the Daily Mail: "Howard Webb, as the No.1 referee as ranked by UEFA, FIFA and the Premier League, is a natural selection for the Manchester United-Liverpool match this weekend.

"He was selected for the World Cup final and the Champions League, so it is hard to argue with those credentials.

"In appointing Webb, referee chief Mike Riley is covered in that, even if the game goes badly, he can say: 'Well, I appointed the No.1 referee.'"

Fergie Set To Ditch De Gea And Could Go For Reina

Sir Alex Ferguson is on the hunt for a new goalkeeper and he could look to bring Liverpool's Pepe Reina.

The United boss is rumoured to be losing faith in both De Gea and Lindegaard even though both have been given their chance to make the number one jersey their own this season and according to the Mirror he has asked David Gill to fund a buy for a genuine number one.

Ideally Fergie would like to bring in a keeper who is available to play in the Champions League as he believes his free scoring side has a great chance in the competition and both of his current options still have question marks over their fragility under pressure.

Stoke City’s Asmir Begovic is under review and even Liverpool’s Pepe Reina is a possibility. Both can play in Europe this season.

Begovic has been a giant for the Potters who do not want to sell. Reina’s future under Brendan Rodgers is less certain.

ESPN Reprimand Champion Over Suarez

ESPN commentator Jon Champion has been spoken to by the broadcaster after describing Luis Suarez as "a cheat".

Champion made his views clear after Suarez used his right wrist to score Liverpool's second goal in their 2-1 FA Cup third-round win yesterday at non league Mansfield.

As ESPN showed a replay of a clear case of handball from Suarez, Champion said: "That, I'm afraid, is the work of a cheat."

The broadcaster has released a statement on Monday regarding the comment.

The statement read: "We take our responsibility to deliver the highest standards of coverage to our viewers.

"ESPN's editorial policy is for commentators to be unbiased and honest, to call things as they see them.

"Inevitably this can involve treading a fine line on occasion, especially in the heat of the moment.

"Comments during the Mansfield v Liverpool match caused offence where none was intended and we have spoken to our commentator about this incident."

Liverpool Hopeful Of Landing Modibo Diakite

Liverpool are said to be closing in on a deal for talented Lazio defender Modibo Diakite after holding a second round of talks with the player.

Imposing centre-back Diakite is out of contract at the end of the season, and is now free to talk to other clubs about a pre-contract move in the summer.

Aston Villa have also been linked with an approach, but Reds boss Brendan Rodgers has moved first, and has spent the last month trying to thrash out a deal.

An initial round of talks that took place before Christmas proved fruitless, with wages and contract length rumoured to be the sticking points. However, the Italian press claim Liverpool are now more hopeful of reaching an agreement after a second meeting this week.

It’s thought that Rodgers is willing to hand over a chunky signing-on fee if the Frenchman compromises on his contract demands.

Diakite, a leggy, powerful defender who can also play in midfield, could replace veteran Jamie Carragher, 34, or homesick Uruguayan Sebastian Coates.

Southampton Set To Beat Liverpool For Astori's Signature

Southampton is set to gazump Liverpool for international Davide Astori with a bi of around £12 million.

The 25 year old caught the interest of Brendan Rodgers who had made an offer of around £7 million for the defender, however his club Cagliari value him closer to £12 which has not put off the club on the South Coast after their defensive struggles this season, according to the Daily Mail.

Astori has been capped twice at international level, and was among the Italy squad who were beaten by England in the early season friendly in Switzerland.

He was also a late consideration for Cesare Prandelli’s Euro 2012 when there were doubts over the fitness of Andrea Barzagli.

Milan Eyeing January Move For Nuri Sahin

AC Milan have begun outlining their transfer targets for the January transfer window and are keen on a move for out-of-favour Liverpool midfielder Nuri Sahin.

Owner Silvio Berlusconi, vice-president Adriano Galliani and coach Massimiliano Allegri have held meetings regarding targets since the turn of the new year, and view covering the loss of Nigel de Jong to a ruptured Achilles as one of their main priorities.

Sahin has made just 12 appearances since his summer move to Anfield on loan from Real Madrid, with the likes of Steven Gerrard and Joe Allen regularly chosen ahead of him in midfield.

The Rossoneri have already sold Alexandre Pato to Corinthians and, with doubts surrounding the future of fellow striker Robinho, it is believed that Allegri is also eyeing a move for Roma striker Mattia Destro.

Torino defender Angelo Ogbonna has also been earmarked as a possible target after the 24-year-old put in a number of impressive performances in Serie A as well as travelling with the Italy squad to Euro 2012.

Youngsters Face Crucial NextGen Series Game Against Inter Milan

Academy director Frank McParland is hoping Liverpool’s youngsters will rise to the challenge when they face Inter Milan in the crunch NextGen Series clash at St Helens’ Langteee Park.

The Reds must beat the holders in their final group match in order to book their passage to the knockout stages.

Since starting their European campaign with three successive away defeats, the under-19s have rallied with back to back home wins over Borussia Dortmund and Rosenborg to set up this make or break showdown with the Italian giants.

“If we win we’ll go through as one of the best third placed teams and that’s our target,” said McParland.

“We’ve won both of our home games so far and the lads have enjoyed playing at Langtree Park. Hopefully we can make it three in a row.

“We lost 3-2 to Inter over there back in September but they were a lot older than us and stronger physically.

“We had a very young side out as it was the day before the Europa League match with Young Boys when the likes of Suso, Andre Wisdom, Adam Morgan and Conor Coady were away with the first team.

“We’ll be strong for this game and we’ll need to be as Inter won it last year and have some fantastic young players coming through. It will be a tough game but a great test for our boys.”

The Reds will be without striker Adam Morgan following his loan move to League Two outfit Rotherham. The teenager came off the bench to make his debut in their FA Cup defeat to Aldershot on Saturday.

In his absence, German youth international frontman Samed Yesl will start for Alex Inglethorpe's side.

“We’ll miss Adam but what’s really important is the personal development of a player, not just winning one game,” added McParland.

“It’s left us a bit short up front but that loan spell is a great opportunity for Adam to kick on and that’s the priority.

“We’ve got a lot of good players here and it gives chances to others coming through. Inter Milan at home – these are the type of games you want to be playing in.”