Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Reds Match In Fixing Probe

A Champions League tie played by Liverpool back in 2009 is supposedly one of 680 games worldwide under suspicion of match-fixing.

An investigation by the European Union's law enforcement agency, Europol, has reportedly uncovered a match involving Liverpool FC believed to have been fixed.

Investigators did not confirm the identity of the match or the teams involved, other than to say it took place in England in the 'last three or four years', but speculation today suggests Liverpool's 1-0 home win over Hungarian side Debrecen in 2009 is the fixture in question.

Europol revealed on Monday that they had uncovered an organized crime syndicate based in Asia that was co-ordinating the match-fixing operation with some 425 match officials, club officials, players and criminals suspected of being involved.

Amongst the 680 games in 30 countries under scrutiny are World Cup and European Championship qualifiers and several top flight games from around Europe. In total 380 of the suspicious matches were staged in Europe with the rest in Africa, Asia and south and central America.

Rob Wainwright, director of Europol, explained: "This is the work of a suspected organized crime syndicate based in Asia and operated with criminal networks around Europe.

"It is clear to us this is the biggest-ever investigation into suspected match-fixing in Europe. It has yielded major results which we think have uncovered a big problem for the integrity of football in Europe.

"We have uncovered an extensive criminal network."

In terms of Liverpool's match there is no suggestion the Anfield club are guilty of any wrongdoing.

"We've not had any contact from Europol and no other agency has been in touch with Liverpool," said a Liverpool spokesman earlier today.

The Champions League Group E game was played on Wednesday 16th September 2009 and decided by a single goal by former Reds striker Dirk Kuyt.

Liverpool failed to make it out of the group, finishing third behind Fiorentina and Lyon, whilst Debrecen finished bottom without registering a single point.

Sturridge Adamant Liverpool Can Challenge For Top Four Spot

Daniel Sturridge believes Liverpool are still capable of clinching a Champions League spot this season.

The England international helped Liverpool walk away from the Etihad Stadium with a point following their 2-2 draw with Manchester City at the weekend. That result came off the back of another promising performance away to Arsenal last Wednesday, where Brendan Rodgers’ side were again unlucky to perhaps not walk away with all three points.

Liverpool now sit seventh in the league table, nine points off fourth placed Tottenham Hotspur, Sturridge sees no reason why the Reds cannot maintain their form and gatecrash the Champions League party before the end of the season.

"We'll regroup and get ready for our next game against West Bromwich Albion, which is another massive game for us because they are also challenging for the top places,” Sturridge told Liverpool’s official website.

"We are nine points off the top four so it's not a massive gap to try and recoup so hopefully we'll be able to do that - we believe we can.

"We have still got to play Chelsea and Tottenham at home and the other teams challenging have to play each other so hopefully we can win those home games and stamp our authority.

"When teams come to Anfield we need to show what we are all about."

Despite their embarrassing FA Cup exit against Oldham, the month of January saw improvement in Liverpool, with their only league defeat coming upon their visit to Old Trafford in a 2-1 loss to their old rivals, Wins over Norwich and Sunderland plus impressive away draws to City and Arsenal will provide the likes of Sturridge and co with the impetus to pursue their Champions League ambitions.

We Can't Compete, Says Pepe Reina

Liverpool shot stopper Pepe Reina has admitted that they cannot compete in the Premier League title race Manchester United, Manchester City, and Chelsea.

The Reds are currently 26 points adrift of Manchester United in the Premier League and although Rodgers side held a lead over reigning champions Manchester City before Sergio Aguero's equalizer, the Spaniard does not believe they can win the league in the near future.

Reina told Marca, "Right now we can't compete with the big guns. They have a big edge over us at the moment, both financially and squad-wise.

"There's a reason they are so many points ahead of us, and it's not because of one or two better players."

The Spain international has come under the spotlight personally this term, with his standards having slipped from previous seasons.

Reina admits this has been the most testing campaign for himself and the Reds since he moved to Anfield in July 2005, but defended his displays and insists the club need to be given time under Rodgers.

He added, "It's been a strange season for me because I've missed lots of games with injury.

"Some people say I've had a bad season, but honestly I think I only had three poor matches, at the beginning of the year.

"This has been the most unsettled season, both personally and as a team, since I joined the club.

"Liverpool is going through a transitional period, with new ideas and a different playing philosophy. That takes time. People have to be patient. It's normal for us to be erratic."

Liverpool Failed With January Bid For Winger

Dinamo Moscow’s Hungarian winger Balazs Dzsudzsak has claimed that Liverpool had a bid rejected for him during the January transfer window.

The player only moved to Dinamo last January, but is open to moving clubs again after a year in Moscow.

Part of his desire to move is the lure of playing in the Premier League, something that few players can resist. However, his current club scuppered the move to Liverpool.

Dzsudzsak was reported by Sky Sports as being disappointed because he wasn’t allowed to speak to the Merseysiders.

“I stay, but it wasn’t up to me. Dinamo didn’t let me go, not even to Liverpool. I can’t say any more because it is not my position to do so,” said the player.

“I want to say that in Hungary people have written me off, but it seems that some respectable teams still believe in me.”

Dzsudzsak continued to give his current employers a slightly backhanded compliment, saying: “I am not that disappointed. What I couldn’t do during the winter transfer window can be done in the summer. It’s also a nice feeling that in Moscow they have faith in me.”

In the season so far, the Hungarian has played 12 games, scoring three goals. Before he moved to Dinamo, Dzsudzsak played for the wealthy Anzhi Makhachkala.

West Ham Boss Undecided On Carroll Future

West Ham United manager Sam Allarydce is undecided as to whether the club will sign Andy Carroll on a permanent basis in the summer, suggesting that the club will make a decision at the end of the season.

David Sullivan, co-owner of the East London club, claimed late last week that an agreement had been made with Liverpool where the 24-year-old would make his stay at Upton Park a permanent one, although the club and player are yet to agree on personal terms.

Carroll scored just his second goal of his season-long loan spell in West Ham’s 1-0 win over Swansea City. Allardyce has remained patient with the forward who’s spell at the club been dogged by injury, but is still not sure whether Carroll will be signed on a permanent basis.

"You always want a top class centre forward," Allardyce told talkSPORT.

"I know he's been short on goals and he's had a disrupted season, but he'll only get better if he's got a settled future, whether that's with us or not [I don't know].

"It would be a long process though. We will have a conversation at the end of the season with Andy and Liverpool. It all depends on how he feels and what he does between now and the end of the season.

"It's also about where Andy thinks his future lies. He hasn't thought about that yet, he just wants to play as much as he can.

Carroll scored his only other West Ham goal in November of last year against Tottenham, in one of his 13 appearances for the Hammers.

Lucas Chasing World Cup Dream

Lucas Leiva hopes to hold down a regular role at Liverpool and earn an international recall ahead of the 2014 World Cup.

With international football's showpiece event heading back to Brazil for the first time in over 60 years, securing a spot within the hosts' squad has become a top target for Samba stars around the world.

Lucas is no different to any of his fellow countrymen, with the Liverpool midfielder having already been capped on 20 occasions.

The 26-year-old has, however, been overlooked by national coach Luiz Felipe Scolari for Wednesday's friendly date with England at Wembley.

Lucas is disappointed not to be involved in that game, but appreciates that injuries have held him back in the last couple of years and that he has to prove his form and fitness all over again.

"I am focused on returning to the top of my game and returning to 100 per cent," Lucas told Sky Sports.

"I am looking to help Liverpool and enter into the plans for Brazil.

"Logically my dream is to play for Brazil at the 2014 World Cup. For any Brazilian player, that will be enormous.

"To make the England game was virtually impossible. It was another blow after three months out, but I am convinced that Scolari will offer me an opportunity."

On Liverpool's mixed form this season, Lucas added: "Inconsistency has been a problem. We have played many good matches, but we have failed on other days also. We need to correct that.

"The FA Cup game against Oldham was a big blow. Nobody believed that could happen and the dressing room did suffer. That competition was a big challenge for us."

Liverpool Star Unhappy With Being Dropped

Liverpool midfielder Jonjo Shelvey feels that his poor performance against Stoke is the reason for his lack of recent first team appearances.

The Boxing Day fixture ended in a 3-1 loss for Liverpool at the Britannia Stadium, with Shelvey admitting that his performance was not up to scratch.

The midfielder now finds himself out-of-favour with manager Brendan Rogers having only made two FA Cup appearances for The Reds.

Sky Sports report that prior to the England Under-21 game against Sweden on Tuesday, Shelvey told the Independent: “I played against Stoke and obviously I didn’t have too great a game.

“I had a few personal issues that were going on in my life. I didn’t think I was the only one that had a bad game that day but I was the one that suffered, if you know what I mean.

“You just have to take it on the chin and work hard in training and try to get myself back in the team, which I’m trying to do.”

Prior to Christmas the youngster was held in high regard in the first team, making 14 appearances for Liverpool in the Premier League.

His performances for the club also warranted a place in the England senior squad in the World Cup qualifier against San Marino in October.

It will be a test of the player’s commitment and character as he attempts to break back into the first team at Anfield and recapture the form he had before his disappointing performance against Stoke.

Glen: Sturridge Scares Premier League Defenders

Liverpool defender Glen Johnson believes that Daniel Sturridge has the defenders of the Premier League running scared.

The England striker made his move to Anfield early on in the January transfer window, making a £12 million move from Chelsea.

After scoring on his debut in an FA Cup encounter with Mansfield, Sturridge has gone from strength to strength, epitomized by his impressive performance marked by a goal in Liverpool’s 2-2 draw with Manchester City at the weekend.

The 23-year-old has helped share the burden of finding Liverpool’s goals with Luis Suarez, who spent the first half of the season being the club’s only forward option.

Johnson believes the arrival of Sturridge has helped the club immeasurably, and similarly to his Uruguayan strike partner, is striking fear in the hearts of the opposition defence.

"He's been a great signing for us, he's helped us massively so far and I'm sure that will continue," Johnson told Liverpool’s official website.

"He scares defenders to death when he gets in spaces and squares people up one-on-one."

The 23-year-old was in line to start for England in a friendly against Brazil on Wednesday, but has pulled out of Roy Hodgson’s squad with a thigh injury.

Reina To See Out Liverpool Contract

Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina has played down suggestions that he is set for a return to Barcelona to replace Victor Valdes.

The 30-year-old has, though, described the Spanish giants as the "best club in the world" after Barca 'keeper Valdes announced last month that he will leave when his current contract expires in 2014.

Reina, whose father Miguel was a shot-stopper at the Camp Nou between 1966 and 1973, made a few first-team appearances for Barca himself as a teenager after graduating from their youth set-up.

The Spain international, who arrived at Anfield from Villarreal in 2005, has had a mixed season, with a number of mistakes taking the shine off some impressive displays.

His decision to charge from his line during Sunday's Premier League match at Manchester City was ruthlessly punished by Sergio Aguero, who scored from a tight angle to earn a 2-2 draw.

But manager Brendan Rodgers has maintained that Reina is his No. 1 choice, and the goalkeeper is determined to see out a contract that runs until 2016. Reina, in Doha ahead of Spain's friendly against Uruguay on Wednesday, told Spanish media he was shocked by Valdes' decision to move on.

He said: "I was surprised because Victor is with the best team in the world. When I sign a contract, I fulfill it and I have signed with Liverpool until 2016. Barcelona is the best club in the world. I know what it means because I trained there as a player and as a person."

U18s Conclude Al Kass Campaign

Steve Cooper's U18s concluded their Al Kass International Cup campaign with a 3-1 defeat against Aspire Qatar on Tuesday.

The young Reds put themselves in front early in the match when Louis Robles converted a header.

But their opponents came storming back after falling behind, with a brace from Fahad Ali Al Abdulrahman sandwiching a penalty by Akram Hassan Afif.

No further goals were scored in the second half, though the Qataris struck the crossbar.

The result meant Cooper's team had to settle for eighth place in the tournament.