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 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.

Gerrard Set For Shoulder Surgery

Liverpool and England captain Steven Gerrard is facing the prospect of shoulder surgery as soon as the season ends.

He will attempt to resolve the shoulder injury that has caused him ongoing pain throughout the season.

England face the Republic of Ireland at Wembley on 29th May and then fly to Rio De Janeiro to play against Brazil only days later on 2nd June. Although they are only friendly games, these are the fixtures that will provide England manager Roy Hodgson with a good opportunity to work with his key players to consider the first choice team he wants to play in the World Cup 2014.

Gerrard would have been a key figure in Hodgson's plans and the loss of the captain will require Hodgson to re-think his plans.

England face the likes of Ukraine, Poland and Montenegro in the autumn, and Hodgson will hopeful his captain can be a part of his plans, despite not featuring in these key pre-season games.

Gerrard is likely to complete the campaign for Liverpool before undergoing keyhole surgery after the game against Queens Park Rangers on 19th May. Liverpool's medical staff expects Gerrard to be out-of-action for eight weeks over the summer and will hope the surgery will not hinder the club's pre-season plans.

Liverpool coach Mike Marsh has lamented the timing of the injury, telling reporters: "It's not ideal timing, it's going to take quite a while for him to heal."

Gerrard's shoulder injury could be down to a hectic schedule that has seen the 32-year-old play 44 games, including playing every minute of Liverpool's current Premier League campaign.