Sunday, May 19, 2013

Match Preview: Liverpool vs QPR

Jamie Carragher bows out of playing when Liverpool take on relegated Queens Park Rangers on Sunday at Anfield.

Liverpool will be looking to celebrate Carragher's career in style as they round off the season at Anfield.

The Reds have been in a good run of form and are unbeaten in their last seven Premier League outings.

Brendan Rodgers' men have nothing to play for as they can finish no higher than seventh, but they will be looking to send the Anfield crowd away in positive spirits ahead of next season.

Queens Park Rangers say farewell to the Premier League aiming to end a miserable campaign on a high.

The Loftus Road have currently won just four games in the Premier League this term and defeat will confirm they will finish bottom of the table.

Carragher will captain Liverpool in his final game for the club after 16 years at Anfield and will lead the team out to a guard of honour from both sides.

Liverpool will again be without captain Steven Gerrard after undergoing shoulder surgery, while Luis Suarez serves the fourth game of his 10-match suspension.

Daniel Agger is out with a back problem, but Martin Skrtel could return after missing last weekend's win over Fulham through illness.

Martin Kelly, Joe Allen and Raheem Sterling all remain unavailable.

Queens Park Rangers are likely to be without Loic Remy following his arrest in midweek over allegations of rape.

Robert Green is expected to continue to deputise in goal as QPR look set to be without first-choice goalkeeper Julio Cesar once again.

Adel Taarabt, Shaun Wright-Phillips and DJ Campbell all remain on the sidelines for Harry Redknapp's side.

Redknapp Hails Carragher Ahead Of Liverpool Retirement

QPR boss Harry Redknapp has hailed Jamie Carragher as "one of the greats" ahead of the Liverpool defender's retirement.

The 35-year-old will play his 738th and final game for the Reds on Sunday against the Rs, bringing a 17-season playing career at Anfield to an end.

And after winning five domestic cups and four European cups, including the Champions League, Carragher is up there with the best Liverpool has ever produced, according to Redknapp.

"Jamie Carragher has been one of the great pros," Redknapp told reporters. "He's a top, top professional and a great guy. He has a great knowledge of the game and is a real leader.

"Everybody would love a Jamie Carragher in their team. If I had him in my team next season we'd get promoted. That's how highly I rate him.

"He's the type of player who will drag the team along for you. There aren't many of them around. Liverpool is very lucky to have had him and Steven Gerrard at the club. They've been brilliant.

"Liverpool's his team and I imagine he's never even thought about leaving the club. It will be a full house for him at Anfield.

"He's been massive to Liverpool, one of their most important players. He's up there with all their great players over the years - Tommy Smith, Emlyn Hughes and Phil Thompson."

Carragher also represented England 38 times during his career - including at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups - before retiring from international football in the summer of 2010.

Rodgers Hoping To Secure Signings Early

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has revealed that he will try to lure players to Liverpool as soon as the transfer window opens.

Rodgers is aware of the lack of depth in the squad and, with Jamie Carragher retiring, wants to set out early to have the longest possible time to prepare the team for next season.

"I think there will be a natural transition in the summer because we need to improve our depth because the squad was very shallow," he told Sky Sports.

"You want to do your business as early as you can and we will look to reinforce but come the beginning of the season we would hope to have a squad ready to challenge.

"That process started just after the window - once we got the staff in we needed, they got to work straight away and we saw the benefits of that over the course of January. Hopefully we can have a similar window, a real positive one, in the summer.

"There was a lot going on - lots of players going out, some coming in. The word stability is key for us now - it really sets us up for the summer to hopefully have a good window."

Liverpool Prepare Belfodil Bid

Liverpool, Tottenham and Everton are targeting Parma talent Ishak Belfodil, according to reports.

The 20-year-old Algerian international with a French passport is already a regular in Serie A with the Ducali.

TMW claims that Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has sent scouts to watch Belfodil in action on at least three occasions.

However, the Reds are not the only Premier League outfit to be interested in the forward.

It’s also reported that Tottenham and Everton are keeping a close eye on the Parma starlet too.

Liverpool Preferred Choice Of Kurt Zouma

Liverpool appears to be at the front of the queue to prise Kurt Zouma away from St Etienne this summer.

The 18-year-old is one of the brightest defensive prospects and has enjoyed a fine breakthrough season after coming through the club's youth ranks.

The Reds are scouring the market for a centre back with Jamie Carragher retiring at the end of the season.

Though the club has identified Raul Albiol as a potential replacement, Zouma has now been added to the shortlist.

Zouma's agent, David Vanditelli, has confirmed that there is interest from Liverpool and thinks he would benefit from a move to Anfield even if he were to sit on the bench.

"Playing in the Europa League is a prospect that pleases him. But Liverpool and other clubs are very interesting," Vanditelli told Eurosport France.

"He could leave to sit on the bench, but it is better to be on the bench of a big club like Liverpool, with all due respect to Saint Etienne."

Zouma has clocked up 16 appearances this season, and has netted twice in Ligue 1.

McManaman Warned Against Liverpool Move

Roberto Martinez has warned Callum McManaman against a reported move to Liverpool, insisting he needs another season at Wigan.

McManaman has enjoyed a sparkling breakthrough year at the DW Stadium, capped by a man of the match display in Wigan's shock FA Cup final triumph over Manchester City.

On Friday it was confirmed the winger will be sidelined for three months by an ankle injury. McManaman will therefore miss the European Under-21 Championship.

However, such has been the youngster's form that Liverpool has been linked to a summer approach, but Martinez believes it would be a poor career choice for his player.

"I think if one player needs to stay at the club and become an important part of this football club, it is Callum," Martinez said. "Callum has been a phenomenal player for us but he still needs to work at certain aspects to become the player he can be and will be and the Championship to play week in, week out will be perfect for him."

Martinez also commented on his own future, revealing he will decide in the next ten days whether he stays with Wigan. The Spaniard has been linked to the vacant Everton job.

West Ham Still Pushing For Andy Carroll

Sam Allardyce has revealed he’s hopeful West Ham can tie up a permanent deal for on-loan Liverpool striker Andy Carroll ‘as quickly as possible’.

The 24-year-old has proved a popular figure among Hammers fans, and despite only bagging seven goals, has won a recall to the England team following a good run of form.

Allardyce has never made any secret of his desire to keep Carroll, but with the Reds looking for at least £17million for the man they paid £35m for back in 2011, the Hammers boss knows the Londoners could be in for a long summer of negotiations.

‘He has shown everybody what he can do and he has massive potential to grow into a very good player if he ends up back here with us,’ Allardyce told reporters ahead of West Ham’s final Premier League match against Reading on Sunday.

‘He’s so willing to learn and become better that I think we could do well for each other, but there is a way to go before that might get sorted.

‘It’s about negotiation and both parties have to be happy that the negotiation cannot go any farther and it’s a “yes” or “no”. We hope it’s a “yes” and we hope it is as quickly as possible.

‘I think that my reflection of Andy is exactly what I said from the start – as soon as we get him match-fit, the sooner you will see the goals.

‘That match-fitness never came until his run after his second injury and I’m still wondering what he might have done this year had we got him off that one minute before he did his hamstring in his first game (against Fulham).’

Rodgers Coy On Carroll's Future At Liverpool

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers was coy on the future of Andy Carroll, who is currently on loan at West Ham, insisting he will assess his progression at the end of the season.

The striker, who joined Liverpool from Newcastle for £35 million in January 2011, linked up with Sam Allardyce's side last summer after being told he would be behind lone frontman Luis Suarez in the pecking order at Anfield.

Carroll initially struggled at Upton Park, not scoring his first goal until November, but has since notched six in his last 12 outings - although Rodgers admits the loan spell has not gone as well as first hoped.

"In terms of Andy, it has been good to see the bit of form he has shown now towards the end of the season," Rodgers told reporters. "He has obviously had a difficult season as a whole because of injury, so it's been a little bit frustrating.

"I suppose it's similar to last season, he showed that bit of form here at the end of last season and he's obviously shown that again at West Ham.

"The idea for Andy to go out [on loan] was to get games; he wanted to play, he didn't want to be sat here playing second fiddle to anyone and I commend that because some players are happy to maybe sit on the bench and not play.

"But he wanted to go out and play football. He's gone to West Ham, which is a great club, and under Sam Allardyce he's done very well. So we'll assess that at the end of the season and take it from there."

West Ham have expressed an interest in recruiting Carroll permanently, but Goal exclusively revealed the 24-year-old will snub a move to the Hammers this summer as he wants to stay and fight for his future on Merseyside.

Carra Open To Idea Of Coaching

Liverpool's Jamie Carragher will bring the curtain down on a 16-year playing career on Sunday but he has not ruled out a return to the game.

The 35-year-old, due to lead the side out on his 737th appearance for the club against QPR, will become a television pundit next season.

However, he accepts nothing will ever replace the buzz of the dressing room and the only job which will come close to that would be as a coach.

"I am sure I will (miss it). I love the dressing room and getting yourself up for big games," he said.

"There is nothing better than being successful and achieving things with your mates - they were great times for us.

"It is very difficult to replace that whatever job you go into.

"The closest is probably coaching and managing so I suppose if I do miss it so much I will look to get back in at some stage."

Manager Brendan Rodgers said he will miss his regular chats with Carragher about football but hoped he would not be lost to the game in the long run.

Chairman Tom Werner has already said the door is always open for the Bootle-born defender to return in some capacity and Rodgers echoed that.

"Over the course of the next two to three years he will look to decide what he wants to do," the Reds boss said.

"There is no doubt if you are a footballer with the passion he has you are going to miss it.

"You are never going to take the football out of him.

"He has never ruled that (coaching) out but it is not at the forefront of his mind at the moment.

"I hope one day in the future we can look at that side.

"I think he has a great deal to offer on the coaching side but I think there is a natural break off where he needs to go have a period with his family and then he will renew his motivation.

"You never know what the future holds."

First and foremost, Carragher has a match to get through.

Liverpool are planning to mark his retirement with a guard of honour from teams, a Kop mosaic and presentations from Ian Callaghan - the only man ahead of Carragher in terms of Liverpool appearances - and injured captain Steven Gerrard.

The centre-back would not have wanted the fuss but did admit his final game had been playing on his mind recently - especially as it is at Anfield.

"I've never pulled a muscle in my life really so it hasn't affected training but I was more worried about getting sent off, especially last week at Fulham," he told talkSPORT.

"I had a little word with (referee) Mark Halsey to put a seed in his mind so if he thought I was misbehaving he should have a word with me and I'd try to calm down.

"It never came to that last weekend and I can enjoy it now."

Liverpool are guaranteed to finish seventh - one place better than last year and closer to the top four than 12 months ago, when finishing 17 points adrift cost Kenny Dalglish his job.