Friday, September 20, 2013

Rodgers Expects Smooth Suarez Transition

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers doesn’t expect Luis Suarez to be rusty when he returns to club action against Manchester United on Wednesday in the Capital One Cup.

The Uruguayan striker’s ten-game ban for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic comes to an end following this weekend’s Premier League fixture against Southampton.

Suarez has managed to play several times for Uruguay since the ban, helping his nation to the semi-final of the Confederations Cup in the summer as well as scoring in games with Japan and twice against Peru earlier this month.

Rodgers believes Suarez will be right up to speed when Liverpool takes on United next week, revealing the striker has been playing full speed in training matches, the Daily Star reports.

"We tried to map something out over the period he’s been out,” said Rodgers.

"He’s played some games in pre-season but when the league got started we organised some 11 v 11 matches behind closed doors, both among ourselves and bringing teams in.

"He’s had international games as well that have kept him ticking over.

"He’s been doing a lot of specific work to replicate what he would do in a game, high-intensity work. It’s never quite the same as a game but at least he’s getting the work.”

Rodgers is looking forward to having the controversial striker back in his squad to partner in-form Daniel Sturridge up front, particularly with the loss of Philippe Coutinho to injury.

"The idea is that when we bring him back, it will be very smooth,” he added.

"There’ll be a transitional period. I’m really looking forward to having him back. He’s working his socks off.

Liverpool Linked With Cut-Price Move For Former Star

Liverpool could make a January move to bring Xabi Alonso back to Anfield for just £4m, according to reports from Record.

Real Madrid is believed to be ready to sell the Spaniard in a cut-price deal with his current contract set to expire at the end of the season.

The 31-year-old has been a key man at the Bernabeu since his arrival in 2009, but now faces a tough battle to be a regular starter.

Real chief Carlo Ancelotti invested heavily over the summer to bring in midfielders Isco and Asier Illarramendi as he looks to build for the future at the club.

Alonso’s age could cause him to slip away from the first-team, which has seen him liked with an exit this winter.

Liverpool was linked with a move for the playmaker’s signature over the summer, but Real elected to keep him in the Spanish capital.

Alonso enjoyed five excellent years on Merseyside and was a part of their 2005 Champions League success.

He has always maintained affection for the club, which may tempt Brendan Rodgers to make a move for his signature.

But, the man who took him to Liverpool, Rafael Benitez, is also keen, while Italian champions Juventus could opt to make a move.

Iago Aspas To 'Explode' With Debut Goal

Iago Aspas has revealed that he thinks his reaction to a debut goal for Liverpool will be 'explosive'.

The summer signing from Celta Vigo is yet to find the net for The Reds in competitive action despite notching four in pre-season.

The Spaniard has featured in all four of this season’s Premier League games to date but hasn't managed a full 90 minutes.

Aspas was substituted in games against Stoke City, Aston Villa and Manchester United and wasn't in the starting XI for Monday night’s clash with Swansea, although he did come on for the injured Philipe Coutinho.

The deadline day recruitment of Victor Moses forced him out of the side for the fixture at The Liberty stadium.

However, that shoulder injury to Coutinho is likely to keep the Brazilian out until late October, therefore Aspas will probably be restored to starting duties.

The 26-year-old told the official Liverpool website of his eagerness to score: "I think it will be a really explosive reaction as over the last four or five seasons I probably haven't gone as many games as this without a goal.

"I've never been an out-and-out goal scorer, but it's true that over the last three seasons I have scored quite a number of goals but my being on target isn't so important as long as the team is winning and stays at the top of the table.

"I suppose on a personal level I'm not as entirely happy as I would want to be because I still feel that I can do a lot better, but I'm working hard every day to try and improve and be able show that on the pitch to my teammates."

"I've not set myself a goals target,

"What I have done is aimed at playing as many games as possible and to try and help the team to get into the top four, which I think is the most important thing for us.

"It's all about focusing on the group as a whole in order to qualify for the Champions League.

"It's not that easy coming here from the Spanish league but I've only had a short period to settle in. As I said before I'm working hard in training and in the gym to try and improve in all those areas."

Brendan Rodgers' side has made a flying start to their campaign and is top after four games, still unbeaten.

Aspas has a chance to get on the scoresheet this weekend when Southampton is the visitors to Anfield.

Ilori To Fight For Starting Spot

Liverpool defender is ready to fight for his place in the first team after making a first Anfield appearance, albeit for the under 21's.

The 20-year-old was a transfer deadline day arrival from Sporting Lisbon as The Reds shelled out £7 million the land the Portuguese youngster, who is also eligible for England.

However, Ilori is still working on his fitness after missing most of the pre-season with a broken hand.

On top of that, there is tough competition in the centre-back department.

Kolo Toure, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger and fellow signing Mamadou Sakho all stand in the way of a regular starting berth in Brendan Rodgers' side.

The Merseyside outfit has been impressive at the back this year, the 2-2 draw with Swansea was the first time they have conceded in the Premier League.

Their solidarity at the back mixed with the goals of Daniel Sturridge has propelled Liverpool to top of the table after four games.

Speaking after the under-21's win at Sunderland, Ilori told the Liverpool Echo: “I loved playing in the game and it was a great win,

“I hope I can carry on winning at Anfield. Every player wants to play whether it’s in the first team or the reserves.

“I want to get as many minutes as I can. I didn’t have a proper pre-season due to injuring my hand but it’s good to be back fit now. I’m enjoying it here. Brendan Rodgers seems like a great guy and a great coach. I will do my best for the club.

“This is the best league in the world and it has always been a dream of mine to come and play here,” he said.

“It’s never easy leaving the country you grew up in but it wasn’t that difficult because I knew I was doing what I wanted to do.

“That made it easier. I was aware of a couple of other clubs that were interested but the way Liverpool dealt with it and spoke with me made it an easier choice.

“The club’s history played a part but it was more about their approach and the way they dealt with me. I felt that this was the place to be.

“I don’t think I’m such a fighter like a typical centre-back, but I can be aggressive when I need to. I like to take the ball out. I’m quick as well.”

The Liverpool fans have been excited by the arrival as the pace Ilori eluded to saw him breaking sprinting records previously held by Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani in Portugal: “It’s true that they have speed tests at Sporting and in one of them I have the record,” Ilori added.

“Over 30 metres it’s something like three seconds. I learned a lot at Sporting. The biggest game I’ve ever played in was away to Benfica last season. It was in front of 62,000 people. We lost 2-0 but we really well and it was a great experience.”

Liverpool Linked With Young Salzburg Defender

Liverpool is reportedly taking keen interest in the highly-rated young Austrian central defender Martin Hinteregger.

According to reports from Swiss media outlet, the Reds are showing great interests in the 21-year-old, who plays for Red Bull Salzburg. The defender is contracted at the club till 2018, but it is understood that Liverpool have been monitoring him closely.

The youngster joined Red Bull in 2006 and progressed through the youth ranks at the club. He made his first senior debut in 2010 and has made 22 league appearances so far.

Defence is one of the areas that have been bolstered by Liverpool in the summer. Brendan Rodgers has added three new faces to improve his defensive unit and out of them, Mamadou Sakho and Tiago Ilori are seen as bright young prospects for the future.

Therefore, it is highly unlikely that Reds will make any offer for the youngster any time soon, but there’s no harm in keeping tabs on the development of any youngster. And this might interest the Liverpool fans – Hinteregger scored a wonderful goal, 70-yards out against Schalke 04 in the pre-season.

Liverpool Step Up Interest In 'Next Gerrard'

Liverpool have stepped up their interest in young Derby County midfielder Will Hughes with the Mirror claiming that the Reds have sent scouts to keep tabs on the 18-year-old.

Hughes has begun to gain prominence in the Championship with Liverpool not the only club keeping an eye on the England Under-21 international, as Merseyside rivals Everton are also keen to see how Hughes progresses over the next couple of seasons.

But Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has identified Hughes as the next Steven Gerrard and has sent the club's chief scout Dave Fallows to follow the youngster and give an adequate report on when to make a move to secure his signature.

Rodgers Upbeat Over Agger Fitness

Brendan Rodgers is “hopeful” that Daniel Agger will ease Liverpool’s injury troubles by returning to action against Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday.

Agger, 28, missed Monday’s 2-2 draw at Swansea after damaging his ribs in a freak gymnasium accident.

The centre-back suffered the injury during a training session on the day before the game as he tried to avoid a falling weight.

Rodgers said on Thursday: “We’ll see how Daniel is in the next 24 hours. It’s too early to say if he’ll be ready for the weekend or not. It was just unfortunate that it happened the day before the game. But we’re hopeful he’ll be fine for the weekend.”

Rodgers’ bid to maintain the league leaders’ impressive start to the season has not been helped by a number of injuries to his players.

Playmaker Philippe Coutinho had surgery on Thursday to repair a shoulder injury and will not be back until the end of October, right-back Glen Johnson is likely to be missing for the next month with a sprained ankle and left-back Aly Cissokho -- who also has an ankle problem -- has been out since the end of August and is still around two weeks away from returning.

In addition, defender Kolo Toure is only just getting back to full fitness after a groin injury, while striker Daniel Sturridge was forced to pull out of England’s last two World Cup qualifiers with a thigh problem -- although both men are fit again.

Rodgers acknowledged that the injuries to key players have made his life more difficult, but believes he has the strength in depth to cope.

He said: “It’s just unfortunate that we’ve had a number of injuries that have all happened at the same time. The injury record we’ve had here has been very good. But these are things that you can’t plan for. It’s just something that we have to deal with. You can’t forecast injuries, and they’ve been unfortunate.

“But you look at Martin Skrtel, who had been out of the team a long time, but retained his commitment to the cause and retained his quality in training every day, so that he was ready to come back in. That’s all we ask.

“I said at the beginning of the season: I need every single one of them. We don’t just need 11. We need everybody. You just need to continue to be professional, so when you’re called upon, you come in and you’re ready. You come in, you get the shirt and you do well.

“It’s unfortunate that we’ve lost the quality of players that we have. Glen Johnson is the type of player you don’t realize you’re missing until he’s not in the team. But we hope it will only be a matter of weeks before he’s back.

“Young Coutinho will have to have a bit of time out. But it will open the door for someone else, and they’ve got to come in and perform. I’ve got every faith that they will do.”

Coutinho Loss A Blow For Liverpool - Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers has confirmed Liverpool will be without Philippe Coutinho for at least six weeks after he underwent shoulder surgery.

The Brazilian playmaker went off injured during the Reds' 2-2 draw at Swansea on Monday, and manager Rodgers admitted it is a blow as he looks to maintain his side's spot at the top of the table.

However, after having surgery on Thursday, Rodgers expects the 21-year-old to be unavailable until the end of October.

"He's only just having it today so the timescale from the medics is obviously up to six weeks," the Liverpool boss told reporters.

"We wouldn't anticipate any sooner than that. It's unfortunate for him because he's been in great form since he came here in January.

"Hopefully we'll get him back sooner rather than later and then he can come into the group again.

"It was one where it was more the fall than the challenge. The challenge was probably a bit clumsy but it was actually more the fall that did the damage.

"In those scenarios the bone may be bruised but unfortunately for Philippe the bone came through the muscle. That's what the pain was and why the operation was needed.

"It's unfortunate because he was a really pivotal player for us in the game. When he went, we lost that connection between our midfield and the front line; it disrupted our balance a bit."

Rodgers Issues Hillsborough Plea

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has joined the UK police watchdog in appealing for fans present at the 1989 Hillsborough disaster to help a new investigation.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) put out a plea for witnesses on Wednesday as it examines police conduct in the aftermath of the tragedy with a view to bringing possible criminal charges.

Some 96 Liverpool supporters were crushed to death in an over-crowded section of terracing at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, played at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough ground on April 15, 1989.

Around 12,000 fans gave evidence to West Midlands Police as part of an original investigation into the tragedy 24 years ago.

But the IPCC has unearthed discrepancies between that evidence and other statements that appear to have come from the same supporters.

An independent report published last September found that 164 police statements had been altered after the disaster - 116 of which were changed to remove negative comments about the policing of the match.

The IPCC wants to establish whether fan statements have also been tampered with.

Rodgers said: "I would ask all the supporters who gave those witness statements to get in touch with the IPCC.

"You've also got, on our club website, an opportunity for supporters to be directed on the right route. It's so important, this year. It's very important for the families of all the victims of Hillsborough - for their fight for justice.

"If we can get all those statements in, I know people will be reliving difficult memories, but it's something that will continue their fight for justice."

The West Midlands force took the fan statements in 1989 after being appointed to look into the way that South Yorkshire Police handled the Hillsborough disaster.

No individuals or organizations were prosecuted as a result of that original inquiry, but the Hillsborough Independent Panel report, which came out 12 months ago, highlighted a cover-up by the police and emergency services, while exonerating fans of any blame.

Since then, the victims' original inquest verdicts of accidental death have been quashed, while two separate investigations have been set up to examine the conduct of the police and emergency services.

The IPCC is examining police conduct in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster. A second investigation, focusing on possible criminal behaviour by any people or bodies with responsibility for fan safety at Hillsborough, is being headed up by former Durham chief constable Jon Stoddart.