30 September 2007

Terry injured, Drogba red carded... so?

utusanLFC : it's funny that the UK newspaper assigned their photographers in the stadium not to shoot the game but keep an eye on Roman. Above is the result... hahahaha... for a oligarch who had spend close to 500 million pounds... the expression is real. So real.

LFC 1 - 0 Wigan

utusanLFC : It was certainly a hard fought game, especially those small teams packed the pitch with 9 defenders. At least Wigan moved forward, compared to Birmingham. In fact, Wigan was bemused by the off-side decision. Hey... it's your luck man!
Benoyoun had expressed his concerned early on when he was not even in the team sheet for the 1st four games. But look at him now. 2 games and 2 goals. All are important goals! He scored the first goal of 4 in the Reading game, in a way opening the gates for Torres to tore Reading apart. Last night, he saved us! And what a beautiful goal. That was Benoyoun we know when he was in West Ham. SALUTE! SALUTE! SALOM!

29 September 2007

Koumas questions Benitez

Wigan midfielder Jason Koumas (picture above) believes Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez's rotation policy will be unsettling players at Anfield.
Benitez has been criticised for his insistence on constantly shuffling his Liverpool squad and has been particularly targeted for his sparing use of star striker Fernando Torres.
The Reds travel to the JJB Stadium on Saturday and Koumas, a lifelong fan of Liverpool, insists he is aware of the struggles of the current squad after discussing the rotation policy with former Anfield striker Craig Bellamy.
"Craig suffered with the rotation policy last year," said Koumas. "He didn't enjoy it, he was struggling with it and he had to get out.
"I had a lot of sympathy with him over it. I spoke to him a lot about it, and it was tough for him because he is one of those players who needs to play week in, week out to get his form going.
"When you have a settled 11 that's winning games, it's hard to change things. If you asked our gaffer (Chris Hutchings) what he would do after winning three or four on the bounce how could you change it?
"I don't know how the other players there feel about it, but you can't argue with Benitez because he has a great record and he keeps taking the club forward.
"It has worked for him a lot. It's worked for him in the past and hopefully it will work for him in the future.
"With Benitez you don't know what his priority is. Is it the UEFA Champions League or the Premier League because he does rotate a lot?
"He has turned the club round, taken us forward, but the next step now is winning the Premier League, which is what we all want as fans.
"If you ask all the fans now, they want the Premier League title, and while it will be tough for them, I do feel they've a great chance."
utusanLFC : imagine Sissoko commenting on other club over its manager's decision... won't it tantamount to a slur? Kousmas... mind your own club, will ya?

Wigan v Liverpool preview

By Peter Fraser

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez must decide if star striker Fernando Torres will start against Wigan on Saturday.
The Reds travel to the JJB Stadium swamped by footballing debate surrounding the rotation of Torres, who has begun the last two Premier League games on the bench, after he fired a hat-trick in Liverpool's 4-2 midweek Carling Cup win over Reading.
Wigan, though, will be keen to steal the spotlight as they bid to record their first victory over one of the Premier League's top four teams of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.
The Latics have lost all 16 of their top flight meetings with the 'big four' in the two seasons since their promotion from the Championship.
Wigan boss Chris Hutchings has decisions to make regarding the fitness of Kevin Kilbane (ankle), Paul Scharner (Achillies), Ryan Taylor (calf) and Andreas Granqvist (foot).
The trio all collected knocks in the 2-1 league defeat to Reading last weekend, but hopes are high they will be available.
Meanwhile, long-term injury absentee Luis Antonio Valencia is said to be well on the way to recovery following knee surgery and he has resumed training, but Saturday's game is thought to be slightly too soon.
Emile Heskey will miss the visit of his former employers as he continues his rehabilitation from a broken metatarsal.
Second guessing a Benitez starting XI is not the easiest of tasks, but captain Steven Gerrard should return to the starting line-up after being named amongst the substitutes against Reading.
Daniel Agger and Xabi Alonso both remain on the sidelines with foot injuries, which implies Javier Mascherano and Sami Hyypia will return having been rested for the trip to the Madejski Stadium.
Andrei Voronin should start up top, but whether he is partnered by the in form Torres remains to be seen.

CARLING CUP : LFC vs Cardiff (Robbie Fowler Returns)

The Carling Cup fourth round draw has been made, and most of the Premier League clubs left in the competition will be happy.
Ten of the 16 clubs left were from the top-flight, but the draw has thrown-up just two all-Premier ties and there is now a realistic proposition that the quarter-finals will be an all Premier League affair.
Holders Chelsea continue their defence at home to Leicester City - who overcame Aston Villa in the third round.
Coventry's reward for claiming the scalp of Manchester United is a home tie with West Ham.
The two all-Premier ties see Manchester City travel to Bolton, and Portsmouth host Blackburn.
Other highlights include Arsenal visit to Sheffield United, whilst Robbie Fowler will return to Anfield with his new club Cardiff after they drew Liverpool.
The only team from outside the top two divisions still left in the tournament, Luton, have been handed a home tie with Everton.
Draw in full:

Luton v Everton
Portsmouth v Blackburn
Chelsea v Leicester
Sheffield United v Arsenal
Tottenham v Blackpool
Bolton v Man City
Coventry v West Ham
Liverpool v Cardiff

Benitez looks at 'bigger picture' in rotation row

By Mark Ogden
29 September 2007

Fernando Torres has only been a Liverpool player for three months, yet he has already learned not to attempt to second guess the team selection of manager Rafael Benitez.
Four days after scoring his first hat-trick in a Liverpool shirt during the 4-2 Carling Cup victory at Reading, the Spanish forward will have to wait until 1.55pm today before discovering whether he has done enough to retain his place when Benitez pins his starting eleven on the board for the Premier League encounter with Wigan Athletic at the JJB Stadium.
Torres, the £26.5m summer signing from Atletico Madrid, has made a seamless transition to life in the Premiership having previously spent his entire career in La Liga, but the club's record signing is not safe from Benitez's tinkering.
Benitez is understood to be preparing for Torres to partner Dirk Kuyt this afternoon, but having omitted the 23-year-old from his team against Birmingham City last Saturday, when Steve Bruce's team emerged from Anfield with a 0-0 draw, nothing can be taken for granted.
Last Saturday's team selection, strongly criticised by supporters, appeared to backfire with Liverpool failing to score for a second successive league game. But Benitez insists that he has no regrets over his decision and that it was a statement of Liverpool's intent this season.
Benitez said: "As a manager, you need to see the bigger picture and think about the whole season. If we need to use our big names in every game at Anfield against teams like Birmingham, then maybe we won't be good enough to win trophies at the end of the season. If you say to me that I would have had to play Torres to be capable of beating Birmingham, then I'd say that we couldn't win the league.
"Sometimes I will make mistakes, but I was 100 per cent sure it wasn't a mistake not to play Torres against Birmingham. Kuyt and [Andriy] Voronin had been playing well, and at home at Anfield against Birmingham, I thought we had enough to win.
"Why are we talking about Torres now and weren't when Kuyt and Voronin were scoring in the Champions League? The answer is because we were winning those games. We're only talking about Torres not playing because we drew with Portsmouth and Birmingham."
Unbeaten so far this season, Liverpool have made their best start since Benitez's arrival from Valencia three years ago. Although Liverpool have finished strongly in each of their last three seasons, which two Champions League Finals and an FA Cup win underline, Benitez's reluctance to play a settled team in the early months has not helped the club's league form.
The Spaniard appears to have found the correct blend this year, but he insists that April and May, and not August and September, are the months that matter.
Benitez said: "I've done the same for seven years now and we've been winning trophies. The last 10 games of the season are probably the most important and you won't win anything if your players aren't physically ready.
"Torres can play 20 or 30 games in a row without any problem, but he won't be at the same level in the last few months of the season when we hope to be playing for trophies.
"We've played a final at the end of each season I've been here. Why? Because we've had a big squad without maybe as many bigger players as we have now, and were going into games with fresh legs. That proves that the system can work."

26 September 2007


Torres the star turn with a hattrick

Back in the team and in the goals, Fernando Torres returned Liverpool to winning ways and reminded Rafa Benitez of his scoring prowess.
A superb hat-trick from the £26.5million Spaniard, restored to the team after being on the bench against Birmingham on Saturday, booked the Reds a place in the Carling Cup fourth round and finally saw off Reading, who twice came from behind.
Yossi Benayoun fired Liverpool ahead in the 23rd minute with his first goal for the club but Bobby Convey equalised five minutes later with a controversial left foot volley.
Torres struck early in the second half but John Halls levelled again only for the visitors' striker to clinch victory with two stunning finishes.
Both managers, true to their Carling Cup reputations, made wholesale changes. 'Using the full depth of the squad' was Steve Coppell's euphemism as he picked a team with just three survivors from the 11 who started against Wigan on Saturday.
Benitez made nine changes to the team who drew at home to Birmingham but there was a first taste of the competition for Torres, up front alongside Peter Crouch.
It looked like being a decision he would regret when Torres needed lengthy treatment after a perfectly fair sliding tackle from Andre Bikey in the first minute.
Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva pierced the defence with a smart pass and Torres pressed the accelerator but Bikey matched him for pace and swept the ball to safety.
Torres fell awkwardly but continued after hobbling around gingerly.
Fabio Aurelio came in at left back for his first start since he ruptured an Achilles tendon last season, with Alvaro Arbeloa joining Jamie Carragher in central defence.
Benitez also gave a debut to former France Under 21 keeper Charles Itandje, signed from Lens in the summer, and he came under early pressure as Reading started positively.
England Under 21 striker Leroy Lita drifted away from Arbeloa into space to meet a right wing cross from Halls on 21 minutes but his header was tame and straight at Itandje from six yards.
Two minutes after Lita fluffed his header, the visitors were ahead.
Benayoun collected a loose ball in midfield from Bikey's defensive header, skipped past two players and smashed a shot past stand-in keeper Adam Federici from just inside the penalty box.
Torres then wriggled clear of Bikey and squeezed a low drive just wide before Lita squandered another opening. Once again he slipped his markers and was found by Emerse Fae's pass but this time Lita's chest control let him down as he raced towards goal and Itandje snuffed out the danger.
Reading equalised on 28 minutes with a fine goal from American Convey. Momo Sissoko cleared a corner from the near post but there were no red shirts policing the edge of the area where Convey had space to let the ball to drop and connect with a sweet left-foot volley which flashed into the bottom corner.
Itandje's view was obscured by four Reading players, all standing in offside positions as Liverpool's defence ran out. Lita was standing in front of the keeper, but there was no flag and few Liverpool protests.
Convey came close to a second before the interval. First he headed over at full stretch and then forced Itandje into action with a rightfooter which zipped off the turf. The Liverpool keeper could not hold it but he beat the effort away.
Sebastian Leto, a £2m signing from Lanus, was causing problems for Reading. He gave the ball away in midfield before quickly winning it back and releasing Torres.
The striker raced clear of defender Michael Duberry and supplied a clinical finish, low past Federici as he dashed out.
Liverpool should have been awarded a penalty when Torres was tripped clumsily by Bikey as he again moved menacingly towards goal but referee Martin Atkinson waved play on.
Just as the Merseysiders looked set to close out the game, Coppell's men levelled again when Halls forced the ball in after Itandje had flapped at a corner on 64 minutes.
John Arne Riise came on and broke through on the left to set up Torres for a fine lunging finish before the latter completed his hattrick after he was played through and rounded Federici.
utusanLFC : This is one the satisfying game. I arrived home after work at 1am and couldn't put my eyes to sleep. I'm more worried if I can't wake up in an hour so I just switch on the tv watching E!.... And when the game ended at 5am... all the sleepy thoughts were gone! Really really feel good...!

25 September 2007


Rafa Benitez will spring a Carling Cup surprise by including Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher in his squad for Tuesday's third-round tie at Reading.
The Liverpool manager was expected to follow the pattern of recent seasons and field a severely weakened side.

Instead, he included three of his biggest names in the squad that travelled south on Monday.
Torres could make a surprise start against Reading.

Although all three could start on the bench, it still added substance to Benitez's claim that he is taking the competition seriously, after years of using it as a means of giving Anfield's untried youngsters some first team experience.
'We want to go as far as possible in the Carling Cup, that is for sure,' he said. 'How we go about it is the question. If we have a squad that is good enough to fight for four trophies then perfect. And I believe we have reached that stage now.
'I don't like to experiment and it is possible I will use a team full of senior players.'
New signing Charles Itandje accepts he has little chance of dislodging goalkeeper Pepe Reina but is hoping Benitez sticks to his usual policy of promoting his reserve keeper for Carling Cup games.
'We have a very good keeper who has been here three years,' said the 25-year-old Frenchman. 'I am clearly going to be No 2 but there are 60 matches a season and it is planned that I will play the League Cup and FA Cup.'
Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp will put his 'terrific squad' theory firmly to the test on Tuesday when he makes changes for his side's tie at Burnley.
Redknapp made nine changes in personnel for the 3-0 victory over Leeds in the previous round from the side that lost 1-0 at Chelsea three days previously.
Matt Taylor, David Nugent, Noe Pamarot and Benjani Mwaruwari — all on the bench at Ewood Park — can expect to start, as well as Pedro Mendes, Richard Hughes and Arnold Mvuemba.
'You look at us now and we are a strong-looking team,' said Redknapp. 'You look at the back four and I honestly wouldn't swap them for any other in the country.'

Carragher hails Liverpool youngster ahead of debut

Teenager Jack Hobbs (picture) is standing by for his Liverpool debut with the full backing of Anfield lynchpin Jamie Carragher.
The 19 year-old, signed from Lincoln little more than a year ago, is expected to play in central defence at Reading tomorrow in the Carling Cup.
It is a case of 'needs must' for Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez, with key defender Daniel Agger out injured.
But Hobbs will likely be part of a Liverpool side full of youngsters and squad players for the third round tie.
Hobbs has been elevated to first-team squad training in the past week.
And Carragher, who could well be asked to shepherd the Portsmouth-born youngster through the match, says of his possible partner: "Jack has done very well and we have been impressed with him in training.
"He came in from Lincoln and was a massive part of us winning the Youth Cup two years on the trot.
"Now he is captain of the reserves and he deserves his chance. That is what the club is about, giving young lads the chance to play alongside our foreign players.
"People sometimes complain about the amount of foreign players coming in, so it is good that a good English lad can get the chance to show what he can do.
"He deserves his chance, but that is up to the manager. Someone will be asked to play alongside him, but the lad might end up helping one of us through the game.
"Everyone needs help, no matter who they are. If he gets his chance I am sure he will grab it and do well."
Benitez wants to utilise several fringe players at Reading, but will not want to weaken the side to the extent that he could gift the tie to the Berkshire club.
It is also expected that Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva will figure in the tie, as well as winger Sebastian Leto.
The likes of Moroccan midfielder Nabil El Zhar, fit-again Fabio Aurelio and young defender Emiliano Insua could also be involved.
Benitez is also expected to include Yossi Benayoun, who missed Saturday's goalless draw with Birmingham because of the Jewish day of atonement.
Peter Crouch and even Fernando Torres, both on the bench against Birmingham, could also play.
Benitez said: "For some of the players who are not playing too much in the Premier League or the Champions League, this will be an important competition for them.
"It is a trophy I would be happy to win, the first season I was here we got to the final. I would like to be in the final again.
"Some of the senior players will have to play against Reading, I will not change the whole team. It depends on who is available and what cover we have in certain positions.
However, it seems unlikely that Steven Gerrard, Javier Mascherano or Dirk Kuyt will be in the squad while Jermaine Pennant has a hamstring injury.
"But I would hope to give players who are not playing regularly in the Premier League the chance to play."
Benitez added: "It is clear, though, that with a big squad we need to see some of the other players.
"They must be involved because you cannot have them in the squad and then tell them you will not use them in any game.
"If we stay in the Carling Cup, the FA Cup, the Premier League and the Champions League they will obviously have more chances to play."

24 September 2007


Rafael Benitez admits he is surprised by Reading's rocky start to their second Premier League campaign.
But the Liverpool boss still expects a tough task against the Berkshire side in Tuesday night's Carling Cup third-round tie at the Madejski Stadium.
Benitez is expected to field a side of youngsters and senior squad fringe players, with teenage centre-back Jack Hobbs and new French goalkeeper Charles Itandje making their debuts.
Benitez says: "Reading will give us a hard game, I am sure of that.
"But I have been surprised that Reading have not started the season as well as they played last season.
"I do not understand why. Last season they were really good, they knew what to do and with the same manager for some time, it clearly worked for them.
"It is strange that after one season the team are not playing as well and getting results, it is strange.
"I do not believe in what is called a second season problem after promotion. It depends on the players you have, nothing more. And they did a very good job last season."
Benitez will want to utilise several fringe players at Reading, but will not want to weaken the side to the extent that he could gift the tie to the Berkshire club.
The Spaniard will want to use this competition to keep players involved and try out several youngsters.
It is also expected that Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva will figure in the tie, as well as winger Sebastian Leto.
The likes of Moroccan midfielder Nabil El Zhar, fit-again Fabio Aurelio and young defender Emiliano Insua could also be involved.
Benitez is also expected to include Yossi Benayoun, who missed Saturday's goalless draw with Birmingham because of the Jewish day of atonement.
Peter Crouch and even Fernando Torres, both on the bench against Birmingham, could also play.
Benitez said: "For some of the players who are not playing too much in the Premier League or the Champions League, this will be an important competition for them.
"It is a trophy I would be happy to win, the first season I was here we got to the final. I would like to be in the final again.
"Some of the senior players will have to play against Reading, I will not change the whole team. It depends on who is available and what cover we have in certain positions.
"But I would hope to give players who are not playing regularly in the Premier League the chance to play."
Benitez added: "It is clear, though, that with a big squad we need to see some of the other players.
"They must be involved because you cannot have them in the squad and then tell them you will not use them in any game.
"If we stay in the Carling Cup, the FA Cup, the Premier League and the Champions League they will obviously have more chances to play."

utusanLFC : huh!... mixed of youngster and senior players (a.k.a Team B seniour players) is somewhat sounds like a recipe for another uncertainties... put Torres in. Let him score. Let the team feel the win after 3 games of stalemate...

23 September 2007

Real in audacious swoop for Didier Drogba

Real Madrid last night moved to exploit the disarray at Chelsea by trying to entice Didier Drogba and Michael Ballack to Spain
Ian Hawkey in Madrid

REAL MADRID last night moved to exploit the disarray at Chelsea by trying to entice Didier Drogba and Michael Ballack to Spain. Bernd Schuster, the Real coach, yesterday set his sights firmly on Drogba, who was reportedly in tears when Jose Mourinho said his emotional farewells last Thursday.
“He is an important target and we’ve been after him for some time,” confirmed Schuster. He added that Germany captain Ballack “ought to have come to Madrid already, without wasting any more time in London” before admitting the player’s injury difficulties meant further negotiations were on hold.
The pursuit of Drogba, the 29-year-old Ivory Coast striker, has taken on new urgency for the Spanish champions, who want to know if he would be ready to move in January. They would probably be joined in the hunt by Milan while Barcelona and Juventus will closely monitor England midfielder Frank Lampard’s response to Mourinho’s exit. Mourinho’s agent, Jorge Mendes, says his client has already had nine offers from England and abroad, two “serious”, so it is possible that any disaffected Chelsea stars could follow him to his new club, probably in Italy or Germany as his £17m severance package precludes his taking another Premier League post this season.
Avram Grant, who stepped into Mourinho’s shoes at Chelsea, has already been the target of abuse by a section of the club’s supporters but last night he insisted he had not “stabbed Mourinho in the back”. He said: I enjoyed working with him and respect what he has achieved. I came here to do another job, I didn’t plan to be manager.”
The former Israel coach, in charge for the first time against Premier League champions Manchester United at Old Trafford this afternoon, has been a friend of Roman Abramovich, Chelsea’s billionaire owner, since 2004, and was first offered a job by him two years ago. He was offered the “club of his choice” over dinner with Abramovich, who was in Jaffa to see an Israel international match. Grant said: “He said, ‘Coach, which team do you want to manage? I’ll sort it out for you’.” The Israeli did not take up that offer, but last Wednesday he jumped at the chance to succeed Mourinho.
Peter Kenyon, Chelsea’s chief executive, confirmed that not only did Grant not have the title of manager or a contract, but that he also lacked the necessary coaching qualifications, before explaining: “Within a few weeks Avram’s [Israeli] qualification will count in England.”
Mourinho, meanwhile, said he would work again in England. “I will definitely come back, but it will have to be the step after my next one.” It is an intriguing thought that if the Steve McClaren revival peters out, Mourinho would be available to manage England. Longer term, what price him succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson at United?


BBC 22 September 2007

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez left Fernando Torres out of his starting line-up and paid the price again as Birmingham earned a point at Anfield.
Torres looked a cut above the rest of Liverpool's strikers when he emerged on the hour, but Birmingham's defence had established the platform for a point.
John Arne Riise was just off target and Steven Gerrard's shot was kicked off the line in a lacklustre display. Torres' over-head kick was inches over, but Birmingham deservedly held on.
Benitez surprisingly preferred Ryan Babel to £26m Torres, and his side lacked punch in the opening 45 minutes.
Riise posed the main danger with a shot across the face of goal and a rising shot off target. Birmingham suffered a setback after 10 minutes when Borja Oubina, signed on loan from Celta Vigo, was stretchered off with what looked like a serious knee injury.
Former Birmingham winger Jermaine Pennant had a 20-yard drive turned over by Maik Taylor, but otherwise Steve Bruce's side survived in relative comfort. Liverpool showed a greater purpose after the break, with Gerrard having a shot turned off the line by Mehdi Nafti following Pennant's corner.
Andriy Voronin saw a shot saved by Taylor before Torres was finally introduced for the disappointing Babel. Peter Crouch was sent on with 17 minutes left in place of Voronin, but a moment of magic from Torres almost broke the deadlock. The Spain striker produced a brilliant bicycle kick from Pennant's cross that flew only inches over the bar.
Birmingham had barely been seen as an attacking force, but Gary McSheffrey wasted a chance with 10 minutes to go, shooting wildly off target when well placed. Torres' flick then set up Crouch in the area, but the England striker hesitated and Stephen Kelly produced a superb saving tackle.
utusanLFC : Birmingham did the defending splendidly and annoyingly with 10 guys parked infront of the goal post. LFC tried and tried, even Carra ventured often near the penalty box... showing how confident he can leave his post, in order to try helping his mates. But of course, when an opponent team come over your place with no intention to win... just a mere one point or may be, lost with a goal... surely it is difficult. But again... LFC is becoming more and more like the team we have known yesteryears... they win when we expect them to lose, and they failed to win when we expect them to do so... hmmm....

21 September 2007


Bye...bye Jose...

By IAN McGARRY (The Sun)

DIDIER DROGBA is used to reducing opposition defences to quivering wrecks.
But yesterday morning it was the 6ft-plus powerhouse who broke down in tears after Jose Mourinho hugged him like a son.
The changing room at Chelsea’s Cobham training HQ is usually a hub of noise and banter on any given morning.
Drogba will often try to hog the stereo system to play his rap music while the players get changed and warm up for their daily session.
This time, though, the only sound was silence.
Mourinho had told two of his team he would drop by just after 10 o’clock and collect his belongings before going to say goodbye to ‘his family.’
Nobody was late and barely a word was said as they waited for him.
Some of the younger lads got changed as usual but quickly realised this would be no ordinary day at the club.
A couple of the senior players remembered the day Claudio Ranieri made the same journey to the old training ground. They recalled the sickness in their stomach at the knowledge they were losing someone they loved and respected.
Chelsea has changed almost unrecognisably since Roman Abramovich fired Ranieri. The way the players feel about Mourinho is also incomparable.
When he stepped into the dressing room almost every player was by his usual change station.
Two or three tried to greet him but his body language said that he would do the talking.
Without any fuss or ceremony, the former Chelsea manager moved towards one side of the room to speak to the players.
Brazil star Juliano Belletti was one of the first.
In Portuguese, Mourinho spoke warmly of his performances since he signed for Chelsea and wished the defender luck.
Alex, his countryman, was next and was given similar treatment.
One by one, Mourinho moved around the rectangular room — speaking to each of the players and thanking them for their work while he was boss.
With some — like Petr Cech and Ricardo Carvalho — he put his hands on their face and reminded them of shared glory ... the first title, last season’s FA Cup ...
Mourinho told them how proud he was of what they had achieved and asked that they pass on his best wishes to their wives and children.
Others were not treated with such kindness. Andriy Shevchenko was offered a handshake which, according to one member of staff, could have “frozen a mug of tea.”
And then came Didi. The big Ivory Coast striker smiled at his boss but there was nothing in his look to suggest this was a time for happiness.
Mourinho put his hands on the player’s arms and spoke a little louder, as if he wanted some people to hear his words.
“You are one of the best strikers in the world and you have made yourself into one of the best players,” Mourinho told him. “I am very proud of you, Didi — and you should be proud of yourself.
“You have worked hard and you are a winner. Always remember you are a winner.”
Mourinho then put his arms around the hitman and hugged him like a departing father.
As he moved on, Drogba failed to keep himself together and broke down in tears.
Mourinho continued his circuit but only repeated the kind of praise he had for the striker when he embraced Frank Lampard.
And so he left the room and picked up a few personal belongings he had collected from his office — including a photo of his two children with their pet dog.
Once again, there was silence save for Florent Malouda — who had put his arm around Drogba to comfort him.
Chief executive Peter Kenyon had the unenviable task of following Mourinho in to address the players. Kenyon informed them that Avram Grant would become general manager and Steve Clarke first-team coach.
He began to try and explain the past couple of days but quickly realised his audience were not interested in who was replacing their leader.
Their loyalty to Mourinho — unlike Chelsea’s — was never in question. To his players, he will always be Special.

utusanLFC : to sympathy or not to sympathy... errr.... naaaah... it's the name of the game. If Chelsea is trying to emulate Real Madrid in sacking or appointing manager to their wits... so let it be lah. But Jose... you did gave us (LFC) a satisfying moment with defeating your team in Champions League. We do know Garcia could be smiling silently in Spain reading the story and Agger's acurate shot last season was among the most memorable goals we've scored against Jose's Chelsea.
hmmm... to sympathy or not... who cares... hahahaha (Jose still a multimillionaire no matter how he is sacked...hmmmm)

PREVIEW LFC vs Birmingham

Birmingham manager Steve Bruce is set to name an unchanged side for Saturday's Premier League clash against Liverpool at Anfield.
Bruce is poised to retain the side which started last weekend's 1-0 win against Bolton - Birmingham's first at home this season.
France midfielder Olivier Kapo, who was on target against Bolton, is again set to operate in an advanced role just behind lone striker Cameron Jerome. Club captain Damien Johnson will not be risked after missing the first six games of the season with a hamstring strain, despite making a comeback in the reserves earlier this week.
Liverpool will be without defender Daniel Agger and midfielder Xabi Alonso - both out for six weeks with metatarsal injuries.
But boss Rafael Benitez will have defender John Arne Riise returning to the squad after the Norwegian missed two games with a back problem.
Benitez also has full-back Fabio Aurelio available after recovering from an Achilles problem, the Brazilian coming on as substitute in the 1-1 Champions League draw in Porto for his first senior action of the season.

Liverpool (from): Reina, Finnan, Hyypia, Carragher, Arbeloa, Aurelio, Riise, Pennant, Gerrard, Sissoko, Mascherano, Benayoun, Babel, Kuyt, Crouch, Voronin, Torres, Itandje.
Birmingham (from): Taylor, Kelly, Ridgewell, Djourou, Queudrue, Larsson, Nafti, Muamba, McSheffrey, Kapo, Jerome, Oubina, Schmitz, O'Connor, Parnaby, Forssell, Kingson.

19 September 2007


Liverpool escaped with a precious point from a dreadful performance in their opening Champions League Group A clash against Porto in the Estadio Dragao.
Liverpool, particularly in the first period, were just awful and at times Porto threatened to over-run them.

Porto made a more orthodox opportunity from a corner when Sami Hyypia failed to clear an inswinging cross and the ball came back to Quaresma whose powerful drive flew over Reina's goal.
Hyypia, surprisingly restored to the back four in favour of Daniel Agger, was at fault for the night's opening goal when he allowed Tarik Sektioui to sprint behind him to reach Quaresma's neat pass into the Liverpool penalty area.
The poor Finn was treading water as the Dutchman powered into the area, forcing Reina way off his line and into a hurried challenge which brought Sektioui to his knees.

The Anfield men played the final 32 minutes with 10 men after Jermaine Pennant tested the patience of referee Michel Lubos once too often with a frustrated, fractious display that cost him two yellow cards.
Porto had led early on through a Lucho Gonzalez penalty but had to thank Dirk Kuyt for a priceless header on 17 minutes.
That gave Liverpool something to cling onto, and they at least managed that level of resilience when it mattered.
As it was the heroes were the hard-working Kuyt and dependable defender Alvaro Arbeloa as Porto failed to find a way through.
Last season's beaten finalists looked a shambles in the opening period, a segment of play as bad as anything they have produced under Rafael Benitez.

"I honestly don't know why we started so badly," said Benítez, his obvious relief a stark contrast to the frustrated Porto manager, Jesualdo Ferreira.
"We gave the ball away too easily, made so many mistakes, but we showed a lot of character with 10 men and it is not easy against a good Porto team with pace and ability." So bad was Liverpool's opening it was tempting to believe their change in fortunes this season has not been confined to an improved domestic campaign, or that they have become fixated on the Premier League title at the expense of all other trophies.
Benítez's team were unrecognisable from the disciplined unit that has reached two Champions League finals in the past three seasons and began as they have never performed on the continent under the Spaniard before, shambolically.

18 September 2007

Alan Smith prediction on LFC route in CL


Interesting, this. Having reached two Champions League finals in the last three years (and winning the first in spectacular style), will Rafael Benitez be concentrating more this time on ending Liverpool’s 18-year drought without a league title?
You couldn’t blame him if he did. His side look more capable now of winning the domestic title than at any other time in his reign. It follows, however, that the Merseyside club is also better equipped to beat Europe’s best, thanks to more options going forward, with Fernando Torres heading the list.
Yet we have seen how difficult it is to remain in contention at home and abroad. But if that something is the Champions League I don’t think Benitez will mind. Not if the league title 'comes home’ after all this time.
Strengths: Depth of squad, increased striking talent and the coach’s nous.
Weaknesses: Too many commitments come the turn of the year?
Prediction: Quarter-final exit.
utusanLFC : Smith (not to be confused with a certain former Man.U player who broke his foot after foolishly trying to block Risse's scud...) is a respected pundit in his own right and we often hear his commentary in ESPN.... so let's see how true is his prediction... bla bla bla...

The secret of winning the Champions League? Forget domestic ambitions...

As another season of continental combat begins, Glenn Moore predicts problems for those who target too much

European ambitions? Best to put the domestic ones aside then. That is the memo to the 32 coaches embarking on the Champions League this week. Since Manchester United completed the treble in 1999 it has become evident that even the modern-day squad, with £50,000-a-week internationals jostling just to grab a seat on the bench, is insufficient to sustain a two-pronged assault on glory. Only five of the 16 subsequent finalists have also led the field at home. One of those, Jose Mourinho's Porto, were competing in a league which made only moderate demands on players.
No nation's clubs have it harder than England's. The Premier League has produced seven of the last 16 semi-finalists, but only one of the winners, Liverpool, on penalties, in 2005. Exhaustion, the bane of the national team, is an obvious cause. Just as England players arrive at the major biennial tournaments drained by a demanding domestic season of 38 high-intensity, lung-and-muscle testing league matches, plus cups, so do the club teams stagger towards the business end of the Champions League.
A winter break is the solution but that is unlikely to happen. The Premier League's refusal to reduce to 18 teams, and the Football League's successful fight to retain the Carling Cup, mean there is no room to rearrange fixtures. The answer, for managers, is to prioritise competitions and rotate the squad.
Jose Mourinho has admitted he made a mistake in seeking to drive Chelsea to a quadruple last season, and is planning to prioritise this time. On what, he will not say, but expect the cup competitions to suffer. Rafael Benitez has said his main target is a domestic title last won by Liverpool when it was still called the First Division – not quite baggy shorts, but houses had TV aerials, not satellite dishes, and live league football was a novelty.
Sir Alex Ferguson has been less candid, but his signings, notably Owen Hargreaves, suggest the focus will be on Europe. Having restored domestic superiority he can return to the quest for a second European Cup which would lift him from the ranks of the many, to the few. Arsène Wenger, one suspects, will wait to see how the season develops. He spoke on Sunday of wishing to win the one major trophy that still eludes Arsenal, but with his young team leading the Premier League he must be tempted to focus on regaining the domestic title.
The situation for Celtic and Rangers, Britain's other representatives in an unparalleled six-club entry, is slightly different. With respect to the SPL they do not have such a demanding domestic programme but, equally, they have thinner squads. Progress in Europe brings in pride and money but silverware looks improbable and neither Gordon Strachan nor Walter Smith can afford to sacrifice Old Firm supremacy at home just to go an extra round in Europe.
Managers across Europe are making these assessments: consider Frank Rijkaard, Alain Perrin and Armin Veh. Rijkaard, with Barcelona in 2006, is the only manager to win a Champions League-domestic league double this century, but he went potless last season. Lyon have unashamedly pursued European success in recent years, but Perrin is new to the post and must ensure domestic hegemony is not lost. Veh's Stuttgart are already slipping away from a resurgent Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga and may concentrate their resources on Europe. The risk, however, as Bayern found last season, is that they then fail to secure qualification for next season's Champions League. This is the problem with the competition's financial success – simply being in the Champions League is worth more to most clubs than winning trophies.
Carlo Ancelotti, meanwhile, must be tempted by the prospect of being the first manager to retain the trophy since Arrigo Sacchi did with the same Milan club in 1990, pre-Champions League days, with Ancelotti in the midfield. That the competition is now so much harder to retain – from 1970-1976 Ajax and Bayern each won three successive titles – is an indication of how tough and demanding it now is.
Ajax and Bayern are two of the three big names missing from this year's competition, Juventus, having spent last season in Serie B, are the third. In their place are two newcomers, though Steaua Bucharest won the competition in its old guise in 1986 and Seville are hardly unknowns having won back-to-back Uefa Cups. Spain, Italy and England provide a dozen of the teams and it will be a surprise if the winner does not come from one of those countries. There are five clubs from the former Eastern Bloc, a region which has not provided a semi-finalist since Andrei Shevchenko left Dynamo Kiev in 1999. Of the quintet Shakhtar Donetsk could be the surprise with many a big four coach keeping an eye on £15m Mexican Nery Castillo.
That could be bad news for Celtic who also have Milan in a tough group. Rangers have an equally difficult sextet of matches to negotiate but the English clubs appear well placed. Manchester United will be more concerned with the logistics of travelling to Kiev, and crowd control in Rome, than anything they encounter on the field. Chelsea's group is a three-way contest from which Jose Mourinho's team should emerge. Arsenal and tonight's opponents, Seville, will cruise Group H. Which leaves Liverpool who, under Benitez, have been domestic bystanders, but a European power.
Now the focus is on the home front but Benitez does not intend to give up on the Champions League. "You must try and win every competition," he said yesterday. "It depends on your squad. If you want to compete in four different competitions you need to use your squad.
"I said at the start of the season that our priority could be the Premier League but that doesn't mean that we don't want to win the other trophies. We don't want to forget the Champions League."
Is this squad good enough to go the distance in both? "I think so, but we will see during the season, sometimes you need a little bit of luck." Across Europe 31 other coaches will agree with that.

We are going for a Premier League and European Cup double, pledges Benítez

The Guardian

Milan's revenge provided Liverpool with their greatest disappointment in the Champions League last season but the fact that there was no title challenge was not far behind. This season, Rafael Benítez accepts, shall and must be different.
The Liverpool manager begins his campaign to reach a third European Cup final in four seasons here in Porto tonight and - as is to be expected from a man with such a distinguished record, a lavishly assembled squad and an unbeaten start to a campaign that has fuelled talk of a tilt at the Premier League - trademark conservatism has been replaced by heightened and public optimism in the Spaniard.
"I think we have the squad to compete for both the Premier League and the Champions League now but we will only discover how strong it is during the season," said Benítez last night. "The squad is certainly good enough but you also need luck during the season and things to go in your favour."
No player better illustrates the increase in expenditure and quality at the club this summer than the record signing Fernando Torres, with the £26.5m centre-forward expected to get the chance to showcase his talents in the Champions League at Estadio do Dragao. The competition proved elusive to the 23-year-old while with Atlético Madrid but with three Premier League goals to his name and having been rested for 62 minutes at Portsmouth on Saturday, his curtain call awaits tonight.
"The chance to play regularly in the Champions League was one of the reasons Fernando decided to come to a top side," said Benítez, who arrived in Portugal without the injured John Arne Riise, Mohamed Sissoko and Xabi Alonso, who limped out of training last night. "Mentally he is ready. When you can play as well as he has done in the Premier League then you can play in Europe no problems. He is only 23 but his problem was that he was in the Atlético team since the age of 17 and was waiting for them to get into the Champions League. Now he has the opportunity to show what he can do at this level."
Last season Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho argued Liverpool's success in the Champions League owed as much to the physical condition of a team without title demands upon them as the quality of their players and management. "I don't think we reached two finals because we only concentrated on one competition," said Benítez. "In the first year we won the Champions League while fighting for a top four place. Everton were losing towards the end but we couldn't do it. Now we have better players and when I change them around the difference [in the team] is not so big."
Rotation was once the responsibility of the fitness coach Pako Ayesteran and the Spaniard is adamant his workload will not be a burden now that his friend of 11 years has left Anfield. "I don't sleep much and I am always working anyway," said the manager, whose conviction should be tested by the Portuguese champions.
While several influential players have departed Porto at a return of almost £50m this summer, Pepe, Anderson and Hugo Almeida among them, Jesualdo Ferreira's team top the table after a start of four successive wins and have not lost at home to English opposition in nine games. "They sell a lot of big players but they still have Ricardo Quaresma and Lucho González," warned Benítez. "They are still a good, dangerous team."

Torres can make up for lost time on the biggest stage


He may have been one of the hottest properties in Europe since breaking into his home-town team six years ago at the tender age of 17, but the Champions League is still new territory for Fernando Torres.
Liverpool's £26.5million striker has never featured in UEFA's showcase because his beloved Atletico Madrid failed to qualify in the six years he was there. He has arrived at Anfield to make up for lost time.
Scroll down for more
Rafa Benitez left the Spain international out of the goalless draw at Portsmouth on Sunday but with Liverpool facing their toughest group phase task against FC Porto on Tuesday night, the manager is unlikely to tinker with his most potent strike-force and Torres is certain to start alongside Dutchman Dirk Kuyt.
Last season's defeated Champions League finalists have an abundance of European and world experience now, but Benitez will have no hesitation in turning to Torres as Liverpool look to end Porto's impressive home record of nine games undefeated against all the Premiership's top four.
Benitez said: 'The chance to show his talents in the Champions League was one of the reasons why Torres decided to come to a top side. He wanted to play in Europe at the highest level.
'Mentally, he is ready for this challenge. When you can play as well as he has done in the Premier League then you can play in Europe, no problems.
'He is only young, 23, but his problem was that he was in the Atletico Madrid team from the age of 17 and was waiting, waiting for them to get into the Champions League. Now he has the opportunity to show what he can do at this level.'
With two Champions League Finals to his name, Benitez is expected to deliver an extended European season for Liverpool's expectant supporters, who also want a sustained Premiership challenge.
Benitez did not disappoint them when he said: 'You must try to win all the trophies and then analyse the situation at the end of the season.
'In the first season we tried to get into the top four, won the Champions League and got to the Carling Cup Final with a squad full of lads.
'I still have a photo in my office of the team that took us to Cardiff and there were seven players from the reserves. You need to use your squad if you want to compete in four competitions but people can criticise you and there will be times you do make a mistake.
'The winning mentality should be to win every single game you play, not to think you have proved something by winning a title in the past. Our priority is the Premier League but that doesn't mean we don't want to win every other trophy we enter.
'We have the squad now to compete for both the Premier League and Champions League but we will only discover how strong it is during the season.'
Striker Kuyt believes Liverpool can win on more than one front. He said: 'If you want to win trophies you need four really good strikers. Good players play better with good players.
'We know we have a good enough squad to win the Champions League and the Premier League, although it's too early to focus on that.'
Despite losing Anderson to Manchester United and Pepe to Real Madrid, Porto coach Jesualdo Ferreira has started the season with four league wins out of four.
Having kept playmaker Ricardo Quaresma out of the clutches of Madrid, the former European champions represent a stern test for Liverpool, who travelled without Momo Sissoko and John Arne Riise.
Perhaps it was with this game in mind that the Liverpool manager was prepared to leave out Steven Gerrard at Portsmouth.
At least Gerrard will be fresh when he takes over the central midfield role from Xabi Alonso, who hobbled off at the start of training on Monday.
But Benitez still found himself defending his rotation policy last night, insisting it was necessary to cope with the demands of the season.
He said: 'I've been speaking to the players and some were really tired after travelling all over the world. You could lose a player for two months because he is tired and that would be worse than one game.
'Three games in a week is always difficult, so you have to use different players. But when all the players know the job they have to do, it is easier to change. Although, saying that, when you lose it seems the best players are always on the bench.
'I know there is more expectation on me because the squad is better. We have spent more money with the new owners this season, but we also clawed a lot back by selling.
'I heard someone say we were guaranteed to finish in the top four this season, but how can you say that? Others are improving and we must keep improving by working hard. We can't rest on our laurels. Now we have better players and when I change them around the difference is not so big.'


FC PORTO (4-3-3): Nuno; Bosingwa, Alves, Paulo, Fuchile; Assuncao, Lucho Gonzalez, Meireler; Fasias, Lisandro, Quaresma.

LIVERPOOL (4-4-2): Reina; Finnan, Carragher, Agger, Arbeloa; Benayoun, Gerrard, Mascherano, Babel; Kuyt, Torres. Referee: Lubos Michel (Slovakia) TV: Live ITV1 (7.45 kick-off)

Porto v Liverpool: Head to head

Porto v Liverpool (THE DAILY MAIL)

Liverpool and Porto are expected to be battling it out for Group A supremacy, with both sides among the recent winners of the Champions League.
Here we see how the sides match up in three key areas.

Rafael Benitez first came to the attention as a major force in the European game when he blew the Real Madrid/Barcelona duopoly in Spain during his time with Valencia.
His tactical nous and inventive use of formations and players earned him plenty of respect in Spain - a trick he has repeated in England with Liverpool.
Despite a good start to the season domestically his success with the Reds has been predominantly in cup competitions.
He has a superb record in knockout tournaments and the club's displays in the Champions League is second to none in the last three years.
Porto's Jesualdo Ferreira is a vastly experienced coach, having worked as assistant manager of Portugal and with the under-21s. He won the title in his first year as Porto boss and previously cut his teeth at Benfica and Boavista.

Liverpool are England's most successful side in Europe, with five European Cups adorning the Anfield trophy cabinet.
While four of those came between 1997 and 1984 the already legendary 2005 win over AC Milan, followed by a second appearance in the final last season - a defeat to the same opponents - make them one of the most dominant sides recent years.
Former Porto manager Jose Mourinho gave the Portuguese club a glory day of their own in 2004, leading them to a classic underdog victory by lifting the 2004 Champions League trophy.
They claimed the UEFA Cup one year previously, and with a European Cup win to their name in 1987, they are clearly a club who can mix it up with more established sides.

Liverpool's start to the season has been their best in recent memory, with an unbeaten record from their opening five league outings.
The 6-0 win over Derby showcased Benitez's side - and his fine collection of summer signings - at their very best, but Saturday's 0-0 with Portsmouth proved they cannot expect to score at will.
There are still some questions over their best XI but with the Spaniard favouring rotation these may never be answered.
Porto's players come into the match on the back of successive victories, with clean sheets in both after a 3-0 win over Uniao Leiria and a 1-0 triumph over Maritimo.

Porto v Liverpool: Key battles

17th September 2007 The Daily Mail

Liverpool have become a formidable side in Europe under Rafael Benitez, but in Porto they face a team on top domestically and in good form.
Here we assess the key individual battles.

One of the most high-profile players in Portugal, Quaresma has consistently been linked to the likes of Chelsea, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Liverpool themselves.
He is naturally skilful on the ball, possesses speed and trickery that have drawn comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo and has experience of playing at the highest level with Barcelona.
Finnan, meanwhile, is the unsung hero of Liverpool's back four. Quiet and unspectacular, he nevertheless has a huge work-rate and supports the attack competently.
He faces as stiff a challenge as any of his team-mates in this tie.

Carragher's decision to call time on his international career means he will be even more intent on shining on the big stage for his club.
He will be well rested after sitting out England's recent Euro 2008 qualifiers and keen on reproducing the form which has made him one of the most consistent defenders in the Champions League during Liverpool's outstanding recent record in the competition.
Lopez is an Argentina international with an eye for goal and he caused Rangers no end of problems in scoring twice agains them in 2005/06.
He will tax Carragher but the Reds centre-half will fancy his chances of a shut-out.

With inspirational captain Steve Gerrard still suffering from the hangover of his fractured toe, Liverpool's attacking onus will be firmly on record signing Torres.
He was rested at the weekend but again looked lively when he was called on from the bench.
His deftness of touch and speed through the penalty area are both big assets as is the Spaniard's vast experience of continental football.
Emanuel has been a solid performer for his club since 2002 and captains with passion. He will need more than that, though, if he is to silence the lively Torres.

17 September 2007

Rafa's rotation causing unwanted flashbacks

Norman Hubbard

Any unpleasant flashbacks would be entirely understandable. The last time Liverpool topped the Premier League it proved the prelude to Gerard Houllier's regime unravelling in spectacular fashion.
Skipper Steven Gerrard and Ryan Babel sit on the bench at Portsmouth.
The trio bought to deliver the title - El-Hadji Diouf, Salif Diao and Bruno Cheyrou - rank among the best of ignominious failures, and Houllier's credibility never recovered. So Rafael Benitez may have had a sense of foreboding when he saw Liverpool perched atop of the league for the two-week international break.
Perhaps it was a wish to escape from that unfortunate historical precedent that prompted Benitez's team selection at Portsmouth. If Liverpool's first four games suggested the Spaniard had learned lessons from slow starts in his three previous seasons, the fifth resurrected any number of unwelcome debates, from Steven Gerrard's fitness to the issue of squad rotation. But for Jose Reina's prowess at saving penalties, they would have lost at Fratton Park, and that would have represented a typical early season result away from Anfield.
If Benitez's choices at Portsmouth were further evidence of his obstinate streak, they surprised nonetheless, especially given the need to maintain their momentum. Too often the autumn leaves have descended as Liverpool's title chances disappeared. That, at least, was understandable in Benitez's first season, when an element of trial and error was inevitable. As it was, seven points from five games proved an accurate indication of their Premier League fortunes as Liverpool limped to a final total of 58, though it was overshadowed by their Champions League victory.
However, defeat in three of their initial four away fixtures was revealing.
Cohesion on their travels, especially for teams still searching for an understanding after summer arrivals, has proved a constant difficulty. The initial success of Djibril Cisse, who scored on the opening day at Tottenham, and Milan Baros, on target in the following match against Manchester City, suggested, inaccurately, that a prolific partnership was in the making.
In hindsight, Benitez's greatest triumph from his first month was the installation of Jamie Carragher in the centre of defence. That Steve Finnan's opening four league games came in midfield, however, showed that the right-wing spot would be a point of contention, as it has been ever since.
The start of the following campaign displayed that defence was a priority. In Liverpool's first four Premier League fixtures, albeit pre-dated by a succession of Champions League qualifiers, the only goal at either end was Xabi Alonso's winner against Sunderland.
Yet the difficulties of a safety-first approach were illustrated on the road. After a stalemate against 10-man Middlesbrough on the opening day, the wait for an away win lasted until November. Moreover the attacking impotence these early-season results suggested, remained an issue. Peter Crouch did not score at all until December and Cisse finally opened his account in open play against Blackburn on October 15th. In a Premier League season where Liverpool conceded a mere 25 goals and scored just 57, their start provided a fair assessment of both their strengths and weaknesses.
But, given that Benitez had already had two seasons to assemble his squad, the 2006/07 season represented Liverpool's worst start. Four points from four starts contrasted with Manchester United's rapid emergence from the metaphorical blocks, but more damning was the accumulation of a solitary point from their opening six away games. Visiting Manchester United, Chelsea and Everton in that time hardly helped, but it was indicative of a lack of resolve on the road.
Moreover, while Gerrard's starting berth on the right of midfield dominated debate, Benitez's refusal to name the same side, hitherto regarded as an eccentricity with occasional benefits of brilliance, was widely condemned. In attack, it yielded no rewards: the first four Premier League games contained four strike partnerships, but no goal in open play from any of them.
A brief glance at those early-season misfortunes accentuates the differences with the current campaign. Last season, Liverpool's first league away win arrived in December; this, their second (at Sunderland, following victory at Aston Villa) in August. No forward was an ever present in the starting line-up for the first four fixtures in any of Benitez's earlier campaigns.
Fernando Torres has been key for the club so far this season.
Fernando Torres changed that this year, before his demotion to the bench at Portsmouth, providing an immediate answer to the questions about whether Liverpool were potent enough in the penalty area by figuring among the Premier League's current leading scorers. Moreover, while the team has been destabilised by previous summers' spending, Benitez had adopted a gradual approach to integrate recent arrivals.
The essential Torres aside, Ryan Babel, Yossi Benayoun, Lucas Leiva and Sebastian Leto were blooded more in the Champions League qualifiers against Toulouse. So, Torres aside, the side that reached the summit of the Premier League, was largely one that was accustomed to playing together. The solution seemed simple: win the game, and then rotate.
Then, however, came the trip to Portsmouth. Liverpool are not alone in often losing at Fratton Park - Manchester United have similar trouble on the south coast - so a draw can be portrayed as a point gained. In the context, however, it is two dropped, while old discussions are reopened.
Benitez has always given the impression that he has regarded the Gerrard issue as an irritating, unnecessary topic of conversation, yet leaving his captain on the bench for an hour scarcely succeeded. Nor, when Torres' credentials to become Liverpool's first player since Robbie Fowler to reach the 20-goal barrier in the Premier League seemed strong, did his omission prove a benefit.
Now, albeit having only dropped four points to their rivals' seven, Liverpool are only level with Chelsea and Manchester United. It still represents their best start under Benitez with, aided by a compliant Derby defence, 11 goals scored and, in open play, none conceded. Yet it could have been so much better and, in the final analysis of this season, will Liverpool have unwanted flashbacks of their team-sheet on a sunny September afternoon at Fratton Park?

16 September 2007

Portsmouth 0 Liverpool 0

Jose Reina's first half penalty save from Kanu and missed sitters by Portsmouth's John Utaka and Sulley Muntari let Liverpool off the hook in a scoreless scrap at Fratton Park where Rafael Benitez's side had been beaten on three of their last five visits.
When Spain international Reina plunged to stop Kanu's spot-kick in the 31st minute after referee Mike Riley pointed to the spot for Alvaro Arbeloa's tug on the Nigerian's shirt, Liverpool should have gone on and wrapped up another victory to take them clear at the top of the Premier League.



utusanLFC : hmmm... the AWAY blues.... lingers. Or is it Benitez was at fault for fielding TEAM B of LFC? Benitez... you look like a typical Benitez... an eye on Porto game, neglecting the premier game over Champion Cup?... hmmm... it was a good 2 weeks at the helm... hihihi...

12 September 2007

'Fighting drunk' pleads guilty to Ferguson attack

A man described in court as a "fighting drunk" today pleaded guilty to attacking the Manchester United football manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, at a London railway station.
Appearing at the City of London magistrates court, Kevin Reynolds, 43, admitted punching Sir Alex, 65, in the groin at Euston station on Monday.
Reynolds also admitting head-butting and racially abusing a police community support officer. He now fails a jail sentence.
Sir Alex was attacked by Reynolds at the station at about 4.30pm after travelling by train to London.
Reynolds' defence counsel, Adeola Olowu, said her client initially thought he saw someone who looked like Sir Alex, not the renowned football manager himself.
She said her client said he was joking around and he struck Sir Alex while shadow boxing.
The sitting magistrate, Daphne Wickham, said: "I do not think Sir Alex Ferguson saw this as a joke."
She said Reynolds was "a fighting drunk", adding that her powers of sentence, which allow for up to six months' imprisonment, were insufficient.
The case was committed to Southwark crown court at a future date and Reynolds was remanded in custody.
utusanlfc :
to Sir Alex.... this teach you a lesson... a multimillionaire like you must not travel using the public transport when you have all the money in the world to fly you in a helicopter... So next time you bring your donkeys to Anfield, please use an armoured-car....

FUNNY STORY ABOUT MAN.U (seriously funny)

This excerpt was from The Guardian Rumour Mill column today...

Another man coming in during the transfer window could be Thierry Henry. And he could be going to Manchester United on loan. Although this sounds like one of those stories that's cooked up by someone who's realised that United need a goalscorer and Thierry Henry hasn't scored a hat-trick in every game he's played for Barca so far.

09 September 2007

Have Liverpool found their new Daglish

by Kevin Fylan

It took just three league appearances and one goal from Fernando Torres before Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez was forced to play down the comparisons with Kenny Dalglish.
Now, after another eye-catching performance and two more goals in the 6-0 win over Derby at the weekend, it’ll be hard for Reds fans to resist the idea that Torres can bring the league title back to Anfield.
It was at the end of the 1989-90 season that Dalglish finally retired as a player, having just overseen Liverpool’s march to an 18th league title. Can it be just coincidence that the club are still waiting for championship number 19?
Until now, perhaps, Liverpool have not had a forward like him.
Peter Beardsley was forced out just a year later, John Barnes was soon in decline and Jari Litmanen was sadly underused by Gerard Houllier.
Torres might not have the sheer talent of Dalglish, he might stumble over a pass more often than you’d like from
a 36 million euros signing, but he has great vision (see the pass that helped set up the Voronin goal against Derby) and a gift for inspiration (the touch that took him past Ben Haim for the goal against Chelsea).
“Whether or not he was overpriced at £27 million, he’s given Liverpool whatever it was they were lacking up front,”
Daryl writes at The Offside.
Liverpool’s 6-0 win over Deby took them top of the Premier League for the first time since November 2002. Will they still be there at the season’s end?

Can they match Kenny's kings?

By Simon Mullock 09/09/2007

Rafa Benitez is the fourth manager to be asked to restore Liverpool to the summit of English football in the 17 years since Kenny Dalglish won the last of the club's record 18 titles.
Graeme Souness, Roy Evans and Gerard Houllier added some silverware to Anfield's bulging trophy room. And the UEFA Cup, FA Cup and League Cup Treble that Houllier achieved in 2001 means he will never walk alone.
There was even the unique and illfated experiment that saw Evans and Houllier share duties for six months until the club's board realised that in football management one head is better than two.
Yet apart from a runnersup spot secured in the months after Dalglish's shock departure in 1991 and another second-placed finish under Houllier 11 years later, Liverpool have consistently knocked on the championship door without ever finding the key to go in.
That was the cue three years ago to dispense with Houllier and headhunt Benitez.
Here was a man who had twice achieved a feat once deemed impossible by guiding Valencia to La Liga at a time when Real Madrid and Barcelona dominated Spain.
Twelve months later, Benitez was assured of a place alongside Liverpool's managerial greats when he lifted the Champions League and the following year there was the FA Cup.
There was nothing new for the Anfield cleaners to polish last season - and while another Champions League Final appearance and a third-placed finish at home may have satisfied most fans, those supporters who populate the Kop will not be happy until Liverpool are champions of England again.
Benitez shares their frustrations - and his demand that the club's new owners back him with £50m for new players was much more than an idle threat.
The Spaniard got his way - and Liverpool went into the international break top of the Premier League.
The title can't be won after four games but, as Benitez discovered during last year's sluggish start, it can be lost by then.
Liverpool's fans got their only glimpse of the Premier League trophy in 1995 - as it was handed to Blackburn.
You can be sure that after their team's impressive start, they will already be looking into ways of getting tickets for White Hart Lane on May 11.

Liverpool's long wait for the title
1989-1990 (Div One): 1st
1990-1991 (Div One): 2nd
1991-1992 (Div One): 6th
1992-1993 (Prem): 6th
1993-1994 (Prem): 8th
1994-1995 (Prem): 4th
1995-1996 (Prem): 3rd
1996-1997 (Prem): 4th
1997-1998 (Prem): 3rd
1998-1999 (Prem): 7th
1999-2000 (Prem): 4th
2000-2001 (Prem): 3rd
2001-2002 (Prem): 2nd
2002-2003 (Prem): 5th
2003-2004 (Prem): 4th
2004-2005 (Prem): 5th
2005-2006 (Prem): 3rd
2006-2007 (Prem): 3rd


Anfield legend Peter Beardsley believes that Rafa Benitez has built a side capable of winning Liverpool's first league title since 1990.
The former England star, with 59 caps, feels Liverpool now have the strength in depth and consistency to overtake champions Manchester United and Chelsea to claim the Premier League title - and add to their record haul of 18 championships.
In an exclusive interview with Sunday Mirror Sport, Beardsley insists that, after 17 years of league misery, the team Rafa has built can finally end the Kop's long wait for glory.
He said: "This Liverpool team that Rafa Benitez has created is the real deal - absolutely no question. "He has bought really well.
Jose Reina is a great keeper, Andriy Voronin is different class and Fernando Torres is so pacey and sharp.
"Torres reminds me of Dennis Bergkamp but I think he is a little bit quicker than the Dutchman was. "Ian Rush was the best I have ever seen defending from the front, but Torres really looks as if he is always hungry to win the ball back.
"I think Benitez now has the depth to make a genuine and sustained assault on the Championship.
"In the past the problem has been that they didn't have the depth.
"When Liverpool had their strongest side out they won cup competitions, as they showed during Gerard Houllier's time, but over a seasonlong marathon they were found out because they didn't have quality in reserve. That has changed under Benitez.
"In an ideal world Rafa isn't going to rotate the squad too much.
He will decide on his best players and use them as much as possible. When you look at Reina, Jamie Carragher, Steve Gerrard and Torres, Liverpool have a great spine.
"You can sense something special is happening at Anfield.
They looked magnificent when they were in full flow in that 6-0 rout of Derby.
"They are playing it the right way - the old Liverpool way. It is proper football.
"You look at some of the goals against Derby and the construction and finishing took your breath away."
And Beardsley believes that, in Benitez, Liverpool have a manager who will take his place alongside Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley in the Anfield annals.
He added: "The thing I like about Rafa is that, from day one, he has never made an excuse.
"He never moans about injuries or suspensions and when Liverpool are beaten he always acknowledges they have been beaten by the better on the day. I like that attitude.
"He also wants his team to play exciting, entertaining football - and the Anfield fans really appreciate that they now have a team playing with the sort of style that Liverpool had when we last won the title - with myself, John Barnes, Alan Hansen, Ronnie Whelan and Ian Rush."
But from winning the League for fun - the title was Liverpool's 11 times between 1973 and 1990 - the Reds have lost that winning habit.
"Winning the League has always been the bread and butter for Liverpool fans.
"They want to win everything, but if you gave them the choice then most would choose winning the League ahead of Manchester United. That's why it has been so painful for them.
"But I have a strong feeling that this finally is going to be Liverpool's year.
"They have made a super start and should be sitting on top with 12 points from four games had it not been for referee Rob Styles making a bad mistake against Chelsea.
"They have added consistency and staying power to the mix, as they have shown in reaching two of the last three Champions League Finals. This is their big chance."

Why Reds must count on success

by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo

RAFAEL BENITEZ used 18 players in the space of five days last week – and that with his most influential figures sat in the stand.
He still saw Liverpool score 10 goals without reply.
The impeccably polished performances against Derby County and Toulouse were not just easy on the eye, they highlighted one heartening fact.
The Reds now have a squad capable of challenging for trophies on all four fronts this season.
But it is a challenge they will need to maintain.
Not just this season, but for seasons to come.
Because according to a report published yesterday, Liverpool will need to generate every last cent of revenue from every competition they enter for the forseeable future – certainly if transfer market spending is to continue at this summer’s levels and massive hikes in ticket prices are to be avoided.
It’s no secret that Liverpool are playing catch-up with Manchester United in their new stadium ambitions.
And the Reds are certainly being ambitious in their level of borrowing.
Tom Hicks and George Gillett borrowed £298million when they bought Liverpool – a loan to be repaid by February 2009, and crucially a loan personally guaranteed by themselves.
It meant that they could boldly claim “We have purchased the club, with no debt on the club.”
But that position is about to change.
Now they are seeking to borrow £500m, over a much longer term, but this time secured against the club’s assets.
The new loan will pay off the old borrowing and finance the new stadium.
But the borrowing isn’t in place yet.
Originally Goldman Sachs were set to lend the money, but following a worldwide pinch on lending, that financial institution has revised its original offer, asking Hicks and Gillett to plunge in much more of their own cash, believed to be around £100m.
Before the Americans make a decision, other avenues are being explored.
But whoever lends the cash, it is still a phenomenal amount of borrowing.
A £500million loan is at least 16 times Liverpool’s current operating profit (£30m in 2007, thanks, don’t forget, to a run to the Champions League final).
To put that level of debt into perspective, Manchester United’s borrowings which forced a bitter backlash from some fans, are only eight times their operating profit, while Arsenal’s are four times.
The comeback from Liverpool’s financial adviser, Robert Tilliss of the New York based Inner Circle Sports, is that borrowings must be placed in the context of the increased revenues which will be generated by the new stadium.
Obviously a 60,000 seat stadium (possibly 76,000 in the future), will generate considerably more income than the present Anfield.
But so, too, will success in the Premiership, the Champions League, the FA Cup and the Carling Cup.
There was a time when challenging for trophies was merely about glory. That may still be the case for fans, footballers and Rafa Benitez, but for the men with the purse-strings the revenue streams those trophies provide are increasingly influential.
Champions League qualification – and progress – will be a minimum requirement for the Reds for several seasons to come.

Liverpool by numbers

£174m Amount paid by Tom Hicks and George Gillett for Liverpool
£298m Amount borrowed by Hicks and Gillett at the time of their takeover
£500m Amount now being sought to pay for new stadium and to refinance original loan
£30m Expected operating profit for 2006/2007
£21.5m Annual interest payments on the existing loan
£23.5m Net spending on players this summer
£20.2m Most expensive signing - Fernando Torres from Atletico Madrid
£250m Cost of new stadium at Stanley Park

Torres warning to defenders

Liverpool striker Fernando Torres has warned defenders there's no point in trying to wind him up - because he doesn't understand them.
The Spaniard has been the target of some colourful abuse since his £26.5m move from Atletico Madrid to Anfield.
But while Torres has settled quickly into the Reds first-team, helping them go top of the Premier League, he is still coming to terms with the language.
He told the Mirror: "Football is played with the ball and not the mouth. They can say or do what they like, I can concentrate on the ball."

Crouch plays waiting game over Anfield future

Peter Crouch has put a question-mark over his long-term future at Liverpool by stalling on a new contract.
Crouch, who will be available for England against Russia on Wednesday after being suspended for last night's qualifier with Israel, has been offered a new three-year deal by Rafa Benitez.
But he will wait until January before committing himself after being frustrated at his lack of first-team opportunities this season. The 6ft 7in striker has been relegated to fourth-choice striker and been left out of the first-team squad in three of their four Premier League matches.
If Liverpool managed to win their first title since 1990 but his shortage of games continued, he could miss out on a championship medal. He also fears that his place in the England set-up would be in jeopardy if he continues to be frozen out of the majority of big games for his club.
Benitez has a good relationship with the striker he signed for £7 million in 2005 and still sees him as a valuable stand-in. He also knows that a long-term deal would push up the transfer price if Liverpool ever decided to sell.
But Crouch, 26, who has 18 months of his current deal to run, is prepared to play a waiting game, with a number of clubs such as Manchester City and Juventus monitoring the situation. Ideally, the striker would like to win back a regular place at Anfield but that has become harder since the arrivals of Fernando Torres and Andriy Voronin.
Ironically, when Crouch's autobiography is published later this month, it is full of praise for Benitez — but that personal respect for the Spaniard will not force him to sign a new deal.
Crouch has scored 17 goals in 46 Premiership starts for the Anfield club and helped them to win the FA Cup in 2006. He has also scored 12 times in 19 games for England.
Benitez and Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry put an offer on the table for him after tying up their priority players, Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Xabi Alonso and goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

05 September 2007


Real Madrid coach Bernd Schuster has branded Liverpool "unattractive" and "ugly".
The German, who took charge at the Santiago Bernabeu in the summer, believes the Reds are one of Real's main rivals for the Champions League this season, but is not a fan of Rafael Benitez's style of football.
He told Spanish daily AS: "Liverpool rely on an unattractive style of football. They are an ugly team to play.
"Look how they really gave Barcelona a going-over last season, when they knocked them out of the Champions League. That's what I mean.
"I would rate Liverpool, like AC Milan, as our major rivals for the Champions League this season.
"They never tire of winning big trophies."
Schuster believes his side can retain the Spanish Primera Liga, as well as winning their 10th European Cup, after spending around £80million in the summer.
He said: "Signing (Gabriel) Heinze when he wasn't allowed to join Liverpool took a weight off my shoulders.
"We were desperate for exactly that type of player.
"As for Arjen Robben, the mess Chelsea made of allowing us to sign him has left him without a proper pre-season.
"Robben needs this international break to train hard and get ready for action with us later this month."

utusanLFC : Mr Schuster definitely have pitif00ly missed all the 6 games we had this season. So let him be with his ignorance. Lots of people like that... and they will be suprised.. really really suprised...!



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