31 October 2007

Mascherano typifies the Anfield spirit

Just don't break Lampard's leg. England need him to qualify in euro 2008....

by Ian Rush, Liverpool Echo

INJURIES have always been part and parcel of the game and there were times when I was playing for Liverpool that we had several players out with one kind of knock or another.
But I can’t think of a time when one team has suffered so many fractures in such a short space of time.
First, it was Steven Gerrard. Next it was Xabi Alonso and Daniel Agger ruled out at the same time with a fractured metatarsal.
Then Jermaine Pennant suffered a stress fracture of the shin and, while Rafa Benitez was only just coming to terms with that, Alonso suffered a relapse against Arsenal on Sunday.
Benitez must be wondering what he’s done to deserve so much bad luck.
But the one good thing he can take out of it is the character his players are showing. This was typified by Javier Mascherano, who remained on the pitch against the Gunners when he was clearly injured.
It would have been easy for him to look at the bench and ask to come off because he was clearly in a lot of pain. But Mascherano simply rolled his sleeves up and got on with it.
That is the kind of thing that builds team spirit and togetherness.
When you know everyone is prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder and not give in no matter what is going against you it gives you a great feeling as a team.
And you could see the strength of Liverpool’s team spirit against Arsenal because they stuck together and fought and battled from the first minute to the last.
Arsenal will beat almost every team in the Premiership if they play like they did at Anfield on Sunday. Their passing and movement were fantastic and there are few sides in world football who will live with them when they play like that.
But Liverpool managed to get a point and could even have won it, and that was simply because they showed grit, determination and plenty of team spirit.
Even though Arsenal had a lot of the ball, Liverpool were never out of the game and the battling from the likes of Gerrard, Mascherano and Jamie Carragher was wonderful.
Their never say die attitude spread throughout the team and meant Arsenal were not able to have things their own way.
The injuries Liverpool suffered are obviously a big blow but if they carry on displaying the same kind of character for the rest of the season they won’t go far wrong.

Superb Gerrard is untouchable on this form
RAFA BENITEZ has been talking about how Steven Gerrard has been getting back to his best recently and I think we all saw the evidence of that against Arsenal. Gerrard was outstanding. When he was on the ball he was a major threat. When he didn’t have it he tackled like his life depended on it. He scored a wonderful goal and he led from the front. It was the same against Besiktas last week and Steven carried that form into the Arsenal game. If he carries on like that then it will be a massive boost to Liverpool because when he is on top of his game it is hard to think of any other midfielders who can live with him.

Anfield legend Fowler can expect warm Kop welcome
I’VE got no doubt that Robbie Fowler will be given a wonderful reception when he returns to Anfield with Cardiff tomorrow night. Robbie was a wonderful servant of Liverpool Football Club over two spells and I know how much the fans still love him. I can remember coming back to play at Anfield in Alan Hansen’s testimonial in 1988 when I was a Juventus player and the way the fans treated me was fantastic. I scored a hat-trick and the Kop were chanting for me to be signed up and the affection they showed me that night was one of the main reasons why I ended up signing for Liverpool again shortly after. Even when I came back with Leeds United I was still given a wonderful reception. I was substitute that day and I can remember warming up on the touchline and the Kop were singing my name. It’s great to be remembered like that and I’m sure it will be exactly the same for Robbie tomorrow because he is a Liverpool legend.

Crouch has given perfect lift to his recall chances
PETER CROUCH did his chances of earning a recall to the starting line-up the world of good with his substitute appearance against Arsenal. It is easy to sulk when you’re not being picked, but the manager is looking for you to take your chance when one comes your way and I felt Peter did that on Sunday. As soon as he came on he looked a genuine threat and only a fantastic save by Almunia stopped Peter from scoring. I’m sure the way he played has put Peter in contention for a return to the team against Blackburn on Saturday and it also sends out a message to those players who will be involved against Cardiff tomorrow. If you get your chance you have to be ready and then if you do impress the manager you will give him a selection headache.

Peter Crouch ready to take his Liverpool chance

Oct 31 2007

HUNGRY Peter Crouch is determined to make the most of any first-team chance this evening – as Harry Kewell prepares for his long-awaited senior return for Liverpool.
Crouch is primed for only his fifth start of the season as Rafael Benitez’s entertain Coca-Cola Championship side Cardiff City in the Carling Cup fourth round.
The 26-year-old made an impressive appearance as a second-half substitute for the injured Fernando Torres in the 1-1 draw with Premier League leaders Arsenal on Sunday.
With Torres now sidelined for at least the next fortnight and both Dirk Kuyt and Andriy Voronin having started three games in eight days, Benitez is almost certain to turn to Crouch this evening.
And the England international said: “I’m looking forward to the Cardiff game and hoping to get 90 minutes under my belt.
“I was pleased to get on against Arsenal, even though it wasn’t in the circumstances I would have liked with Fernando getting injured. You always want your best players on the pitch and hopefully he won’t be out for too long.
“From my point of view I haven’t had too many chances this season and so I have to take them when they come along.
“It’s going to be a long season, we have a big squad and everybody will get games at some point. I just know that whenever I play I have to perform.
“Players are greedy and they want to play every week but it’s not possible.
“We know there could be anything up to 70 matches this season and we understand what the manager is trying to do.”
Former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler will line up for Cardiff this evening, with the Welsh side expected to be backed by more than 5,000 travelling supporters.
Victory would put Liverpool through to the quarter-finals of the competition for the third time in four seasons under Benitez.
And Crouch added: “The Cardiff game is obviously one we’re expected to win but we can’t take anything for granted.
“It’ll be nice to see Robbie Fowler again because he has been fantastic for this club over the years. “It was great when he came back here and he did a magnificent job for the team. He was also a good character to have around the dressing room and I’m sure the boys are looking forward to seeing him again.”
Liverpool will this morning have a better idea of how long they will be without Xabi Alonso after the Spaniard aggravated his metatarsal injury at the weekend.
Alonso saw a specialist late yesterday afternoon and a precise timescale on his recovery will be determined today.
Benitez, though, expects Torres to have recovered from his adductor injury within a fortnight while Javier Mascherano trained yesterday.
The Argentine is nevertheless unlikely to figure tonight, with Benitez keen to give a number of fringe players an outing.

Platini hits out at Wenger for teenage buys

by Daniel Taylor
Wednesday October 31, 2007 The Guardian

Arsène Wenger's policy of recruiting teenagers at Arsenal has been strongly criticised by Uefa's president, Michel Platini. Wenger has a reputation as one of Europe's foremost talent spotters, with Cesc Fábregas, Theo Walcott and Fran Mérida, a highly rated teenager signed from Barcelona, among the youngsters he has brought to the club, but Platini disapproves of his compatriot's approach in the transfer market.
"I do not like the system of Arsène Wenger," the former France international said. "In France, Italy and Spain it is easy to buy with money the best players at 14, 15 or 16. I don't like that. If the best clubs buy the best 15 or 16 players, [then it] is finished for all the clubs in Europe. If my son is playing at Millwall and at 16 Manchester [United] come in for this player, then when will Millwall have a good team?"
Wenger's purchases also include Gilles Sunu, signed at 16 from the French club Chateauroux this year, and Carlos Vela, a Mexican forward bought at the same age from Chivas de Guadalajara two years ago and now on loan at Osasuna in Spain. In 1999 Wenger brought a 15-year-old Jermaine Pennant from Notts County.

Fowler finds his way back to Anfield with only an away win on his mind

Liverpool fans once called him God and could even forgive him a goal tonight, writes Stuart James The Guardian

How mischievous that the League Cup draw should not only have granted Robbie Fowler the opportunity to go back to Anfield, but also meant the Cardiff City striker's return to Liverpool coincided with Halloween. Not that Fowler could haunt Liverpool if he tried. Indeed, there is so much affection for the 32-year-old among Liverpool's supporters that Cardiff's captain Darren Purse is probably right when he suggests Fowler would be forgiven for scoring the winner tonight.
Nicknamed God among the red half of Merseyside, Fowler can do no wrong in the eyes of Liverpool fans, with his homecoming expected to deliver an ear-piercing ovation that is likely to leave many of the Cardiff players feeling like extras making up the numbers on a film set. The adulation is born from an extraordinary record that reads 183 goals in 369 appearances during two spells with Liverpool, although the statistics are not imprinted on Fowler's psyche.
"He didn't come into [this] club as a prima donna," said Purse, recalling Fowler's arrival at Ninian Park on a free transfer in July after he was released by Rafael Benítez, the Liverpool manager, following the Champions League final, when he had sat in the stand. "He just walked in and said 'hello' to the lads and that's what he's all about. He's not about saying, 'Look at me, I'm Robbie Fowler'. He's saying, 'Look at me, I'm one of the lads'. That's what he's like. He's a really great bloke to have at the club.
"People often get the wrong idea about players. They think they are going to come in and upset the team spirit we've got around the place. Robbie came in and has fitted in really well and he's just one of the lads. He's a very likeable bloke. He likes to have a little joke, to play a few tricks on a few of the lads and, especially when things are a bit low - we're not having the best of times in the league at the moment - he's a fantastic person to have around."
Hailed by the Cardiff manager, Dave Jones, as "the biggest signing this club has ever made", Fowler has taken time to find his feet in the Championship although six goals in his last eight appearances are more in keeping with expectations. Jones had not earmarked Fowler as a possible target in the summer; instead a chance meeting in a Florida restaurant while on holiday proved to be the starting point for talks that brought the former England striker to South Wales. He has nursed Fowler through matches hitherto, with the forward only completing 90 minutes for Cardiff on four occasions this term as he seeks to improve fitness levels as well as develop a partnership with another former prolific Premiership goalscorer, Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink. Should Jones withdraw Fowler before the end again tonight, the applause would be deafening, although there is no sense that the Cardiff manager is in sentimental mood.
"Playing football is Robbie's job," insisted Jones. "Personal things don't get in the way. Yes, Robbie played for Liverpool for a long time but he's been back there before with Man City. When you get emotional your mind becomes clouded - but that won't happen to Robbie. He wants to get on and do his job. It will be a special occasion and he will have his family and friends there, but he plays for us now and that attachment with Liverpool ends once he steps off that team bus."
Trevor Sinclair is not so sure. The 34-year-old Cardiff midfielder, who played alongside Fowler for Manchester City and England, believes his team-mate will find it hard to be so pragmatic about playing at the home of the club he joined as an 11-year-old. "I think it will be a difficult situation for Rob to be in because he has obviously got so many good memories at Liverpool and, deep down in his heart, if it was his choice he would still be at the club," Sinclair said.
Benítez has since admitted Fowler is "still good enough to play in the Premier League this season" although the signing of Andriy Voronin, together with plans to bring in Fernando Torres in the summer, dictated there would be few opportunities at Liverpool.
Fowler might easily have retired at that point but Sinclair claims that an interest in horse racing, as well as a considerable property portfolio, would not have been enough to stimulate someone who "loves football".
Those who have played alongside Fowler for Cardiff this season will testify he no longer has the same sharpness when getting about the pitch but his football brain continues to buy time inside the penalty area where he remains, in Sinclair's words, "a fantastic finisher". Indeed that might well be his epitaph, with many Liverpool fans, much like Sinclair, able to recall a favourite moment during a career that is replete with goalscoring memories. "I was only telling the story a couple of weeks ago to someone that I remember his first England Under-21 game, which was against one of the Eastern bloc countries away," said Sinclair.
"Within 35 seconds Robbie Fowler had turned a bad cross from me into a goal with a diving header from outside the box. That was the first time I played with him and there was the big smile you still see now when he scores." It just might not be quite so wide should he score tonight.

Liverpool boosted by Harry Kewell return

By Giles Mole and AFP (The Telegraph)

The Australian winger has been sidelined since suffering a groin injury while playing for his country in the Asian Cup over the summer.
However, Kewell made a goalscoring return to action for the reserves at the weekend and now has the chance to prove he has a future on Merseyside following the summer acquisitions of Ryan Babel and Yossi Benayoun.
Liverpool are expected to rest several first-choice players, including goalkeeper Jose Reina, who has branded the injury crisis threatening to overwhelm the club's season as a "pain in the backside."
The Liverpool No 1 was dismayed to see his fellow Spaniards Xabi Alonso and Fernando Torres sidelined after suffering recurrences of existing injuries in Sunday's 1-1 draw with Arsenal, and says the setbacks could hardly have come at a worse time.
Liverpool must beat Besiktas at Anfield next week to survive in the Champions League and they cannot afford to lose any more ground to Arsenal and Manchester United in the Premier League title race.
Reina said: "The injuries are a big problem. We have had far too many in the last few months. Now we have another injury to Fernando and another to Xabi.
"When important players are recovering and coming back into the side and then they get injured again, it is always difficult."
Liverpool are still waiting to hear how long they will be without midfielder Alonso, who has suffered a metatarsal fracture, while Torres is expected to be out for three weeks with a torn adductor muscle.
The only consolation for under-pressure manager Rafael Benitez is that the foot injury suffered by Javier Mascherano on Sunday is not as serious as first feared.
Benitez, however, is already without winger Jermaine Pennant with a stress fracture of the shin, and first-choice centre-back Daniel Agger, who is still recovering from his own broken metatarsal.
The loss of Torres is probably the biggest blow to Benitez, though. The Spaniard had to be withdrawn at half-time on Sunday and Liverpool's cutting edge was significantly reduced as a result.
Peter Crouch is expected to make only his sixth start of the season on Wednesday and the England striker is desperate to make an impact.
He said: "I was pleased to get on against Arsenal, even though it wasn't in the circumstances I would have liked with Fernando getting injured. You always want your best players on the pitch and hopefully he won't be out for too long.
"From my point of view I haven't had too many chances this season and so I have to take them when they come along. It's going to be a long season, we have a big squad and everybody will get games at some point. I just know that whenever I play I have to perform.
"Players are greedy and they want to play every week but it's not possible. We know there could be anything up to 70 matches this season and we understand what the manager is trying to do."
utusanLFC : Kewell... we're longing to see the best of you like you did during your spell at Leeds. Since then, you're the most prone-injury fella and most of the time, we forget that you're still in the team. This game is for you to clear off any doubts of your ability and your right to be in LFC. Your performance during the Asian Cup was lousy. So do your best tonight. Please...

Robbie's a Bluebird now... not a Red

David Maddock 31/10/2007 (The Mirror)

Even Rafa Benitez is hoping Robbie Fowler, the striker who scored 183 goals for Liverpool, manages another on his return to Anfield... just as long as it's a consolation.
Fowler's presence in the Cardiff front line offers a sentimental edge to tonight's Carling Cup proceedings as the Bluebirds seek a major upset.
"Maybe we can leave him to score a fantastic goal in front of the Kop - but at the end of the game we will need to have scored three," said Benitez.
"The way Robbie played for us, with the injuries he had and at the age he is, was fantastic. He was always joking but very respectful and professional. He showed us his quality, a strong mentality and his commitment was very good. The other players learnt a lot from his passing and movement, and I hope he gets a fabulous welcome."
Cardiff boss Dave Jones is banking on the 32-year-old former Kop idol conjuring up some more Anfield magic.
He said: "Playing football is Robbie's job and personal things don't get in the way.
"When you get emotional your mind becomes clouded, but that won't happen to him.
"Robbie wants to get on and do his job. It will be a special occasion, he will have family and friends there, but he plays for us now and any Liverpool attachment ends once he steps off that team bus."
While Fowler's return may grab the attention, Benitez has more than enough on his plate with the Reds' home form. The Spanish coach is painfully aware that Liverpool have under-performed badly on their home turf this season.
A meagre return of two wins from seven matches at Anfield - against Toulouse and whipping boys Derby - is nowhere near good enough for a side with genuine pretensions towards honours. Benitez will field as strong a side as his injury problems permit with the bulk made up from his first-team squad, even for a competition in which he has often employed young reserves in the past.
Possibly only centre half Jack Hobbs from the second string will be pressed into service tonight, allowing Sami Hyypia a much-needed rest after starting the last six matches. It is an indication of how important this game has become for a side that have won six of their nine away games this season - making their inability to perform in front of their own fans all the more puzzling.
Jamie Carragher admitted: "It's very strange that we don't seem to be doing that well at Anfield this season.
"It hasn't been as good as we know it should be, and that is incredibly frustrating.
"Every year I have been here, it's been a case of thinking you have one area of the team sorted - and then having to improve something else.
"Our away form was poor last year but now we are the best in the league away from home, yet all of a sudden the home form hasn't been as good as we would have liked."
There is no obvious explanation for such a dramatic reversal other than, perhaps, Liverpool's continuing inability to break down teams intent only on defending against them.
"It's frustrating," said Carragher. "Us and Arsenal are the only unbeaten teams, but we've had too many draws.
"Yet if we'd beaten Spurs and drawn at Everton, people would say they were good results. Away form has been excellent, but we have to step it up at Anfield."


By Simon Armstrong, PA Sport

Cardiff manager Dave Jones insists striker Robbie Fowler will not be affected by his emotional return to Liverpool on Wednesday night.
Fowler is set to step out at Anfield for the first time since he left the Reds for a second time in the summer after he was not offered a new contract by manager Rafael Benitez.
Much of the pre-match hype for the Carling Cup fourth-round tie has centred on the man known as 'God' to the Liverpool fans, but Jones is adamant Fowler will block out the emotion of the occasion. "He's not been bothered at all with it," Jones said.
"He doesn't want to be interviewed and he's quite happy to get on with his footballing life.
"He's been back before with two other clubs (Leeds and Manchester City), so he just wants to get on and play and do his job."
Jones is, meanwhile, hoping history repeats itself when his team travel to Merseyside.
The Bluebirds boast an enviable head-to-head record against the Reds, having recorded 16 league wins to Liverpool's eight, and the last time the two teams met at Anfield in December 1959, Cardiff ran out 4-0 winners.
But with Cardiff currently lying 17th in the Coca-Cola Championship table following an indifferent start to their league campaign, Jones knows that the odds are stacked against his team pulling off a similar result to qualify for the quarter-finals.
"They are a top quality side and no matter what position we are in the league, it would still be a massive game for this football club and a massive achievement if we were to get something out of it," said Jones.
Liverpool have also endured a turbulent start to the season and, despite his side remaining unbeaten in the Barclays Premier League, Reds boss Benitez has come under increasing criticism for his controversial rotation policy.
Benitez looks set to shuffle his pack once again - particularly given the injuries suffered by Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano at the weekend.
But Jones admits he is at a loss to predict the XI his team will face.
"I watched the game against Arsenal at Anfield and I really don't know which team Rafa (Benitez) is going to pick," he said.
"I would think that that he might leave the likes of (John Arne) Riise, Torres and (Dirk) Kuyt out, but bring in players such as (Peter) Crouch, (Ryan) Babel and (Harry) Kewell - but I don't know because I'd be guessing totally on what his team might be.
"He (Benitez) has got a squad of players that befit a football club with the calibre of Liverpool but it doesn't matter what team he puts out.
"What matters is how we prepare and what sort of performance we put in but, as I've said many times, if these players play to the best of their ability, as they have on one or two occasions this season, then we won't let ourselves down."


By Paul Walker, PA Sport

Rafael Benitez has heralded Robbie Fowler's homecoming with a glowing tribute to Liverpool's goal-scoring legend.
Fowler, who left the club in the summer when his contract was not renewed, will return to Anfield on Wednesday night in the blue shirt of Cardiff for a Carling Cup fourth round tie.
For Fowler it will be an emotional night to play in front of the Kop again, a chance he would hardly have expected when he said his goodbyes to the club and fans on the final day of last season.
And Benitez even joked he was unsure whether to use his rookie centre-back Jack Hobbs in the game just in case he was taught a lesson by the veteran.
Benitez could use several squad players in the match including Lucas, Sebastian Leto, Harry Kewell, Fabio Aurelio, Charles Itandje and Hobbs.
He will be without injured trio Javier Mascherano, Fernando Torres and Xabi Alonso, but is likely to give Alvaro Arbeloa a run-out after injury - probably alongside Jamie Carragher at the back.
Torres will be out for three weeks with a torn adductor muscle, while Alonso has another broken metatarsal. He missed six weeks with the first injury and can expect to be out for a similar length of time again.
It is expected that Peter Crouch will start up front, having played particularly well as a second-half substitute against Arsenal on Sunday.
But all eyes will be on veteran Fowler and whether he can manage one final goal in front of Merseyside fans who still call him 'God'.
Benitez said: "Maybe we can arrange for him to score once more in front of the Kop, but only when we are winning 3-0.
"Seriously, though, I view his return to Liverpool a couple of years ago as a great success, he showed so much commitment and effort. And our younger players will have learned a lot from just watching him in training.
"I am sure that he will be able to pass on a lot of experience and know-how to the young players at Cardiff."
Benitez added: "Robbie was a great success here the second time around. People may have raised their eyebrows a bit when we brought him back here from Manchester City.
"But he showed us his quality, good mentality and his commitment was really good. For a player with the problems that he had in terms of injuries and his age, he was just fantastic to work with.
"The atmosphere with him was always good. He was always joking, and was also very respectful and professional.
"I was very pleased with Robbie, and some of the players did learn from his movement, and his finishing, as always, was fantastic."
He added: "I would expect now that players in the division he is now in will learn from him, too. He has fantastic instinct and movement, you can always see that.
"Maybe he did not have the 'legs' needed to play in a top side any more, but he had everything else. He had the passion, commitment, the right mentality and character.
"I was really pleased with him when he was here, the move was a success.
"But I don't want to see him scoring goals in this game, though. I will see him beforehand and that will be a pleasure. But after the game maybe he will be a little bit disappointed."
Fowler has found the net six times for the south Wales club this season, and Benitez said: "I expect and believe he can score 20 goals for Cardiff and be the top scorer in their division. That would please me.
"And he is still more than capable of scoring against our defence. As long as we win and score enough, I would be happy for him to score once more in front of the Kop. But only if we win, maybe I can agree that with him!
"I have watched him on TV but not seen him since he left, I will look forward to that.
"I have several fringe players I want to use in the game, and maybe Jack Hobbs too, but I do not really want him to be learning about Robbie out there on the pitch.
"That is why we will need our senior men."

29 October 2007

LFC 1 - 1 Arsenal

The result is not what we wanted but look at the bright side. The performance of LFC team has returned! This is the familiar LFC that fought all the way, counter-attacking maniac and that tiny Argentinian in Mascherano... wow! had he not be on the pitch, we could have been losing that game! Not that he has the speed but with his small feet, he came from nowhere and won the ball. It was so stimulating, particularly when you see what Arsenal team is made of.

. Javier kung fu-kick...

True, Arsenal kids really played well. One touch accuracy is the way they have won their previous games. I even text my fellow friend telling how the Arsenal boys are `freaking fast'. Luckily we had a well-experienced defenders in Carra and Hyppia. Where they can't catch up with the speedemons of, they use their wits. Blocked, rammed and `handle' them... (hey, it's the name of Arsenal the game !). We were also lucky the goal post help us twice.

But I shall not dwell on that aspect. It is a little bit frustrating we didn't convert the chances and kill the game off early. We stand here not as a fortunate team - in awe of the ``greatness'' of Arsenal's beautiful play. That is utterly bollocks.
The truth is that we have our own style of playing. Be it a long ball straight to Crouch or an attack starting from the middle, passing to either flank and cross it back to the D-area and aiming it to any strikers to shoot it home. We don't need to play one touch ball. Let Arsenal do it. Whats the point of playing beautiful when they can't defeat Liverpool? hahaha...

Again, I must say... the whole performance last night was good. Alonso came back to his best though the latest report this morning says he is injured again. I was nervous when he limped out and silently praying in my heart that this shouldn't be the point when Arsenal will equalise. hmmm... I should have pray harder....

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
29 Oktober 2007

28 October 2007

Rotate it like Rafa Benitez

By John Ley (The Telgraph)

Rafael Benitez's first three games saw an unchanged team, but in a total of 195 games in charge of Liverpool, he has named an unchanged side just five times.
He did it four times in his first season, 2004-05. He then famously went 100 games before making no changes again, against Bordeaux on Oct 31, 2006.
Since then he has gone 54 games with a change in every team. Since the Premier League visit of Fulham to Anfield, in Feb 2005, Benitez has kept an unchanged side once in 155 games.
This season, Liverpool have used 22 players in 15 games, but six clubs have used more.

I won't crack : Benitez

Benitez sticks to his guns
By Ken Lawrence 28/10/2007 (Sunday Mirror)

Rafa Benitez insists he will not be driven into an intensive care unit by the first hint of crisis in his Liverpool career.
Benitez is adamant the pressures of trying to end Liverpool's 17-year wait for a title triumph, will never turn into the terrifying scenario that almost cost the life of his predecessor Gerard Houllier.
Houllier ended up on a life support partly as the pressure took its toll on his health.
And he always found the criticism of former Liverpool stars particularly hard to take.
After last week's dismal Champions League defeat by Besiktas some critics believe defeat against Arsenal at Anfield today could leave Benitez fighting fore his job.
But he insists he has a failsafe way to stay sane, and is certain that owners Tom Hicks and George Gillette are not likely to follow the example of the Tottenham board who booted out Martin Jol last week.
Benitez said: "I would be surprised if my job came under the kind of scrutiny that Martin Jol went through. You must analyse everything and look at the big picture.
"This week Tom Hicks was trying to be supportive. I have a good relationship with him and George Gillette. I have had good contact with them.
"Sure they want to win. I want to win. Everybody wants to win. But we have the same ideas.
"We talked about the plan that will be for the next four or five years before and we continue with the same ideas.
"I am really pleased here. I am happy. And if we make mistakes by reacting to what others say then we will have problems.
"But I don't have any problems. If I need to work harder to improve things, I will do it and if everything's OK I will enjoy.
"We have the plan. The directors are really pleased with the plan. For one day you don't need a plan. You need it for the next years and that is what we have."
Houllier always listened always to what he called the "enemy from within", but Benitez, who looks certain to be without injured Fernando Torres against the Gunners, claims he doesn't hear them!
Every time he looks at Liverpool video footage he turns the sound down so he can concentrate on what he wants and not worry about outside opinions.
He explained "This is how I work. I prepare for each game with four or five DVDs and the analysis the coaches give me.
"I prepare about one hour of tapes. But I see them without volume so I don't hear anything.
"I can't watch the games live because I am working. So I make clips. I keep the ones I want that are most important for the players. When I am working like that I cannot listen and work.
"And I don't like the players hearing anything because I prefer them to be focussing.
"Everybody has an opinion and I don't need to hear anybody else's opinion but mine."
Given the increasing flak Benitez has been taking over his rotation policy and especially his selection of strikers - blamed for last Wednesday's defeat in Turkey - the Anfield manager could be accused of sticking his head in the sand.
And there have been suggestions that skipper Steven Gerrard, hauled off 20 minutes from the end of the Merseyside derby win may be growing dubious that Benitez's methods remain the right ones.
But Benitez is confident is position is completely safe and insists there is no problem between him and Gerrard.
He said: "As for Steve Gerrard, we have been talking. He knows why I replaced him at Everton and he has told me he is ready to do anything for this team. Nothing has changed."

utusanLFC : In Rafa we trust!

We're Fab, just like Brazil! : Fabrigas


CESC FABREGAS has warned Liverpool: Arsenal are just like Brazil.
The Gunners have used their free-flowing samba style to go two points clear at the top of the Premier League.
And Fabregas is determined to prove Arsene Wenger’s passing game is the best as they head into their toughest spell of the campaign — today’s clash at Anfield being followed by a visit from Manchester United.
The Spanish ace said: “We’re like Brazil when they’re at the top of their game. The best thing about us is how quick and precise we are.
“But we must keep our feet on the ground and work harder than everyone else. Staying right at the top is the hardest thing.”
Arsenal head to Merseyside on the back of their 7-0 Champions League thrashing of Slavia Prague.
And Fabregas — who has struck up a great partnership in midfield with Mathieu Flamini — added: “In the Champions League we’re close to achieving our first aim, to qualify for the next round.
“But in the Premier League there is a long way to go and we have to keep on applying the same amount of energy. We have two tough league matches coming up and they provide an opportunity to show our strength.
“We will have to give everything to get a good result at Anfield but I trust in
our team. Our style is very different to Liverpool’s and they’re usually excellent games — there have been lots of goals in recent matches. It’s an acid test for us.
“Coming out of Anfield with a good result will give us a big lift. Then we play against United — another massive game.
“Those two matches are like two championship finals in the space of a fortnight.”
But although excitement is building around the Emirates Stadium after Arsenal’s whirlwind start to the season Fabregas, 20, is just too smart to get carried away.
Off the field he is studying the Spanish equivalent of A-Levels with a view to a future university course.
Tutors visit his Enfield home for four hours a week to help with his studies and he has a big exam in May.
He hopes it coincides with title glory. He added: “We don’t want good progress, we want the title.”
utusanLFC : yeaaa... what ever.


By Mike McGrath, PA Sport

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has warned Liverpool that crashing out of the Champions League could affect their hopes of mounting a challenge for the Barclays Premier League title.
Traditional football theory suggests Liverpool will concentrate on the league if they fail to claim the three wins to reach the knockout stages of Europe's top club competition, although Wenger doubts whether this would be the case.
"You don't know the psychological consequences it can have on a team in the next five or six vital points until you bounce back and find a balance again," said the Frenchman.
"If you go into the UEFA Cup it can be worse."
Juggling the two has proved difficult as well, with a perception that Liverpool's progress in Europe has come at a price, with domestic form suffering.
This season they are unbeaten in the Premier League but have dropped points at home, bringing Rafael Benitez's rotation policy into question.
Their talisman, Steven Gerrard, was substituted last week and Peter Crouch, who inspired victory against Arsenal last season, has been in and out of the team.
It means Wenger has been left guessing Benitez's starting line-up ahead of Arsenal's trip to Anfield tomorrow.
Wenger would not question Benitez's policy, though.
"I agree with Rafa that it is the person who is right in May that counts," he said.
"He has been in two European Cup finals in three years so you have to respect that. He must be doing something right.
"Frankly I don't like the phrase 'to keep everyone happy'. What does it mean? If a player doesn't play he is not happy. It's like something has been discovered when a player isn't happy.
"People react surprised that there is competition but that is the essence of our job. We have to accept that. If I am a player and go to Arsenal Football Club I know it will be difficult because there is competition. I substituted Thierry (Henry), of course."
Wenger's success, though, has come from a settled line-up.
It is so settled that Gilberto Silva cannot get in the team at the moment and Jens Lehmann will have talks with Wenger over comments he made this week after losing his place in goal to Manuel Almunia.
Wenger has found a team that has won eight out of nine matches difficult to disrupt - and their only dropped points came from Lehmann's blunder at Blackburn.
The questions that remain include whether they can beat the other teams in the 'big four', and also how they will react when they are finally defeated, with the 'Invincibles' of 2004 suffering after Manchester United ended their run of 49 league matches.
Wenger said: "There is one thing that is different. In the past we had such a long run that it was the end of an era. This is the start of a team. Should a defeat happen it will not be taken in the same way.
"After 49 games, nearly 18 months, the guys had been on the top of Everest and the next day you are down at the level of the sea again. Then you say 'let's climb up again'. (They would say) 'C'mon, give us a little breather'.
"The team is empty because there is nothing to go for any more."
utusanLFC : woaaa... a friendly warning to Rafa?

Liverpool v Arsenal

Liverpool are hoping to have midfielder Xabi Alonso back for their Barclays Premier League home clash with leaders Arsenal on Sunday.
Manager Rafael Benitez also expects Fernando Torres to be available, the Spain international having been close to fitness for the midweek trip to Istanbul where Liverpool suffered their shock Champions League defeat to Besiktas.
Benitez is optimistic Alonso will be available to face Arsenal
Central defender Daniel Agger is still a minimum of 10 days away from being available following a broken metatarsal, while full-back Alvaro Arbeloa is fighting to recover from a thigh injury.
Harry Kewell scored in the reserves' 2-1 win over Newcastle on Thursday in his comeback from groin problems. He was replaced at half-time.
Squad (from): Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise, Arbeloa, Pennant, Gerrard, Alonso, Mascherano, Babel, Benayoun, Crouch, Kuyt, Torres, Voronin, Itandje, Lucas, Hobbs.


The cloak of caution usually hovers over Liverpool under Benitez but they'll throw the kitchen sink at Arsenal in the opening 20 minutes, allowing the visitors to hit them on the counter-attack.
The pace and interplay of Arsenal's front five will put Liverpool's once iron defence to the test and goals are to be expected. There were 18 in three matches in this fixture at Anfield last season; Arsenal winning twice, Liverpool just the once.
Liverpool's other strikers are slightly one-dimensional but 'El Nino' offers the complete package. Quick, dynamic and two-footed, his £26million transfer fee has been justified with seven goals in 11 games, though even he has not been immune to Rafael Benitez's rotating.
Torres missed the last two games with a thigh injury but should return here in what will be a huge test for William Gallas and Kolo Toure.
Cesc Fabregas v Xabi Alonso
One of Fabregas's great assets is his ability to find pockets of space in congested midfields and deliver instant killer passes.
Alonso has more defensive responsibilities than his fellow Spaniard and will be expected to shield Liverpool's back four.
Alexander Hleb v Alvaro Arbeloa
No player epitomises Arsenal's progress better than Hleb. The Belarusian can go into his shell but when they are on song, he is at the heart of it, drifting inside to instigate clever moves with Fabregas and Tomas Rosicky. Arbeloa could be recalled to shadow him for the day.
Theo Walcott v Jamie Carragher
Super quick versus not-so-quick. Only one winner? Certainly not.
Walcott came of age on Tuesday but he is still very raw and Carragher has the nous and expertise to keep him in his cage. However, if Walcott manages to get one-on-one with Liverpool's defensive leader, there could be fireworks.
Robin van Persie (knee) and Philippe Senderos (back) are missing for Arsenal. For Liverpool, Fernando Torres is set to return from injury and Xabi Alonso, Daniel Agger and Alvaro Arbeloa could also be back after lay-offs.
Free-scoring Arsenal to beat Rafa's Reds 2-1. (Blue Square, 12-1)
utusanLFC : I love to be the underdog...hahaha

Benitez targets top-scorer Torres to solve problem


Rafa Benitez is prepared to gamble on Fernando Torres today as he tries to get Liverpool's season back on track against Arsenal.
Benitez is ready to throw Torres straight into the firing line despite the £25million striker not having played since tearing an abductor muscle on duty for Spain three weeks ago.
Torres, Liverpool's top scorer this season with seven goals, missed Liverpool's midweek Champions League trip but has been involved in full training since the rest of the squad returned from Istanbul.
Benitez faces one of the most difficult team selections in his three years at the club with Jermaine Pennant joining Daniel Agger on the injured list while Torres and Xabi Alonso (metatarsal) are short of match-sharpness although they may be medically fit to play. The Liverpool manager is likely to turn to Yossi Benayoun to replace Pennant on the right-hand side to avoid another conflict with Steven Gerrard, who is happiest playing in the centre.
Benitez insisted yesterday that Gerrard has volunteered to play anywhere for the good of the team but the manager is unlikely to test him yet with Pennant out for the rest of the year with a stress fracture to his right tibia.
The Liverpool manager said: "Gerrard is playing in the middle at the moment. But we have had a conversation and if I need to do something, I will do it, no problem. He is OK.
"Before the Everton game last weekend, we spoke about possible situations and he was saying he could do different things. He was disappointed to be taken off but he came back strongly against Besiktas and was our best player."
Benitez is also worried about the number of games 34-yearold Sami Hyypia has had to play recently. The Finnish centre-half has scored own goals in his last two games but the manager is short of options at the back with 19-year-old rookie Jack Hobbs his other alternative to partner Jamie Carragher.
Peter Crouch could be given a rare part to play after scoring a hat-trick against Arsenal in the Premier League last season.
utusanLFC : I want to see those arms of Torres spread again like that tonight. I want to see him score against those kids.

The Mail on Sunday : Sir Bobby Robson

There can be only one boss at Liverpool — and it's not you, Gerrard

It may seem strange to say it but having superstar players can bring its own problems. Because of their talent and drive, people sometimes tend to focus on them to the exclusion of the rest of the team. It's a point that I'm sure will be made today when Liverpool meet Arsenal.
hereas Arsene Wenger has shown there is life after Thierry Henry, Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez is under more pressure than at any time since his first season. And that pressure is intensified every time he makes a decision about his very famous captain, Steven Gerrard.
My view is that Gerrard is a great player; one of my favourites, in fact. But no individual is bigger than the club and this is the time for Stevie to ask 'What can I do for Liverpool?', not 'What can they do for me?'.
That means accepting any role in the team that Benitez feels is right. And showing positive body language whether he plays 90 minutes or not. We've seen how big players can detract from what a manager is trying to do.
Dimitar Berbatov undermined Martin Jol at Spurs with his behaviour at Newcastle on Monday, Henry's apparent disenchantment was highlighted by Arsenal-watchers last season and Gerrard has always made his opinions clear about where he wants to play.
Last Saturday, Benitez took him off and the move worked because Liverpool beat Everton. And yet the manager was still criticised because he had dared to take off the talisman.
I know how he feels. I once left Alan Shearer out of a UEFA Cup match. We went through comfortably, so it was the right decision because Shearer had rest before our next game.
But Alan's exclusion became the story, rather than us winning the tie. It can be frustrating for a manager because the ethic should always be: 'The team comes first'. And in that respect, there was no one better than Shearer.
Gerrard is probably regarded with Kenny Dalglish as Liverpool's greatest ever player and while he has earned that respect because of his fabulous displays, it comes with a responsibility. Players like Henry, Shearer and Gerrard nearly always have strong personalities. It's probably what made them great in the first place.
Superstars have control over certain things; they use their voice to make suggestions about the team and others will look to them in the dressing room.
In the worst-case scenario, they can overstep the mark and start thinking they are the boss — when they are a long way from it. When they become managers, they will realise the problems that come with a powerful player.
I am not saying Gerrard is deliberately undermining Benitez, but his apparent willingness to give an opinion is not exactly helping. Stevie should be aware of the influence he has, and now is the time to use that influence to back the manager in a trying time.
The best managers realise quickly when there is possible conflict with a big-name player and they act decisively to make sure everyone knows who is in charge.
Sir Alex Ferguson has done it often, most notably with David Beckham and Roy Keane, while Wenger dealt with the Henry situation for the good of the club.
Henry was a sensational player for Arsenal and enhanced the Premier League. But Wenger was not afraid of him. I don't know if Arsene thought Henry saw himself as the most important person at Arsenal but the fact is, he was prepared to sell him.
On the evidence so far, with Henry removed, Arsenal look a better collective unit.I am not sure if that's relief because Henry dominated situations, but it has worked.
I hope Liverpool fans realise that and back Rafa when he deals with Gerrard. I am sure the Liverpool captain is a long way from leaving Anfield, but it is important the manager is in charge and is backed by the board and the fans.
Rafa was brave in taking Gerrard off at Everton because he would have been severely criticised had Liverpool not won.
But they did win, and I am not sure why Gerrard had to go and see his manager to ask why he had been subbed. Would Dirk Kuyt, Javier Mascherano or any other player do that?
Gerrard has got his wish to play in the middle this season. He was quite outspoken about that last season, although Benitez was quick to point out that the decision was made because Liverpool lacked flank players — not because he didn't think Gerrard was good enough in the middle.
I think Rafa appreciates what Stevie has done for the club and the talents he brings to the team. But he is not bigger than the club — and, if they want to emulate Manchester United and Arsenal, and win the Premier League, all Liverpool fans should remember that.
utusanLFC : Gerrard is a natural leader. Torres was reported saying he won't be play-acting on the pitch because Stevie G doesn't like that. What does that show? And when Stevie G plays with his heart, what's wrong with that? Or you rather having a player with no heart at all? errr...

a lousy week it was?

You must be thinking that after our defeat to Besiktas, I was simply devastated and refused to write anything... Contrary to that, I was on a week long holiday and only able to sit infront of my desktop today (Sunday, 28th Oct) just in time for our game vs Arsenal tonight.
You might also ask me : in this age of ICT, I could have brought my laptop. In fact, I have a rather state-of-the-art laptop in sony vaio which has everything you want in a laptop.

I might have brought it along but I decided not to. When you're talking a good holiday, you must not be connected nor be bothered with anything outside of your hotel room. I did that! Instead I just carry my handphone.
I simply switch-off and focus on my holiday which was swelled! I went to a theme park resort, stayed in a bungalow attached with a private pool. Then visited the cowboy town park, animal world ... yeah my kids love it. After all, when you're have kids, everything must be related to them. Unfortunately, the resort that I stayed only offered ESPN channel which aired Chelsea game. I forced myself to watch the game for the 1st half (since I already awake at 2am) before I return to my slumber. To my greatest annoyance, the next morning I received 3 sms informing me of the defeat. 1 from LFC fellow fan, 1 from a neutral and 1 from a mocking buddy.

After a lucky win at Everton, the defeat to Besiktas is like a disaster waiting to happened. As all of us can see, LFC lately has not been playing like the real LFC that we know. I'm not talking about the winning and losing aspect. I'm talking about the basic fundamentals of LFC game. The players seems not to chase the ball fullheartedly, keep on losing the ball and converting crazy goals. Hyppia at Everton can be considered one of the best own-goal of the season. The fluke between Carra and Finnan at Besiktas was a down right comedy or pin-ball reaction. why can't just kick the ball out and defend for the corner...

Many pundits and sportwriters particularly in the British press criticised Rafa for his always-changing the players policy. Rotation = Rot-but-no-action, some said. I tried not to join the sentiment as Rafa has shown what a genius he is since he became our manager 3 seasons ago. But season 2007/08 is supposed to be his for the taking with all the new, exciting players he brought in. But why he didn't fully utilised them is beyond most of us. The reason of some of them might have to play 60 games in a season that allegedly tire or injure them is now looking rather a stupid statement. We might not be able to see even 50 games as our standing in the Champion League Cup look so dimmed. In fact, punters are busy changing their bets on LFC. We are now a strong candidate to be kicked-out of the CL anytime soon.

I think, if Torres's fit, his place is not on the bench. Never. He should be out there on the pitch, terrifying the defenders. I hope Torres play tonight. He should. He must.

Luckily, Rafa is not put infront of a bazooka like Jol (resigned this week), Morinho... these are high-profile managers, just like Rafa. But the tradition we have in LFC is not to be panicked and won't sack managers mid-way through the season. I personally, still have a strong trust and believed in Rafa. It's just a small dot in me that haunts me the whole week ... a small irritation with his now-look-silly rotation policy. The small dot would become big if we lost again tonight.

The freaking kids of Arsenal looks so determined and conviencing in their game. Which is a true statement no one can deny. So up to our own players to stop them. Not only to stop them but actually to blast them and win the game. We must win the game. Not even a draw is acceptable.
That guy up there (the one clinching his fist and a certain no.8 with a captain armband) will usher us to win the game, with his heart and head, of course!

yours faithfully REDS in Malaysia,


22 October 2007

No game for Clattenburg

Referee will not officiate Premier League fixture
By Rob Parrish Last updated: 22nd October 2007

Mark Clattenburg will not referee a Premier League match this weekend in the wake of his display in the Merseyside derby.
The Professional Game Match Board, who oversee referees and make appointments for top-flight games, confirmed that Clattenburg would not be involved in the latest round of fixtures.
Everton manager David Moyes was fiercely critical of the official's display at Goodison Park, where he awarded Liverpool two penalties and dismissed Tony Hibbert and Phil Neville.
Moyes was also unimpressed that Clattenburg only showed Dirk Kuyt a yellow card for a reckless two-footed lunge on Neville, and that Everton were denied a penalty in the closing seconds when Joleon Lescott appeared to be wrestled to the floor by Jamie Carragher.
Liverpool came from behind to win the match 2-1 with Kuyt converting both penalties after Sami Hyypia's own goal had given the home side the lead.

utusanLFC : a repeat of what happened when we lost 2 points in Chelsea game. Since we're winning this time around... to evertonians... pity you!

Steven Gerrard: ‘Victory eased my derby pain’

Oct 22 2007
by Tony Barrett, Liverpool Echo

STEVEN GERRARD today told how the joy of Liverpool’s last gasp win over Everton helped ease the pain of being taken off in Saturday’s derby.
The Liverpool skipper was visibly stunned at being substituted – a decision which Rafa Benitez says was made for the good of the team on the day.
Despite being “hurt and disappointed” at being withdrawn, Gerrard insists the important thing was that Liverpool went on to win the game and avenge last season’s 3-0 reverse at the hands of their local rivals.
He said: “I’m a local lad so the derby is really important to me and I would have liked nothing better than to play the full game and to be on the pitch when we got the winner.
“But as it turned out I was taken off and Lucas Leiva who replaced me played a crucial role in us getting the winning goal.
“I was hurt and disappointed at being taken off because, like I said, I’m a local lad and the derby means everything to me.
“I’ll be speaking to the manager about it just to find out why I was substituted, but I won’t be banging on his door or anything like that.
“We’ll just have a chat and whatever is said will remain between us. But I’ve been in the game long enough to know that no-one is going to play every minute of every game and there will be times when I’m taken off like everyone else.
“The most important thing is that we won the game.
“When we lost there last season it left a bad feeling that didn’t go away for quite some time, so it is good to get that out of our systems.”
Gerrard also thanked the Liverpool fans for the support they gave him at Goodison Park as he bids to rediscover his best form.
He said: “The way the fans got behind me was fantastic and I loved it.
“I know I haven’t been at my best lately but I’m doing everything I can to get back there and having that kind of backing really does make a difference.
“I’m working back towards my best and knowing the fans are behind me will definitely help me get there much quicker.”
utusanLFC : when the whistle was blown and the camera was still in the middle of the pitch, suddenly from the left corner of your tv, you could see one player raised his hands and runs towards the LFC supporters. It does bring smiles in us... as if it was a final of a cup game! I guess thats how it is for Carra and Gerrard. They put so much heart in it. No wonder both were very deep in the controversy. Gerrard was mentioned by Rafa as playing with his heart, instead of head... Carra was the one who downed the Everton player at the dying minute... hmmm...

a strange report in Daily Mail

Sissoko wants to leave Liverpool

Last updated at 21:40pm on 20th October 2007

Momo Sissoko wants to leave Liverpool in January.
The Mali midfielder has told friends he regrets turning down a move to Juventus in the summer after being persuaded by manager Rafa Benitez to sign a four-year contract.
Since then, 22-year-old Sissoko has endured a miserable time, with his opportunities limited by the form of Argentina midfielder Javier Mascherano and Steve Gerrard's move to central midfield.
But Benitez is notoriously reluctant to let players go until he gets a replacement and the new contract means Liverpool will put an £8 million price tag on Sissoko.

utusanLFC : lets hope it just a speculation... though with his erratic performance now, sissoko does bring us headache...


hey Phil, you think you saw enough of french kungfu at Man.U? Now you taste Dutch taekwando.... hahahaha

21 October 2007


By Paul Walker, PA Sport

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez is confident Xabi Alonso and Fernando Torres will be ready for this week's Champions League showdown with Besiktas in Turkey.
The pair were left out of Saturday's derby victory at Everton.
But Benitez said afterwards: "They were both very, very close to playing. It would have been a risk I was not prepared to take to play them against Everton.
"I would now expect them to be in serious contention against Besiktas when we go to Istanbul (on Wednesday). I will watch them in training and make my decision after that."
The confidence boost of a controversial 2-1 win at Goodison Park has come at just the right time for Liverpool, after a worrying spell had seen them win just two of their previous seven games.
Benitez said: "That victory will do us a lot of good for the Istanbul trip and then next weekend's home game with Arsenal."
The Spaniard has happy memories of Istanbul, not just because of Liverpool's Champions League Final victory there two years ago.
While in charge of Valencia, Benitez masterminded a UEFA Cup victory at Besiktas in the season that saw his Spanish club won the trophy.
He said: "I have won there before, so I have no fears about them; it can be done again."
The Group D match with bottom club Besiktas has become a must-win game, after Liverpool picked up just one point from their opening two matches against Porto and Marseille.
Benitez initially suggested 10 points should see the Reds into the knockout stages.
That seems a long way off now, and he concedes "We now have to win one, maybe two away matches."
That puts intense pressure on Liverpool with only four matches left to avoid slipping from being finalists last season to UEFA Cup competitors this time around.
It is accepted that visiting clubs to Galatasaray and Fenerbahce in Istanbul face a torrid time from the local fans - and the city's 'third club' have an equally fearsome reputation.
The warning for Liverpool comes from Porto's Serbian defender Milan Stepanov, who knows Turkish football from his time with Trabzonspor.
Stepanov was part of the Porto side that salvaged a very fortunate 1-0 victory at Besiktas in the last round of Champions League matches.
He said: "Before the game at Besiktas, I told everyone about the crowd - but nobody really believed me.
"After the game, they said 'We never expected such an atmosphere'.
"After the first 45 minutes, our coach told us to relax and play our game - because we were not ourselves in the first half. I can say that God gave us the points in the last minute."
Besiktas have lost both their first two matches in the group and know that only a win over Liverpool will keep them in the competition.
Their French midfielder Edouard Cisse, who spent the 2002-03 season at West Ham, believes: "If we can continue to play like we did against Porto, we still might have a chance."
"That game (against Porto) showed our supporters that our team still has hope for the coming games.
"We played well. We are not giving up yet."
Besiktas will play the match with the added problem of their coach Ertugrul Saglam banned from the touchline.
He has been handed a one-match touchline ban by UEFA's disciplinary body after being sent off against Porto.

Slice of Turkish delight can kick-start Reds in Europe

Liverpool are desperate to bring back victory from Besiktas and keep Benitez's superb record at the top table.
By Steve Tongue The Indepedent
Published: 21 October 2007

Istanbul will always have aspecial place in the heart of any Liverpool supporter, as the scene of a European Cup triumph even more dramatic than those in Rome (twice), Wembley and Paris; but as Rafa Benitez's team return there for a second successive season on Wednesday, to play Besiktas, it is time for players and supporters to stop looking back in ecstasy. As they have taken only one point from the opening two group matches, it means that unless they concentrate on the task in hand there is a serious danger of failing to qualify for the knockout stage.
A year ago, Galatasaray had been beaten at Anfield and by the time of the return game in Turkey, Liverpool had already won the group, with the result that their teamsheet was dotted with unfamiliar names such as Paletta, Roque, Guthrie and Peltier; Robbie Fowler scored his last European goals (barring sensational developments at Cardiff City) in a meaningless 3-2 defeat. Now, however, clawing a fortunate draw from a visit to Porto has been followed by a performance in losing at home to Marseille that old-stagers were calling the worst ever laid before the Kop on a European night.
Benitez may have reached two Champions' League finals in his three seasons at the club, but he acknowledges that the pressure is on in the current campaign. "It's not easy because it's important you win at home, especially these kind of games," he said. "We know we need to win away if we want to change things. It's still in our hands and we need to do the right things and win our games."
As ever, he can expect the atmosphere in Turkey to be volatile. "Their supporters will be right behind their team," Benitez said. "But I don't think it will be bad for us because we have good memories of Istanbul. They are a good team, very offensive. They have good movement in attack and have good players with quality, with some South Americans in the team."
Benitez dislikes internationalweeks even more than most leading managers, claiming that on one day last week Jamie Carragher was the only seniorplayer training.
Yesterday's Mersey derby meant that he could hardly complain about travelling for a Saturday lunchtime kick-off, but with Besiktas to be followed by Arsenal's visit to Anfield next Sunday, it is a key period for the club and a manager whose team selection has come under increased criticism recently.


Gerrard accused over red card

Steven Gerrard was accused of getting Everton's Tony Hibbert sent off after Liverpool snatched an injury-time winner in one of the most controversial Merseyside derbies.
Everton manager David Moyes was furious with the England captain, and with referee Mark Clattenburg for a series of decisions that reduced the hosts to nine men and allowed Dirk Kuyt, only booked for a dreadful tackle, to score two second-half penalties in Liverpool's 2-1 victory.
Moyes was convinced Gerrard had influenced the referee into giving Hibbert a red card after the Everton defender had brought him down in the box for the equalising penalty in the 54th minute.
'The referee pulled out a yellow card for Tony Hibbert and not a red one until the captain [Gerrard] went over and spoke to him, so maybe he has changed his mind,' said an angry Moyes. 'I think the penalty kick itself was debatable. Ours in the last minute was not debatable.' In a clear barb at Clattenburg, Moyes added: 'The truth is if you didn't see it, maybe you shouldn't be out there doing the job.'
Everton also argued that Kuyt should not have been on the field to score his goals after a crazy 'kung fu' lunge at Phil Neville produced only a caution.
And the home side were visibly incensed when they were not awarded a penalty themselves in the final seconds after Jamie Carragher wrestled Joleon Lescott to the ground.
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez, relieved to end a run of three successive draws in the Premier League, backed Clattenburg's decisions and controversially claimed Lescott had dived for his late penalty appeal.
'In England you don't like to see players diving,' said Benitez, who joined his players as they gathered in front of the Liverpool fans to celebrate after the final whistle. But Benitez's accusation brought an angry retort from Moyes.
He said: 'It was not a dive, that is for sure. I think Joleon Lescott would probably be the last person to dive. I think he was just too strong for Carragher and Jamie had to pull him to the ground.'
To complete Everton's sense of injustice, it was Kuyt who scored again from the spot after Neville handled a shot by substitute Lucas and was shown a red card.
Everton felt Kuyt should have been ordered off for his foul on Neville in the 63rd minute.
Moyes said: 'We had a directive that a two-footed tackle off the ground was a sending-off offence. There was four feet of space below Kuyt when he jumped off the ground two-footed. And he goes on to score the winning goal.'
Benitez, whose priority is to lead Liverpool to their first title since 1990, sprang a surprise by taking off Gerrard after 72 minutes.
He said: 'We needed to play with our heads and not our hearts.'
- The Daily Mail

Everton 1 Liverpool 2: Fireworks on Merseyside as Kuyt adds the final spark

Phil Neville thought he was a goalkeeper for a few crazy second and ended up with a red invitation to leave the pitch in 90th minutes.
By James Corrigan

The blood-and-thunder reputation of the English derby is forged on firecrackers such as this, and deep into the night Merseyside was rocking to the sound of controversy. Everton were the understandable drumbeaters, with so many grievances to bang on about that they did not really know where to start.
If they had not had a blatant last-second penalty turned down then Dirk Kuyt would have been chief of the blue bugbears, as the striker who converted Liverpool's two penalties – the last coming with a minute left of injury time – should not really have been on the pitch. His flying, two-footed tackle on Phil Neville in the 64th minute broke as many directives as it could have done bones. But instead it was Everton who saw red. Twice.
The second dismissal was inevitable after Neville desperately handled on the line, while the first, that of Tony Hibbert, had been less so. What angered Everton's manager, David Moyes, mostly was that the referee, Mark Clattenburg, seemingly changed his mind from merely awarding a yellow after a word from Steven Gerrard. It was the Liverpool captain who forced the equalising spot-kick having been brought down by the right-back when bearing down on Tim Howard. But it was also the Liverpool captain who ran over to Clattenburg when he saw the colour of the card being produced and then nodded when it was upgraded. This was the bizarrest moment in 90 minutes packed with them.
Gerrard himself did notescape the surrealism of it all, being hauled off by Rafa Benitez with 20 minutes remaining. The Liverpool manager could have claimed he was resting his star midfielder with Wednesday's Champions' League tusslein Istanbul in mind, but instead he told the truth. It will not make happy reading for Gerrard. "In League games like this you have to play with the brain not the heart," he said. "We needed to keep the ball."
In other words, Gerrard was doing that thing when he runs around the field like Superman, trying to effect miracle after miracle and all to no avail. He was plainly caught up in the passion of the event and it was brave of Benitez to act so decisively. How Gerrard might now react, however, may require more courage on the Spaniard's behalf.
Whatever, it was the red-faced Sami Hyppia rather than any hothead that began the fun. In the 38th minute, the centre-half instinctively stuck out his left boot as the ball flew back and forth across the area and was aghast when he connected solidly enough to poke it against the far post and on into the net. Everton could sniff their first back-to-back derby victory in a dozen years, although when Hibbert did the inevitable on Gerrard after he had been put through by Andriy Voronin the scent went decidedly chilly. The marching orders followed and then came Everton's retreat.
Saying that, Everton did have their chances, just as they had in the first half when Victor Anichebe headed narrowly over. Yakubu's sweetly struck left-footer from 30 yards scraped paint in the 67th minute although before and after, John Arne Riise skied over an empty goal, Voronin saw a header flash past and Mohammed Sissoko scuffed at point-blank range after a neat one-two with Kuyt. The last-named had already made Goodison wince with his sinister challenge on Neville; a shame, as Kuyt was otherwise excellent. Moyes was utterly bewildered by the reaction of Clattenburg. "The directive is that if your two feet are off the ground in the tackle then it's a red card," said the Scot. "He was four feet off the ground."
Benitez thought it was only deserving of a yellow, and the managers were to disagree on the game's last controversial moment too. Neville's handball in the first minute of added time was clear enough; he dived to his left to palm away the shot of Lucas – Gerrard's impressive Brazilian replacement – and allow Kuyt the glory shot. But then Jamie Carragher's pull-down on Joleon Lescott in the final seconds also seemed clear enough. "You don't like to see diving in England," barked Benitez. Lescott had not dived. That was an injustice. The Everton air was swirling with them.

20 October 2007


Everton finished with nine men and Liverpool's Dirk Kuyt struck two penalties to give his side victory in this dramatic Merseyside derby. Everton deservedly led at the break following a Sami Hyypia own goal. But after the interval Tony Hibbert brought down Steven Gerrard in the box and was dismissed, and in the final seconds Phil Neville was also shown a red card for handling a Lucas shot on the line.
utusanLFC : a typical LFC game. Failed to convert a good move, LOTS OF BLOOD (in terms of 2 red cards... hahaha) and a weak heart after watching it... hissshhhh....

LFC limited edition merchandise

Above is a special edition LFC shirt created and distributed by Carlsberg of Malaysia. I got it through LSCM (not after buying any beers aaaa...). The cool part about this shirt is that it has a huge Liver bird at the front with You Never Walk Alone wording. On the right sleeves, again the Liver bird plus LFC. On the left is carlsberg, something I gonna erase very soon.
This is another Carlsberg initiate LFC merchandise. It was given to me by an Arsenal friend. That's why he didn't think twice to give it away. Thank god he is not a LFC. Such a merchandise is a hard thing to come by. Though you can buy it at pasar malam or any flea market, I appreciate this more as it is official sponsor to LFC merchandise and not something that can be considered a knock-off product. hmmm... trying to patronise myself? hahahaha.......

When it comes to a derby match : A view from Malaysia fan

Honestly, the much-awaited derby game between LFc and the small club for us here in Malaysia is just one of those must-win game. Not so much the desire to see the across the park small club lost in way we want see Man.U, Chelsea or Arsenal lose.

In fact, personally... I would vote Man.U as the most hated team. The envy is definitely there. But 1st and foremost is because, the game between the two never failed to create a serious football. Unlike the game between Man.U and the other 2 (Arsenal & Chelsea) which always ended in a brawl or massive numbers of yellow cards... somehow the game between LFC and Man.U, quite lately developed into a good football game. Attack, attack... not play acting (except for Ronaldo... hahaha).

But the game between LFC and the small club is rather unique. I remember that game when Gerrard just flipped and was red-carded. Amazingly, having the captain ousted from the game and playing with only 10 men, LFC managed to win huge 3-1. I also remember the small club carried a poster showing a face that look alike Gerrard in a blue shirt. hahaha... Scoursers sense of humour?

Tonight's game (7.45 in the evening for us in Malaysia) will not share the same tension felt in Merseyside since the supporters of the small club in Malaysia is very small. I did saw one car proudly showing the club's emblem on his car but that just one! He could be a Malaysian student who ``fell in love'' with the wrong club while in Liverpool. Malaysia is known to be a bastion for 2 clubs all along : Liverpool and Man.U. Only recently some youngsters came up with some motivation to set up their own fan club of Arsenal and Chelsea. I wonder if those clubs got any acknowledgement or endorsement from the principal club. As for LFC, our fan club that is : Liverpool Supporters Club of Malaysia (www.lscm.com.my) is endorsed by LFC and the administrators of LSCM is known to be very active, not only in holding game show, a tour to Anfield during game day but also members gathering. That's cool though my own involvement as a registered-member at the moment is confined to purchasing LFC merchandise through the club only (we as member get a good discount maaa....).

So tonight, I'll be watching the derby from my office as I have to work the midnight shift. Hopefully, LFC will prevail as I know very well, losing means I am exposed to banter from my mates in the office. Something me and you despised.


20 Oktober 2007

‘This is still the biggest of them all’ - Jamie Carragher

Don't worry Carra. That bald guy is injured. Just look out on Cahill...

by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo

JAMIE CARRAGHER has a mental checklist to work through whenever the new season's fixtures are announced every summer.
The first match, obviously. Then the first home game, followed by the clashes with Manchester United. But most of all, the date and venue of the first Merseyside derby.
"I've always said that for me, as soon as the fixtures come out, I look forward to see when the Everton game is," he declared.
"For local lads like myself and Stevie, it's probably the most important game of the season."
The derby match has always meant more to the local players - from the days when Dixie Dean would send a bottle of aspirin to Elisha Scott on the eve of pre-war showdowns, to seventies slugfests when Jimmy Case, Mick Lyons and co. would kick lavatory doors, head ceilings and butt dressing room doors before running out.
But for Carragher, this season's Goodison clash is loaded with even more personal significance.
"Certainly for me, tomorrow's game will be massively important," he declared.
"We definitely owe them one after last year. The team, the club and me personally.
"I was very poor in the Goodison derby last year. I did alright in the Anfield one, which made up for it a little bit, but with the first one this year being back at Goodison again it makes it a very big game.
"It's probably as low as I've ever felt in football after that game.
"I've lost in a couple of cup finals and had other ups and downs, but last season against Everton was probably as low as I've ever felt because of the score, because I made a big mistake for one of the goals and because I played poorly."
There were mitigating circumstances surrounding Carragher's part in Everton's crucial second goal last September.
He'd missed three weeks football after collecting an injury on the opening day of the season at Bramall Lane and shouldn't have been any closer to the action at Goodison Park than a place in the stand.
But his burning desire to be involved let his heart rule his head.
"I'd been injured and came back too early," he admitted "but I was desperate to play in the game. I probably let the manager and the players down because I wasn't ready to play in a game of that magnitude.
"Maybe I was a bit selfish because I was that desperate to play in it. I came into it cold and it showed. But it's something I'll never do again."
Certainly this year, Carragher will be far better prepared.
While his international club-mates faced a clash against Estonia last Saturday, then a 3,000 mile round-trip to Moscow for a demoralising European Championship defeat on a plastic pitch, he was left behind at Melwood.
The decision to hang up his international boots was entirely his own, and it meant he has been able to work carefully on his derby preparations all week.
There was even one day, with the reserves playing later that evening, that he was the only senior player left working with boss Rafa Benitez at Melwood.
"I've made my decision regarding the international scene and hopefully that will benefit me in the build-up to this match," he explained.
"Players from Everton and Liverpool have been travelling back from Russia this week. I've been back here, which has helped my preparation and that's one of the reasons I made my decision."
It's a decision which should serve Carragher well over the next nine days - a period which could prove pivotal to Liverpool's entire season.
Following tomorrow's domestic set-to at Goodison, the Reds travel to Turkey for a clash of crucial significance to their European aspirations, before the Premier League's two remaining unbeaten records could go on the line when Arsenal visit Anfield the following Sunday.
Not that Carragher will get ahead of himself.
"The manager's very big on taking each game as it comes," he added. "That's the first one and we have to forget about the Beskitas and Arsenal games until Saturday is over.
"It's a massive game for both clubs and I certainly won't be looking any further ahead than that one.
"Both teams will be looking at this fixture as a game which can really give their season a lift and to go on from there.
"Both sides will be looking at it to kickstart the season.
"But I love it, the atmosphere, the whole build-up, everything. You know you're going to come under pressure and you have to stand up to it."
So is he relieved that last season's Goodison nemesis, Andy Johnson, will miss this season's return through injury?
"I'm not bothered," he added. "If they have players out it might give us an advantage, but we might have players out as well.
"Whoever plays, it will be a difficult game - it always is at Goodison because of the crowd whipping things up.
"We know they always raise their game anyway. But we're ready."
And ready to exact revenge . . .

Moyes looks back to see bright future at Goodison

The small club manager with his Shrek... once upon a time at a smallville
By Ian Herbert
Published: 20 October 2007

If evidence were needed that Everton are not a "small club", as the Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez infamously suggested after last season's Anfield derby, then it is to be found at Finch Farm, the glittering new £9.5m training facility in south Liverpool which the club have vacated Bellefield for this week.
Yoga rooms, hot and cold Jacuzzis, three physio rooms – it is one of the best such facilities in Britain and David Moyes included it yesterday in his description of the club's "more positive" outlook on life and his belief that he is lifting the side "back to the way it was round about the Eighties when they were at the forefront of English football."
Moyes admits that three years ago Everton would have needed to rely on a physical approach to the arrival at Goodison of Liverpool. "We've had to try and hold on to [their] shirt-tails really and ... that's not easy because we can't spend in the same shop as [them]," he said. But things have changed a bit since then. Everton are a more aspirational side these days and with some possibility that Tim Cahill or Thomas Gravesen might be back this lunchtime, Moyes promised, with some confidence, that his team would be offering finesse as well as physicality. "You must make sure you're not found wanting," he said. "But we're also getting the balance right between playing in the right way and competing."
Benitez's "small club" tag – which he admits will earn him a hostile reception today – has certainly been stoking Everton fires this week. Defender Alan Stubbs offered a thinly- veiled riposte when he said of Liverpool's close season outlay: "When you spend that much money – £ 40m-50m – you would expect to be closer [to the top]."
Everton also still have the memories of last year's 3-0 win in the corresponding fixture – Moyes was yesterday remembering the several glasses of wine he drank after that particular afternoon – and if Cahill is fit, his runs from the middle and goalscoring record (three in six derbies) will be unsettling for Liverpool's Sammy Hyypia and Jamie Carragher, who were tested to the hilt and occasionally found wanting against Marseilles and Tottenham in the miserable week before the international break.
At the start of what could be a pivotal eight days, with a must-win Champions League visit to Besitkas before Arsenal are in town, Benitez badly needs Steven Gerrard to start firing and the return of Xabi Alonso –which is a possibility – would also help with a puzzling lack of creativity. Benitez also hopes Fernando Torres will be fit. "I remember the last game at Goodison well. We had 22 attempts and conceded three goals," the Spaniard said. "How can you explain that? Hopefully this year we can have one or two attempts and win the game."
Moyes sees things differently. "There was a time when we were not in a very strong position to win derby games," he said. "Now I think we are."



The GOLDEN Team of Kenny Daglish

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