31 December 2007

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2008 ! May you never walk alone!



Nathan Ellington wore a T-shirt to training last week. It bore the message: 'I'm Muslim, don't panic.'
Watford's £3.25million striker will not wear it for the cameras, much to our photographer's disappointment. It was his little joke, but he worries that to be pictured wearing it in a national newspaper might cause unintended offence.
Twenty years ago, the idea of a Muslim footballer would almost have been fanciful. But in the modern game, the potpourri of nationalities drawn to these shores means it is not only inevitable, but the trend is growing.
In the Premier League, Mo Sissoko, Hameur Bouazza, Diomansy Kamara and Nicolas Anelka all follow Islam, as does, rumour has it, Robin van Persie.
Ellington was a "non-practising Christian" until two major influences on his life reshaped his views three years ago. His brother Jason adopted the faith. And then Ellington met his future wife, Alma.
"I'm a practising Muslim," he said. "And I told the manager Aidy Boothroyd that before I signed. I had a few moments with him to explain what I have to do. I explained that because it's seen as being different. He didn't have a problem with it. If he had, I don't know what I'd have done.
"It hasn't caused me any problems so far, because you are encouraged to rest. I pray five times a day. Before dawn, in the afternoon, mid-afternoon, sunset and then before I go to bed. So I can fit it in around training. If I had to train all day, I'd ask for five minutes to myself.
"I've got a prayer mat. The manager wouldn't have a problem with that, either. He'd respect the fact it was something I needed to do. The boys have a joke about it. I suppose frailties or abnormalities is the the worst I've been called is 'Beardo'. I can live with that."
If anyone had made that jibe at Micky Droy, Chelsea's hirsute hardman of the 1970s, they would probably have been on the end of a right-hander.
These days, in the dressing room, picking on perceived norm. If you can take it, then you are accepted.
At one club, a player was nicknamed 'Bomber' just because he was a Muslim.
Ellington said: "Some people would think that was funny, but it's not funny to joke about that. There are bigger issues out there. People lost their lives, loved ones. There's a line to be drawn.
"Anyway, it's not the religion, it's the people. The religion itself doesn't teach you anything bad. Islam encourages you to find fault with it. It wants you to investigate it, but I haven't found any faults yet. It does not teach you to be a bad person.
"You know, there is evil in other religions. Christianity, for example. It's not the religion that is bad. It's the people. That's what you've got to understand.
"Perhaps there is a lack of knowledge out there. I don't know how much some of the other lads know. If they wanted to talk to me about it, I'd be happy to share it with them. They've just got to ask."
Boothroyd is a progressive manager who wants his players on the right diet, but Ellington is observing Ramadan. He is not supposed to eat or drink in daylight hours. Surely that has brought conflict?
"Not really, because after sunset you can eat and drink as much as you want," he said. "You have to get the nutrients back into you then.
"You can get up before sunrise and make sure you have enough food inside you. I was up today at 5am to pray — and I ate early. On match days, if I'm travelling, there are provisions to eat and make up for it afterwards.
"Honestly, it hasn't affected my football. I've not encountered any prejudice through my religion. I've not suffered racist abuse, but I've had team-mates who have."
Ellington has made just two League starts since his August transfer and is yet to score for Watford, but he is just relieved to have put a summer of uncertainty behind him.
"It was very frustrating at West Bromwich," he said. "I was annoyed because I thought I was leaving in the window. The chairman said I could, then said I couldn't.
"I played under two managers who didn't really rate me. I understand now that it's the manager who makes you or breaks you. The gaffer here wants me to do well.
"It's about preparing for the future. Not just this league. If, no, when we get back to the Premier League, it's about doing much better next time around."
utusanLFC : ok this fella is not a LFC player or ever played againsts us or attract Rafa what soever... the story to me is appealing as it touches on the issue of Muslim players in EPL. A good reading as to understand how is it actually...
This story was posted here on Sept. 29th. The story appeal to me as it involves a Muslim player in EPL. We know that top players like Anelka, Van Persie, Momo Sissoko etc etc... are having a splendid time performing on the English stage. Tonight, I was just browsing the Net to know the level of public awareness on utusanLFC. Not that I cared if I got many hits or not... since I put up this blog similar like my personal scrap book. I enjoy doing it, regardless of people reading it or not. So when I found out that my blog was simply `noticed' by the world because I included the above story... story of a Muslim player... hey... I am proud. I chose the story because it was a unique, informative in such a way for us to know better the things that non-Christian player had to endure be it real or unreal. We understand the kind of bigotry, discrimination and anti-Islamic some people could become today... so having this story on my blog, I do believed I have done a good service to all. However, above all... this blog is nothing less than my expression of love towards my Liverpool Football Club. No less. No more. = utusanlfc

City countered by visitors' Petrov defence

Man City v Liverpool made for an unusual spectacle, but one that was fascinating for the tacticians even if it did not boast a twist at the last

David Pleat
December 31, 2007 1:49 AM

One of the hardest tasks in football is to devise a system to play on the counter-attack as the home side, conceding possession if you must and accepting that the opposition will have the majority of the ball.
Often, when you are away from home, circumstances dictate a natural counterattacking style. Eastlands, however, brought together two thinking foreign managers - cunning, clever but cautious - who both shunned the English obsession with delivering the ball into the final third as quickly as possible from defence - "straight-line football".
It made for an unusual Sunday afternoon's spectacle but one that was fascinating for the tacticians even if it did not boast a twist at the last. Rarely do home sides allow the visitors to take the initiative and let them bring the ball out of defence without any attempt to win the ball back early and hassle and hustle as a group. To the great credit of the Eastlands crowd they seemed understanding of Sven-Goran Eriksson's tactics - his was a clear plan to concede possession and play on the counter.
Confronted by Darius Vassell alone up front, Liverpool were able to progress up to the middle third in comfort. There, Vedran Corluka and Dietmar Hamann - disciplined and decisive - competed admirably with the visitors' midfield. City's problem, however, was that Rafael Benítez had succeeded likewise in limiting the impact of the home side's key counterattacker, the livewire Martin Petrov. Had the Bulgarian winger been on his game he would have thrust Liverpool back into defence; instead his threat was nullified.
Petrov had destroyed Blackburn Rovers' right defensive flank in City's previous game, a performance perhaps witnessed by Benítez and his scouts, and the Bulgarian duly incurred astute defensive tactical concentration from Liverpool.
City's game plan relied heavily on Petrov's acceleration and delivery from the left. Steve Finnan knew he must not get too tight and be vulnerable to the one-two - when Petrov plays one touch infield and races into the space behind, City are at their most dangerous. With that in mind Liverpool cleverly reduced the supply to Petrov by mustering pressure on the passing player to narrow the angle with which he could play the ball out wide as the winger hugged the touchline.
When Petrov did receive the ball, Finnan turned to face his own goal to counter the one-two with a three-yard advantage. Once, early on, when Petrov threatened behind, Alvaro Arbeloa - having an effective stroll as an emergency right-sided centre-back - was primed and aware and intercepted with ease.
That rather stumped City, with their counterattacking plan damaged as Petrov was rendered ineffective. Slowly but surely Liverpool turned the screw, finishing with nine corners and a plethora of shots. As the chances kept coming, City leaned heavier on Corluka and Hamann, defensive pillars in front of giants in Richard Dunne and Micah Richards. This ended up as a good point for the home side, but Liverpool's efforts perhaps deserved better.

utusanLFC :
All good but was any football actually played?
It's great for the tacticians out there but who wants to watch a chess match?

Benitez: I haven't given up

Published: Today

RAFA BENITEZ refused to throw in the towel on Liverpool’s title hopes — even though they are 10 points behind leaders Arsenal.
The Reds lost further ground in the Premier League race as they drew a blank against Manchester City at Eastlands.
But Benitez insisted: “Three games ago people were saying it was impossible for us to win the league — then two games later we were closer.
“We are 10 points behind the top with a game in hand but if we play like we did today we will win a lot of games.
"I don’t look at the table too much because I am busy analysing every game. We have one more point and we can beat anyone.
“So now we have to think about beating Wigan on Wednesday and after that we need to keep on winning.”
Liverpool showed little ambition in the first half but came storming forward after the break in search of a winner.
And Benitez dismissed suggestions his team should have been more positive.
He added: “We played this game to win and we created chances. If you cannot win then you must look to the positives.
“We played well against a team that is doing well at home and we deserved to win it, so there is no point being negative.”
By the time the Reds host Wigan on Wednesday the transfer window will have reopened and Benitez is hoping he will be bringing in new players.
He said: “We are working and trying to find some solutions.
“We are close with some players but until they put pen-to-paper we must keep working with those we have.
“We are confident we can sign the right players for the right price. I have to think about now and also the future.”
Sven Goran Eriksson saw his City team keep their unbeaten home record intact and hopes they could still snatch a top-four place.
The former England manager said: “I don’t know if the top four is possible but we will fight for it — even though we are not the favourites.
“The favourites are the four big ones as usual but it is a big target for the club. We have done quite well against them — apart from Chelsea away.
“I like to think there is a big five — like in the jungle. For us to be close to them is very good.
“I can’t be disappointed because we stood up to Liverpool.
“Richard Dunne was extremely good, he was everywhere. He’s our captain and he showed us the way.”

Flat 0-0

utusanLFC says;
What do you expect when opposition team chose to defend, instead of attacking and when they do, Sven prefers counter-attacking approach. Hello Sven... LFC yet to lose in such a tactic.
This is what happened when we drew with Portsmouth in August. It was termed as PARKING A BUS INFRONT OF THE GOAL. Of course, when there was a slight opportunity, LFC also failed to convert any. I'm not gonna dwell too much on it. I guess after speeding between 150-160 km/h from Kuala Lumpur to Shah Alam (36km) in 20 mins... just to ensure I catch the game on time... the result is a real letdown. LFC must know that nowadays, the anticipation among fans are so high. We go into a game, never believing that we are aiming for a draw or 1 point is better than losing. Not anymore! We have sufficient firepower, talent and commitment in the squad. So we expect to win. hmmm... guess we just lose the opprortunity to get nearer to Man.U who lost to West Ham earlier. What a miss...

30 December 2007

City fall under Sven's spell

Manchester City captain Richard Dunne goes into today’s Liverpool match with a salute to City’s new boss
by Joe Lovejoy (The Times)

Steve McClaren’s benighted England reign first gave rise to the thought, now Manchester City are confirming it; Sven-Göran Eriksson wasn’t such a mug after all. The cosmopolitan team the City manager threw together last summer are surprise contenders for Champions League qualification, and resume their joust with Liverpool for fourth place in the Premier League when they meet this afternoon.
City are unbeaten in the league at home, and would have maximum points from their 10 games, but for the contentious late equaliser that gave Blackburn a 2-2 draw on Thursday. Disappointed that Roque Santa Cruz’s second goal was given, despite initially being disallowed because David Dunn was off-side, Eriksson and his players are eager to get back to winning ways at “Fortress Eastlands”, where the old enemy, Manches-ter United, are the most prized among their nine victims to date.
Nobody is more determined to add Liverpool to that list than Richard Dunne, City’s captain and ex-Evertonian, who was caught in no man’s land by Santa Cruz’s headed equaliser. It was an uncharacteristic error by the centre-half, for whom the phrase “no nonsense” might have been coined. Previously, Dunne had been consistency personified, and Eriksson says of the 28-year-old Dubliner: “He has played well all season. It is important the players look up to the captain and listen when he speaks, and Richard Dunne is one of those men. When he has something to say, nobody argues with it. That’s leadership.”
Dunne had plenty to say last season, when City were underachieving at the wrong end of the table and he spoke out about some of Stuart Pearce’s workshy signings. He was at it again after the 6-0 drubbing at Chelsea two months ago, but generally City’s longest serving player is not so much happy with his lot as pinching himself, in need of reassurance that the heady progress made really is genuine.
Dunne was recruited from Everton for £3m in October 2000. He has played under four managers in the intervening years, the first three of them – Joe Royle, Kevin Keegan and Pearce – stereotypically English in their John Bull approach. The fourth is undoubtedly his favour-ite. Of the Eriksson regime, he says: “This club has changed more in six months than in the previous six years I’d been here. It’s the most exciting phase of my career. Until now, it has always been a case of trying to survive. Now we’ve got a new owner [Thaksin Shinawatra] who wants to take the club to a new level, and one of the most successful managers in Europe to attract top players.”
Shinawatra’s Thai millions have bankrolled wholesale changes to a team that limped in 14th last time, with two points from their last six games. Exit Pearce, enter the man who has always known how to spend money. Out of the game for just over a year after having his contract paid up by England, Eriksson welcomed the chance – and the £5m a year – City offered him.
At the end of July, in his first preseason friendly, at Doncaster, the Swede took one look at his new charges, who included Danny Mills, Paul Dickov, Ber-nardo Corradi and Georgios Samaras, and reached for the owner’s chequebook. A hectic flurry of transfer activity brought in Rolando Bianchi from Italy, Elano from Ukraine, Geovanni from Brazil, Martin Petrov from Spain, Vedran Corluka from Croatia and Gelson Fernandes from Switzerland, among others. Eight new faces, all of them foreign, for an outlay of £40m.
How could so many disparate newcomers blend quickly into an effective unit? Dunne takes up the story: “The players already here were like everybody else really; none of us knew anything about the people we were signing. I’d heard of Petrov, but apart from him they weren’t names I knew. I was a bit worried when so many different languages came into the dressing room, but there was no need. The talent coming in spoke for itself, the new players were outstanding. You could tell we were going to gel.
“Good footballers don’t need to talk much to play well together, and it all knitted together almost at once. I would say it started to develop when we played Valencia in our last preseason friendly. We lost, but there were encouraging signs. We were starting to put nice little passages of play together. We had something to work with, we kept working at it on the training ground and come opening day, at West Ham, we had a dream start [a 2-0 win], and we’ve never really looked back.”
City won their first three games, including a 1-0 victory over United, and Eriksson was up and running. Why were his club teams more successful and more attractive to watch than England had been during his ten-ure? Dunne said: “If you look at England’s players, or Ireland’s for that matter, we don’t have the same technique as the foreigners. They are brought up on a different style of football that works better than ours at international level. They keep the ball better. Through the influence of our foreign players, we’ve had that injected into our side at City this season. We’ve learnt to keep the ball for longer, and our position in the table shows how much more effective that can make you.”
So how had Eriksson improved the retentive capacity of his domestic contingent, such as Micah Richards, Michael Ball, Michael Johnson, Stephen Ireland, Darius Vassell and Dunne himself? The captain said: “By drilling on the training ground. If our left-back is in possession, two or three other players know exactly where they have to go. The manager ingrained that into us in preseason. It helps, of course, that Petrov, for example, has been doing it all his career. When Martin gets it, Elano knows where to go, and so on.
“Obviously, the quality of the passing needs to be good, but the movement of the players off the ball is key. You see that best in Arsenal and Man United – their passing is great but it looks even better because they always have options off the ball.”
Pressed for specifics about Eriksson’s methods, Dunne sounded suspiciously like the England players when he first took charge. The “Iceman” was cool, calm and collected at all times. Dunne said: “People slaughtered Sven, but don’t forget England missed out on penalties in the quarter-finals of two competitions. It boiled down to one kick of the ball on the day. He was unlucky. There’s a hype about England that shouldn’t be there. Certainly they don’t deserve it after winning nothing for 40 years.” Eriksson was quiet and undemonstrative, but he let the City players know when he was disappointed or angry. “He doesn’t need to shout to do that,” Dunne said. “We are professionals, we don’t go out to underperform, but some days it will happen. We realise when we haven’t played well and he’ll just quietly pull individuals aside and have a chat with them.
“Sven knows we are all trying, and concentrates on keeping us going. We are going to have setbacks during the season, he’s experienced enough to know and accept that. His biggest asset is his composure. People say, ‘How can his calmness win games?’, but we had an example a couple of weeks ago when we were 2-1 down at half-time against Bolton. We weren’t looking like a team that would come out and score three goals. He just said, ‘Listen, we’ve worked on this in training all week, just keep your heads up and do what you know you can do’. Forty-five minutes later we’d won 4-2.”
Eriksson is hands-on in the preparation of the City team. “He works Monday to Friday with us, setting out a pattern of play which he believes will beat the opposition,” Dunne said. “He tells us how we’re going to play, what each of us is going to do, where our correct positions are at any given time. Preparing, we’ll do a full week’s training with the specifics of that particular game in mind. We do a lot of 11 v 11s, working on tactical play geared to whoever our next opponents are. Afterwards, we finish with short-sided games where the goalkeeper can’t throw the ball out over the halfway line. That way the build-up has to start from the back, the ball has to be passed. It’s always sharp and fast.
“The sort of play Sven favours has improved all of us. For years we’ve struggled and played a style of football that is typical of the Premier League. A lot of teams who aren’t in the top four or five play a similar way, you know, ‘Get stuck in and work harder than them’. Sven knows it’s important to work hard, but wants us to do it with the ball, rather than without it.
“As far as man-management goes, he does everything. He speaks regularly to every player, letting them know exactly what he wants from them. He takes a keen interest in his players and if they are happy off the field, as well as on it. The way he has handled Rolando Bianchi is the best example of that.”
Bianchi, the striker signed from Reggina last July for £8.8m, had a difficult start to his career in England, scoring on his debut at West Ham, but then going 10 games without another league goal. He has come good of late, with three in his past four league matches, and Dunne says: “Sven has given him plenty of time to settle in, talking to him all the time. He has kept him involved in training, even when he was out of the side, working on making him better, and now he is starting to prove a real asset.”
So is the man who made short work of the dreaded Croatia in what he refers to as “my previous job”.

Ever-changing systems put Liverpool in a spin

By Stewart Robson (The Telegraph)
Last Updated: 1:02am GMT 30/12/2007

After wins over Portsmouth and Derby, Liverpool have managed to stay in touch with the league leaders.
But if they are to challenge for honours they must be more consistent. Many believe that Rafa Benitez's rotational system is the cause for their inconsistency but I disagree.
With so many games, players cannot continually produce their best if they are chosen every week. However, the mistake he has made is in changing formation too regularly in relation to the opponents.
Before watching Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea you can envisage the style they will attempt to play, whereas Liverpool's game plan seems to change from match to match. United and Arsenal have players who are brilliantly unpredictable in possession and have clever positional rotation in the top third of the pitch, but they perform these from a settled formation. Chelsea, too, are drilled in a certain system.
Yet with Liverpool you are never sure what style of football they will play. There needs to be a degree of surprise in your tactics and, of course, there are times when players need to adapt slightly to the opposition's strengths and weaknesses, but this can still be done from a familiar shape and style. When going to watch Liverpool can anyone really be sure which players, formation or style they will adopt?
One area of consistency over the years has been at the heart of the defence and the benefits have been visible. Until Daniel Agger's introduction, Sami Hyypia and Jamie Carragher had forged an excellent understanding, enabling them to push up, drop off, press the ball and cover each other in perfect harmony. What is even more important is that they never changed their defensive game plan. With Agger injured, these two have been able to re-form that partnership and add stability to the side's defending. Their mentality, game understanding and ability to read danger is still as good as any defensive pairing, but with Hyypia losing his pace, they aren't as effective as they were two years ago.
However, with Hyypia out of today's clash, Manchester City will look to take advantage of the stand-in centre-half.
Steven Gerrard's role in the team highlights the way Benitez is unpredictable in his selection. He is a wonderfully versatile player and his ability does allow him to be effective in a number of roles but other players need to form an understanding with him, be it when he is on the right, in midfield or a second striker.
Whether it is a full-back knowing how to overlap him, a central midfielder knowing how to combine with him or a centre-forward knowing how he will join him, consistency forges those relationships and it is a luxury Benitez has rarely allowed his players to enjoy.
Benitez will need to be aware of Martin Petrov and Elano. Petrov has pace, power and a dynamic left foot, yet he is most dangerous when City are counter-attacking. Therefore, whether it be Steve Finnan or Alvaro Arbeloa at right-back, they must curtail their forward runs unless they are certain of receiving the ball.
Elano's positioning between the midfield and main striker, allied to his ability to find space, means the opposition must devise ways of nullifying him. Does a centre-half come out to challenge Elano as the ball is played towards him or does a midfielder turn and recover quickly to tackle as the ball is passed beyond him?
Whichever one it is, it can still be done effectively without Benitez changing the shape of his side yet again. Let's hope Fernando Torres plays, because his battle with Richard Dunne and Micah Richards will be an enthralling one which could decide the outcome.


Midfield duo Elano and Dietmar Hamann are set to earn immediate recalls as Manchester City look to regain a top-four place by beating Liverpool at Eastlands.
City boss Sven-Goran Eriksson left the pair out of Thursday night's 2-2 draw with Blackburn as he attempts to keep his squad fresh over the festive period.
With Michael Johnson (groin) again set to miss out, Eriksson will turn to Elano to provide the inspiration for victory and former Reds star Hamann to subdue his old team-mate Steven Gerrard.
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez is facing a defensive crisis with veteran Sami Hyypia almost certainly unavailable.
Hyypia suffered a twisted ankle in the Boxing Day win at Derby, and although Benitez is awaiting reports from his medical team, he has virtually ruled the Finn out of the Premier League clash.
It means Benitez must decide whether to risk Daniel Agger in the match at Eastlands, the young Dane having not played for three months as he recovers from a broken metatarsal.
He has been training for a fortnight and is using specially built-up boots, but his lack of match practice is a concern.
Liverpool have full-back Alvaro Arbeloa fit again after a bout of flu, and he could be switched to partner Jamie Carragher while youngster Jack Hobbs is also on stand-by. Peter Crouch is still suspended.


By Simon Stone, PA Sport Chief Football Writer

Sven-Goran Eriksson is hoping a few valuable lessons learned in the famous Anfield 'Boot Room' can prove costly for Liverpool at Eastlands on Sunday.
The Manchester City manager grew up with a love of the Merseyside giants inherited from his father, a lifelong Liverpool fan until his recent conversion to club his son is now in charge of.
His interest extended so far, he made contact with Liverpool at the start of his own coaching career in Sweden.
By the time he was in charge of Gothenburg, Eriksson was a frequent visitor to the club, striking up a particularly strong relationship with Joe Fagan.
"I used to have a drink with Joe in the Boot Room after games," recalled Eriksson. "It was very nice and they made me feel very welcome.
"I was with Gothenburg at the time and I just made contact with them.
"I had been a Liverpool fan when I was younger. My father had always supported them, I am not sure why.
"We have had English football every week on TV in Sweden for 35 years, so I suppose we saw a lot of them.
"When I was beginning my coaching career, it just seemed natural to try and get in touch. In Sweden, there is no football for an entire month, which provided me with the opportunity to visit."
Eriksson also spent time with Bobby Robson at Ipswich and Ajax in Holland as he accumulated the knowledge which has provided the backbone for an impressive career which has seen him with league and cup doubles in Sweden, Portugal and Italy, as well as lead England to three successive tournament quarter-finals, quite a feat considering the abject failure to reach Euro 2008.
Yet it was those days with Fagan at Anfield which remain most vivid in Eriksson's memory, although there was little friendliness shown when the pair's paths crossed in a managerial capacity during the 1984 European Cup quarter-final when Liverpool were paired with Benfica.
"We lost 1-0 in the first game at Anfield," said Eriksson.
"We were a little bit naive and thought we had a good chance of getting through.
"Two weeks later, we played in front of 100,000 fans at the Stadium of Light and lost 4-1. It was a big lesson for us, although it has to be remembered Liverpool had some very good players at that time and won the competition by beating Roma in Rome."
Considering the vast amount of silverware Liverpool collected during those halcyon days, it seems odd the club are currently striving to avoid an 18th season without winning a league title.
Although Rafael Benitez insists his team are still in with a chance, they are now reliant on Manchester United and Arsenal slipping up having dropped off the pace despite already playing the remainder of England's 'big four' on home soil.
Indeed, should City triumph on Sunday, something they have managed only twice on home soil in the Premier League era, they will leapfrog Benitez's side into a Champions League berth.
Such a scenario is bound to have Benitez's critics out in force again, although Eriksson cannot understand why the Spaniard has found himself under such intense scrutiny.
"I believe Benitez is doing a good job," said Eriksson.
"Maybe it is surprising Liverpool have gone so long without winning the league but on the other hand in three years they have reached two Champions League Finals, which is fantastic.
"At any level, at any other club, whether it was Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, AC Milan or Manchester United, two European Cup Finals in three years would be a top achievement."
It may be some time before City are competing at that kind of level but new owner Thaksin Shinawatra is clearly an ambitious man.
And, with the transfer window about to swing open, Dr Thaksin has already promised Eriksson the funds he needs to strengthen, a move the manager believes is vital is City are to reach the lofty aims that have been set.
"We have a good squad but if you look at the big four, they have bigger squads with quality all over," said Eriksson.
"But we will have that in the future too. That is a must if you want to play European football.
"If you try another way, you might do well in Europe and badly in the league.
"But if you want to hold a certain level in both, you must have a big squad."

28 December 2007

Man.City vs LFC - Sunday 11.59am 30 Dec 07

Manchester City midfield duo Elano and Dietmar Hamann are set to be recalled after being rested for the 2-2 draw against Blackburn.
Fellow midfielder Michael Johnson again misses out because of a groin injury.
Liverpool centre-back Daniel Agger (foot) may be rushed back as Sami Hyypia is a doubt with an ankle injury.
If the pair are not fit, youngster Jack Hobbs could play or Alvaro Arbeloa (flu) could be used as an emergency central defender.
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez:"Daniel Agger is closer, he has been training this week.
"We will wait to see how Sami is but we can use Jack or we push Agger to play.
"It will be difficult against Manchester City with this problem. They are fighting at the top with us and Sunday's game is very important. We have to plan carefully."
The club with the joint best home record in the Premier League meets the one with the strongest away form.
Manchester City have had two draws over Christmas and dropped points at Eastlands for the first time this season; Liverpool are looking to extend their 100% holiday programme with a third straight win.
Manchester City have not scored a single goal in four Premier League matches with the Merseysiders.
(all statistics are ahead of this weekend's round of Premier League fixtures)
1. Won 10 Premier League matches so far this season; only Manchester United (14), Arsenal (13) and Chelsea (11) have won more.
2. Lost one of the last eight league outings.
3. Bagged seven points more than their previous best after the first 19 matches of a Premier League season; that being 28 points in 1994-95 when they tailed off badly and finished 17th.
4. Won 13 of 23 league and cup matches under Sven-Goran Eriksson.
5. Won nine and drawn three of the 12 league games in which they have scored first, but won only one of the six in which the opposition has opened the scoring.
6. One of three clubs to have won as many as nine home Premier League matches; the others are Arsenal and Manchester United.
7. Already accounted for Derby, Manchester United, Aston Villa, Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Birmingham, Sunderland, Reading and Bolton at Eastlands.
8. Blackburn are the only club this season to leave the City of Manchester Stadium with a point, from the 2-2 draw on Thursday night.
9. Gained 21 more points home than away so far this season; the widest such disparity in the Premier League.
10. A trip to Newcastle is scheduled for 2 January.
LIVERPOOL (all statistics are ahead of this weekend's round of Premier League fixtures)
1. Won 10 Premier League matches so far this season; only Manchester United (14), Arsenal (13) and Chelsea (11) have won more.
2. Won five of the last seven league outings.
3. Conceded 12 times in the Premier League; only Manchester United (nine) have shipped fewer.
4. Fallen behind from the outset three times in Premier League games this term; only Manchester United have conceded the opening goal on as few occasions.
5. Been shown 21 cards in Premier League competition this season (all yellows); Everton have also been shown as few as 21 but theirs are comprised of 19 yellow and two red.
6. Picked up 20 Premier League points on the road; more than any other club.
7. Won two more matches and secured four more points away from home than at Anfield so far this term.
8. Accounted for Aston Villa, Sunderland, Wigan, Everton, Newcastle and Derby on their league travels.
9. Boast the joint best defensive record away from home in the highest league with just six goals conceded in nine matches; identical to West Ham's figures.
10. A home clash with Wigan is lined up for 2 January.
ELANO and Rolando BIANCHI are Manchester City's joint leading scorers with five goals each.
ELANO, BIANCHI and Michael PETROV are the club's joint top Premier League marksmen with four goals a piece.
GEOVANNI has scored the quickest goal of this Premier League season. He netted after 28 seconds of Steve Bruce's first game in charge of Wigan at the JJB Stadium on 1 December.
Darius VASSELL needs a double to total 50 career Premier League goals (Aston Villa and Manchester City).
If selected:-
Dietmar HAMANN will be facing a former club.
Fernando TORRES is Liverpool's top scorer with 15 goals, and their leading marksman in the Premier League with nine.
Goalkeeper Jose REINA is the only remaining player to have been on the field for every minute of every one of Liverpool's Premier League matches this season.
If selected:-
Dirk KUYT will be making his 50th Premier League appearance.
Manchester City have only beaten Liverpool once in a home Premier League game since 1995; that was 1-0 on 9 April 2005 when a Kiki Musampa goal in stoppage time secured the points.
Liverpool have won 50% of their Premier League meetings with Manchester City (10 of 20).
The 2-2 draw Liverpool secured at Maine Road on 5 May 1996 sent Alan Ball's City crashing out of the Premier League.
Home and awayLeague (inc PL): Man City 37 wins, Liverpool 72, Draws 33Prem: Man City 3 wins, Liverpool 10, Draws 7
at Man City onlyLeague (inc PL): Man City 24 wins, Liverpool 28, Draws 19Prem: Man City 2 wins, Liverpool 2, Draws 6
Manchester City 0-0 Liverpool 14 April 2007 - Ref: Uriah Rennie

26 December 2007

Paul Jewell: Derby County will never give up

By Martin Smith (Daily Telegraph)
Last Updated: 8:46pm GMT 25/12/2007

It's a bit like those unwelcome relatives who turn up on your doorstep on Boxing Day; Paul Jewell is a Scouser, born and bred, but the last team he would want to arrive at Pride Park this afternoon are Liverpool.
Some of the Derby County players he sends out today still bear the scars of the 6-0 defeat they suffered at Anfield at the beginning of September, one of five occasions on which they have conceded four or more goals this season.
"I've never been beaten 6-0," Jewell, who arrived less than a month ago, said with a degree of pride. "No one likes being beaten 6-0, but these teams can do that to you. The top teams are on a different planet to the rest of us.
"It can happen. If you don't defend properly, and if you're not at your best, and not in their faces, then they can kill you. Make no mistake about it. We've got to defend better than we have done for the majority of the season. It was only a point at Newcastle [on Sunday], but we've got to try to use it as a springboard."
The 2-2 draw at St James' Park interrupted a run of seven successive defeats in the Premier League, and was the first point Derby had collected in four games under Jewell. However, apart from four goals conceded at Old Trafford, they have tightened up in defence.
"But we're still giving bad goals away," Jewell conceded. "The two we gave away on Sunday were horrendous. You might get away with it in the Championship, but at this level the top boys will punish you.
"Sometimes we've been easy to play against. When you're in a situation like we are, you've got to fight and scrap for every ball. If it's good enough for Manchester United and Arsenal, it's certainly good enough for Derby. We're in deep trouble: we need to get 30 points from somewhere if we've got any chance of surviving, but we ain't giving up on it."
Jewell was five years as a young professional at Anfield, and the lessons learnt have stayed with him. "Liverpool are a unique club, because you were never coached as such; they expected you to work it out for yourself. It taught me. Some people didn't get it.
"I was speaking to Graeme Souness at a lunch recently, and we had a bit of a discussion about it. He said they used to say, 'work it out for yourself' because they didn't know themselves. I don't agree with that. But it made you think. Liverpool expect you to keep it simple."
They also used to keep feet firmly on the ground.
"I was in the squad who played Dinamo Bucharest in the semi-finals of the European Cup," Jewell said. "We won 2-1, Ian Rush got two, I was on the bench, and coming home on the plane from Romania there was no champagne or anything.
"Ronnie Moran came down and said to those of us who hadn't played - me, Gary Gillespie, Phil Thompson, Steve Nicol and Jimmy Beglin: 'Don't forget, you five, Anfield, five o'clock tomorrow, Coventry reserves'. Ronnie was making sure: we'd got to a European Cup final, but the next game that was important to the club was the Coventry reserves one. That's what I try to do."
A measure of the task ahead, though, was the latest odds from Ladbrokes, in which Derby are quoted at 100-1 to avoid relegation. "My pound's looking safe, then!" Jewell said. The Scouse humour is still there.

Jewell facing pure Torr-ture

Published: Today

PAUL JEWELL could have been plonked in front of the TV today enjoying plenty of festive fun — but he would not have it any other way.
Instead of relaxing with his nearest and dearest, Jewell faces 90 minutes of hell as rock-bottom Derby take on Liverpool.
In fact, the new Pride Park chief even admitted his side have more chance of winning the Premier League than they do of victory against Fernando Torres & Co today!
But Jewell just cannot wait to take on Rafa Benitez and build on Sunday’s morale-boosting draw at Newcastle.
The Rams boss revealed: “Someone said to me before the game on Sunday that I could have my feet up watching it at home. But I am loving my job.
“It is tough because of the situation we are in but people are so good to work for.
“I came in with my eyes wide open and I know that it is going to be a tough long road this season.
“But I like a challenge and I feel if I can get it right here, then the future is bright.”
Scouser Jewell started his playing career at Anfield and the Reds remain close to his heart.
Not many others at Derby will be looking forward to welcoming the Kop kings today after they spanked the Rams 6-0 back in September.
Jewell added: “It is where I started — but the only thing I am looking at is Derby,
“Liverpool is the team I supported as a kid. But at this moment I am manager of Derby and a Derby supporter.
“I would love them to win the league — if we can’t win it! Actually we probably have more chance of winning the league than beating Liverpool.”
Jewell knows that with red-hot strikers such as Torres in their line-up, Liverpool can be ruthless.
He said: “I don’t think I need to remind the lads of what happened at Anfield — 6-0 is a hiding but that can happen in this league if the top teams have a day when everything clicks.
“I remember Ipswich losing 9-0 to Manchester United so it really is scary at times.
“If we defend like we did at Newcastle, we will concede more goals. There has been a lot improvement — but we need to improve even more.”
DERBY midfielder David Jones is still missing with a groin strain. Defender Andy Todd’s back injury has not healed in time.
Liverpool striker Peter Crouch serves the second of a three-match ban after his red card at Chelsea last week.

25 December 2007

Liverpool boss Rafa wary of a Reds slip-up against Derby

25th December 2007

Rafael Benitez has warned his Liverpool stars they dare not take bottom club Derby lightly on Boxing Day - unless they want to suffer another shock defeat like they did at Reading earlier in the month.
On the back of a Fernando Torres-inspired weekend win over Portsmouth, Liverpool can keep the pressure on the four clubs ahead of them with an expected victory at Pride Park.
The Reds triumphed 6-0 in the first meeting between the clubs this year but the Spaniard does not want his side to assume it will be as easy again.
"Everyone is expecting us to beat Derby but we have had experience of Reading (where they lost 3-1) so we will have a lot of respect for Derby and will try to win this game," he said.
"When you play away against a team which is battling relegation it is always very difficult."
Benitez knows also that three good performances in the next week will go a long way to lifting the speculation still hanging over him about his future at Anfield.
But he remains happy to continue his controversial rotation policy over the festive period, saying: "Sometimes you can use the same player, sometimes you use the squad. I like to use the squad because this is the key if you want to reduce the gap (to the teams at the top) - it is using the right players at the right moment.
"When you play four games in 12 days it is such a short time you can change players and they can understand. Sometimes when you play one game a week and you leave six players out of the squad it is more difficult to explain but this situation is easier."
Derby boss Paul Jewell, a lifelong Liverpool fan, realises his team will be up against a top side and backed them to end their 18-year title drought in the near future.
"They'll win it again, I'm sure of that, but I don't think they will do it this season," said Jewell.
"I think the title race is more exciting this year than it has been because Arsenal and Manchester United are out in front, with Chelsea are on their heels.
"Liverpool are 10 points behind with a game in hand. It can be done, but I can't see them overtaking Arsenal and United.
"But with the investment they have, with the players they've got and those they will bring in, they will get closer and closer."

We need to keep the big three in our sights warns Carragher

24th December 2007

With Liverpool facing the damaging prospect of being cut adrift from the 'big three' in the title race, key defender Jamie Carragher has called for the side to keep their nerve.
The Merseysiders travel to bottom club Derby on Boxing Day knowing they dare not make any slip-ups against a side who seem to have found their fighting spirit following a brave 2-2 draw at Newcastle on Sunday.
Liverpool, emphatic winners over Portsmouth at the weekend, are no nearer closing the gap on Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea and are still behind Manchester City who they face at Eastlands on Sunday.
And with the backdrop of continued speculation about the club's ownership, finances, boss Rafael Benitez's own future as well as problems with the new ground, Liverpool could be facing a tough new year off the pitch.
But on it, Carragher insists there is still hope. He said: "It does not really matter who the leaders are, as long as we keep them in sight.
"At the moment it is Arsenal up there, so we just need to make sure that we keep hold of them for now. I am sure a time will come this season when they start to find it difficult, especially with all the young players they have in their side.
"There is no secret they are a great side, but I am sure they will be tested at some point. We just have to make sure we are there to capitalise when it happens.
"I am sure that Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea will keep winning, so it is up to us to prove we can stay with them. It would be really exciting if it is a four-horse race with 10 games to go."
Liverpool now play Derby, Manchester City and Wigan in a week, games they dare not lose.
Carragher continued: "Christmas is always a crucial time of the season. You can look at this period almost as a separate group of games in that sense.
"From these three games we would always say that seven points would be fine, but nine would be excellent. That would make a massive difference heading into the new year, hopefully we can them be a lot close to Arsenal by then."
The gap is currently 10 points with a game in hand - at home to West Ham - on the four clubs ahead of Liverpool in the table.
Benitez can be expected to shuffle his side for the trip to Derby ahead of the tough away trip to fourth-placed Manchester City next Sunday.
Benitez has already made 223 alterations to his sides this season, on a match to match basis, and used 77 substitutions, making it a remarkable 300 changes in player personnel in 28 matches so far.
And there will be more of the same at Pride Park, with Ryan Babel, Andriy Voronin, Fabio Aurelio and Lucas all potential starters. Youngster Jack Hobbs could also get another run-out in defence while Xabi Alonso could also continue his comeback from injury.
Benitez knows also that three good performances in the next week will go a long way to lifting the cloud still hanging over his own head.
But he will rotate, saying: "Sometimes you can use the same player, sometimes you use the squad. I like to use the squad because this is the key if you want to reduce the gap (to the teams at the top) --it is using the right players at the right moment.
"When you play four games in 12 days it is such a short time you can change players and they can understand. Sometimes when you play one game a week and you leave six players out of the squad it is more difficult to explain but this situation is easier.
"The team selection is always a problem if you have good players. Daniel Agger is close to fitness, Jermaine Pennant and Steve Finnan are improving so we are really close to having our full squad available."

hmmm... vs Derby. Time to score BIG again!

Liverpool are on course to complete a fourth Premier League double over Derby, having outclassed them with a devastating display of fire-power in the 6-0 thrashing at Anfield in September, a victory that shot the Merseysiders to the top of the table for the first time in five years. The Reds also did the double when they last met the Rams in 2001-02.
Derby have not enjoyed victory over Liverpool since Jim Smith's side prevailed 3-2 at Pride Park on 13 March 1999 with the aid of a Paulo Wanchope double.
Derby are desperate for points, with a six-point gap separating them from second-bottom Wigan.
But Rams boss Paul Jewell has adopted a realistic attitude ahead of the visit of a Liverpool side who thrashed them 6-0 earlier in the season.
"If Liverpool play well then they will beat us - but if they don't play well and we do, then we've a chance," he said.
"Let's have it right, none of our players would get into their team, whatever team they play, and every one of theirs would get into our team.
"So we're up against it, but we're not going into the game just to lie down and expecting them to beat us, we want to try to win the game."

24 December 2007

Javier Mascherano proves his value to Rafael Benitez

Oliver Kay at Anfield
The Times
December 24, 2007

They appear to have more pressing concerns at a time when their ownership of the club has already reached crisis point, but if Liverpool’s American owners were to cast an eye over the performance on Saturday, they might just start to understand why Rafael BenÍtez wants them to put their growing financial worries to the back of their minds and stump up £17 million to sign Javier Mascherano to a long-term contract.
Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr will not do so, of course – not yet and possibly not ever, given the uncertainty that has raised serious doubts about their troubled regime as the clock ticks down towards a February deadline to refinance the £220 million that they borrowed to fund their initial takeover. Transfer activity is no longer the top priority at Anfield – and nor, for this reason alone, is the future of a manager for whom the American tycoons have little or no time – but even as he struggles to come to terms with the instability of his own position, BenÍtez cannot tolerate the idea of allowing Mascherano to slip through the club’s hands.
Fernando Torres may have stolen the limelight with two late goals, his ninth and tenth in his first 11 appearances at Anfield, but not even he could quite eclipse Mascherano. With Steven Gerrard unusually subdued alongside him, the Argentina player was relentless, terrorising the Portsmouth midfield throughout and having a hand in each of Liverpool’s four goals. In a typically understated way, it was a masterclass from the man known in his homeland as Jefecito, or little chief.
The performance made a mockery of his inability to get a game for West Ham United a year ago, but who at Liverpool can say where he will be in another 12 months, with the club’s unusual lease arrangement with his “owners” due to expire in the summer? Barcelona are lurking with intent, hoping to exploit the continuing uncertainty at Anfield. BenÍtez said on Saturday evening: “It’s always better to get it done as soon as possible, but we just have to wait.” And wait and wait, it seems, while the owners try to get their finances in order.
For Liverpool’s two opening goals, a volley from Yossi Benayoun and a comical own goal from Sylvain Distin, Torres played an important part, but on both occasions it was Mascherano who won possession from Sulley Muntari. Thereafter, with his team 2-0 up in 15 minutes, others simply went through the motions, but from Mascherano there was no let-up.
It was a strange game, although Harry Redknapp, the Portsmouth manager, found other words for it. “Bad defending”, he said in his postmatch press conference, suggesting that a frozen training pitch in the two days before the game had done his players no good but unwilling to allow them to hide behind such an excuse.
Briefly, early in the second half, Portsmouth threatened to make a game of it, Benjani Mwaruwari scoring from Kanu’s cross, but Liverpool were soon two goals clear again, another pass by Mascherano forcing Hermann Hreidarsson into a mistake that Torres punished. Then, with five minutes remaining, Torres scored with a volley after Gerrard headed down Jamie Carragher’s floated pass. No prizes for guessing who won the ball in the first place.
Torres left the field to a standing ovation moments later, but even he, as he returned to the pitch at the final whistle, made a beeline for Mascherano. “He is a player who allows other players to play,” Benitez said. But on the odd occasion when Gerrard and others are off colour, Mascherano can play a bit himself as well.

23 December 2007

LFC 4 - Pompey 1

TORRES 2 : Pompey 0

if he did what he had done during the game against Manure united... he could have been a legend by now...

Inter will be worried, they know we are a good team, claims Benitez

Liverpool will draw on their recent Champions League experience when the time comes for their "very difficult" last-16 tie against Inter Milan, according to manager Rafael Benitez.
The Reds boss accepts facing the Serie A leaders is the price the club must pay for finishing second in their group.
Despite a strong finish - when a 4-0 victory in Marseille in their final match secured passage into the knockout phase - a poor start with one draw and two defeats has made the second stage all the more difficult.
However, Benitez knows his side are capable of beating any team in Europe on their day - as their now famous comeback from 3-0 down against AC Milan in the 2005 final showed.
They also beat Barcelona in their run to last season's final, where the Milanese claimed revenge in Athens, and that gives the manager hope for the rest of this campaign.
"Everybody was expecting a difficult draw and Inter Milan are one of the top sides," he said.
"They have good players and experience in Europe. It is very difficult but we know the team and we have confidence in ourselves.
"All the teams are difficult to beat but we have some experience of this.
"Hopefully we will see another of those performances in the knockout stages.
"I think they (Inter) will be worried, for sure. They know we are a good team and anything can happen in two months' time."
The sides have not met competitively since a notorious European Cup semi-final in 1965 when Inter went on to lift the trophy for a second year in a row.
The Italians won 4-3 on aggregate but their 3-0 second leg win in the San Siro was shrouded in accusations that the referee was bribed to ensure Liverpool lost.
Reds chief executive Rick Parry said: "With some of the fans that memory will add a certain piquancy to the matches. It is a long time ago but it's the first time we've played them since then.
"It's a big one but was it going to be whoever we had drawn. It's a long time since we played them, they are a very good team."
Parry is confident Benitez will be able to deliver in the competition once again.
He added: "Rafa is a great tactician and you just have to think back to knocking out Juventus and Barcelona. Ties like this one are absolutely where he comes into his own.
"Clearly Inter Milan are doing extremely well this season and they don't come much tougher. It is a mouth-watering prospect but it's what European football is all about."
Benitez will be hoping to strengthen his squad ahead of the tie and Parry has rubbished suggestions the Spaniard may be prevented from recruiting in the January transfer window.
Parry said: "That is nonsense. There has never been a transfer ban at Liverpool. We have always had a philosophy if we need to strengthen the squad then we will. Nothing has changed."
Inter Milan chief executive Ernesto Paolillo insists his side will make life as difficult as possible for Benitez's team.
"We feel Liverpool are the strongest team, what better team to have as an opponent?" he said.
"I think Liverpool will make it difficult for us and I hope it will be difficult for them as well."
The first leg of the tie will take place at Anfield on February 19 with the return at the San Siro on March 11.

21 December 2007

Some background check on Inter Milan

Inter Milan... Seriously... I am totally ignorance of Seria A. I guess it's because the timing of the game is so lousy. Unlike English Premier League, you'll get to watch the game as early 8pm over here in Malaysia but Italian soccer.... 2am... naaa... don't think so.
However, truth to the billing, Inter Milan is a strong team over in Italy. My limited knowledge only know Juventus, AS Roma and of course, AC Milan. One way or the other, those three teams have been soundly defeated by LFC and in the case of AC Milan... we also lost to them. But Internazionale? Sorry... me not know! hahaha
So I browse the net looking for some idea of who are the players... My God! The list is like the Galactico of Italy.
They have :
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Adriano (loan back to Sao Paolo), Hernán Crespo, Luis Figo (injured), Patrick Vieira (injured), Walter Samuel.
However, the three strikers of Julio Cruz, Hernan Crespo and David Suazo and the most important, Ibrahimovic... have been scoring freely. Ibrahimovic is currently the leading top scorer in Inter Milan's team with 9 goals to his personal tally and on same par with Cruz (also 9). Quite impressive.
But we do have our own powerhouse in Gerrard, Carra and now, Torres. So bring it on. Bring it on!


21 December 2007

Liverpool have been drawn to face Inter Milan in the last 16 of this season's Champions League.
The Reds will entertain Roberto Mancini's side in the first leg at Anfield on February 19/20 before travelling to the San Siro for the second-leg the following month. Inter are having a wonderful season in their domestic league and currently sit in top spot seven points ahead of second placed Roma.

Internazionale have won 12 and drawn four of their 16 Serie A games this season.

"It's a big one," said the Liverpool chief executive, Rick Parry, "but it was going to be whoever we had drawn. It's a long time since we played them, they are a very good team. It's going to be tough but there are no easy ones at this stage. We've stopped a few hearts the way we have qualified but in the last three games we are clearly in form and scoring goals."
His counterpart at Inter, Ernesto Paolillo, added: "We feel Liverpool are the strongest team, what better team to have as an opponent? I think Liverpool will make it difficult for us and I hope it will be difficult for them as well. The history is in favour of Liverpool but our team has been in good form so I hope we will be in the right condition to win this match. We are a very strong unit - the unity of the club is strong. We feel the Premier League is the best one at the moment - all of the teams are very strong and we respect them all."
The draw in full:
Celtic v Barcelona
Lyon v Manchester United
Schalke v FC Porto
Liverpool v Inter Milan
Roma v Real Madrid
Olympiacos v Chelsea
Fenerbahce v Sevilla
Arsenal v AC Milan

LFC vs Pompey

Liverpool play their 300th home Premier League match, and are in danger of suffering three successive league defeats for the first time since October 2003.
Portsmouth are chasing a seventh consecutive away league victory, and boast the strongest away record in the Premier League this season. They are the only club to have picked up more points on the road than Liverpool.
Liverpool and Portsmouth have been involved in a total of seven goalless draws in this Premier League season; Portsmouth four, Liverpool, three.
Liverpool were knocked off the top of the table, when Portsmouth held them to a no score stalemate in the reverse fixture in September. Now both sides are vying for a place in the top four.
It's 56 years since Pompey last took away maximum points from Anfield, winning 0-2 in the top-flight on 18 August 1951.

Highest achievable after Saturday's matches: 4th Lowest could fall: 7th
1. Lost the last two in league and cup. Wednesday's 2-0 capitulation to Chelsea in the Carling Cup quarter-final at Stamford Bridge was their third loss in four outings.
2. Lost the last two league matches; 3-1, away to Reading, and 0-1, home to Manchester United.
3. Last lost three League games on the bounce between 28 September and 18 October 2003, v Charlton (a), Arsenal (h) and Portsmouth (a).
4. Conceded four goals in two league outings, after keeping clean sheets in the previous four.
5. Fallen behind from the outset three times; only Manchester United have conceded the opening goal in as few as three Premier League matches so far this season.
6. The only club to have scored as many as four penalties in Premier League competition this term.
7. Been shown 20 cards in Premier League competition this season (all yellows); only Everton have fewer (18, 16 yellow and two red).
8. Defeat to Manchester United at Anfield last Sunday, ended an 11-match undefeated home league sequence.
9. Must visit Derby on Boxing Day, and Manchester City four days later, before the home clash with Wigan on 2 January.

Highest achievable after Saturday's matches: 4th Lowest could fall: 8th
1. The 0-1 home defeat to Tottenham last Saturday, ended an 11-match unbeaten run in the Premier League.
2. Failed to score in every other of their last seven league matches.
3. Not beaten a "Big Four" club in five attempts, since the 2-1 home triumph over Liverpool on 28 April.
4. The next defeat will be their 50th in the Premier League under Harry Redknapp, and their 500th in top-flight football.
5. One draw short of 900 in league football.
6. On the joint longest run, with Birmingham, of 15 games since a Premier League score draw; the most recent being 1-1, home to Manchester United on 15 August.
7. Picked up eight more points on the road than at home; the widest such disparity in the Premier League.
8. The only club to have won every Premier League game in which they've scored first this season; seven of seven.
9. Gained 19 points away from home, one more than Liverpool, and hoping to add the scalp of the Reds to those of Blackburn, Fulham, Wigan, Newcastle, Birmingham and Aston Villa, gained in the last six on the road.
10. A home clash with Arsenal follows on Boxing Day, then another against Middlesbrough three days later, before visiting Reading on New Year's Day.
Fernando TORRES is Liverpool's top scorer with 12 goals.
TORRES and Steven GERRARD are the clubs' joint top Premier League marksmen with six goals each.
GERRARD has scored 10 goals in 12 appearances for Liverpool (all competitions).
Goalkeeper Jose REINA is the only remaining player to have been on the field for every minute of every one of Liverpool's Premier League matches this season.
REINA leads the race for the Barclays Golden Glove, keeping nine clean sheets.
Peter CROUCH (three matches)

BENJANI MWARUWARI is Portsmouth's top scorer with eight Premier League goals. However, he has not scored in seven weeks since netting the second in the 1-4 away win over Newcastle on 3 November.
Sylvain DISTIN is the only outfield player to have been on the field for every minute of every one of Portsmouth's Premier League games this season.
David JAMES has kept goal for every minute of every one of Pompey's league matches this term.
If selected:-
JAMES will be making his 149th consecutive Premier League appearance (Manchester City and Portsmouth).
JAMES will be facing a former club. The 37 year old England keeper made 277 appearances for Liverpool (214 in the Premier League) between July 1992 and June 1999, when transferred to Aston Villa for £1.8m.
Djimi TRAORE will also be facing former club mates. The Mali international defender made 141 appearances (88 in the Premier League) and scored one goal for the Merseysiders between February 1999 and his £2m move to Charlton in August 2006.
Sol CAMPBELL will be making his 50th appearance in a Portsmouth shirt.
Hermann HREIDARSSON will be making his 350th career league appearance (Crystal Palace, Brentford, Wimbledon, Ipswich, Charlton and Portsmouth).

Liverpool have an unbeaten home Premier League record against Portsmouth of two wins and two draws, with clean sheets in three of the four games.
Two of the last three meetings between Liverpool and Portsmouth were goalless.

Home and awayLeague (inc PL): Liverpool 21 wins, Portsmouth 19, Draws 15Prem: Liverpool 4 wins, Portsmouth 2, Draws 3
at Liverpool onlyLeague (inc PL): Liverpool 13 wins, Portsmouth 4, Draws 10Prem: Liverpool 2 wins, Portsmouth 0, Draws 2

Liverpool 0-0 Portsmouth

Liverpool owners face cash crisis

By David Bond, Chief Sports Reporter
Last Updated: 1:27am GMT 21/12/2007 (The Daily Telegraph)

Liverpool's owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr, have just over a month to refinance the loans they used to buy the club in a £220 million deal last February.
Although it was previously thought that the £270 million funding package arranged with the Royal Bank of Scotland was due to be repaid two years after they bought the club, The Daily Telegraph can confirm that the loan expires in February 2008, with an option to extend for a further 12 months.
That means the American businessmen are facing a race against time to finalise a new £350 million financial package with RBS and American investment bank Wachovia to pay off their original loans, inject £60 million into the new stadium project at Stanley Park and cover £25 million of credit notes used to buy players.
As revealed by yesterday's Telegraph, a plan to raise a further £300 million to complete the relocation from Anfield to a new 70,000-seater ground has been shelved until 2009 at the earliest. But of far greater concern to Hicks and Gillett is the need to reach an agreement with their bankers for the first phase of the refinancing.
Although RBS could take control of the club if the Americans defaulted on the loan in February, the extension option could give them some extra breathing space. But Hicks and Gillett are keen to conclude a new deal before the existing agreement expires.
City sources added that it was extremely unlikely that RBS would pull the plug on Liverpool, knowing the controversial move would be a public-relations disaster. And despite uncertainty surrounding the future funding of a new stadium, RBS know Liverpool remain a well-run business with an annual turnover in 2006 of £121 million. Qualifying for the group stages of the Champions League has also removed one added financial pressure.
Talks between RBS, Wachovia and the Americans' bankers, Inner Circle Sports, were continuing last night but while both sides remain hopeful of doing a deal, hopes are fading of clinching an agreement before the Christmas break.
Although a spokesman for Hicks and Gillett insisted yesterday that they were working towards announcing a deal in the next 24 hours, one banking source here said confirmation was unlikely to come before Christmas.
The hold-up is understood to have been caused by concerns over Gillett's ability to put up more than £87 million in cash and guarantees to underwrite the new bank financing.
Hicks and Gillett are being asked to pump in £20 million in cash each, along with £75 million in letters of credit and £60 million in personal guarantees. One solution could be for Hicks, the wealthier of the club's chairmen, to help cover Gillett's share of the guarantees.
According to City insiders, another major sticking point has been the owners' plans to load their £270 million acquisition debt on to the club's books. That is believed to have met fierce opposition from some members of the Liverpool board who don't want the club to be used to service the cost of the Hicks and Gillett takeover.
The attempt to load the acquisition debt on to the club's balance sheet is all the more controversial because Gillett and Hicks vowed not to follow the route taken by Manchester United owners, the Glazer family, when they took over last February.
Gillett said at the time: "We have purchased the club with no debt on the club so, in that regard, it is different [to the Glazers]."
An alternative structure is now being worked on which will result in more debt placed on to the club's parent company, Kop Football Ltd. But that has placed extra pressure on Hicks and Gillett to prove they have the money to guarantee the loans.
Liverpool chose to say nothing publicly about yesterday's Telegraph report, but a club source stressed plans for the new stadium would not be blown off course.
The Liverpool source added: "The stadium plans are still on track although, as was stated publicly earlier this week, the design may have to be scaled down in terms of extravagance. There is some tough talking going on between the Americans and the banks but the stadium plan is financially sound."
Liverpool announced earlier this week that the plans for the stadium, unveiled in July, were being scaled back after they came in £50 million over budget.

Benitez won't risk stars

David Maddock 19/12/2007

Rafa Benitez is ready to take a massive gamble on his Liverpool side tonight despite a difficult week of heavy criticism.
The Spaniard knows that if he picks a weakened team and they crash out of the Carling Cup at Chelsea, then he will leave himself open to even more sniping. But that is exactly what he will do at Stamford Bridge, as he offers his players a rest ahead of what he believes is a crucial Premier League clash with Portsmouth at the weekend.
Benitez will rest his star names Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard and Javier Mascherano, and will even consider leaving stand-in skipper Jamie Carragher out of the starting line-up.
Gerrard will not even travel to London after complaining of a stomach bug yesterday, and Torres will not be risked after a heavy programme in recent weeks.
Many people consider the Carling Cup as Liverpool's most likely route to winning a trophy now, after the home League defeat by Manchester United at the weekend.
But it is clear that Benitez doesn't see the competition as important enough to field his strongest side, and instead will rest players with Saturday's game in mind.
The coach is well known for gambling on team selection, most notably this season when he picked a weakened team against Marseille in the Champions League and surprisingly lost at Anfield.
Last night he said: "Clearly this cup tie is important, but know we are going into a crucial stage of the season, so we have to find a balance with our selection.
"It is not possible for players to play every game and we have to recognise we have an important game against Portsmouth at the weekend.
Chelsea will rest some players and so will we. We have a lot of games in a short space of time so we have to keep the players with the same mentality and look to play as well as we can."
Benitez has been under intense pressure from the club's American owners, and many people expected him to pick a strong side in an attempt to lift a trophy this season.
But he still feels that Liverpool are not out of the title race, and therefore sees the visit to Anfield of Portsmouth as being of more importance. "We have one game in hand so the situation can improve and we're about to play four league games in a short time over Christmas. That means it is too early to say we are out of it.
"We have to think about winning games, keeping the confidence of the players high and see what the situation is at the end of the next month."
Benitez will, at least, finally have Xabi Alonso back tonight.
The Spaniard has been absent for the best part of three months with a broken foot.
He is likely to partner Momo Sissoko and Lucas Leiva in midfield, with Andrei Voronin returning to play alongside Peter Crouch up front, and Ryan Babel is also due a start.


AT EVERTON, OCT 20 With 15 minutes to go and drawing against 10-man rivals, he controversially took skipper Steven Gerrard off, only for his decision to be vindicated with a goal created by his replacement Lucas Leiva.
v MARSEILLE, OCT 3 Gave starts to Sebastian Leto and Momo Sissoko in a new-look lineup that faltered badly, and was criticised heavily for a 1-0 defeat that was the worst performance of Benitez's reign.
v BIRMINGHAM, SEPT 22 Was criticised heavily for leaving Fernando Torres out of a game in which Liverpool created many chances, but couldn't score. Dropped points in draws have been the side's weakness this season.
AT BURNLEY, JAN 18, 2005 His most controversial selection of all, when every big-name player was rested for this FA Cup tie, and Djimi Traore scored a comical own goal to concede defeat to the Championship side. Benitez has never lived it down.

Anfield cash for players

By David Maddock The Daily Mirror

Liverpool's American owners have vowed to make money available for Rafa Benitez to splash in the transfer market.
Tom Hicks and George Gillett yesterday claimed that they will scale down plans for a new stadium, partly because they want to support the Spaniard.
Starting with the January transfer window, boss Benitez can expect money to buy a centre-half - with young Argentine defender Ezekquiel Garay and AC Milan's Khaka Kaladze top of his list.
In the summer he wants to secure a long-term deal for Javier Mascherano, and bring in a new striker plus two new wide players, one defensive.
Chief executive Rick Parry said: "It is nonsense to say that there will be an embargo on transfers for the manager - the owners are committed to supporting him as much as possible.
"The objective on day one in building the new stadium was to generate more cash to fund the team and we must never get away from that objective.
"We will still produce a stadium for the fans to be proud of, and the owners will be able to support the manager in the way that he wants."
The Merseyside club have scrapped designs for a revolutionary £450m stadium because they were simply too expensive.
Texan architects HKS will adapt their plan to reduce capacity from 75,000, and cut costs significantly.
Liverpool will also invite Manchester firm AFL to draw up another blueprint for the stadium to replace Anfield, after they initially submitted a design in 2001, which Hicks dismissed as "20 years out of date".

2nd 11 lost to Chelsea's 1st 11

It's so rare to see a striker red-carded. but Crouch proved that it's not impossible. Everything went chaos after we saw the team that Rafa pick for the game against Chelsea is quite unfamiliar names... in fact, not the usual rotated team by having Hack Hobbs and no Stevie Gerrard. Well... let the Carling Cup passed, and hope that a full concentration can be done to regain our position in the Premier League.

19 December 2007

Chelsea v Liverpool: Preview


Chelsea boss Avram Grant has been cheered by the return of midfielder Michael Ballack for Wednesday's Carling Cup quarter-final clash with Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.
Ballack has not played since last April after undergoing two operations on a damaged ankle.
But the Germany international is fit enough to be welcomed back into Grant's squad for the tie.
Grant added: 'Ballack is available. He's a good player and we miss him. He's available and has a lot of qualities. He'll be in the squad tomorrow (Wednesday).'
Chelsea will also welcome back Michael Essien, named in Ghana's 40-man preliminary squad for the African Nations Cup, after suspension.
One man who won't be playing against the Reds is John Terry who will be out for around six weeks after being injured by a tackle from Emmanuel Eboue on Sunday against Arsenal.
Eboue's tackle has been criticised in many quarters but referee Alan Wiley showed only the yellow card to the Arsenal player.
Now during a month when Chelsea admitted a charge relating to the behaviour of their players towards referee Andre Marriner during a match against Derby in November, Grant insists the debate over such incidents is taking precedence over the protection of players.
Grant declared: 'I would say, first, I don't think it's easy to be a referee these days.
'The game is a lot quicker and a lot more aggressive. I won't complain about the referees. I did that once, against Manchester United.
'But, also, I see the main discussion in the last two months is that if Chelsea sent three players or four players to the referee to complain about a decision.
'This is wrong. The main issue is to protect the game and to protect the players from bad injury. That has to be the main discussion.
'A lot of other clubs send more players - including last Saturday when a centre-half ran 50 metres to complain about the referee and nothing happened - than Chelsea do.
'If we are looking at the red card that Michael Essien got against Derby then other players have done more aggressive fouls but (have) not (been) punished.
'On Sunday look which players ran more up to the referee? Ours or theirs? It's part of the game. I don't think it's that important.
'The major problem in terms of discussion in the last few months has been that. That's the wrong message.
'The right message would be how we can better protect the players. There were bad fouls, that foul on John Terry.
'That's the most important thing.'
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez is backing his side to bounce back after two successive defeats and progress to the semi-finals despite title rivals Chelsea being all but invincible at Stamford Bridge.
He claims his team have enough about them to banish the memory of losing to Manchester United and Reading, following a long unbeaten run.
Benitez insists that confidence has not been damaged despite that home defeat by Sir Alex Ferguson's side at the weekend.
He told liverpoolfc.tv: 'If you analyse Chelsea's home form you can see they haven't lost for a long time.
'So it's normal not to get too many good results there. They are really good in front of their own fans but we will try to change the situation.
'We have played a lot of games against Chelsea over the last three or four years. We know they are a top side.
'These games are very special and we seem to have a good record against them in cup competitions especially. We know if we play well then we can beat anyone.
'We are here to win trophies and so we want to get into the semi-final. We will fight until the last minute to get there.'
Benitez could be tempted to shuffle his pack with Xabi Alonso set for a run out after a ten-week absence with a metatarsal injury.
Steve Finnan remains doubtful because of a calf problem while Daniel Agger remains sidelined with a foot injury.
Benitez said: 'The key is to find the balance between the squad and the big names. It is not possible for players to play every game.
'Xabi is training normally and should be available for the match at Chelsea.
'We are going into a busy period with lots of games so it is important to have our best players available.
'I think Chelsea will rest some players because that's normal. But it will still be a good side.'



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