Rafa reveals fourth fears
Rafa Benitez has admitted it will be difficult for Liverpool
to claim a UEFA Champions League berth after their 2-1
defeat to Manchester United.
He told Sky Sports: "It will be difficult, but still we have
to fight. There are a lot of points to play for so we have
to keep going and see what happens in
the next game.
Reds' glory days a distant memory
TEAMtalk reckons Liverpool 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford
proves Liverpool are no nearer to winning the title than
they were six years ago.
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez will argue his strategy was
going exactly to plan at Old Trafford until the intervention
of referee Howard Webb but in truth the Merseysiders are
nowhere near where they want - or need - to be.
A Fernando Torres goal inside the first five minutes was
exactly what the Spaniard would have wanted and may even
briefly have raised hopes of last year's 4-1 win at the home
of Manchester United.
Those dreams evaporated within five minutes when Webb
pointed to the spot for Javier Mascherano's foul on Park
Ji-sung, even though initial contact had been outside the
It was downhill from that point for Liverpool and the 2-1
defeat once again leaves Benitez poring over what might have
Park makes life miserable for Liverpool
Manchester United are back on top of the Premier League
table after seeing off bitter rivals Liverpool at Old
Trafford. Park Ji-sung was the hero for United, stealing in
unmarked to head home the winner 30 minutes from the end.
Liverpool struck first in glorious spring sunshine at Old
Trafford when an unmarked Fernando Torres headed in Dirk
Kuyt's cross after only five minutes but their lead was
Park scored what proved to be the winner when he converted
Darren Fletcher's cross from the right with a brave diving
(The Irish Times)
Maxi for Babel
Maxi Rodriguez comes in for Ryan Babel against Manchester
United this lunchtime.
That's the only change made by Rafa Benitez from Thursday's
victory over Lille.
The team in full is: Reina, Insua, Johnson, Carragher,
Agger, Mascherano, Lucas, Gerrard, Rodriguez, Kuyt, Torres.
Subs: Cavalieri, Aquilani, Benayoun, Kyrgiakos, Babel, Ngog,
(LFC Official Website)
Nicol:Reds need major changes
Former Liverpool defender Steve Nicol believes the club need
to make "drastic" changes if they are to challenge again for
The Reds' only hope of a trophy this season is the Europa
League and they have a fight on their hands to finish fourth
in the Premier League in order to qualify for next season's
Nicol, who coaches US Major League Soccer side New England
Revolution, stopped short of calling for Liverpool boss
Rafael Benitez to be sacked but is convinced a lot has to
change for the Merseysiders to challenge Manchester United,
who they face at Old Trafford today, for top honours.
He told the Independent on Sunday: "Something drastic has to
change because the team is going nowhere and ultimately
someone is responsible for that.
"They need players and they need investment.
"They've spent over £200million so you can't say they've not
had money to buy players. If you don't get the right
players, you're not going to win games, and you have to say
they haven't got the right players as a unit."
That lack of overall quality, as Nicol sees it, is placing
too much pressure on star duo Steven Gerrard and Fernando
Nicol, part of the last Liverpool side to win the domestic
league title in 1990, said: "(Gerrard and Torres) look as
though they're carrying the whole stadium on their back.
Every time they touch the ball they are under pressure to do
"You have big European nights where Gerrard and Torres are
winning the games but it is not possible to carry that
burden every single time you step on the field."
Mascherano demands massive
pay-rise to stay with Liverpool
Javier Mascherano is demanding a huge pay-rise to stay with
The Sunday Mirror says the Argentina captain met with Kop
chief executive Christian Purslow again last week in a bid
to secure his long-term future
at the club.
Mascherano, hit by the hike in the top band tax rate to 50
per cent, wants to see his basic salary rise to £90,000 a
week for a two-year extension that would keep him at
Liverpool for the next four years.
Liverpool are unlikely to resist given that it fits into
their own wage structure and that Barcelona are ready to
renew their interest in the midfielder.
But Mascherano said: “I am waiting for an answer. They know
what I want. At this stage everything depends on Liverpool,
“We have spoken about the contract again and I am ready to
Rising star's double nets u18 win
Substitute Tony Silva fired home a second-half double as
Liverpool under-18s came from a goal behind to beat Derby
County 2-1 on Saturday afternoon.
The Portuguese youngster struck twice in five minutes just
after the hour mark to turn the game on its head, after the
Rams had threatened to go away with an undeserved victory.
It means Rodolfo Borrell's side have now won four of their
last five matches and will head to Huddersfield for next
weekend's encounter full of confidence.
Liverpool under-18s: Oldfield, Flanagan, Robinson, McGiveron
(Silva 55), Sama, Wisdom, Coady, Roberts, Ince, Adorjan,
Ngoo. Subs: Emilsson, Cooper, Chamberlain, Roddan.
(LFC Official Website)
Benitez: United game like any other
Rafa Benitez has played down the rivalry between
Liverpool and Manchester United and vowed to treat Sunday's
game like any other.
The north-west rivals are currently locked on 18 titles
apiece but, sadly for the Merseysiders, their last
championship came 20 years ago.
In the intervening two decades their arch-enemies have
rapidly caught them up and are currently in a three-way
battle with Chelsea and Arsenal as they seek to win an
unprecedented fourth successive Premier League crown.
Liverpool, by contrast, are scrapping for fourth place with
Tottenham, Manchester City and Aston Villa but Benitez,
while admitting the club's fans want to spoil the United
party, has played down the significance of the 19th title.
"I think for all our fans it would be really good [to stop
United]," said the Spaniard.
"The rivalry between both teams is massive but for me, as a
professional, I will keep my feelings inside."
Benitez takes Torres over Rooney
Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez insists he would not swap
striker Fernando Torres for Manchester United's Wayne
Torres has managed 17 goals for the Reds this season despite
only making 23 starts in an injury-hit third season at
Rooney, meanwhile, has been the star of the Premier League
season with 25 goals making him the league's top scorer.
The England international, who has 33 strikes in all
competitions, is now being touted as the best player in the
Anfield boss Benitez appreciates Rooney's ability, but
claims Torres is the player both he and the fans would
choose over any other striker.
"Would I swap? No," Benitez told the Daily Star. "Fernando
is a fantastic player, so is Rooney. There is no doubt
Rooney is very, very good.
"But Fernando is our player. The fans here love him and we
want to keep him for a very long time."
Lucas goes on the offensive for Liverpool FC
It was a moment which underlined the rush of confidence
sweeping through Rafa Benitez’s side.
Lucas Leiva, so often the target of Kopites’ frustration,
embarked on a dazzling run into the penalty box.
Lille defender Adil Rami clumsily upended him, Steven
Gerrard netted from the spot and Liverpool were on course
for a place in the quarter-finals of
the Europa League.
Having been cast aside for Alberto Aquilani against
Portsmouth, Lucas impressed on his return to the heart of
the Reds’ midfield on Thursday night.
The much maligned Brazilian relished the chance to play in a
more advanced role and deserved the plaudits that rightly
came his way.
Lucas, like many of his team-mates, looks rejuvenated ahead
of tomorrow’s lunchtime showdown at Old Trafford, although
the 23-year-old fears he may never win over his fiercest
“I felt I did well but I know some people will not ever turn
to my side,” he said.
“I guess I have to play for the people who believe in me and
who like me. I’m just trying to keep focused and keep
Time for Rooney to show no mercy to Merseyside
Wayne Rooney is fast becoming the irresistible choice for
footballer of the year. He already has 32 goals for the
season and anyone who wants to pick holes in him should do
so knowing he did not get to the top of his profession
without having the ability to swat away criticism in the way
the rest of us deal with a troublesome fly.
But there is still one anomaly when it comes to recognising
him as the “complete striker” – and it is nothing to do with
the argument about his left foot.
The statistics of Rooney’s career are so impressive it is
worth a double-take that the man who is already over halfway
towards Bobby Charlton’s scoring record for England has gone
15 hours and 50 minutes of match-time without finding the
net in his games for Manchester United against Liverpool.
In total there have been 11 games and Rooney has scored
once, going all the way back to January 2005 and a 1-0 win
at Anfield in which, true to form, he celebrated directly in
front of the Kop.
(The Irish Times)
Agger: Reds can beat anyone
Daniel Agger insists Liverpool fully believe they can win
the Europa League and go into their quarter-final against
Benfica with no fear.
A 3-0 win over Lille at Anfield on Thursday night took the
Reds through 3-1 on aggregate and set up a last-eight
meeting with the Portuguese Liga leaders.
Manager Rafael Benitez's former club Valencia or Fernando
Torres' previous employers Atletico Madrid await the winners
in the semi-finals but Agger said they were not worried by
"This is the last trophy we can win so we have to give
everything we can to win it," said the Denmark
"We have to show it on the pitch and I think we did against
"If you have to win a tournament like this one you should
beat them all."
Midfielder Javier Mascherano echoed Agger's comments,
saying: "All the teams in there have showed why they are at
"Any team from now until the end will be difficult. If we
want to be in the final we need to continue improving and
try to take another step up."
Liverpool's match against Lille on Thursday night pulled in
the biggest ratings for television channel Five in the last
five years, with 4million tuning in at its peak.
Benitez will be pleased to be playing the first leg in
Lisbon's Stadium of Light on April 1 as it means they have
home advantage for the all-important second leg.
Midfielder Lucas Leiva believes the Anfield experience can
play a big part in their European future, as it has done in
the past and did do against Lille when the side turned
around a 1-0 first-leg deficit.
"We know the competition is important and we have to keep
going," said the Brazil international.
"Everyone knows Anfield is a difficult place to come and
play but you can see the example of Fulham (who beat
Juventus 4-1 to reverse a 3-1 first-leg scoreline) - each
game is different and we just have to believe."
Rafa wary of Benfica
Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez is expecting a tough assignment
after being drawn with Benfica in the quarter-finals of the
Benfica are currently top of the Portuguese league and beat
Liverpool's Merseyside rivals Everton earlier in the
The Reds know all about Benfica having been eliminated from
the UEFA Champions League in 2006 by the Portuguese giants
and Benitez is happy the second leg will take place at
"We know they are a good team and of course we have played
them before in the Champions League," Benitez told the
club's official website. "They are a massive club with a lot
of support from their fans and it will be a tough game.
"They are top of the table and playing really well at the
moment. I know a number of their players well - Aimar,
Saviola, Garcia - so we know they have
a lot of quality.
"It's always important that the second leg is at home in
front of our fans. We know we have to perform away and then
play well at home. We have the confidence to do that and are
looking forward to the games.
"Because we have played Benfica before they will know
Anfield and so may not be as scared as other teams, but we
have to do things properly and try
to go through."
Benitez could come up against former club Valencia or
Fernando Torres could meet his old colleagues at Atletico
Madrid in the semi-finals if they get past Benfica, but
Benitez is refusing to look too far forward.
"You know my idea is always to take one game at a time,"
added Benitez. "We are only thinking about Benfica at the
moment. They are on a good run so it will be difficult."
Ferguson blasts FA over
Liverpool FC treatment
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has hit out at
the Football Association for their recent leniency towards
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard.
Ahead of Sunday's clash between the two sides, the Red
Devils boss has hit out at Wembley chiefs for their failure
to punish Steven Gerrard for a series of offences in the
past fortnight, including unsportsmanlike and violent
Rio Ferdinand was recently hit with a four-game ban for a
challenge on Hull City's Chris Fagin and Ferguson is furious
at what he feels is double standard's on
the FA's part.
"There is no consistency [at the FA]. It is a dysfunctional
unit," he fumed.
Aqua fitness latest
Sammy Lee is hoping Alberto Aquilani will be available for
selection in Sunday’s showdown with Manchester United at Old
Trafford after the Italian returned to training on Friday.
The Reds No.4 missed Thursday's Europa League victory over
Lille with a virus, and Liverpool will give him every chance
to prove his fitness for Sunday.
"Alberto did some light training for us today so hopefully
he will be ready for the weekend," Lee told Liverpoolfc.tv.
"We don't know at this moment in time if he will be
available but we have still
got 72 hours to the match so hopefully he will be ready for
Rafael Benitez is still without Fabio Aurelio who is
recovering from an injury to his right thigh muscle.
"At this moment in time Fabio is working hard in rehab," Lee
"We are not putting any pressure on him and he will be
looking to get back as soon as he can. He has started doing
work outside again and hopefully fingers crossed you will
see him in the not too distant future."
(LFC Official Website)
Reds face Benfica in Quarter Final
Liverpool will face Benfica in the Quarter Finals of the
The Reds will travel away to Portugal before the second leg
If the reds get past Benfica they will be faced with a
reunion for either Rafa or Fernando Torres’ old club.
The full draw is
Fulham v Wolfsburg
Hamburger SV v Standard Liege
Valencia v Atletico Madrid
Benfica v Liverpool
The Semi Final draw will be
Hamburg/Standard Liege v Fulham/Wolfsburg
Valencia/Atletico Madrid v Benfica/Liverpool * Winner of
this semi final is classed as home team for final.
Brown hits out at FA's failure to ban
Portsmouth midfielder Michael Brown is flabbergasted by the
Football Association's failure to suspend Steven Gerrard
following the Liverpool captain's off-the-ball challenge on
him during Monday's clash between the two teams
Gerrard appeared to hit Brown on the back of the head with
his right forearm but referee Stuart Attwell took no
disciplinary action at the time and the FA has opted not to
punish the Reds star retrospectively.
However, Brown cannot understand the FA's stance,
saying:"'It was pretty obvious he could have been given a
three-match ban but it's not down to me to be charging
"The FA have chosen not to charge him, which some people say
is no surprise there. But what can you do? He's got away
"I think it's pretty obvious that, if I'd done that, I'd
have got a three-match ban, for sure. No question. I don't
know why the FA chose to do that, I'm not sure.
"Perhaps it's because Rio (Ferdinand) could struggle so
Gerrard could be England captain in the summer.
"It's obvious he's caught me. Yes he could have got punished
but he didn't. Good luck to him. If the FA feels they don't
need to punish him then fair play. Gerrard's a fantastic
player and he's done what he's done."
Riera explains Benitez criticism
Liverpool winger Albert Riera has attempted to play down
comments made in the Spanish media in which he heavily
criticised Reds manager Rafael Benitez.
"I do not want to make trouble with the manager," Riera told
Spain's Cadena Ser radio station in quotes reported by the
Daily Telegraph. "I am not interested in making Rafa my
enemy in the slightest, quite the opposite, but ultimately
it is about playing, and if I am not, we have to talk about
why not. We have not had any talk about why it is.
"I played all of last year, and sometimes if I did not play
so well in one game, I would still play the next week. But
this season I have not played at all. When that starts
happening, you have to assume it is something personal,
rather than professional. I believe in these situations it
is better to talk about it and try to fix it, or at least
make sure everyone knows where they stand. I have no problem
talking to people."
He added: "I am delighted to play for Liverpool and if I was
playing, I would love to stay, because it is a brilliant
place to play football. But if I am not playing I have no
chance of going to the World Cup, so I am trying to solve
the problem so I at least have a small chance."
What Liverpool FC have missed is
a fully fit Gerrard and Torres
Liverpool's trials and tribulations throughout this seismic
season have been put down to a missing X-Factor.
Sure, Xabi Alonso has been missed.
But in reality the biggest misses have been a fully fit and
The driving force behind last season’s title push have both
been sorely missed at times this season.
But now the Reds have got their G and T tonic back.
And it was Lille who suffered the hangover.
(David Prentice - Liverpool Echo)
Fergie moves to heal feud
Alex Ferguson has moved to end his year-long feud with
Rafael Benitez by admitting he sympathises with the
under-pressure Liverpool manager.
The two men were embroiled in a war of words last season
following Benitez's infamous 'rant' when he claimed he had a
series of "facts" which proved Ferguson received special
treatment from match officials.
Ferguson responded by claiming that Benitez was "ridiculous"
and "disturbed" and the pair continued to exchange barbs
during the run-in to last season's title race.
The United manager will use his programme notes for this
Sunday's Premier League clash between the sides at Old
Trafford to hand Benitez an olive branch.
With Benitez's future coming under scrutiny due to
Liverpool's early elimination from the Champions League and
struggles to achieve a top-four finish, Ferguson is
understood to have expressed his support for the Spaniard.
Benitez dismisses concerns
losing Gerrard and Torres
Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez insists he has no concerns over
the prospect of losing their star players this summer.
Benitez is well aware of speculation suggesting the likes of
Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard could quit Anfield if
they fail to qualify for next season's Champions League.
But he told liverpoolfc.tv: "In terms of contracts, we are
more or less happy and protected, so it is not a problem.
People are talking too much about 'what if you don't finish
in the top four?' If we can progress in the Europa League
and finish in the top four, it will be easier to talk about
"Liverpool Football Club is a massive club and I am sure a
lot of players are thinking about wanting to come here or
stay here. The majority of the players know it is important
to perform now for the future and they want to stay here."
Benitez hails Torres after double
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez praised the "fantastic job"
of Fernando Torres after the striker scored twice in the 3-0
victory over Lille.
Benitez said his star striker was not yet 100% fit but after
four goals in his last two matches - he scored twice in
Monday's 4-1 Barclays Premier League victory over Portsmouth
- he is approaching it.
"Torres was working very hard and I am really pleased
because he did a fantastic job," said the Spaniard.
"Match fitness is something you can only get by playing
games. I'd like to say he's 50% [fit] but he is close, it is
a question of playing games.
"But I still believe he can improve. You can see there is a
big difference when he plays well and it is the same with