Rafa: City game not decisive
Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez claims the clash with Manchester
City will not decide who finishes in the top four.
The Reds currently hold fourth spot, but City are level on
points and have two games in hands on their Merseyside
Liverpool travel to Eastlands on Sunday and Benitez admits
it is a massive game for his side, but the Spaniard is not
looking too far forward.
"City have two games in hand, and that's important - but
they have to win them," Benitez told the club's official
website. "We just need to concentrate on the next game,
which is against them and will be a massive game.
"Still I have the same idea - it will be a long race and we
have to keep going.
"It's a very important game but even if we win we'll have to
keep winning games."
Benitez added: "I was analysing (the fixture list) a little
bit but not too much," he added. "With the experience we
have we know to take one game at a time. You cannot waste
too much time because you can't control other games.
"We have two or three very difficult games on paper but
every game is tough in the Premier League.
"It's important to have all the squad available, not just
because players like Torres and Yossi and Johnson are
important - but also for the competition in each position."
Premier League ponders
play-offs for Champions League
The Premier League is considering a proposal to introduce a
play-off for the fourth Champions League place.
The top four currently enter the tournament but the new idea
would mean the teams from fourth to seventh playing in a
BBC sports news correspondent Gordon Farquhar said the
Premier League has been presented with "a number of ideas
for altering the competition's format".
But there will be no changes for three years as the next TV
deal is in place.
Farquhar added: "Any changes would need the agreement of 14
of the 20 clubs. But the League says there are many options
and nothing has been decided."
The move is widely thought to be seen as a way of increasing
competition in the Premier League because Manchester United,
Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal have filled the top four
positions in five out of the past six seasons.
The proposal was raised at a meeting of all 20 clubs on 4
February and will be considered again when they next meet in
The top four in the Premier League is the same so far this
season, although Manchester City, Tottenham and Aston Villa
are putting concerted pressure on Liverpool, who are fourth.
(BBC Sport Online)
Benitez hails Mascherano's
inspirational qualities at Liverpool
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is delighted to have Javier
Mascherano in his team, as he believes that the mdfielder is
an inspirational presence in the dressing-room.
Benitez feels that the Argentine is a born leader who can
exert massive influence during games, driving on those
"He is someone who has a very good character, he is very
positive and can inspire those around him," Benitez told his
club's official website.
"He is setting an example to the rest of the team. I am
really pleased with the way all of them are playing at the
minute but Javier Mascherano is a player who is doing really
well for us.
"Look at the [Merseyside] derby. He played in a different
position (right-back) but he still managed to have a massive
impact and everyone can see there is a big difference in
what he is doing now.
"At the beginning of the season it was very difficult for
him. But now things have settled down and he is working very
hard for the team.
"He is back to the Javier Mascherano that we signed. His
commitment to the club is 100 per cent."
Morgan: I could've cut Reds debt
Steve Morgan claims Liverpool would be debt-free if they
accepted his investment offer before George Gillett and Tom
Hicks took charge.
Wolves owner Morgan abandoned his bid for Liverpool in 2004
after "indecision" from the board, with Gillett and Hicks
taking control three years later but having their reign
heavily criticised by supporters for the debt taken on by
the Anfield club.
"I was going to put at the time up to £70million investment
into the club," Morgan told Bloomberg. "It would have been
cash into the club. It would have pretty much reduced the
debt and got the debt down to nil."
Liverpool's debt has been estimated at £237million and chief
executive Christian Purslow has been working on securing
The club have to pay interest on their debt, but Morgan
added: "If I'd have been there, there wouldn't have been
that interest bill."
Juventus assure Liverpool
of no Benitez contact
Juventus have assured Liverpool they have not been in
The News of the World says Juve have written to Liverpool to
vehemently deny claims they tapped up Benitez.
The Anfield hierarchy threatened to report the Italians to
FIFA if they'd made an illegal approach for the Kop boss.
But they've been given private assurances no discussions
That isn't stopping speculation in Italy an offer is on the
table for Benitez and four of his backroom team to make the
move to Turin this summer.
LFC trio star for England U17s
Academy star Conor Coady captained England U17s to a 1-1
draw against France on Saturday.
Fellow scholars Jack Robinson and Andre Wisdom also played
The trio were among the shining lights of this year's FA
Youth Cup run, which ended in disappointment at the fifth
round stage last week.
(LFC Official Website)
Spain want Torres rest
Spanish national team coach Vicente del Bosque has urged
Fernando Torres to delay his return from injury with
Torres returned to training in midweek following a lay-off
with a knee problem and is line to return for the clash with
Wigan on March 8.
European Champions Spain are amongst the favourites to take
the Word Cup crown in July and the 59-year-old says his
country's chances are improved by Torres being kept out of
The comments could anger Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez, who
has seen his talisman play just 21 times this season.
But del Bosque wants the 25-year-old to play less for the
Merseysiders in an attempt to keep him in top condition for
this summer's finals in South Africa.
He told the News of the World: "The fewer games Fernando
plays for his club, the better it will be for us.
"We want him not to play too many games, to recover
completely for the World Cup and have had some rest in
between. We'd like him fresh for the tournament.
"That can only be good news for Spain. We hope Liverpool's
loss will be our gain.
"Fernando Torres represents a crucial part of our squad."
Pacheco close to start
Daniel Pacheco is close to making a first start for the
The reserve team striker impressed in both his subsitute
appearances for the first team and has been exceptional for
John McMahon's reserves all season and is edging ever closer
to earning his first start for Rafael Benitez's side.
"Dani is continuing to train with the first team," said the
"When we let [Andriy] Voronin go [to Dynamo Moscow], we
immediately brought Dani into the group and every day you
can see that he is progressing. His training is good.
"Every day you are thinking about when you can play, he has
been on the bench a lot and sometimes you are thinking when
it might be right to put him on.
"But you also have to think about senior players and giving
time to others who need it. The one thing we know, though,
is Dani is a player with quality.
"He has game intelligence and we know that he can make a
difference. He is still very young but we are pleased with
him and he is doing well."
"Dani has no problems when he is in possession. He is clever
and he always wants to try difficult things but that shows
the quality that he has.
"The fact he is training with us shows what we think of him.
He is with us all the time and that means he can play at any
"It depends on the game but, clearly, if he continues to
keep working as he has been doing, he will definitely gets
Liverpool icon Aldridge yet
to be won over by Ngog
Liverpool icon John Aldridge admits he's yet to be won over
by French striker David Ngog.
In his column for the Liverpool Echo, Aldridge wrote: "Rafa
Benitez works with him every day, so he clearly sees things
in him, but at the Emirates Stadium Ngog looked like a
schoolboy playing in an adult’s match.
"One thing you cannot fault him for his effort; he never
stopped running or trying his hardest to help the team and,
for that, he should be commended.
"Unfortunately, though, in contests of great magnitude
against the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United,
effort alone is not good enough.
"You need to have a clear head and be ruthless when
opportunity knocks but, when Steven Gerrard sent him
skipping through, Ngog was neither and Liverpool suffered
"Put it this way – had Fernando Torres been presented with
the same chance, you would have invested your mortgage on
him scoring; when Ngog was homing in on goal, he never
convinced that he would score.
"In my opinion, Dirk Kuyt should have started up front at
The Emirates because he is vastly experienced and has scored
a few goals recently but Rafa likes playing him in that role
on the right."
Benayoun boost for Benitez
Midfielder Yossi Benayoun has given Liverpool manager Rafael
Benitez a welcome fitness boost by returning to training
after a broken rib.
The Israel international has not played since sustaining the
injury late on in the FA Cup fourth-round replay defeat at
home to Reading on January 13.
At the time Benitez said he expected Benayoun to be
sidelined for a month and so his recovery is on schedule.
However, the Reds boss has consistently stressed he will not
rush back players - Fernando Torres and Glen Johnson are
also out with knee injuries – and Benayoun will be no
“Yossi was training with the team,” Benitez told
liverpoolfc.tv. “Still we have to be careful with his rib
but he was training.”
It is unlikely Benayoun will be involved in Thursday’s
Europa League tie at home to Unirea Urziceni but there is a
possibility he could be in the squad for their crucial
Barclays Premier League clash at Manchester City, their main
rivals for fourth place, a week on Sunday.
Having lost to Arsenal in midweek – ending a seven-match
unbeaten run - Liverpool are above fifth-placed City only on
goal difference having played two matches more and defeat at
Eastlands would seriously damage their bid for Champions
Liverpool FC can’t get sidetracked
by Europa League adventure
A grand day out in Hamburg or an untroubled passage through
to the end of the season in the Premier League?
They are the choices with which you are faced and, it must
be stressed, this is an either/or situation; you can’t have
one and top it up with the other.
In normal circumstances, the vast majority would opt for the
former; nothing beats the feeling of being involved in a
showpiece final nor can the emotions of winning a trophy be
Were Liverpool to go all the way in the Europa League,
skipping through the rounds en route to a glorious
conclusion in northern Germany, not one supporter would be
complaining on the morning of May 13 – or would they?
(Dominic King - Liverpool Echo)
Liverpool FC face
journey into Un-known
Among the eight clubs that joined the Europa League in
December were some of European football's more famous names.
Juventus, Marseille, Atletico Madrid and, of course,
Liverpool had all dropped out of the Champions League and
were ones to look out for in the last 32 draw.
With all due respect, Unirea Urziceni weren't.
Sounding a little like something nasty that might take a
course of antibiotics and a couple of weeks to clear up,
success has suddenly become infectious for the Romanian
Their rise from relative obscurity has been rapid.
Urziceni only won promotion to the third division for the
first time in 2003, with promotion to the top flight coming
three years later.
Indeed, when Liverpool last won the UEFA Cup, Unirea were a
semi-professional outfit, struggling to make ends meet in
the lower reaches of Romanian football.
(By David Randles - Liverpool Echo)