Goodison could get two CL matches

Total Network Solutions have hinted at yet another possibility for the location of the second-leg European Cup qualifier between Liverpool and TNS – Goodison Park, home of Everton. The Racecourse Ground in Wrexham, the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff and even Anfield have all been mentioned previously.

The idea of playing the game in the Reds’ home city appeal to TNS owner Mike Harris: "It would probably make much more sense to play both legs in Liverpool. All of the possible options have their pros and cons but, regardless of that, I don’t think Wrexham would be big enough for the tie and I’m not sure how many people would make the long trip to the Millennium Stadium if we lose the first leg at Anfield."

UEFA’s beaurocrats may well need to be contacted before a decision is made says Harris: "Wherever we play would have to be sanctioned by all the bodies involved and I think Uefa rules say that you must play in the country that you are representing. But all these rules are there to be dismantled, so we shall see."

Everton’s ground holds less than Anfield, but its 40,500 capacity is still more than Wrexham’s. There’s even a possibility that the ground would be closer to capacity for the Liverpool game than it will be when Everton play their Champions League qualifier in August.

Barry Town are the only Welsh side in history to have ever won a Champions League tie, and Harris thinks that the chance of TNS emulating that are slim this season, but he’s still happy: "I think drawing the European Champions is adequate compensation. This is great news for us and for the Welsh league."

The Welsh league was set up to allow the Welsh FA to retain their independent status from England, but gets very little attention in the media, less than the English Conference. Wrexham and Cardiff City both play in the English League as they were given dispensation by UEFA at the time the Welsh league was formed. Harris thinks that the Liverpool tie will do the Welsh league the power of good: "People will hopefully now realise that our league exists because most seem to think we are one below the Conference."
Continue reading Goodison could get two CL matches

Kirkland set for Baggies

Liverpool goalkeeper Chris Kirkland is looking for first-team football for the forthcoming season and now Celtic are offering to give it to him. Kirkland was already lined up for a loan move to West Brom but now Gordon Strachan is trying to tempt the player north of the border.

Assuming Liverpool’s purchase of Villareal’s keeper Jose Reina goes ahead, Kirkland will be one of four quality goalkeepers at Anfield. Kirkland wants to be part of Sven Goran Ericcson’s England plans for next summer’s World Cup and will struggle to get this if he’s not playing regular football. Liverpool are happy to let him spend a season on loan to help him in his wishes, and also to keep him sharp for their own purposes.

The move to West Brom was talked about as soon as the season ended, and Baggies boss Bryan Robson has already spoken of wanting to "borrow" Kirkland.

Celtic are managed by Gordon Strachan now, who was boss at Coventry when Kirkland was there, and the man who gave him his first-team debut. Kirkland is said to still have great respect for his former boss, but feels that a move to the Midlands would be of more benefit. His agent Colin Gordon says that Kirkland’s main concern is ensuring he’s got the visibility that he needs in order to impress the England set-up: "Celtic are pushing really, really hard and Chris still has a very high regard for Gordon Strachan, but Chris feels Albion and The Premiership is the place to be. He is a little concerned Scotland means ‘out of sight, out of mind’. The opportunity for Albion is exciting for him and suits all parties."

Kirkland is another of the many Reds to be getting married this summer, with his ceremony due to take place this weekend, and he is another that will be missing out on a honeymoon. Liverpool’s pre-season training starts tomorrow, but Albion also report back this week and Kirkland wants to be there rather than Melwood to begin a deal that benefits all sides. His agent continued: "Albion get a top quality keeper for a season, Liverpool can see Chris prove his fitness and Chris gets the chance to show everyone what he can do. There will not be a honeymoon. Albion report back next week and Chris is aiming to be there. I’ve spoken to the relevant parties in the last 24 hours and everything is in place for the deal to go through." 
Continue reading Kirkland set for Baggies

Will Rushie return to Anfield?

Liverpool’s forthcoming European Cup tie against Welsh Champions TNS has brought two former Reds goalscoring legends back into the Anfield spotlight.

A player with his own European Cup winners medals, Ian Rush, could even make a playing return at Anfield. Rushie is a close friend of TNS managing director Mike Harris who’s hoping he can persuade the 43-year-old to dust off his boots make an appearance for TNS.

Rush played for a Liverpool legends team at Anfield earlier this year in a Tsunami benefit game and it was clear then that he was still pretty sharp. Rush says he’ll have a word with his friend about the prospect – a prospect he finds mouth-watering: "For me personally, it would be incredible to play against Liverpool. You have to be realistic about things and playing against the European champions would be a massive ask. But I certainly wouldn’t rule it out and will speak to Mike and see what he says."

Speaking to PA, Rush said that fitness wouldn’t be a problem: "I train every day and keep myself very fit by playing regularly. Playing at Anfield again in such a big game would be unbelievable and it would no doubt raise the profile of the game even more. I think I’d rather be sitting in the stand next to Mike watching the game and enjoying myself, but the lure of playing against Liverpool would be something special."

Rush is representing Liverpool in the Master tournament in Sheffield this weekend but didn’t mention calling up any of his other former colleagues to help TNS out. Rush thinks that Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground will be a better option than the Millennium for the TNS home leg. The final decision on the venue hasn’t been made yet, but Rush have his  view: "If the first leg had been at TNS, then I think the Millennium Stadium would have been an ideal venue because of the size of the stadium. But there’s a chance Liverpool will have the tie sewn up after the first leg at Anfield, so the Racecourse Ground would be ideal for the second leg. It’s less than an hour’s drive from Liverpool and rather than have a half-empty stadium, it’s better to play at a packed Racecourse."

Rush and FowlerAnother striking legend for Liverpool, Robbie Fowler, gave his advice to Liverpool on facing the team his current club came up against two years ago in the UEFA Cup. Manchester City played TNS in 2003 and won 7-0 on aggregate, but says the tie will still be difficult for the European Champions: "Playing Liverpool is going to be TNS’s FA Cup Final but it’s going to be very difficult for Liverpool whatever the outcome. Liverpool are in a no-win situation. When you play non-league teams everyone expects you to win. If you win 8-0 everyone says ‘I told you so.’ But if it’s only 2-0 it’s considered a poor result."
 
Fowler says that City were up against an unknown quantity and that this will probably be the same for the Reds: "We didn’t know much about TNS before we played them and Liverpool will be much the same, even if they get a scouting report. The main thing is Liverpool don’t have to travel. When you see their hectic schedule for August and September, playing a team from Wales is the best possible result."
 
Fowler thinks that Liverpool must be positive for the first leg: "Playing the home leg first you would want them to have four or five in the bag and then rest the big boys for the return."

Current Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard is looking forward to the game, but is quick to point out that the Reds aren’t counting any chickens: "We are going to be massive favourites, but we will treat TNS with respect. We won’t underestimate them. This will like their World Cup final, it is that sort of occasion. It is a great draw for TNS. I am sure our lads will swap shirts with their players and I hope that they enjoy it."
 
The fact that this is such a big game for TNS means that their games will be raised – with out without Rushie – and Gerrard says the Liverpool will have to make sure they perform: "We won’t take it easy because that’s when these games become banana skins. I know they have a few Scousers in the their side and I am sure that a few of their players have dreamed of playing at Anfield. It is nice that dreams come true."

Continue reading Will Rushie return to Anfield?

TNS will have to move second leg

The ground where Liverpool play all of their home reserve games looks set to be the location for Liverpool’s first competitive away fixture of the new season. Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground seems the most likely location for the second leg game the Champions League first round qualifier against Total Network Solutions.

The draw for the tie saw Liverpool given a home first leg which will be played on July 12th or 13th. The second leg a week later needs to be switched from the TNS ground because they say it isn’t up to UEFA standards.

Wrexham’s secretary Geraint Parry said that Wrexham and TNS signed agreements to allow the Welsh champions to play at the home of Wrexham. He said:  "The contracts between ourselves and TNS were signed and sent off to UEFA last month, before Liverpool were allowed back into the competition.  The local police gave us the go-ahead and the safety certificate has been issued by the local council. We’ve got 10,500 seats and 5,000 terrace spaces and are confident the Racecourse Ground would prove a suitable venue."

In fact under UEFA rules the 5,000 standing spaces could not be used, meaning the real capacity would be 10,500 for the game. Mr Parry (not to confused with Liverpool’s Chief Executive Rick Parry) said that TNS may now feel that this won’t be enough: "Of course, TNS may now want to switch it to the Millennium Stadium with Liverpool being their opposition, as they did when they played Manchester City. I know that proved lucrative for TNS, but until we hear anything different from them, the game will be played at the Racecourse."

Richard Hann, a TNS director said that there is more chance of the game being played in the North Wales ground: "It’s more likely to be the Racecourse Ground in Wrexham. We only have a capacity of 2,000 so we’re looking at Wrexham I think."

Hannn says that he expects a higher-than-average attendance for the game: "Our home games have averaged just under 200 so we’re expecting a few more there. We’re very pleased. It a good local tie and with good local interest."

Speaking to Sky Sports news, Hann acknowledge the difficulty of the game, but insisted that the team were more than ready for Liverpool: "I’d be crazy to say there isn’t a huge gulf between the sides. I think we’ll be prepared, absolutely up for it. I don’t think we’ll disgrace ourselves."

The general manager of TNS, Ian Williams, was in Nyon for the draw and was heard cheering when his club were drawn against the Reds. He said: "You can’t get draws better than that one. We did give a loud cheer when our name came out of the hat."

He was considering moving the game to the Millennium Stadium at that stage, saying: "I think we’ve got to look at the option of playing the game in Cardiff. We’ll consider that at the appropriate time." He also feels that his side have a chance of causing what would be one of the major upsets in European games for some time by getting a victory over the two legs:  "There’s always a chance. That’s the nature of the game  – two legs, 180 minutes. You never know."

Rick Parry and the European CupLiverpool’s Rick Parry was pleased with the draw for this match and also the second round should they progress – from a travelling point of view mostly. Liverpool’s pre-season plans had to be ripped-up when the decision to put them into the competition from the beginning was made. The first-round will see them at least stay in Britain, and the second-round would be in either Lithuania or the Faroe Isles. Parry said: "We really didn’t want to be travelling to the far reaches of Europe
and the borders of Asia, so logistically it is fine. We have ended up
quite lucky with this one."

Inevitably Parry was asked about the club captain Steven Gerrard’s contract talks. Reports in some parts of the press have claimed that talks have been delayed by Liverpool but Parry refuted this: "We want Steven to stay, there is no cause for concern on our part. There is no delay. We have always said we hope Steven will be with us. We want to win trophies, Steven wants to win trophies and I think captaining us to the European Cup was a pretty good step in the right direction and nothing has changed since then."

In terms of signing new players Liverpool are not going to be rushed just because of Champions League deadlines. Parry said: "We are quite happy and we will be making announcements in good time for the season. There is no immediate pressure, the announcements will be made when we’re good and ready."

According to reports coming from Holland, Rick Parry was recently enjoying a meal in Holland with one of those potential signings. Dutch striker Dirk Kuyt of Feyenoord has stated publically that he’d like to play for Liverpool and the reports claim that the clubs are in talks. Liverpool are said to be looking to make a part-exchange deal for the player who is rated at £10million by his current club. Kuyt scored 29 goals last season. The attempted purchase of Kuyt is said to be in addition to the Reds’ interest in Southampton’s Peter Crouch.

Continue reading TNS will have to move second leg

Liverpool drawn against TNS

Liverpool have been drawn against League of Wales champions TNS in the first qualifying round of the Champions League.

Liverpool will be at home for the first leg which is scheduled for the 12th or 13th of July. The return leg will be played the following week.

It’s not clear yet whether TNS will be allowed to move their leg to another venue, but they had said earlier in the season that they’d love to play the Reds at the Millennium Stadium if they were to play each other. Another option talked about is to play the game at Wrexham’s Racecource Ground (ironically where Liverpool play their reserve matches).

The winners of the game between TNS and Liverpool will face a trip to either Lithuania or the Faroes, with a tie against the winners of game 3 – HB Torshavn or FBK Kaunas .

Full draw for first round:
Game 1 LIVERPOOL v TNS
Game 2 FC Haka v Pyunik
Game 3 HB Torshavn v FBK Kaunas
Game 4 FC Levadia Tallinn v Dinamo Tbilisi
Game 5 NK Gorica v KF Tirana
Game 6 FC Kairat Almaty v FC Artmedia Bratislava
Game 7 PFC Neftchi v FH Hafnarfjordur
Game 8 Rabotnicki v Skonto FC
Game 9 GLENTORAN v SHELBOURNE
Game 10 Dinamo Minsk v Anorthosis Famagusta
Game 11Sliema Wanderers v FC Sheriff
Game 12 F91 Dudelange v NK Zrinjski

Continue reading Liverpool drawn against TNS

Barragan set to sign as Diarra leaves

Sevilla have revealed that their young full-back Antonio Barragan seems sets to move to Liverpool.

Sevilla’s sporting director Ramon Rodriguez said the 18-year-old had rejected professional terms with the Spanish side and he looks likely to move to Anfield. Rafael Benitez has seen enough from his performances at youth level that he’s initiated talks with the youngster:  "He has been negotiating with them for the past six months. We tried to keep him but he has freely chosen another route. We have looked after him but he has decided to leave."

Barragan is a right-back and will be competing with Steven Finnan and Josemi for a place in the first team, although it’s likely that he’ll be used sparingly as the Anfield staff bring him up to speed. Rodriguez was philosophical about losing a player in this way: "The Fifa rules regarding young players who do not have professional contracts have favoured us on many occasions and this time it is Liverpool who have taken advantage of them to take the player," he said.

Meanwhile a player signed by Gerard Houllier as an unknown has made the move from Liverpool to French club Lens – without ever having played for Liverpool. Now an international for France, midfielder Alou Diarra had been signed by Houllier in 2002. He went straight out on loan to Le Havre and then Bastia. Last season he was on loan at Lens and he stated he wanted to stay there. It now seems the terms of the loan agreement gave Lens an option to sign him which they have done for just £1.98million.

At 23 years old, should Diarra progress then Lens may well find he was a bargain, certainly if he looks to move on at a future date. It was never really explained why Houllier signed the player and then let him go straight out on loan. Other Houllier signings were given chances to make an impression at Anfield, but this was never the case with Diarra. He played 34 times for Lens last season.

Continue reading Barragan set to sign as Diarra leaves

Road to Istanbul DVD ready to pre-order

Liverpool FC - Road to IstanbulWe reported yesterday about the plans to release a special two disc DVD covering Liverpool’s victory in the Champions League.  More details have been released about the product and it is now available to pre-order. It’s due to be released on July 18th and the overall running time will be approximately four hours.

Liverpool’s end-of-season review disc, entitled "Champions of Europe 2005" was a DVD well worth watching, as it includes highlights of the season from other games – like the Neil Mellor winner against Arsenal to name just one. Unfortunately though to squeeze in every goal from every game in all competition meant that the disc had to pay less attention to the Champions League games than many would have liked. The new disc is dedicated to the Champions League – one disc containing the whole final, the other containing all of the other games on the road to the final.

The new DVD is called "Liverpool FC – The Road to Istanbul". Here’s the details as given to us by play.com, who are offering the disc for just £14.99, which includes delivery.

Disc 1 – The Champions League Final:

A. C.Milan vs Liverpool, two bastions of European football. Before the match Liverpool, again, were the underdogs. This however was a tag that they had lived with and triumphed from before, so Rafael Benitez’s men held no fear of their Italian counterparts. At half time though these dreams seemed to be shattered as Liverpool were simply outclassed in 45 minutes of exceptional football from Milan. Staring down the barrel at 3-0 down humiliation beckoned, 4-0,5-0,6-0?! The way the first half went these were more than witty rouses from non-Liverpool supporters.

What was to happen now couldn’t have been written to be any more dramatic. Liverpool clawed back the 3-0 deficit and took Milan in to extra time. With penalties looming Jerzy Dudek pulled off possibly the greatest double save of all time to keep his side in it, taking the game in to its denouement. Dudek again would be the hero as his penalty saves handed Liverpool the European Cup for the fifth time – meaning that this time it was theirs for keeps.

Re-live the whole game – extra time, the penalties and the after match celebrations on this fantastic commemorative DVD.

Disc 2 – The Road To Istanbul:

Starting right from the beginning and Liverpool’s 2-0 defeat over GAK in the qualifiers, we bring you highlights and the goals from every game along the road to Istanbul. At 1-0 down at half time to Olympiacos in the final group game Liverpool looked dead and buried. They needed to score 3 second half goals to progress to the knockout stages. A feat which – considering Liverpool had only managed a total of 3 goals in their previous group games – seemed more than unlikely. However, lead by the ever inspirational Steven Gerrard, Liverpool did exactly that and progressed to the knockout stages where Europe’s elite were waiting for them.

In the following months what was to happen was a journey of courage, determination and self belief. Overcoming and tactically out thinking the likes of Juventus and Chelsea, Liverpool would find themselves – against all expectations – back where they belonged: in the Champions League Final.

From our own personal experience discs from play.com have always arrived on or before the release date as they like to ensure you get them on time. To order your copy, just follow the instructions here: Liverpool FC – The Road to Istanbul.

Continue reading Road to Istanbul DVD ready to pre-order

Premiership fixtures announced

The fixtures for the new Premiership season were announced today and see Liverpool travelling to the Riverside Stadium for an opening-day clash with Middlesborough. The season is set to kick off on Saturday August 13th. Liverpool’s first home game of the season takes place the following weekend when they host another North East side – newly promoted Sunderland.

All the fixtures announced today do not take into account which games will be moved for TV coverage and so there may be slight differences before the season kicks off. There’s further possibilities of change to come with Liverpool’s participation in the UEFA Super Cup Final in August and the FIFA World Club Championship in December.

The Goodison derby is to be played over the Christmas period this season. Something else to argue about over Christmas. That match is played on Wednesday 28th of December, with the Anfield return taking place on March 25th.

Another fixture to be aware of is the Liverpool game away to Blackburn Rovers. This match will be taking place on the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, on Saturday April 15th next year. The official Liverpool FC web-site says that officials at Anfield did try to get the fixture moved but due to fixture congestion this just wasn’t possible. Their request for an away fixture was agreed though. The anniversary actually falls over the Easter weekend this year – the day after Good Friday – and Liverpool are scheduled to be playing at home to Fulham on Monday the 17th, Easter Monday.

Full fixtures below, which don’t include European dates.
 
August 2005
Sat, Aug 13 Middlesbrough (A)
Sat, Aug 20 Sunderland (H)
Tue, Aug 23 Charlton Athletic (A)
Friday, Aug 26 CSKA Moscow Super Cup, Monaco
Sat, Aug 27 Arsenal (H)
 
September
Sat, Sep 10 Tottenham Hotspur (A)
Sat, Sep 17 Manchester United (H)
Sat, Sep 24 Birmingham City (A)
 
October
Sat, Oct 1 Chelsea (H)
Sat, Oct 15 Blackburn Rovers (H)
Sat, Oct 22 Fulham (A)
Tue/Wed, Oct 25/26 Carling Cup 3rd round
Sat, Oct 29 West Ham United (H)
 
November
Sat, Nov 5 Aston Villa (A)
Sat, Nov 19 Portsmouth (H)
Sat, Nov 26 Manchester City (A)
Tue/Wed, Nov 29/30 Carling Cup 4th round
 
December
Sat, Dec 3 Wigan Athletic (H)
Sat, Dec 10 Middlesbrough (H)
Sat, Dec 17 Sunderland (A)
Tue/Wed, Dec 20/21 Carling Cup 5th round
Mon, Dec 26 Newcastle United (H)
Wed, Dec 28 Everton (A)
Sat, Dec 31 West Bromwich Albion (H)
 
January 2006
Mon, Jan 2 Bolton Wanderers (A)
Sat, Jan 7 FA Cup 3rd round
Tue/Wed, Jan 10/11 Carling Cup Semi-Final 1st leg
Sat, Jan 14 Tottenham Hotspur (H)
Sat, Jan 21 Manchester United (A)
Tue/Wed, Jan 24/25 Carling Cup Semi-Final 2nd leg
Sat, Jan 28 FA Cup 4th round
Tue, Jan 31 Birmingham City (H)
 
February
Sat, Feb 4 Chelsea (A)
Sat, Feb 11 Wigan Athletic (A)
Sat, Feb 18 FA Cup 5th round
Sat, Feb 25 Manchester City (H)
Sun, Feb 26 Carling Cup Final in Cardiff
 
March
Sat, Mar 4 Charlton Athletic (H)
Sat, Mar 11 Arsenal (A)
Sat, Mar 18 Newcastle United (A)
Wed, Mar 22 FA Cup quarter-finals
Sat, Mar 25 Everton (H)
 
April
Sat, Apr 1 West Bromwich Albion (A)
Sat, Apr 8 Bolton Wanderers (H)
Sat, Apr 15 Blackburn Rovers (A)
Mon, Apr 17 Fulham (H)
Sat, Apr 22 West Ham United (A) Also FA Cup semi-final date
Sat, Apr 29 Aston Villa (H)

May
Sun, May 7 Portsmouth (A)
Sat, May 13 FA Cup Final 

Continue reading Premiership fixtures announced

Liverpool agree media deal in China

The company that runs Liverpool FC’s official website has joined forces with a Hong Kong based company in order to provide Reds fans in the region with access to official Liverpool news and more.

China.com Inc and LiverpoolFC.TV signed the partnership which will see the launch of an official Chinese LFC website and also wireless services.

China.com are described as a "Mobile Value Added Services (MVAS), Internet portal, and online game provider".

The deals gives China.com the exclusive rights for provision of Internet and MVAS services for the European Champions in the People’s Republic of China. They also become exclusive partners and providers of Internet applications and services for the club in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.

The main part of the deal which will be of interest to Reds supporters in the region is for the launch of the official Chinese website for the Reds. Liverpool have millions of fans across Greater China and this site will provide much of the same features as the current official English-language site, with a little extra thrown in by China.com.  The Chinese public will get access to extra services through SMS, WAP, MMS and other mobile technologies.

In a press release, Stephen Michael, the General Manager of LiverpoolFC.TV said, "We are excited to team-up with China.com, one of the top wireless and online services providers in China, to make our official Chinese website and wireless services a reality and provide our fans with an exciting and interactive experience in their native language." LiverpoolFC.TV is a joint venture between Liverpool FC and ITV and is – according to Webtrends – the most visited football club site in the world, with 2.8M unique users recorded last month.

No details were released in terms of the financial benefits to Liverpool of the tie-up, which is part of Liverpool’s aims to reach more and more supporters globally. A two-game visit to Japan had been planned for this summer but had to be cancelled due to the earlier-than-expected start to Liverpool’s competitive season, which starts on July 12th or 13th.
Continue reading Liverpool agree media deal in China