English FA benefit at Liverpool’s expense. Again.

England were today celebrating after results elsewhere meant they had qualified for the World Cup. Celebrations were lessened somewhat for Steven Gerrard however, as Liverpool’s inspirational captain suffered an injury on duty for his country.

Gerrard has returned to Melwood early, and not only will he miss England’s game on Wednesday, he’s also out of Liverpool’s games for the next two to three weeks.

Gerrard has a scan which has shown a strain in the muscle attached to the shin in his left leg.

The FA continue to benefit from Liverpool resources with little or no thanks in return. Gerrard has now been out of action for injury twice this season already, and the last time he was injured his first game back was for England – despite a request from Anfield to allow him more recovery time.

Liverpool’s season started on July 13th this season, and for Gerrard and other Reds internationals the season could last a whole year. The World Cup final takes place on July 9th. The FA are responsible for Liverpool’s extended season. Everton were given the ability to take part in the Champions League qualifiers against the wishes of UEFA when the English FA refused to nominate Liverpool – as holders – for the fourth English place. UEFA had expected the English FA to follow the Spanish FA’s lead from a few years previously, when they didn’t they decided to change the rules to prevent any future FA from being so arrogant. They also tried to punish the FA by making Liverpool play from the outset in the first round, and removing the country protection. Everton were knocked out of the Champions League in their first tie, and then out of the UEFA Cup in their first tie in that competition. Liverpool had an extended season for nothing in the end. England’s recent performances suggest that it’s unlikely for the England contingent to be involved any longer than the group stages. Everton’s poor showing will hit England’s co-efficiency rating for future Champions League places and could backfire even more on the FA if English representation drops to three.

The FA also run the Premiership. Liverpool’s fixture pile-up has already begun with extra games due to involvement in the Super Cup and the six Champions League games that they shouldn’t have been made to play. In December they were due to play Sunderland but this game needs to be cancelled to allow the Reds to represent Europe in the World Club Championship. Sunderland are now claiming they want compensation – around a quarter of a million pounds – because the game would have been shown on pay-per-view television. The fact that the fixture dates for the tournament in Japan were already known before the FA decided the Premiership fixtures should have been enough to prevent the fixture even being arranged. To even then allow it to be pencilled in for TV coverage was more of an example of how the FA work in a world that seems to be removed from reality.

Manchester United took part in a previous incarnation of this tournament in 2000. Back then they complained about the fixture pile-up, even though they hadn’t been forced to play six qualifying games for the Champions League. The FA responded by coming up with the plan to allow them to drop out of the FA Cup that season (United had been demanding a bye). No question of United paying compensation.

There’s many more examples of how the FA have mistreated Liverpool, and it’s time now that the FA started to pay for the trouble they keep causing the Reds. Starting with paying Sunderland compensation for their lack of foresight over the World Club challenge in December, compensation to Liverpool for the extended season that was completely unneccessary, and compensation for players missing due to injury on England duty. For this to happen the former Premiership boss Rick Parry, now Anfield’s Chief Executive, needs to stand up to the FA.

Continue reading English FA benefit at Liverpool’s expense. Again.

Rafa: We don’t want Joaquin

Reports in Spain have been claiming that Liverpool are interested in bring Real Betis Winger Joaquin to Anfield. According the reports, the player’s agent was at Anfield last weekend to see Liverpool beaten by Chelsea, as a guest of new chief scout Paco Herrera.

Rafa Benitez has however denied the reports. According to Rafa, the newspaper has printed something that’s been made up: "These stories are false. I keep reading in the Spanish press that we are trying to take Joaquin to England. The agent did not come to the Chelsea game and we have never made any offer or suggested other players as part of a transfer deal."

Earlier in the week Rick Parry admitted continued Liverpool interest in Portugeuse winger Simao, and Liverpool were only thwarted in their move for Chilean winger Mark Gonzales by work permit problems. Rafa says that Joaquin is simply not wanted by the Reds, but has a theory as to why the stories have appeared: "Our position is clear. We are not interested in bringing the player to Anfield and I can only assume that people in Spain are trying to move the player out of Betis."

Continue reading Rafa: We don’t want Joaquin

Cisse hates life on the bench.

Liverpool striker Djibril Cissé has told reporters in France that he’s so unhappy at being left on the Reds bench that he’s thinking seriously of a move away in the winter transfer window.

Djibs was actually brought to Anfield in a deal brokered by Gerard Houllier before he was sacked. When Rafael Benitez arrived the French star arrived at the same time, and many reports claim that Rafa doesn’t rate him.

This season coach has been using his own new signing Peter Crouch as a lone striker. Cisse has been tried as a right-winger, but despite his speed has yet to show anything like the quality in that position that Liverpool need. More often than not he’s been on the bench, and feels it could be time for a change soon.

At a press conference on international duty for France, Cissé said: "I accept Rafa Benitez’s decisions and I’m patient. But I’m not going to stay on the bench all season. At the moment it is only the start of the season but if the situation does not change, my thinking will be different in December. "

Cisse may not have a choice – last season’s constant complaints at Rafa’s selection policies by Milan Baros saw the Czech striker leave the club during the summer. Cissé’s public complaints won’t be viewed too kindly by Rafa, meaning Cissé’s departure in the new year is extremely likely.

Cissé’s main complaint at a lack of appearances is fuelled mainly by the fact that this is a world cup season, and if he’s either unused or used out of position his chances of appearing in Germany are limited. The same reasons are what almost brought Michael Owen back to Anfield, which does raise questions as to how Liverpool might have played had he returned.

The lack of league success so far this season may yet force Benitez to change his tactics, and if Cissé gets his chance it’s up to him to show the boss what he’s capable of.

Continue reading Cisse hates life on the bench.

Left-footed Reds looking to international stage

The disappointment for Arsenal defender Ashley Cole in having to withdraw from the England squad due to a stress fracture in his foot has brought joy to Liverpool’s left-sided player Stephen Warnock. Warnock has been playing at left-back for Liverpool for most of the season so far, and is now included in the squad for games again Austria and Poland. His chances of getting a game seem limited, but the experience will be worth a great deal to him.

According to England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson there’s a possibility of even using Liverpool’s central defender Jamie Carragher as a left-back, a position he played regularly under Gerard Houllier. Eriksson said: "We have a lot of options there: Jamie Carragher is one, Warnock is another, Kieran Richardson is playing left-back for Manchester United at this moment. It is a pity to lose Ashley Cole, probably the best left-back in the world.  It so often happens when one full-back is injured the other is as well in Gary Neville and Ashley Cole."

Also looking at a chance of being involved for his country is Liverpool’s Australian winger Harry Kewell. Kewell’s last competitive appearance was in the European Cup final in May, when he was forced to leave the field due to injury. The injury ultimately needed surgery in the summer, and since then he’s only made a brief appearance for the Reds’ reserves. Despite this lack of action though the Australian staff feel they have a right to play him in the friendly this weekend. According to the Socceroo’s assistant coach Graham Arnold, "It would be crazy to start him, but when the game slows down Harry should be on the field."

Rafael Benitez will be hoping that the Australian staff are cautious with the player. If Kewell could come back into contention for the Reds after the internationals, and show anything like the form he’s capable of, Liverpool’s lack of quality out wide could be solved. Although criticised by many Reds fans, Kewell has suffered numerous injuries since arriving at Anfield, but played an important part on the way to the Champions League victory, notably in the game at Anfield against Olympiakos.

Kewell needs to show what he can do for Liverpool before the transfer window opens up again. Liverpool will make a move again to get a work permit for Mark Gonzales, who plays on the left, and Reds Chief Executive Rick Parry has admitted that they’ll be working hard to bring the right-sided winger, Benfica’s Simao Sabrosa to the club in the winter transfer window.

An offer of £12m was rejected in August, as Benfica upped the fee at the last moment. Parry says that they’ve not yet given up on him though: "After we failed to get him we have continued to follow him and monitor his performances and progress. We still need a player like him and we appreciate his qualities."

Xabi Alonso thinks that it’s important for Liverpool to strengthen in January. He says: "We are trying to use all the options we have at the moment, but you can see we need a little more. All we can do is wait until the transfer window opens again in January. Until then we must start winning as soon as possible because we are not in a comfortable position."

Continue reading Left-footed Reds looking to international stage

Reds skipper and manager try to stay positive in defeat

Steven Gerrard was asked if the Premiership title race was over after today’s defeat against Chelsea, but denied it was: "We’re a long way behind but I’m not going to concede any title in October. I’m the captain of the club and it’s my job to drive the lads on. I don’t think there’s a massive gap between the teams and I don’t think the gap is 4-1. We played really well and the scoreline does not give a true reflection of the game."

Echoing the views of anyone who took more than a superficial look at the game, Gerrard feels that the two teams are close to each other in ability, and that the half-time score of 2-1 was more of a reflection of how things should have been. Gerrard says: "We were disappointed to come in 2-1 down. We were still in it but we were punished twice when we were chasing the game. Every team in Europe has weaknesses but they have very few and they are hard to find. They don’t leave much space and they are a great side."

Again Liverpool had no luck with the referee – Didier Drogba was let off from being cautioned despite persistent fouls and complaints. When he was eventually booked, for raising his arms at a Liverpool player, referee Graham Poll decided to book Jamie Carragher too. Carragher’s crime? He stepped in to try and make peace as the hot-headed striker was attempting to attack another Liverpool star. These kinds of decisions don’t necessarily change games, but certainly cause concern.

As for manager Rafael Benitez, he feels that Liverpool were punished because their need to score allowed Chelsea to score on the break: "In the first half we played really well and in the first 25 minutes we were in control.  We were pressing them at the start of the second half and the third goal was the most important one. It’s more difficult to score two goals for a draw. We try and go
higher with more risk but we gave them chances on the counter-attack
and it is difficult when you have to play high up the field."

Rafa may be wishing he’d been able to sign Mark Gonzales and Simao Sabrosa for the new season. The two wingers would have been ideal for today’s game. For now thought Rafa is going to think about the future, not the past, and as most of his players disappear for the international break, Rafa will be planning the next match:  "We need to think about the next game. I’m not thinking about Chelsea, Arsenal or Manchester United, I’m thinking about how to improve the team and prepare the team for the next game."

If Liverpool could start winning games against the teams outside that top three, they’d have more chance of being in contention for the title. Beating the top three should be the icing on the cake, but too many draws against teams like Birmingham and Middlesborough will see Liverpool struggling to qualify for the Champions League again, let alone win the league.

Continue reading Reds skipper and manager try to stay positive in defeat

Jose glad for chance to gloat

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho tonight demanded that "people in general" start to respect him and his team. He said: "We deserve more respect, not from Liverpool but from people in general. We are a good team. We have eight matches and eight victories, with 16 goals, but people say we cannot play, that we are a group of clowns. This is not right. My team showed big personalities but the title is not over yet."

The fact that Mourinho’s own players claim the title is now a formality was conveniently ignored. The fact that most people’s reason for disliking Chelsea – and this is from more supporters than just Liverpool’s – is because of the arrogance of the whole Chelsea set-up. Emails sent to this site last season when Chelsea were knocked out of the Champions League by Liverpool illustrates this – many fans of many teams who were all delighted to see Chelsea out of the cup.

Another club in London claim that nobody likes them and they don’t care – Chelsea seem to be aiming for a bit of that themselves. Basking in the glory of a victory that was deserved – although not as much as the scoreline suggested – Mourinho chose to have a go at Liverpool verbally: "I know they cannot play against us face to face. They have to defend or wait for a mistake and a goal. When they play against us face to face they can’t win."

In fact it was a mistake by Djimi Traore in conceding a penalty which allowed Chelsea to go in front. Although Liverpool equalised, Chelsea again profited when Sami Hyypia seemed to go to sleep when faced with Drogba. After that Chelsea shut up shop and scored twice more on the break as Liverpool went all-out to try and score. Liverpool have still got a lot to learn, but Rafa Benitez will ensure they do learn it.

Mourinho enjoyed the chance to have a go at Liverpool: "If Rafael Benitez says we have weaknesses that must be because he knows. He is a great manager but I also know the weaknesses of my team. The whole team was excellent. Didier Drogba was absolutely incredible. The way he dominated everything was incredible."  In fact Drogba should have been yellow-carded early in the game, but for whatever reason referee Graham Poll decided a talking to was enough for him. Lampard was booked for inciting the crowd, it’s unlikely the FA will take any further action against him. They’ll certainly not take action anything like Robbie Fowler received when he taunted Everton fans in a derby and ultimately missed the end of the season.

Lampard himself chose to avoid making any career-threatening tackles today, anonymous apart from the penalty he scored. He said: "It’s a great result for us. We showed we mean business here. There was a lot of talk about us being scared of coming here – we are not scared of going anywhere. A lot of things were said about us after the Champions League game in midweek, but we did our talking out on the pitch so we are delighted."

Lampard wants people to stop criticising them in the press: "We felt a lot of things were said that were wrong. We want to now keep our focus. We don’t think we are invincible but we are really happy with this win." 
Continue reading Jose glad for chance to gloat

Crouch one of four Reds in England squad.

Reds striker Peter Crouch has been called up into the England squad by  Sven Goran Ericsson for the forthcoming qualifiers for the World Cup this summer.

Also included are Liverpool keeper Chris Kirkland – currently on a season-long loan at West Brom, defender Jamie Carragher and captain Steven Gerrard.

After some recent poor results, England are hoping for an improvement in their fortunes if they are to make it to the finals in Germany.

Continue reading Crouch one of four Reds in England squad.

Gerrard: We need to attack

Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard wants his team-mates to answer the calls from the Kop and "attack, attack, attack!" against Chelsea today at Anfield. Gerrard says: "I think we could do with being a little more adventurous in certain areas
and push on that little bit more, while a bit of luck also wouldn’t go
amiss. If decisions had gone our way on Wednesday we’d have won so there’s no
reason to believe we can’t win on Sunday."

Gerrard came close to becoming team-mates with Lampard, known by many at Anfield as "Fat Frank". Chants from the Kop claiming that Lampard is overweight were all part of the fun on Wednesday night, and although they were unlikely to bother Lampard, Gerrard knows that his team can rile Chelsea in other ways: "We know we can get at Chelsea and that we can beat them."

Chelsea attempts at upsetting Liverpool have mainly been focussed on pretending the game today doesn’t matter. Mourinho claims Liverpool can’t afford a draw, Gallas claims winning the Premiership is a formality. Gerrard doesn’t buy into this: "I
know what Jose Mourinho has been saying about this being a ‘must-win’ game
for us and that we’ll be out of the title race if we don’t. A defeat would certainly make life more difficult for us but it’s too
early in the season for that kind of talk."

Liverpool do need to start turning draws into wins, but with 33 games still to play for Liverpool Gerrard knows that time is still there to improve. Gerrard says they always want maximum points at home: "It is a hugely important game, that’s for sure, but every time we play at
home is a must-win for Liverpool. Three points are a necessity for us
whoever we are playing and we’ll be approaching it like we do any other.

Chelsea have managed to win every league game this season, although in some games they’ve far from dominated. Their undoubted skill and ability has been helped along by that bit of luck that any successful team needs, but for the press to claim they have already won the league and won’t lose is typical media short-sightedness. As Gerrard says: "Everyone is saying that they are invincible and unbeatable, and that no
one was going to take any points off them but we have proved to ourselves
that the gap is not that big. On Wednesday I think the first half was pretty even and that we cancelled
each other out a bit, but we made all the running in the second half.
Overall I would say we controlled the game and were the team that looked
like they wanted to win it more."

Now Liverpool are in confident mood: "The result gives us massive belief that we can match them again and take
the game to them. It also instills a confidence in us that we can claim all
three points."

This confidence is good, but Liverpool aren’t blind to the fact that Chelsea’s boss Mourinho is a poor loser and won’t like to see his team beaten. His opposite number Rafael Benitez is prepared for this, saying: "People used to talk about the rivalry between Manchester United and
Liverpool. Arsenal came onto the scene and were the best team for a few
seasons and everyone wanted to beat them, but now it’s Chelsea. When you know you’re competing with each other for trophies, there is sure
to be a rivalry. They try to play mind games with us with their words, but
we always stay focused on our game."

Continue reading Gerrard: We need to attack

Chelsea say winning the league is a formality

The seventh meeting in just short of a year between Liverpool and Chelsea takes place at tomorrow, with Chelsea’s boss Jose Mourinho still trying to rattle Liverpool off the field. After playing for a draw in midweek in the Champions League clash, Mourinho hinted at doing the same tomorrow – because he says it will hurt the Reds more than them to come away with only one point:: "Both teams are in a very good situation in the Champions League, but on Sunday it is a competition where we are in a very good situation and they are not. So, if they lose on Sunday, I think it is finished for them."

It’s true that Liverpool need to start turning draws into wins, but Mourinho’s cockiness may yet again prove to be his downfall. Chelsea’s only other real test in the Premiership so far came against Arsenal when they narrowly won 1-0. A last-minute escape against Wigan is not something that Jose will brag about too much, and other wins include matches against newly-promoted Sunderland and nearly-relegated West Brom. Chelsea are six points clear at the top right now, but will have a game in hand after tomorrow’s match. Liverpool have played only five league games this season, so still have time to start progressing.

The cockiness it seems is spread throughout the Chelsea squad. Confidence always overlaps cockiness, but it’s safe to say that comments attributed to Chelsea’s William Gallas are more than confidence. The arrogant comments were: "If we can carry on like we’ve started this season we will practically be champions in January. If we can do that it will give us a good chance to concentrate more on the Champions League. Our aim is to win in Europe, especially after getting knocked out in the semi-finals two years in a row, because we know the Premiership will be ours sooner or later." That’s right, they know the Premiership will be theirs.

If Liverpool are unable to field a full-strength team tomorrow it will be no thanks to Chelsea. Frank Lampard’s challenge on Steven Gerrard was the biggest disgrace of many bad tackles he made in the game, but most of these went unpunished. Last season’s clash at Anfield in the league saw Lampard break
Xabi Alonso’s ankle. John Terry was booked in the week for a foul on Alonso, and unhappy at having a decsion against him the Chelsea captain was then accusing Xabi of being a diver. As Xabi explained, this wasn’t true: "Terry was asking me about when he was shown a yellow card and told me he did not foul. He was furious because he was shown the yellow card and in the Champions League it is not good because with two cards you are suspended and I know because of last season." Last season Alonso missed the Anfield leg of the Champions League tie thanks to a dive from Gudjohnsen, bringing him a yellow card and a one-match ban. Alonso continued: "It was a foul. I felt he kicked my ankle from behind and that was what got a booking for."

Xabi thinks that the game tomorrow will be similar to the European clash, but would like to see Liverpool get the three points they deserved during the week: "It is important to try to win on Sunday and score one goal at least. Wednesday gave us the confidence to go and try to get a result. It will be quite a similar game. Crouch played well against two strong centre-backs in Carvalho and Terry. He gave us the chance to go forward. He is important to us, trying to get forward and he does very well. We hoped to win all the home games in the Champions League and I think we deserved to win."

Alonso will probably get some abuse in the press from Mourinho now, like his compatriate Fernando Morientes did for daring to criticise Chelsea in the press. He’s only telling the truth though: "We did more than them in attack and they were waiting in the second-half for a counter attack. They were more happy than us with a draw. We are going to approach Sunday in the same way."

As for Reds boss Rafa Benitez, he believes that Chelsea must be getting worried. Only poor refereeing decisions kept Chelsea from a midweek defeat against Liverpool, and Rafa says that explains the criticism from the Russian camp: "When they are talking and talking and talking before the game it means they are worried, maybe they are afraid, I don’t know. Maybe he needs to talk because it’ll be difficult to control the games and to beat us. Against us they have a lot of problems because we approach the games with a lot of confidence and we are not afraid. We know that we can beat them. "

In fact Rafa hits the nail on the head – showing too much respect to teams like Chelsea and believing all the hype is not a good way to go into a game. The sooner that other Premiership teams believe that the better. Rafa continued: "I don’t talk a lot about the other teams, I prefer to spend my time talking about my team. I cannot stop him if he wants to talk about my team. If they talk a lot, it means we are doing the right things. "
 
"We played better than them on Wednesday, they are at the top of the league with a squad maybe as good as anyone in the world and we played at the same level as them. We had control in midfield, defence and attack. As a manager that makes me happy. I do not want to keep talking about the penalties we were denied, but if you watch TV you could see there was no doubt, two, maybe three."

Rafa was asked if Chelsea were now best team in the world. Not really a question to ask the manager of the only club in Europe this season to be competing in the FIFA World Club Challenge tournament, but he replied anyway: "It is a very difficult question. What makes you the best team in the world? Chelsea are a very good team, they are difficult to beat, but to me, Arsenal played much better football two or three years ago. They won matches and were exciting to watch. Barcelona and Milan too, they play much better football, they create entertainment and win matches so how can you say Chelsea are the best team in the world?"

Continue reading Chelsea say winning the league is a formality