Players feel tonight’s game matters

If you believe the two coaches, tonight’s match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge doesn’t particularly matter. Both managers claim to be more interested in their next Premiership games, seeing as qualification is already in the bag for both teams. That’s not what players from both sides are saying though – those that will be on the pitch seem to be looking to take the only prize left from the group – top spot.

We always feel there’s a need to have a pinch of salt handy when Chelsea’s boss Jose Mourinho is speaking. He plays things down sometimes a little too much to be believed, but perhaps he’s got a point tonight for once: “I would prefer to beat Wigan than Liverpool, because to be first or second has no consequences and because beating Wigan means three more points in the direction of the Premiership.”

The only thing that gives away a hint that Jose is bothered is his customary dig at how Liverpool sent Chelsea out of the Champions League last season, and how the winning of the league title is much better: “In the Premiership the best team wins and if we don’t win it we have to accept that somebody was better than us over 38 matches. In the Champions League, you always need a little bit of luck so not always the best team wins. Liverpool had luck against Chelsea by scoring that goal in the semi-final last year.”

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Marseille boss claims Cisse’s going home

With just a few more weeks to go before the transfer window get opened up again, the chairman of French side Marseille has possibly stirred up a storm again over Djibril Cisse.

Speaking to L’Est Republicain today, Papa Diouf claims that Marseille are in with a chance of taking Cisse back to France on loan for the rest of the season, with a view to the deal being made permanent after that. Asked if the 24-year-old was on his way to the Stade Velodrome, Diouf said: "It’s a definite possibility. Djibril is unhappy with the amount of time he’s playing for Liverpool, and has Marseille in his heart."

Diouf indicated that Cisse has been pushing himself for a move to Marseille, saying: "He has clearly expressed his wish to join us. We are looking for a good-value striker, so his wish isn’t going to fall on deaf ears. For us Djibril Cisse would be the ideal player to reinforce our squad."

Diouf also hinted at talks with Liverpool having already taken place: "There is contact. A six-month loan with an option to extend his stay if all goes well is possible. However this is a complicated situation and we have to take it step by step".

Diouf’s words seem to contradict what was said at in the Liverpool camp last week. Rafael Benitez claimed that Cisse was not going to be leaving in January. Speaking on Friday, the Liverpool boss said: "Selling Cisse would not make sense in January. We are still in the Champions League. Where would any club find a replacement for their top scorer who was not cup tied in European competition? It would not make sense for anyone to sell a player of such quality in the transfer window with the European Cup still to be contested."

It’s interesting to note that Benitez is not ruling out a departure for Cisse at the end of the season, but other than that it’s unlikely to see Cisse move in the January transfer window unless the player himself demands a transfer.
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Rafa: I’m staying, end of story

After winning the European Cup with Liverpool in May, Rafael Benitez had a fairly quiet time, still working but rarely needing to bother with press conferences. This soon changed with the commencement of the transfer business of the summer, and before too long Steven Gerrard’s future was in question and the press were camped outside Melwood. After that the rest of the summer seemed to be all about Michael Owen and whether he was about to replace Djibril Cisse. That continued through until the end of August when the transfer window was closed. Day after day Rafa had to answer the same questions, always with the same answer. Then the permanently-repeated topic became Peter Crouch’s lack of goals. This was the subject of every press conference from sometime back in September until last weekend, when Crouch got his first TWO goals for the club.

Now that’s over, Real Madrid have created a new question for the interviews and press calls for Rafa. Basically, until Real appoint somebody to their position of coach, Rafa will be asked, "Are you going to join Madrid?"  For however long this takes, Rafa’s answer will be the same as it was today: "I am happy at Liverpool, I am Liverpool’s manager and I have a job to do here."

He knew it was likely to be asked, and he knows it will keep being asked, but Rafa is determined to continue Liverpool’s improvement and will not be talking to Real – even if Liverpool gave him permission: "I have said this in the past and now I have an important game in the Champions league against Chelsea to think about and that is all that is on my mind. I certainly will not allow this speculation to disrupt my preparation for the game, but as I say, I am happy here at this club."

Rafa has already talked of his dreams of managing at Anfield for at least 10 successful years, before handing over to Steven Gerrard, so the press are wasting their time asking him about it really. Not that it will stop them of course.

Liverpool are on a good run at the moment, another clean sheet at Anfield on Saturday saw them come out of the weekend in third place in the league. They’ve done this with a run of eight games unbeaten, eight clean sheets. They’ve won seven of those eight games, and have only conceded in two games at Anfield this season. One of those games was against Chelsea, when they conceded four goals in a game where the result didn’t really tell the true story of the game. Tomorrow sees the two teams meet up again, this time at Stamford Bridge, but Rafa says that the match doesn’t really matter all that much: "My idea is to always win every game we play and we will do our best against Chelsea but this is one for us without pressure. We would like to finish first in the group but this is not the most important game of the season for us. We have already qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League, we would like to keep our good run going but there isn’t any pressure on us for this game."

Rafa also paid a quick compliment to their opponents tomorrow: "Chelsea are a good team with a good manager and it’s fantastic for both clubs to have already qualified. The last game was not good for us but we matched them before and played at a very good level."

And about that Madrid job? Rafa repeated: "All I am thinking about is my team and three more points."
Continue reading Rafa: I’m staying, end of story

Real looking for new coach

With Real Madrid finally sacking coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo yesterday the speculation now begins as to who his successor will be.

Luxemburgo was coach at Real for just short of a year but failed to bring the success that the Real fans craved and it was only a matter of time before he was told to leave. Even though they had won the day before the board ran out of patience and installed reserve team coach Juan Ramon Lopez Caro in temporary charge.

Luxemburgo left with the team in fourth place despite a summer spending of £60million.

Rafael Benitez will undoubtedly be linked with a move to the Spanish side that he’s so fond of, but with him still having four years left on his contract, and a desire to see the job out, it’s not likely he’ll take the job on. It won’t stop the speculation though, and the English press have chosen to link Rafa, Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho with the job. The press in Spain have also included Juventus coach Fabio Capello, a former Real manager who won the Spanish title with them in 1997. The former Celta Vigo and Porto boss Victor Fernandez is another name in the frame, as is England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson.
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Parry: It’s Crouch’s goal

Peter Crouch scored his first and second goals for Liverpool yesterday at Anfield, but for some reason there were people wanting to credit the goal to the opposition keeper as an own goal.

The Press Association amended their records after the match, changing it from a Crouch goal to an own goal. Sky Television had two studio guests arguing over whether it was a goal – former England under-21 manager David Platt adamant it was an own goal, former Red Jamie Redknapp explaining clearly why he thought it was Crouch’s goal.

The ball had already been deflected by a Wigan defender before the goalkeeper made an attempt to try and stop the ball going in the net. The claim that the goalkeeper had scored it seems strange, given that it was already on its way in. There’s no difference between the goalkeeper touching the ball this way and a goalkeeper getting a hand to a penalty and seeing it go in.

If the powers-that-be want to start crediting goals to the last player to touch it, regardless of whether the ball was already on target, then that’s fine with us – just make sure that it’s done consistently. That includes goalkeepers getting fingertips to penalties, or not quite diverting a free kick round the post.

As far as Liverpool FC are concerned there’s no doubt about the goal being credited to Crouch. Rick Parry, the Reds Chief Executive, said it will be officially recorded at Anfield as Crouch’s goal: "It’s ridiculous that people are suggesting Peter’s opener this afternoon was an own goal. Just because the goalkeeper touches a goalbound effort before it enters the net does not mean that it should be registered as an own goal. Our official records will record that Peter scored twice against Wigan Athletic. There is absolutely no reason for any panel to consider whether the goal should be credited to him."

Crouch was stunned to be asked if he’d thought the first goal was his. Speaking to Sky after the game he said: "The first one took a big slice of luck obviously but that’s what I’ve been missing recently. To get the goals today was great. I’m pleased I can move on now, hopefully. I’m really pleased because I was getting a bit of stick recently. It was a great team performance and it was good to get the three points." Crouch was more pleased about the fact that the drought was over: "I am naturally buoyant and a happy person but at times it was getting me down but the goal has gone in and I can get on with things now."

Crouch’s boss Rafael Benitez agreed: "I’m pleased for Peter to get his two goals and he deserved them. The first goal is his. I was at a manager’s meeting in Geneva recently with FIFA and we agreed that when a striker has a shot and it’s deflected then it’s the striker’s goal."

The fact is that it’s great for Crouch to have broken his duck, it’s a shame that there’s now going to be so much debate over what is really such a minor issue. It’s not an argument over whether a goal should have stood or not, whether a player should have been sent off or not. It makes no difference to the result. So why the debate? Purely and simply to appease the bookmakers, who need to reduce their payout for the first goalscorer. The Press Association have awarded it as an own goal. Liverpool FC have awarded it to Crouch. The FA will no doubt say one thing on their website and then something else entirely different a little later. No doubt the bookies have it in their rules who’s word they take in these instances, but why should a few journalists get the say in whether it was a goal?

Maybe it should be something decided by the Pools Panel.
Continue reading Parry: It’s Crouch’s goal

Premiership Result: Liverpool 3 Wigan 0

Premiership Result.

December 3rd 2005.

Liverpool 3 – 0 Wigan
Crouch 19, 42
Garcia 70
Half-time 2-0.

It’s all over at Anfield and at long last the first question from reporters at Liverpool press conferences will have to change, because Peter Crouch has scored. In fact the Liverpool number 15 scored twice as Liverpool went on towards three points and second place in the League. A second-half goal from Luis Garcia made sure of all three of those points.

For Crouch these were his first goals for Liverpool since joining in the summer and they bring to an end that infamous drought. His first goal came on 19 minutes and was from a couple of deflections, with some suggestion it may yet be decided it was an own goal. Crouch is claiming it was his and with replays showing that his original shot was on target it would be difficult to see how it could be ruled as anything but his goal.

No doubt about Crouch’s and Liverpool’s second, which came on 42 minutes, with a great piece of skill to chip the goal into the back of the net. Now we wait for his first goal at the Kop end and a chance for him to fulfil his promise of diving into the Kop.

Luis Garcia’s second half goal was another deflection, the Spanish star himself in the right place to deflect a header from compatriate Fernando Morientes into the back of the neck.

Despite the 3-0 scoreline, and an excellent performance from Liverpool, Wigan showed why they had got as high as second in the table a couple of games ago. Former Red and lifelong Kopite Paul Jewell has a team that continued to fight for the whole 90 minutes, never once letting their heads go down. They lost captain and inspiration De Zeeuw on thirty-five minutes and had a number of great saves from stand-in keeper Pollitt, but always looked capable of scoring. They are in the middle of a run of tough games at the moment, today’s match part of five matches that also sees them face Arsenal, Spurs, Chelsea and Manchester United.

It was a bad day all-round for one former Red, with Henchoz booked on 82 minutes and certainly not playing as well as he has done so far this season for Wigan, perhaps not helped by the absence for much of the match of his partner De Zeeuw.

Liverpool’s second position will be temporary if either Arsenal or Manchester United can win this afternoon, but Liverpool’s sixth successive League win, all won without conceding a goal, means that they are certainly capable of finishing ahead of those two sides as long as they keep playing to the same level.

Liverpool: J Reina, S Finnan, S Hyypia, J Carragher, S Warnock, S Luis Garcia, S Gerrard, X Alonso (D Hamman, 67), H Kewell (H Kewell, 62), P Crouch (D Cisse, 73), F Morientes
Unused subs: S Carson, Josemi
Booked: Hyypia 84

Wigan Athletic: M Pollitt, P Chimbonda, S Henchoz, A De Zeeuw (M Jackson, 35), L Baines, J Bullard, G Kavanagh (J Skoko, 78), D Francis (D Connolly, 66), L McCulloch, J Roberts, H Camara
Other subs: G Walsh, R Taylor
Booked: Chimbonda 73, Henchoz 82

Referee: Uriah Rennie
Continue reading Premiership Result: Liverpool 3 Wigan 0

Crouch has scored. Twice.

Half-time at Anfield and Peter Crouch has scored twice to put Liverpool 2-0 up. These were his first goals for Liverpool since joining in the summer and they bring to an end that infamous drought. His first goal came on 19 minutes and was from a deflection, with some suggestion it may yet be decided it was an own goal. No doubt about the second, on 42 minutes, with a great piece of skill to chip the goal into the back of the net.

Now we wait for his first goal at the Kop end.

Liverpool 2 – 0 Wigan
Crouch 19, 42

Liverpool: J Reina, S Finnan, S Hyypia, J Carragher, S Warnock, S Luis Garcia, S Gerrard, X Alonso, H Kewell, P Crouch, F Morientes
Subs: S Carson, J Riise, D Cisse, D Hamann, G Josemi

Wigan Athletic: M Pollitt, P Chimbonda, S Henchoz, A De Zeeuw (M Jackson, 35), L Baines, J Bullard, G Kavanagh, D Francis, L McCulloch, J Roberts, H Camara
Other subs: G Walsh, R Taylor, D Connolly, J Skoko

Referee: Uriah Rennie
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FA Premiership Teams: Liverpool v Wigan

Djibril Cisse has been brought back into the Liverpool 16 for today’s game against neighbours Wigan, but only as a sub. Harry Kewell is given a start.

Liverpool:
J Reina, S Finnan, S Hyypia, J Carragher, S Warnock, S Luis Garcia, S Gerrard, X Alonso, H Kewell, P Crouch, F Morientes
Subs: S Carson, J Riise, D Cisse, D Hamann, G Josemi

Wigan Athletic: M Pollitt, P Chimbonda, S Henchoz, A De Zeeuw, L Baines, J Bullard, G Kavanagh, D Francis, L McCulloch, J Roberts, H Camara
Subs: M Jackson, G Walsh, R Taylor, D Connolly, J Skoko

Referee: Uriah Rennie
Continue reading FA Premiership Teams: Liverpool v Wigan

Benitez: League more important right now

Liverpool’s successful negotiation of the Champions League group stages means that the match in midweek against Chelsea has lost most of its importance for both managers. Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho said as much as soon as Liverpool had helped his team qualify for the next phase, and now Rafael Benitez is saying it too. The league is the priority now until the new year, with the small matter of the World Club Championships having a temporary spell of Liverpool’s main focus. All of this means that tomorrow’s game against Wigan will see nobody held back for Stamford Bridge. Rafa said: “Facing Chelsea in midweek is no dilemma for me. Nobody will be rested for that game, the league points are very important and only after Wigan will I think about my squad for Chelsea. It is really important for us to go to Japan with two more victories in the league.”

A win for Liverpool tomorrow would put them second, for a few hours at least, although they would still be nine points behind Chelsea. At least for those few hours they will have played the same number of games as Chelsea, after spending most of the season with games in hand on the other teams in the Premiership. Now, according to Rafael Benitez, Liverpool have to keep the momentum of the their recent winning run going to avoid the table looking bad for them again on their return from Japan: “We have spent all season catching up the other clubs with the number of games we have played. Always we have been behind because we have played fewer matches because of European commitments. Now we have reached fourth place and we are almost level on games with our rivals. Now the table is more realistic, but when we go to Japan everyone else will play two games while we are away and we could be back down the table again. That is why we must win these two games before we go to the World Club Championship.”

It’s one of the oldest clichés in football, but Rafa agrees that games in hand aren’t as good as points in the bag: “When we come back we will again have games in hand, but the points now are more important.”
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