Rafa concentrates on Benfica clash

Rafael Benitez spoke to the press ahead of tonight’s Champions League clash with Benfica, and had to face the inevitable questions about his own future plans. Talk over the weekend has been all about him delivering an ultimatum that unless he gets a certain amount of money for transfers he’ll be on his way to Real or Inter. The amount he’s been demanding has varied depending on which story you read. So did Rafa have a problem with the Liverpool board over transfer funds? His response was simple: “You know what my answer is going to be. I am really focussed on the Champions League clash and am not worried about other things. All I am doing now is preparing my team for the game and talking to the players about the match. I have no problems with the board, with the Chairman or with the chief executive. I am happy here. All we want to do now is beat Benfica and then afterwards I promise my only thoughts will be on the Arsenal match.”

So without saying he was staying or going Rafa’s answer was open to interpretation. He said he was happy, he said he had no problems with the board, but he didn’t say he was staying. At least that’s how some will read it, but in reality Rafa fully intends to stay and as long as all the existing promises are kept that won’t be a problem.

So on to the match tonight. Liverpool are a goal down from the first leg. Any goal from Benfica would mean a draw on aggregate would be enough to take the Portuguese side through. Rafa played down the assumption that it’s all-out-attack for the Reds: “Our idea is clear. We want to score as early as we can, but if that’s not possible, okay, as long as we win the game at least 1-0 after 90 minutes we will be in the tie. Then we can think about extra-time. I know people are talking a lot about scoring a lot of goals. That’s what we would like to happen, but we need to be clever and use our experience of this situation.”

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Rafa speculation is wide of the mark

All the newspapers are trying hard to put their own little angles on the stories over the weekend linking Rafael Benitez with a move away from Anfield in the summer. According to most newspapers, the Liverpool is demanding a certain amount of money for transfer fees, otherwise he’ll be off to Italy or Spain. Unsurprisingly, the newspapers are quite wide of the mark.

The amount Rafa was ‘demanding’ has gone up by £10million overnight – yesterday’s £30million is now £40million in the Guardian. Perhaps the papers heard Liverpool have got between £15m and £20m available for Rafa this summer without taking player sales and possible investment into consideration. Liverpool’s poor scoring record this season has been defended by Benitez, but he clearly needs another striker – that striker could be Michael Owen – and he’s still looking for a right-winger. He certainly isn’t demanding £40million.

This week sees the Reds play host to Benfica in the Champions League. It’s a tough but not impossible task they’ve got to overcome in beating the Portuguese side who are already ahead 1-0 from the first leg. Perhaps this is one of the reasons for the invention of this story, although it seems unlikely that Benfica would have the influence over the press to plant this story.

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Premiership Result: Liverpool 0 Charlton 0

Barclays Premiership: Result

Liverpool 0 – 0 Charlton

Liverpool: J Reina, J Kromkamp, J Carragher, S Hyypia (J Riise, 45), D Traore, D Cisse, D Hamann (X Alonso, 73), S Gerrard, H Kewell, P Crouch (F Morientes, 80), R Fowler
Other subs: J Dudek, S Finnan
Booked: D Cisse 66

Charlton: T Myhre, L Young, C Perry, H Hreidarsson, J Spector, D Ambrose (C Powell, 87), R Kishishev (J Euell, 77), M Holland, B Hughes, D Bent, M Bent (J Bothroyd, 53)
Other subs: S Andersen, J Thomas
Booked:
L Young 58

Ref: M Atkinson
Att: 43892
Continue reading Premiership Result: Liverpool 0 Charlton 0

Police won’t take action against Finnan

The story created by two Manchester United supporters in an attempt to discredit Steve Finnan has ended today with confirmation from Greater Manchester Police that will not be taking any action against Finnan.

According to the two fans, they lip-read Finnan racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra during the league meeting at Old Trafford in January. Finnan strongly denied what he said were “lies” and today’s announcement goes a long way to proving that. An LFC spokesman said of the decision by GMP: “Obviously we welcome the news. Our own analysis of the television footage proved there was no evidence to back up these claims. It’s very unfortunate that Steve’s good name has been dragged through the mud in the meantime and we are glad this matter has now been resolved.”

Unfortunately for Steve this kind of thing will have done him some harm, even though he was innocent. The two fans that made these allegations, and whoever told the press about it, have got away with their dishonest actions without any harm coming to them. There have been a lot of negative stories since Liverpool beat Manchester United at Anfield in the FA Cup.

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LFC v Charlton – Teams

FA Barclays Premiership
March 4th 2006

Liverpool v Charlton. (Kick-off 5.15pm GMT)

Big changes from Rafael Benitez no doubt with one eye on the Champions League clash with Benfica next week. Carragher and Hyypia are back in tandem in the centre of the Reds defence, but are flanked by Djimi Traore and Jan Kromkamp. Djibril Cisse is likely to line up on the right side of midfield, with Crouch and Fowler chosen to play up front. Didi Hamann is to partner Steven Gerrard in the centre of the midfield. The subs bench is perhaps the strongest it’s looked all season.

Liverpool: J Reina, J Kromkamp, J Carragher, S Hyypia, D Traore, D Cisse, D Hamann, S Gerrard, H Kewell, P Crouch, R Fowler
Subs: J Dudek, S Finnan, J Riise, X Alonso, F Morientes

Charlton: T Myhre, L Young, C Perry, H Hreidarsson, J Spector, D Ambrose, R Kishishev, M Holland, B Hughes, D Bent, M Bent
Subs: S Andersen, J Euell, J Thomas, C Powell, J Bothroyd

Referee: M Atkinson
Continue reading LFC v Charlton – Teams

Preview: Liverpool v Charlton

FA Premiership – Preview

Liverpool v Charlton Athletic

Saturday, 4th March. Kick-off 1715 GMT.

Team news.
Liverpool: Striker Robbie Fowler is back in the squad after sitting out last week’s City game as part of an agreement made when he signed from City. If he’s picked from the start it will be his 300th start in the Premiership. Also available again is Jamie Carragher who was serving a suspension for the last game. Other than players out long-term such as Momo Sissoko and Bolo Zenden Liverpool have a full-strength squad available, with the possible exception of Steve Finnan. The full-back had to pull out of the midweek international for the Republic of Ireland with a neck injury.

Charlton: Midfielder Alexei Smertin is fit again after being out with knee problems and played for Russia during the week. All of Charlton’s internationals came back without any problems. Dennis Rommedahl and Gonzalo Sorondo still aren’t fit to play.

Squads.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Kromkamp, Carragher, Hyypia, Agger, Riise, Traore, Warnock, Luis Garcia, Alonso, Gerrard, Hamann, Kewell, Crouch, Cisse, Morientes, Dudek.

Charlton: Myhre, Young, Hreidarsson, Perry, Powell, Ambrose, Holland, Kishishev, Smertin, Thomas, Hughes, M Bent, D Bent, Euell, El Karkouri, Spector, Andersen, Randolph, Bothroyd, Bartlett, Fortune.

Liverpool have won their last three Premiership games in a row. If they win today they will climb into second place, because Manchester United aren’t playing until they meet Wigan on Monday. In games played at Anfield Liverpool are on a run of 14 games in league and cup without defeat. Their last defeat was the one to forget against Chelsea in October. This is already Liverpool’s best season in the Premiership (note: Premiership, not league!) and the Reds are 19 points above Charlton. Worryingly for some is the fact that the Reds have only scored one goal more than Charlton – but this is balanced by the fact that Liverpool’s defence have conceded twenty less goals.

In meetings at Anfield between the two sides Liverpool have won four of the last five. Last season the scoreline was 2-0 for the Reds, the opposite of the score in this season’s reverse fixture. That game was Charlton’s only win in their last seven league games. The one win at Anfield for Charlton since the start of the Premiership came in 2004.

Today’s referee is Martin Atkinson – he has been in charge of one Liverpool game this season, the 2-0 defeat at Fulham in what was a dodgy October for the Reds. He’s not officiated in any Charlton games so far this season. He’s handed out 38 yellows and one red card in his eleven games this season.

Continue reading Preview: Liverpool v Charlton

Condolences to the McAllister family

Breast Cancer CareAfter hearing the sad news that Denise McAllister, wife of former Liverpool midfielder Gary, had died from her illness, many people were wondering what they could do to show their condolences. One way we felt would be appropriate would be to make a donation to a charity that the McAllisters supported – Breast Cancer Care.

Mrs McAllister was 34 when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer, in 2000. She was seven months pregnant with her son Oliver, now five, when it was discovered during routine examinations. She sacrificed her own health for that of her unborn son, although doctors did eventually manage to persuade her to let them induce him three weeks early. The couple also have another son, Jake who’s now ten.

In the end she had to undergo a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. She was in remission for three years during which time she started to do work as an ambassador for Breast Cancer Care. She also took part in a star-studded charity fashion show in 2002, which was also attended by Cherie Blair. It was in 2003 that she suffered a relapse which lead to Gary leaving his job as boss of Coventry. Recently though she had been thought to be getting better once more.

A spokesperson for Breast Cancer Care, Stephanie Jacobs, had many nice things to say about Denise: “She was very generous in telling her personal story in order to help people at that time and she continued to raise awareness of our charity and what we do in subsequent years. Everyone at Breast Cancer Care, especially those of us who met her, would like to extend our deepest sympathies to Denise’s family and friends at this very sad time.”

If you would like to make a donation to Breast Cancer Care , please visit their website at http://www.breastcancercare.org.uk/content.php?page_id=88.

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Gary McAllister’s wife Denise passes away

We’ve just heard the sad news from the Press Association that Gary McAllister’s wife Denise has lost her battle with breast cancer.

Still only in her late thirties, she died with her husband at her bedside in hospital in Nottingham.

Gary gave up his job as player-manager with Coventry in 2003 so that he could help her through the early days of her illness. It had been felt that she was starting to improve and Gary started to look at the possibility of returning to work. Unfortunately she started to suffer again in recent months.

Gary Mac was one of the key players in the spectacular year where Liverpool won five trophies in all. He was also awarded an MBE the same year and every Liverpool fan will be thinking of him right now.

Gary left Liverpool to take on the role of player manager at Coventry. When he decided to leave he said it was what he had to do: “As far as I was concerned it wasn’t a decision. It was just the natural thing to do; I didn’t want to be at a football club.”

The couple got married back in 1993 and have two children, Jake 10 and Oliver 6. It was when she was seven months pregnant with Oliver that she was first diagnosed with cancer, but she refused treatment until he was born. After the birth she had an operation to remove the breast and lymph glands. She then had to undergo chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Unfortunately her sacrifice has seen her taken from her husband and sons far too soon.

She also put a lot of effort in for the Breast Cancer Care charity.

On behalf of all Liverpool fans we’d like to send our condolences to Gary, Jake, Oliver and the rest of Denise’s family.

YNWA.

Continue reading Gary McAllister’s wife Denise passes away

Rafa: Kromkamp is none of van Basten’s business

Marco van Basten was out of order with his public criticism of Jan Kromkamp according to Rafael Benítez. The former Ajax player is now manager of the Dutch national team and said Kromkamp had made bad decisions for his career by moving to Villareal and then Liverpool. At the same time he complained about not having enough time to work with his players before he names his final 23 for the World Cup final, yet left Kromkamp out of his squad for the midweek friendly.

Van Basten’s arrogance was astounding. He said: “It is annoying Kromkamp, who is a good player, made the wrong choices for his career. It seems to us Jan is more busy with peripheral events. Jan has to make choices. I have no influence on that but, if he wanted my advice, that was possible.”

According to Rafa, whether the comments are correct or not the Dutch manager should have made them in private, not through the media: “I have seen the comments. If you want to say something like this you should talk directly to the player, not to the press. If you want to control the career of the player, talk to him, not to the newspapers. In football now you expect to hear agents talk like this, but not people with no daily relationship with the player.”

Continue reading Rafa: Kromkamp is none of van Basten’s business

Crouch glad to open England account at Anfield

Liverpool forward Peter Crouch is glad to have made some steps towards stopping the idiotic booing that greeted previous England international appearances for him. Crouch scored the equaliser and generally played his usual all-round great game for his country at Anfield on Wednesday night, and at last was cheered in an England home game. He says that he expected a good reception at Anfield, but it still felt good: “It feels good to turn that reaction around. The fans were great during the Argentina game and they were always going to be good to me at Anfield. The Liverpool fans have been great since I came to the club.”

Crouch took fewer appearances to score for England than he did for Liverpool, meaning the press and pundits will have to be nicer to him – for now anyway.  Crouch was made even happier with his goal bearing in mind where he was when he scored it: “It is great to score my first goal for England and even more special to do it at Anfield. The manager has never doubted me. Maybe other people did but he had every confidence in me and proved it by picking me for squads. I have a lot to thank him for.”

Crouch didn’t feel like he was a visitor to the England dressing room. He says he feels right at home with the squad: “I feel I belong in that dressing room. I would not be here if I did not believe I was good enough. If I perform well for my club I can look forward to the World Cup like everyone else in that dressing room.”

Going to Germany is the main thing for Crouch – he’s not expecting to start unless something happens to those ahead of him in the queue, or if a game isn’t going England’s way: “You always want to start games but I am realistic. Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney are top-class players and they’re going to start ahead of me. If I can play some role, it is great. It worked out well against Uruguay. I came off the bench and scored and we won the game. I want to be part of the England set-up and, if that’s my role, that’s fine.”

Continue reading Crouch glad to open England account at Anfield