Xabi hopeful for Cardiff

Fears that Xabi Alonso’s summer was in ruins are lifting quickly after a scan revealed that his ankle injury was less serious than it seemed on Sunday. Xabi fell awkwardly during the final Premiership game of the season, Liverpool’s 3-1 over Portsmouth, and had to be stretchered off. Xabi is not one to go down for nothing, he played on with a broken ankle against Chelsea once after being clattered by Lampard, so the sight of him being carried away caused worries for all Reds.

The scan showed he had sustained ankle ligament damage, but that with some treatment he should be fit and available for the FA Cup final on Saturday against West Ham. After that comes the World Cup, when Liverpool fans are hoping to see him in action for the Spanish national side alongside three Liverpool team-mates.

Xabi himself is very confident he’ll be fit, but is not going to raise his hopes too high, just in case: “I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed. I’m feeling very positive about my chances of being fit for Saturday, so I’ll try to stay calm and wait. When it happened I was very worried but now I feel more optimistic.”

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Dudek given goodbye chance

How much do Liverpool want second place? Enough, but maybe not as much as they want the FA Cup, which they are in the final of in six days’ time. Rafa Benitez has gone for Jerzy Dudek in goal for today’s clash. Is it for the sake of resting Reina, protecting an injured Reina, or for sentimental reasons? There’s no news of Reina being injured or in need of rest, so it could well be for the benefit of giving Jerzy Dudek a send-off from his Anfield career. It’s highly unlikely that we’ll see Jerzy in the Reds’ squad for next season.

In defence Rafa has chosen his strongest back four – Riise and Finnan either side of the immense talents of Carragher and Hyypia. It’s the same story in midfield – the born-again Harry Kewell is back from a minor injury and will play on the opposite wing to skipper Steven Gerrard. Xabi Alonso and Momo Sissoko look after the centre of the field. Up front are two players who in their prime would have been impossible probably even for Chelsea to afford – Robbie Fowler and Fernando Morientes. Fowler knows he’s staying, he’s about to sign his one-year contract this week, but Nando is still subject to a lot of speculation.

A strong-enough bench for Liverpool means that they can bring on Cisse or Crouch if they are looking for some extra attacking bite, but with Traore and Kromkamp there too then they have a chance to take it easy should results at Fratton Park and Old Trafford not be going their way.

A win for Manchester United today would mean they finish second, regardless of Liverpool’s result. Any other result from Old Trafford gives Liverpool a chance of that second place.

Full team: Dudek, Riise, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Kewell, Gerrard, Alonso, Sissoko, Morientes, Fowler. Subs – Reina, Traore, Cisse, Crouch, Kromkamp.
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Robbie ready for last game – for now

Apologies for the lack of updates in the last few days, but we’re sure you will have heard about one of the best pieces of news that happened this week. Robbie Fowler was offered a new one-year contract after impressing manager Rafael Benítez enough since he rejoined the  Reds in January on what was effectively a six-month trial.

After the news was announced Robbie was finally able to tell the world how glad he was to be staying at the club that he loves so much. Speaking to Liverpool’s official website, Robbie said: “It’s not signed yet but you can imagine how happy I was when the manager offered me another year. I can’t put my feelings into words, this is something I have wanted for a long time. When I signed for six months in January the manager told me he would look at the situation at the end of the season. He’s had a look at what I’ve done and thankfully I’ve been given the best possible answer.”
 
Robbie his happy enough himself with what he’s done: “I feel as though I’ve done alright and the manager has been pleased with me as well. I’m looking forward to next season now. I was buzzing when I got a six month deal so you can imagine how happy I am to have been given another year. I am absolutely over the moon. We’ve got two games to go and then a break before pre-season. I can’t wait for next season now. I just want to get going again. I’m gutted I have to miss next week’s Cup final but I wish the lads all the best and I know we can win it.”

Robbie isn’t able to take part in the FA Cup final because he appeared for City just before he left in January, but there’ll be nobody else in the stands getting behind Liverpool more than he will be. He also mentioned that he would love to try and get closer to the record of another Liverpool legend: “Ian Rush’s record for the club is frightening and if I can get a bit closer to it that’ll be great. I had been treating every game as though it could be my last for Liverpool but now I’ve got the added incentive of knowing I’ll get more chances to wear the red shirt next season. This club is going places. If you look at the table this season compared to last season there’s been a big improvement. Hopefully we can take it a little bit further next season. I would love to be part of a Liverpool side that wins the league championship and I am sure the manager is on the right lines towards achieving it.”

Robbie says the love of the fans is the biggest force that makes him love Liverpool FC so much: “Ever since I started at Liverpool as a kid the fans have taken to me and any player will tell you when the supporters of your club are behind you then that helps an awful lot. I just can’t thank them enough. They’ve given me so much support over the years and I’m grateful for that. Now I can’t wait to score more goals for them and the club over the next year.”

The man who made Robbie happy was the man who’s made a lot of Reds happy since he arrived at Anfield almost two years ago, boss Rafael Benítez. Rafa says it was an easy decision to make: “I said always it was an easy decision for me to make and in this case we have an agreement with Robbie and he will sign the contract early next week. We are really happy, all the staff, his team-mates, the club and the supporters. He has scored some important goals and we would like to see him scoring a lot of them and maybe to become the third all-time record goalscorer in the history of the club.”
 
Robbie’s contribution off the field is one aspect that has certainly helped him earn the new contract, according to Benítez: “He’s a fantastic team-mate and he’s a good worker. He’s really focused on the future and his commitment to this club is really good.”

So today comes Robbie’s last chance to play for Liverpool this season, which certainly sounds a lot better than last chance ever.
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Fowler still waiting for news.

Robbie Fowler is eligible to take part in one more game for Liverpool this season, and is still none the wiser as to whether this will be his last ever in a Red shirt. At Anfield on Saturday he made his last appearance of the season at his beloved club’s home ground, but is desperate to hear the news that it won’t be his farewell appearance in front of the Kop. He enjoyed hearing his name sung by the supporters, but they too don’t know where Robbie fits into Rafa’s future plans: “It was a touching moment for me when the fans were chanting my name at the end of the game, but I hope they don’t think it was a send-off for me. I haven’t heard anything about a new contract, but I’m still hoping that Saturday won’t be my last game at Anfield for Liverpool.”

Rafael Benítez still won’t reveal where he stands on the issue of awarding a new contract to Robbie. He did drop a possible hint when he spoke about Robbie taking part in pre-season training, but that was only a hint and means nothing. The 31-year-old has been happy with how things have gone since he returned home to Anfield, and even feels in some ways he’s done better than he could have hoped to: “I believe that I have still got something to offer – and I think I’ve got a few years left in me yet. I’ve been pleased – and even a bit surprised – with how well it’s gone for me since I came back and I think I can build on that. I’ve had plenty of interest from other clubs, and I’m told there are some offers on the table, because managers have seen that I can still do it. Scoring a few goals hasn’t harmed me.”

These offers are reassuring for Fowler, but he sees them as nothing like as important as getting a deal to stay with the Reds: “All I am interested in is getting a new contract and building on what I have achieved since I came back to Anfield. I’ve had a terrific time and of course I want to stay here. These are exciting times at Liverpool. Look at what the manager has achieved since he came here, and the progress the club has made. With a couple of decent signings in the summer there is no doubt the club can challenge for the title next season. You’d have to be mad not to want to be a part of that.”

Liverpool are closer to the title than they have been for some time. As the league table stands today, a reversal of the league double Chelsea did over Liverpool would actually see the two clubs level on points. Liverpool have proved in semi-finals of the Champions League and FA Cup that they can beat Chelsea, and if they can also eradicate the bad patches they seem to have every league season then there is a real chance of the title coming home to Anfield. For Fowler to stick around and help achieve that would be a dream come true for Robbie: “It has always been my dream to win the league with Liverpool and I’d love to stay around and give it a real go.”

When Fowler came back to Anfield his level of fitness was an issue because of time spent out injured. Special routines were put in place for Robbie and he is happy with how much his condition has improved: “My fitness seems to be the focus for everyone. When I came back it was pretty tough because I’d been out for a while with injury and I had to work on my fitness, but I’m happy with how things have gone for me and I feel pretty strong. I feel as good as I have for a long time and I feel as though I’m definitely getting there. I know my body. I’ll be the first to recognise when I’m not up to it.”

Robbie now waits to see if Rafa agrees with him.
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Marina says old boys are ready to play again

This afternoon sees Anfield host another Merseyside derby, and although this one isn’t official as such, calling it a friendly may just be stretching things a touch. The game is being played in aid of The Marina Dalglish Appeal and recreates as far as possible the first ever all-Merseyside FA Cup Final which was played in 1986 at Wembley. Marina is wife of Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish and her charity aims to raise funds for cancer research, including the hope that they can build a new breast cancer centre of excellence at Aintree hospital.

Some of the most successful players of all time will be lining up for Liverpool against possibly Everton’s most successful players. Liverpool’s Alan Hansen and Ian Rush will line up against the likes of Peter Reid and Graeme Sharp. King Kenny is going to be player-manager again for the day, with Howard Kendall taking charge of the blues, just like 20 years ago. It was Liverpool who brought the silverware home back then with a 3-1 win, and Everton want revenge.

As the lady who has looked after our legend for all these years, Marina is held in high regard by all Reds, and a massive crowd is expected for this afternoon’s game. That high regard is also felt by the players that played for, with and against Kenny over the years, which is why so many were prepared to go through the pain of getting back into shape for the game rather than spending an easy bank holiday Monday on the golf course. Marina spoke to Scotland’s Daily Record about her new life working for the appeal. After seeing the children leave home – Paul and Kelly being the most well-known – she’s now putting a lot of time and effort into working on her appeal, something started after she herself suffered from breast cancer.

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