Call-up for youngsters from Reds and Royals

After Liverpool's recent poor run of form Rafael Benitez may well be having second thoughts about the sort of team he puts out tomorrow night in the Carling Cup. Traditionally a competition used by the bigger teams to blood some youngsters, the boss is thinking more of how he can use it to improve the first team’s performances.

We’ll have to wait and see what he actually does tomorrow night, but he says he’ll be thinking of using a strong side, made up mainly of the senior players who’ve had fewer games this season. He says the competition is important and he wants to try and put out a pretty good team: “I think we need to think about every competition as an option and a target. The Carling Cup is a good competition for us. We were in the final two years ago and we want to win for sure. Youngsters can be an option but we have some senior players that are not playing a lot of games and we will see if they can be involved. Our idea is to use a very strong team if it's possible.”

Reading are also now a Premiership side, and Rafa will be pleased to hear they too are planning on using some youngsters in their squad for the game. According to their official website The Royals will travel for the first ever game at Anfield with a lot of teenagers. Steve Coppell is going to include seventeen-year-old James Henry, eighteen-year-old forward Pierre Joseph-Dubois and central-defender Alex Pearce, seventeen, in the party that travels to Merseyside. He could also add the likes of 19-year-olds Jonathan Hayes, a left winger, and Curtis Osano, a player used either as a defender or holding midfielder.

Somehow, according to the Reading website, Osano is on loan at Aldershot, “but can still play in this game”.

Reading’s boss Steve Coppell was born in Norris Green but after a spell at Tranmere went to join Manchester United. He only won one honour with United – the FA Cup winner’s medal he got in 1977 when United stopped Liverpool from winning a treble including League Champions and European Cup. He managed the Crystal Palace side that sent us crashing out of the FA Cup in the semi-final in 1990, a match they won against all the odds as Liverpool had thrashed them 9-0 earlier that season.

Continue reading Call-up for youngsters from Reds and Royals

Reports: Reds looking at striker Caracciolo

According to Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport, Liverpool are chasing another striker.

The paper claims that the Reds had scouts watching the game between Palermo and Eintracht Frankfurt in the UEFA Cup last week, and it says it believes Liverpool were looking at Palermo's Andrea Caracciolo.

Palermo are currently joint top of Serie A with Inter Milan, both sides having 15 points from seven games. West Ham fans would be familiar with Caracciolo – he was linked with a move to Upton Park in the summer and scored one of the goals that sent the Hammers out of the UEFA Cup earlier in the season.

There's a possibility that this story has all come about through agents, the player is said to be unhappy at not being guaranteed a first team place. If that's true then he perhaps ought to look to another club rather than Liverpool.

There's also a story that Liverpool are interested in another striker from Italy, Piacenza's Daniele Caccia.

Continue reading Reports: Reds looking at striker Caracciolo

Players lacking confidence

Liverpool's defeat to Manchester United yesterday was something that hit all Reds extremely hard. The list of things wrong with the performance yesterday is a long one. It's now up to Rafael Benitez to work out how he can fix things.

His answer today was that he and his staff and players have to pull together: "Now is the time for the manager, the captain and all my staff to work together to help all the players. For the last two weeks we've all been doing this, and now we must try even harder. I said to the players straight after the game that there's nothing they can do about what happened now, but they have to show everyone they have character. We know they have the quality, but maybe sometimes you need even more than this."

What Liverpool seemed to lack yesterday, above all else, was a desire to win. Considering it's one of the fiercest games in the football calendar it had all the hallmarks of being a friendly. The crowd were quiet for most of the game, nobody looked too bothered. Even United didn't seem to be trying that hard, not that they needed to.

Rafa went on: "When you're Liverpool Football Club, you know you have a responsibility to try to win every game and play well. Maybe this is not always possible, but it's what we try to do. In the first 25 minutes against Manchester United, we were okay. We had possession in attacking areas, but didn't create clear chances."

What Liverpool may also be lacking is confidence, and that's another point Rafa wants his players to work on: "The players worked hard, but it's clear we need to recuperate their confidence now. We can only do this by training and winning games. It's not going to happen in two games, but over a longer period. Key players are not at their level. We have a strong spine to our team, but if you analyse things you can see where we need to improve. Once we conceded the first goal, we had a lot of problems because we were playing a side with quality and experience."

Rafa wants to improve the players' confidence, and he needs to do that quickly. Whether or not Liverpool have any chance of being title contenders now this season is something we shouldn't worry about for now. On paper it's a possibility that everyone else will slip up enough to let us back in over the coming months, but we need to worry about our own game first. For now it's not even worth thinking about. It's too big a psychological barrier for us.

The next few games should be looked at in isolation as opportunities to turn the season round. Our next four games are all at home, starting and ending with games against Reading. First up we've got the Carling Cup match, and although Rafa usually fields a younger team we should still be able to make a big effort at winning it. Then it's Aston Villa in the league, and although no game is a formality we should really be able to win it, especially if we show that character so often spoken about. Then we entertain Bordeaux, again no formality but a win in that game puts us into a real comfort zone in the Champions League. The last of the four is in the league against Reading, and we need to do to them what Arsenal did against them yesterday. Not easy the way we've been playing, but certainly possible.

After that our next fixture is away to Arsenal, and unless we've done well in these next four games we'll be embarrassed against Arsenal.

Continue reading Players lacking confidence

Reaction: Man United 2 Liverpool 0

Some reaction to today’s win for Manchester United over Liverpool. All the following quotes were given to Sky Sports.

Rafael Benítez:
“In the first half we didn't have a lot of problems and then we conceded a goal. Against a good team like United that is always a big problem," he told Sky Sports. When you see the players working as hard as they work, you cannot blame them, if you make a mistake, you make a mistake. From my point of view it is a pity when you concede.”

“Sometimes you don't have an opportunity when you talk about a player in front of the keeper. We were defending well but we couldn't create a lot of clear chances, if you want to win you need to score and sometimes they score first.

“I need to think about the next game, when you are at the top, bottom or middle of the table you need to think about the next three points. It is clear, if you want to have possibilities you need to start winning games. We will change things, but the team is strong enough – but after we concede we need to keep going.”

Alex Ferguson: “I think there is a growing belief. When you start the season you have the hope, desire and intention to do well and so far the players have not let us down. There is great confidence among them and some young players have started to develop very well so we're looking at Man United to step forward and have a real go this year. We've had consistency and we're doing very well when you consider that we've not had a few key players, like Gabriel Heinze and Mikael Silvestre, fully fit. We also had Cristiano missing through illness so we've got a few players to get back into the squad and get some football behind them.

“We knew we couldn't afford to lose the big one again and the players responded to that. It was an excellent performance. I thought Michael Carrick was fantastic, Paul Scholes gave us composure, Ryan Giggs with his experience and the work-rate of Darren Fletcher. I thought our midfield was a big influence for us today.

“I'm so pleased for him (Scholes), his 500th game for the club and he scores against our biggest rivals. It was great for him.

“I would not dismiss Liverpool. They have a good run-in and there will be a freshness about them in the second half of the season because of the way Rafa has been ringing the changes, but I have to say, I am looking at ourselves at the moment. I want my side to step forward and make sure we have a real go this year.”

Rio Ferdinand:
“This fixture has been good to me in the last few
years, I've scored a few goals and managed to win a few games. I don't
really think about scoring, I think about trying to keep clean sheets
so today was a bonus. Liverpool have been playing 4-3-3 but today they
played one up front with people off the front man and they have been
very difficult to break down and it was the same again. It was a good
move for Scholesy's goal and then we consolidated with my goal.”

Paul Scholes: “I got one in midweek and I managed to get another one today, but as long as the team win it doesn't really matter who scores the goals. It's rare to get that much space in the box. Liverpool normally play so defensively but today for some reason I managed to sneak in and get the goal.

“I think we have played better over the last few weeks and I thought we were quite comfortable today, we never looked like conceding a goal and looked dangerous going forward as well.”

Continue reading Reaction: Man United 2 Liverpool 0

Prem Result: Man United 2 Liverpool 0

Result

Man Utd

 2 – 0 

 Liverpool

Scholes 39, Ferdinand 66 Scorers
 
Vidic 69  Booked
Sissoko 27, Finnan 76, Crouch 77
1 E Van der Sar
2 G Neville (O'Shea, 78)
5 R Ferdinand
15 N Vidic
3 P Evra (Brown, 90)
24 D Fletcher
16 M Carrick
18 P Scholes
11 R Giggs
8 W Rooney
9 L Saha
Teams 25 J Reina
3 S Finnan
4 S Hyypia
23 J Carragher
6 J Riise
8 S Gerrard
22 M Sissoko
14 X Alonso (Pennant 70)
11 M Gonzalez (Crouch 52)
10 S Luis Garcia
18 D Kuyt
29 T Kuszczak

6 W Brown

7 C Ronaldo
20 O Solskjaer

22 J O'Shea
Subs 1 J Dudek

15 P Crouch


16 J Pennant

28 S Warnock
29 G Paletta
54%  Possession
46%
8 Shots (on)
5
2 Shots (off)
8
5 Corners
5
14 Fouls
21

Ref: G Poll
Attendance: 75,828

Continue reading Prem Result: Man United 2 Liverpool 0

Prem Half-time: Man United 1 Reds 0

Half-time.

Man Utd

 1 – 0 

 Liverpool

Scholes 39 Scorers
 
  Booked
Sissoko 27
1 E Van der Sar
2 G Neville
5 R Ferdinand
15 N Vidic
3 P Evra
24 D Fletcher
16 M Carrick
18 P Scholes
11 R Giggs
8 W Rooney
9 L Saha

25 J Reina
3 S Finnan
4 S Hyypia
23 J Carragher
6 J Riise
8 S Gerrard
22 M Sissoko
14 X Alonso
11 M Gonzalez
10 S Luis Garcia
18 D Kuyt
29 T Kuszczak,
6 W Brown,
7 C Ronaldo,
20 O Solskjaer,
22 J O'Shea
Subs 1 J Dudek
15 P Crouch
16 J Pennant
28 S Warnock
29 G Paletta
52%  Possession
48%
6 Shots (on)
4
0 Shots (off)
4
4 Corners
5
4 Fouls
10

Ref: G Poll

Continue reading Prem Half-time: Man United 1 Reds 0

Teams: Man United v Liverpool

The whispers we mentioned earlier were true – Craig Bellamy wasn't fit to face Manchester United today. Rafael Benitez has chosen Dirk Kuyt to start, with Crouch on the bench.

It's a case of waiting and seeing how they'll actually line up, but it seems either Garcia or Gerrard will be on the right side of midfield, with the other one playing behind Kuyt. Mark Gonzalez is also picked to start.

Man Utd: 1 E Van der Sar, 2 G Neville, 5 R Ferdinand, 15 N Vidic, 3 P Evra, 24 D Fletcher, 16 M Carrick, 18 P Scholes, 11 R Giggs, 8 W Rooney, 9 L Saha
Subs: 29 T Kuszczak, 6 W Brown, 7 C Ronaldo, 20 O Solskjaer, 22 J O'Shea

Liverpool: 25 J Reina, 3 S Finnan, 4 S Hyypia, 23 J Carragher, 6 J Riise, 8 S Gerrard, 22 M Sissoko, 14 X Alonso, 11 M Gonzalez, 10 S Luis Garcia, 18 D Kuyt
Subs: 1 J Dudek, 15 P Crouch, 16 J Pennant, 28 S Warnock, 29 G Paletta

Referee: G Poll

Kick-off: 1.00pm BST.

Continue reading Teams: Man United v Liverpool

Preview: Man United v Reds

Today's game kicks off at 1pm BST at Old Trafford. Liverpool are 11th and United are 2nd going into this game. United are 8 points ahead of Liverpool.

Players and managers have been talking about today's big match.

Dirk Kuyt: “In Holland everybody watches the Premier League and everybody says that Manchester United against Liverpool is one of the biggest games in England. The rivalry is just like Feyenoord and Ajax in Holland and I just can't wait to play in this match. I've never played at Old Trafford before and I've never even been there, although I have seen it a lot on TV in Holland.

“When you're a Liverpool player, to be up against United in a great stadium is fantastic. It will be great to play there, and it would be great to win there. It would great for me to get the winning goal against Manchester United – that would be the best moment of my career so far. That would be a fantastic thing. It doesn't matter where you are in the league – when you're a Liverpool player you always have to win, that's what is expected of you.
 
“We have won our first away game this season in midweek and now we want to win our first away game in the Premiership as well to show people what we can do.”

Patrice Evra: “Manchester United against Liverpool is the biggest club game in the world. It is pretty big in France when PSG play Marseille but nothing like this. The atmosphere is really special. People come up to you in the street saying, ‘Come on Pat’ because the result is so important.  Everyone is desperate for us to win and the noise as the game kicks off is incredible.

“This is our second really big game of the season and we have to do better than we did in the last one. It is far too early to say we are going to win certain competitions but at the moment things are looking very positive and we must continue that by beating Liverpool.”

Jose Reina: “We know we’re losing ground. We’re too far behind United. Eight points is too many and that makes Sunday’s outcome all the more important. We have to keep going and fight for everything, but if they win it will be 11 points between us – and that could be too much.”

Rafael Benítez: “The players know how important this game is. I think it could be a starting point for us to change things, especially with our record away from home. We want to go to Old Trafford to show people that we can beat them.

“Everything is not perfect but we are improving and it is important that we continue in that way against United. I do not like to think in terms of ‘if we lose we can’t win the title’. I prefer to think of what will happen if we do win –  if we can win there we can change the way we think about the future. We are not thinking of losing, only that we have confidence that we can win. I don't like to talk about losing, I prefer to talk about this being a good opportunity for us to change things.

“This league is always a long race, and the most important thing for me is to see the players focused right to the end. To the end of each game and to the end of the season. As for the title race, I believe at the end of the season we will see maybe three or four clubs closer together than last season. I do not believe it will be like that again with one club so far ahead.

“We know just how difficult it is to beat the top sides, but we must also remember that we will play all of them at home in the second half of the season. We need to remember that we will still have our chance.

“If you're talking about one game, then anything can happen. If you're talking about the league, we know we are not playing to our normal level but I'm sure we will improve and I have confidence that we will be there at the end of the season.

“If you want to win titles, you must beat the top sides. We are very aware of how big this game is for our fans and it is one of the games we know we have to be able to win to compete at the top level.”

Alex Ferguson, stoking the fires that the clubs have tried to dampen down: “Over the last couple of years there has been some incidents we don't wish to see and hopefully we can put a lid on that part of it. Both sets of supporters should realise they are supporting two great clubs and imagine what it would be like if there wasn't a United-Liverpool game, or it was played with no-one being able to attend it. I just hope there is no retribution from United fans.

“I don't anticipate it or expect it because on the pitch it has never been a problem. I think both sets of players have been a credit to their clubs. That's why I was disappointed Gary Neville was fined by the FA. All he did was show his emotions. That's fine, I have no problem with that, it's an emotional game and he was celebrating a victory. I have seen Liverpool players do it too.

“In fact, over the years I don't think there has ever been a problem between the two sets of players. Yes, there have been some feisty games but I can't remember one when there was any hostility and real bitterness which left you thinking the players should be behaving better. Both sets of players have been a credit to their clubs in terms of their behaviour on the pitch.

“This is not just an important fixture, it is a platform for everyone in the country to see. We just have to keep a lid on things because we don't want the situation to get out of hand.”

Team news:  Manchester United had captain and anti-scouser Gary Neville missing in the midweek Champions League match, along with Rio Ferdinand, both officially due to injury worries. Liverpool also had their captain, Steven Gerrard, missing with injury. All three players look set to play today.

Dirk Kuyt and Momo Sissoko both came off the bench midweek after being out prior to that with ankle injuries, and are both said to be fit to play today from the start. It may still be too soon for Daniel Agger (broken hand) and Robbie Fowler (back). There is also a whisper that Craig Bellamy is unavailable today due to injury.

United still have Mikael Silvestre and Park Ji-Sung missing.

Milestones: If picked, Steven Gerrard will make his 350th appearance for the Reds and John Arne Riise his 150th start. Again if picked, Rooney will make his 100th appearance for United, Wes Brown his 200th and Paul Scholes his 500th.

If Liverpool won it would be their 50th league win over United.

United's Kieran Richardson (22) and Nemanja Vidic (25) are celebrating their birthdays today.

History:

All League games: Man United 54 wins, Liverpool 49, Draws 43

All League games at Old Trafford: Man United 34 wins, Liverpool 14, Draws 25

Referee: Graham Poll, from Tring. Refereed the Goodison derby in September which Liverpool lost 3-0. Booked four players that day, including Sissoko, Riise and Hyypia. Officiated over the Manchester United defeat to Arsenal the following week, booking Scholes and Brown plus two Arsenal players. He's dished out 31 red cards in his seven games this season, and is yet to send anyone off. Didn't have a good summer.

Continue reading Preview: Man United v Reds

Another ‘keeper blow for Reds as crisis looms

A goalkeeping crisis is lurking for Liverpool as a second consecutive reserve match ended with the Reds using a different keeper to the one they started with.

Last week Jerzy Dudek was sent off against Everton to be replaced by David Martin. This week David Martin started, but had to leave the pitch early after suffering a hip injury and some concussion. Last year’s FA Youth Cup winning goalkeeper David Roberts had to come on in his place on the hour mark.

Jerzy’s  red card would attract a three-match automatic ban on its own if upheld by the FA, but the governing body also added a potential two extra matches with charges over Dudek’s refusal to leave the field. This was already considered a worry, because David Martin is very much considered to be one for the future. Now even Martin looks set to be out, although at this stage it’s not clear for how long exactly.

Martin had come out of his area to clear a ball, but his Middlesbrough opponent caught him high and sent him flying. Liverpool lost the game 3-2.

Two other Reds goalkeepers, Scott Carson and Chris Kirkland, would be idea cover in this crisis – but their loan deals don’t allow them to be recalled before January. Liverpool may now need to request an emergency loan of a keeper from another club to get through this problem.

Martin’s injury came on a day when Rafa Benítez had already been calling for more protection for keepers. The press is full of Jose Mourinho’s complaints about how badly treated his billionaire team were treated by the NHS. Complaints that seem unfounded. Mourinho also claimed that the challenges were malicious and full of intent to injure his players. Rafa Benítez didn’t comment on that aspect of the row, but did say that goalkeepers are treated too roughly in this country compared to elsewhere. He said: “Whether there was intent is not the issue, but challenges where a knee hits a head are fouls and dangerous. For me it is clear, the six-yard box is for the keeper, that's how I see the laws. But here in England everybody is allowed into the six-yard box to push the keeper, stand in front of him, jostle him, stop him jumping. It seems anything can happen.”

Martin’s injury last night of course happened outside the area, but the reason Dudek could be out for five games all stems from the referee in that reserve derby allowing Dudek to be hacked at repeatedly by the opposition attacker, Victor Anichebe. Rafa said this type of thing must be addressed: “We need to protect goalkeepers; sometimes the challenges are very dangerous for them.”

According to Rafa, Dudek wasn’t the only victim of tackles that would have looked over the top in a game of pub football. Martin had come on after Dudek’s red and the Everton players carried on, knowing that they could pretty much do as they pleased with that particular official in charge: “You saw the incidents at Reading, maybe there was no intent but the challenges were still fouls. I have had something similar in a reserve game. The match was against Everton last week and there has been FA charges since then for both clubs. There were two challenges on two goalkeepers in that same game. It was really, really dangerous.”

Rafa is outrage at the fact goalkeepers can be kicked in the head without the attacker worrying about punishment: “If you tackle a goalkeeper in the head what happens? It is a very dangerous challenge, there may be no intent but it is still dangerous. The two challenges in that game were amazing, very dangerous. Crazy. You can sometimes understand a player's reaction when something like that happens. The challenges on Dudek and Martin were both bad ones.”

Rafa says, as if giving the authorities an excuse to act now, that maybe the risk has increased recently due to improved fitness and so the rules need to be applied differently: “Ten years ago players were not as big, quick and strong as maybe they are now, there was not the same chance of injury. But the rules are the same then as they are now. For me it is still a free-kick when a goalkeeper is fouled in the six-yard box. It is more dangerous now because of the strength and speed of players and the game. Ten, 20 years ago it was not the same, but you should still not be allowed to touch a keeper in the six yard box.”

Rafa clearly hates this type of play. He’s someone who believes that the game should be played to the spirit of the laws, not just the words. He’s commented on certain teams that like to push the rules to their limits before, and he wants that dealt with: “Years ago it was a foul. Now it seems you can challenge the goalkeeper, and nothing happens to you. Now you are faced with 6ft 4in strikers challenging you. If the keeper is watching the ball in the air he cannot see the striker and does not know what is about to happen. I have seen a few goals scored in England when the goalkeeper was about to catch the ball, a player jumps into him, and a goal is allowed.”

The bottom line: “You cannot allow this to happen, you have to protect goalkeepers more.”

Liverpool's best chance now is that Martin's is over his injury before the FA start Dudek's ban, as the FA never seem too interested in sorting out justice properly in such situations. And of course the hope that Pepe Reina doesn't suffer any injuries.

Continue reading Another ‘keeper blow for Reds as crisis looms

Champions League Teams: Bordeaux v LFC

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez picks almost his strongest available side for tonight's Champions League group game against Bordeaux. Momo Sissoko is only fit enough to take a place on the bench so Bolo Zenden lines up alongside Xabi Alonso in the centre of the park. Wing duties tonight go to Garcia and Gonzalez, with Crouch and Bellamy up front.

Dirk Kuyt is also on the bench, the only other fit first-team striker – and calling him "fit" is stretching things a little.

Bordeaux also have an Alonso in their side.

Bordeaux: 16 U Rame, 6 F Jurietti, 3 C Henrique, 13 D Jemmali, 17 S Wendell, 8 A Alonso, 24 A Mavuba, 5 F Menegazzo, 7 L Laslandes, 14 J Micoud, 9 J Darcheville
Subs: 30 M Valverde, 12 E Perea, 18 J Faubert, 19 P Ducasse, 21 J Enakarhire, 23 F Marange, 29 M Chamakh

Liverpool: 25 J Reina, 3 S Finnan, 4 S Hyypia, 23 J Carragher, 6 J Riise, 10 S Luis Garcia, 14 X Alonso, 32 B Zenden, 11 M Gonzalez, 15 P Crouch, 17 C Bellamy
Subs: 1 J Dudek, 16 J Pennant, 18 D Kuyt, 22 M Sissoko, 28 S Warnock, 29 G Paletta, 37 L Peltier

Ref: Tom Ovrebo,

Continue reading Champions League Teams: Bordeaux v LFC