Internationals return: Kuyt not too bad but Momo injured

Rafael Benitez says that his worst fears over Dirk Kuyt may not have been realised after all. Kuyt injured ankle ligaments on duty with Holland on Saturday, but rather than send him straight home the Dutch staff kept him back until the last possible moment in case they could get him to play their Wednesday night fixture. A scan proved they couldn't and so he was finally sent to Melwood for some treatment.

Now after a couple of days with the club medics he's recovering much more quickly than had been feared – and could even be fit for tomorrow's game with Blackburn. Rafa says he'll leave the decision on whether to include him tomorrow until the player's had more time to recover: "Dirk's injury isn't that bad. We can't say when he will be able to play, but he returned on Tuesday and had more treatment. It would have been better if we'd been able to treat him for another two days straight after his injury, but we will wait and see how he is before deciding when he can play."

The club also confirmed officially that Daniel Agger had broken bones in his right hand, but held back from saying how long he might be out for, if at all. Clearly with an outfield player suffering a hand injury the time taken to return to action could be shortened if a suitable dressing can be found, but it's believed this injury will need to be in either plaster or the equivalent for at least a month. Even with a dressing on that's acceptable to the officials the player still has to be able to play without too much pain.

Agger's fellow centre halves Jamie Carragher had mixed fortunes last night on their international duties. Sami Hyypia scored for Finland in their win over Kazakhstan but Carra, along with Peter Crouch, saw his England team-mates mess up enough to lose 2-0. Crouch set up England's best chance but Wayne Rooney blasted the flick over the bar. The two goals conceded were the fault of John Terry for the first one and the Gary Neville own goal for the second was one you'll be seeing on football comedy-clip shows for years to come, much to the despair of Paul Robinson.

Rafa also spoke about an injury to Momo Sissoko that had been kept quiet until now. Rafa says it has been causing him problems since he arrived back from duty with Mali: "We also have a problem with Momo, who has hurt his ankle. He's not been able to train since he came back."

One player who should be fit tomorrow is Welsh captain Craig Bellamy who delighted his national coach John Toshack last night with his performance in their 3-1 home win over Cyprus last night. After being thoroughly embarrassed by Slovakia on Saturday a lot of pride was at stake, not to mention qualifying hopes, and Craig led his team-mates to the much-need win. Tosh said: "Craig produced an outstanding performance. Everything he did was outstanding and it proves it was the right decision to make him captain. Craig has been excellent. He has grown into the job since he has been with us, he has understood the extra responsibilities and it showed on the pitch. You could see the positions he was taking up, dropping into different areas so he could link up better with people."

Bellamy got the third Welsh goal and says he enjoyed the partnership he had last night with Robert Earnshaw, who also scored: "He is an exceptional player with very good movement. We can move defenders around. We've probably only played together four or five times over a two-year period."

Spain played a friendly and Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina will have been delighted with the ninety-minute chance he got to represent his country. They beat Argentina 2-1 with appearances also for Xabi Alonso, a half-time sub for David Albelda and Luis Garcia who replaced Fernando Torres ten minutes later.

Continue reading Internationals return: Kuyt not too bad but Momo injured

Dudek to miss first-team chance

Liverpool are planning to appeal against Jerzy Dudek's dismissal against Everton reserves in the mini derby on Tuesday night. All (Red) accounts of the incidents leading up to his dismissal say that Jerzy shouldn't have been sent off, but of course all blue accounts are quite different.

Dudek had been getting hacked at for some time by Everton player Victor Anichebe and a referee described as very poor was unwilling to do anything about it. Eventually Dudek snapped and squared up to his opponent. The ref booked Anichebe and sent Jerzy off.

Unfortunately for Liverpool the authorities are usually quite happy to let players go off for raising their hands. It doesn't matter what provoked it, it doesn't matter how much contact there is – it's one of the FA's "rules".

In Jerzy's case the provocation, according to many people who were there, was quite severe. He perhaps shouldn't have raised his hands but the referee really shouldn't have let it happen. Rafa has been watching the incident back again and says that the Reds clearly need to appeal for some kind of justice for Jerzy: "I've been watching the video again and it's clear we have to do something. The tackle on Jerzy was terrible. We will be seeing if we can appeal this decision because when you see the tackle on Jerzy, it's clear what happened. The tackle was so bad, and yet the player only received a yellow card. It's crazy."

Predictably the blue contingent, still reeling from losing our new reserve boss Gary Ablett in the summer, were protesting the innocence of their player. Their current reserve coach Andy Holden said: "If you put your hands on people then you have to go." On his way off Dudek seems to have shown Holden the evidence of the kicking he'd got from the latest blue to learn the Everton way, and Holden claims Dudek should put up with it: "Dudek has been a top class goalkeeper but he walked past me and showed me his leg and I have had bigger gnat bites."

An earlier report on this site had Dudek missing three league games as part of his suspension, but we were wrong about that one two counts. First of all the suspensions following reserve sendings-off also include Carling Cup and FA Cup games, and secondly there's a slight difference in how soon reserve suspensions take effect. According to a club spokesman there'll be a delay before Dudek's ban kicks in: "In the Premier League, suspensions start immediately, but not following reserve matches." The delay is for two weeks so Dudek will be available as cover for the league games against Blackburn and Manchester United and would have been available for European games anyway, like next week's Champions League game against Bordeaux. What he will miss is his chance for a first team game, the Carling Cup tie against Reading.

Jerzy would almost certainly have been given a start in the Carling Cup game if Rafa had followed what now seems to be tradition in that tournament for most Premiership clubs. He'll also miss out on being cover for the two league games following that, which are both home fixtures, against Aston Villa and also against Reading.

If Liverpool appeal against Dudek's ban then there's a chance he'll actually get to play against Reading in that Carling Cup game after all – the delay would possibly mean a ban couldn't start until he'd had a personal hearing.

Continue reading Dudek to miss first-team chance

Agger out for up to five weeks with broken hand

There was bad news for Liverpool last night when young centre-back Daniel Agger broke his hand playing for Denmark. Although Liverpool's medical staff will have a closer look as soon as he arrives back at Melwood, he's likely to be in plaster for up to five weeks and will miss this weekend's visit of Blackburn to Anfield.

Agger was part of the side that beat Liechtenstein 4-0.

Rafa will be fuming about this – international fixtures are causing him interruptions he feels are unnecessary – and that's without injuries. Now Agger will be forced to sit in the stands to watch Liverpool next few games, and he'll be joined by Dutch striker Dirk Kuyt who damaged ankle ligaments playing for his country on Saturday. Kuyt is expected to be out for two weeks.

Those two injuries are the ones we know about, Rafa will also be waiting with dread this morning on the return of the rest of the international stars in case any arrive home with knocks that will stop them playing.

Continue reading Agger out for up to five weeks with broken hand

Carra set to get England start

Jamie Carragher looks set to be given a well-deserved starting role for England tonight with coach Steve McLaren considering moving to a 3-5-2 formation against Croatia.

Most Reds would of course not even consider leaving Carra out of any side, but he seems to always be overlooked in favour of players who we'd say were worse, certainly no better, than Carra. Tonight though it seems as though McLaren has to change his formation because of injuries and suspensions, and that's what's given Carra the chance.

Fellow Red Steven Gerrard is one of many midfielders unavailable for tonight, having been suspended due to getting his second yellow of the qualifying phase on Saturday. Frank Lampard must be pleased that Gerrard misses out tonight; having found that most of the country have now caught up with Reds fans in the belief that Lampard is not quite as good as he would like us to think. With Gerrard available there might have been a much bigger push for him to be dropped, but there's too much of a player shortage now for that: "When you include Lennon, who is an impact player, we're missing four of our midfield players," said McLaren, "We have to deal with that and we're looking at different ways of doing so. Now we've done the work and I am pleased with the reaction of the players."

He spoke of the idea of three at the back not being alien to any of the three likely to play at the back. Alongside Carra would be Rio Ferdinand and John Terry, and even without injuries it might have still been something he'd have considered: "We've got to change. We've got to look at different systems and we've got to look at the make-up of the team. If we play three at the back, those players we'll be putting in there have played it before."

Carra pretty much started out his defensive life (he'd been a central midfielder at youth/reserve level) in a back three. That was when Roy Evans was boss at Anfield, but apart from a couple of trials at the formation from Rafa Benitez last season it's not something he's played as much as McLaren makes out. Not that Carra will find it a problem of course, but Terry and Ferdinand don't seem to have played it too often either.

McLaren says that in domestic football changing systems is the norm, for various reasons: "There are all kinds of systems in the Premier League and I've been involved. We used to change systems out of necessity, because of injuries, because of opponents. To go to the next level we have to look at these situations. To go through the barrier we might try one or two things."

Rafa Benitez won't like the other comment McLaren had. After Rafa has complained that his players shouldn't be away for such a length of time during internationals he won't like the hint from McLaren that perhaps even that amount of time isn't enough: "You get very little time with England," said the former Middlesbrough boss.

There was joy for Liverpool's Scott Carson last night after he played a big part in the England Under-21's 2-0 win over Germany – in Germany. That made the aggregate scoreline 3-0 in England's favour and took the youngsters through to the finals of the Under-21 European Championships. Carson made a couple of saves when needed and had to face a penalty – which was blasted wide.

The game was overshadowed when it was revealed the England officials had made a formal complaint to UEFA about racist comments from German players toward English ones. Micah Richards and Anton Ferdinand claimed the opponents called them "monkeys". UEFA's president Lennart Johansson says that the claims will be looked at and if found to be true hinted that punishment could be quite severe: "This has to be investigated and it will have its consequences, that's clear. I cannot make any other comments – except that that I am upset and it will be investigated. It is for the disciplinary board to decide on a punishment. I won't speculate on the outcome but racism is a very serious issue." English football has come a long way since John Barnes had bananas thrown at him by bigoted opposition fans, but it seems that other countries are still miles behind England. Ironically the players had all been photographed before the game in front of an anti-racism banner.

Continue reading Carra set to get England start

Mini-derby: El Zhar scores but Dudek faces suspension

Liverpool's second choice goalkeeper was sent off in tonight's mini-derby at Everton's home reserve ground, the Halton Stadium. Liverpool lost the game 2-1.

According to reports the sending off was rather harsh, coming after Jerzy ran out of patience with Everton's Victor Anichebe. The final straw seems to have been when Anichebe flew at Dudek with studs showing and Dudek and Anichebe "squared up" to each other. Anichebe was merely booked, with Dudek given a straight red.

The most unfortunate side to this sending off is that Jerzy will now be suspended for three games for the first team, meaning fourth-choice keeper David Martin will have to take his place on the bench for the games against Blackburn, Manchester United and Aston Villa. Jerzy's rival for the role of second-choice keeper is Scott Carson who's out on loan at the moment to gain some valuable first-team experience. It's unclear how easy it would be to recall Carson in light of Dudek's potential absence. We say potential because there's a possibility that the Reds will appeal against the red card.

One positive to come out of the game was that Nabil El Zhar scored his first ever Liverpool goal, which came from the spot after he was brought down in the area. Team-mate Bolo Zenden also got awared a penalty, which he took himself, but missed.

Summer signing Gabriel Paletta played the full game, with Fabio Aurelio playing the first half. There was a full 90-minute run-out for both Zenden and Warnock.

Liverpool team: Dudek, Smith, Warnock, Antwi, Paletta, Mannix, Flynn (Martin, 60), Zenden, El Zhar, Guthrie, Aurelio (Threlfall, 45)
Unused subs: Hobbs, Roque, Darby.

For a full report on the game see the official LFC site: www.liverpoolfc.tv. There's also a promise of a full report tomorrow on the website of The Liverpool Way, who have a brief report on the site already: TLW. TLW send someone to every reserve game and provide a good alternative view of how Rafa's younger signings are progressing.

Continue reading Mini-derby: El Zhar scores but Dudek faces suspension

Diao has gone to Stoke

A big thank you goes out from Rafa Benitez today (probably) after Stoke completed the loan signing of unwanted midfielder Salif Diao. The official Stoke City website confirmed that the deal had gone through.

Once Diao had spoken to Stoke boss Tony Pulis about the move it seemed the only stumbling block was how much of Diao's huge wages the Potteries side would be paying. That's now clearly been resolved and Pulis is delighted. Speaking to the official Stoke website he said: "We've been monitoring Salif for a while now and have had very good reports about the kid. He played 40 games in his first season at Liverpool, he's still only 29 and he's desperate to play football."

Clearly some PR has been going on with Stoke, their website also claims that Diao "quickly established himself as a regular during his first season at Anfield", which is stretching things a little.

As expected, the loan deal is for three months but there was no mention of what the plans might be once that three months is over.

Continue reading Diao has gone to Stoke

Kuyt to miss at least two Reds games

Liverpool striker Dirk Kuyt is certainly not going to be playing for Holland against Albania tomorrow night after a scan in Amsterdam yesterday showed he'd suffered strained ankle ligaments. Not only will he miss that match, but also Saturday's league visit to Anfield by Blackburn followed by the trip to Bordeaux next Wednesday in the Champions League. His target for now is to get for the clash with rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford a week on Sunday.

Rafa Benítez was fuming that the Dutch FA didn't send him straight home after his injury so he could start treatment at the club paying his wages, but at least now he's going to be on his way home allowing Liverpool's own medics to oversee his treatment. He fell awkwardly on Saturday in Holland's game against Bulgaria and had to leave the field after 16 minutes. He'd left the UK prior to the internationals with a head wound sustained at Bolton in that league game.

Rafa will now wait anxiously for his other two international strikers, Peter Crouch and Craig Bellamy, to return home fit again. It's looking likely that Robbie Fowler will start on Saturday alongside whoever is the fittest out of Crouch and Bellamy.

Continue reading Kuyt to miss at least two Reds games

Ex-red Diouf dreams of playing for Real or Barca

Serial spitter El-Hadji Diouf always came across as being a few stickers short of a Panini album, but now he’s gone even further with bizarre claims of how good he believes he is.
According to the Manchester Evening News Diouf, now of Bolton, wants people to think that he’s too good for the white shirt of […]
Continue reading Ex-red Diouf dreams of playing for Real or Barca

Rafa angry at Holland staff and international rules

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez spoke yesterday of his frustration at the latest mess-up to his plans to be caused by international games.

Rafa has already spoken of how unjust he finds it to have players involved in internationals as late as Wednesday night when Liverpool have a game to play a couple of days later on the Saturday lunchtime. The same problem will occur this weekend, although there's a slightly later kick-off on Saturday. Not that those couple of hours makes much of a difference.

This time, on top of that lack of preparation, comes a big worry over striker Dirk Kuyt. Kuyt was injured on international duty for the Dutch at the weekend and their coach Marco van Basten admitted he was doubtful for their Wednesday night fixture. What frustrates Rafa is that he senses Kuyt is far from being fully fit but will be forced to play if the Dutch feel it's worth a risk. Perhaps even more frustrating for Rafa is that he's not a part of the decision-making process over a player who Liverpool need to get more than one game out of.

Rafa told the Liverpool Echo of his annoyance: "If Kuyt is a doubt for Wednesday, it means he is not fit. They were talking about seeing if he can play. If he plays, he may miss the next three or four games for Liverpool, including Blackburn, the Champions League and Manchester United."

Rafa has managed to get LFC's Dr Waller to speak to the Dutch medical staff, but clearly doesn't feel happy: "Our doctor spoke to the Dutch doctor yesterday and they said he would have a scan."

Rafa wants the international federations to start paying for the use of club players. There's an argument that smaller countries couldn't afford to do this, but the larger nations certainly could, especially the most successful ones. FIFA and UEFA though would be able to deal with that by allocating prize money and sponsorship funds in a different way. Rafa said: "When people talk about the national teams, no-one ever talks about the money they make; it's always about the pride of playing for your country. Last season we had a situation where Riise was injured in a friendly for Norway and missed the Champions League game with Benfica. Where was our compensation? The national associations should pay. I believe they should pay 50 per cent of a player's wage when they play for their country, and 100 per cent if they are injured, for as long as they can't play a competitive game."

What's even more frustrating for Rafa is that some of his players, the Spanish ones, won't be back at training until Thursday afternoon. Not because of a competitive match, because of a friendly. He's got an answer to what might stop this happening: "Spain are playing a friendly with Argentina on Wednesday? Why? Maybe it would be different if they had to pay fifty percent of their salaries."

Another solution is to switch around the way the games are played. Instead of giving the national teams a week to prepare there should be a week for the club sides to get their players back to fitness and involved in preparation for the next club game: "We will have two days to work with the players before the game on Saturday. Instead of playing a game on Saturday and Wednesday, they should be playing Wednesday and then Saturday, so we still have a week to prepare."

Unfortunately for Rafa this seems unlikely to happen. For most Liverpool fans LFC come first before their country, no matter how patriotic they are, but for the likes of FIFA and UEFA club games aren't really all that important, certainly domestic club games. The fact is that it's difficult to keep national managers and club managers happy. The idea of an international calendar came about because some clubs would be penalised more than others due to some nations playing games at totally different times to each other. The international calendar is a good first step, but it doesn't solve all the problems. With Rafa showing his dislike so much of late, perhaps Liverpool will mention it the next time the G14 meet up.

Continue reading Rafa angry at Holland staff and international rules

Bellamy wants to move on from “lowest point”

Craig Bellamy's first game as stand-in Wales captain ended in a 5-1 defeat in front of an attendance of just 28,493 fans at the Millennium Stadium, a far cry from the capacity crowds that would help the national side through qualifiers a couple of years ago. Bellamy felt there were no positives at all to take from what he described as one of the worst moments of his career: "What is there to look back on? It was a disaster and one of my lowest points. Wales had a good few years under Mark Hughes when we sold out the stadium. It was really happening for us so I hope this is not a return to the bad old days for both our team and support."

The defeat leaves Wales struggling now, as Craig admitted: "I'm not going to lie, our qualification hopes are not good. I haven't seen us concede goals like that for a long time. Slovakia were not particularly good, and I thought we could turn them over, but you can't give away goals like that. We haven't got a big squad and there are lots of guys who don't play regular first team football so to ask them to play at top level in internationals is difficult. You could see the lack of match sharpness."

Next up for Wales are the side that hammered Ireland on Saturday, and a big test for the Welsh: "Now we have to beat Cyprus. It will be a test of my captaincy ability because we must regain our pride."   

Bellamy's trial for assault was due to continue yesterday but was postponed in light of some new evidence that came to light last week. Bellamy is assused of common assault, against Holly Smith and Sophie Palmer. An incident is alleged to have taken place in Cardiff on February 5th. Prosecution solicitor Catrin Davies was successful with an application to adjourn the case in view of this medical evidence, which relates to one of the complainants. It only came to light last week, something that District Judge John Charles found "staggering". He said that he would reserve any further comment until the case was completed. The case is now adjourned until Friday when a new date will be set for the trial. Also accused of common assault on Sophie Palmer is Franklin Lynch, aged 52 of Barry, South Wales. Both men deny the charges against them.

Rafa Benitez will be concerned that Bellamy gets through Wednesday night's match unscathed in light of Dirk Kuyt's injury situation. It's time for a change of fortune for Liverpool's international contingent though, and perhaps tomorrow night will see Bellamy find the net again to end those early mutterings about him being short on confidence.

Continue reading Bellamy wants to move on from “lowest point”