Torres injured on duty with Spain

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez will be no doubt angered tonight after it was confirmed that Fernando Torres had been injured while on international duty with Spain.

Torres pulled up in training with what the Spanish team doctor later described as a small muscle tear. The doctor also estimated El Nino would be out for up to ten days, meaning he’d miss the Merseyside derby a week tomorrow.

Rafa has shown on many occasions that he feels internationals are unnecessary interruptions to the domestic season, hating the fact he spends the best part of two weeks without his players, who often return from duty with injuries or other fitness problems.

Torres will fly back to England before the end of the international break where the club’s own doctor, Mark Waller will assess the injury further. Fellow striker Dirk Kuyt is also missing this international break after suffering an injury on duty with Holland.

Rafa is hopeful that Daniel Agger and Xabi Alonso will be over their metatarsal injuries by the time the Everton game kicks off, and will be desperate to find out what Dr Waller has to say on the fitness of the others.

Liverpool Kit Survey

Every time Liverpool’s next kit starts to be leaked across the net comments of “It’s got too much white on” or “I hate that collar” can be seen across all the fan forums. Well the people at Football Fans Census are hoping to help you get those views across to the manufacturers, and have asked us to put this message on the site:

Liverpool Kit Survey

We’re running a short survey on this season’s football shirts. What do you think of the Liverpool strip for this season?

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The results will be read by the kit manufacturers themselves – so this is your chance to help shape the future of kit design!

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Rafa says confidence is the key

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez will spend the next two weeks working out why Liverpool’s performances have dipped in the past few games. The Reds are still unbeaten in the league and in touch of the top of the table, but have only taken six points from their last four games. They’ve also dropped five points from their two Champions League matches.

Talk of a crisis is of course laughable, but Rafa will be studying the evidence to try and ensure the dent in the club’s title hopes stays as nothing more than a minor blip. The majority of his squad are away on international duty, although some have stayed at home due to injury. Dirk Kuyt came home from duty with Holland after suffering a hamstring problem, and will keep company in the treatment rooms at Melwood with metatarsal victims Daniel Agger and Xabi Alonso.

The latter pair could actually be back in time for the next Reds fixture, the derby against Everton. However Rafa doesn’t want to put pressure on the duo to return, he wants to see how well they progress in the next fortnight. There’s no doubting they’ve been missed. Daniel Agger’s absence has left Rafa Benitez using Sami Hyypia for every game, and the Finn is clearly struggling to perform in two games a week – and perhaps Jamie Carragher would have benefitted from a rest after being out with a broken rib earlier in the season. It’s a similar story in midfield: Alonso’s absence means Steven Gerrard has played more games than Rafa would have liked, the captain having been out with a broken toe earlier in the season. Continue reading Rafa says confidence is the key

Managers disappointed in defenders

Spurs boss Martin Jol spoke up in defence of his goalkeeper Paul Robinson amidst claims that is was a goalkeeping blunder that had given Liverpool the lead at Anfield yesterday. Robinson parried a deflected Steven Gerrard free-kick, which was pounced on by Andriy Voronin to put the Reds in front. With Robinson about to go off on international duty with England, his every move is under scrutiny, and Jol wanted to make it clear it wasn’t a blunder: “I am not concerned about Paul Robinson’s form and suggestions he made another mistake. If you see the replay you see that it got a deflection off Jermaine Jenas, hitting his knee, it was not a mistake. It hit him and Voronin was first to the rebound. Nobody went with the runner; it was a bad goal from the defence’s point of view.”

Jol wasn’t the only manager unhappy with his defenders after the game. Liverpool had failed to put away chances that would have won them the game before Spurs scored, but Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez felt both the goals they conceded were easily avoidable. After the game he asked the BBC to show him replays of the goals, and after seeing them he was clearly unhappy. He’s prided himself on his defence, and the two goals by Keane were the first two conceded in open play in the league this season, so the softness of the goals astounded him: “Of course we are disappointed. The character was fine, we worked hard but we conceded two very bad goals, the sort we do not normally let in. Those two mistakes cost us. They were so clear, so easy to stop. It is not normal to see us concede goals like that.” Continue reading Managers disappointed in defenders

Reaction: Liverpool 2 Spurs 2

Barclays Premier League – October 7th 2007

Liverpool 2 Tottenham 2


Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez: “Of course we are disappointed. The character was fine, we worked hard but we conceded two very bad goals, the sort we do not normally let in. We made two bad mistakes and both goals were easy to defend against. Those two mistakes cost us. They were so clear, so easy to stop. It is not normal to see us concede goals like that.

“We were much better than them in the first half, we could have scored a few more. We controlled the first half and should have been 3-0 up but we didn’t take our chances. Then we made some mistakes defensively and that left us with a difficult second half. I always say when you are 1-0 up and you have good chances you have to take them.

“We showed character to come back and get a draw in the end but we must be disappointed not to have taken the three points.”

Spurs boss Martin Jol: “I do not know about the future, I do not pull the strings and I do not have any control over the scenario. If I did, everything would be quiet. But see my team, they want to fight and they fight every game. The players always stay the same, it is very positive.

“We could not get the third, we had the breaks and that would have ended it. I just couldn’t understand how we didn’t achieve that. Everyone has said we deserved to win, and that is how we feel. In particular in the second half we were on top of them and caused a lot of problems.

“That was good. They had suffered a bad defeat against Marseille in midweek and we knew they would want to do better and we expected a difficult match, then we conceded a goal like that at the beginning, which didn’t help.

“I felt we did well to come back into the game. We raided quickly, were strong in midfield and Robbie Keane scored a couple of good goals, but in the end it was a bad result for us. But we have got a great spirit, everyone can see that, we have done a lot of travelling in midweek to Cyprus and then up here to Liverpool. It has been a difficult time for us. But we took a lot of confidence from this.”

Liverpool: 25 Reina, 3 Finnan, 23 Carragher, 4 Hyypia, 17 Arbeloa (19 Babel, 63), 16 Pennant (18 Kuyt, 69), 20 Mascherano, 8 Gerrard, 6 Riise, 10 Voronin (11 Benayoun, 77), 9 Torres
Unused subs:
30 Itandje, 21 Lucas
Goals: Voronin 12, Torres 90

Tottenham: 1 Robinson, 2 Chimbonda, 20 Dawson , 5 Kaboul, 3 Lee, 6 Tainio (15 Malbranque,75 ), 8 Jenas, 4 Zokora, 16 Bale, 10 Keane, 9 Berbatov
Unused subs: 12 Cerny 18 Defoe, 22 Huddlestone, 30 Gardner
Goals: Keane 45, 47
Bookings: Dawson 63

Stats: (Liverpool – Spurs)
Possession: 56% – 44%
Shots on target: 9 – 6
Shots off target: 12 – 5
Corners: 5 – 3
Fouls: 19 – 10

Referee: Mark Halsey
Attendance: 43,986

Half-time: 1-1

Teams: Liverpool v Spurs

Rafa Benítez has chosen Fernando Torres and Andriy Voronin as his strike partnership for today’s Premier League game at Anfield against Spurs. Peter Crouch isn’t included in the 16, with Dirk Kuyt getting a place on the bench.

In midfield Rafa has been able to recall right-winger Jermaine Pennant, back from a one-match Champions League suspension, with John Arne Riise chosen to play on the opposite flank. Centrally he’s gone for captain Steven Gerrard and Argentinean Javier Mascherano.

In defence the manager has picked probably his strongest available back line, Finnan and Arbeloa as full-backs and Carragher alongside Hyypia in the centre of defence. There are no defenders on the bench for today’s match, Lucas Leiva, Ryan Babel and Yossi Benayoun all selected as subs.

Liverpool: 25 Reina, 3 Finnan, 23 Carragher, 4 Hyypia, 17 Arbeloa, 16 Pennant, 20 Mascherano, 8 Gerrard, 6 Riise, 10 Voronin, 9 Torres
Subs: 30 Itandje, 11 Benayoun, 18 Kuyt, 19 Babel, 21 Lucas

Tottenham: 1 Robinson, 2 Chimbonda, 20 Dawson, 5 Kaboul, 3 Lee, 6 Tainio, 8 Jenas, 4 Zokora, 16 Bale, 10 Keane, 9 Berbatov
Subs: 12 Cerny, 15 Malbranque, 18 Defoe, 22 Huddlestone, 30 Gardner

Referee: Mark Halsey.

Kick-off: 3:00pm BST.

Crouch: Excited about this season

Liverpool forward Peter Crouch is not expecting any guarantees that he’ll play today against the club he started his career with, and is unperturbed at the likelihood he’ll be watching the game from the stands. Crouch signed his first professional terms with today’s opponents Spurs, but never actually played for the North London side. Despite accepting his role in Rafa’s system, he doesn’t appreciate the stories that are spun from actual facts.

The Mail’s Joe Bernstein took some quotes from Rafa Benitez – quotes interestingly enough that haven’t appeared elsewhere – and turned them into proof that Crouch was leaving. To add a bit of extra spice to the story he made out that the England international would be leaving on his own terms, when he was ready.

Bernstein’s article starts off with this bold statement: “Rafa Benitez is heading for a major fall-out with Peter Crouch as he tries to force the England striker out of Anfield in the January transfer window. The Liverpool manager has decided to cash in on Crouch as soon as possible after confirming that he has a £20 million budget to spend on new players in the new year.”

Then he stirs it up further, adding: “…but the player, who has 18 months left on his contract, is determined to stay put until the summer unless he gets the right move for his future. Benitez’s patience with his centre-forward has finally snapped after Crouch’s lacklustre performance in the 1-0 midweek defeat by Marseille and he is unlikely to play against Tottenham today.”

Crouch probably won’t play today, with Rafa continuing his policy of choosing three of his four strikers in the 16-strong match-day squad. That’s nothing new. Crouch’s performances this season – when he has been selected – have been below the standards that earned him so much support from Reds when he first joined, and which helped him become top scorer last season. But to say Rafa’s “patience finally snapped” because of Wednesday night’s performance would mean the Spaniard will also be selling at least nine other players as soon as he can.

Casually adding John Arne Riise to the “for sale” list, Bernstein finally puts some quotes into his article; quotes which actually don’t mention selling any players. The quote from Rafa does mention buying players though: “We’ve been working on buying new players since the beginning of September. We do not have problems in the financial area because we have sold a lot of players. We have around 35m euros (£20.7m).” In fact 35m euros is closer to £24m, but let’s not get bogged down by that.

The only other quote from Rafa in Bernstein’s article is from the boss explaining his anger at the performance against Marseille, and his decision to call everyone together to go over what went wrong: “We were really bad as a team so the staff and I and the players had to be together. I was really disappointed. And I was angry. But you cannot change anything by being angry. You need to analyse.”

Meanwhile the Sunday Mirror had some quotes from Crouch himself. He started by stating the obvious, then made it clear he wasn’t happy with the stories in the papers: “I am like any footballer, I want to play as many matches as possible and of course I am disappointed when I’m not in the team, but for people to suggest I have a problem with how Rafa Benitez manages Liverpool just isn’t true.”

Crouch says Rafa has told him not to change, to play his normal game: “Rafa has told me I don’t have to prove myself to him. He doesn’t want me to try to do things that aren’t normally a part of my game. He just wants me to concentrate on doing the things that made him bring me to Liverpool in the first place. Over the course of the season I believe I’ll get enough chances to show what I am capable of and I will be part of a successful team at Liverpool.”

Crouch’s unusual height seems to give many pundits the green light to dispense unfair criticism, and he says it’s nothing new: “It seems like I have had questions asked about me all the way through my career – and I’ve found that the best place to answer them is in front of goal. Now I am playing for a high-profile club like Liverpool and I am an England international, the spotlight is on me more than ever, but I’d like to remind people that last year the manager brought Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy and we also had Robbie Fowler.”

He answered his critics on the pitch last season: “There were question marks over my role and how many goals I would score, yet I ended up being Liverpool’s top goalscorer and I felt I had a great season.”

The talk from Bernstein of him wanting out in January seem to be far from true when listening to Crouch: “Liverpool are going places and like every other player I am excited by the prospect that this might be our year to mount a challenge for the title, but it is going to be a tough game against Spurs. They have had an indifferent start to the campaign and that will hurt all of their players.”

Unless Rafa wins the league the rotation obsession from the critics will not go away. And when performances are unconvincing and results aren’t going the Reds’ way the critics will be keeping their knives sharp. Another annoying interruption thanks to international fixtures looms after today’s fixture, and the only chance Liverpool have of changing the topics of articles about them for the next couple of weeks is to put in a convincing performance against Spurs today. Spurs’ poor start to the season means they are due a win, and due to show their true abilities, meaning Liverpool need to go into this game prepared.

This game could be a defining moment in the season for the Reds – a chance to prove they can bounce back from a relatively bad spell.

Reaction: Liverpool 0 Marseille 1

Liverpool’s first defeat of the season came after Pepe Reina conceded his first goal from open play so far this season – and it was some strike. It leaves Liverpool with a lot of work to do in the Champions League now, having just one point from the six on offer.

The Reds did not look to be at all motivated for the game, perhaps missing the influence of assistant manager Pako Ayestaran. Pako is still officially the assistant manager, but is on ‘gardening leave’ for now after a big rift developed between him and the manager Rafa Benitez. It brought to an end a long friendship, and clearly had a major impact on how the first-team operate.

Despite the long and repetitive arguments for and against rotation, the problem the Liverpool side seemed to have was a lack of interest. Was Steven Gerrard’s mind elsewhere after he had the car accident which left a young boy with a broken leg? He certainly seemed to be less fired-up than he usually is on European nights, and that apathy seemed to spread throughout the team. Continue reading Reaction: Liverpool 0 Marseille 1

CL Result: Liverpool 0 Marseille 1

UEFA Champions League, October 3rd 2007.


Liverpool 0 Marseille 1

Liverpool: 25 Reina, 3 Finnan, 23 Carragher, 4 Hyypia, 12 Aurelio (10 Voronin, 70), 11 Benayoun, 8 Gerrard, 22 Sissoko, 33 Leto (6 Riise, 52), 9 Torres, 15 Crouch (18 Kuyt, 75)
Unused subs: 30 Itandje, 17 Arbeloa, 19 Babel, 20 Mascherano
Booked: Gerrard 20, Sissoko 52, Carragher 63

Marseille: 30 Mandanda, 24 Bonnart, 4 Rodriguez, 32 Givet, 3 Taiwo, 19 Cana, 7 Cheyrou, 28 Valbuena (8 Oruma, 83), 6 Ziani, 10 Zenden (13 Arrache, 87), 11 Niang (9 Cisse, 70)
Subs: 16 Hamel, 15 Zubar, 17 M’Bami, 21 Moussilou
Booked: None
Goal: Valbuena 77

Referee: Konrad Plautz

Attendance: 41,355

Stats: (Liverpool – Marseille)
Possession: 45% – 55%
Shots on target: 2 – 9
Shots off target: 5 – 5
Corners: 7 – 4
Fouls: 14 – 11

Teams: Reds v Marseille

Champions League Group A – 3rd October 2007

Liverpool number nine Fernando Torres starts another game for Liverpool tonight, but there’s no place for former Liverpool number nine Djibril Cissé in the Marseille line-up.

Rafa Benitez has chosen Crouch and Torres up front, with Leto making a start in midfield, along with Sissoko, Benayoun and captain Steven Gerrard. Finnan and Aurelio will start as full-backs tonight either side of Hyypia and Carragher, meaning that Arbeloa finally gets a rest.

The luxury of seven subs in Europe means Rafa has chosen both Kuyt and Voronin for the bench.

Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Aurelio, Carragher, Hyypia, Sissoko, Gerrard, Benayoun, Leto, Torres, Crouch.
Subs: Riise, Voronin, Arbeloa, Kuyt, Babel, Itandje, Mascherano.

Marseille: Mandanda, Bonnart, Rodriguez, Givet, Taiwo, Cana, Cheyrou, Valbuena, Ziani, Zenden, Niang
Subs: Hamel, Oruma, Cisse, Arrache, Zubar, M’Bami, Moussilou

Referee: Konrad Plautz (Austria)