Why was Hicks Jnr in town and in the pub?

Once again the media have found an off-field story related to Liverpool FC with which to fill some column inches and airtime. Thomas O Hicks Jnr, son of Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks, went to a local pub after the game on Saturday and had to leave sooner than he’d have liked. The details of what happened in the pub vary from one so-called “eye-witness” to another, but without some exaggeration it would never make such an interesting story.

The fact that Tommy was there at all should be the focus of the interest, not what may or may not have happened. Why would the co-owners’ son be at the game and then mixing with supporters afterwards if the family really were about to sell up? Continue reading Why was Hicks Jnr in town and in the pub?

Torres hat-trick: Liverpool 3 Middlesbrough 2

Barclays Premier League – February 23rd 2008 – Result

Liverpool 3 Middlesbrough 2
Torres 28, 29, 61 Sanli 9, Downing 83

Reaction:

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez: “I was really happy with the performance. I think coming after a Champions League game the most important thing was to win, but we are now in the top four. We are in a good position. After we scored the third goal on the counter attack you could see that we could score more, but they put us under a bit of pressure because they have some good players in attack. The key for us was to win and we won. Continue reading Torres hat-trick: Liverpool 3 Middlesbrough 2

Reds v ‘Boro – just one change by Rafa

Rafa reportedly told his players after the Barnsley defeat that he’d be playing his strongest team much more now this season, because there was less of a need for rest for his players. The only change he’s made today is the one he was forced to make. Alvaro Arbeloa steps in for the suspended Jamie Carragher alongside Sami Hyypia in the centre of defence.

Dirk Kuyt is given the chance to build on his new-found confidence and increase his little run of two goals in two games, alongside first-choice striker Fernando Torres.

Martin Skrtel is on the bench, the new centre-back not considered match-fit enough yet to start having come back from a calf injury.

Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Arbeloa, Hyypia, Aurelio, Mascherano, Gerrard, Lucas, Babel, Kuyt, Torres

Subs: Martin, Skrtel, Crouch, Riise, Benayoun

Rafa aiming to get back into fourth spot

Liverpool boss Rafael Benítez spoke at the press-conference ahead of today’s home league clash with Middlesbrough league about priorities. According to PA Sport, Rafa received a ‘well done’ call from Tom Hicks, the relationship between the two already said to be more cordial than before, boosted further by the outstanding display against Inter Milan. There’s still the other half of that tie to play, but first the Reds have to get the league season back on track.

Rafa said: “We have clear targets. We must progress in the Champions League and we must finish in the top four, now we have as our priority the four league games we play before we go to the San Siro. We must be in the top four before we face Inter Milan. That will be a tough game but we will go there with more confidence if we are in the top four.”

As well as Middlesbrough this afternoon Liverpool also face Bolton and Newcastle before heading for Milan and will also, finally, play the game-in-hand that has been hanging over them since it was postponed in August due to the Champions League qualifiers. Continue reading Rafa aiming to get back into fourth spot

Owners at the game? More protests planned.

Sons of ShanklyThe protests against Liverpool’s current owners are set to continue tomorrow after the Middlesbrough game, and with at least one family member rumoured to be planning to attend, getting the message across won’t be purely at the mercy of the TV companies in the US.

It’s not the Gillett family who are expected to attend, George Gillett Jr long-since deciding he didn’t like the heat that came his way as fans realised the extent of the betrayal from the owners. His son Foster packed up his belongings from his desk at the club some time ago, jetting back to Colorado never to be seen again. Well, not so far anyway. All the rumours and leaks point to Gillett wanting out.

Tom Hicks hasn’t run away, and although nearly all of his public statements since the Klinsmann admission have been through PR agencies, he has done one recorded radio interview. He was in Dubai this week according to more than one source, and although the family line continues to be that they intend to remain at the club for the long term, it seems more and more likely that this will only be as part of a new partnership that also includes Dubai International Capital.

The Hicks FamilyHicks isn’t expected to show up himself at tomorrow’s game, but it is believed that at least one of his sons will. He has six children in all, many of whom work for him or with him in his various business interests.

The protest is being organised by the Liverpool Supporters’ Union, and as before will be held back until after the game. Although most fans agree with the protests, many feel that they should not take place during a game when they can distract the team from their focus.  So once again there’ll be a stay-behind of at least 15 minutes at the end of the game where supporters can show their disgust at events since the takeover a year ago.

Italian warnings to Liverpool’s hopes

According to Inter Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Liverpool’s win over the Italian league-leaders on Tuesday night wasn’t against the real Inter Milan and feels confident his side can overturn that 2-0 lead.

Marco Materazzi was sent off after thirty minutes of having to deal with Fernando Torres, finding the referee had no sympathy for cynical little fouls from the former Everton man. After that Inter played a game with little thought for attack – but they’d hardly been looking for a goal before that red card. With Fernando Torres shooting fractionally wide and having another shot save, added to two good penalty shouts by Liverpool, the two goals in the last five minutes were thoroughly deserved. But the lateness of the goals frustrated Ibrahimovic.

“I believe that Inter did well for 85 minutes,” said the Swedish international. “Then Cordoba got hurt, and this was a serious blow because Ivan had done well until then. But not only him, we all fought, all ten gave the maximum. Then in the last five minutes we conceded two goals and it was like a knife through the heart after all the work we had done up until that point.” Continue reading Italian warnings to Liverpool’s hopes

Defensive dillema for Rafa

Liverpool defender Daniel Agger is closer than ever to returning from his long-term injury problem and to bringing some real competition for the Reds’ centre-half berth. But he is still unlikely to help Liverpool out of a bit of a defensive crisis tomorrow.

Agger went out five months ago with a broken metatarsal. He kept fighting to regain his fitness, even making the subs’ bench at one point, but never quite got back to full fitness. He had special boots made and then later went to see a specialist in Scandinavia who has now given him the green light to play again.

The boots have allowed him to train, but he was continuing to feel discomfort in the previously broken bone. The Danish international said last month: “The problem hasn’t been the boots, it was the foot itself just not being right, there has always been something there stopping me, I’ve always had a setback or two.”

Then a few weeks back Rafa Benítez spoke of Daniel’s improvement: “Daniel is back in training which is very good news for us. Everyone has been working very hard to find a solution to his problem and he now has a new pair of boots which we hope will make a difference. They have been made especially for him by Adidas and they are different from normal boots because they take some of the pressure off the metatarsal that is causing Daniel the problem when he is kicking the ball.” Continue reading Defensive dillema for Rafa

Fans and players must repeat performance

Jamie Carragher is suspended on Saturday for the league game against Middlesbrough – so don’t be surprised at his omission from the team-sheet. Headlines in Thursday’s papers might have had you think he’d be missing for other reasons, especially the one in the Guardian. “Carragher rebukes Benítez for rotation”, it claimed. Yet reading on proved he’d done nothing of the sort.

The article said “Gentle rebuke” which was an exaggeration, but then the headline made it seem that bit stronger still.

Carragher was asked the question we all want to know the answer to, why the differences in Liverpool’s performances from one game to the next? Why in the space of a couple of days did they lose against Barnsley, a mid-table team in the country’s second flight, yet beat Inter Milan who’d not lost since September in any competition and were running away with the league in Italy’s top flight? It goes back further than that – Liverpool lost 2-1 in Turkey against Besiktas, yet hammered them 8-0 at home in the next game. In fact until that 8-0 win Liverpool’s European form wasn’t as good as their league form, at least in the Champions League proper.

Many reporters already know the answer to that question. They decided so a long time ago. Rotation of course. So they ask players anyway, hoping one of them will agree. Carra almost did. “There is just something about us that we are always confident in Europe,” he said. “We fielded our main players as well, which makes a difference, and the sending-off did help us.”

That bit where he says, “fielded our main players” is the gentle rebuke by the way, in case you missed it. Continue reading Fans and players must repeat performance

Grobbelaar latest to attack manager we must not lose

A scintillating and top-class performance from Liverpool saw them beat the unbeatables at Anfield last night, and set themselves up with a great chance of getting to the Champions League quarter finals. Inter Milan lost 2-0, their rather desperate claims that both yellow cards picked up by Materazzi on the way to his red were not accompanied by any admission that they got off lightly as far as two turned-down penalty appeals were concerned. They’d rarely threatened but had been regularly under threat for the half-hour they had all 11 men on the pitch, the sending off just making them doubly determined to get back to Italy with a nil-nil scoreline.

The win proved that Rafael Benítez does have a team capable of winning against any top side in Europe. Rafa’s problem is that he doesn’t have a squad big enough to allow him to put a team out with that kind of quality for every game, unless he takes a chance on burning his players out, or leaving them vulnerable to injury. Despite the hype from the press, all the top managers rotate – it’s just less noticeable when they do, because they’ve got better quality on the sidelines.

Last night’s team played in the formation Rafa has had mixed fortunes with, described as either a 4-3-3 or a 4-5-1 depending on whether the person doing the describing is a glass-half-full kind of person or otherwise. It’s a formation that works well if the personnel employed to carry it out are able to play in the roles that differ from how they might be involved in a 4-4-2 formation.  Rafa’s problem is that he doesn’t always have the right personnel in his squad.

Last night’s front three were certainly capable of playing in that formation. Dirk Kuyt’s had a rough season in front of goal, but showed last night that he’s capable of playing a wider role on the right or the left, as well as centrally. Ryan Babel is a right-footed left-winger who wants to be a striker. He played much of last night’s game on the left, as usual, but this role seemed somehow to give him the confidence to try and go past players. He caused Inter a lot of trouble, before seeming to tire with 20 minutes left. In between that duo was Fernando Torres, the ideal player for such a formation.  Continue reading Grobbelaar latest to attack manager we must not lose

Rafa’s Reds return to form – Liverpool 2 Inter Milan 0

Champions League Last 16 – February 19 2008 – Result.

Liverpool 2 Inter Milan 0

Rafa Benítez and his players answered the critics in the best way possible tonight – on the pitch.

Critics will find fault with tonight’s performance, but in the main those critics are scrambling to save face after being made to eat their words. Liverpool dominated this game from start to finish, even before Inter were down to ten men, and could have won by a far greater margin. Torres alone had a shot saved and another just an inch wide in close succession, and two strong penalty appeals were turned down.

Inter Milan are 11 points clear at the top of Serie A, have lost one game in all competitions, and have gone 29 games since September without losing. Tonight none of that was apparent, not because Milan played badly, but because Liverpool played so well. Continue reading Rafa’s Reds return to form – Liverpool 2 Inter Milan 0