League Cup: Leeds v Liverpool – teams

Carling  Cup 3rd Round.

Leeds United v Liverpool
Elland Road
Kick-0ff: 7:45pm BST.

This used to be one of the main fixtures of the Premier League season, before Leeds hit financial problems and began a slide that shows no club is too big to go down. Leeds now play their league games in the third tier of the league, or League One as the marketing people have renamed it.

Rafa Benitez knows this competition is the ideal time to test out some of the fringe players, but this is a big fixture for the Leeds of 2009. Their ground is sold out, it’s the highest attendance since their Premier League days, they’re here for an upset.

With that in mind Rafa has got Gerrard, Torres and Johnson on the bench, in case the 11 on the pitch don’t take this chance to stake a claim for a regular start.

Jamie Carragher is perhaps one of those with something to prove, he’s not had his best run of form in recent games but captains the side tonight in the kind of atmosphere he thrives in. He partners Kyrgiakos, with Philip Degen making a rare appearance as one of the full-backs. Who’ll take the other full-back role remains to be seen; Fabio Aurelio and Andrea Dossena both start, but so does Albert Riera.

Aurelio has been used in central midfield before by Rafa, but Rafa has given Jay Spearing a welcome start, and the young Red is likely to line up with Javier Mascherano.

Also unknown until after kick-off is whether Ryan Babel will play wide or in support of David N’gog.

At least one player’s position will be known from the off, with Diego Cavalieri starting in goal to give Pepe Reina a break.

Leeds United: 12 Higgs, 2 Crowe, 3 Kisnorbo, 17 Michalik, 4 Doyle, 14 Howson, 16 Johnson, 22 Hughes, 9 Beckford, 10 Becchio, 23 Snodgrass
Subs: 1 Ankergren, 6 Naylor, 7 Prutton, 8 Kilkenny, 18 Robinson, 13 Grella, 21 Showunmi,

Liverpool: 1 Cavalieri, 12 Aurelio, 16 Kyrgiakos, 23 Carragher, 27 Degen, 38 Dossena, 11 Riera, 20 Mascherano, 26 Spearing, 19 Babel, 24 Ngog
Subs: 25 Reina, 2 Johnson, 37 Skrtel, 8 Gerrard, 28 Plessis, 9 Torres, 10 Voronin

Referee: Alan Wiley

West Ham v Liverpool: Mascherano back

Rafa Benitez wasn’t really likely to pick the same team three games in succession, and Albert Riera has made way for Javier Mascherano for today’s visit to West Ham.

This means Gerrard will to return to his now more accustomed attacking role behind Torres with Benayoun and Kuyt taking up the wider positions, the central midfield duties being shared between Mascherano and Lucas.

Emiliano Insua retains his place at left-back in an unchanged back four also featuring Jamie Carragher, Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson.

The bench features four players signed as defenders: Aurelio, Kyrgiakos, Degen and Dossena.

West Ham: 1 Green, 15 Upson, 23 Ilunga, 30 Tomkins, 8 Parker, 16 Noble, 20 Faubert, 21 Behrami, 12 Cole, 32 Alessandro Diamanti, 41 Hines
Subs: 28 Kurucz, 04 Gabbidon, 18 Spector, 07 Dyer, 14 Kovac, 35 Payne, 24 Nouble

Liverpool: 25 Reina, 2 Johnson, 22 Insua, 23 Carragher, 37 Skrtel, 8 Gerrard, 15 Benayoun, 20 Mascherano, 21 Lucas, 9 Torres, 18 Kuyt
Subs: 1 Cavalieri, 12 Aurelio, 16 Kyrgiakos, 27 Degen, 38 Dossena, 11 Riera, 19 Babel

Referee: Andre Marriner

Result: Liverpool 1 Debrecen 0

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Champions LeagueAnfield – Result

Liverpool 1 (Kuyt 45+1) – Debrecen 0

Post-match quotes:

Jamie Carragher: “We didn’t play well, we know that, just the 1-0 tonight, but we wanted to get a win as quick as we could to qualify from the group. It’s not our best performance but we got the result.”

Dirk Kuyt: “It was difficult to create chances. In the first half we should have scored more than one goal to make the game a lot easier. Like Jamie said, it’s not the best performance, but we got the clean sheet and won the game. That’s the most important thing in the first game. It doesn’t matter which position I play if I can be important for the team. I have played there before. Last year I played most of the time on the right, and this year most of the time behind Fernando. Maybe on Saturday it will be a different position, but that is up to the manager.”

Rafael Benitez: “We had three or four good chances and if we take our chances it would be easier. But it’s 1-0, and the most important thing is to get the three points. In the first half we had two or three very good chances and in the second half it’s the same. People didn’t know what to expect because they didn’t know the other team, but they showed they’re not bad.

“We have confidence and we are winning games now which is important for the players. To start the Champions League group stage with three points was always the most important thing and hopefully we’ll see better things in the next game. We had some chances, we didn’t take them and as a result we put ourselves under pressure at the end. It was a game against a side who were working hard and were well organised. We scored too late in the first-half, so it was more difficult and at the end of the game it was the same.

“We were in control in the first half and they didn’t have too many options. The difference was that we couldn’t score the second goal. But I am really pleased because in the end we won. They have good players and are well organised. We knew it could be difficult. I said before we’d have to see how they played against a top side and they showed they are a good team. We knew we had to score an early goal and change the game. We didn’t and if that happens the other team keeps working hard until the end.

“When you don’t have too much confidence like before, you need to win. But we are winning games in a row now. The problem is that if you play against this type of team at Anfield and don’t score early, they are going to press for every ball from the first minute and because of that it wasn’t easy.”

Debrecen coach Andras Herczeg: “We did our best and our performance gives us confidence for our next match.”

Liverpool: 25 Reina, 2 Johnson, 22 Insua, 23 Carragher, 37 Skrtel, 8 Gerrard (booked), 11 Riera (19 Babel 80), 15 Benayoun (20 Mascherano 87), 21 Lucas, 9 Torres, 18 Kuyt (12 Aurelio 90+2)
Subs: 1 Cavalieri, 12 Aurelio, 16 Kyrgiakos, 26 Spearing, 10 Voronin

Debrecen: 1 Poleksic, 10 Bodnar, 16 Komlosi, 21 Fodor (booked), 4 Leandro, 6 Ramos (86 Laczko 67), 17 Meszaros, 30 Kiss, 55 Szakaly (11 Feczesin 79), 77 Czvitkovics, 39 Coulibaly
Subs: 12 Pantic, 2 Szucs, 81 Katona, 22 Bernath, 41 Olah

Referee: Pedro Proenca (Portugal)

Attendance: 41,591

Stats: (Liverpool – Debrecen)
Possession: 58% – 42%
Shots on target: 9 – 5
Shots off target: 15 – 6
Corners: 10 – 6
Fouls: 9 – 11

CL Teams: Liverpool v Debrecen

Liverpool get their Champions League campaign underway for the season with the visit of Hungarian champions Debrecen to Anfield.

Manager Rafael Benitez has decided to stick with the same starting line-up that beat Burnley 4-0 on Saturday.

That means Fernando Torres will be getting his support from Dirk Kuyt, Albert Riera and Yossi Benayoun again. Kuyt and Benayoun (with a hat-trick) got all four of Liverpool’s goals at the weekend.

Captain Steven Gerrard plays again in the role alongside Lucas in the centre of midfield.

Mascherano missed Saturday’s match after staying in Argentina to get an injury assessed, he’s back in the squad tonight but is kept back on the bench. Fellow South American Fabio Aurelio makes a return to the squad from a much longer-term injury, like Mascherano he’s on the bench.

Liverpool: Reina, Insua, Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Lucas, Gerrard, Benayoun, Riera, Kuyt, Torres.
Subs: Cavalieri, Aurelio, Kyrgiakos, Spearing, Mascherano, Babel, Voronin.

Debrecen: Poleksic, Bodnar, Komlosi, Meszaros, Fodor, Kiss, Ramos, Czvitkovics, Leandro, Szakaly, Coulibaly.
Subs: Pantic, Szucs, Feczesin, Bernath, Olah, Katona, Laczko.

Referee: Pedro Proenca (Portugal)

Kick-off: 7:45pm BST

Reds confirm Standard Chartered deal

Liverpool FC’s new main sponsorship deal with Standard Chartered Bank was announced officially overnight with a joint statement issued by the two organisations.

Standard Chartered Bank - new Liverpool FC sponsorThe deal will run for four years starting in July 2010 and was described as “the largest commercial agreement in Liverpool’s history”. The deal is believed to be worth at least as much as the one between Manchester United and Aon, which was the most lucrative in football history. This would give Liverpool £20m per season, a total of £80m per season, and a massive increase on the £7.5m per season that was negotiated with Carlsberg.

Standard Chartered are based in the UK, but the vast majority of their business is done in its “core markets in Asia, Africa and the Middle East”. The bank sees the tie-up with Liverpool as a “platform to significantly step up the Bank’s brand awareness” in those regions.

The bank’s logo will be seen on Liverpool’s shirts from next summer until summer 2014.

The statement also points out that Standard Chartered “ranks among the top 25 companies in the FTSE-100 by market capitalisation” and that it has “more than doubled its revenue and profits over the last five years and has performed consistently well, delivering record results throughout the recent financial crisis”.

Christian Purslow, the Reds new MD said: “This partnership brings together two highly successful organisations with a really strong cultural and strategic fit. The sponsorship opportunity attracted a huge level of interest from a wide array of globally recognised brands and in Standard Chartered we believe we have the ideal partner to move forward and help develop our global ambitions for the club. It is a real sign of the progress we have made at Liverpool that we have been able to secure the largest ever commercial deal in our history.”

Standard Chartered’s Group Chief Executive, Peter Sands, said: “This is a great partnership. We are excited to be working with such a famous global brand as Liverpool Football Club for the next four years. This is an outstanding opportunity for Standard Chartered, our customers and shareholders, and for Liverpool, its players and fans.

“We see many opportunities to continue growing our business, particularly as Asia, Africa and the Middle East are emerging from the global downturn more quickly than the West. This sponsorship will drive a step change in brand recognition in our key markets and will provide an additional catalyst for our business growth.”

Liverpool’s association with Carlsberg began at the start of the 1992-93 season and was last extended in summer 2007 with the current three-year deal. In recent years the use of sport to advertise alcohol has been increasingly discouraged, with a number of countries banning it completely. Liverpool supply their replica kits for children without the logo and adult shirts can be bought without a logo too.

As well as Carlsberg, Standard Life will follow Candy, Crown Paints and Hitachi as Liverpool shirt sponsors.

Liverpool 4 Burnley 0

Barclays Premier League

Saturday 12th September 2009

Liverpool 4 Burnley 0

A Yossi Benayoun hat-trick – his third for the club – and a goal from Dirk Kuyt – after a Benayoun shot was saved – gave Liverpool all three points against the newly-promoted side.

Burnley had beaten Manchester United and Everton this season, as well as being the side that caused Rafa huge embarrassment in the FA Cup in his first season at the club, so nobody at the club went into the game considering victory was a foregone conclusion. In fact the poor start to Liverpool’s season has seen confidence plummet at Anfield.

But Yossi Benayoun is the kind of player to find confidence when all around him have given up, often after coming on as a sub; on his day he’s the type of player who’ll fight until the final whistle, however long he’s been on. He got to start this match – although that was hardly a surprise with choices so limited for manager Rafael Benitez.

Midfielder Javier Mascherano was unavailable after picking up an injury with Argentina in midweek and £18m Alberto Aquilani is still some time away from making his debut, so Rafa decided to move captain Steven Gerrard back into central midfield to partner Lucas. With Gerrard out of his usual Liverpool position Kuyt, Benayoun and Riera played the support roles to Fernando Torres. Burnley concentrated on the threat from Torres, and did a good job of keeping him quiet, but they didn’t manage the same with Yossi.

Had Liverpool’s squad not been so depleted – and there are various reasons why that’s the case – Rafa might not have given Yossi the start. Speaking after the game the manager didn’t miss the opportunity for a dig at the latest interruption to the season: “Yossi had been away on international duty in midweek and done a lot of travelling, but he wanted to play. It is important to him to show his quality in every training session and every match.”
Continue reading Liverpool 4 Burnley 0

Teams: Liverpool v Burnley

Javier Mascherano hasn’t made the squad for today’s visit of Burnley after returning from international duty with Argentina carrying an injury.

Jay Spearing doesn’t get the nod to start in his place, instead Rafa has opted to drop Steven Gerrard into a deeper role alongside Lucas, with Benayoun starting just behind Torres.

The game came to soon for Fabio Aurelio, who isn’t on the bench either; Emiliano Insua starts at left-back. Martin Skrtel makes a return to the starting line-up, with Kyrgiakos dropping to the bench, Carrager and Johnson making up the rest of the back-four.

Dirk Kuyt starts on the right, but there’s no place in the squad for his compatriot Ryan Babel who isn’t in the 18. Albert Riera gets a chance to impress on the left-hand side.

Premier League newcomers Burnley have already shown this season that they mustn’t be understimated, something Rafa already knew from his first season in the Reds hotseat.

Michael Shields is set to attend a match for the first time since he was in Istanbul for the Champions League victory of 2005. He was pardoned and freed earlier in the week having spent four-and-a-half years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of attempted murder in Bulgaria a few days after that final. Liverpool have rolled out the red carpet to the 22 year old on what will be a very special day for him.

Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Insua, Carragher, Skrtel, Lucas, Gerrard, Riera, Benayoun, Kuyt, Torres
Subs: Cavalieri, Degen, Dossena, Spearing, Ngog, Voronin, Kyrgiakos.

Burnley: Jensen, Alexander, Carlisle, Mears, Bikey, Jordan, Elliott, McCann, Fletcher, Paterson, Blake
Subs: Penny, McDonald, Gudjonsson, Guerrero, Eagles, Nugent, Thompson

Referee: Lee Mason

New shirt deal for Reds could break record

Liverpool co-owner George Gillett made one of his occasional appearances on Toronto’s Fan 590 sport radio station yesterday, initially to discuss the impending sale of the Montreal Canadiens, the Canadian NHL franchise he has been the majority owner of for the past eight years.

Later in the interview the topic turned to the Reds, with Gillett making mention of a new shirt sponsorship deal that will be announced in the next 7-10 days.

It’s been an open secret that Carlsberg would be ending their long-term relationship with Liverpool at the end of the current deal because the Reds now felt that the space on that famous Red shirt was worth far more than the Danish brewers had been willing to pay.

Gillett didn’t reveal the name of the new sponsors, but said: “I think that people will be pleased and surprised. It will be one of the great worldwide corporations and it will be a sponsor that I think everyone will be both surprised and pleased to have on Liverpool, the most successful club in the Premiership.”

The deal is expected to be one of the most lucrative deals in the game, an impressive achievement in the current climate. It is expected to be worth at least as much as the £20m-a-year Manchester United negotiated with Aon, which became the most expensive shirt sponsorship deal in football history. Continue reading New shirt deal for Reds could break record

It wasn’t Michael, now Georgiev needs justice

With Michael Shields now free, Graham Sankey will find the spotlight turns to him. Martin Georgiev was brutally attacked by someone in Bulgaria in May 2005. And the only person to admit to such an attack is Graham Sankey.

Whoever it was, the real perpetrator of the crime carried it out as Michael was sleeping back in his room.

The Bulgarian authorities seemed intent on getting someone convicted of what was a horrific crime. Unfortunately for Michael, the details of actually getting the right person didn’t seem to be a priority. Michael was English, the perpetrator was English, case – seemingly – closed.

They may deny that was how it worked – but the evidence suggests otherwise.

He was originally sentenced to fifteen years in prison, this later being reduced to ten in return for a far larger fine. The Bulgarian authorities eventually agreed to let him serve the remainder of his sentence in England – as long as Michael’s family paid what amounted to a ransom, almost £100,000.

Martin Georgiev was the victim of the crime, a sickening display of thuggery that left him with a fractured skull. But Michael was the victim of the Bulgarian legal system. He was the victim of the red tape that presented obstacles to dealing with his case through the British or European legal systems. He was the second victim of the real, cowardly, perpetrator.

The real perpetrator has yet to face trial for the crime. Graham Sankey signed a written confession, prepared with the aid of a solicitor, in July 2005. But the confession was considered inadmissible by the Bulgarian court, and Sankey was not prepared to travel to Bulgaria to face the music. Continue reading It wasn’t Michael, now Georgiev needs justice

Welcome home Michael

Michael Shields is free.

Free, and back home with his family.

And that is the most important part of today’s memorable events.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw had announced earlier in the day that Michael had been granted a royal pardon.

After spending four-and-a-half years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, he was finally going to be able to spend a night in his own bed. His parents and his sisters could sleep in their beds knowing he was finally home, safe and sound. His “living hell”, as he described it today, was finally over.

He wasn’t just let out early from his sentence, he was declared completely innocent. He is still technically guilty in terms of the Bulgarian system, his legal team said they were yet to discuss whether or not to pursue getting the conviction quashed in the former Eastern Bloc state.

Michael Shields gives the thumbs-up after being pardonedBut such questions are for another day. Today was the day we finally saw Michael smile; smile properly.

He’d visibly lost weight when compared to his 18-year-old frame of four-and-a-half years ago. He’s 23 in a couple of weeks; four-and-a-half years represents a massive part of his life.

When Michael appeared at a press conference this afternoon he was clearly delighted, although perhaps taken aback by the battery of photographers asking him to look into their cameras. Hardly his worst ordeal of the past four-and-a-half years.

He only spoke briefly, to confidently read a statement that got straight to the point: “I would like to say a massive thank you to all those people out there – including Liverpool and Everton football fans – who have supported me and my family over the last four years by writing letters, by protesting, by marching.

“Your voices were heard. Thanks to you, I knew I would never walk alone. Thank you.”

And that support will continue; Liverpool the city and Liverpool the football club overjoyed to see Michael’s wish finally granted.

Welcome home Michael. When your mum’s finished with you there’s a fair bit of catching up to do on what’s been happening at Anfield. And you’ve all the time in the world to do that catching up.