CL Result: Barcelona 1 Liverpool 2

Champions League Result

Barcelona 1 Liverpool 2

Half-time: 1-1

Barcelona: 1 Valdes, 2 Belletti , 4 Marquez, 5 Puyol, 11 Zambrotta , 6 Xavi (8 Giuly, 65), 3 Motta (24 Iniesta, 54), 20 Deco, 19 Messi, 22 Saviola (7 Gudjohnsen, 82), 10 Ronaldinho
Subs unused: 25 Jorquera, 12 Van Bronckhorst, 21 Thuram, 23 Oleguer
Goal: Deco 14
Bookings: Belletti 38, Zambrotta 90
Liverpool: 25 Reina, 2 Arbeloa, 23 Carragher, 5 Agger , 6 Riise, 3 Finnan, 22 Sissoko (32 Zenden, 84), 14 Alonso, 8 Gerrard, 17 Bellamy (16 Pennant, 80), 18 Kuyt (15 Crouch, 90)
Subs unused: 1 Dudek, 4 Hyypia, 11 Gonzalez, 20 Mascherano
Goals: Bellamy 43, Riise 74
Bookings: Agger 23, Kuyt 35, Sissoko 61, Bellamy 78

Referee: Kyros Vassaras
Attendance: 88,000

Continue reading CL Result: Barcelona 1 Liverpool 2

Teams: Barcelona v Liverpool

It's arguably the most important game of the season so far tonight for Liverpool as they take on Barcelona at the Nou Camp in the Champions League.

The current holders Barca see a return from injury for Lionel Messi, whilst the competition's previous holders Liverpool give a debut to full-back Alvaro Arbeloa. Steven Gerrard looks set to start wide on the right and Javier Mascherano is on the bench.

Reina, Finnan, Arbeloa, Agger, Carragher, Gerrard, Riise, Alonso, Sissoko, Kuyt, Bellamy
Subs: Dudek, Hyypia, Pennant, Crouch, Gonzalez, Mascherano, Zenden

Barcelona: Valdes, Belletti, Marquez, Puyol, Zambrotta, Xavi, Motta, Deco, Messi, Saviola, Ronaldinho
Subs: Jorquera, Gudjohnsen, Giuly, Van Bronckhorst, Thuram, Oleguer, Iniesta

Referee: Kyros Vassaras (Greece)

Kick-off: 7.45pm GMT

Continue reading Teams: Barcelona v Liverpool

Mascherano cleared to play for Reds

After a weekend of rumours blown out of proportion, at last there is some good news for Liverpool in the run-up to tomorrow night's Champions League clash with Barcelona.

Javier Mascherano has been cleared to play for the Reds.

The club's official website announced the news today with a statement from those that had been holding things up – The FA Premier League. The statement said: "The Premier League has today confirmed that the application by Liverpool FC to register Javier Mascherano as a player has been accepted. The Premier League is satisfied that the contractual arrangements proposed by Liverpool FC are consistent with its rules; particularly that the relationship between club and player is not subject to third party influence.
"The Premier League is grateful for Liverpool FC's cooperation and openness at the start and throughout the process. Liverpool FC also appreciated the Premier League Board were not prepared to sanction this transfer until further information on any third party involvement in player registrations had been received from all Premier League clubs."
Liverpool have signed him on an 18-month loan deal with an option to make it a permanent deal at the end of the loan period.

Argentinean Mascherano is 22 years old and won a gold medal with his country in the 2004 games. A central midfielder, he also played in Argentina's FIFA Youth and Under-17 World Championships, and was even called up for his country's senior side before he'd played for his first professional club, River Plate. He moved to Brazilian side Corinthians in 2005 where he won a league title medal. By 2006 he was playing to good reviews in the World Cup in Germany.
His career hit problems then when he signed for troubled West Ham. The Hammers used him just seven times and he was desperate to become a Liverpool player when they made a move for him. Liverpool only got permission from FIFA to sign the player at the last moment on deadline day, although that piece of news was lost somewhat due to it being the day that DIC pulled out of their bid to take over at Liverpool.

Despite FIFA's clearance that he could sign in spite of having already played for two clubs in one year, the Premier League still had concerns. There were worries that West Ham had signed him contrary to Premier League rules.

His lack of appearances at West Ham was down more to political reasons than his playing ability, but he doesn't assume he'll walk straight into a midfield already containing a battle for places between Xabi Alonso, Momo Sissoko and captain Steven Gerrard. He said recently: "It is obvious that I was not a player for that club (West Ham). I want to gain the respect of the Liverpool players and win a place in the team on merit."

Mascherano has been training with the rest of the squad for the last few weeks since deadline day, and is eligible to make his debut tomorrow if Rafa so chooses.

Continue reading Mascherano cleared to play for Reds

Petition launched to knight “Sir” Bob Paisley

Arguably Liverpool's greatest ever manager, and certainly English football's most successful, Bob Paisley was certainly just as worthy of a knighthood as most of sports’ other winners of the honour. Yet, for reasons unknown, he never became a "Sir".

This man not only brought unprecedented success to the English game – he won three European Cups – he was also a war hero.

Now there's a glimmer of hope finally that he can be made a knight posthumously with the launch of a petition on the Downing Street e-petitions website.

It was launched by Liverpool supporter Ian Little, who says: ““Bob Paisley was England's best ever manager and won the European Cup three times while manager of Liverpool, yet he only ever received the OBE. He also won the domestic league title six of the nine years he was in charge. Alex Ferguson has only won the European Cup once, yet he received a knighthood.”

As Mr Little says: “This is not equitable.”

An aide to the prime-minister said that he will take this petition seriously if enough people sign it: “He treats this new innovation, e-petitions direct to his office, as people power in action, and if enough fans log on in sufficient numbers then he will consider it.”

Paisley’s Liverpool career began as a player in 1939, and he went on playing, with a break for the Second World War, until 1954. He later became a member of the “boot room” team under Shanks before being made manager himself in 1974.

As well as those three European Cups he of course won six of Liverpool’s 18 league titles, and added a UEFA Cup, three League cups, a European Super Cup and five Charity Shields to his massive haul.

It’s now ten years since he died, but that posthumous knighthood would mean a lot to his multitude of fans. You’ve got three weeks to sign it, at, before the March 13th deadline.

At the time of writing there were just over 900 signatures already.

Continue reading Petition launched to knight “Sir” Bob Paisley

Rafa releases carefully worded statement

The words we published earlier from Rafael Benitez relating to the allegations of trouble amongst players in Portugal have now been released as an official statement on the club's website. These words are clearly carefully prepared words written in consultation with the club's press office, but Rafa will no doubt face more grilling on the issue at the press conferences ahead of this week's Champions League tie with Barcelona.

The statement read:

"I met this morning with the entire first team squad and made it absolutely clear to all of them the responsibilities that come with playing for this club and the way they are expected to conduct themselves both on and off the pitch.
"The players worked extremely hard at last week's training camp, but we will take disciplinary action and fine any of them who are found to have breached club rules during our stay in Portugal. I've told the players this and they understand and accept the decision I have taken.
"Despite reports to the contrary, the spirit amongst the lads is very good with everyone looking forward to the game against Barcelona on Wednesday.
"We remain totally focussed on what will be a very tough game against the defending European Champions."

Norwegian journalists interviewed the Norwegian national coach Age Hareide who claimed he'd spoken to Riise earlier today about the incident. He said: "John Arne is fine. He escaped without injuries."

Continue reading Rafa releases carefully worded statement

Rafa: We will deal with any rule-breakers

Liverpool are still to make any official confirmation or denial over the reports that claimed up to five Liverpool players had been involved in trouble at the weekend, but manager Rafael Benitez has hinted that perhaps something did take place.

One story surrounds allegations that Jerzy Dudek, Robbie Fowler and Jermaine Pennant were involved in high-jinks at a Portuguese bar, the other reports, originating from Norwegian television, allege that Craig Bellamy had been accused of attacking John Arne Riise with a golf club.

Rafa says that he will take disciplinary action, including fines, against any player who breached the club's rules during the trip to Portugal. He said: "I've made it absolutely clear to all of them the responsibilities that come with playing for this club and the way they are expected to conduct themselves both on and off the pitch. The players worked extremely hard at last week's training camp, but we will take disciplinary action and fine any of them who are found to have breached club rules during our stay in Portugal."

He does seem to be issuing a denial, indirectly, about there being any bad feeling between Riise and Bellamy: "Despite reports to the contrary, the spirit amongst the lads is very good with everyone looking forward to the game against Barcelona on Wednesday. We remain totally focused on what will be a very tough game against the defending European Champions."

It seems the club are determined to keep whatever happened as an internal matter, which may be just as well if the allegations are true, but also allows speculation to increase at a great rate.

Continue reading Rafa: We will deal with any rule-breakers

Liverpool keep silence on Bellamy attack claims

Liverpool striker Craig Bellamy is the subject of stories that he allegedly attacked team-mate John Arne Riise, with a golf club, during the club’s Portuguese getaway.

The story followed on from claims in one Portuguese tabloid that Jermaine Pennant, Robbie Fowler and Jerzy Dudek had all been involved in trouble at a restaurant on the last night of the club’s break, designed to help the player’s get ready for the Champions League clash in Barcelona on Wednesday. This particular story went completely unreported by the British media, until the Mail on Sunday added it to their website early yesterday evening, ahead of running it as a back-page item in the printed paper. It’s also been reported in today’s Sunday People.

At around the same as the Daily Mail was adding the story to their website, the Norwegian television channel TV2 made the first allegations of an attack on Norwegian international Riise by Bellamy.  Their claim was that Riise had been attacked in his hotel room by the former Newcastle and Blackburn player. The story soon became big news in Norway.
Overnight the British tabloid the News of the World decided the Riise story was true and ran it as their main front page item. Despite it being all over the Norwegian press they claimed it as an “exclusive”. They included quotes from “insiders” who, of course, were unnamed. If true, the story itself is quite serious, certainly for Bellamy, but the tabloid makes sure it is beefed up a touch more with some sensationalism.

Despite being its sister newspaper, The News of the World (NOTW) is not part of the “official” boycott by Liverpool fans against The S*n newspaper. The S*n is boycotted by Reds due to its lies in 1989 regarding the Hillsborough disaster. There has still not been an unreserved apology from the paper, despite then-editor Kelvin MacKenzie’s recent admissions that he knew the paper had printed lies. Liverpool FC do not allow their players to be interviewed by The S*n. Many Reds have decided themselves to boycott the NOTW because it is, in effect, “The Sunday S*n”, but the club do allow their players to speak to it. What the club won’t be happy about is that, unless the NOTW has made the quotes up, someone seems to have spoken to that paper without permission from the club, leaking details of what went on in Portugal.

According to the NOTW, Bellamy “waded into team-mate John Arne Riise in a drunken rage” in what they describe as a “sensational bust-up”. The NOTW calls Thursday night’s meal a “marathon boozing session”.

The paper claims that the row began earlier in the evening because Bellamy was unhappy at Riise’s refusal to take part in a Karaoke contest. In giving their sensationalised summary of the incident the NOTW use words like “scream abuse”, “tottered” and “Riise's £5 million legs”. It says “the pair were separated by head coach Rafael Benítez” and adds that “the outrage has massive implications for both players and the club, who have just been taken over by new American owners.”

It’s difficult at this early stage to work out how true this story might be. It wouldn’t be the first time that a Sunday tabloid had made up a story about Liverpool FC. It wouldn’t be the first time a tabloid had bought a story from an “insider” somewhere or other and reported it as fact, without first checking the details from a number of other independent witnesses. It wouldn’t be the first time that a true story was sensationalised to get some extra sales for the newspaper. The difference this time is that the Norwegian media may have got their information straight from those close to Riise.

The paper even claims it knows how new owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks feel about the incident, saying they “were said to be furious that their name has been dragged through the mud”. The paper then refers to their sources in the plural: “Insiders have predicted it could spell the end of 27-year-old bad boy Bellamy's career at Anfield.”

The earlier allegations involving the trio of Fowler, Pennant and Dudek were said to have taken place at “Monty’s” restaurant. The NOTW says that’s where their story kicked off too. Their “inside source” was quoted as saying that the players had been drinking a lot and were enjoying themselves, but it “all went wrong when Craig tried to drag John up for a song”.  The source claimed that Riise wouldn’t get up on stage and that the other players were poking fun at him, but then Riise, “went ballistic because Craig wouldn't take no for an answer. He was screaming at Craig to leave him alone, saying he wouldn't do it and yelling insults.”

The source went on to claim that what happened stunned everyone there, with the two players “standing there toe to toe swearing at each other”.

The source claimed that the players were told to calm down and it wasn’t until 2am that the golf club incident took place. “Craig… was so wound up he couldn't sleep,” claims the NOTW source, and “he suddenly grabbed a golf club and went looking for John. And when he found him he waded in, hacking at his legs with the club. All hell was let loose and John suffered a lot of bruising. Craig was out of control and shouting that John had belittled him in front of the lads.”

Again a section of the story told by the NOTW seems unlikely. Their report suggests that the two players were allowed to keep fighting until “eventually coach Benitez was called to separate the two stars”.  Are we expected to believe that? It doesn’t add up.

The NOTW then talks about those stories in the Portuguese rag from earlier in the day: “Unconfirmed reports in a local newspaper said one footballer had also been handcuffed after allegedly trying to headbutt a policeman. And it was claimed other players smashed electrical equipment in the resort with their golf clubs.”

The Mail on Sunday named those players as Jerzy Dudek, Jermaine Pennant and Robbie Fowler, but they say the incidents took place at the Barringtons complex, which is where the team were staying, rather than in Monty’s restaurant. The Mail on Sunday reports that Dudek was the player alleged to have been handcuffed.

The Mail on Sunday is effectively just repeating verbatim what had been reported in the local paper, including the claim that Steven Gerrard and Peter Crouch had tried to calm things down.

It seems unlikely that all of these tales are complete works of fiction, but too many parts of the stories don’t seem to add up. It’s unlikely that 15 or 20 (depending on which report you read) players are going to be quiet if they are having a drink at a karaoke bar, but that doesn’t mean that anything particularly bad happened. The Mail on Sunday talks of a glass being broken. Yes, one glass. It’s interesting that NOTW decided not to name the trio who had been subject to the earlier allegations.

The person who the NOTW keep quoting from inside the club reportedly told them that “this fight has ruined everything” and that “it has heaped disgrace on the club when all the attention should be focused on what happens on the pitch. The new owners can't understand how grown men can behave like this. They believe the club's reputation is in the gutter and find it incredible that this should happen just before the Barcelona game.”

That’s quite rich really. Someone employed by the club has sold this story to a tabloid newspaper. That person has helped to heap disgrace, as they call it, on the club. Maybe the story would have got out anyway, but this “source” has made sure it has got out, and has made sure the club do look bad. If, as they claim, they know how the new owners feel then it suggests it’s someone quite high up at the club. Noel White was forced to resign last year after telling tales to a national newspaper, including criticism of Rafa Benítez – let’s hope this source is found and dealt with too. As the source says: “If Liverpool lose the match because of this there'll be hell to pay.”

In fact there seems to be more than one person from the club speaking out of turn. The NOTW talks of “Riise's teammates” being shocked at the alleged attack “on a fellow professional and friend” then quotes “a source” as saying: “To smash a golf club into a fellow player's legs is unforgivable. It's the worst place ever to attack a footballer. Damaged legs are no good to anyone in this business and Riise is known for his trademark blockbusting shots. It's like deliberately trying to break someone's leg on the pitch — however cross or angry you are, it's a no-brainer. You just can't do it.”

There hasn’t been any suggestion up until now of any trouble with Bellamy at all since he came to Anfield, but the NOTW says that “one insider” has told them that, “some people feel it's time to ship Bellamy out so he can be someone else's problem.” The implication there is that he’s been causing problems before this, and that “some people” want shut of him.

What’s needed now is a clear statement from the club about what happened, if anything, alongside some quotes from the two players in the NOTW article and the three players from the Mail article. Unfortunately the club are again failing to see how important it is to make statements and set the record straight. In the News of the World a Liverpool spokesman is quoted as saying: “We're not prepared to make any comment.”  In the Mail the spokesman was quoted as saying: “The matter will be dealt with internally.”

Unfortunately the story isn’t internal now, and it’s time for the club to put a stop to the rumours that will build up on top of what has already been reported, and to ensure that the supporters are told the truth. The club also need to find out who’s been speaking to the press and make sure they are dealt with.

Continue reading Liverpool keep silence on Bellamy attack claims

Barca try to play down row

The public row between Barcelona’s Samuel Eto’o and Ronaldinho was played down publicly yesterday as the pair had a training ground hug to give the impression they were friends again. Whether the reconciliation was genuine or not remains to be seen, but Barcelona clearly felt they need to do some public relations work.

Liverpool travel to the Nou Camp next week for the first leg of their Champions League tie and the public row over the weekend – also including coach Frank Rijkaard – played into Liverpool’s hands to a certain extent.

Rijkaard told a press conference after Barca’s 2-0 win on Sunday over Racing Santander that Eto’o had refused point-blank to come on as a sub for the last four minutes of the game. Eto’o was disgusted at the way his coach had spoken about him and told this to the press: “Telling a news conference I didn’t want to play is the behaviour of a bad person.”  Ronaldinho had also attacked Eto’o, saying that he should think of the team first, and so also got some criticism from Eto’o.

As well as the hug, the club arranged for captain Carlos Puyol to announce the row had been resolved: “We had a meeting between the captains of the team and then spoke to Ronaldinho and Eto’o because it was an important enough matter to talk over together,” Puyol said. “Ronnie’s comments were misinterpreted. When they both met today it was clear Ronnie did not want to criticise Eto’o. Eto’o has no problem with Rijkaard either.”

Barca know they’ve got to hide any outwards signs of trouble, but it does seem that rather than getting over their differences, everyone’s just decided to try and be professional about it. Puyol tried hard to make out it was more than that though, that team spirit is good: “People think there is a time bomb in the dressing room but that isn’t true. Rijkaard has got the team under control, Eto’o has a good relationship with the rest of the group and the atmosphere is good. Outside the dressing room there may be divisions but not inside. We need to be 100 percent united as we have got a difficult set of matches coming up.”

Barca’s sporting director Txiki Begiristain said that Rijkaard has asked for Eto’o not to be punished for his behaviour: “Frank said no punishments were necessary because he was confident the team could sort these things out themselves,” said Begiristain. Rijkaard says that the storm doesn’t change how he feels about the player: “This won’t affect my relationship with Eto’o; we have to look to the future.”

Local press claimed that Eto’o and Ronaldhino’s row was serious enough that one would have to leave at the end of the season, and that Rijkaard was already considering leaving then thanks to the internal politics at the club.

Eto’o has been out for four months with a knee injury and said his refusal to come on as a late sub was because he needed a longer warm up, and he claims he’s a doubt for the Champions League tie with the Reds next week. Have Barca been trying to rush Eto’o and his team mate Messi back too soon? According to Liverpool boss Rafa Benítez they might have: “Yes, I think they have been trying to push these players back quickly for this game.”

Liverpool are away on a training camp in Portugal ahead of the game, with no match this weekend due to their early exit from the FA Cup. Rafa told the official website that the Barca game has been a hot topic of conversation at the club: “Everyone is very excited about this game. They have been talking about it almost every day for the last two months. Their team is really good and when the draw was made people were saying Barcelona are the best team in the world.”

Rafa feels Liverpool have improved since the draw was made, whilst at the same time Barca have hit some problems, notably with the absence of Eto’o and Messi: “After two months we are a lot better and they have had some problems. They need Eto’o fit, and Messi, because they haven’t been scoring a lot of goals. They are really strong, they are not playing at the same level but if they have Eto’o, Messi and Ronaldinho then I think they have very good players.”

Benitez says he’s familiar with many of Barca’s players: “They have some foreign players and I know Messi. I also know Eto’o as he was in the academy at Real Madrid when I was there, so I have good relations with them.”

Liverpool aren’t favourites by any means going into this game, but are still confident that they are able to get something out of it: “It could be good for us to be underdogs. I think that it is important for us as we will not have big pressure there. It will be hard there, but it will be good for us to score. Always for us to play the second leg at Anfield is important and we need to score in Barcelona if it’s possible. Liverpool have never lost at the Nou Camp and they have played three times. I would like to keep this record. It’s a difficult stadium to play in but we have confidence. We know it will be a hard game because Barcelona is a difficult team. We know about them, but we will try our best and I have confidence we can do a good job.”

Continue reading Barca try to play down row

Padelli hoping to stay as Carson linked to Arsenal

Liverpool's new young goalkeeper Daniele Padelli has been speaking of his delight to have become a Liverpool player. He's here on loan at the moment, but he really hopes he can convince the management at the club to take up an option and make his move permanent.

He said he wasn't expecting Liverpool to come in for him: "Coming to Liverpool was a dream, and on the day I signed the dream came true. To tell you the truth, I nearly fainted when I heard Liverpool were interested in me. It was a surprise. I am honoured to be the first Italian here and I hope to do well. My aim is to hold the Italian flag very high."

Padelli was signed from Sampdoria on loan when the future of Liverpool FC was still in the balance. It's quite likely that Liverpool would have signed him on a permanent deal had the takeover – at that time still expected to be by DIC – gone ahead before the end of the transfer window. Now he's on loan though and so of course Liverpool have the option over whether he stays or goes this summer. He hopes it's the former: "I really hope to be staying beyond this season, but no one can ever be sure of anything. I'm not saying I am as good as any of the champions here, but my aim is to work very hard and try to achieve this. Obviously Pepe and Jerzy are two great goalkeepers, they wouldn't be at Liverpool and they wouldn't be at the level they're at without being very good. I will have to wait for my opportunity to shine but hopefully that will happen eventually."

After playing in the Italian second division for the first half of this season Padelli says there is a big increase in standards at Anfield: "I think there is a little bit to be learned from everyone. All the players here are at a much higher level than what I've been used to. There are high-profile players like Gerrard and Crouch, which is amazing, but to be honest they are all of a standard which makes me really excited to play with them. Rafa Benitez told me that I had to come here to work seriously and to use my head. He says everyone has to earn their position."

Thankfully Padelli hasn't tried to tell us he's been a lifelong fan of the club – but he knew our name was one of the big ones in world football: "I didn't really follow the English league in any great detail when I was growing up, but everyone knows Liverpool are one of the great clubs of Europe and one of the great clubs of the world. I also knew there were a lot of champions and great players here. One thing I was aware of in Italy was how good the supporters were. Anfield is a great stadium."

Jerzy Dudek's contract is up at the end of this season and he's not likely to get a renewal, meaning Padelli could be closer to the number one spot at the club. However, England under-21 keeper Scott Carson is due back from his season-long loan at Charlton in the summer and he'll be expecting to have become the new backup to first-choice Pepe Reina. Rumours that Pepe Reina was going to leave the club this summer seem to have died down again, but decisions are going to be needed from Rafa in terms of his goalkeeping positions.

Arsenal have been reportedly showing interest in Scott Carson, but the Cumbrian keeper won't have any extra chances of first-team football at the Emirates than he would have at Anfield, at least not in the short term.

Continue reading Padelli hoping to stay as Carson linked to Arsenal

Liverpool FC artwork helps HJC

LFC Artwork for the HJCLiverpool fan "Souey's Tache" has turned a hobby into a way of raising money for the Hillsborough Justice Campaign (HJC).

He created paintings of some of the many famous faces from Liverpool's history for his own use at home – but such was the interest from other Reds on seeing them that he decided to start selling prints of them.

For every print sold, a donation is made to the HJC. The prints would look good at home or on your office wall just to remind anyone visiting about the greatest and most successful side in English football history.

As well as the five Liverpool managers shown on this page, he's created images of the likes of Robbie Fowler, Steven Gerrard, Momo Sissoko, Xabi Alonso, Jamie Carragher and many more.

For more details please visit the On the Kop forum.

Continue reading Liverpool FC artwork helps HJC