Luis: Thanks.

Former Liverpool attacking midfielder Luis Garcia has sent an emotional letter to Liverpool supporters via the club’s official site, explaining his decision to leave and thanking the fans for all their support whilst he was at the club. It really is a special letter, and goes a long way towards explaining why the vast majority of Liverpool fans loved him so much.

It was a sad day when he left Anfield, but now he’s got a new career and  challenge to look forward to at Atletico Madrid, Fernando Torres’s former club and a side that deserve some success. Let’s hope Luis can bring it to them. Now pour yourself a glass of sangria and read the big little man’s note… Continue reading Luis: Thanks.

Heinze loses case against Manchester United

Gabriel Heinze has lost his case against his club Manchester United. The Argentine international defender had wanted to join Liverpool after the Anfield side matched the £6.8m fee United had agreed would be enough for him to be sold. United had told Heinze’s agent that they would be glad to see him leave for the fee similar to the one he’d joined for three years earlier.

United’s error was that they did not stipulate any restrictions on the clubs he could move to, until after the letter had been issued, only changing their minds in horror at the thought of him joining their most-hated rivals Liverpool.

It’s unclear at this stage whether Heinze will appeal, but his future at Old Trafford is pretty-much untenable.

The verdict was announced in a statement from the Premier League: “The hearing concluded that nature and intention of the disputed 13 June 2007 letter, especially when taken in context of verbal discussions and Manchester United FC’s transfer policy, was unambiguous in that it envisages only an international transfer. Continue reading Heinze loses case against Manchester United

Ref Styles dropped for poor performance

Rob Styles’ poor performance in yesterday Premier League clash between Liverpool and Chelsea has seen him dropped from the Premier League for one weekend. He awarded Chelsea a penalty at Anfield for reasons he’ll be unlikely to ever be able to explain, and the referees’ boss Keith Hacket has decided instead to inflict his ‘skills’ on a lower division instead.

A former referee himself, Hacket works as general manager for the PGMOL, the body which appoints referees for game in England, and after seeing the mess Styles made yesterday he told BBC 5Live that the Hampshire ref has been dropped for one weekend: “It is just like with players, if they miss an open goal they are likely to be dropped. I spoke to Rob this morning and obviously he is extremely disappointed with the decision and admitted he got it wrong. I have left a message with Rafael Benitez to apologise.” Continue reading Ref Styles dropped for poor performance

Rafa angry at ‘unbelievable’ referee

Liverpool’s captain and manager were asked by the Sky TV cameras for their views on the 1-1 draw with Chelsea that had just come to an end. Liverpool had been in front at half-time thanks to a Fernando Torres goal, his first competitive goal on his home debut, but by the end of it were demoralised thanks to a penalty award that had baffled just about everyone watching it. Manager Rafael Benitez was the angrier of the two, but both were wary of speaking in too much detail about a decision Rafa branded as “unbelievable”. Continue reading Rafa angry at ‘unbelievable’ referee

Prem Result: Reds 1 Chelsea 1

Barclays Premier League – 19th August 2007.

Liverpool 1 Chelsea 1

Record signing Fernando Torres scored his first goal for Liverpool in his Anfield debut, but referee Rob Styles was determined to grab the headlines away from the £18m striker and managed to do so with ease. His award of a penalty for Chelsea gave the London side an undeserved point (it was their only shot on target in the whole game) but was just one of many clangers made by the Hampshire referee and his officials today.

Following on from a defeat for Manchester United and with Arsenal only managing a draw the three points Liverpool deserved would have put confidence sky-high. Chelsea will know they were lucky to escape with a point.

Torres had limped off for the half-time break after Jon Mikel Obi had jumped two-footed onto his ankle. If Styles had seen that he might well have sent Obi off – but judging by his performance today he may have booked Torres for diving instead.

Styles’ decision making on bookings was poor – allowing John Terry to get away with pushing his forehead into Torres’ forehead, and seemingly trying to book Essien twice without sending him off. If Styles is allowed to referee any more Premiership games in the next couple of months it sends out the wrong signal to referees, players and fans.

Rafa Benitez was furious after the game, his normally calm exterior not there for once, slamming the penalty decision as “unbelievable”.

Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Agger, Arbeloa, Pennant (Babel 68), Gerrard, Alonso, Riise (Crouch 83), Torres, Kuyt.
Unused subs: Itandje, Hyypia, Mascherano.
Torres 16
Bookings: Kuyt 30, Pennant 40, Gerrard 43, Carragher 61

Chelsea: Cech, Essien, Ben-Haim, Terry, A Cole, Kalou (Pizarro 46), Wright-Phillips (J Cole 77), Obi, Lampard, Malouda (Alex 85), Drogba.
Unused subs: Cudicini, Makelele.
Lampard 62 (pen)
Essien 12Bookings: Essien 12, Cole 59, Ben-Haim 63, Lampard 70, Terry 74

Rob Styles

Attendance: 43,924

Prem: Liverpool v Chelsea

Barclays Premier League19th August 2007.

Liverpool v Chelsea, Kick-off 4pm

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard does start for Liverpool, and does start in central midfield. Like Chelsea’s captain John Terry he’s not exactly 100% fit but both manager felt they’d rather have their most important players on the pitch than off it.
Up front for Liverpool are Kuyt and Torres, Peter Crouch dropping to the bench. Ryan Babel is also on the bench, with Jermaine Pennant getting the nod on the right wing.
For the members of the media obsessed with Rafa’s rotation policy, this is the same starting eleven as he used for last weekend’s opener against Villa.

Chelsea have one-time Liverpool target Malouda on the wing.

Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Agger, Carragher, Arbeloa, Pennant, Gerrard, Alonso, Riise, Kuyt, Torres.

Subs: Itandje, Hyypia, Crouch, Babel, Mascherano

Chelsea: Cech, Essien, Ben-Haim, Terry, A Cole, Wright-Phillips, Obi, Lampard, Malouda, Kalou, Drogba
Subs: Cudicini, Alex, Makelele, J Cole, Pizarro.

Rob Styles

Parry: Gerrard must rest after today

Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry was asked if he felt it was right for Liverpool to consider using an injured Steven Gerrard in today’s league clash with Chelsea, yet to expect England to rest him for their meaningless friendly against Germany on Wednesday.

Gerrard has a hairline fracture in his toe, and the advice from Liverpool’s club doctor is that using Gerrard would be a risk, and Rafa must now decide whether it is a risk worth taking. Chelsea are still being left guessing as to whether Gerrard will play a part in today’s game. The player sustained the injury on Wednesday and Rafa will have used training session to help make his mind up on not just if his captain could suffer further damage if played, but also if he would be able to perform well enough to warrant a place.

Once those decisions are out of the way and the game is over Gerrard has to go and join up with England for their medical staff to assess the player’s fitness. Liverpool’s decision to declare the player official ‘fit’ for today means England have the right to use Gerrard as they see fit. But Liverpool are insisting that he does not play. Parry explained: “It’s the sort of injury that is going to need careful nursing and rest. If we had two games in a week, we’d be looking to rest him in one of them. Our focus is Liverpool, getting the right results and winning trophies for Liverpool.” Continue reading Parry: Gerrard must rest after today

Rafa: Signings make us harder to predict

Liverpool will get their home fixtures underway tomorrow when Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea visit Anfield.

In years gone by a game against Chelsea was no more important than any other, perhaps with the exception of the year Kenny Dalglish scored the winner at Stamford Bridge, a goal which also made Liverpool league champions, to which they later added the FA Cup to make it the double. Now Chelsea are one of the sides Liverpool have to overtake if they want to add to their record total of 18 league titles.

The fact that Chelsea and Liverpool are now title rivals adds spice to this fixture, but the attitude of Jose Mourinho before, during and after meetings with the Reds adds a whole lot more. Mourinho became Chelsea manager at the same time as Rafa Benítez became the Reds manager. Since then they’ve met each other fifteen times in all, and no friendships have been made during that time. With Chelsea’s attempts to poach Steven Gerrard during two separate summers, Arjen Robben’s theatrics to get Pepe Reina sent off, Luis Garcia’s goal that crossed the line without hitting the net, Jose Mourinho’s multitude of comments and gestures –  this fixture is trying hard to catch up with the derby and the games against Manchester United in terms of intense rivalry. Continue reading Rafa: Signings make us harder to predict

Crouch: I’ll be ready whenever I’m needed

Liverpool forward Peter Crouch has spoken about his chat with Rafa Benítez after he’d been left out of the squad for the match against Aston Villa on Saturday. Talks of showdowns and angry exchanges were nonsense, as Rafa has already explained and as Crouch points out too: “I was disappointed to miss out on Saturday, so it was good to play yesterday. The manager explained to me it will be a long season, and he proved what he meant by replacing the two who started on Saturday with myself and Andriy. I’m sure he will continue to chop and change, but everyone will play their fair share.”

As Crouch told the Liverpool Echo, he was bound to be disappointed at missing the season’s first game, but he knows all the strikers will miss games this season: “Everyone knows players want to be playing every game, so when you are geared up all pre-season to play the first game against Aston Villa, of course you don’t want to miss out. Anyone who was in my position would feel the same. People would be more disappointed in me if I didn’t feel disappointed not to play. But what I will say is that whenever I’m called upon I’ll be ready, and I hope I proved that yesterday and will continue to do so throughout the season.” Continue reading Crouch: I’ll be ready whenever I’m needed

Rafa: Gerrard breaks toe but still available

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has broken his toe – but should still be able to play against Chelsea on Sunday.

Gerrard limped off before the end of yesterday’s Champions League qualifier against Toulouse, although Rafa claimed he’s replaced Gerrard for the sake of introducing fresh legs, not because of injury concerns. Gerrard had ice applied to his foot in the dressing room and went for an x-ray today. This revealed he’d suffered a hairline fracture.

Rafa Benítez later spoke of the injury and how he’s weighing up the pros and cons of utilising his captain in one of the season’s bigger games: “He has a hairline fracture in his toe. I think he will be available for the weekend. The only problem is, if we push him now, he might need a little bit of a rest afterwards. I was talking to the doctor and he said it is not a big risk for him to play, though there is always some risk.”

The risk in playing Gerrard isn’t just in how his injury fares, but also in how well he can perform with the injury. Pain-killing injections may be enough, but Rafa needs to consider his options. He did hint quite strongly that although he may be willing to risk Steven for a major league match, he’s not keen on him being used in England’s friendly next week: “If we want to push him for this game, it would be a risk to push him again and again, because it could become more serious. I still need to talk to Steve McLaren but I think he will understand it would be a big risk.”