Thursday, January 31, 2008

Liverpool - Mascherano deal not yet done

Mascherano deal close but not yet done

Liverpool are understood to have agreed a deal with Kia Joorabchian, who heads the companies who own Mascherano’s “economic rights”, for the club to assume sole ownership of the until June 2012. The fee is believed to be 17.1 million pounds. Liverpool were hoping to negotiate the fee down, but realised the strong interest of other clubs meant they had to pay the asking price. As Mascherano is already registered with Liverpool, both parties are in no rush to complete the deal, and it is believed it is likely to be announced next week.

Rafa Benitez will be delighted to have secured Mascherano, as it was the refusal of the board to sanction this deal in November that sparked the furore that has so badly derailed Liverpool's season. However the fact remains that Benitez's own position is far from secure, and is weakening by the day while Liverpool's results continue in their recent manner

Moyes - Everton to finish fourth

Moyes confident the Toffees will stick in fourth

A bullish David Moyes is confident Everton can stay where they are, and finish in fourth place in the Premier League. Speaking after the goaless draw against Tottenham Moyes was happy to back his Everton team against any of the chasing pack.

He added “But in the same breath, Aston Villa are a strong team this year, Manchester City have done exceptionally well and Portsmouth, Blackburn and West Ham can do it. If we can make fourth it would be outstanding, but I don’t think there’s any point in me talking about that until a month to go in the season if we are still there." While neighbours Liverpool are weighed down by the millstone of expectation (and so they should given their resources compared to the teams around them) Moyes is happy to keep working quietly away, as Everton have steadily climbed the table.

A fourth placed finish would be a truly outstanding achievement, but the gut feel of Footy Focus is that Liverpool will get it. They have too many good players and despite it all, a good manager to continue in their present wretched form. Liverpool have the second best defensive record, and have still only been beaten three times this season, which can only be bettered by Arsenal. There's a great team in there trying to get out, and we think they will have that bit too much quality to be overtaken for fourth.

Keegan happy with Wise appointment

Wise reports to me says Keegan but doubts persist

Kevin Keegan has stated Newcastle's imminent new Executive Director of Football, Dennis Wise, will be reporting to him in the new structure at the club. However sources at Newcastle suggest Wise will be liasing more closely with the board, than with Keegan.

Another new member of Newcastles back-room staff, is former Newcastle striker Joe Allon, who worked in a similar role to Terry McDermott at Leeds. It's thought this will not affect McDermotts role at Newcastle.

Funny email doing the rounds, with the senders claiming this photo is of Kevin Keegan greeting Dennis Wise on his arrival at St James Park!

Premier League: West Ham 1-0 Liverpool

Yet more ammo for the Texan's gun as Liverpool take a Hammer blow

Time is surely running out on Rafa Benitez's reign at Liverpool. Liverpool's Premier League season has almost completely unravelled, and seems in a tailspin of toothless football, low confidence and alarming signs of a team that, subconsiously at least, believes it's manager is a lame duck.

This game was oh so typical of Liverpool's form of late. All neat football with precious little end product. To a man, Liverpool's attack was nigh on anonymous. Kewell and Benayoun went missing in action, while Torres and Gerrard only showed flashes, with the latter in particular looking dangerous in the last twenty minutes. Dirk Kuyt was what he always was; an ineffective workaholic. What Peter Crouch must do to get a game is beyond all but Benitez.

Liverpool started the game reasonably well, but were giving the ball away in the last third too much, and yet again failed to convert the half chances that came their way. Benayoun tried an ambitous lob, when a driven shot would have been better, and Torres was almost put through by Kuyt. West Ham recovered from their slow start, to force an error from Steve Finnan, as he headed onto his own bar. Boa Morte then missed the first of three great chances, and the sides went in level at half time.

Liverpool again came out brightly, with Harry Kewell just unable to connect at the far post from a cross, and Torres unlucky not to convert from substitute Babels pull-back. Lucas, the other substitute, was also unlucky with a great effort, after some great inter-play with Steven Gerrard.

However West Ham were still threatening Liverpool from set pieces, and were the last 20 minutes apart, very much in the game, with Boa Morte missing two great chances. As the game seemed certain to end in a draw Ljungberg broke from one end to the other. One twist inside the otherwise excellent Jamie Carragher, and it was disaster for Liverpool. Noble stepped up to dispatch the penalty with great aplomb.

Overall, it was a disasterous night for Liverpool and Rafa Benitez, who must feel his grip on Anfield weakening with every game, as Liverpool's agony in the Premier League goes on. Having said that, only three defeats in the league by February and the second best defensive record shows there's a great team in their trying to get out. Stability is a by-word for success, which tells you much about Liverpool's season.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Premier League News - Spurs to swoop for Rangers Hutton

Spurs to swoop again and go for Rangers Hutton

Juande Ramos is set to further add to his defence, by paying 9 million pounds to Rangers for defender Alan Hutton. Hutton has long been the subject of speculation of a move to the Premier League and Tottenham have been prominent in those reports.

Sky Sports is now reporting that Ramos is to add to his recent capture of Jonathan Woodgate, by completing the long pursuit of Alan Hutton, after Tottenham upped their offer to 9 million pounds.

Ramos is doing the obvious - sorting out that Spurs defence, as there's not too much wrong with an attack that has Berbatov, Jenas, Lennon, and Keane to call on.

Moyes - Everton can finish fourth

David Moyes backs Everton to finish fourth in the Premier League

David Moyes, Everton manager, has been talking up his sides chances of finishing fourth in the Premier League, above rivals and neighbours Liverpool. With nine wins and two draws in their last 13 Premier League games, Moyes expects Everton to continue their good form and cement fourth place in the weeks ahead.

Acknowledging the month ahead is crucial to Everton's hopes of that fourth place Premier League finish, Moyes said "We've raised expectations and it'll be tough because the competition is tight.But there's a real sense of confidence through the group. If we play as we can, then we are more than a match for anyone" Everton face a tricky month of fixtures, starting with the visit of Tottenham, an away trip to Blackburn, a home game against Reading, followed by another tough away trip to Manchester City.

Footy Focus thinks Everton will finish fifth, but then we're biased! Having said that you have to admire their results, given their resources.

Sissoko to Juventus

Sissoko a past master as the 'Old Lady beckons

Momo Sissoko has completed his transfer from Liverpool to Juventus for a reported 8.2 million pounds. The transfer has been in the pipeline for some time, and his sale has allowed Liverpool to attempt to tie up Javier Mascherano on a permanent deal.

Sissoko joined Liverpool in the summer of 2005, with Rafael Benitez narrowly beating rivals, and neighbours Everton to his signature. He had an outstanding first season, becoming a key member of the team that got the clubs highest ever Premier League haul, and won the FA Cup, in a thrilling penalty shoot-out against West Ham. However, his second season was blighted by serious injury, with a dislocated shoulder, and most notably a serious eye injury sustained against Benfica in the Champions league, threatening his career.

After that Sissoko's form became more inconsistent, with his passing in particular, a source of frustration for Liverpool's fans. Glimpes of his talent still shone though, and he was man of the match against Barcelona in the Champions league, as Liverpool marched to their second final in three years. In the second half of the season, the arrival of Mascherano, and the emergence of Leiva together with his own loss of confidence, combined to see him on the outer of Rafa Benitez' plans by the end of 2008.

Footy focus is convinced Sissoko will develop into a top class central midfielder, given time and a manager prepared to back him. People forget he's still only 23! Good luck Momo!!

Premier League News - Mascherano deal close

Americans Back Benitez with funds for Mascherano

The Liverpool Daily Post is reporting that Javier Mascherano is 'finally poised' to make his stay at Liverpool permanent, which will delight all Liverpool fans, though they will remain on tenterhooks until it is actually signed, sealed and delivered.

The determination of Hicks and Gillett to win back the trust of the Liverpool fans has begun, with this immediate attempt to close the Mascherano transfer, now the refinancing has been settled, and more importantly the sale of Momo Sissoko is complete. However its' not likely in itself to pacify Liverpool fans, who are angry at the pair for going back on their word and loading the club with debt and massive interest payments.

Mascherano is truly an outstanding player and will hopefully become and a major part of the team for many years to come. Footy focus suspects the yanks have recognised any incoming manager would want him, so the funding of this transfer could well be a simple business decision on their part, rather than any real backing of Rafa Benitez.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Second club enters chase for McFadden

McFadden Birmingham deal not done, as second club enters race

James McFadden left St Andrews last night, after being unable to agree terms wih Birmingham City. Reports also surfaced of an unnamed second club entering the chase for the Scottish international. The event will disappoint Alex McLeish who has been a long admirer of McFadden's talents from his days as Scotland boss.

Celitc have previously tried for McFadden on loan, but it is not known as yet whether they are the mystery second club.

Newcastle chase Espanyol's Jarque

Keegan to hit the ground running with a bid for Daniel Jarque

Kevin Keegan is hoping to make a swift move in the transfer market, on his return to Newcastle with a bid for Daniel Jarque of Espanyol. The Espanyol defender has been the subject of speculation that Tottenham Hotspur boss Juande Ramos would make a move. However Keegan, is set to mark his return to Newcastle United with an 8 milllion pound bid for the Espanyol defender.

Newcastle give Keegan blank cheque

Newcastle tell Keegan skys the limit in his return to the Toon

Kevin Keegan has been promised substantial funds to drag Newcastle to the Premier League summit by the chairman Chris Mort and club owner Mike Ashley. As the city, lifted by the news of Keegan's appointment, waited for the next news in the rolling saga of Keegans return, negotiations went on over the terms of his 3 and a half year deal.

Much speculation centred on the names of his backroom staff. Terry McDermott is expected to stay on, as is Peter Beardsley who maybe promoted from his present junior post. Other names in the frame include Lee Clark, presently assistant to Glenn Roeder at Norwich, Chris Coleman, whose associated insist his resignation from Real Sociedad is not connected to Keegan's return, and of course Alan Shearer.

Shearer lobbied for the Newcastle position, but was never really in with a chance due to his inexperience is known to be willing to work for Keegan. Mort and Ashley have made it known to Keegan, the decision on his backroom staff rests entirely with him, and they will not interfere.

We at Footy Focus, initially thought this was a crazy decision, but having thought about it, it might just work. Keegans sheer charisma, enthusiasm and Newcastles tremendous support, might just combine to make it a roller coaster ride back to the big-time for the Toon army!

DIC prepare Liverpool bid

DIC still keen as Hicks and Gillett get closer to refinancing

Dubai International Finance is preparing to bid again for Liverpool Football Club. The Liverpool Echo, long known as the voice of the club, is reporting that DIC are preparing to launch a bid for Tom Hick's stake in the club. Hicks and Gillett are getting closer to a refinancing deal, but DIC see the present struggle to refinance the loan as a window of opportunity to once again acquire an asset they have long coveted.

Whether Hicks will be willing to sell remains to be seen. He and Gillett fought long and hard to acquire Liverpool, and both are still of the firm view that it is an asset that will deliver a sizeable return in the long term.

Footy Focus suspects Liverpool fans will be praying for DIC to enter the fray, and remove at least one of the Americans out of the equation, in what has rapidly turned into a disasterous foray into the Premier League for Hicks and Gillett. Rafa Benitez too, wont be upset that at least one of the Americans maybe going, as it clearly represents his best hope of remaining in charge.

The next few days and weeks are going to very interesting as it all plays out. Sources close to Gillett insist he is undecided over whether to agree to the refinancing deal being mooted, or pursue the partnership with DIC, in an attempt to buy out Hick's share.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Premier League News - Torino bid for Bianchi

Bianchi Premier League nightmare coming to an end

Torino have sumitted a £6m bid for Rolando Bianchi to Manchester City. The Italian club want him on loan for the rest of the season with a view to a permanent move in the summer.

Bianchi cost the Blues £8.8m from Reggina in the summer, but has scored just four Premier League goals and is no longer an automatic first team pick.

Bianchi's representatives are discussing his future with Sven Goran Eriksson and anticipate the go ahead to negotiate a move back to Italy to end his City nightmare.

Lazio are also believed to be closely monitoring the situation and could step in if Torino fail to close the deal.

Premier League Transfer News - Birmingham sign McFadden

McLeish nabs McFadden

Birmingham City yesterday completed the signing of Everton's James McFadden for 5.5 milllion pounds. McLeish has long been impressed with McFadden, particularly during his stint as Scotland boss.

Previous bids of 2.5m and 3.5m had been turned down, and the fee of 5.5m is in our view too high. McFadden is expected at St Andrews shortly to discuss personal terms on a 4 and half year deal.

Premier League - Drogba to Barca?

Drogba wishing for a Barcelona move

Didier Drogba has been talking up a move to Barcelona, again hinting bigtime at a move away from the Premier League and Chelsea. This time he's been waxing lyrical about Samuel Eto'o. According to The Sun's report on his interview in France Football, Drogba states "If any striker in the world were offered the chance to play next to Samuel, he'd tell you that would be inspirational". Over in the Daily Star they reckon Drogba is "pleading" and "begging" for a Nou Camp move.

Theres been so much speculation since he's announced his desire for a move, but this Barca rumour seems to have more substance than most. Looks like a summer exit from Chelsea and the Premier League for Drogba.

Liverpool - Carragher yearns for old ways

Carragher desperate for turmoil to end as he hits the 500 mark

As Jamie Carragher reflected on his milestone of 500 games for Liverpool against Luton Town, he reflected on the recent unprecedented instability affecting his beloved Livepool.

"It's not the way we have done things in the past. You want the Liverpool Way to continue because we have to pull together and focus on what we have going for us at the moment, such as the FA Cup and the Champions League." Reports the Guardian. Coming hard on the heels of similar comments by Sami Hyppia, its clear the players want all speculation surrounding the manager to end.

A desperate omission in that statement is the Premier League, and Carragher recognises the futility of saying Liverpool are still in the race for the Premier League. Typically, Carragher does not use the recent instability at the club as an excuse, or the oft quoted refrain from his manager, that more money is needed. He cites Arsenal as an example of what can be achieved on limited resources and in typical Carragher style says Liverpool simply have to get on with it.

Jamie Carragher shows loyalty is still there in modern football, and that 'football men' do still exist amongst the showy, material, big ego's of present day footballers. Mr Carragher Foot Focus salutes you!

FA Cup - Havant and Waterlooville head to Anfield

Havant seal a trip to be Liverpool's Waterloo

Anfield will welcome Havant and Waterlooville in the FA Cup, as last night the Blue Square South side beat Swansea City, the Coca-Cola League One leaders, 4-2 to earn a fourth-round tie away to Liverpool.

The part-timers are the only non-League side in the FA Cup, but led 3-0 after 37 minutes. However Swansea fought back, and narrowed the gap before a fourth goal from Tom Jordan (son of Joe), sealed victory for the non-league side. Jordan has announced he wants to leave, but he now might fancy delaying his departure until after the Anfield trip.
Also the owner, Derek Pope, has promised an end of season bonus of a trip to Las Vegas, as a reward for this dramatic victory.

Liverpool watch out - it might just become Rafa's Waterloo!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Newcastle bring back Keegan

Tyneside erupts as Newcastle bring back Keegan

In astonishing events on Tyneside last night, Newcastle announced Kevin Keegan was to return to St James Park as manager.

Terry McDermott, Keegan’s assistant during his first spell at the club, is still at Newcastle and is likely to be kept on. Other names in the hat for coaching roles are Peter Beardsley and Rob Lee. Alan Shearer is predictably also being named in dispatches.

Chris Waddle, the ex-Newcastle winger, greeted the news positively, however expressed doubt about Keegans tactical ability. Around Newcastle the effect was instant, with fans queueing around St James’ Park to get the last tickets for the FA Cup replay against Stoke City tonight. The match is now sold out.

Footy Focus gut feel on this move - it'll end in tears yet again!

Premier League Transfer Window News

Tiago to Juve', Fred to Tottenham, Liverpool watching Bridge

Real Madrid coach Bernd Schuster is interested in Juventus midfielder Tiago. Despite his mixed season at the old lady of Turin, Tiago is highly rated by Schuster from his successful Olympique Lyon days.

Tottenham are reportedly in talks with Lyon's brazilian striker Fred, regarding a cool 9 million pound deal. It's reported he's asking for 4 million a year in wages. Ouch, we can see this all ending in tears!

Wayne Bridge is considering his future at Chelsea, after they signed Lokomotiv Moscow utility player Ivanovic. Bridge is already unhappy at Avaram Grants rotation policy, and will not hang round to play third fiddle behind Cole and Ivanovic. Informal approaches from Anfield have been rejected by Chelsea, who don't want to sell a first-team squad member to a Premier League title rival. A move is more likely at the end of the season, than in the January transfer window.

Newcastle Job Latest

Deschamps now the name, as Houllier rules himself out

Newcastle's search for a new manager took a surprise turn last night, as Didier Deschamps became the new bookies' favourite to take over at St James' Park. It arose as a result of France Football running a story, saying Deschamps was contacted straight after Newcastle's 6-0 defeat to Manchester United. The magazine has reported Deschamps will meet with Newcastle directors to finalise an agreement, and consequently Deschamps odds dropped to as low as 2-1 from 80-1. Former Chelsea captain Deschamps was manager at Monaco and took them to a Champions League final in 2004 and has also been in charge at Juventus.

Earlier the Tyneside rumour mill was saying that former Liverpool, Lyon and France manager Gérard Houllier had had discussions about taking over at Newcastle, with a partnership with Alan Shearer being mooted. However, Houllier now looks to be ruled out of the race, after FFF president Jean-Pierre Escalettes said Houllier had told him he wouldn't be going to Tyneside.

Shearer was asked about the Newcastle job when he arrived back on Tyneside from his holiday "Am I wanting it?" he replied. "One day, hopefully." Questioned further about the possibility of him linking up with Keegan, he said: "I haven't spoken to Kevin for a long time. We will have to see." (The Guardian)

Football Focus thinks Shearer has no chance of getting it now, as Ashley maybe a football romantic, having bought his own club, but he's also a hard-nosed businessman, who won't be risking it all on someone with no track record. It's Deschamps or Hughes we think.

FA Cup Liverpool 5-0 Luton

Benitez lifted as Liverpool cruise past Luton

A Steven Gerrard hat-trick gave Rafael Benitez a boost, as Liverpool comfortably saw off a spirited Luton.

Ryan Babel opened the scoring in the 45th minute, after previously hitting the post. Gerrard doubled the lead, via a simple header from a Peter Crouch knockdown. Sami Hypia headed home from a Gerrard corner and Liverpool were on their way. Gerrard again, passed the ball into the bottom corner for the fourth and, rounded off the scoring with a spectacular swerving 30-yard shot beyond Luton keeper Brill.

Rafael Benitez will be lifted by this result, and will be hoping his team can now carry it on, and turn it into much needed Premier League victories, starting with the home game against Aston Villa. Asked about the Klinsmann saga afterwards, Benitez played a straight bat, deflecting any real comment. He knows only one thing can really put this story to bed - results.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Newcastle job latest

Mark Hughes now the favourite, as Houllier, Mourinho and McLaren linked

Newcastle's search for a new manager continued last night, with Mark Hughes instantly becoming favourite when he refused to rule himself out of contention. Club sources admit he is on the shortlist for consideration. Other names being thrown into the ring include Gerard Houllier, the ex-Liverpool manager (not upto it after his illness - he's stated he could never do a job like he did at Liverpool again and Newcastle is much bigger), Jose Mourinho (waiting for Rafa Benitez to get the boot & why wouldn't he, comparing their squad to Newcastle's) and Steve McLaren (surely they wouldn't dare appoint him!)

Rafa Benitez Latest

Benitez position looking untenable as owners admit Klinsmann contact

Rafael Benitez's position at Anfield was looking ever more untenable last night, as Liverpool's American owners admitted to meeting Jurgen Klinsmann, with a view to him taking over at Anfield.

Trying to portray it as an act of insurance, in case Benitez left, this latest revelation further undermines Liverpool's beleaguered manager. Benitez has no intention of resigning at Liverpool, however his only hope of surviving beyond the summer would appear to be if the Americans quit first and sell up to the now circling DIC group.

It all must be so frustrating for Liverpool fans as a season that started so brightly, has unravelled so quickly and is in danger of ending in farce. Despite only being beaten twice, Liverpool are way off the pace in the Premier League and all the uncertainty surrounding the manager is clearly affecting performances and results.

It's hard to see this being resolved without a parting of the ways, the only question being who goes first! Footy Focus thinks the Americans might just be the first to go!

Premier League Transfer News Part 2

Latest Premier League transfer news & speculation

Stories around Klass-Jan Huntelaar are beginning to gain momentum. Speculation has it that Tottenham, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool all watched him score twice for Ajax against AZ Alkmaar on Sunday. Other Premier League clubs representated at the game were Blackburn Rovers and Sunderland.

Portsmouth are denying they are to sign Lassana Diarra from Arsenal for £5.5 million.

When will Middlesbrough learn? Fred the Lyon striker has been unable to agree personal terms with Paris Saint-Germain, or Tottenham, so guess what his next mooted destination is? Yes thats right, the home of the overpaid, non-scoring, foreign big-time charlie, Middlesbrough! Footy Focus reckons 80 grand a week and eight goals a season (3 of which will be against Halifax in the Carling Cup) is coming right up.

Talking of eight goal a season strikers, Tottenham Hotspur are willing to offers of around £12.5 million for Darren Bent. Bent has scored three goals in 14 appearances, half made from the substitutes' bench, since he moved for an initial £15.5 million from Charlton Athletic in the summer. To be fair to Bent, he hasn't really been given a chance at Tottenham and would certainly represent better value than Fred.

Elsewhere, Atlético Madrid have entered the race to sign Momo Sissoko, the Liverpool midfield player, who is also wanted by Juventus

Premier League Transfer News

Latest Premier League Transfer window news & speculation

Tottenham Hotspur are after beefing up their attack, given they are listening to offers for Bent and Defoe. Latest speculation has them tracking Alvaro Negredo, the Almeria striker, while Fred, the Lyons striker, claims Tottenham are after him. "For the moment, I have only received two offers, from Paris and Tottenham," the Brazilian told L'Equipe. (PA)

Sunderland manager Roy Keane, will finally get Stephen Hunt with an improved bid of £5m bid. So says the Mirror.

Blackburn Rovers are trying to sign Amdy Faye, the Senegalese midfielder currently on loan to Rangers from Charlton Athletic as a replacement for Robbie Savage. They are also tracking Wigan's Jason Koumas. This again from the Daily Mirror.

The Sun is saying Portsmouth are set to spend for them what is big money, and sign Tiago, the Portuguese midfielder, from Juventus for £8m. Also The Mirror is reporting Harry Redknapp is interested in Jermain Defoe and is trying to offload Matt Taylor to fund the deal.

Stoke City have spent some Premiership small change, and broken their transfer record to sign Leon Cort's on a permanent deal from Crystal Palace for a £1.2m fee.

Middlesbrough, continuing their penchant for ridiculously expensive foreign big-time charlies, have hit a snag in their attempt to sign Afonso Alves. The £12 move from Heerenveen, of Holland is being held up as he is struggling to get a work permit due to his lack of international caps. (Daily Mirror)

Birmingham City have stunned the football world by bidding £3 million for James McFadden, the rejecting of which by Everton, has further nonplussed us at Footy Focus. We would have bit their hand off. Alex McLeish is also after Gary Cahill, the Aston Villa defender, submitting a 4m bid.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Momo Sissoko move still on

Sissoko's next club not clear as three clubs jostle to seal a deal

Reports are circulating that Juventus have cooled their interest in Liverpool's Momo Sissoko, leading to speculation that Liverpool will not be able to afford to tie up the Javier Mascherano deal in this transfer window.

Of note however, is the fact that the Liverpool Echo is reporting three clubs are interested in Sissoko, which all points to a deal being done soon. This should enable Liverpool to tie up Mascherano, as regardless of who is in charge next season, any manager would want him in the squad.

Footy Focus thinks it's all part of the normal speculation and that Sissoko will move, with Mascherano secured to Liverpool.

Liverpool in Turmoil

Once a by-word for stability Liverpool's season is rapidly becoming a farce

The wheels have come off big-time on Liverpool's season, and for a club of Liverpool's traditions it must be heart-breaking for the fans.

Sami Hyppia has compared them to Newcastle, which we reckon is a message from the players to the club to get it sorted and quick. All the uncertainty surrounding the manager, is clearly affecting the team and it's performances. Liverpool are a top four side, but playing with all the panache and confidence of managerless Newcastle.

Whats desperately missing is clear leadership from the American owners. They're struggling to refinance their debt, there are rumours of DIC returning to bid for the club again, and the constant speculation around Rafael Benitez has led to unprecedented headlines for a Liverpool manager. Can you ever recall a Liverpool manager having 'dead man walking' headlines. The nearest was the Gerard Houllier, Martin O'Neill saga, which as it turned out was all in Gerard's head. Liverpool desperately need to get back to the long term stability which has characterised their approach to running the club over the years.

The odds on Liverpool rescuing their season must be against them now. There has been too much speculation regarding Rafael Benitez for that to be repaired and the players know it. They are playing like they are subconsciously waiting for the next manager. However loyal they are to Rafa they can't help looking past him, given all the speculation.

It all must be desperately depressing for the likes of Carragher and Gerrard, who are entering the autumn of their careers and have devoted themselves to their beloved Liverpool.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Premier League News - the title race

Manchester United pile on Newcastles misery, Chelsea squeeze past Tottenham and Arsenal stumble

Manchester United became Premier League leaders again and piled on the gloom for Newcastle, defeating them 6-0 in a game that was remarkably 0-0 at half time. Cristiano Ronaldo got a hat-trick, Carlos Tevez (why can't he stop the dummy celebration) two and Rio Ferdinand the other.

Arsenal, maybe not surprisingly to those who have watched Alex McLeish's Birmingham recently, dropped two points to the boys from 'Brum. Birmingham had the temerity to come back from a goal down, and defend excellently to take a deserved point.

Chelsea, showed they are still very much in the Premier League ce, squeezing past Tottenham at Stamford Bridge 2-0. Sean Wright-Phillips continued his recent excellent form, sealing the points with a great drive after being set up by Joe Cole. Belletti has opened the scoring with a screamer.

The Premier League really is now a three horse race, with Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea well clear of the chasing pack. Premier League wannabes Liverpool are realistically playing for fourth spot in what has become a season of instability and turmoil for them. Not gone to script for the men from Anfield has it?

Manchester City and Everton are keeping up their good form and are perfectly capable of taking that Premier League fourth place. Meanwhile over at Aston Villa, Martin O'Neill is quietly working his magic, with Villa also one of the four clubs on 39 points.

Arabs back in for Liverpool Takeover

DIC back in the frame as Gillett & Hicks get cold feet

Dubai International Capital are according to reports, back in the frame for a takeover at Liverpool. Also the Americans have, due to the global credit crunch, struggled to refinance the loan they took out to purchase the club, which is due for repayment at the end of February. Contrary to their original stated intentions, the duo have been attempting to transfer the liability for the debt onto the club itself. City sources say this will be extremely difficult to do, and their attempt to do so has caused tensions amongst the Anfield board.

The other members of the board are thought to be horrified that George Gillett and Tom Hicks have not brought long-term stability to the club, and reports have it that Parry and Moores are open to another takeover.

Its been mooted that the Americans want 1 billion for Liverpool, which has been ridiculed, but it is reported that a value of 500 million would be acceptable, with the Americans making a 75 million profit each. The Guardian reports takeover talks are thought to be scheduled for later this month

Redknapp turns down Newcastle

Redknapp turns down Newcastle as the counter-swipes begin

Harry Redknapp has turned down the chance to manage Newcastle, largely because of family and geographical reasons. Newcastle maintain, faintly ludicrously, that it was because they wouldn't give him a private jet to commute to and from Teeside, accusing Redknapp through club sources of wanting to manager the club from the South coast.

Redknapp will not pleased at being portrayed in this light, especially since he had let it be known he was prepared to move North. Seems Newcastle's comments are aimed for it's own supporters more than anything else.

For Newcastle the search goes on, with reports that they are now turning their sights to Europe. They are also apparently resigned to this season being one of transition, with Newcastle comfortably in midtable their view is that they have no need to rush the appointment. The latest names in the frame are Gerard Houllier, Louis van Gaal and Ottmar Hitzfeld. Of those, it is believed van Gaal has strong support from the Newcastle board.

Premier League Results: Middlesbrough 1-1 Liverpool

Talk of title laughable as Torres keeps Liverpool in the top four
Liverpool's Premier League title hopes in all reality vanished about five games ago, but any lingering hopes were surely extinguished in this lacklustre draw. Yet again a moment of individual brilliance from Fernando Torres got Liverpool something from this game, his spectacular 70th minute drive rescuing a point for the Merseysiders.

Liverpool really are now playing like a team who knows it's manager has no future. The constant speculation, which has never really been dispelled by those at the top at Anfield, is undermining Rafael Benitez's reign. Death of a thousand cuts or dead man walking? Either way the season is unravelling and quick for Liverpool - if they don't start winning soon, the top four will become a struggle, let alone anything else.

For the first 70 minutes of this game and in the first half especially, Liverpool were outfought and simply didn't create anything. Benayoun, Voronin, Torres and Gerrard were all anonymous. It was only after Torres's goal that Liverpool came to life, and by the end Middlesbrough were hanging on. Liverpool fans can only wonder why it took so long for them to attack with urgency against a side they could clearly beat.

Clearly performances like this are simply not good enough to keep Rafa in his job and he knows it.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Premier League News

Anelka straight in, Redknapp straight out, and Fred right man for Spurs

Nicolas Anelka is straight into the Chelsea squad for the game against Spurs after his 15 million pound move, and guess what? He's vowed to stay at Chelsea for the rest of his career. Yeah right Nic, we've heard it all before....

Tottenham have topped all offers for Lyon striker Fred with a cool 11 million pound bid. Clearly preparing for one of their four strikers to move on, they have substantially outbid Portsmouth and Paris Saint-Germain. However it appears Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas, has told Fred to pick his club, even though the Paris Saint-Germain bid is as low as 7 million.

Harry Redknapp is in talks with Newcastle about his imminent move. He went to an office in London's Bond Street, and met with Paul Kemsley, along with the agent Dennis Roach and Chris Mort, the Newcastle chairman. However Mike Ashley was absent, being in the Far East on business, which complicates things as Redknapp is thought to be keen to speak to Ashley before concluding the deal. Things should be tied up by the middle of next week.

Klinsmann offered Liverpool Job

More turmoil for Rafa as Bayern claim to have pipped Liverpool to Klinsmann

Rafa Benitez long-term future at Liverpool was again called into question today, as Bayern Munich claimed to have beaten Liverpool to the German's signature. Klinsmann himself stated he recieved no offers from the Premier League, however high level sources at Bayern are adament there was a detailed offer on the table for Klinsmann to sign, which he rejected to sign in at Bayern.

Liverpool refused to comment when this story was put to them, which is at odds with their reaction to the recent Fabio Capello link.

Benitez himself, gave a solid defence of his record today as this story broke, however as stated previously on Footy Focus, we believe the decision has been made and Rafa is a goner at seasons end. Having said that we are so glad it won't be Klinsmann in charge!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Newcastle close in on Redknapp

Events gather pace as bets are off on Harry's move

Newcastle close in as Redknapp remains silent. Harry Redknapps move to Newcastle appeared to be gathering pace last night, with events all pointing to an imminent departure for the 60 year old Redknapp.

The usual pre-game press conference was cancelled and Redknapp was driven away from the ground by Portsmouth Chief Executive Peter Storrie as a media scrum gathered.

Speculation was further fuelled by the unavailability of the Newcastle charman Chris Mort, and it is understood Newcastle are preparing to formalise thier approach. Some reports have Portsmouth bowing to the inevitable already, with a compensation package being discussed. However Portsmouth maintained the 'he's happy here' line, but this had a distinctly hollow ring to it.

Newcastle hope to have Redknapp installed in time for him to act during the January transfer window.

Redknapp will become the ninth manager in the eleven years since Kevin Keegan left, which clearly indicates the perils of the job. In that time Arsenal have had two managers, Manchester United one, and Liverpool three which roughly equates to the league positions of the clubs over that time! Newcastle fans can only hope Redknapps arrival heralds a period of stability for a club who make a habit of turmoil and change in a relentess and fruitless pursuit of success.

Anelka completes Chelsea move

Last chance saloon for the incredible sulk

Nicolas Anelka has completed his move to Chelsea for a reported 15 million pounds. In what must be the last chance for 28 year old Anelka to really fulfill his potential, Chelsea have signed a top class forward who will provide cover for the injured Shevchenko and the absent Kalou and Drogba. Also given Drogba's stated desire to move on in the summer, its a smart piece of business by Chelsea.

Anelka has long been linked with a move away from Bolton, despite only signing a new contract last summer.

Premier League Preview

Manchester United vs Newcastle

Owen Hargreaves and Gary Neville are definitely out for the Premier League holders, while managerless Newcastle are considering playing Oberfami Martins if he is allowed back from Nigeria's training camp. Also missing are Habib Beye, Abdoulaye Faye and Geremi who are all away on international duty.Footy Focus prediction - do we have to!! If ever there was a foregone conclusion, this is it. Manchester United win to pile more misery on a season to forget for mangerless Newcastle.

Middlesbrough vs Liverpool
Rafael Benitez will welcome back Daniel Agger after a long lay-off with a metatarsal injury. Also rested or previously injured Arbeloa, Gerrard, Reina, Gerrard and Torres will all return in what is (as they all are these days) a must win game for Premier League wannabes' Liverpool. For 'Boro Gary O'Neil and George Boateng return, but sick-note Jonathan Woodgate and Sanli look likely to miss out. Footy Focus prediction - Liverpool win.

Everton vs Manchester City
Everton have lost three key players, with Yobo, Yakubu and Pienaar all away at the African Cup of Nations. On the plus side midfielder Mikel Arteta returns after suspension. Manchester City are hoping Elano is fit to take the place of Nery Castillo who will be rested. Defiinitely out it Michael Johnson with an abdominal strain. Footy Focus prediciton - score draw.

Arsenal vs Birmingham City
For Premier League leaders Arsenal defender Philippe Senderos set to return after injury, while much talked about and unsettled keeper Jens Lehmann is on the bench. Robin van Persie is again out, this time with flu, while Arsenal are another cup affected by the African Nations Cup with Eboue, Song and Toure all away. For Birmingham Martin Taylor will return, while Damien Johnson is going to play with a protective mask, only two weeks after suffering a slight skull fracture. Kapo will also play having recovered from injury. Footy Focus prediction - Arsenal win.

Premier League News

Saachi underwhelmed by Sissoko, Klinsmann to Bayern and Ronaldo staying

Saachi criticises Sissoko signing. Arrigo Sacchi the ex-AC Milan boss and general all-round coaching legend has took a dim view of the imminent deal. Harshly describing the player as a 'plughole' and having no quality, he clearly doesnt rate Sissoko. Footy Focus thinks he's being a tad mean - Sissoko is no slinky passer but he has the potential to develop into a really top class central midfielder.

Other news has seen Bayern Munich announce the appointment of Jurgen Klinsmann as coach next season. Rafael Benitez and I suspect the majority of Liverpool fans will be mightily relieved at this news. His is the last type of appointment the Kop would have wanted

Premier League title-holders Manchester United, have been linked with Klass Huntelaar, for what seems a reasonably cheap value of 12 million. I've always rated Huntelaar, as he is such a prolific scorer. Kuyt 9 mill or Huntelaar for 12...hmmm. Still at Manchester United, David Gill has been giving the old 'he's not for sale, never' line on Ronaldo. As we all know, not until he asks to go David. There's been recent speculation of Real Madrid making a move. We think he's happy to stay where he is....for now.

Over at neighbours Manchester City, Didi Hamann is to be rewarded for his excellent for with a contract extension for another year. Footy Focus could never understand why he didn't get a game under Stuart Pearce. Our Didi is the master at sitting in front of the defence, breaking up play, and holding the team together. His legs maybe creaking a bit but theirs life in the old dog yet!

Tottenham Hotspur seem set to offload Pascal Chimbonda. There's more speculation linking him with a move to Aston Villa and his agent is in the papers saying he would welcome a move. We think Martin O'Neill is quietly weaving his magic at Villa, and slowly building a team that will soon begin to get some great results.

Premier League betting - Interesting odds

Mourinho to Man U, Rafa out and Berbatov to stay!
Footy Focus has been perusing the latest Premier League betting odds on various football topics and there's some interesting ones out there:
Next permanent Manchester United Manager: Jose Mourinho is only 10/1 to succeed Sir Alex.Ladbrokes Favourites are Carlos Quieroz and surprisingly Mark Hughes at 32/5 and 39/5 respectively (Betfair).
For all the talk on Berbatov the bookies don't have him leaving White Hart Lane just yet, with his odds at staying during January being 1/4 with Ladbrokes, 11/4 to go.
Perhaps in a sign that only God knows what's going on at Anfield, there is no book yet on who will succeed Rafael Benitez as Liverpool manager, but there is a book on him being, or not being Liverpool manager on the 1st of August 2008. Just to emphasise that no one has a clue the odds are exactly even at 5/6 either way with SkyBet. However Rafa the Gaffer is the hot tip to be the next manager to bite the bullet, ahead of Gareth Southgate and Roy Keane. Harry Redknapp may well be topping that list shortly.
Betfair LogoThe race for the Premier League throws up no surprises with all the bookies calling the top four as Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool in that order.
Lastly and patriotically we looked at the top English goalscorer betting. Wayne Rooney is 5/2, but Steven Gerrard may be worth a punt at 34/5 (Betfair)

Premier League News, Transfer Speculation & Rumour

Harry's wheels not turning as the deal to Newcastle stalls, Man U lead the profits league

Newcastles pursuit of Harry Redknapp is beginning to turn awkard and potentially very costly. Portsmouth are determined to hold onto their man, and Redknapp has a contract until 2011, which would reportedly mean Newcastle paying Portsmouth compensation of around 8 million for our 'Arry's services. The local paper the Evening Chronicle, is reporting Mark Hughes of Blackburn is also under consideration. Reports linking Everton's David Moyes have been dismissed, but more interesting is the fact that betting odds on Kevin Keegans return have been slashed. Surely not!

Over at Anfield the news is that the Momo Sissoko supposed Juventus move is becoming a bit of a yawn. The player says its all go and he expects agreement soon, while the club through it's mouthpiece, the local rag, The Liverpool Echo, says its recieved no contact from Juventus. Footy Focus thinks its a done deal and as Reds' fans will be sorry to see him go. You may well regret this Rafa!

Meanwhile Liverpool have recieved a tremendous boost with the news that Daniel Agger is ready to return to first team action. He was due to play in a reserve game but that was called off due to heavy rain. Regardless, he is ready to play some part in the Premier League away trip to Middlesborough. Rafael Benitez will be boosted by this, the return of Xabi Alonso and the purchase of Martin Skrtel as we go into the final leg of the Premier League.

In other news, Premier League title holders Manchester United, have announced financial results to make their rivals green with envy. Despite having to pay 42 million in interest on the debt put upon the club by the Glazers, they have announced a pre-tax profit of 59 million. All this after paying out 70 million for Nani, Anderson, Carrick and Hargreaves! The anti-Glazer faction at Manchester United really have no argument. Liverpool fans can only dream that Hicks and Gillett will get their club in a similar position.

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson is bemoaning his clubs lack of height, noting they have conceded four goals from set pieces lately. Fulham tried for Jan Koeller but he turned them down. Footy Focus thinks he needs some big centre-backs as well as forwards. Sami Hyppia would be a great short term measure if he could be persuaded.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Premier League News & Transfer Speculation

Redknapp the favourite for Newcastle as Anelka has a strop

Harry Redknapp has emerged as the latest fool to take on the hotseat at St James Park, with his odds slashed and some betting suspended on him taking over at Newcastle. It remains to be seen how he will be received by a Gallowgate End, who would probably like a more glamour name than the wheeler delar that is Harry Redknapp. Also given his alledged role in other types of transfer wheeling and dealing, his appointment will not be without some comment up on Tyneside.

Wanderlust Nicolas Anelka has done what he is best at.....sulking. Reports have it he has demanded to leave Bolton for Chelsea, while Bolton won't shift from their 15 million pound fee. A final bid of 12.5 million will apparently stop Nicolas's bottom lip from quivering.

All this talk of same old, same old, brings us to Middlesborough. What with Newcastle changing managers and Nicolas Anelka in a strop, they just couldn't help themselves. They've just yet again paid big money (a cool 10 million) for a fancy-dan foreign forward, who has no idea where Middlesborough is. Afonso Alves is the name and he plays for Heerenveen and Brazil. More Brazilians on Teeside - Footy Focus thinks he should Google Teeside and weather before he puts pen to paper. Not many birds in bikini thongs up there - the only ones are dancing around poles and charge a fee to be looked at. Middlesbrough are also rivalling Manchester City for Fred, the Lyon and Brazil forward.

Elsewhere speculation has it that Aston Villa are after Pascal Chimbonda from Tottenham, who has apparently fallen out of favour with Juande Ramos already. Everton are bringing Manuel Fernandes back to Goodison Park on loan. Reports are that he will arrive on Merseyside today to finalise terms and have a medical.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Sam Allardyce out at Newcastle

Allardyce out as Newcastle pull the trigger yet again

Sam Allardyce has parted company with Newcastle via the age old 'mutual consent' route. Seems Newcastle have in their time honoured tradition bowed to the pressure from fans and local media and pulled the trigger in double quick time. That makes it 6 managers in the 11 years since Kevin Keegan left. Stability and continuity bring success and Newcastle have left themselves in turmoil yet again.

One of these years, they will get a chairman who is prepared to ride it out, believe in his manager and give him time to get it right. There are those who believe they have done it now in the hope of getting their man before Liverpool pull the plug on Rafael Benitez in the summer.

Harry Redknapp has emerged as an early favourite.

Newcastle's Allardyce moving on dead wood

Allardyce begins to swing the axe on Newcastles dead wood
Sam Allardyce is reportedly ready to listen to offers for the fringe players in his squad. Most notable likely departees include Emre and Shola Ameobi. Emre has been linked with moves to Monaco and Bayer Leverkusen, while Ameobi is wanted by Norwich City and former Magpies boss Glenn Roeder.

Newcastle themselves are chasing Arsenal midfielder Lassana Diarra and made an offer for Manchester Uniteds Wes Brown

Newcastle Allardyce moves out the dead wood

Allardyce begins to swing the axe on Newcastles dead wood

Sam Allardyce is reportedly ready to listen to offers for the fringe players in his squad. Most notable likely departees include Emre and Shola Ameobi. Emre has been linked with moves to Monaco and Bayer Leverkusen, while Ameobi is wanted by Norwich City and former Magpies boss Glenn Roeder.

Newcastle themselves are chasing Arsenal midfielder Lassana Diarra and made an offer for Manchester Uniteds Wes Brown

Premier League News, Transfer Speculation and Rumours

Sissoko seduced by the Old Lady, as City chase Niang and Nasri

Momo Sissoko to Juventus is beginning to seem a done deal with the player quoted as saying he expects 'exciting things' in the next few days. Seems to be good business all round, with Liverpool getting around 12 million, and Sissoko getting first team football. I think he will develop into a really top class central midfielder at Juventus, and Liverpool may regret letting him go. Other less credible reports see Sissoko being offered to Tottenham for Jermaine Defoe. Can't see that one flying.

Still at Juventus, apparently Rafael Van Der Vaart has set his heart on a move to the Old Lady of Turin, turning down the offer of a new contract at Hamburg.

The Guardian is reporting Manchester City have enquired about Mamadou Niang and Samir Nasri, but have ruled themselves out of any move for Djibril Cisse

Carling Cup Results: Chelsea 2-1 Everton

Wright-Phillips the little-big man as Chelsea steal it

Chelsea take a narrow lead to Goodison, from what was a great Carling Cup semi-final first leg at Stamford Bridge. Sean Wright-Phillips got one goal and had a contraversial role in the second. The first was a superb curling finish and the second a controversial leap via Lescott's shoulders as Lescott put past his keeper, to steal the win for 10 man Chelsea.

Chelsea put Wright-Phillips up front in the absence of Drogba and Kalou (at the African Nations Cup), an injured Andriy Shevchenko and after the substitution of Pizarro. The smallest man on the pitch them promptly put in a very big performance which will have surely impressed new England manager Fabio Capello.

Yakubu Ayegbeni equalised with a stunning shot and with John Obi Mikel having been sent off Chelsea were reeling, but in injury time the Wright-Phillips leap landed a sucker punch. Everton maintain he used Lescott to gain height and the own goal should have been disallowed and to be fair they had a point.

All in all, a draw would probably have been a fairer result, given Evertons spirited performance. Moyes afterwards was understandably annoyed the second Chelsea goal stood, but commended his players for ensuring the tie is still very much alive for the second leg at Goodison Park. You get the feeling though that the narrow win will make all the difference - its Everton now who have to come out and attack, not Chelsea.

Footy Focus prediction - Chelsea to advance to the final and break Everton hearts.
Finally it seems Anelka will be a Chelsea player in a matter of hours. The Times is reporting a final 13 million pound bid from Chelsea will seal the deal with Bolton, which seems good business by Chelsea given the immediate absence of Kalou and Drogba and Drogba's stated intent to move on in the summer.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Rafa Benitez Liverpool Latest

Benitez trys to save his skin

The Liverpool Echo is producing some quotes from Rafael Benitez, which appear to be aimed as much at the Americans, as the fans. Rafa is again quoted as saying how much he loves the club etc, and that the 'dead man walking' stories are a complete misrepresentation of him. Tellingly, he does admit the comments come from a private conversation he had with journalists about ten days ago, which he maintains has been completely distorted in the press.

The Echo is also reporting, that the managers position is almost certain to be discussed when Rick Parry shortly arrives in America to discuss the position of the new stadium development.

Given the Echo is widely held to be both the voice of the club and manager, it seems Benitez is trying to back track from ]off the record' comments made to journalists and the owners are making it very clear that he is still likely to be replaced. I can only see this leading to one thing - Benitez is on his way, either in a mid-season dust-up as the speculation makes his position untenable a la' Mourinho at Chelsea, or more likely in the time honoured Liverpool fashion of keeping things as stable as possible, with a summer exit.

It all depends on the whether the speculation makes the latter impossible but Footy Focus believes the decision has already been made.

Premier League News, Transfer Speculation and Rumours

Latest news and transfer speculation

Birmingham, Wigan, 'Boro and Bolton are all reportedly interested in bringing Milan Baros back to the Premier League. Baros has not been getting a game under new Lyon coach Alain Perrin and looks all set for a move. He really has lost his way Baros. He was excellent at Liverpool and was only sold as we needed the money for Crouch. He was great at Euro 2004, attracting the interest of Barcelona, but since then he has really fell away. A wasted talent I think!

Elsewhere news has it that, the Premier Leagues newest manager, Fulham's Roy Hodgson is proving a very brave man, as he is eyeing up a move for Juventus's Alain Boumsong. Given the nightmare he had in the Premier League its' a brave manager who believes in him! Footy Focus recommends a price of nil or no deal for Boumsong.

Meanwhile, other transfer speculation has Tottenham boss Juande Ramos putting in a bit of 8 million for Chelsea’s Israeli Tal Ben Haim. Ben Haim isn't bad, but I wouldn't be paying that for a player who cost nothing, and got skinned by Fernando Torres.

Over at the Gallowgate, Big Sam has completed the signing of 17 year old Swindon defender Ben Tozer for an undisclosed fee. May well be a good signing, but hardly what Newcastle fans are looking for as they continue their Premier League free-fall.

Interesting reports from the Mirror, that Premier League leaders Arsenal are considering tabling a 15 million pound bid for Nicolas Anelka, which will exceed the tabled bids from Newcastle, Chelsea, and Manchester City. Footy Focus still reckons its' Chelsea for Anelka.

Other news has Derby's Paul Jewell paying for me what is a lot of money, for a 34 year old Robbie Savage, with him moving to Derby for a reported 2 million. He can certainly do a job for them, as a midfield terrier, but the fee seems excessive to me. Suppose it will be money well if they stay up and keep the Premier League millions!

Rafa Benitez Liverpool Latest

Rafa continues his dead man walking tactic.

The saga of Rafael Benitez and Liverpool's American owners took a new turn this weekend. Reports have surfaced and continue to do so of Benitez expecting the sack. It's widely expected he will stay at Anfield to the end of the season at least, however if these stories are eminating from the Benitez camp, as they appear to be, this will just add to the bullets already loaded in the American's gun.

Counter reports are surfacing of Jose Mourinho 'being keen' on the Liverpool job, and of the Americans being impressed with Jurgen Klinsmann as a replacement. Further speculation has it that Benitez won't recieve the full amount of 6 million if he is dismissed, with Liverpool being sure to dispute it and of the view they are not bound to pay it.

As I've said before, it is fast becoming a season of death by a thousand cuts for Rafael Benitez. He seems to have happily adopted the 'dead man walking' approach as a retalitory tactic this weekend and this seems set to further antagnonise the American owners, George Gillet and Tom Hicks.

More worryingly is the consistent reports of Jurgen Klinsmann as a replacement. One mediocre World Cup campaign for Germany aside, he has no management experience at all. At the World Cup Germany had home advantage, and beat such world masters as Poland and Ecuador. Even the defeat of Argentina was only on penalties. Klinsmann smacks of a knee-jerk, glory appointment that Liverpool always avoid.

Martin O'Neill would be a much better appointment and if Liverpool don't get him Manchester United may well do.

Premier League Transfer News - Alves in, Sissoko out?

Benitez allowed to dip into the market

Liverpool are set to sign Slovak international centre back Martin Skrtel for 6.5 million.

The Liverpool Echo is reporting that the Zenit St Petersburg star arrived on Merseyside for a medical and to complete a deal over the next couple of days.

Skrtel is rated as a major emerging talent in European football and Liverpool have had to fend off some of the continent's top clubs to seal the deal.

Meanwhile there is more speculation of a move for Momo Sissoko. Claudio Ranieri, manager of Juventus has talked again of signing him, saying he is a great player. Ranieri has guided Juventus to third in Serie A but is anxious to consolidate with further reinforcements. Inter Milan were also interested, but have now turned their attentions elsewhere.

If I was Rafa I'd be keeping Momo Sissoko to the end of the season, given they are looking more and more unlikely to be buying Mascherano.

Monday, January 7, 2008

FA Cup Results - Luton 1-1 Liverpool

Rafa's problems mount as spirited Luton hold listless Liverpool

Rafael Benitez's problems continued to mount as a disjointed, listless Liverpool were held 1-1 in this third round FA Cup tie.

After a bright start Liverpool degenerated into what they have so often this season - lots of possession but absolutely punchless upfront. When they did create chances their two forwards showed what 7 to 9 million buys you. Kuyt and Crouch simply should have done better, both missing respectable chances to give Liverpool a lead from which to go on and win the game.

Luton were spirited throughout, belying their lowly status they took the game to Liverpool at every opportunity. Talbot in particular was a stand-out performer for the battlers from Kenilworth Road.

Against the run of play, Liverpool took the lead in the 73rd minute, Crouch sliding home after a series of defensive errors from Luton. However just three minutes later Luton were level. Talbot again was the tormentor, with Riise knocking the ball into his own arm, and it then cannoned into the net.

For Luton another windfall waits as they limp along, hoping to stay in existence, though when you're losing 400k a week it must be doubtful. For Liverpool, a season that is threatening to completely unravel in a storm of over-expectation from owners and fans, political in-fighting and a punchless attack, limps onto into the next frenzied scrutiny of their manager. It's rapidly becoming death by a thousand cuts for Rafael Benitez.

You can't help feeling though, that Rafa Benitez has made two fundamental errors. He attacked the owners thinking he was in a stronger position than he was, and this has been undermined further by poor results. Secondly he has not bought invention to ally with Torres' ability. Kuyt and Voronin are workmanlike and thats it. Both (Kuyt particularly) and Voronin have no pace and are not penalty box predators. Two years ago he often used Luis Garcia with Crouch upfront - a classic target man and nippy front man partnership. Oh how Liverpool need a front man with his invention now to go with Torres. Also what has Crouch to do to get a game - how can he be on the bench with what Kuyt and Voronin offer? Moreover and more worringly for Liverpool fans is that of the midfield two years ago, you would Mascherano for Sissoko apart, play that same quartet again (Kewell, Alonso, Mascherano for Sissoko and Gerrard). This despite spending 32 million on Gonzalez, Benayoun, Pennant and Babel. Its all getting the feel of those last dark days of Houlliers regime.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Manchester City in for Lyon Striker Fred

Right says Sven, as City move for Fred.

Manchester City are leading a host of Premier League clubs who are interested in signing the Lyon striker 'Fred'. The 24 year old is a Brazilian international, strong, powerful and a good finisher by all accounts.

He's scored 25 times in 55 games for Lyon but the emergence of Karim Benzema combined with injury and some moments of indiscipline have cost him his place. Tottenham are also apparently interested but consider Benzema the more talented player, though Lyon will resist all approaches for Benzema. Other clubs mentioned are Blackburn, Portsmouth and Bolton.

He seems a potentially good buy to me and would be suited to the more physical English game. Having said that I'm not praying Liverpool buy him!

Premier League Transfer News - Spurs in for Cisse

Berbatov a step closer as Spurs linked with Cisse

The Observer is reporting that Tottenham Hostspur are interest in buying Djibril Cisse from Marseille, who is available for around 6 million pounds. Not sure this will appease Spurs fans if he is supposed to be the replacement for Berbatov. They'll surely have to spend more than that, as good as Cisse is, he's never quite showed the promise of this youth after two horrific leg breaks. A number of Premier League clubs have shown interest in Cisse including, Aston Villa, Bolton, Manchester City and West Ham.

Berbatov's eventual destination doesn't appear clear with Chelsea supposedly offering a british record 32 million, and now Real Madrid offering a player exchange deal. Manchester United according to the Mail are still interested, but not at the price Spurs want.

Time up for Rafael Benitez at Liverpool?

Benitez a dead man walking as Mourinho is linked with Liverpool
The pressure just keeps building for Rafael Benitez at Premier League challenger wannabes Liverpool.

With Liverpool's title hopes dead and buried, out the Carling Cup, and facing a tricky FA Cup away tie at Luton, Benitez is under additional pressure from speculation of Jose Mourinho being sounded out about the Anfield job. All this constant rumour about Benitez's position is in danger of making it a season of death by a thousand cuts for the Spaniard. Liverpool's season is in rapid danger of unravelling in a squalid tale of spat and counter spat, as the stories of his relationship with the Liverpool Board just won't go away.

You have to hand it to Rafa though. He's either very brave, or completely mad, as for this must win tie at Luton he's preparing to usher in his latest round of rotations and rest key players. Gerrard, Mascherano, and Torres are all to be rested or are out injured. In addition, Arbeloa and Aurelio are definite absentees having picked up knocks in the home draw against Wigan.

Its' looking more and more likely that someone else will be Liverpool manager come the summer, and Benitez appears to know it. Coming out against Liverpool owners was always only the thing to do from a position of strength - eight Premier League games later and only three wins, the title challenge over and Rafa's looking done for.

FA Cup results: Everton 0-1 Oldham

The Toffees crash out to their lower league near neighbours

The dreaded 'r' word of rotation will be weighing heavily on the minds of supporters of one half of Merseyside today. However this time its the blue half of Merseyside cringing as David Moyes attempts at a rotation policy brought about a crushing FA Cup result.

Moyes made a host of changes that just didn't come off. After a bright start to this third round FA Cup tie, Oldham held Everton off with relative ease and Gary McDonald's stunning 25 yard effort just before half-time was enough to dump Everton out.

Moyes made a double substitution in the second half as it became apparent Oldham had the upper hand. Yakubu and Victor Anichebe replaced Vaughan and the woeful Thomas Gravesen. Yakubu almost rescued the Everton FA Cup campaign, hitting the upright with almost the last kick of the game. However it wasn't to be and Oldham secured a famous and fully deserved FA Cup victory.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

FA Cup - Luton vs Liverpool, Everton vs Oldham

Benitez risking it all for rotation, as Moyes fears an upset

Whatever you say about Rafael Benitez, he is most certainly his own, very brave, man. As his position has become more and more weakened by recent results, he is prepared to risk it all by rotating his squad for the tricky FA Cup trip to Luton. Mascherano, Gerrard, Torres, Arbeloa, Aurelio, Hypia, and Agger are all likely to be rested or are injured for the third round FA Cup tie at Kenilworth Road. Lose this and surely his position will become untenable, especially as there are reports he has lost support in the board room.

Xabi Alonso would just like a win at Luton and isn't expecting a repeat of his sixty yard effort in the previous FA Cup clash at Kenilworth Road in season 2005/06, when Liverpool went all the way and lifted the FA Cup in a dramatic final against West Ham. Footy Focus prediction: Liverpool win to give Rafa some breathing space.

Elsewhere Everton's David Moyes has voiced his fears of an upset, as he prepares his team for the visit of Oldham. Given he's got a Tuesday Carling Cup semi-final clash with Chelsea he would like to rest some senior players, but is dreading a repeat of Everton going out of the FA Cup to Shrewsbury. Goodison Park should be a full house, for a traditional FA Cup ding-dong battle. Footy Focus prediction: Everton win.

FA Cup - Aston Villa vs Manchester United

Villa and Man United meet again in the FA Cup

Manchester United go into this 3rd round FA Cup game looking to maintain their outstanding form, while Martin O'Neill's young guns will be looking to lift Aston Villa's season from good to potentially great.

For United Carlos Tevez is doubtful while Gary Neville is expected to play some part, even if it is from the bench. van Der Sar and Rooney also return.

For Aston Villa, the focal point of their attack, John Carew is doubtful. Apart from that Aston Villa are injury free.

Footy focus prediction: Manchester United win.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Premier League news & January transfer window speculation

Barton out, Lampard staying, and Ronaldo on his way?

Bad-boy Joey Barton has been released on bail, after being charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and affray after an incident in Liverpool's city centre. He has missed Newcastles defeats at Chelsea and home to Manchester City.

Frank Lampard has told the London Evening Standard he would like to stay at Chelsea for the rest of his career. He has 18 months to go on his contract and would like to sign another one to keep him at Stamford Bridge, despite talks being put on hold until the end of the season.

Sunderland have failed with a bid for Blackburns Robbie Savage. Mark Hughes has said a bid has been received but does not match the clubs valuation of the player. Savage has been left out by Hughes in recent weeks and Blackburn are prepared to let him go.

Bolton manager Gary Megson has denied they are in talks with Chelsea over a move for Nicolas Anelka. Anelka was quoted in the French paper L'Equipe as saying talks were underway. Megson dismissed it as pure speculation.

New Tottenham manager Juande Ramos has said only a British record fee of over 30 million will prise Berbatov away from White Hart Lane. Chelsea are rumoured to be preparing a 26 million pound bid. Describing him as the only great player not in the Champions League, Ramos said he expects him to stay at Spurs.

Ronaldo to Real Madrid rumours abound again. This time its a 45 million pound bid from President Calderon and speculation has it that he's made up his mind to go!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Premier League Transfer Speculation and Rumours

Premier League transfer rumours, speculation and tittle-tattle!
The Premier Leagues newest manager Fulham's Roy Hodgson is aiming to prise Liverpool winger Harry Kewell from Anfield. Given the paucity of options on Rafa's left side I can't see that one flying (The Mirror).

Blackburn have ended all interest in striker Jason Roberts by asking for £4m, hoping that no-one in their right mind would pay that for him. Unfortunately David Moyes is not of sane disposition and refuses to be deterred. Mark Hughes is taking a different tack with David Bentley - he's offering him a big fat pay rise to persuade him to stay.

Aston Villa are to start their much talked about spending spree by signing......wait for it.............25-year-old Porto defender Jose Bosingwa. The Telegraph for that one. Meanwhile the mighty Rangers are after Aston Villa striker Luke Moore, so says the Sun.

The wheeler of all dealers, Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp is going to grease his....err no... Rafa's palm with a wadful of cash for Peter Crouch. That slur from the Telegraph.

That other alledged fan of brown envelopes, Newcastle manager Sam Allardyce maintains he has recieved no brown coloured mail for the sick-note that is Michael Owen. The Telegraph again on that.

To end with Sunderland manager Roy Keane, the beacon of true football values in the Premier League, is hoping to secure Chelsea midfielder Steve Sidwell on a loan deal, says the Mirror.

Premier League News & Results - Liverpool 1-1 Wigan

Benitez gives Yanks loaded gun as Reds fire blanks again

The pressure mounted further on Rafael Benitez as his stuttering Liverpool side stumbled to a draw at home to Wigan. Hopes of a Premier League title seem laughable for Liverpool, and a more realistic proposition is the struggle for fourth place, as Manchester City continue a great season under Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Liverpool started brightly enough, but again didn't quite convince, as they struggled to breakdown a newly resolute Wigan. Steve Bruce's team seemed to be winning every vital tackle and interception as Liverpool tried to prise a way through. Michael Brown in particular was a thorn in the side of Liverpool, as he continually broke up attacks and very nearly opened the scoring with the best effort of the first half.

In the second half Liverpool got an early goal and it was one Fernando Torres deserved for his constant efforts against a stubborn Wigan defence. Torres and Gerrard combined to put Finnan in behind the Wigan defence, and he squared for Torres to finish. Gerrard very nearly put the game beyond doubt with a great free-kick, and followed up on the rebound which Kirkland smothered. The goal seemed to settle Liverpool and there was no real sign of an equaliser until disaster struck in the 79th minute.

Gerrard cleared poorly from inside his own penalty area, the ball cannoned off Mascherano to Bramble, who belied his comic status to finish superbly from the edge of the box.

Rafael Benitez was as animated as he's ever been on the Liverpool touchline and soon threw on Crouch and Kuyt in a desperate attempt to force a winner, however it was not to be. The result really leaves Liverpool's outside hope of a Premier League title looking dead and buried, and will greatly increase the pressure on Rafael Benitez and his relationship with the club's American owners.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Berbatov to Man U or Chelsea? Transfer Speculation

Berbatov move takes a step closer
Lots of noise around Dimitar Berbatov with both Manchester United and Chelsea being mooted as spending big on the 28 year old Bulgarian. All seems the prelude to the inevitable, which must be depressing for Tottenham fans.

Transfer speculation has it that Chelsea are reported to be about to launch a 26 million pound bid, while various sources say he is set to move to Premier League title holders Manchester United. Hopefully he'll go to neither and his big ego will have to honour the deal he signed only 18 months ago!

Pressure building on Benitez, as Mascherano warns time is running out

Javier Mascherano warns time is limited for a deal to be struck to keep him at Liverpool

In what would be a massive blow to Rafael Benitez and one which could make his relationship with Liverpool's American owners untenable, Javier Mascherano has stated that time is running out for Liverpool to conclude a deal to keep him at Anfield. The Liverpool Echo is carrying an 'emotional plea' from him, again stating his desire to stay and that it's upto Tom Hicks and George Gillett to decide if they want him. The player insists he wants to stay but that the expiry of his loan contract in June means that he maybe forced to look elsewhere to ensure his future is secure. Its' well known that Barcelona are waiting and watching, hoping to snatch the player from Liverpool.

If Mascherano is allowed to leave it will cause an uproar amongst Liverpool fans, however these latest words from the player could be construed as being designed to put pressure on the Americans, something which they will not take kindly to. That said Liverpool would be absolutely crazy to let a player of his calibre go and you would think that funds could easily be raised by offloading a couple of players.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Premier League Transfer Speculation & Rumours

The latest big-money Premier League transfer speculation
The wanderlust Nicholas Anelka now seems certain to move to Chelsea for a fee in the region of 10 million. Good move for Chelsea but I'm not so sure he'll get the games he wants when Drogba is back fit.

Other speculation and rumour sees Xabi Alonso going to Real Madrid in exchange for Julio Baptista and Gabriel Heinze. Bit of a wild one this - Rafa Benitez is far too canny to sell Alonso, though I can see him going for Heinze again.

Other speculation has it that Jermaine Defoe is a target for Portsmouth, Aston Villa, Chelsea and Manchester City. Given the amount of time he spends on the bench this one is entirely predictable and feasible. He'll be a great buy for whoever gets him - he is one of the few players around with a consistent strike rate.

Steven Taylor, the talented Newcastle centre-half is again the subject of much rumour about his future. This time West Ham are apparently watching his contract situation. This together with the reported interest from Arsenal and Liverpool would suggest a move is likely sometime soon.

Premier League Transfer Speculation & Rumours

The latest big-money Premier League transfer speculation
First up is the depressing news for Spurs fans of Dimitar Berbatov angling for a move to a 'bigger club'. This seems to be bearing all the hallmarks of a done deal - denial by the club, player agent saying player deserves a bigger stage, leaked stories to the media etc. Seems to me the age old pattern of softening up the fans for the inevitable. One day a club will hold a player to his contract, come what may. Berbatov obviously signed his with the intention of doing one as soon as someone better showed the slightest bit of interest.

Arsene Wenger is upto what he does best - chasing young french talent (footballing of course), with an 8m Arsenal bid about to launched across the channel to Olympique Lyon for striker Karim Benzema. Speculation has it that Man Utd, Chelsea and Newcastle are also after him.

Other speculation has Liverpool and Arsenal after Michael Owen for 8 million. Would be a great buy, providing he comes with a doctors note.

Elsewhere rumour has it that Martin Jol is to take over from Sam Allardyce, West Ham are to offer 12 million for Tottenham's Darren Bent, Pascal Chimbonda of Tottenham is wanted by Newcastle and Manchester City, and AC Milan want show-pony Andriy Shevchenko back at the San Siro.

Premier League News - Race for the 2008 title

Same old, same old in the New Year race for the Premier League

As we turn from '07 to '08, its the same old story at the top of the Premier League. Arsenal and Manchester United are locked in a toe to toe battle for the Premier League, with Chelsea breathing down their necks, and Liverpool the perennial wall-flowers, are sitting back in fourth spot.

Arsenal regained top spot with a great 4-1 win at Everton, though it has to be said the scoreline didn't really reflect the game itself. You just get the feeling that Arsenal are beginning to feel the strain a bit, and may soon run into problems. Their injury list is mounting and they will lose players to the Africans cup. Premier League placing prediction? An agonising 2nd spot.

Manchester United go into 2008 really looking as the team everyone else will have to beat. Their form has been outstanding after a relatively slow start, and they have stormed back into contention. With few major injury worries, no players at the African nations cup, and the team in great form, they are looking in a great position to grab a commanding lead at the top. Premier League placing prediction? Champions again.

It's hard to characterise the football Chelsea are playing under Avram Grant. They were very pragmatic under Mourinho, but sometimes lacked a 'plan b' when things didn't go to plan. Under Grant they are playing better but not particularly flamboyant football. They've got some major injury worries, which combined with losing players to the Africans Cup will cause them some major problems. The loss of Terry and Drogba in particular is a huge blow. Premier League placing prediction? Squeezed out of it to fourth spot.

rivals and Rafael Benitez's penchant for weird and wonderful team selections in the name of rotation. You just get the sense with Liverpool that they haven't quite got enough to propel themselves into that top two and really challenge. Defensively they are fine, but offensivelyLiverpool, despite appearing to have one of their strongest squads for years have not yet quite clicked into gear. Two things are conspiring against them - their inability to take points off their, Torres and Gerrard apart they haven't got that extra bit of quality that world class players give. As Rafa is always saying, it's small details! Premier League placing prediction? An improved points total but stuck in third.

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