Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Rafa looks to stick to current squad rather than twist

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has hinted he is unlikely to do any major transfer deals in January. It has become clear that the Anfield chief is highly unlikely to delve into the transfer market this month, with very little prospect of any of his first-team squad stars leaving the club.
He said: "We do not need to go into the transfer market, we are certainly not desperate to do so.
"If we find we need something we will try, but it is always hard in this window and very expensive."
Benitez's hand has been strengthened by the return to fitness of striker Fernando Torres and defenders Martin Skrtel, Fabio Aurelio and Alvaro Arbeloa.
He added: "We finished 2008 very well, we played with style and have scored a lot of goals. I am very pleased and happy with the situation and hope it will be the same in the new year.
"We have other players apart from Torres coming back from injury. There is Skrtel, Aurelio and Arbeloa all fit now. It will be like signing three new players."
"We are in a good position and I am happy to use the players we have now plus the ones returning from injury."
Liverpool have been strongly linked for moves with former striker Emile Heskey, now at Wigan, and Portsmouth defender Glen Johnson.
But the Reds have made no firm moves and Benitez is now looking increasingly likely to make an assault on three trophies with the players currently at his disposal.
The only departure is likely to be out-of-favour Jermaine Pennant, whose contract expires at the end of the season. And if a deal cannot be secured, Benitez will send the winger out on loan.
Benitez will rebuff any attempts by AC Milan to sign defender Daniel Agger, while Andreas Dossena, who would have been a possible departure, is now needed as back-up for Aurelio at left-back.
That is because Liverpool will lose impressive Argentinian youngster Emiliano Insua until February 8 due to the South American Under-20 Championships.
Insua has made a big impact in recent weeks, and the international call-up could not have come at a worse time for him.
He has recently broken into Benitez's first team and done well in four successive matches. But his enforced international departure has been offset by the return from injury of Aurelio.
One player, 17-year-old striker Marvin Pourie, is leaving the club in a £50,000 switch to Schalke. Pourie joined Liverpool's academy 18 months ago from Borussia Dortmund but has not made the breakthrough expected.
With things going well on the pitch, the club's controversial American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett have opted for a low profile to maintain the club's concentration on their title bid. The widely-touted six-month extension to their £350m of loans has also been confirmed.
That move was always expected, with the club more than capable of meeting the interest payments. And the last thing Liverpool need now, after their experiences of last season, is a high-profile battle for control of the club.
The Americans will have to repay the £350m or sell up in the summer, and by then they hope for an easing of the credit crunch which will encourage potential buyers.
If Liverpool are champions, that will further help their cause.
Champions League qualification for next season should also by then have been assured. With a 10-point lead over fifth-placed Arsenal at present, it is a decent bet that Liverpool will finish in the top four again, and maintain the flow of UEFA cash into the Anfield coffers.
The date of Liverpool's FA Cup fourth-round home tie with Everton has been set for Sunday, January 24 - kick off 4pm - with the league visit to Wigan the following week moved from Tuesday to Wednesday, January 28.

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