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Fiorentina vs. Liverpool

Fiorentina vs. Liverpool

Stadio Artemio Franchi

Tues 29-09-09

7:45pm

On Sky

Fiorentina - Liverpool

Champions League football is back on the menu again on Tuesday as Liverpool travel to the Stadio Artemio Franchi for the Group E match against Fiorentina, who had a poor record in last season CL at home last season as they picked up only two points.

Fiorentina Team News:

Fiorentina will be without Alberto Gilardino as the striker begins a two match suspension for an elbow on Jeremy Toulalan in the match with Lyon two weeks ago. Stevan Jovetic and Adrian Mutu are set to lead the line for the Italians.

Player to watch: Adrian Mutu

Mutu has struggled so far this season, due mostly to the fact that his £15m plus compensation payment to Chelsea needs to be met, but we can't afford to take the Romanian lightly.

Liverpool Team News:

Javier Mascherano hasn't travelled with the squad to Italy due to a tight hamstring, with Rafa opting not to risk the midfielder. Despite rumours to the contrary Yossi Benayoun has travelled to Tuscany. Yossi picked up a dead leg against Hull so might miss out but the Israeli is in Italy with the 18 man squad. Daniel Agger will return for the Reds on Tuesday, however this will be in a reserve outing against Man City.

Player to watch: Fernando Torres

Could it be anyone else? The Spanish international is on fire at the moment and if he continues his form against Fiorentina Nando should return with at least one goal and the Reds with hopefully three points.

Match Facts & Stats

The Reds last six matches: Liverpool 6-1 Hull Leeds 0-1 Liverpool West Ham 2-3 Liverpool Liverpool 1-0 Debrecen Liverpool 4-0 Burnley Bolton 2-3 Liverpool Fiorentina's last six matches: Livorno 0-1 Fiorentina Fiorentina 2-0 Sampdoria Roma 3-1Fiorentina Lyon 1-0 Fiorentina Fiorentina 1-0 Cagliari Fiorentina 1-0 Palermo

Ref Watch:

Felix Brych from Germany will officiate.

Match Prediction:

We're riding on the crest of a wave at the moment so how could you bet against anything but another Reds win? So Fiorentina 1 Liverpool 2 is my prediction.


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Dirk Kuyt

Liverpool's Dutch striker Dirk Kuyt is closing in on Ian Rush's tally of 14 European Cup goals, the second most for the club behind Steven Gerrard. Photograph: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images

Dirk Kuyt was unable to reproduce the Istanbul miracle when he reduced Liverpool's deficit against Milan in the 2007 Champions League final but a remarkable recovery began that night nonetheless. The revival concerned Kuyt himself and has been so extensive that in Florence tonight he could find himself in the exalted company of the finest Liverpool predator of all, Ian Rush.

Kuyt failed to score in 10 Champions League appearances for Rafael Benítez's side until his 89th-minute header brought hope in Athens two years ago. In 24 Champions League appearances since, he has added a further 11 goals and now stands third on the list of Liverpool goalscorers in their cherished competition. Steven Gerrard leads that illustrious roll call with 19, and has a staggering 32 in Europe in total, but the sight of Rush in second on 14 offers an incentive that even Kuyt, the consummate team man, finds enticing.

"To have the chance to maybe draw level with someone like Ian Rush is unbelievable," said the striker yesterday. "He is one of the biggest names in the history of the Liverpool Football Club and it would give me a great feeling if I could manage to do that. I have to be respectful of his achievements in his career, but it would be good to match his goals and maybe continue scoring." Reverting to humble type, he added: "The milestones are nice but, if you don't have anything to go with them like a trophy, then it is not the same."

Kuyt's post-Athens spree is worthy of the prolific reputation he brought with him from Feyenoord in 2006 but which initially diminished as Benítez moulded the Dutchman into the tireless cog on the Liverpool right. He is at a loss to explain the transformation. "I'm not sure why it has gone so well for me," Kuyt said. "I don't try and do anything different from in the Premier League but I do feel confident going into big Champions League games."

The Dutchman's progress up the Liverpool goal chart is timely given the criticism that came his way this weekend from Jermaine Pennant, of all people. The undistinguished winger, now of Real Zaragoza, blamed Benítez's methodical approach for his own failure at Anfield, adding that the £10m spent on Kuyt ensured he was always guaranteed a first-team place. "I will not talk too much about what he said," Benítez responded last night. "Kuyt can do his talking on the pitch. His record is out there. I don't need to say anything else."

Liverpool will be without the Argentinian midfielder Javier Mascherano against the Italians tonight due to a hamstring strain suffered in training on Sunday. Though overlooked amid Liverpool's greater adventure at home, his absence may be felt more keenly at the Stadio Artemio Franchi or at Stamford Bridge on Sunday should he fail to recover. "Hopefully it will take two or three days," said Benítez. "He felt his hamstring in shooting practice and the doctor said we had to be careful with him." Yossi Benayoun, who suffered a leg injury in the weekend thrashing of Hull City, is set to be fit.

The Fiorentina coach, Cesare Prandelli, made a brief appearance against Liverpool in the ill-fated 1985 European Cup final at Heysel and yesterday heralded Benítez as his "role model" for "the way he organises the team and the dressing room". A rather bashful Liverpool manager replied: "Thank you, although it is the kit man who organises the dressing room, not me."

Fiorentina collected only two points from a possible nine at home in the group stage last season, although they are unbeaten in three encounters with English opposition on Tuscan soil. "Prandelli has done a very good job here," added Benítez. "They know their jobs and they know how to attack and defend."

The F6 group, meanwhile, have confirmed that their chairman, Prince Faisal bin Fahad bin Abdullah Al-Saud, has agreed a partnership deal with George Gillett over two youth academies in Saudi Arabia and two in north Africa. Prince Faisal's claims of buying a 50% stake in Liverpool have been denied by Anfield officials, although he will also link up with Gillett over the latter's aim to expand his Nascar interests into the Middle East.

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LIVERPOOL FC co-owner George Gillett faced protests from angry fans as he made a rare trip to the city over the weekend.

Supporters from Reds’ union Spirit of Shankly (SOS) gave the US businessman a hostile reception as he visited training ground Melwood, the LFC academy and Anfield.

Gillett was at Anfield to watch the Reds 6-1 drubbing of Hull on Saturday.

And he was accompanied by a Saudi billionaire.

Prince Faisal bin Fahad Bin Abdullah al Saud, who owns Sports Investment company F6, was pictured sitting alongside Gillett in the directors’ box.

Their appearance sparked reports the Prince and Liverpool were on the verge of a massive deal that could see the Saudi take control of up to 50% of club shares in return for investment ranging from £200m to £350m.

But sources claimed talk of the wealthy Saudi ploughing cash into the Reds was not on the agenda.

Instead it was suggested Gillett invited Faisal in a bid to rubberstamp plans to set up Liverpool FC academies in the Middle East.

Anfield bosses stressed privately talk of high-level investment and selling of club shares was wide of the mark.

According to Liverpool sources matters of sponsorship and global branding were uppermost in the businessmen’s minds.

Asked directly about speculation involving possible Saudi investment, a spokesman for the owners declined to comment.

Relations between co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett who have had several major fall-outs since they took over in February 2007, are said to be more cordial than they were 18 months ago.

And sources insisted the meeting between Gillett and the Prince was arranged with Hicks’s backing.

Over the weekend Saudi-based Al-Riyadh newspaper quoted Al Faisal as having said: “We are currently seeking to buy 50% of the shares in the club {Liverpool} which is now suffering debts worth £245m.

“The transaction, upon which a decision is close to being reached, will be worth £200m to £350m.”

On Saturday Prince Faisal, flanked by bodyguards, was given a tour of Melwood and the academy facilities in Kirkby where he was greeted by demonstrating fans.

One member of Spirit of Shankly asked to speak to Gillett about the club’s finances and was granted a one-on-one meeting with the American owner.

SOS’s Paul Rice told the ECHO: “He came out with all the usual lines about why the stadium wasn’t being built yet because of the credit crunch.

“He said again how Liverpool was in a better state than most of its rivals and the budget available to manager Rafa Benitez was acceptable.

“Amazingly he said it wasn’t him who promised the ‘spade would be in the ground within 60 days’, when they discussed the stadium at that first press conference.

“He said Hicks had said that.

“If it’s correct that Rafa has just £20m to spend each year it was ironic to see Gillett jumping up and down after Torres scored his three goals.

“Under that regime he wouldn’t be able to buy a player like him as he would simply cost too much.”

Up to 200 supporters assembled around the directors entrance at the Main Stand on Saturday to protest.

SOS also alleged that some fans were threatened with eviction from Anfield by stewards if anti-Gillett and Hicks banners were not taken down.

A SOS spokesman said: “We will be seeking clarification on this matter.”


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Rumour Mill: Liverpool prepare £45m Villa bid

International Friendly Soccer match, Spain vs ChileLiverpool boss Rafa Benitez will launch a staggering £45million bid for Valencia striker David Villa in the January transfer window, according to reports today.

Reports in newspapers in both Spain and England suggest Benitez is now desperate to unite international teammates Villa with Fernando Torres at Anfield to become the most dangerous strike force in English football.

Rumours circulated at the end of the summer transfer window in August that Benitez has around £19million of transfer kitty left, after a failed attempt to capture Atletico Madrid winger Simao Sambrosa. Other reports speculate he doesn’t have a penny left to spend.

Villa has publicly announced his frustrations at Valencia this season after a rocky start has left them seventh in La Liga after five games.

The Reds however face stiff competition from the likes of Manchester Utd for the Spanish striker’s signature, although the lure of Benitez, Torres and fellow international teammates Pepe Reina and Albert Riera may be enough to tempt him to Anfield.


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