Sat, Apr 04, 2009 - Page 18 News List

Liverpool look to avoid United' Fulham failure

AFP , LONDON

Liverpool and England soccer player Steven Gerrard, left, leaves Liverpool Crown Court in northwest England yesterday. Gerrard has been charged with affray after an incident on Dec. 29 last year at the Lounge Inn nightclub in Southport, England.

PHOTO: AFP

Liverpool could complete a remarkable turnaround in the Premier League title race if they beat Fulham to go back to the top of the table after three months of chasing Manchester United.

Rafael Benitez*s side pulled off a shock 4-1 victory over United last month at Old Trafford and followed that up with a 5-0 defeat of Aston Villa after Sir Alex Ferguson*s side had been beaten 2-0 by Fulham at Craven Cottage.

It marked another twist in an exciting Premier League that saw United claw back an eight-point advantage enjoyed by Liverpool in December.

Now it is Benitez*s turn to take a team to Craven Cottage, hoping to avoid the same fate as United, who had Paul Scholes and Wayne Rooney both sent off in their last trip to London.

With the champions having to wait until tomorrow to host Aston Villa at Old Trafford, Liverpool have the chance to move two points clear at the top although United will have two games in hand by the time they kick-off.

Just eight matches remain for Liverpool to stand a chance of winning their first league title since 1990.

But their manager is sure that his side have the right attitude to push Ferguson*s team all the way.

※The mentality of the team is good and the players are well organised and know what to do,§ Benitez said.

※This helps our discipline and the players know the most important thing is to stay focused on the game and that is all, especially when it is coming to this time of the season,§ he said.

※It is always important in difficult situations to keep your head and remain cool,§ the Spaniard added.

The Reds are hoping Sami Hyypia will overcome a knee injury suffered on international duty with Finland to feature at Craven Cottage and Yossi Benayoun is also expected to be passed fit after suffering illness while he was away with Israel.

With their title hopes rekindled, Benitez is unlikely to rest players at Fulham even though Liverpool face a Champions League quarter-final first leg with Chelsea at Anfield on Wednesday.

That means fielding the same front six players that so successfully overcame Real Madrid 4-0 before hammering United and Villa, with Steven Gerrard playing behind Fernando Torres and Dirk Kuyt and Albert Riera on the flanks.

﹥GERRARD COMMITS

AFP, LIVERPOOL

Steven Gerrard has followed Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez in pledging his long-term future to the club by signing a new contract.

The 28-year-old had two years to run on his previous deal but has now committed to the club until the end of the 2012-13 season, by which time he will be 33 and nearing the end of his career.

※This is fantastic news for the club,§ Benitez said. ※Steven has once again shown his commitment and it was an easy deal to agree. As soon as we offered him the option he said yes. There were no problems at all. He wants to stay for life.§

The announcement of Gerrard*s new contract came on the day he appeared in court to deny charges of affray in relation to a nightclub brawl in which in he was allegedly involved.

﹥SHEARER AT DEEP END

AFP, NEWCASTLE, ENGLAND

Five years ago this month Alan Shearer scored his 173rd goal for Newcastle United as the Magpies defeated Chelsea 2-1 and edged closer to a fifth-placed finish in the Premier League.

Fast forward to this year and a repeat result might just lift the troubled St James* Park club to fifth bottom, but the club*s all-time leading goalscorer must now rely on others to score the goals which matter.

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