Saturday’s Back Pages

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And so we reach the end of the year and what a year it’s been. We’ve seen our club been taken over by two American billionaires seemingly with a passion to steer the club in the right direction with their enthusiasm, experience and ambition. We’ve seen that starting to crash down around us. We’ve been to our seventh European Cup final, but come home disappointed. We’ve seen a new record club signing in Fernando Torres and watched him shine and sparkle 15 goals in his first few months at the club. And we said goodbye to our old number 9, God. So this weekend is the last round of Premier League games of 2007. It’s Birmingham v Fulham, Chelsea v Newcastle, Everton v Arsenal (Setanta), Portsmouth v Middlesbrough, Sunderland v Bolton, Tottenham v Reading, West Ham v Man Utd and Wigan v Aston Villa before Derby take on Blackburn (Setanta) and we travel to Manchester City tomorrow afternoon (Sky Sports).

But there’s just another slightly sour twist to the tale before the year is out in this morning’s papers. Before, even, we’ve kicked our last ball. It looks as if Tom Hicks has had his two cents. From this morning’s Daily Mail:

Although denying there had ever been any direct threat to sack Benitez, the 61-year-old Texan could not resist a dig at his manager’s petulant response to being ordered to put his transfer plans on hold and concentrate on the players already at his disposal.

“We wanted to see what we could do with the players we had already bought,” he said. “We just wanted to see if the team was going to gel. Then he (Benitez) went to a press conference and kind of pouted and answered in the same way 20 times: ‘I’m focusing on my team’.

The Times’ James Ducker reports on how Liverpool appear to be over dependent on the incredible form of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres this season.

Denial and acceptance were the prevailing themes at Liverpool yesterday. Having denied that his team have become overly reliant on Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres for goals, Rafael BenÍtez, the manager, accepted that Liverpool, who play away to Manchester City tomorrow, must be virtually flawless between now and the end of the season if they are to stand a chance of winning the Barclays Premier League title.

Gerrard and Torres have accounted for nearly half of the goals Liverpool have scored in the league – 16 of 33 to be precise and 27 of 62 in all competitions – and the last time neither scored when the team found the net was the controversial 2-1 victory away to Everton on October 20.

And the Liverpool Daily Post has quotes from Benitez denying that he will be offloading players ‘“ such as the rumoured Peter Crouch to Manchester City link ‘“ to make way for fresh blood in the January transfer window…

‘œWe will try to find the right player at the right price. We have talked – there are no problems, because we do think the same way,’ he said of himself and Liverpool’s owners.

‘œWe will continue to work, like every club, to improve our squad. We will try to do the same; if we can find the right players at the right price maybe we can do some business.

Manchester City vs Liverpool kicks-off at 4pm on Sunday afternoon and is live on Sky Sports. Stay tuned to This Is Anfield for all the pre-match talk, team news and match build-up.

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