Friday’s Papers: Domestic focus

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It was a slow news day on Merseyside yesterday, with Liverpool comfortably through to the next stage of the Champions League, and Saturday’s Premier League clash at home to Hull City a couple of days away. So there’s not much talk of the Reds in the back pages of this morning’s dailies, but here’s the little bits we found in our newspaper round-up this morning’¦

Oliver Kay writes in this morning’s Times of how Rafa Benitez is now fully focussed on a good couple of months of solid domestic action, with the Champions League out of the way until Feburary.

A more emotional manager may be preoccupied by the Champions League second-round draw a week today Рin which his team could be paired with Real Madrid, the club that have frequently courted him, or Inter Milan, coached by Jos̩ Mourinho, his fierce adversary Рbut yesterday he was thinking only of the opportunity presented by the break from European football.

In a good round-up of Liverpool’s season so far, Kay writes of how he hopes distractions such as the uncertainty of Daniel Agger’s future at Anfield won’t distract from Benitez’s pursuit of the title. He also looks forward to discovering how the Spaniard will use the January transfer window.

He is far happier with his squad this season – and suggested last week that there was no cause to sign a new centre forward, despite Fernando Torres’s persistent hamstring problem – but, with Jermaine Pennant likely to leave the club and doubts over the future of Andrea Dossena, who has struggled at left back since his arrival from Udinese for about £7million last summer, changes are possible.

Colin Wood of the Daily Mail goes with a story on Jamie Carragher backing the youngsters at the club to shine and play an integral part in Liverpool’s aspirations this season.

Carragher wants to prove the critics of Liverpool’s youth academy wrong, by proving the system can bring through some impressive homegrown talent. Stephen Darby, Martin Kelly and Jay Spearing all made Champions League debuts for the club during Tuesday night’s 1-3 victory over PSV Eindhoven in Holland. Wood writes:

Darby, a Liverpool boy, and Spearing, from Wirral, both 20, were in the sides that won the FA Youth Cup in 2006 and 2007, while 18-year-old Kelly hails from Bolton.

Carragher, a Liverpool lad, said: ‘It is more difficult than when I started. We are regarded as one of the best teams in Europe and that makes it more difficult for the younger players who are trying to break into the team.’

On the transfer speculation front, this morning’s Telegraph lists Liverpool with the following rumours:

Benitez has firmly denied any chance of former player Michael Owen making a return to Anfield. Liverpool are however going head-to-head with Manchester United in a bid to land Argentine Claudio Zuccolini.

Benitez is also believed to be monitoring Stewart Downing.

And finally, after beating Leeds Utd earlier this week, Liverpool’s youth team have been drawn away to Bristol Rovers in the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup. The date of the tie has yet to be confirmed.