Wednesday’s Papers: Benitez & Agger

When there’s no midweek football to shout about, it always seems like a lifetime between Liverpool games at weekends. Add to the fact that we’re not even playing until Everton cross Stanley Park next Monday night. And it feels like even more when This Is Anfield experienced technical problems at the weekend and we weren’t able to bring you our full coverage for the Stoke City game. The good news is that the site is back up and running as smooth as ever. And the even better news is that, despite a lack of football action at Anfield at the moment, this morning’s papers are littered with Liverpool gossip’¦

Let’s start with a look at what the back pages are saying regarding transfers in and out of the club. Although is this still necessary with Benitez recently saying he doesn’t wish to improve his squad further this January transfer window. Whatever the case, there are 17 days of the window still open. And although it might not see any new faces join Rafa’s team, some could be leaving.

The Daily Mail suggests Daniel Agger’s future at the club is looking even more bleaker, frustrated by his imminent oust from the team due to Martin Skrtel’s injury comeback. They say Agger’s exit could open up more opportunity for veteran Sami Hyypia, who played his 700th career game in the 0-0 draw at Stoke on Saturday.

Talks between Liverpool and Agger’s agent have stalled over a request for double-your-money terms of around £60,000 a week to renew a contract that runs out at the end of next season.

There’s more speculation every day suggesting a quick sale of summer flop Andreas Dossena could be on the cards. Today’s Mirror says Benitez could be set to swoop for Toulouse’s Herita Ilunga as Dossena’s replacement. Ilunga is currently on a season-long loan at West Ham. Writes Alan Nixon:

Congo international Ilunga, 26, is on a season-long loan at Upton Park with a view to a permanent £3million move from French club Toulouse.

But Liverpool have made enquiries over the terms of his contract and whether they could sign him from under West Ham‘s noses.

So the transfer rumours continue to fly around.

In other news, it’s all eyes on Rafa’s new contract. Or lack of, as it may be more appropriate to phrase. Despite the wish of both the club’s owners and Benitez to extend the Spaniard’s stay at the club, it would seem this is turning into a bit of a saga. Ken Grant of The Independent however writes that it is all about to calm down.

Rafael Benitez, the Liverpool manager, has confirmed he has agreed the length of a potential new contract at Anfield as well as the salary on offer. However, he is baffled by reports that he is at odds with the club’s American co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett over the remaining terms of the deal. Benitez insisted he had not had time to fully digest the contract details as they only arrived on Monday.

Jamie Jackson and Andy Hunter of The Guardian briefly mention Benitez’s recent comments regarding Alex Ferguson and Manchester United. With United at home to Wigan tonight, they could take one step closer to Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table. They write:

Asked for his views on his manager’s attack on Ferguson, in which he accused the Scot of putting pressure on referees, Torres was equally supportive. “He thinks he had to say those things about Ferguson and he has our support, we are with our manager,” the 24-year-old said.
Benítez’s outburst could be viewed as an attempt to apply pressure on United as they attempt to win their two games in hand on the league leaders. Having emphatically defeated Chelsea on Sunday, Ferguson’s team host Wigan Athletic tonight before travelling to Bolton Wanderers on Saturday knowing victory in each will mean the champions overhaul the Merseysiders, who lead the table by four points and do not play again until Monday’s encounter with Everton.

Meanwhile in an article by Nick Smith in this morning’s Liverpool Daily Post, Fernando Torres casts doubt over whether he will start in next Monday night’s Merseyside Derby.

Torres is hesitant to commit himself to starting in either of those games, despite his encouraging return from the hamstring injury that ruled him out for the whole of December.

Torres insists he is itching to get back into the starting line-up, but is doubtful that he can complete a full game.

‘œOf course I want to be in the first XI,’ he said. ‘œI don’t know if I can play 90 minutes yet but for sure I can be in the squad.’

So it’s over to our old friend Emile Heskey to do us a favour and stick a couple past Man United tonight. All we can do is keep winning and let the mind games commence.