Rodgers embraces top four pressure

16 August 2012 17:05

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers says the English Premier League club will not shy away from challenging for a top-four finish.

Rodgers, who is preparing for his first league game at the helm away to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, believes a return to the Champions League is attainable after Liverpool finished a distant eighth last season.

“It is where a club of our status wants to be,” he said.

“It is always easier said than done, and over the last three seasons it hasn’t been like that.

“Our job is to try and push on – a lot of work has gone into the club in the last few years to try and get it back to the top of the league.

“We hope to do that, and it is something we will work very hard for.”

Rodgers has introduced Swansea City midfielder Joe Allen and Roma forward Fabio Borini since his arrival at Anfield and remains hopeful of making further additions despite apparent financial restrictions.

“There has been a lot of work behind the scenes; enquiring about players and such,” he said.

“The reality is, we did not have enough money this year. We had a tight budget to work within and even to get the players we have, we had to move some out.

“That was the way it was. It does not worry or frustrate me. We just have to make sure we are effective with the players that we bring in and make sure they make a difference to us.”

Cole back for Liverpool opener

16 August 2012 17:01

Liverpool midfielder Joe Cole is back in training following a hamstring injury picked up during the Europa League tie with Gomel.

The 30-year-old struggled during his first year at Liverpool and was subsequently loaned to Lille for the 2011/2012 season.

But after being heavily involved in the club’s friendly matches, Cole feels ready for the new campaign.

The England international insisted he was raring to go and hoped to receive a run of games to prove his worth to new manager Brendan Rodgers.

“I trained on Thursday for the first time after the injury and it feels good,” Cole told Liverpool’s website.

“It’s good to be back around the squad and available for selection again. I’ve only missed two weeks, so I feel good fitness-wise as we had a good long pre-season and I just need some games now.

“It was frustrating having to come off in the first game of the season but that’s one of those things you have to deal with as a footballer.

“There’s never a good time to get injured but luckily it wasn’t a major thing and I’m back now raring to go and raring to be part of the team.

“I’ve had a good pre-season. I’ve trained really well and the training was really intense. I really enjoyed the games we played in and playing at Fenway Park was great. I enjoyed the pre-season.”

Liverpool start the new season with a trip to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.

Benzema happy to avoid defeat

16 August 2012 16:44

France striker Karim Benzema insists it was imperative his team avoided defeat against Uruguay on Wednesday.

France were unable to find the net in their first game under new coach Didier Deschamps, as both sides fought out a stalemate.

But Real Madrid striker Benzema was satisfied with the final outcome.

“We lacked a bit of freshness, but it was essential not to lose the game. Overall, it was a positive performance,” Benzema told L’Equipe.

“We have a new team with some new players. We did our utmost to win the match and got some chances toward the end.”

Meanwhile, Toulouse midfielder Etienne Capoue was thrilled to make his first official appearance for France.

“Even if we didn’t score, we played a good game,” he said.

“For my first cap, my team-mates made me comfortable. Didier Deschamps told me to be myself and to enjoy it. It was great to be here.”

France take on Finland in their next match on September 6.

Goal-shy Spain disappoint Del Bosque

16 August 2012 16:40

Vicente del Bosque feels Spain should have scored more goals in their 2-1 friendly win over Puerto Rico on Wednesday.

Goals from Santi Cazorla and Cesc Fabregas in the closing stages of the first half were enough to see off their opponents, but the coach was not impressed with his side’s finishing at the Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium.

“We had plenty of opportunities to score more goals, but lacked accuracy in front of the goal,” Del Bosque told reporters.

“We did what we had to do as we won the game, but we should have done more. We were not assertive enough in my opinion.”

Meanwhile, Cazorla stressed the most important thing for Spain is to improve rather than record big wins in friendly matches.

“The thing that really matters is that we make progress as a team,” the new Arsenal player said.

“It was not easy on this heavy pitch and with the humidity, but I hope that everybody enjoyed the game.”

Spain’s next match is a 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier away to Georgia on September 10.

Prandelli staying positive despite defeat

16 August 2012 15:58

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli insists he saw plenty of positives in his side’s 2-1 international friendly loss against England on Wednesday.

Daniele De Rossi gave the Euro 2012 finalists an early lead, but goals from Phil Jagielka and Jermain Defoe eventually proved too much for Italy.

“We showed character and we have to continue along this path. I really liked our performance,” Prandelli told Rai Sport.

“Defeats are still defeats, also in friendlies, but I saw plenty of positives. This was a useful game as we’re preparing for the World Cup qualifiers.

“It is important to gain an insight into which young players have the quality to play for the national team already.

“Obviously those who played at Euro 2012 will be important for the team, but we have to think about the future as well.”

Italy start their World Cup qualifying campaign with an away game against Bulgaria on September 6.