Tag Archives: merseyside

Jack Rodwell suffers injury in Manchester City game at Aston Villa

Rodwell injury curse strikes again after Man City midfielder limps off at Villa Park

By
Alex Horlock

PUBLISHED:

20:37 GMT, 4 March 2013

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UPDATED:

20:58 GMT, 4 March 2013

Jack Rodwell suffered yet another setback in his injury-plagued Manchester City career after hobbling off the pitch at Villa Park this evening.

Little over 20 minutes into City's match against Paul Lambert's Aston Villa, Rodwell pulled up after letting fly with a powerful shot on Brad Guzan's goal.

The midfielder, who made his first start for City since September during their 2-0 win
over Chelsea last weekend, was tonight making his 11th appearance for the champions
this season, but was replaced by the club's top scorer Edin Dzeko
having limped off clutching his hamstring and holding his head in his hands.

Injury curse: Jack Rodwell was marking his 11th appearance for Manchester City since his summer arrival from Everton

Injury curse: Jack Rodwell was marking his 11th appearance for Manchester City since his summer arrival from Everton

The 21-year-old, who joined City in a
12million move from Everton last summer, spoke just last week about his
belief that he had put his injuries behind him.

The England international added that
he had harboured doubts about his ability to withstand the rigours of a
career in football having seen his short spell in the professional game marred
repeatedly by injury during his time on Merseyside and in Manchester.

Rodwell said ahead of City's clash against Chelsea: 'At Everton
last season I doubted whether I was built for it.

'To be honest, I did
think the worst but I had to take the positives and think I'm still
young and in a great position at one of the best teams in the world.

Blow: Rodwell was replaced by Edin Dzeko after suffering an apparent hamstring injury

Blow: Rodwell was replaced by Edin Dzeko after suffering an apparent hamstring injury

'I had between five and 10 setbacks,
and that's not just from the original injury. It's mentally hard. There
are times when you're set back again and you don't know what to do.

'Before the last five or six weeks I
used to go into training and was never confident. I was just praying I
got through it and that's just not the way to be at all.'

Francis Jeffers appears in court after brandishing a broomstick outside father-in-law"s flat

Ex-England wonderkid Jeffers appears in court after brandishing a broomstick outside father-in-law's flat

By
Lauren Riley

PUBLISHED:

13:27 GMT, 4 March 2013

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UPDATED:

13:50 GMT, 4 March 2013

Former England striker Francis Jeffers has appeared in court after being found outside his father-in-law’s flat brandishing a broomstick.

The ex-Everton and Arsenal forward, 32, was found outside the luxury flat in Crosby, Merseyside, in December last year.

His father-in-law Albert Boden was discovered inside the flat on Burbo Bank Road with injuries.

Jeffers, is estranged from his wife Lucy, whom he married in 2009.

Francis Jeffers appeared at Sefton Magistrates Court today

Francis Jeffers appeared at Sefton Magistrates Court today

Charged: Francis Jeffers appeared at South Sefton Magistrates' Court on Monday

He pleaded not guilty to using threatening/abusive/insulting words/behaviour with intent to cause fear or provoke unlawful violence at an earlier hearing.

He agreed to be bound over for 12 months to keep the peace in the sum of 100 when he appeared again at South Sefton Magistrates' Court today.

Lorraine Barton, prosecuting, said: 'Before the incident on 21st December last year, Francis Jeffers had recently separated from his partner Lucy.

'Their marriage broke down and an inside took place outside a flat. A 999 call was made and officers came and found Francis Jeffers outside the flat with a broomstick.'

From fox in the box to sweeper: Jeffers was bought by Arsene Wenger for 8million to be Arsenal's goal poacher but has fallen from grace and was found outside his father in law's flat brandishing a broomstick

From fox in the box to sweeper: Jeffers was bought by Arsene Wenger for 8million to be Arsenal's goal poacher but has fallen from grace and was found outside his father in law's flat brandishing a broomstick

One and only: Jeffers scored on his England debut against Australia - his only cap

One and only: Jeffers scored on his England debut against Australia – his only cap

She added: 'Officers spoke to the occupant of the flat, Albert Boden, who had some injuries. Police officers also took a statement from Francis Jeffers, who made no comment.

'He later pleaded not guilty to a Section 4 offence.'

Chairman of the bench Peter Rathe said: 'There is now going to be a binding-over to which you agree.

'This
means for 12 months you must keep the peace, especially towards Albert
Boden, and if you don’t comply you will have to pay 100.'

Jeffers
was recently dropped by Maltese
champions Floriana after playing just two games as they could not afford
to pay his wages.

Feeling blue: Jeffers has had spells in Australia, Scotland and Malta while former Everton team-mate Wayne Rooney has starred for Manchester United and England

Feeling blue: Jeffers has had spells in Australia, Scotland and Malta while former Everton team-mate Wayne Rooney has starred for Manchester United and England

Born in Croxteth, Liverpool, Jeffers attended the same primary school as Wayne Rooney a decade before the Manchester United star.

Jeffers was himself tipped for the big time following an 8million move from Everton to Arsenal in 2001 – indeed, Arsene Wenger even labelled the striker his 'fox in the box' – but injuries and poor form saw his career slump.

He later returned to Everton on loan and played for a string of teams including Rangers, Blackburn and the Newcastle Jets before his two-game stint in Malta.

Rafael Benitez crisis: Chelsea had Mourinho, Rodgers, Villas-Boas and Clarke – now they are full of resentment

Chelsea old boys Mourinho, AVB, Clarke and Rodgers are full of simmering resentment… is it any surprise after working at this club

)
Roberto Di Matteo (Mar 2012-Nov 2012)
Rafa Benitez (Nov 2012- )

It was no surprise the combustible Villas-Boas and Mourinho fell out, but more damagingly Clarke and Rodgers now have one of the frostiest relationships in the game.

Clarke played a pivotal role in getting Rodgers’ career started at Stamford Bridge and was torn apart by the way he was treated by the Ulsterman when their paths crossed briefly again at Liverpool last summer.

Clarke, regarded as one of football’s nice guys, had put his own reputation on the line to get Rodgers a job at Chelsea.

Brendan Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers

Now and then: Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was once youth and reserve-team boss at Chelsea

Can West Brom's grim reapers Bag another Chelsea manager's scalp

Rafael Benitez will not be happy to see Chelsea's next opponents are West Bromwich Albion – the grim reapers of Blues bosses.

The Baggies have hammered the final nail into the coffin of Benitez's two predecessors in the Stamford Bridge hotseat, Andre Villas-Boas and Roberto Di Matteo.

Villas-Boas' reign was ended after just eight torrid months following a dismal 1-0 defeat at West Brom in March 2012, in which Gareth McAuley struck the winner.

Chelsea

And Di Matteo saw his reign terminated, despite winning the Champions League just six months before, after an unacceptable run of results culminated in a 2-1 defeat at The Hawthorns in November last year.

Shane Long and Peter Odemwingie scored the goals as the Italian's fate was sealed even before the Champions League defeat against Juventus three days later.

Yet when Rodgers arrived on Merseyside
to succeed Kenny Dalglish as manager, Clarke – the club’s
assistant manager – learned about his dismissal with a phone call from
the club’s human resources department, rather than from Rodgers himself.

Fortunately for Clarke, he has been able to rebuild impressively his shattered career at West Brom this season with the club standing seventh in the Premier League, and is too polite to follow Benitez’s example and go public with his grievances.

But as he walks out at Stamford Bridge this weekend, he’ll undoubtedly cast his mind back to 2004 when he was Mourinho’s assistant manager at Chelsea and Rodgers an unknown 31-year-old whose playing career had been cut short by injury.

When a vacancy came up as youth-team manager, Chelsea playing idol Gus Poyet was the hot favourite until Clarke remembered the keen young coach he’d met on a pro-licence course and recommended him to Roman Abramovich.

The rest, as they say, is history. Rodgers learned avidly under Mourinho and used four years at Chelsea as a springboard for his own managerial career, at Watford, Reading, Swansea and currently at Liverpool.

In all that time, Clarke felt his early assistance went unappreciated.

‘Even at Liverpool, Brendan never spoke to him through the process of Steve leaving his job. They knew each other well but he left it to another department to sort it out,’ confirmed a friend.

‘The thing that hurts most is he never got a thank you. It’s an understatement to say he was badly treated.’

Rafa Benitez will know how he feels. It must be a Chelsea thing.

CHELSEA IN 2007: WHEN ROMAN COULDN’T MOVE FOR MANAGERS…

Glory days: Mourinho and Clarke formed a strong bond which brought huge success to Chelsea

Glory days: Mourinho and Clarke formed a strong bond which brought huge success to Chelsea

JOSE MOURINHO (manager)
The Special One led Chelsea to their
first title since 1955 but was sacked after a Champions League draw against
Rosenborg. Now in charge of Real Madrid but tipped for a return.

STEVE CLARKE (assistant manager)
A former Chelsea player, he was able
to teach Mourinho all about the club’s history and tradition. After
being a long-time No 2, will be back at the Bridge this weekend as West
Brom manager.

BRENDAN RODGERS (reserve-team manager)
Clarke gave him a reference to become
Chelsea’s youth-team manager and he was promoted to the reserves. Now in
his fourth managerial job, at Liverpool.

ANDRE VILLAS-BOAS (scout and cheerleader)
Mourinho’s close friend from Portugal,
AVB was often a hot-headed figure seen on the Chelsea bench. Now
reinvented himself as a great thinker, he failed as Chelsea manager but
doing well at Spurs‬.

Brendan Rodgers claims Luis Suarez will not leave Liverpool

Suarez isn't going anywhere, vows Rodgers as Liverpool chase European place

By
Andy Hampson, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

10:23 GMT, 26 January 2013

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UPDATED:

10:23 GMT, 26 January 2013

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has no concerns about star striker Luis Suarez's commitment to the club.

The Uruguay international is enjoying an outstanding season having scored 20 goals for the Anfield outfit.

That has led to speculation that other clubs could move in for the 40million-rated forward if the Reds' absence from the Champions League continues.

Staying put: Brendan Rodgers says his star striker Luis Suarez will remain at Anfield even if they miss out on the Champions League

Staying put: Brendan Rodgers says his star striker Luis Suarez will remain at Anfield even if they miss out on the Champions League

Liverpool are currently seventh in the Barclays Premier League and facing a battle to regain a place in Europe's elite competition.

But Rodgers is confident Suarez shares his vision for the club and does not believe the 26-year-old's future on Merseyside depends on whether they qualify or not.

Don't walk away: Rodgers says he has no reason to doubt Suarez's commitment, despite rumours of a big money move

Don't walk away: Rodgers says he has no reason to doubt Suarez's commitment, despite rumours of a big money move

Rodgers said: 'Luis had a terrific season last season and he had an opportunity to leave in the summer, and probably would have had a ready-made excuse with a new manager coming in, but he never did.

'He committed to the club. He sees the vision going forward, and he believes in that.

'He knows it won't happen overnight. He has had a brilliant season with 20 goals until now, and hopefully there are many more to come.'

Sharp shooter: Suarez already has 20 goals this season

Sharp shooter: Suarez already has 20 goals this season

Suarez signed a long-term contract at Anfield in August.

Liverpool face a big week with an FA Cup fourth-round tie at Oldham followed by Premier League away trips to Arsenal and Manchester City.

Rodgers is determined to keep firing on all fronts.

He said: 'When you are a club like this you are judged on your trophies, and we want to improve in the league as well.'

Leighton Baines scarred as Gary Cahill"s studs go through shirt

You ripper! Baines scarred as Cahill's studs go right through Everton defender's shirt

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UPDATED:

15:48 GMT, 30 December 2012

Leighton Baines was left with a sore reminder of playing against Chelsea after the Everton defender was caught by Gary Cahill's studs.

Baines and Blues defender Cahill clashed accidentally early in the second half at Goodison Park and it was the home favourite who came off worse.

As these pictures from Sky Sports show, Cahill's studs went right through Baines' shirt and left a scar on the England international's back.

Ripped: Leighton Baines was caught by Gary Cahill's studs as the pair hit the ground at Goodison Park

Ripped: Leighton Baines was caught by Gary Cahill's studs as the pair hit the ground at Goodison Park

Baines, true to form, was straight back up and in the thick of the action.

Meanwhile, Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech did not come out for the second half.

The Blues stopper picked up an ankle injury and was replaced by Ross Turnbull.

Turnbull's sole previous appearance this season was the Capital One Cup drubbing of Wolves in September.

And he was celebrating at the end of the match on Merseyside as the visitors took the three points back to London after Frank Lampard's double cancelled out Steven Pienaar's early strike.

Collision: Cahill and Baines hit the ground and the Chelsea defender catches his opponent

Collision: Cahill and Baines hit the ground and the Chelsea defender catches his opponent

Accidental: Cahill looked worried for a second as Baines lay on the pitch

Accidental: Cahill looked worried for a second as Baines lay on the pitch

War wound: Baines was caught by Cahill's studs

War wound: Baines was caught by Cahill's studs

Arsenal 7 Newcastle 3 – match report: Theo Walcott hat-trick

Arsenal 7 Newcastle 3: Walcott hat-trick settles astonishing game as Gunners star shows his worth up front again

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UPDATED:

19:46 GMT, 29 December 2012

Theo Walcott gave Arsene Wenger yet another reminder of his goal-scoring talents as he bagged a stunning hat-trick to sink Newcastle in a 10-goal thriller at the Emirates Stadium.

Wenger had talked up Walcott as the next Thierry Henry yesterday, and the England forward – still to pen a new deal with the club – did little to disprove that idea today, scoring three excellent goals and setting up two more to give Arsenal the win that ensures they will end 2012 in fifth place, two points behind Chelsea and three adrift of Tottenham with a match in hand.

Arsenal's record scorer Henry was in the stands watching his beloved former club and he was on his feet after 20 minutes thanks to Walcott's opener – a fine curled finish following an Henry-esque break from the halfway line.

Middle man: Theo Walcott scored a brilliant hat-trick as Arsenal thumped seven past a hapless Newcastle

Middle man: Theo Walcott scored a brilliant hat-trick as Arsenal thumped seven past a hapless Newcastle

MATCH FACTS

ARSENAL: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Arteta, Wilshere, Cazorla (Coquelin 86), Oxlade Chamberlain (Giroud 74), Podolski (Ramsey 82), Walcott. Subs not used: Mannone, Rosicky, Ramsey, Djourou, Coquelin, Gervinho.

Goals: Walcott 20, 73, 90+1 Oxlade-Chamberlain 50, Podolski 64, Giroud 84, 87.

NEWCASTLE: Krul, Simpson (Ferguson 83), Coloccini, Perch, Santon, Obertan, Bigirimana (Shola Ameobi 82), Tiote, Marveaux (Tavernier 89), Ba, Cisse. Subs not used: Harper, Sammy Ameobi, Abeid, Streete.

Goals: Ba 44, 69 Marveaux 59.

Booked: Santon

Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside)

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE LATEST PREMIER LEAGUE TABLE, FIXTURES AND RESULTS

Newcastle pulled level through Demba Ba, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored, only for Ba to grab his second to make it 2-2.

Arsenal looked set for a
disappointing draw after Sylvain Marveaux equalised Lukasz Podolski's
header, but Walcott turned on the class to put the Gunners 4-3 up.

The former Southampton man set up
Olivier Giroud twice and added his much-deserved third strike in injury
time with a deft chip over Tim Krul.

Walcott has scored four goals and won
one decisive penalty in the three games he has started up front and he
now has 14 for the season.

There were no early indications that
this would turn out to be a thriller in the opening quarter as both
teams started sluggishly.

Other than a couple of bits of skill from Santi Cazorla, Arsenal started poorly.

Walcott, eager to show he can cut it
as a striker, used his pace to break behind the Newcastle defence, but
Krul rushed off his line to clear.

Newcastle, branded a 'wee club in the
north-east' by Sir Alex Ferguson yesterday, had the best chance of the
opening quarter of an hour through Ba who somehow headed over Marveaux's
corner from eight yards.

The quiet atmosphere inside the
Emirates Stadium lifted after 19 minutes when Podolski slotted Walcott
in behind the Magpies defence and the England man raced through before
caressing the ball past Krul in to the far corner.

Remind you of someone Theo Walcott's first goal was vintage Thierry Henry, shaped into the far corner

Remind you of someone Theo Walcott's first goal was vintage Thierry Henry, shaped into the far corner

Remind you of someone Theo Walcott's first goal was vintage Thierry Henry, shaped into the far corner

Remind you of someone Theo Walcott's first goal was vintage Thierry Henry, shaped into the far corner

The goal was reminiscent of many strikes from Henry and thus brought the Frenchman to his feet in the stands.

Walcott was in the thick of the
action again just before half-time, wriggling free from his marker, but
Krul came off his line to stop the 23-year-old's shot.

Cheick Tiote, who scored the
equaliser in February's 4-4 thriller, almost brought the visitors level
six minutes before the break with a swirling 25-yard drive that Wojciech
Szczesny awkwardly punched away.

Walcott immediately flew up the other
end, but he laid a square pass behind the un-marked Cazorla, rather
than in front of him and Gael Bigirimana cut the danger out.

Arsenal were made to pay for the error just over two minutes from the break.

Bacary Sagna fouled Gabriel Obertan
25 yards out and Ba's resulting set-piece flew off Jack Wilshere's head
in to the Arsenal goal past the stranded Szczesny.

Level: Demba Ba's deflected free-kick meant the sides went in on terms at the break

Level: Demba Ba's deflected free-kick meant the sides went in on terms at the break

Level: Demba Ba's deflected free-kick meant the sides went in on terms at the break

Arsenal came out much stronger after
the break. Kieran Gibbs drew a save from Krul at his near post shortly
before Oxlade-Chamberlain beat the Dutchman to make it 2-1.

Podolski intercepted a weak throw-in,
heading the ball to Cazorla, who found Oxlade-Chamberlain and he made
no mistake with a fine low drive from 20 yards.

Walcott somehow muscled Tiote off the ball and charged at goal, but he dragged his shot horribly wide.

England expects: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain restored the lead with a fierce finish on 50 minutes

England expects: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain restored the lead with a fierce finish on 50 minutes

England expects: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain restored the lead with a fierce finish on 50 minutes

Once again Arsenal were made to pay
as Newcastle equalised. Obertan turned Sagna inside out before his cross
was deflected off Koscielny and in to the path of the un-marked
Marveaux who tapped in to an empty net from barely two yards.

Arsenal were back ahead within five
minutes, however. Wilshere charged at the Newcastle defence and chipped a
wonderful ball to the back post. Coloccini could only head his
clearance against the bar and the ball fell to Podolski who nodded home
the easiest finish of his career to make it 3-2.

The 60,000 fans inside the Emirates Stadium barely had time to draw breath before Newcastle equalised again.

Capitalising: Sylvain Marveaux slotted home his first goal in the Premier League to make it 2-2

Capitalising: Sylvain Marveaux slotted home his first goal in the Premier League to make it 2-2

Brave: Lukas Podolski swung the game back in the favour of the hosts with a smart header from close range

Brave: Lukas Podolski swung the game back in the favour of the hosts with a smart header from close range

Three's a crowd: Ba made the most of slack marking once more to get his side on terms for the third time

Three's a crowd: Ba made the most of slack marking once more to get his side on terms for the third time

Marveaux bought time with his
trickery before swinging a ball to the back post where Ba bustled Gibbs
out of the way to turn the ball past Szczesny.

The home crowd blasted their team's
sloppy defending, but Walcott dug them out of trouble five minutes later
with Arsenal's fourth.

Gibbs slotted the ball across the box
for Podolski, he missed ball, but Walcott was stood just behind him and
he fired in to the roof of Krul's goal.

Composed: Walcott's second was another clever finish under pressure from the men in black and white

Composed: Walcott's second was another clever finish under pressure from the men in black and white

Composed: Walcott's second was another clever finish under pressure from the men in black and white

Giroud then killed off the game with five minutes left, latching on to Walcott's cross to head between Krul's legs.

The Frenchman then rubbed salt in to
Newcastle's wounds by slotting past Krul to make it 6-3 after Walcott
charged at the Toon defence.

Walcott then got the hat-trick he
deserved in injury time, picking himself off the turf after being
flattened by Tiote before chipping the ball over Krul with a brilliant
finish.

Arsenal could have had an eighth in injury time, but Giroud's header hit the bar.

Walcott, wearing a beaming smile, walked off with the match-ball amid chants of 'sign him up' from the home crowd.

Welcome to the party: Olivier Giroud took just a few minutes to get in on the act

Welcome to the party: Olivier Giroud took just a few minutes to get in on the act

Welcome to the party: Olivier Giroud took just a few minutes to get in on the act
.

David Moyes has promised Rafa Benitez a warm reception in the dug-out

Moyes relishing Rafa's visit but Chelsea boss can expect return to hostilities

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UPDATED:

00:22 GMT, 29 December 2012

David Moyes promised Rafa Benitez a warm welcome to the dug-out but was less sure of the reception awaiting him from irate Everton fans when Chelsea visit Goodison Park tomorrow.

Benitez is getting used to being booed by his own Chelsea followers since taking over but he can expect an even greater level of hostility when he takes a team to Goodison for the first time in over three years.

Welcome: Though they had a frosty relationship when Rafa Benitez (left) was a manager on Merseyside, David Moyes will give a warm welcome to the manager when he arrives at Goodison Park

Welcome: Though they had a frosty relationship when Rafa Benitez (left) was a manager on Merseyside, David Moyes will give a warm welcome to the manager when he arrives at Goodison Park

Vilified by Stamford Bridge patrons for some disparaging remarks about Chelsea as Liverpool manager, Benitez also managed to alienate Everton supporters during his Anfield tenure.

They were unhappy with his ‘small club’ jibe in 2007 — a comment which related to alleged defensive tactics — and it will surely return to haunt him when he emerges from the Goodison tunnel.

Asked yesterday whether Everton might be punching above their weight for a small club as they challenge for a Champions League place, Moyes grinned and said: ‘I’d better not answer that.’

Everton fans probably won't be as welcoming to the ex-Liverpool boss, however

Everton fans probably won't be as welcoming to the ex-Liverpool boss, however

The Everton manager was still smiling as he considered whether Benitez’s outburst might provoke a backlash from his club’s supporters and players.

‘Will it motivate us No, I don’t think it will have any effect whatsoever,’ he said wryly. ‘I think we have moved on as a team since he was last here.

‘There has been a lot of progress and that is why we have done so well over the past 12 months.’

Doubt: Darron Gibson (right) is hoping to be ready in time for the clash with Chelsea

Doubt: Darron Gibson (right) is hoping to be ready in time for the clash with Chelsea

Liverpool transfer latest: Brendan Rodgers to wait until summer for big spree

Sturridge and Ince set to sign but Kop boss Rodgers plans to save spree until summer

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UPDATED:

16:23 GMT, 28 December 2012

Daniel Sturridge and Tom Ince remain Anfield-bound in January, but Brendan Rodgers is adamant his main transfer strategy for reviving Liverpool’s fortunes will be played out at the end of the season.

Chelsea striker Sturridge has already had a medical on Merseyside, while Blackpool forward Ince will follow him into Anfield, as Rodgers looks to give his team more attacking impetus.

But the additions Rodgers sees as vital to restoring Liverpool to their former status as regulars in the Champions’ League will be made after he completes an in-depth review of his first season in charge.

Waiting game: Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists he plans to his big spending in the summer - not in January when the transfer window re-opens

Waiting game: Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists he plans to his big spending in the summer – not in January when the transfer window re-opens

Rodgers cites instilling greater consistency as his main objective, and, much as Sturridge and Ince are expected to add energy and drive to the second half of Liverpool’s season, he admitted he will be looking for proven top-flight performers when the window reopens in the summer.

‘We have enquired about some players and hope to be able to do something in January,’ said the Liverpool manager.

‘There are a lot of names being mentioned, but we should be able to make some additions and make them pretty early.

Kop that: Chelsea's Daniel Sturridge is set to join Liverpool

Going back: Tom Ince is set to re-join Liverpool in January from Blackpool

At the double: Liverpool are set to sign Daniel Sturridge and Tom Ince (R) in the January transfer window

‘But the main review will take place in the summer, and it is clear we need that bit of experience up at the top end of the field.

'The best and most important period will be between now and the end of the season, when we can look at what needs to be done, in terms of progressing the club further, and then go again.’

Rafael Benitez, Chelsea manager, ready for hostile reception against Everton at Goodison Park

Rafa ready for hostile Goodison reception: Benitez prepared to play pantomime villain… ( but not with Chelsea fans for a change)

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UPDATED:

16:31 GMT, 28 December 2012

Rafael Benitez has been bracing himself for a hot reception at Everton on Sunday despite refusing to repeat his small-club jibe ahead of his first match on Merseyside as Chelsea boss.

Interim Blues manager Benitez will take a team to Goodison Park this weekend for the first time in more than three years but the passage of time is unlikely to spare him the role of pantomime villain.

The Spaniard is still suffering a backlash from his own club's fans, whose revolt against his appointment was galvanised by criticism they perceived him to have levelled at them while Anfield boss back in 2007.

Enemy: Benitez managed Everton's city rivals Liverpool for six seasons

Enemy: Benitez managed Everton's city rivals Liverpool for six seasons

That was also the year Benitez branded Everton one of the Barclays Premier League's 'smaller teams', something that provoked a furious response from Liverpool's arch-rivals.

Everton fans devised plenty of unpleasant chants about Benitez during his six years at Anfield and he said: 'I don't think they will be supporting me the whole time but the main thing for me is that my players do their job.'

The Spaniard, who still lives on the Wirral near Liverpool, added: 'I have a good relationship with people in the city and what I expect is to find a manager up there with a team who want to win.'

Quizzed about his small-club jibe ahead of Sunday's game, Benitez joked: 'You have a good memory.'

He added of Everton: 'I think they are doing a good job.

'They are doing well, they have less resources than other teams and are still competing.

'They are near the top of the table so credit to them.'

Rafa out! Benitez hasn't been treated to a warm welcome since taking over at Stamford Bridge

Rafa out! Benitez hasn't been treated to a warm welcome since taking over at Stamford Bridge

Indeed, Everton lie only two points behind third-placed Chelsea ahead of Sunday's game and have looked genuine top-four contenders in the first half of the season.

They have lost only two league games – the joint best record in the top flight – and are one of only two clubs unbeaten at home.

They are also Chelsea's bogey-team, having won the sides' last three league meetings at Goodison Park.

Benitez, who has won on his last three league visits to the ground, said: 'It is a good team and a tough game for sure. We have to be ready.

'For us, we have to be ready physically as well as mentally for the game.

'They have been doing well in the past year and we know that Goodison is a difficult place to go to.'

Chelsea will arrive there for what is their ninth and final game of a punishing December that has included a gruelling Club World Cup adventure in Japan.

Jibe: The Spaniard labelled Everton as one of the Premier League's 'smaller teams' during his reign at Anfield

Jibe: The Spaniard labelled Everton as one of the Premier League's 'smaller teams' during his reign at Anfield

Benitez has carefully rotated his squad since taking charge just over a month ago and asked if there were any tired legs, he said: 'Always when you win, it's easy to say, “No”.

'But, to be fair, it's not easy to “keep” the players.

'I like to change players, to move players around because if we don't manage the squad they will be really tired.'

Benitez's changes have yielded six wins in seven games, sparking reports Chelsea want to offer him the manager's job on a permanent basis.

The Spaniard is understood to have insisted on an interim appointment last month, rather than a performance-related contract with an option for a further year, possibly with a view to strengthening his bargaining position if all goes well.

The signs have certainly been good since Chelsea returned from their Club World Cup final defeat in Yokohama, with Benitez having vastly improved the balance of the team.

Their Boxing Day win at Norwich was only their second 1-0 victory of the season and the Spaniard said: “Would I sign for 1-0 five times. I would say, 'Yes, no problem'.”

Daniel Sturridge undergoing Liverpool medical

Sturridge undergoing Liverpool medical as Chelsea striker closes in on 12m Anfield switch

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UPDATED:

13:07 GMT, 23 December 2012

Daniel Sturridge has been given permission by Chelsea to undergo a medical on Merseyside after Liverpool resolved the cash wrangle that was threatening to scupper his 12million-plus move to Anfield.

Though the transfer window does not open for another week, Sturridge has been allowed to put the finishing touches to his move after travelling to Liverpool for a medical today.

Heading north: Chelsea's Daniel Sturridge looks set to complete a move to Liverpool next month

Heading north: Chelsea's Daniel Sturridge looks set to complete a move to Liverpool next month

The deal was in danger of collapsing
after Liverpool took exception to agents' demands over sell-on fees and
threatened to pull out.

But agreement has been reached over
the terms of the 23-year old frontrunner’s departure from Stamford
Bridge, and he will now give manager Brendan Rodgers much-needed extra
options up front after accepting a three-and-a-half year contract.

On the move Sturridge scored in the League Cup win over Man United this season

On the move Sturridge scored in the League Cup win over Man United this season

Sportsmail first revealed at the end
of August that Liverpool wanted Sturridge to reinforce their strike
force and would attempt to lure him away from Chelsea in the New Year.

Olympic experience: Sturridge was involved for Team GB this summer

Olympic experience: Sturridge was involved for Team GB this summer