METRO – Rafael Benitez ready to take on multitude of challenges at Chelsea

Rafael Benitez insists he is ready for whatever the Chelsea job throws at him, after taking charge on another controversial day at Stamford Bridge. Rafael Benitez says the challenges he will face at Chelsea do not faze him (Picture: Reuters) Benitez was appointed on Wednesday night, hours after the unceremonious sacking of Roberto Di Matteo, but his unveiling was overshadowed by the latest episode in a turbulent season for the club. Hours before Benitez met the media, the Football Association announced it would take no action against referee Mark Clattenburg over a Chelsea complaint that he made a racist remark to John Obi Mikel. An FA statement said the referee had ‘no case to answer’. The verdict raised questions about Chelsea’s decision to make their initial complaint public, especially in the wake of the recent John Terry race row. Benitez insisted he would be unfazed by media controversies and was just glad to take the job, saying: ‘I wasn’t worried about the press. After almost two years waiting for a top side, I had the opportunity and said “Yes”.’ Benitez, who will retain Terry as captain, also said he was ready for the challenge of rejuvenating Fernando Torres, the £50million striker he worked with at Liverpool. He said: ‘He’s one of the important players in this team, and I’ll try and improve him, like I will the other players. He is a top-class player.’

TAO – Five Things We’ve Learned: Sunderland v Liverpool

By Robert Nevitt 1. Lack of goals a cause for concern….. Last season we knew it. When Brendan Rodgers arrived he knew it. As the transfer deadline came and passed, everyone knew it. Liverpool are short on goals. Luis Suarez’ strike on Saturday was only our third goal in four league games and our first from open play. More worrying, yet again we had over 20 attempts at goal, but once again failed to score the goals to give us 3 points. Suarez himself has been one of the main targets for criticism for missing chances, whilst the well documented lack of attacking summer arrivals hasn’t helped the cause. For me though, the problem runs deeper than just our forward line, it is a team issue. Look at Saturday’s starting line-up. Suarez is the main goal threat, albeit a misfiring one, but after our number seven, where did we expect the goals to come from? Steven Gerrard would be an obvious shout, but, apart from his effort which struck the outside of the post, our talismanic skipper is playing too deep to add to his 150 Reds’ goals. Up front, despite offering a tremendous workrate, Fabio Borini is yet to convince that he is capable of notching 10-15 goals a season, whilst as good as Raheem Sterling looks to be, he seems more of a creator than a goalscorer. In midfield, Jonjo Shelvey likes a shot, but 2 goals from 43 appearances suggests most of his efforts don’t trouble the opposing keeper, whilst it’s unlikely Joe Allen will net 5 times this season. Even from left-back, Glen Johnson would probably feature high on most people’s list of who could score, but Martin Kelly doesn’t offer the same threat from the other side. Martin Skrtel has improved his contribution in the opposition box, already scoring against Man City, but Daniel Agger On the bench, Jamie Carragher, Jose Enrique, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing would all struggle to score in a house of prostitution, whilst the jury is out on what new boys Nuri Sahin and Oussama Assaidi can offer. Last year it became a recurring theme that we created chances, but failed to take them. Already, this season’s script is following suit. But rather than blame just the forward line, somehow Rodgers needs to find a way of making the whole team more of a goalthreat. 2. … whilst defence is fast becoming a headache! Whilst a lack of goals is the obvious problem currently occupying Rodgers’ mind, he must also be starting to worry about the Reds’ backline. Steven Fletcher’s 29th minute strike was the eighth goal Liverpool have conceded in only four games, with Pepe Reina yet to keep a clean sheet. If all the goals conceded had been of the standard of Zoltan Gera’s terrific strike on the opening day, then Rodgers would simply dismiss the statistic as hard luck. But the fact that they majority of them have come from mistakes, will cause concern. Fletcher’s strike on Saturday could, and maybe should, have been prevented a number of times. Firstly, both Suarez and Johnson were beaten far too easily by Craig Gardner, before the resulting cross in the box saw Reina dive and miss the ball when he would have been better standing on his feet. Finally, Fletcher was able to get the wrong side of Skrtel allowing a simple tap-in. Obviously trying to introduce the new formation and style of play is not helping the defence. When possession is given away cheaply, with both full-backs so far advanced, gaps are appearing down the flanks, often leaving attackers with clear runs at the centre of our defence. But individual performances aren’t helping either. Martin Kelly has started the season slowly, whilst despite looking excellent going forward, Johnson’s well-documented defensive frailties have not disappeared. Last season’s Player of the Year Skrtel has already struggled with Rodgers’ notion of playing football from the back, whilst every shot at Reina seems to end in the back of the net. It’s true the Reds need to improve their quality in the final third in order to take the pressure off the defence, but the likes of Reina and Skrtel also need to up their game and provide the Reds a solid base to work from. 3. Sterling going from strength to strength The major plus point from Saturday’s game was once again the performance of Raheem Sterling. In only his third league start, Sterling produced a man-of-the-match performance to help the Reds earn a point. After receiving a call-up in midweek to join Roy Hodgson’s England squad, the hype around the young winger is increasing by the minute. During the first half at the Stadium of Light, it looked like it might be starting to catch up with the seventeen year old as he struggled to make an impact down the right flank, but his display after the break silenced the doubters. Sterling consistently caused the Sunderland defence, Danny Rose in particular, no end of problems with his trickery and blistering pace. He caused panic in the Black Cats’ defence which saw Gerrard strike a post, before he bamboozled Rose to gain a yard to deliver a cross from which Suarez netted at the second attempt. He may only be seventeen and three league games into his Reds’ career, but already Sterling is establishing himself as one of Liverpool’s main players. 4. Suarez needs to keep out of the Ref’s little black book One worrying aspect to come out of Saturday’s game was another booking for Luis Suarez. When the Uruguayan fell to ground under the challenge of John O’Shea, referee Martin Atkinson deemed the striker had dived and issued him a yellow card. Replays suggested there may have been contact, but such is Suarez’ reputation, Atkinson reached for his pocket. It was the Uruguayan’s third booking in four games and leaves him already only two cautions away from a one-game suspension, something which the team can ill-afford with striking options already thin on the ground. He may have been unlucky with Saturday’s caution, but Suarez’ previous two yellows this term have both been for dissent, something which cannot be excused. He may wear his heart on his sleeve and do anything to win, but Suarez having to sit games out due to suspension is something we could do without in our current predicament. For the good of the team, it’s imperative Suarez knuckles down and stays out of trouble, though next weekend’s visit of Manchester United, and a certain Patrice Evra, may not be the ideal stage for him to start. 5. We will never walk alone in fight for justice It’s been an emotional week in the city of Liverpool following Wednesday’s Hillsborough revelations. After 23 long years, the truth finally came out about how 96 Liverpool fans died on the Leppings Lane terrace. The full details of the shocking failings and subsequent police cover-up were revealed, with Reds supporters fully exonerated. Since the release of the report, all corners of the footballing world have expressed their respect for the 96 victims and support for the fight for justice. At many of Saturday’s fixtures, clubs displayed their support by either playing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ or by offering a minute’s applause. At Everton, a club whom have helped the 96 so much, plans are also in place for a huge show of public support ahead of Monday night’s televised clash with Newcastle United. At the Stadium of Light, Saturday’s opponents Sunderland were no different. In a fantastic show of support, the Black Cats’ faithful applauded the visiting chants of ‘Justice for the 96’, all flags flew at half-mast around the ground and a message of support was displayed on the big screen. After 23 long years of fighting for the truth, it is both heart-warming and incredibly emotional to see that we will never walk alone in the fight for justice. JUSTICE FOR THE 96.

LIVER BIRD – Joe Allen: Welcome To Anfield

He looks pretty chuffed…Image: Liverpool have completed the signing of Joe Allen making it the shock of the century after he was spotted watching the lads versus Gomel, I hope whoever planned that one doesn’t have to organise a surprise birthday party… But nevertheless he’s here and we’re happy. At 22 he’s a youthful signing from Brendan and of course the manager knows him extremely well from his time spent working with him at Swansea. So much for not going after their players ay? I’m sure a Christmas card to the chairman will sort everything out if they don’t feel it’s in their best interest. Allen was clearly keen to link back up with his former boss but there seemed to be a bit of a tussle over the price. In the end Liverpool are believed to have paid in the region of £15million. Slightly more than I would have liked us to have paid if I’m honest but definitely not extortionate. The midfielder is renowned for being a great passer of the ball, in a side that Brendan wants to make sure retain possession he will be invaluable. After reading several blogs on the player too (I haven’t seen as much of Joe up close as I would like) it appears he not only enjoys keeping possession but if it’s lost, he’s the first to try and regain it. I like somebody with tenacity. Those who chat to me on Twitter will know that my only real question about Joe was where he would fit into our midfield but after watching the Gomel game last night and chatting to a few people online it’s quite evident now that he and Lucas will sit in the centre allowing Gerrard to have a lot more freedom. Looking at it that way it’s quite an exciting prospect if Joe can replicate the form he had under Rodgers at Swansea, which I’m sure he will. I’ll be the first to admit I have been a bit disappointed and not very excited this transfer window but slowly things seem to be clicking in to place and I’m never a person to dive on a manager or his signings before we have seen anything. Here’s hoping Brendan Rodgers’ second signing will have a good first season with the Reds. Joe Allen on joining Liverpool – “The passion that people here have for football is something I share and I want to be part of that.”