x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Liverpool have sinking feeling

Martin Broughton, the Liverpool chairman, has tried to provide some optimism at Anfield but the future remains bleak for the 18-time league champions.

Martin Broughton, the Liverpool chairman, has tried to provide some optimism at Anfield but the future remains bleak for the 18-time league champions. They will take on Hull at the KC Stadium for their final game of the season today, but attention will be diverted more to matters off the field. Financial results, in the year ending July 31, 2009, have shown the debt of parent company Kop Holdings has now risen to £351.4 million (Dh1.9billion) from £299.8m.

Coupled with the continued speculation about the future of Rafa Benitez, the manager, and star players Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, it does not augur well for the club. Salvation could come in the shape of a new owner, but Broughton said it will take "a matter of months" for a sale to be concluded and the end of the era under Tom Hicks and George Gillett. That has prompted fears that Torres or Gerrard could depart to pay off some of the debt.

Broughton has denied that and said "constructive talks" had taken place with Benitez over the squad. "I don't want to sell either of them. Rafa does not want to sell either of them, the club is not looking to sell them," he told the club's website. "The squad does need strengthening and that is an ongoing process which will not be stopped by the sale. "We have sat down with Rafa to determine what is the strength of it [the squad], what it needs, who are the right players and who needs to be sold.

"What I have asked for from Rafa is an appraisal of each of the players, where the weak links are, which players he would prefer to sell if he had the opportunity, which positions he needs to fill, who are his prime candidates and what would be his priorities." Apart from the title race, the only other situation of note is Tottenham's chance to overtake Arsenal in third and grab an automatic Champions League spot instead of a play-off space.

That would rely on Arsenal losing at home to Fulham and Spurs winning at Burnley. Harry Redknapp's thoughts before the game were with injury-ravaged defender Jonathan Woodgate, who has played just three times this season. Woodgate's persistent groin problem continues to baffle doctors and, after a failed trip to surgeons in the United States, he was forced to travel to Australia in a bid to find a cure.

"He texts me all the time - he has been very low, obviously," the Tottenham manager said. "He is at a very low point in his life. He is stuck in a little flat somewhere and he goes to the gym all day doing his work trying to recover. "Can you imagine what his life has been like?" Elsewhere, West Ham host Manchester City, Aston Villa play Blackburn, Bolton face Birmingham, Everton take on relegated Portsmouth and Wolves are at home to Sunderland.

akhan@thenational.ae