Vol. 5 Num 923 Sun. December 31, 2006  

'Crouch going nowhere'

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has dismissed reports that he was preparing to sell giant England striker Peter Crouch and bring Valencia forward David Villa to Anfield during the January transfer window.

Crouch's future became the subject of renewed speculation since he missed a good chance during Liverpool's 1-0 Boxing Day defeat against Blackburn Rovers.

But former Valencia boss Benitez, speaking ahead of Saturday's Premiership match away to Tottenham, insisted Crouch would be staying put.

"I can be very clear -- we do not want to buy Villa and we do not want to sell Peter Crouch. Villa is a fantastic player but we are not interested in buying him now."

Crouch looked forlorn when replaced by Dirk Kuyt against Rovers but Benitez said he was happy with the forward's efforts.

"He is working hard and the only thing you can do with a striker in this situation is continue to support him. If he continues to work as he has been doing, I will be happy.

"You can never say you are really pleased with the strikers because it is important to take your chances. But the important thing to say to all of your strikers is just to keep going."

Australia full-back Lucas Neill could move from Blackburn to Liverpool during the transfer window but Benitez does not envisage making many new signings next month.

"If you are a top side and you can do something you must always look for improvement but at the moment we are happy with the squad we have got and they are all playing well."

Liverpool dropped down to sixth after losing to Rovers and their next two matches see them up against fellow Champions League hopefuls Spurs and Bolton.

Benitez insisted he was happy with Liverpool's form heading into the New Year.

"You should be more worried if you do not create chances, but if you have a lot of chances and you keep doing the same thing then it will change.

"Spurs are playing well and scoring goals but we are also a strong team and had a lot of clean sheets before Blackburn. We have confidence because we are creating so many chances."