Monday 23 April 2018

In brief: Liverpool facing defensive crisis

Kenny Dalglish's hopes of assessing the true strength of Liverpool's squad as he plans a substantial overhaul this summer have been dashed by a burgeoning injury crisis which now includes defenders Daniel Agger and Glen Johnson.

Agger, the Denmark international who has been plagued by injury for much of his Anfield career, will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury sustained in last Saturday's 2-1 defeat to West Brom, while Johnson will be absent for a month with a hamstring problem.

Johnson's understudy at full-back, Martin Kelly, is already expected to be out for most of the rest of the campaign with a hamstring injury, while Fabio Aurelio has played just 24 minutes since February.

So stretched is Dalglish in defence that he has been forced to call on academy players Jack Robinson and John Flanagan for Monday's visit of Manchester City.

Meanwhile, US basketball star LeBron James has become a minority stakeholder in Liverpool after signing a representation deal with club owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG).

FSG have struck a deal to partner the Miami Heat player's sports-marketing firm, LRMR Branding & Marketing, to become his exclusive worldwide representative.

It is understood that James received an undisclosed minority stake in Liverpool as part of the deal.

Keane Melbourne rumours quashed

Speculation linking Roy Keane with the vacant manager's job at Australian A-League side Melbourne Victory has been quashed.

Australian media suggested that Keane was in the frame after being spotted at a game involving another A-League side, Sydney FC.

However, sources close to the Corkman have confirmed that he is on a family holiday. He took his son to the game in question, and dodged the advances of local reporters who asked him about the Melbourne post.

Houllier backed to rescue Villans

Gerard Houllier has received the public backing of Aston Villa chief executive Paul Faulkner as the club battle to avoid relegation.

Pressure has been mounting on Houllier, whose team are just two points above the relegation zone.

A home defeat to Wolves last month ended with the 63-year-old Frenchman being jeered down the tunnel.

But a draw at Everton appears to have alleviated some of the strain, and Faulkner insists that the manager retains the backing of the Villa board.

"Yes, total support," he said. "We are focused on these last seven games, getting the points we need right now to get out of the situation we are in."

Irish Independent

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