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Chelsea out to maul Black Cats

Chelsea 13 hours ago
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By ESPN Staff
Nov 22, 2007

Trouble brewing between Rafa and Reds owners?

Speculation about growing discontent between Liverpool's joint owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett and manager Rafael Benitez has intensified after a bizarre day on Merseyside. In his weekly press conference to preview Saturday's trip to Newcastle, Benitez was strangely reticent in his response to any questions not about their Premier League match. But he did, rather oddly, suggest he could one day take over as England manager. A few hours later co-chairman Hicks and Gillett issued a statement in which they highlighted the financial backing they had given the manager but also stressed they would be meeting Benitez next month before further transfer activity would be considered. 'We made a significant investment in the playing squad during the summer and desperately want this team to succeed,' said the statement. 'There are some very important games coming up in the next couple of weeks and all of us need to focus on winning those games and getting the best out of the players we already have at the club. 'We will leave any talk of buying or selling players until we come across to Liverpool in December and sit down with the manager then.' Benitez is keen bolster his squad in January with his side delicately poised in fifth, six points adrift of unbeaten leaders Arsenal. Liverpool are the only other top-flight side not to have lost so far this season but they face a make-or-break Champions League group match against Porto on Wednesday. If the Reds do not make it through to the knockout stages it could have a significant effect on the money made available to Benitez in the transfer window. There is money coming in to the club as Scott Carson seems destined to make his loan at Aston Villa permanent in a deal potentially worth £10million in total - a British transfer record for a goalkeeper. However, Benitez wants to tie up a long-term deal to keep Argentina midfielder Javier Mascherano at the club and that will not come cheap. It was apparent all was not well with the Spaniard when he arrived for his press briefing at the club's Melwood training ground. A stock response to any question he did not want to answer was to repeat, on numerous occasions: 'I am focused on training and coaching my team.' His demeanour was one of a man with issues, although he did not elaborate on a week he described as 'not the best'. The Spaniard, however, did offer up the prospect of him potentially taking over the England job at some point. 'In the future you never know,' said Benitez. 'It can happen. You never know what can happen. If I can improve my English.' Those comments suggested the former Valencia boss had already considered life away from Anfield - which was at odds with some of his comments last week when he spoke about his admiration for the longevity Sir Alex Ferguson has enjoyed at arch-rivals Manchester United.