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By ESPN Staff

Gillett looks to rekindle DIC interest

Liverpool co-owner George Gillett has invited senior officials from Dubai International Capital to be his guests at Anfield tomorrow for the Champions League semi-final showdown with Chelsea.

Although Gillett himself will not be able to attend the match because of illness, his party - including son Foster, a fellow director - will be there in force to welcome DIC's representatives.

It is a remarkable move by Gillett - who has wanted to sell his 50% stake in the club to DIC for several months - and comes just five days after his estranged partner Tom Hicks staged an extravagant PR exercise with a TV interview defiantly outlining his own plans for the future of the club.

But significantly, after Hicks had made it clear he still intended to buy out Gillett, Colorado-based Gillett announced that he had no intention of ever selling his stake to Hicks.

It is believed that DIC's chief negotiator Amanda Staveley will be among Gillett's party, along with Liverpool fan and DIC chief executive Samir Al-Ansari.

Hicks could also be there, although significantly his spokesmen in the UK have been unable to confirm the Dallas billionaire's movements.

Hicks had made it clear at the weekend that he intended to be at Anfield for the first leg of the Champions League semi-final - but there are now doubts that he would want to be in the same directors box as DIC.

But if, as seems unlikely at the moment, all the warring participants on the club's takeover battle are at the ground together it will indicate that a deal is much closer than Hicks intimated in his belligerent TV interview last week.

DIC have been trying to buy the club for 18 months, having been beaten at the post by Hicks and Gillett just over a year ago.

They seemed to have tied up a deal at the turn of the year, only for Hicks to send a representative to Dubai for talks before pulling the plug on the possible sale.

Now Gillett, at least, seems to be making a bold statement of intent tomorrow. It is clear he wants to sell and that DIC want to buy.

The problem over Hicks' alleged veto of any Gillett sale is likely to be challenged in court before the summer.

Manager Rafael Benitez made it clear today that he and his team - plus the fans - will be concentrating on reaching the Moscow final next month and will remain unaffected by whatever happens in the directors' box tomorrow.

But Gillett is seemingly now playing his hand and making it clear that DIC are his guests and eventually purchasers of his stake.

If Hicks does not attend he will be left in no doubt that Gillett believes he has the whip-hand, and that a deal will have to be brokered sooner rather than later.