Liverpool vs Newcastle preview - Carroll in fitness race



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Posted Sunday, May 01, 2011 by PA

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish is hopeful striker Andy Carroll will be fit to face former club Newcastle on Sunday.

The £35million club record signing, who left the Magpies in January, missed Saturday's victory over Birmingham with a knee injury but will be assessed over the weekend to see whether he has recovered.

Teenage full-back Jack Robinson came off with cramp against Blues but is fit to retain his place in the starting line-up.

Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina is confident the improvements made under Dalglish will continue to be made next season and that bodes well for his own future.

There has been much speculation about the Spain international, with reports suggesting he was likely to be next big star out of the door after compatriot Fernando Torres' departure to Chelsea in January.

It seemed an entirely possible outcome during the turbulent six-month tenure of Roy Hodgson, during which time the 28-year-old admitted he feared the club's form was so bad they would not even be contending for a European place at the end of the season.

However, the remarkable turnaround under Dalglish, plus the renewed optimism provided by Fenway Sports Group's sanctioning of the signings of Carroll and Luis Suarez with the £50million proceeds of the Torres sale - and the promise of more to come - has given Reina a different perspective.

Now he is looking forward to the rebuilding of the squad as they bid to regain their Champions League status and ultimately become Barclays Premier League title challengers again.

Reina was one of the senior players who, prior to FSG's purchase of the club, publicly called for significant investment in the playing staff.

Under previous owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett that was merely a pipe dream but it seems Reina will now get his wish and that may be all that is required to quash talk of a summer exit.

"I definitely could not see (Europe) it five or six months ago," said the goalkeeper.

"But we kept fighting and turned the situation around. Now we need to do more to be even higher.

"It is down to all of us. Kenny Dalglish, Steve Clarke (the coach appointed when Dalglish took over), Sammy Lee (assistant manager) and all the staff have done a great job from January onwards.

"I think we want to grow and we have to grow. The owners and the people in command of the `boat' see we have to bring in some players.

"We have to be right in those transfers and the players that we already have can be important for the new project.

"I'm very optimistic and I believe we are going to be better."

Goalkeeper Steve Harper returns to the Newcastle squad.

The 36-year-old, who has missed the last two games, will travel to Anfield, although whether or not he replaces deputy Tim Krul remains to be seen.

Skipper Kevin Nolan has recovered from a slight muscle strain, but loan signing Stephen Ireland has been ruled out for the rest of the season by an ankle injury after making just two appearances as a substitute.

Hatem Ben Arfa continues his rehabilitation after returning to training from a double leg fracture, but Danny Guthrie (shin), Leon Best (ankle), Dan Gosling (knee) and Alan Smith (ankle) remain on the sidelines.

Cheick Tiote is targeting a charge towards the upper reaches of the Premier League table next season after helping to steer Newcastle to the brink of safety.

The 24-year-old midfielder has been a key figure in the Magpies' bid to secure their top-flight status and they head for Liverpool with 41 points already banked to rubber-stamp their place for the new campaign.

However, having announced himself in the English game in some style, the former FC Twente enforcer is looking for bigger things next time around.

Tiote said: "My dream is for next season to play for the top four or five.

"But if we want to compete against top teams like Manchester United, we need to buy some new players, some good players, to be able to do that."



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