Riise and Crouch keen to stay at Liverpool

January 21, 2008

Two of Liverpool's unsettled stars have moved to commit their futures to the club ahead of tonight's home clash with Aston Villa.

Full-back John Arne Riise has been linked with a move to Villa Park, while former Villa striker Peter Crouch is facing speculation that he is a £9million target for Portsmouth.

But Riise insists he wants a new Anfield contract, and said: 'It has been a weird season for me, I have played some good games and then some not at my level.

'When we get to the transfer window all the rumours start going around. It is mainly because people know I have 18 months left on my contract.

'The fans know that I am very happy here. Hopefully the club will give me a new contract so that I can stay in Liverpool for many years.

'I am in the mood to play my best football and enjoy playing. I will do my best in the second part of the season.'

The 27-year-old has been told by boss Rafael Benitez to concentrate on his defending this term rather than his famed long-range shooting.

He continued: 'People always expect me to score some cracking goals but I am focusing on my defending and I want to do my best there.

'I want to be a good defender and I am working on it on the training pitch. I am trying to improve and the manager tells me to focus more on the defence.

'I am just trying to show the fans and the manager I am a good defender. I am a left-back and I want to defend well for my side.'

Striker Crouch has been at the centre of speculation over his future this season because he seems to be now considered fourth choice front man.

He has been linked with Manchester City, but said: 'Everyone talks about me going to clubs. Maybe it's because I'm not playing every game.

'But at a club like Liverpool you're not going to play every game. I've come to realise that this is the case at a club like this, whereas at somewhere else maybe you would play every game.

'As for my future, I've not heard anything. No-one has approached the club and no-one has approached me.

'There's a lot of speculation and, like I've said, that probably comes down to the fact that I'm not playing every game.

'But hopefully if I get a good run of games towards the end of the season then those rumours will go away.'

Liverpool go into the crunch game with Villa, one of the sides competing with the Merseysiders for fourth spot, having seen the top three all win on Saturday.

Leaders Manchester United are now 15 points clear, while third-placed Chelsea are 11 points ahead.

But Benitez has called on his players to make a statement of intent that they are not being distracted by the power battle at the club.

He said: 'We must keep winning, to win our game in hand, and to show our rivals that we aim to be in the top four and as high as possible in the table.

'The next target is to beat Aston Villa, then to beat West Ham and then the same against Sunderland. These are our next three league games.

'Then we go to Chelsea. That game will be the key, our targets must be short-term ones to win these games before we go to Stamford Bridge.

'Three wins now and a cup win also on Saturday against Havant & Waterlooville, that is our immediate aim.'