Deja Blue, as Liverpool are linked with Lennon, Valencia, Johnson, Wheater, Mancienne & Barry

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “The difference between us [Liverpool & Manchester United] is maybe £100m spent on players and a big ­stadium. The amazing fact about [Liverpool] is that they have used 60 players in the reserves this season. We have signed 18 players in the last five years but eight of them are young and there is a balance about us. We do things correctly… You will see Rafa produce an ­incredible spending spree – that is an absolute ­certainty now he has signed his new ­contract. They talk of a recession but there will not be one at Liverpool. There will be a spending splurge at Liverpool, that is his [Benitez’s] way. I was amazed when I saw his claims. I talked to some people in the sports technology department and said: ‘check that out’. I am sure I had not spent that much money. I worked out that in the last five years Liverpool had spent £24m more than Manchester United.” – Sir Alex Ferguson.

Runner-up: “If you look at my time at Newcastle, the problems started when Paul Robinson landed on my foot against Tottenham just after Christmas. Loads of people get metatarsal injuries, but they are normally not as bad as mine. Nobody’s foot would not have broken in that situation. I’ve then rushed my preparations for the World Cup… I should never have gone to Germany with England. It’s easy to say that now, but if I had my time again I would still have gone because it was a World Cup… There is no hiding from the fact injuries have been the bane of my time at Newcastle. It is frustrating, however, and people will probably laugh, but I know I’m not injury-prone.” – Michael Owen.

Today’s overview: The Champions League quarter-final draw captures most of the analysis this Saturday, with the consensus opinion being that Manchester United will be the happiest of all the English teams. Elsewhere, a host of names have begun to be linked to Liverpool now that Rafa has agreed his new contract.

The familiar look of the latest Champions League draw is reviewed in all of the Saturday’s. Kevin McCarra labels “monotony is the price of success” noticing that “these encounters will keep cropping up because the outstanding footballers now congregate at a handful of club.” While Patrick Barclay argues that “as the world of football gets smaller, the Premier League appears bigger and so it is up to the best of the rest to challenge.”

Sarcastically, Amy Lawrence talks of “that little residue of superglue that cannot be cleaned off the balls of Liverpool and Chelsea has done its worst once again.” Sam Wallace makes a similar point writing “the narrowing down of the Champions League to a small elite means that there are not many surprises left anyway. But it is getting to the stage where it would be a shock if Chelsea and Liverpool did not draw one another.”

The Gunners’ Champions League hopes are assessed by Oliver Kay. “It could not have worked out better for United, but… while Porto are unlikely to stop them, Arsenal, providing that they can get past Villarreal, might just fancy their chances.” And keeping with the North Londoners, James Lawton sticks his neck out to offer his interpretation of Cecs Fabregas’ behaviour seen against Hull this week. “Whatever it said about his manners, it certainly did not suggest indifference to what had been happening on the field. It had more to say, perhaps, about the level of frustration he had felt at his enforced absence from a crucial slice of a season running into futility.”

Simon Kuper offers an insight into Barca boss Pep Guardiola, likening the manager to a “the unknown from the ranks who is chosen as CEO because everyone likes him and he understands the company… Star players obey Guardiola because they know they have no chance of forcing him out.”

Patrick Barclay publicises the mission statement of the Newcastle United Supporters’ Club who, “with a membership of 1,000, decided to become a trust, in the long-term hope of buying into the club and entering the boardroom.”

Following Rafa Benitez’s penning of his new contract at Anfield, His scouts are compiling reports on several wingers, including Aaron Lennon, of Tottenham Hotspur, and Antonio Valencia, of Wigan Athletic, as well as looking for a centre forward who can fill the void left by Robbie Keane’s brief, ill-fated spell at Anfield.” (Links to Aaron Lennon seems folly, John Nisbet announcing how the impish winger has agreed to extend his Tottenham contract to 2014.)

Rory Smith offers a different list of Liverpool targets in the Telegraph. “Glen Johnson, the Portsmouth right-back, could be available for £8 million. David Wheater, of Middlesbrough, and Chelsea’s Michael Mancienne are also thought to be on Benitez’s radar, while he is still an admirer of Gareth Barry at Aston Villa.”

Ahead of this weekend’s Premier League action, Terry Venables writes that “should United lose or even draw against Roy Hodgson’s well-drilled Fulham team then it will register on football’s Richter Scale as an official, full-scale title wobble.”

A topic gathering moss is the number of goalless draws played out in the Premier League. David Lacey grapples with the 33 blank draws so far registered pointing out “with so many goals scored on the break and defences no longer able to step up in such happy anticipation of an offside flag, managers are now inclined to keep at least six players behind the ball even when their team has possession.”

Neil Warnock uses his weekly column in the Independent to bark “if you break the rules you get punished, eventually.”

In the interviews, Daniel Taylor sits down with Pompey’s Glen Johnson, Alan Smith catches up with Martin Skrtel, while Gareth Southgate tells Paul Hayward of his confidence in Boro’s survival. Staying with Boro, Des Kelly advises Southgate to walk before his is pushed at the RIverside – “Southgate surely realises that walking away when Boro have surrendered their Premier League status is not the way to repay the faith of his unswerving boardroom ally. He has to give the club a chance to save itself. He has to quit before it is too late for Boro to survive.”