Misfiring Liverpool strengthen need for Morientes

Liverpool's interest in recruiting Fernando Morientes from Real Madrid led to talks about his possible transfer on Tuesday - hours before Djibril Cissé and Milan Baros again struggled to forge an effective attacking partnership in the 0-0 draw with Deportivo La Coruña.

Morientes' agent, Gines Carvajal, met representatives of the Merseyside club to discuss the prospect of the Spain international joining the colony of his countrymen at Anfield during the transfer window in January. Ironically, the 28-year-old striker has fallen down the pecking order at Real since the acquisition of Michael Owen from Liverpool.

Carvajal later said: "Fernando isn't happy because he's not playing. He knew he wasn't likely to be in their starting XI but he did hope to play. If he hadn't belonged to Real Madrid maybe they would have tried to sign him at any cost because he's a galactico. Because they already own him, he isn't classed as one. It's always easier to give a chance to an outsider than someone who is already at the club."

One potential snag, should Real and Liverpool try to proceed, could be the fact that Uefa, the European game's ruling body, does not permit a player to move between national associations more than once a season. Real will argue that since Morientes was on loan at Monaco - where he finished the top scorer in the Champions' League last season - he officially remained on the books at the Bernabeu.

As Owen was scoring his first goal for his new club, Liverpool's strikers were unwittingly strengthening the case for Morientes against a Deportivo team that defended well but appeared to have scant ambition beyond a single point. Cissé has not, so far, justified the £14m fee that Gérard Houllier agreed and Rafael Benitez paid to Auxerre, while Baros is finding it difficult to build on his goal-strewn displays for the Czech Republic in Euro 2004. Each had moments of menace, though signs of understanding between them remain elusive.

Olympiakos' defeat in Monte Carlo meant Liverpool moved level with the Greeks, two points behind Monaco, with Deportivo clinging to the hope of winning back-to-back home games.

Benitez's priority must now be for his team to become Group A's first away winners, in Spain on 3 November. Chris Kirkland, their goalkeeper, put it bluntly: "It's so tight that we need two wins, at least one of them from our two away games."

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