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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 May, 2004, 12:56 GMT 13:56 UK
Liverpool eye duo
Exclusive by Phil McNulty
Chief football writer

Manchester City midfielder Joey Barton
Liverpool will step up their interest in Manchester City's Joey Barton and Nottingham Forest defender Michael Dawson at the end of the season.

Merseyside-born Barton has only 12 months left on his contract and has yet to agree a new deal.

Forest also face a fight to hold on to talented 20-year-old Dawson, who is a long-time target for top clubs.

And BBC Sport understands Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier is poised to lead the chase for the pair.

Liverpool are likely to have to pay around 3m for Barton, while Dawson is rated in the 5m bracket.

Barton is a close friend of Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, and recently had a public disagreement with City manager Kevin Keegan after he was dropped.

Liverpool are also interested in Barton's team-mate Shaun Wright-Phillips, but will face a fight to land the winger after City's Premiership safety was assured.

Anfield boss Houllier will waste no time in re-shuffling his squad, although they are still favourites to clinch a place in the money-spinning Champions League.

Auxerre's Djibril Cisse will arrive in a 14m deal, while Liverpool striker Emile Heskey is expected to sign for Birmingham City shortly after the end of the season.

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